Rep Layman advocates for broadband

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.

Gov Walz’s Budget is Rural Focused and that includes broadband

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on Governor Walz’s budget..

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.

MN Farm Bureau and Farmers Union priorities include broadband

AgriNews reports on agricultural issues at the Legislature…

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.

MN House will meet about broadband on March 11

I plan to attend, take notes and livestream…

Monday, March 11, 2019 at 12:45 PM

Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski
Location: 10 State Office Building
Agenda: 

HF7 (Ecklund) Broadband Grant Program Money Appropriated.

Bills:

  • HF7 (Ecklund) – Broadband grant program money appropriated.

Broadband rates and maps for Minnesota tribal areas – now available!

Congrats to the Office of Broadband Development for getting broadband maps and rates for tribal nations in Minnesota. These areas can be hard to define and I know these numbers are intended as a high-level estimate, but when you can’t put your arms around access on tribal areas, it’s difficult to help or even discuss what’s happening. With these new maps and numbers we can move forward with the conversation.

Some tribes (Red Lake) are rocking it and some (Bois Forte) need help. And just like the Counties, some are doing well in terms of reaching the 2022 Minnesota speed goals of 25 Mbps up and 3 down (25/3) but they are not on their way to getting to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20. In the upcoming weeks, I will work on tribal nation profiles, similar to the county profiles I have done in the past. But for now I’m please to share links to the maps:

And share the data (in Excel) and pasted below. (I expect the formatting of the info will be wonky – that’s the nature of pasting a table into WordPress – check out the Excel file for better formatting.)

Name Households (2010 estimate) Percent Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband (25/3) Percent Broadband (100/20) Percent Wireline Broadband (25/3) Percent Wireline Broadband (100M/20M)
Bois Forte Reservation 294 20.12 0.00 20.12 0.00
Fond du Lac Off-Reservation Trust Land 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Fond du Lac Reservation 1530 30.96 19.50 29.99 19.50
Grand Portage Off-Reservation Trust Land 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Grand Portage Reservation 257 94.24 94.24 94.24 94.24
Ho-Chunk Nation Off-Reservation Trust Land 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Leech Lake Off-Reservation Trust Land 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Leech Lake Reservation 3930 91.68 65.01 91.68 65.01
Lower Sioux Indian Community 134 100.00 94.07 77.12 68.44
Mille Lacs Off-Reservation Trust Land 41 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Mille Lacs Reservation 1835 60.51 60.46 61.12 61.07
Minnesota Chippewa Trust Land 22 4.55 0.00 4.55 0.00
Prairie Island Indian Community 62 100.00 50.59 50.16 50.16
Prairie Island Off-Reservation Trust Land 20 100.00 90.95 90.95 90.95
Red Lake Reservation 1757 99.81 99.81 99.81 99.81
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community 116 50.00 50.00 44.36 31.98
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Off-Reservation Trust Land 189 88.00 66.15 79.59 48.48
Upper Sioux Community 48 100.00 52.48 0.00 0.00
Upper Sioux Off-Reservation Trust Land 1 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
White Earth Off-Reservation Trust Land 11 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
White Earth Reservation 3529 84.67 13.57 84.67 13.57

MN Senate Committee Meeting on Broadband Feb 27

I plan to attend, to livestream and take notes…

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 – 3:00 PM

Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance
Chair: Sen. Torrey N. Westrom
3 p.m.
Room 1150 Minnesota Senate Bldg.
If you wish to testify on behalf of any bill, please contact the committee administrator at kyle.berndt@senate.mn or 651-296-5968. Testimony may be limited due to time constraints. Additional items may be added to the agenda.
Agenda:
Call to Order
Office of Broadband Governor Budget Overview
S.F. 9-Koran: Broadband grant program appropriation.
S.F. 1231-Draheim: Broadband grant program appropriation.
S.F. 807-Ruud: Mountain Iron economic development authority fiber optic broadband network extension appropriation.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Governor Budget Overview
Adjournment

Spending on rural broadband likely to bipartisan support in MN budget

The Bemidji Pioneer reports…

So while lawmakers spend the next three months entrenched in debates over hiking taxes and where taxpayer dollars would best be spent, proposals for expanding broadband to rural Minnesota, growing access to child care and boosting state funds aimed at making schools safer could be folded into a final budget later this year with little fuss.

“Those are a couple areas where I think we can find some common ground,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The bipartisan areas of agreement came as welcome news for groups hoping for additional state funding this year. Broadband development supporters last year saw dollars aimed at expanding access to high-speed internet in rural Minnesota get vetoed as part of an omnibus spending bill.

This time around, they said they’re feeling optimistic.

“I think it gives us a really strong position going into the end of the legislative session,” Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition spokeswoman Judy Erickson said, pointing to bills that would boost funding for broadband expansion. “I think we have good momentum.”