The Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program has pushed the state to 91-percent penetration toward its goal of universal statewide high-speed internet access for all Minnesotans by 2020. In the next few weeks, the legislature will decide on the level of funding the program will receive over the next two years. The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition (which RAMS is a member of) and Gov. Walz recommended $70 million over the biennium, and the Minnesota House adopted that recommendation. The senate funds the program at $30 million for one-year only. The House proposal is obviously the better choice, especially when you consider the 2018 bill was vetoed by former Gov. Dayton, over issues not related to broadband. That disruption put the program on ice for a full year, leaving 14,500 homes, businesses, schools, emergency service providers and other entities on the dark side of the digital divide. Given the ongoing needs of the Not-Served-Nine-Percent of people in the state, many right here in St. Louis County, still without access to high-speed internet, and the veto-induced gap in program funding from 2018, it is imperative that the legislature fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program at $70 million for the biennium. I do believe that all members of the Iron Range delegation support the $70 million in funding and Representative Rob Ecklund is the chief author in the House.
Steve Giorgi , executive director
Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS)