ST. PAUL – House Republicans, including Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, unveiled a series of proposals on Wednesday that would increase broadband Internet access throughout Minnesota, particularly in currently underserved regions of Greater Minnesota.
The proposals total $35 million, including $7 million dedicated to improving broadband access for Minnesota students through new grant programs.
"Major portions of rural Aitkin and Crow Wing county have the least access to broadband services of any place in the state," Lueck said. "We are doubling down on resolving that problem by continuing to invest in expanding broad band service in rural Minnesota."
Of the $7 million for broadband funding in the supplemental education proposal, $5 million would be used as grants for broadband Wi-Fi hotspots, while $2 million would be allocated to build broadband capacity. Inner city, suburban, and rural districts could use the grants to purchase mobile hotspots for student use or provide Wi-Fi hotspots to adult education classes and displaced workers.
School districts statewide could receive up to $100,000 for equipment and operating costs to improve broadband connectivity.
Along with broadband education funding, Republicans proposed an additional $28 million for rural broadband expansion. Lueck said the funding focuses on unserved and underserved areas, as well as areas with larger numbers of low-income households.
"Coupled with the annual $85 million a year of federal 'Connect America Funds' coming to Minnesota, the House proposal will allow us to take a significant step forward in providing state-of-the-art broadband access to the residents of our part of Minnesota," Lueck said. "This will help everyone from families to students, local governments and businesses in our state."