MN broadband bill would connect widely scattered residents

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Thanks to state and federal commitments, Minnesota soon will unleash a large sum of funding to ensure more residents have broadband internet access, but industry groups warn of missing homes as work ramps up and hope a legislative plan addresses logistical issues.

Last year, Minnesota lawmakers approved spending $70 million dollars to expand the state’s networks for high-speed internet. A House bill would create a specialized grant program to convince providers to extend cable lines to homes in far-flung areas.

Rep. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls, the bill’s sponsor, said Minnesota needs to get the effort right.

“Policymakers and stakeholders need to examine every part of the funding and construction process and eliminate as many barriers to deployment as possible, ensuring no one is left behind,” Rasmusson asserted.

Issues include some homes showing up on broadband maps as served, even though they are not connected, hurting their eligibility for assistance. Rasmusson added existing grant programs are too large to cover a handful of smaller properties. The $70 million comes from American Rescue Plan funding, on top of other federal dollars being made available to the state for broadband development.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, cleared a House committee this week and was sent to another panel in the chamber.

Anna Boroff, executive director of the Minnesota Cable Communications Association, said offering smaller grants for line extensions has worked in other states to help close gaps.

“Unless we provide the Office of Broadband with tools to identify and reach them, these locations will continue to wait for service or be forced to come up with the funds to pay a provider to serve them,” Boroff pointed out.

Gaps in broadband access have received extra focus during the pandemic with households working remotely, along with distance learning. Advocates argued it is especially difficult for low-income families to thrive if they do not have reliable internet service. Roughly 240,000 homes around the state do not have high-speed internet.

Source: Minnesota News Connection

One Comment on “MN broadband bill would connect widely scattered residents”

  1. My opinion is that 240,000 people without high speed Internet is way off the mark
    I would say it’s at least 1/2million if not a million house holds that don’t have high speed Internet. This includes households in North Minneapolis and other areas of poverty in the Twin Cities. In the past Minnesota has done a piecemeal or scattershot approach to bringing high speed Internet to outstate Minnesota. People with one county have high speed Internet. Travel 1/2 mile and the people in the next county don’t have high speed Internet.

    Minnesota needs a comprehensive plan about how to bring high speed Internet to every household in the state. In Southern Minnesota most people will be able to be served by fiber optic cable. In northern some Minnesota households will have to rely on satellite service that the state provides. I own a cabin that’s so back in the woods it will never have the electricty or telephone wires to it. If I don’t have electricity I’m definitely not going to have fiber optic cable. For people who have electricity and telephone that live 10 miles from the nearest house, it’s not economical to run cable or fiber to them.

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