MN Senate Omnibus bill passed through another committee with $100M for broadband

KNSI Radio reports

The Senate agriculture omnibus bill passed through another committee Wednesday with near unanimous bipartisan support.

The Senate Agriculture, Broadband, and Rural Development Committee gave the green light for $100 million to help farmers in greater Minnesota with broadband access, soil health and livestock. …

Some highlights include:

  • $100 million to expand broadband access throughout the state.
  • $14 million for a grain indemnity fund to protect Minnesota farmers.
  • $2 million in soil health equipment grants to help farmers make their farmland more resilient to extreme weather events, retain topsoil, build organic matter, and promote water quality.
  • $1 million to support emerging farmers with farm down payment assistance.
  • $944,000 in investments to support livestock processing.
  • $1.2 million over four years to provide services for beginning and emerging farmers.

The bill now moves to the Senate Finance Committee.

Do we need another push to get more voices on the MN digital equity plan team?

The MN Office of Broadband Development put out a call to get communities involved in preparing a digital equity plan that will lead the state into a place for more equitable technology practices and be submitted to federal funders to help maximize flow of federal funds into the state to support the plan…

If you are interested in helping to shape Minnesota’s digital equity plan, there are three ways you can assist. For now, you can establish a Digital Connection Committee and register it with OBD by March 15, 2023. Many of these committees will be eligible to apply for a mini-grant of up to $4000—those applications are due March 3. Then, beginning April 3, you can use data to tell OBD your community or organization’s digital equity story. You can also join a committee near you and ask how to become involved. Or, once drafted, you can provide feedback on the Digital Equity Plan (approximately late August through late September). Stay up to date on the planning process by visiting OBD’s website.

They recently gave an update on how that push went…

Throughout February and March, OBD received over 90 Digital Connection Committee (DCC) registrations and 70 Assessing Digital Inclusion mini-grant applications. We are thrilled!
DCCs are Minnesota’s strategy for ensuring our state’s digital equity plan truly belongs to Minnesota. Between now and June 30, DCCs can submit data, stories, and other information about local digital inclusion strengths, needs, and goals for inclusion in the plan.
To register a DCC or to see a map (updates coming soon) of committees statewide, visit OBD’s digital inclusion webpage. DCC registrations are accepted on a rolling basis; registrations received by April 7 will be able to participate fully in contributing information for the plan. Please contact Hannah Buckland at with any questions.

They got a great response but are they getting all the voices they need?

Thanks to Jason Brazier at Literacy Minnesota for sending me two maps looking at where the local Digital Connection Committees (DCCs) are located and a map that shows digital equity (or inequity) status in each county. (The darker the color the better off the county is with digital equity.)

Map of Digital Equity (left) | Locations of Digital Connection Committees (right)

As you can see, the areas with the greatest need are in counties that do not have local DCCs, which means those communities are likely to be underrepresented. There are 14 counties (listed below) and only three of them are home to a DCC. A glance at the map and scan through the directory list and it’s clear that areas near cities and larger towns (Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester) or with local colleges (Crookston, Northfield, Mankato) have DCCs. There are DCCs that are defined by subject specialty and span a statewide geography, such as the MN Alliance Boys and Girls Club but that is different level of representation that having the local Boys and Girls Club in Cass County lead the effort.

We are missing voices!

It’s not too late to reach out to the areas and people who aren’t on the list, which is why I’ve listed the target counties below. If they can get registered in the next week, they can participate fully in contributing to the plan. So I’m reaching out to readers to reach out to colleagues, cousins and counterparts in these areas to see if there is a likely leader for this effort. Keep in mind, these are the least connected counties so picking up a phone might be more effective that Tweeting.

Finally, I’m just looking at geography and as a factor because my work focuses on geography. That’s my lens. If your daily lens is different, use it to look at existing DCCs, see who is missing and reach out to them. For example, I don’t see a group that is obviously focused on agriculture, folks with disabilities or people experiencing homelessness. You may see something else. If they aren’t in the room, the planners won’t know what they need.

  1. Aitkin County – 1 DCC
  2. Cass County
  3. Beltrami County
  4. Clearwater County
  5. Kanabec County
  6. Kittson County
  7. Lake of the Woods County
  8. Mahnomen County
  9. Mille Lacs County
  10. Morrison County
  11. Nobles County
  12. Otter Tail County – 1 DCC
  13. Pine County – 1 DCC
  14. Redwood County


MTA & MREA submit a petition to the MN PUC to suspect LTD Broadband’s ETC designation while considering revocation

When last we left our heroes at the PUC, they had decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation.  Then the prehearing conference was moved from March 6 to March 13, 2023. But as of today there is more news; MTA and MREA are asking the PUC to suspend LTD Broadband’s ETC status while they are under consideration for ETC revocation. It seems to make sense, especially in terms of reducing the chances of replaying the RDOF situation where LTD got exclusive access to federal funds, was disqualified and now those fund will not be invested in Minnesota (at least not in the same way).

