The finalized bill includes additional resources and policy for broadband deployment.
On May 11, the House and Senate adopted the agreed upon agriculture, rural development, and broadband finance and policy omnibus bill, SF 1955 (Sen. Aric Putnam, DFL-St. Cloud/Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center), and passed the bill out of their respective chambers on bipartisan votes. The Senate approved the bill on a 49-16 vote followed shortly after by the House on an 85-44 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.
Broadband policy and funding
The bill includes a total of $125 million for broadband infrastructure deployment after the infusion of $100 million in new spending. The additional resources will help bring the state closer to meeting or exceeding the statutory speed goals of 100Mbps/20Mbps broadband availability to all homes and businesses across the state by 2026.
Additionally, underserved and unserved cities will now have more resources to apply through the bolstered Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program and Low-Density Broadband Development Grant Program. Language in the agreement that passed each chamber also fully funds the Office of Broadband Development, provides additional resources for the grant program, and makes permanent the lower population density grant program that was introduced as a pilot program last session. Specific provisions in the broadband language include:
- Additional $100 million in one-time funding over the next biennium for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program for a total of $125 million in broadband funding.
- $75 million is available in fiscal year 2024 and $50 million is available in fiscal year 2025 under the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program.
- Grant award limits increased to $10 million per project up from $5 million.
- Of the $100 million, $20 million is reserved each year of the biennium for the lower population density grant program.
- Eliminates the pilot program for lower population density proposals and establishes in statute a permanent Low-Density Broadband Development Grant Program, which is available to fund awards up to 75% of the total project cost rather than 50% for normal Border-to-Border Grants.