Minnesota Rural Equity Project looks rural issues – including broadband

The Bemidji Pioneer reports on Minnesota Rural Equity Project…

Growth and Justice, in a combined effort with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the Greater Minnesota Partnership and the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition, are pushing the Minnesota Rural Equity Project. The work identifies legislative priorities for revitalizing local economies and reducing disparities in Greater Minnesota.

And their work in broadband (and other interests)…

As to infrastructure, the Minnesota Rural Equity Project is focusing on transportation as well as utilities such as broadband internet. According to the project’s research, 47.12 percent of households in rural Minnesota lack access to broadband. The MREP is pushing the state to extend its grant program for broadband and make it more accessible.

“We need to put our heads together and collaborate the best we can to not only meet immediate needs, but to plan across the board for the inevitable infrastructure maintenance and upgrades,” Leonard said. “From broadband to water, we’ve decided over time that these are necessities and we need to find ways to keep them updated and safe. We have to muster the political will to do that for today and our kids and grandkids.”

Leonard again referenced Bemidji as having a model that the state can use in expanding broadband, citing the work of Paul Bunyan Communications.

Border to border broadband grant (HF3002) discussion in committee meeting March 20

Here are the details. I’ll be there taking notes (at least for the broadband discussion)…


Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

3:00 PM to 4:45 PM

10 State Office Building

Committee Chair:

Rep. Pat Garofalo


Overview of Minnesota utility and energy prices and historical trends

HF2867 (Quam)
Workforce Development Board membership terms prescribed.
HF3002 (Garofalo)
Border to border broadband grant program eligibility modified.
HF3760 (Wagenius)
Public school district grant program to install solar energy systems established, and money appropriated.

HF3232 (O’Neill)

Solar energy incentive program modified.
HF3763 (Layman)
Douglas J. Johnson economic protection trust fund use limited.

Overview of Minnesota utility and energy prices and historical trends

Gov Dayton’s proposes $30 million for broadband for 2018-2019

Today Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget. It includes $30 million for the Border to Border Broadband grants for 2018-2019.

This compares to the House Bill (HF3527) introduced appropriating $51 million (for biennium) and Senate Bill (SF2787) that has been moved to the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee.

Webinar Archive (Mar 15): Is the BBC Program Right for You?

Thanks to all those who attended:

Webinar – March 15 from 3-4pm
Is the BBC Program Right for You?

Blandin Foundation is now accepting applications for four new Blandin Broadband Communities, a program that supports rural community efforts to improve both access to and use of broadband that enhance community vitality.  Through a leadership development, vision and planning process, community leaders set priorities and develop strategies and projects to move their community forward. Learn more about about BBC application.

Join Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors and Blandin Foundation’s Mary Magnuson to learn more about the BBC program, including program processes requirements, grant opportunities, and the application process.

Minnesota’s SF2966 – bill that replaces Office of MN.IT with a Division of IT is moved to Committee on Finance

A bill that gets rid of the Office on MN.IT (Information technology) and establishes the Division of IT within the Department of Administration has been moved from Committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections to Committee on Finance. The bill also required agencies to get competitive bids of IT projects. You can find the latest version of the bill online.

The MN Senate Daily Agenda Addendum reports…


Senator Kiffmeyer from the Committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections, to which was referred

S.F. No. 2966A bill for an act relating to state government; abolishing the Office of MN.IT Services; establishing a division of information technology within the Department of Administration; requiring agencies to obtain competitive bids for information technology projects; amending Minnesota Statutes 2016, sections 16E.01, subdivision 1; 16E.015, by adding a subdivision; 16E.016; 16E.02; 16E.055; 16E.14; 16E.18, subdivision 4; Minnesota Statutes 2017 Supplement, section 16E.0466, subdivision 1; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 3; repealing Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 16E.145.

Reports the same back with the recommendation that the bill be amended and when so amended the bill do pass and be re-referred to the Committee on Finance.

