Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program Funding Bills Introduced Today
St. Paul, MN —"The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is proud to announce that HF 7 and SF 9 were introduced today kicking off the 2019 effort to fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program for $70 million as part of the biennial base budget,” said Nancy Hoffman, Chair of the Rural Broadband Coalition.
“Once again, we are pleased that this bill has broad, bipartisan support,” Hoffman continued. “We appreciate Representative Rob Ecklund and Senator Mark Koran for their leadership.”
The bills were introduced in both chambers among the first ten bills of the session, indicating legislators feel strongly about fully funding the broadband grant program.
Funding this program is critically important to ensuring the future economic competitiveness of greater Minnesota. We need to make sure that every Minnesotan—whether they’re a farmer, a small business owner, a student, or a telemedicine user—has access to world class, affordable broadband internet service. Including the grant program in the base budget will give long-term stability to the program and keep us on track to meet the state’s goals of 100mbps download and 20mbps upload service by 2026.
“Too many parts of the state, particularly in rural areas, don’t have access to reliable broadband service,” said Representative Rob Ecklund (DFL-Int’l Falls). “We have an opportunity to make investments now that will pay dividends well into the future for every sector of our state’s economy. This is a service that every person and business in the state should be able to have.”
“Reliable broadband service is a huge priority to my area,” said Senator Mark Koran (R-North Branch). “We have a patchwork of highly successful areas and rural areas that are underserved and will have a difficult time reaching the goals without state assistance. This is an area where government needs to step in and help achieve economic success.”
“Funding the Border-to-Border program ensures our communities in rural Minnesota will continue to thrive. In 2017, the Legislature provided $20 million in one-time funding, and there were over $70 million in grant applications—last year the Legislature didn’t fund the program at all,” added Hoffman. “Consistent and stable funding of the grant program is important to allow economic development agencies, local governments and others to be creative and collaborative in their approach to providing broadband services to these areas.”
We are thankful to chief authors as well as our key coauthors in the Senate including Sens. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), and David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisolm); and our key coauthors in the House including Reps. Sandy Layman (R-Cohasset), Julie Sandstede (DFL-Hibbing), Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), and Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin). We look forward to this legislation moving through the committee process and its eventual inclusion in the final budget bill this session.
The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is a group of local units of government, elected officials, economic development agencies, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, telecommunications organizations, non-profits and individuals who advocate at the State Capitol for better broadband in rural Minnesota.