The bill establishes a pilot program that funds smaller-scale broadband line extensions to hard-to-reach homes and businesses.
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee held a hearing March 2 on SF 3476, which would set up a pilot program to fund smaller-scale broadband line extensions to individual homes and business that still lack access.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks), is intended to provide broadband to properties that were not included in larger broadband deployments because they are isolated, have a long driveway, or have some other feature that makes them hard to reach.
The pilot program would be part of the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, administered by the Office of Broadband Development. The bill would create an online portal, where homeowners and businesses could report their lack of access to service.
The Office of Broadband Development would verify the reports that come in through the portal. If a location is confirmed as unserved, the Office of Broadband Development could award a provider via reverse auction (where providers bid on providing service) up to $25,000 per project to extend service to that location.
The bill would also grant cable broadband providers the same authority granted to electric cooperatives to use existing private easements for the provision of broadband service, in addition to the easements’ original purpose.
League supports bill
The League of Minnesota Cities submitted a letter in support of the bill. The League sees it as another mechanism to ensure that no homes or businesses are left behind as the state continues to deploy state and federal resources for broadband infrastructure.
Next steps for the bill
The bill, as amended, was passed unanimously at the March 2 hearing, and sent to the Senate Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee.
The House version, HF 3605 (Rep. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls), awaits action by the House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee.