The Grand Rapids Herald Review posts a letter from Representative Sandy Layman about her work in the Legislature including her focus on improving broadband access for all…
One of the most significant issues this committee addresses is the need for broadband expansion in greater Minnesota. Last week, we heard legislation I’m championing to provide increased funding for our state’s border-to-border broadband program, which funds broadband expansion to unserved or underserved parts of the state.
This bipartisan bill would provide $70 million over the next two years for critical broadband infrastructure in rural Minnesota. I successfully amended this bill last week to ensure it would also provide more immediate funding by allocating $15 million for broadband improvements in 2019. This $15 million is now a part of this bill, which the House majority and governor indicate is a priority.
Although I hoped legislators could agree on a much larger number, the broadband legislation I authored last year that passed and was sent to the governor would have provided this $15 million for 2019. Unfortunately, it was vetoed by then Governor Dayton – and this funding was lost. By pursuing this extra $15 million again this year, I’m looking to restore that lost funding.
Broadband’s importance to our area cannot be overstated. Access to quality broadband is a critical infrastructure need for rural communities across the state. Put simply, broadband allows us to be connected to the world. Its expansion will help small businesses grow, allow folks to work from home, and expand educational opportunities in rural schools. The countless constituents I’ve heard from and the energized groups visiting the Capitol clearly demonstrate the strong grassroots support for this issue.
Making broadband more accessible and affordable to communities like ours isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a rural issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the governor on it in the months ahead.
The $49.5 billion two-year spending proposal contains a number of pieces rural and greater Minnesota advocates have demanded. It would invest $70 million in rural broadband expansion. Local governments and counties would get $30 million more each year. Farmers would get $50 an acre in tax credits to help offset the expense of adding buffer strips along waterways.
The state’s Farm Bureau and Farmers Union priorities provide a blueprint that would benefit rural communities. Creating an environment that encourages more readily available and affordable health care is hugely important. It involves motivating more institutions, doctors and other health care professionals to set up shop in underserved rural areas.
Programs to better protect Minnesota’s invaluable natural resources is another area where a consensus for action seems apparent. Protecting water resources and conserving top soil are keys to maintaining a sustainable future.
Improving broadband access to rural communities is another. Increasing broadband access would help motivate businesses and families to live and work in rural communities and improve educational opportunities.
There is broad agreement on the need to reform property taxes to produce greater fairness for farmers.
Today the House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division met to discussion a few bills, including two on broadband. In short – Rep Kresha introduced a bill (HF1137) that is very similar to an earlier bill but increases the appropriation for broadband grants to $100 million. The previous bill originally requested $70 million; but added a one time increase of $15 million just the other day.
The second bill (HF367) asked that a portion of that funding be set aside for deployment of middle mile infrastructure in Willow River, Pine City, Cromwell, and Aitkin.
Both were referred to Ways and Means. There was some concern that budgets were being set before the budget targets were handed down to committees. Although Representative (and Committee Chair) Pelowski seemed to feel that they should go big with bipartisan and enthusiastic support. There was also concern that HF367 might change how the popular grant program would be run.
Today the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division sent HF7, the bill for broadband funding, to Ways and Means. The bill for ongoing annual $35 million for broadband grants was introduced by Rep Ecklund and in committee Rep Layman added a one-time addition of $15 million for grants.
The ability to live and play here while staying connected to the rest of the world seems increasingly more important to the economic viability of our future.
That’s why we’re excited that there appears to be bipartisan support for funding expansion and improvement of broadband internet.
Both bodies of the Legislature and Gov. Tim Walz have made broadband a top priority this session. Walz included $70 million for broadband funding in his budget proposal.
wo bills that would provide funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program were heard in the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee on Feb. 27. Both bills were laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.
The grant program helps unserved and underserved cities get connected to broadband service by providing up to half a project’s infrastructure costs. The Office of Broadband Development says $70 million over the next biennium is necessary to provide statewide broadband access that meets the state’s speed goals of 25 Megabits per second, or Mbps, download and 3 Mbps upload by 2022.
Senate File 9 would fund the program with the recommended $70 million over the next biennium, while SF 1231 would provide only $35 million in one-time funding for fiscal year 2020. The House is expected to hold a similar hearing in the coming weeks on HF 7, the companion bill to SF 9.
More than 900 residents and businesses in Fish Lake Township now have access to fiber gigabit internet speeds up to 1,000 Mbps due to investments from CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Fish Lake Township, as well as a $1.8 million grant from Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
CenturyLink is delivering Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technology in Fish Lake Township as part of its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) program and its commitment to meet the broadband needs of residents and local businesses in Minnesota.
“From telemedicine to students doing homework, broadband access is essential to our everyday life,” said Sen. Mark W. Koran, R-North Branch. “I’m proud to have supported and continue to support the Border to Border grant program that enabled this partnership with CenturyLink and Fish Lake Township. This fiber to the home broadband expansion brings 21st century access to the businesses and households in our area.”
“CenturyLink knows that life is powered by connections and that communities benefit from fiber internet speeds,” said Dan O’Connell, CenturyLink senior director, Northeast region. “The state broadband grant program, coupled with CenturyLink’s local investment, is a great example of the public and private sectors working together to provide connectivity that helps meet our customers’ personal and business needs.”
For more information or to order gigabit service, residents can contact Darren Larson, CenturyLink retail sales, at (612) 412-5113 or at email@example.com.
For existing CenturyLink customers, our policy is to cover the cost of the first 700’ and the customer would pay excess construction charges for the difference between the first 700’ and the actual length of the drop – this is being waived through March 31.
For new customers, we charge excess construction for the entire drop regardless of length and is not subject to being waived.