Broadband Legislation Continues to Move Through Key Committees

Several bills provide funding for broadband expansion and mapping.
(Published Mar 18, 2014)

The Senate Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committee passed SF 2056 last week, which would create the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program and fund the program at $100 million. The bill, authored by Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing) was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and is expected to be heard sometime next week.

Similar to the House companion bill, HF 2615 authored by Rep. Eric Simonson (DFL-Duluth), the legislation would allow for local units of government, businesses, nonprofits, and cooperatives to apply for broadband project funding in unserved and underserved areas of the state. The grants would be administered through the Department of Economic Development and Employment, which currently houses the Office of Broadband Development. The funds can also serve as supplement revenues raised by bonds sold by local units of government for broadband infrastructure development. The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on March 20.

The League submitted written testimony in support of the initiative in both legislative bodies.

In related broadband news, the House Labor, Workplace, and Regulated Industries Committee passed HF 2736 last week, which appropriates $450,000 to DEED for funding to determine the availability of broadband service at various upload and download speeds throughout Minnesota. The Senate version, SF 2529, is awaiting a hearing in the Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committee.

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