Broadband Expansion Considered

broadbandThe House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee heard arguments for expanding broadband in the State.

“Broadband is the future of Minnesota,” said Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth). “Minnesota lags behind in technology. Good broadband is a need and it’s frustrating to people when they don’t have the tools that they need.”

According to Session Daily, the supplemental omnibus jobs and economic development finance bill, also known as HF 2976, contains a one-time appropriation of $25 million for a broadband development grant program and an additional $450,000 for broadband mapping across the state. The grant funds would be available to areas of the state that are unserved, those who don’t have access to the federally provider-required download speed of four megabits per second; or those who don’t have access to the state’s provider-required download speed of 10 to 20 megabits per second.

Communities that don’t have access to high-speed internet service are at a disadvantage to metropolitan communities as internet service is a key factor to economic development. Online sales are increasing, job recruitment and applications are increasingly done via the internet, and online advertising gives companies an advantage.  ConnectMinnesota claims that business establishments that use broadband report median annual revenues that are approximately $200,000 higher than businesses that do not use broadband.

Annandale is one community that reports slow speeds and frequent outages prove difficult for businesses that can’t process credit card transactions, and for medical facilities that can’t access patient records or fill prescriptions when the system goes down. “This is a very pervasive issue in our community,”Annandale City Councilwoman Shelly Jonas said. “During an outage, businesses can’t use web-based technology. It effects the quality of life overall.”

The bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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