Senate committee to hear two broadband bills on March 21

 

Note: The following information comes from a recent update by Sen. Matt Schmit to broadband advocates.

SenSchmit

Sen. Matt Schmit

Dear Broadband Advocate:

Earlier this week, Gov. Mark Dayton announced his supplemental budget proposal — including a renewed call for a $100 million investment in broadband infrastructure. Of course, this is welcome news for Minnesotans still struggling to access high-speed broadband Internet service essential for life in the 21st century. And it’s a great opportunity for continued partnership among communities, hard-working providers and service cooperatives, and the state.

Next Monday (March 21), our Senate Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committee will hear a pair of bills (SF 2447 and SF 2448) that propose to update our state speed goals per recent Broadband Task Force recommendations, apply the speed goals to our broadband fund parameters, and — most importantly — fund the broadband fund at a level appropriate to the need. Specifically, the bills propose the following:

  • Per Broadband Task Force recommendations, set state speed goals at 25 megabits per second for minimum download speeds and upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second by 2022 — and 100/20 by 2026
  • Apply the goals to our definition of “underserved” areas as we did in 2014 when the broadband fund was created
  • Fund the fund at an appropriate level of $100 million to inspire collaborative planning, applications, and deployment across the state

When we created the broadband fund in 2014 we spent considerable time debating how to set eligibility parameters. We agreed to set the definition of “unserved” areas at the level the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recognized as its definition of broadband; that level was 25/3 in 2015 — and it was the threshold for “unserved” areas in Minnesota during the 2015 funding round of our broadband grant program. During that round and the one proceeding it, Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development was directed to prioritize these unserved areas in administering the grant program.

For 2016 and beyond, the current Senate language would not change this approach. Rather, we propose to keep the threshold for “unserved” areas the same and continue to prioritize these areas above all others. In addition, we propose to apply the state speed goals to our definition of “underserved” — just as we did in 2014 when we created the fund.

With all that said, it’s important for those with a stake in state broadband funding to remain active in the discussion — both here at the Capitol and also in your respective corners of the state.

If you can, please join us on Monday, March 21, for our 2 p.m. hearing in Room 1100 of the Minnesota Senate Building. And whether here in St. Paul or back home, please make an effort to reach out to your legislators and emphasize the importance of providing the full $100 million for broadband infrastructure in 2016. Use of Minnesota’s one-time surplus funds for one-time broadband infrastructure needs is a perfect match!

Meantime, thanks for your continued interest in and advocacy for this issue — and just let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Best,

Matt Schmit | State Senator / District 21 | sen.matt.schmit@senate.mn

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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