It is a fact universally acknowledged that during the 2015 session, the Minnesota House Republicans attempted to defund the Border-to-Border Development Grant Program, while eliminating the Office of Broadband Development.
Fortunately, DFLers got the contrarian caucus to say uncle and some money squeaked through, though nothing close to the pressing need businesses and residents had hoped for.
In the latest issue of the St. Peter Herald, state representative Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, reflects in Connect Minnesota:
Broadband across all of Minnesota would be a long-term investment that would make our businesses and farmers competitive with those who have the access. These enterprises would have the ability to download data-rich information that can help them fine tune their operations and create partners for trade in markets across the globe.
During the 2014 legislative session, I voted for $20 million in broadband grants for underserved areas. Some of that has been invested in south central Minnesota. When Governor Dayton proposed an additional $30 million in broadband grants in his state budget earlier this year, it appeared likely that we would further expand broadband to Greater Minnesota.
With a projected $2 billion state budget surplus last year, there was plenty of room for a significant investment in Greater Minnesota broadband. Unfortunately, the House Republicans initially opposed any type of funding for broadband development grants. It was only after weeks of pressure from Greater Minnesota that they began to consider supporting funding for broadband.
After long negotiations with Governor Dayton, and a special session, the final budget bill only included $10.6 million, about half of what we invested in 2014. A budget surplus is not a time to retreat from investing in critical infrastructure critical to the future of Greater Minnesota.
Now is the time for one-time investments like broadband funding. We currently have a stable budget and more than a $1 billion budget surplus. . . .
While people in Greater Minnesota are patient, let's hope the legislature can deliver faster than the pokey Internet upon which far too many of us rely.
Photo: In many places in rural Minnesota, broadband is not outstanding in its field.
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