Today, the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Minnesota Rural Electric Association submitted a petition to initiate a proceeding to revoke the expanded eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) designation of LTD Broadband LLC (“LTD”) and deny LTD’s funding certification for 2023. Not all of the documents have been made public (due to trade secrets) but here’s the high level info…


Enclosed via e-Filing, please find the Motion to Certify and the Motion to Suspend ETC Designation (with attachments), including both Public and Highly Confidential Trade Secret versions of the Motion to Suspend and attachments (Declarations of Larry Thompson and Kristine Szabo) on behalf of Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Minnesota Rural Electric Association in the above-entitled docket. Minn. R. 1400.600 provides that, should other parties wish to contest a motion, they must file a written response with the judge and serve copies on all parties, within ten working days after the motion is received.

Petition to certify

The Minnesota Telecom Alliance (“MTA”) and Minnesota Rural Electric Association (“MREA”) (“Petitioners”) hereby respectfully request that, pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.7600; the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”):

(1) Certify to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (the “Commission”) both the Stay granted in the Third Prehearing Order dated January 18, 20231 (“Stay Order”) and the Petitioners’ March 29, 2023 Motion to Suspend the Expanded ETC Designation of LTD Broadband LLC (“LTD”) (“Motion to Suspend”), and

(2) Require parties to respond to this Motion to Certify within 10 working days after it is received if they wish to contest this Motion to Certify. 2

Both the Stay Order and Motion to Suspend relate to the effects and ramifications of the Federal Communication Commission’s (“FCC’s”) decision to deny LTD’s long-form application. As the Stay Order recognizes, and as explained below, it would be appropriate for the Commission to address these matters and provide guidance.3

There are more details. And there are public documents available Part 1 Motion to Suspend and Attachments – Public.pdf and Part 2 Motion to Suspend and Attachments – Public.pdf; as well as documents that aren’t available to the public.

As with so many legal documents and arguments, lots of time is spent addressing the formalities that aren’t as important to the average reader, but here’s a section that I think gets to the root of the need…

A final determination by the Commission on the Motion to Suspend would materially advance the ultimate termination of the hearing.
Minnesota Rule 1400.7600(B) directs consideration of:
[W]hether a final determination by the agency on the motion would materially advance the ultimate termination of the hearing….
The Stay Order provides that the contested case hearing process will not resume until the FCC makes a ruling on LTD’s appeal of the denial of its long-form.5 As explained in the Motion to Suspend, deferring action on LTD’s ETC designation until the FCC makes that ruling would expose the over 160,000 Minnesotans in LTD’s Expanded ETC Area to the loss of substantial federal BEAD and Minnesota BTB funding if the FCC Bureau’s decision is reversed, as LTD has
requested. As also explained in the Motion to Suspend, the Commission would not have the time or ability to prevent such a reversal from leading to ineligibility for these funds.
The Stay Order assumed that the Commission could act to correct problems regarding the use of RDOF support after the FCC rules, stating:
In addition, there will be a window, at least six weeks, for the parties in this proceeding to reconvene to decide next steps if the FCC does reverse course.6
Unfortunately, the ineligibility trigger for the BEAD and the Minnesota BTB programs is FCC authorization for RDOF support. There is no provision in the BEAD processes for subsequent corrective action by the Commission if the FCC authorizes RDOF support. This combination leaves Minnesotans in the unserved locations encompassed by LTD’s expanded ETC designation at great risk of the Commission being unable to meet its obligations to protect their interests if the FCC reverses the FCC Bureau decision. Moreover, the mere possibility of reversal will likely discourage potential applicants from seeking BEAD or BTB funding for locations in Expanded
ETC Area.

TDS looking at broadband funding from ACAM over BEAD

Telecompetitor reports

At a time when some service providers are revving up to get funding in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) rural broadband funding program, TDS Telecom President and CEO Jim Butman had a surprising take on it.

The company already has upgraded a large part of its traditional local service territory to fiber broadband but has about 500,000 locations that are served by DSL, including about 200,000 or fewer that do not have service at speeds of 25 Mbps available to them. Those locations would be considered unserved and eligible for BEAD funding.

But Butman is more excited about the possibility of getting funding through an extension to the FCC Universal Service Fund ACAM program to deploy fiber to those locations.

