$200M needed to boost MN rural broadband, lawmakers propose just $17M

Author:
Updated:
Original:

The amount needed to improve rural broadband access in Minnesota? $200 million. The highest amount proposed by lawmakers Wednesday? $17 million.

On a day of frenzied debate in Minnesota's Senate and House, lawmakers made their way through countless bills prior to the current legislative session's close on May 17, and rural broadband was one of the big bills up for discussion.

But the figures being talked about were well short of the $200 million of infrastructure investment recommended by a task force set up by Gov. Mark Dayton to connect rural Minnesotans without access to high-speed broadband.

In the end, the Democrat-led Senate only agreed to a bill providing $17 million towards rural broadband, the Republican-led House recommending $10 million, the Albert Lea Tribune reports, which are not only short of the $200 million, but also the $30 million Dayton had asked for in his budget.

The Pioneer Press reports there were attempts to increase this amount, with Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, attempting to take $10 million from the state's film and television board to put towards broadband, but this was beaten 31-30.

Meanwhile in the House, Rep. Erik Simonson, D-Duluth, went for an ambitious increase in broadband spending of $148 million, but was told this did not fit into House budget levels, so no vote was taken.

The Star Tribune's northern writer and Minnesota Brown blogger Aaron Brown has previously argued that failing to invest in rural broadband infrastructure would be a "historically epic mistake."

He said in a comment piece for the newspaper Thursday bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas is inevitable for Minnesota, but the longer the debate continues over it, the more damage it will do to affected communities.

Rep. Pat Garofolo, R-Farmington, argued earlier this month that a hardwired broadband system is too expensive to roll out to the entire state, MPR reports, and said focus should instead be on investing in (cheaper) wireless and satellite broadband technology.

Greater Minnesota Partnership executive director Dan Dorman told the Albert Lea Tribune he hopes the final figure for rural broadband improvements in this legislative session will be above $20 million, once it has been discussed in conference committee.

A comment in the West Central Tribune this week argues that without faster broadband speeds, "rural Minnesota will continue to fall behind in broadband access and, in turn, the critical factors of quality of life, education, economic opportunities, access to health care and many other positive benefits."

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-04-09 at 4.48.00 PM

Hennepin Co. medical examiner: Police interaction tipped Floyd 'over the edge'

Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who performed Floyd's autopsy, testified Friday in the trial of former MPD officer Derek Chauvin.

Siren

Attention, CNN: There will be extra tornado sirens in Minnesota next week

The national broadcaster was caught by surprise by the test this past Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-04-09 at 11.41.46 AM

Minneapolis Parks and Rec buys land to create park in North Loop

The Parks and Recreation Board is paying just over $2M for the land.

traffic stop

Speed-related crashes, deaths are a mounting problem in Minnesota

Fatal speed-related crashes are ahead of last year's pace.

Parkway Minneapolis lake path

Sections of Minneapolis parkways to close to vehicles till end of May

They will be designated for pedestrian and biker use only.

covid-19, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, April 9

Hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past month.

covid, vaccine

Minnesota's 9th community vaccine site opening in Lino Lakes

All Minnesotans age 16 and older can try to get an appointment.

1024px-DC_Capitol_Storming_IMG_7965

Another Minnesotan arrested in connection with Capitol insurrection

The 26-year-old from Lindstrom is facing federal charges.

Screen Shot 2021-04-09 at 6.57.05 AM

Minneapolis woman missing from Eden Prairie is found safe

Eden Prairie PD had issued an appeal to find Suzanne Merkl.

Related