On Wednesday, the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband released a report calling for a $200 million investment in rural broadband access over the next two years.
Star Tribune reporter Ricardo Lopez wrote in Task force recommends $200M for rural broadband:
The push to enhance high-speed Internet access in rural areas of Minnesota got a boost Wednesday when a state task force recommended that the state spend another $200 million on the effort.
The report provides fresh ammunition to Gov. Mark Dayton, who has pressed legislators to provide more funding to boost broadband access in outstate Minnesota, where roughly two in 10 homes lack high-speed connections.
“While [$200 million] is a fraction of the total capital investment required to meet the state’s border-to-border broadband objective, it is an important contribution,” the report said.
The report said that, while the infusion into the state’s broadband grant program would help Minnesota achieve its goal, it would cost $900 million to $3.2 billion to fully expand high-speed Internet statewide.
Dayton in December proposed $100 million for the broadband grant program, an effort legislative Democrats say they support.
House Republicans have called for reforms to how the broadband grants are administered, saying Minnesota should do more to leverage existing federal funding for broadband access. GOP legislators, who hold the majority in the House, are awaiting updated budget projections later in February before saying how much they would propose for broadband, said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, whose committee has jurisdiction over the issue. . . .
Forum Communications' Don Davis adds more in Task force suggests faster broadband as some rural areas remain behind:
Deputy House Minority Leader Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, said that action is needed in this year's legislative session, set to begin March 8, after broadband funding nearly was zeroed out last year.
"Our rural hospitals, schools, businesses and residents deserve nothing less than the ability to compete in today’s global marketplace," Marquart said.
An assistant House majority leader said he wants funds for broadband, but the amount depends on how top-tier issues such as transportation and tax cuts pan out.
"I will support the best number we can get out," Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said, thinking about "the many, many asks we have on the table in front of us."
He already has introduced a bill to spend $35 million.
Here's the report:
Map: From the report.
If you appreciate Bluestem Prairie's original reporting and analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen P.O. Box 108, Maynard MN 56260) or use the paypal button below:
Email subscribers can contribute via this link to paypal; use email sally.jo.sorensen at gmail.com as recipient.