A total of $60 million over the next biennium for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program would increase access for unserved and underserved cities.
The House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee last week discussed HF 14, a bill that would provide $120 million in the 2022-2023 biennium for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
The bill, authored by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls), was passed by the committee on a 13-0 vote, and sent to the House Ways and Means Committee. This was the second time the committee heard the bill. Previously, it decided to wait to advance it until the spending targets were discussed.
Support for bill
Committee members, including the bill’s author, stressed the necessity of border-to-border broadband as critical infrastructure for all Minnesotans as they continue to work, learn, and receive health care from home.
The Senate version of the bill, SF 22 (Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook), awaits action in the Senate. The Senate has laid over several other broadband bills with various levels of funding, all lower than the $120 million called for in HF 14.
The Senate Republican majority also released its budget targets last week, which included $40 million over the next biennium for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
Robust broadband funding needed
The League continues to advocate for robust broadband funding to bolster deployment of broadband infrastructure in hard-to-reach underserved and unserved areas.
Additional funding is also necessary to reach the statutory speed goals. The state is aiming for all businesses and homes to have access to broadband that provides minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second (mbps) and minimum upload speeds of 3 mbps by 2022, and 100 mbps download and 20 mbps upload by 2026.