Governor’s Task Force on Broadband recommends $200 million for Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband released its 2016 Annual Report today, which includes recommendations for Gov. Mark Dayton, the Legislature and other policymakers to consider in the 2016 legislative session.

The recommendations outlined in the report are aimed at ensuring every Minnesotan has access to broadband, and include $200 million in funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grand Development Program and an update to the state’s outdated speed goals.

“We are pleased the Task Force has included increased funding for school and libraries,” said Denise Dittrich, who represents MSBA on the Task Force. “Telecommunication equity aid funding is vital to the success of Minnesota schools, especially those in areas of the state that are more costly to provide access to high-speed broadband service.”

“The goal of the task force is that every home and business, border-to-border, should have access to high-speed broadband,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. “Expanding broadband allows all businesses to compete in today’s global economy no matter where they are located in Minnesota, expands educational opportunities, and helps people stay in touch with health care providers to receive care and monitor their health conditions. These recommendations will move our state closer to our goal.”

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, created by the Legislature in 2014 and initially funded at $20 million, provides funding to build the state’s broadband infrastructure and promote broadband access in unserved and underserved areas of the state.  The grants provide up to a dollar-for-dollar match on funds, not to exceed $5 million for any one project, and are distributed to qualified entities.

Minnesota’s universal broadband access and speed goals, originally established in 2010, specified that by no later than 2015, “all state residents and businesses have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of ten to 20 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of five to ten megabits per second.” As of February 2015, 91.45 percent of Minnesota households had broadband access available at a speed of at least 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload, while 80.16 percent of rural Minnesota households had a broadband connection that meets these speeds.*

The task force’s new proposal would update the state’s speed goals to specify that all businesses and homes should have access to high-speed broadband services at a download speed of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second by 2022. These speeds are in alignment with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition of high-speed broadband.

Furthermore, the report recommends that by 2026, it is a state goal that all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.

Additional policy recommendations include:

  • Increase telecommunications aid for schools and libraries
  • Expand existing sales tax exemption for telecommunications equipment
  • Reform regulations of Minnesota’s telecommunications industry
  • Review existing permitting criteria to see where there might be opportunities for efficiencies
  • Create an Office of Broadband operating fund to promote broadband adoption and use

Visit http://mn.gov/deed/images/2015-broadband-report.pdf to view the full report.

* These figures include broadband service provided by wired, fixed wireless and wireless technologies, as Minnesota statutes did not specify a technology.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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2 Responses to Governor’s Task Force on Broadband recommends $200 million for Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program

  1. Gary Anger says:

    This is great news for school districts like Zumbrota Mazeppa as we try and provide equitable learning experiences for students even on days when the weather keeps kids at home. Expanded Broadband will help us serve students educationally at home as we implement Weather Impacted Learning Days (WILD) on days like we’ve had recently when schools are closed due to the weather.

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