MN Legislators currently looking at $100M for broadband grants – we need $2.76B

MinnPost reports on the progress of broadband grant investments (Border to Border grants) at the Minnesota Legislature…

Minnesota lawmakers are planning to spend $100 million to help subsidize infrastructure for high-speed internet, an amount that would be the largest ever one-time state boost in broadband funding but has still drawn a mixed response from developers and local officials who say rural areas are being left behind.

Top DFL leaders announced the $100 million plan on Tuesday at the Capitol as part of an agreement on budget “targets” that will guide spending by legislative committees. Democrats have majorities in the House and Senate and control the governor’s office.

Will it be enough?

Minnesota is waiting for a much larger influx of federal cash to help connect many parts of the state to high speed internet. But even though nearly $1 billion is on its way, a state task force has estimated Minnesota still needs about $426 million to reach its broadband goals.

How close are we?

Minnesota’s current goal for high-speed internet is universal access to wireline service with download speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second and upload speeds of 20 Megabits per second by 2026.

About 88% of households and businesses in the state had access to that level of broadband in October, according to estimates released in a report by the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. In rural areas, about only 62% have what the state deems to be adequate broadband, an issue that became even more of a problem during the COVID-19 pandemic when many more people were forced to work at home and kids attended school online.

The gap in broadband coverage is because of money.

How much do we need?

State officials estimate it would cost $2.76 billion to serve the 291,000 households and businesses that lack the infrastructure for fast service. It’s an eye-popping price tag, but most of the money would not come from the Minnesota Legislature.

State grants typically require a 50% match from broadband developers or others involved in the project, like city and county governments, meaning the state government is only responsible for half the cost.

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