ST. PAUL, MN — Joined by advocates and Minnesotans who lack high-speed internet access, Governor Mark Dayton urged the Minnesota Legislature to support and pass his proposal to invest $30 million in rural broadband internet infrastructure. Leveraging $38 million in additional local and private investments, Governor Dayton’s proposal would help 11,000 more homes, business, and community institutions in Greater Minnesota access reliable, affordable high-speed internet.
“All Minnesotans need and deserve affordable, reliable high-speed internet. It is not fair that some Minnesotans have had to wait years to access the same high-speed internet as their friends and families in other areas,” said Governor Dayton. “If we are serious about connecting all Minnesotans to the opportunities of the 21st Century, we must increase our efforts to provide all Minnesotans with the high-speed internet access they need. I urge the Legislature to make a robust investment in rural broadband infrastructure this session.”
Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program
In 2011, when Governor Dayton took office only 56 percent of Minnesotans, largely in urban areas, had access to high-speed internet. Thanks to Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program and additional private investment, approximately 88 percent of all Minnesotans, including 73 percent of rural area residents, now have access to high-speed internet at least at 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload speeds.
Since taking office, Governor Dayton has proposed $211 million in investments for Greater Minnesota broadband infrastructure. This would have been enough funding to connect 67,989 households, 10,234 businesses, and 787 community institutions to high-speed internet. It also would have leveraged an estimated $265.7 million in additional private and local funding.
Inadequate Past Funding
Unfortunately, the Minnesota Legislature has only provided a total of $85.6 million in broadband funding. Those investments have helped provide high-speed internet to 33,852 households, 5,189 businesses, and 300 community institutions in Greater Minnesota that did not have it before. More information about the previous broadband infrastructure grants that made these connections possible – including a list of communities and grant amounts – can be found here.
Access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury. It is critical infrastructure for anyone who wants to run a business, access educational opportunities and job training programs, or receive world-class medical care no matter where they live. To help local communities seize the opportunity of high-speed internet, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development supports the work of local communities and broadband providers, collaborates with stakeholders to improve access, and allocates infrastructure grants funded by the Legislature. These grants and the technical assistance provided by the Office are critical to connecting all Minnesota communities, especially where low population density and other factors can make projects untenable.
Reaching Isolated Homes
The Border-to-Border Broadband Program also plays a critical role in reaching pockets of homes that have been too difficult to reach in the past. For example, Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association received a total of $224,019 in Border-to-Border Broadband Program grants in 2016 and 2017 to provide broadband internet access for 78 unserved households and 23 unserved businesses in Douglas County. This investment also leveraged $275,504 in private and local investment.
“From apples to eggs to milk to walnuts, delivering goods from farm to market requires more than roads and electricity, it requires broadband,” said Dave Wolf, general manager of Gardonville Telephone Co-op. “A rural broadband strategy that includes a partnership between the state and the service provider is solving the ‘how’ and its creating examples of success that other states will certainly follow.”
Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, a nonpartisan organization charged with analyzing Minnesota’s broadband needs, recommended $71.5 million in on-going biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program in its 2017 Annual Report published in January of this year. In 2016, the Task Force concluded that a total investment of $200 million is necessary to ensure that all Minnesotans have broadband internet regardless of where they live.