Bree Maki explains MN weather impact on broadband deployment and how MN still moves forward

Fierce Telecom spoke with Bree Maki, director of Minnesota Office of Broadband and learned a lot about the challenges of building broadband in Minnesota – a four season state…

Bree Maki, director of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development, shared with Fierce some key deployment challenges, including weather and workforce constraints. Weather is particularly a hurdle for building fiber in the ground, as Minnesota has a limited construction season, similar to states like Alaska.

“We have long winters, and we have to wait for the ground to defrost before we can do the construction season,” Maki said, noting there’s not much time between the start of construction and “when snow really starts flying in the fall and the temperatures drop.”

There’s a summary of funding in Minnesota…

Minnesota’s main state funding resource is the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, established in 2014. Thus far, the program has doled out $230 million to connect over 90,000 Minnesotans, said Maki.

For the 2023 grant round, the state plans to dish out up to $67 million later this spring. The state legislature has proposed $276 million in additional funding for the Border-to-Border program.

In terms of federal dollars, Minnesota is leveraging $30 million from the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) to support its Low-Density Pilot program, which Maki said is similar to the Border-to-Border program “but it allows for some additional cost share percentages, because we know that there is a higher cost at hardest-to-reach areas in the state.”

Another $15 million in CPF funding went towards the state’s Line Extension program.

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