ST. PAUL — A week of intense criticism about lack of broadband funding in a House funding bill ended Friday with $8 million being set aside for high-speed Internet development.
The $8 million is a far cry from $200 million a governor’s task force said is needed to bring Minnesota broadband up to a useful speed.
The addition came after Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said new technologies can be used to improve rural Minnesotans’ Internet service, and laying cables is outdated.
His comments were not well received, including from some fellow Republicans who ran a campaign last fall saying Democrats had ignored Greater Minnesota. Nearly a dozen newspapers editorialized in favor of broadband money, and Greater Minnesota groups loudly opposed the exclusion.
“I felt we should have some additional money going into the broadband area,” Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, said when he introduced the $8 million amendment, which the House Ways and Means Committee he chairs approved.
The Knoblach plan would target funds for underserved areas that would use broadband to improve the local economy. The concept, he said, “would get us better bang for the buck” than if money were spent in areas without broadband.