ST. PAUL, MN – On Wednesday, April 13, House Republicans unveiled a series of proposals to increase broadband access throughout Minnesota. The proposals total $35 million including $7 million dedicated to improving broadband access for Minnesota students through new, innovative grant programs. Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, has led the push for increased broadband support around the state.
“Because of innovation in education and health services, people in unserved and underserved areas in Minnesota are relying on adequate broadband speeds,” said Kresha. “Students, local governments, and main street businesses rely on increased broadband offerings to compete globally.”
Of the $7 million of broadband funding in the supplemental education proposal, $5 million would be used as grants for broadband wifi hotspots, while $2 million would be allocated to build broadband capacity. Inner city, suburban, and rural districts can use the grants to purchase mobile hotspots for student use or provide wifi hotspots to adult education classes and displaced workers. Education Finance Chair Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, supports the measures to bring broadband to underserved schools.
“School districts statewide can receive up to $100,000 for equipment and operating costs to improve broadband connectivity,” said Loon. “Giving disadvantaged children the ability to connect with the rest of the world is important for the future of our state.”
Along with broadband education funding, Republicans proposed an additional $28 million for rural broadband expansion. Combined with federal Connect America Funds, Minnesotans will see a historic broadband infrastructure investment. The funding focuses on unserved and underserved areas, as well as areas with larger numbers of low-income households.
“We cannot continue to let rural Minnesota slip further behind other parts of the state that already have fast, reliable internet access,” said Dave Baker, R-Willmar. “It is time to help Greater Minnesota gain the broadband access they desperately need.”