International Falls supports federal broadband investment as using money efficiently

International Falls Journal posts an editorial in support of federal spending..

The fund will award high-cost support to distribute broadband service in rural areas. In a letter, the senators, including Minnesota’s Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, called on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to ensure that broadband networks built in rural areas using the money are able keep up with future demands for speed and capacity, and to hold support recipients accountable for providing adequate broadband service to consumers.

This need is not something new to Borderland. And we applaud the senators who told Pai their rural constituents need access to services that are on par with those in urban areas if rural communities are to survive and flourish.

The FCC plays a critical role in connecting rural communities to high-speed internet through the universal service fund. It would be a waste of money to provide funds for services that can’t keep up with consumer demand and the improved broadband in urban areas.

Clearly, it only makes sense that as the FCC moves forward to adopt new rules in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proceeding, Pai promotes the building networks that will be sustainable even as new advancements are made and are capable of delivering the best level of broadband access for the available USF budget for many years to come.

With limited resources and great need, the importance of using the money most efficiently by building sustainable networks that meet the needs of consumers now and in the future becomes more clear.

Letter to the Editor in Grand Rapids supports Tina Smith and her work on broadband

The Grand Rapids Herald Review posts a letter to the editor in support of Tina Smith for Senate…

As soon as Senator Smith got to the Senate, she launched a statewide listening tour to hear from Minnesota farmers on what their priorities are for the Farm Bill. She took what she heard from those sessions and immediately got to work writing measures in the Senate Farm Bill that expands critical broadband infrastructure to more farms across Minnesota and supports new farmers.

Senator Goggin disappointed in Gubernatorial veto that led to lack of broadband funding

In a letter to the editor to the Red Wing Republican Eagle, Senator Goggin said…

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in the governor and his decision to veto these two bills that would have helped so many Minnesota families. …

Here are some other things the governor vetoed: …

Building on last year’s commitment to broadband access, we added $15 million more for the Border-to-Border Broadband program, so underserved and unserved communities could finally get access to critical high speed internet.

Mankato Free Press talks about broadband funding at the Legislature

The Mankato Free Press reporter make commentary on (and gives a great brief history of) broadband at the legislature…

A few years ago, broadband funding was all the rage at the state Capitol.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration created the Office of Broadband Development in 2013 looking to fund more projects in Greater Minnesota. Local providers were ready to branch out. People expected lightning-fast internet access across the state.

Fast-forward a few years and much of the state has some kind of broadband access. Yet some communities remain using dial-up, even within south-central Minnesota, which is why local economic development experts are likely lauding Dayton’s $30 million broadband proposal.

The governor announced his plan Wednesday to help an estimated 11,000 households, businesses and organizations surf the web a little easier.

He notes what local legislators are saying…

Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, believes there likely will be a broadband bill this session, but it’ll set $20 million for grants instead of the governor’s $30 million proposal. Lawmakers passed a $35 million grant bill last year, during budget discussions.

Draheim is also interested in securing state funding for satellite and wireless internet access for rural areas that don’t yet have broadband access. He’d also like to see the state mandate reports on wireless speeds from Minnesota providers — he, like many people in our region, also gets frustrated over few internet provider choices, ongoing data speeds that are less than we pay for, and more than a few internet outages each year.

Still, every little bit helps for an industry where companies need grant funding to build those networks in rural areas. They need far more miles of data fiber, and thus far more thousands of dollars, to build networks connecting agricultural land and small towns.

Rep Layman optimistic for the legislative session and interested in broadband

The Citizen Tribune reports that Representative Sandy Layman is optimistic …

The 2018 Minnesota Legislature opens at noon Tuesday, Feb. 20, and Rep. Sandy Layman (R-Cohasset) is optimistic that work between now and session end on May 21 will be off to a good start building off what she believes were big wins last year.

And thinking about broadband…

Personally, Layman wants to put together a bipartisan coalition to leverage more broadband dollars.

“Legislative leaders are hopeful for a budget surplus, but we won’t know with certainty until the forecast comes out later this month. If there is a surplus, broadband expansion in Greater Minnesota is near the top of my list.”

Although the Legislature passed a large bonding bill last year, Layman says 2018 could also be a bonding year. A number of projects from Deer River to Cohasset to Grand Rapids are looking for bonding support.

“I anticipate a good deal of discussion about the size and scope of such a bill,” she added.

Layman expects to be spending most of her weekdays in St. Paul until adjournment in May. For constituents to stay informed of what the Legislature is working on, Layman suggests signing up for weekly session updates at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/5b.

Minnesota Rural Legislative Interests – transportation, bonding, child care & broadband

The Voice of Alexandria (KXRA) recently published an article on the rural take on the legislature…

Last year, the Republican-led Legislature, buoyed by GOP gains in rural areas in the 2016 election, passed some favorable legislation for Greater Minnesota, such as a bonding bill that will pay for public works projects and an increase in funding for the Local Government Aid program. This year, lawmakers will meet for just three months – Feb. 20 to May 21 – with a projected $188 million deficit (based on a November economic forecast) serving as a backdrop.

That hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for legislation that could help the rural economy – at least for organizations that represent rural interests.

They spoke to a few associations and organizations representing rural interests. Growth & Justice listed broadband as a priority…

Meanwhile, a think tank that’s been focused on issues related to the rural economy, Growth & Justice, hopes to build on a list of a dozen priorities it released during last year’s session. Besides a bonding package and child care needs, among other issues, the organization would like to see more broadband expansion and investment in a program that helps to equip workers with enhanced skills for technical jobs.

“We’ve got to be able to hold all of these issues up at the same time and understand how they all interrelate,” said Growth & Justice President Jane Leonard, who joined the organization in January.

And the article notes broadband as a topic to watch…

Broadband expansion: High-speed broadband has expanded into many remote regions, with 87 percent of Minnesotans now having access to high-speed internet, according to state estimates. But the work to connect everyone continues. Last year, the Legislature set aside $20 million for the Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program, which provides grants to providers for the infrastructure they need to expand their reach. This year, the Greater Minnesota Partnership would like to see at least $50 million for the Border to Border program, with at least half of the money made available to areas that lack access to 2026 state speed goals — 100 megabits down, 20 megabits up.  The current federal standard is 25 megabits down, 3 megabits up.

First Congressional District candidate Vicki Jensen promotes better broadband

The New Ulm Journal reports that First Congressional District candidate Vicki Jensen talked up the need for better broadband on a recent visit to New Ulm and surrounding area…

Jensen also spoke on the need for rural economic development, which includes infrastructure improvements like broadband.

“Broadband is the best economic tool we can have for our rural economy,” she said. “We did it with electric and we can do it with broadband. We just need the will to do it.”