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Editorial: Broadband support a must for Greater Minnesota

The Minnesota Senate’s reversal in how much in funding it’s willing to invest in the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program is disappointing and, should it pass at the current amount of $30 million, it could constitute a costly delay in the economic growth of Greater Minnesota.

Last week, the Senate passed its Senate Agriculture Ominbus Bill by a vote of 43-24. In that bill it allotted $30 million for broadband in the state, down from its original proposal of $70 million.

The Governor’s Broadband Task Force, in its annual report released in 2018, found that $70 million every two years is needed to meet the 2022 state speed goal of 25mbps download and 5mbps upload to every home and business.

To go further, $70 million every two years keeps on track the state statutory speed goals of 100mbps download and 20mbps upload.

It goes without saying that broadband for the entire state of Minnesota is a much-needed boon for small business and farmers alike. Slow upload and download speeds make it difficult for people working in those areas to do even the day-to-day things necessary to operate their business in an efficient manner.

In contrast to the Senate’s proposal, the House voted 74-59 to pass its House Jobs Omnibus Bill, which would provide the needed $70 million for the program over the next two years.

We realize and understand how many different directions our Legislature is being pulled in order to fund the various projects its collective players find important for the state of Minnesota, but the fact that broadband for Greater Minnesota affects such a large swath of the state can’t be ignored.

While it is welcomed and optimistic that the Senate does push for funding for the broadband program, it’s disappointing they couldn’t provided more to help bolster broadband to meet the needs of farmers and small businesses.

This is especially important when considering the approximately $1 billion in surplus the state has to work with.

However, there is still time before the Legislature convenes on May 20 for negotiation. It is our hope that work continues forward to provide as much support to developing and upgrading Minnesota’s infrastructure as the state can. Continuing to add funds to things like broadband so all of Minnesota can be connected is an extremely important part of that.

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