A recent meeting hosted by the Blandin Foundation revealed a pressing need to educate legislators on the urgency of gaining funding for rural broadband expansion, grow legislative support and create a more permanent coalition of advocacy groups. The meeting comes as a state task force calls for investment this legislative session to bring much needed Internet service to rural areas and proposals emerge. Learn more about this issue.
The Blandin Foundation on Jan. 28 hosted the meeting of coalition partners, including representatives from MREA, at the League of Minnesota Cities office in St. Paul to discuss strategies on legislative action regarding more funding for rural broadband expansion.
Others in attendance included the Minnesota Townships Association, Association of Minnesota Counties, staff from DFL Congressman Rick Nolan’s office, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing), as well as others.
Another meeting is being scheduled for late February or early March, with a focus on demonstrating the economic value and impact of broadband for communities. The coalition hopes to have a Broadband Day at the Capitol for 2017.
Currently 72 rural counties have less than 90% household access to the former standard of broadband: 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload speeds, as illustrated on the map to right.Learn more about this issue.
The Duluth News Tribune on Feb. 4 published an article titled “Task force suggests faster broadband as some rural areas remain behind.” The state and feds have outline recommended upload and download speeds with a goal of reaching these speeds by 2022. Read the article.
“The Legislature in 2014 appropriated $20 million to expand rural broadband and $10 million last year. Some estimates indicate that upwards of $3 billion is needed to bring high-speed service statewide, with that cost split among federal, state and local governments; telecommunications companies; and other entities,” the Tribune reported.
The task force recommended the Legislature invest $200 million this year in broadband. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is asking for $100 million and Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) has introduced a bill asking for $35 million. MREA supports each of these requests.
MREA believes that expanding broadband is rural electrification of the 21st century and will be pursuing additional funding for DEED broadband grants at the Legislature this upcoming session. Expanding rural broadband is a top priority for MREA and can be found in MREA’s 2016 Legislative Platform. View an issue brief on broadband.