Going for ACAM funds make sense because, they would likely get funding long before BEAD money will hit the streets. Also, there’s the issue of non-competitive areas…

BEAD, he said, “is limited to the non-competitive areas and we just don’t see it.”

And although TDS has been aggressively deploying high-speed broadband outside its home turf, Butman was no more enthusiastic about applying for out-of-region BEAD funding than he was about in-region BEAD.

He did say something that I thought was worth noting for potential community partners…

TDS is quite selective in applying for government funding, however.

The company only applies for funding when it sees an opportunity to generate a minimum internal rate of return, and “if we don’t win, we don’t do it,” Butman said.


Rep Pursell notes drop from $276M for broadband to $100M in MN House

KYMN Radio reports

The House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, of which Pursell is Vice Chair, has been given $48 million to work with. She noted that there will be $100 million for the expansion of broadband internet into rural areas that will be part of the Ag budget eventually, but right now it has its own budget line item.

As the chief author of the broadband bill, Pursell expressed some disappointment with the amount that has been allocated, but said it is important to make some sort of investment immediately to get things moving.

“My original bill was for $276 million dollars over two years. The targets came out to less than half of that amount, but it will still be the largest investment Minnesota will have ever made. We’ve been promised funds from the federal government, but because it’s unclear how long it might take to get those funds here, we’re taking action in our state now. We cannot afford to miss another construction season and so we’ll be getting Minnesotans who deserve to be connected to the internet [set up] this year with these funds.”

The omnibus bills will be heard in committees this week and then make their way to the House Floor.

Lawmakers (Sen Klobuchar & Rep Craig) introduce bipartisan legislation to expand access to rural broadband

Senator Klobuchar helped lead the pack in the Senate…

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Thune (R-SD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand broadband access to rural communities. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act would strengthen funding mechanisms for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF), which promotes universal access to broadband and other telecommunications services. Currently, the USF is primarily funded through landline fees, disproportionately impacting seniors, who are more likely to use landlines than other Americans. …

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Thune (R-SD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand broadband access to rural communities. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act would strengthen funding mechanisms for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF), which promotes universal access to broadband and other telecommunications services. Currently, the USF is primarily funded through landline fees, disproportionately impacting seniors, who are more likely to use landlines than other Americans.

US Representative Angie Craig helped lead the pack in the House…

Tuesday, U.S. Representative Angie Craig helped introduce the Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act to reform Federal Communications Commission (FCC) practices and expand broadband access to more rural Minnesotans.

The bill would direct the FCC to modernize the system they use to fund broadband and telecommunications expansion to ensure low-income and rural communities can continue to use the program.


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.

EVENT Mar 29: MN Senate to debate Omnibus that includes broadband funding

At this time of year, meetings are always subject to change but here’s what I have seen:

The meeting in hybrid, so you can join online or in person. Yesterday at the MN Broadband Task Force, we heard about the need to get state funding because the big federal funding (BEAD) is not going to cover the costs of getting sufficient broadband to everyone AND because that funding will not be released for several years, which means Minnesota will miss some construction seasons if we don’t get state funding.

MN Senate looks at $100 million for broadband grants (biennium)

Today the MN Senate Committee on Agriculture, Broadband and Rural Development heard the Omnibus bill. There was $100 million for broadband grants; $60 million in the Border to Border grants and $40 million in Low Density Program grants. (The low density grants requires less match from the applicant.)

Here’s the page from the Omnibus spreadsheet:

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe awarded $11 million from NTIA for broadband

NTIA reports…

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today it has awarded two grants totaling more than $25.7 million to two Tribal nations – The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota and the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico– as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).

With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these new grants bring the total of the program to over $1.75 billion awarded to 135 Tribal entities.

More info on the funding for the Mille Lacs Band…

Project Type: Broadband Infrastructure Deployment
Fund Amount: $11,407,585.00
This Broadband Infrastructure Deployment project proposes to install fiber to directly connect 356 unserved Native American households, 7 unserved Native American businesses, and 10 unserved community anchor institutions with service ranging from 250/250 Mbps to 1000/1000 Mbps.

EVENT April 11: Paul Bunyan Communications and Red Lake Nation to hold Affordable Connectivity Program Sign Up Day in Ponemah

I’m sharing the info from Paul Bunyan for the folks near Ponemah but also to spread the word about the Affordable Connectivity Program to everyone who could benefit from it…

Paul Bunyan Communications and the Red Lake Nation are holding a sign-up day for the Affordable Connectivity Program on Tuesday, April 11 from Noon-2:30 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club in Ponemah.

The Affordable Connectivity Program will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households struggling to afford internet service and provides a discount of up to a $30 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for qualifying households on qualifying Tribal lands.

A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines;
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
  • Participates in one of several Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income qualifying standard) Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
  • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income program.

Eligible households can enroll at the sign-up event, through a participating broadband provider, or by going to to submit an online application or print a mail-in application and contacting their preferred participating broadband provider and selecting a plan.  Additional information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit is available at, or by calling 877-384-2575 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET any day of the week.


NTIA wants broadband permitting and continued low cost options from States

Statescoop reports

The NTIA is working with other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to streamline permit approval processes, but the agency is concerned that permitting at the state level could potentially be a “bigger issue,” Davidson said.

When states submit plans to the NTIA for how they plan to distribute their BEAD allocations, they will be required to include the steps they will take to ease their permitting processes, he said.

“It’s one of the homework assignments [that states will have to complete], and we’re going to take it pretty seriously,” he said.

As a steward for billions of dollars in federal funding to move the needle on broadband access and adoption, the NTIA “needs all hands on deck to make this work,” Davidson said.

He said the NTIA also wants to ensure that the Affordable Connectivity Program — a Federal Communications Commission program that subsidizes internet bills for low-income households — “continues to thrive.”

OPPORTUNITY: Community Connect Grant Program Now Open

From the Office of Broadband Development…

Community Connect Grant Program Now Open – Community Connect Notice of Funding Opportunity Published

A new funding window has opened for the Community Connect Grant Program. The Community Connect Program provides financial assistance in the form of grants to eligible applicants that will provide, on a “community-oriented connectivity” basis, broadband service that fosters economic growth and delivers enhanced educational, health care, and public safety benefits.

The USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is hosting two webinars to provide information about the Community Connect Program and will cover the recently published Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

This webinar will include:

  • A brief overview of the Community Connect Program
  • The current NOFO
  • A walkthrough of the application process
  • Next steps and important dates
  • An opportunity to ask questions about the NOFO

We will present this webinar twice. Attendees should select the date that works best for their schedule. The webinars will include the same information at each session, and we’ll address questions as time permits during the session.

Slides, a transcript, and a recording of the webinar will be posted at the Community Connect website after the session.

Webinar Date and Time

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 from 1:00PM to 2:30PM Eastern

Register here!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023 from 1:00PM to 2:30PM Eastern

Register here!


Please submit any Community Connect questions using the Contact Us Form on the Program’s website.


Update on Border to Border grants in Corcoran and Rogers (Hennepin County)

Press and News reports

Hennepin County has been working on providing its residents with high-speed internet access, or broadband. Some of the cities that are going to receive broadband include Corcoran and Rogers.

These cities were both approved for Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Infrastructure Grants. Rogers will receive $643,056 and Corcoran will receive $1.298 million from this grant.

Comcast will be working with the cities and Hennepin County to provide Corcoran and Rogers with broadband.

“Comcast is expanding service to more than 490 homes in rural areas of Corcoran. Comcast will invest approximately $1.2 million, to bring the entire suite of Xfinity and Comcast Business services to Corcoran. Construction is planned to start in spring 2023,” Senior Director of External Communications, at Comcast Jill Hornbacher said.

Comcast will also be providing services to more than 400 homes in rural areas of south Rogers. They will invest $2.5 million to bring high-speed internet access to rural areas of Rogers.

The first phase of construction in Rogers was completed in 2021 and the second phase will start in spring 2023. In total, Comcast is investing $18.8 million to expand broadband services to over 7,000 homes in Wayzata, Rogers, Dayton, Corcoran, Spring Hill, and Grain Valley.

They are also using ARPA funds…

According to Anderson, Hennepin has been working over the last year and a half with cities and internet providers so that every household can get connected to broadband. Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funding, Hennepin County has allocated $10 million to this initiative.

EVENT Mar 28: City of Jenkins looks at subsidizing broadband

Pine and Lakes Echo Journal reports

CITY OF JENKINS CROW WING COUNTY STATE OF MINNSOTA NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING ON PROPOSED BUSINESS SUBSIDY CRITERIA AND AGREEMENT NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that City Council of Jenkins, Crow Wing County, Minnesota will meet at or after 4:30 p.m. on March 28, 2023 at Jenkins City Hall located at 33861 Cottage Ave, Jenkins, Minnesota 56474 to conduct a public hearing to consider adopting criteria for the granting of business subsidies and also to consider granting a business subsidy to Emily Consolidated Telephone Company dba ECTC under Minnesota Statutes, Sections 116J.993 through 116J.995, as amended, to assist in expanding rural broadband capacity within the Township. A draft copy of the business subsidy criteria and Broadband Development Agreement are available for public inspection on and after the date of this notice by contacting or submitting a written request to the City Clerk.