Minnesota’s HF 2919 – bill to support telehealth moves to Health and Human Services Finance

A bill to support telehealth has moved from the Committee on Health and Human Services Reform to the Committee on Health and Human Services Finance. One of the key factors in using telehealth has been the ability for healthcare facilities to get paid for that work – as they would an onsite visit. It sounds like this might address some of those concerns.

Here’s the update from Reports of Standing Committees and Divisions

Schomacker from the Committee on Health and Human Services Reform to which was referred:

  1. F. No. 2919, A bill for an act relating to health; allowing community health workers to provide telemedicine services; eliminating the medical assistance limit for certain telemedicine encounters; amending Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 62A.671, subdivision 6; Minnesota Statutes 2017 Supplement, section 256B.0625, subdivision 3b.

With the recommendation that when so amended the bill be re-referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services Finance.

The role of broadband in Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide

The National League of Cities recently released a report on Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide. The digital divide was calling out as a major indicator of disparity…

In all states, urban areas outpace their rural counterparts in broadband access. States with overall higher levels of broadband access also have more significant urban-rural digital divides, underscoring the importance of extending affordable broadband to rural areas.

There port had this to say about broadband…

Nationwide, 10% of Americans do not have access to broadband, with rural areas experiencing significantly greater access challenges. In a world dominated by online communications, this digital divide severely limits rural residents’ access to online job application and employment opportunities, online higher educational and training opportunities, public school learning, research opportunities, healthcare and government services. The digital divide also limits rural areas’ capacity to grow and attract businesses and retain and attract residents.

Urban-rural divides in broadband access are inversely related to the percent of state population without access to broadband. This means that as overall state access increases, so too does the divide in access between urban and rural areas. Broadband access tends to cluster in urban areas because it is a guaranteed market for private providers, unlike less densely populated rural areas. Even in rural areas where broadband is available, it is often much more expensive, leading to gaps not only in access, but also in adoption.

There are no states in which rural areas have more people with access to broadband than urban areas. Overall, rural communities have 37% more residents without broadband access, as compared to their urban counterparts. Alaska has the most significant digital divide, with a gap of 62%, meaning that rural areas in Alaska have 62% percent more people without access to broadband than the state’s urban areas. Massachusetts has the narrowest digital divide, with rural areas having only 8% more people without broadband access than urban areas (see Map 2).

States with the narrowest urban-rural digital divide that have the highest proportion of population with broadband access include New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland and Massachusetts (see appendix data table 2). States with the most significant urban-rural digital divides and most significant lack of high-speed Internet access include Wyoming, Alaska and Oklahoma.

Although Massachusetts performs well regarding broadband access, the state was actively seeking private sector companies to provide high-speed service to underserved areas. The extensive capital expenditures needed to build broadband networks and a requirement that they connect 96% of homes and businesses in the town, however, hindered the interest of those companies. The state agreed that for underserved communities, instead of requiring providers to service 96% of the town immediately, it would consider projects that would plan reach this goal over time. This small adjustment was enough to gain interest of several businesses that are now competing for projects in rural communities.

Some communities are also exploring municipal broadband, which means that local government pays for all or part of the access. A 2018 Harvard University study found that community-owned broadband networks provide consumers with much lower rates than their private-sector counterparts. Not all local governments, however, are able to provide municipal broadband services. In 2017, the National League of Cities identified 17 states that preempt, or don’t allow, their cities or towns to create public broadband services. These include some states with lower than average broadband access and more significant rural disadvantages, including Arkansas, Alabama and Nebraska.

Broadband access is a factor in education attainment…

State education attainment levels tend to be higher in states that do a good job managing their levels of digital divide. In other words, the more access to broadband, the greater proportion of people able to attain education.

Broadband access is a factor in prosperity…

States with greater growth in their contributions to national GDP have stronger employment growth and wage growth. Prosperity growth also links back to the digital divide. Those states with greater digital divides between urban and rural areas experience greater divides in prosperity growth that disadvantage rural communities. This finding corroborates a McKinsey global study on the economic impact of the Internet that found that increases in Internet access strongly correlate with increases in real per capita GDP.

The also highlighted the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant program as a way to improve broadband in rural areas.