Minnesota to Expand Its Broadband Grant Program

Broadband Internet access has been one of the main policy discussions in Minnesota for the past few years. Governor Dayton’s Broadband Task Force has recommended the state use public dollars to jumpstart broadband infrastructure investment. For FY2016-2017, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith propose a $100 million in their supplemental budget for this issue, while the Minnesota House’s bill proposes $35 million.

Back in 2010, Minnesota set its broadband development goal: that every resident and business have access to high-speed broadband with minimum download speeds of ten to 20 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of five to ten megabits per second by 2015 at the latest. As we recently reported, the state failed to achieve its goal, but recently updated its goal to match the FCC’s latest definition of broadband Internet with minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speed of three megabits per second.

BroadbandNow, a comparison and research website that provides information on broadband in the United States, reports that about 90 percent of Minnesotans have access to broadband at 25 megabits per second or faster. However, the Task Force reports that most of those without the access live in rural and tribal areas of Minnesota.

Broadband status in Minnesota

Broadband status in Minnesota

Since its beginning, the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program has received overwhelming interest from cities, communities, and providers across the state. Minnesota has appropriated $30 million, which leveraged about $41 million in private investments in the past two years. However, many grant applications remain unfunded.

According to Governor Dayton’s proposal, the grant is expected to connect 35,000 additional homes, businesses, and institutions across Minnesota. It should also leverage at least $100 million in private and local investment, based on past grant funding.

The Minnesota House of Representatives proposes a more conservative plan to appropriate $35 million for the border-to-border broadband grant program.

Given the previous interest in the grant and the increasing growth in broadband demand, it is encouraging to see the border-to-border broadband grant is gaining more traction at the Capitol. As broadband Internet becomes more important in not just high-tech industry but education, agriculture, and health care, Minnesotans understand that this infrastructure is necessary to ensure the state’s competitive edge for its residents and businesses.