(The Center Square) – Minnesota will receive about $652 million in federal funding to bolster residents’ access to broadband internet, U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith announced Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will provide the dollars through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, beginning with areas that have no broadband connectivity, according to a news release from Klobuchar’s team.
“With this federal funding we will reach every corner of Minnesota by bringing needed high-speed internet access to schools, homes, and health care centers,” Klobuchar, a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, said in the release.
Klobuchar partnered on a 2021 bill, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, to expand high-speed internet nationwide. She said she would continue working across the aisle to make sure all Minnesotans have access to high-speed internet.
Smith said broadband is necessary for building an economy that works for everyone. In May, she reintroduced a bill that would make areas that have higher downstream and upstream transmission capacity eligible for USDA grants.
Klobuchar has participated in several bipartisan legislative efforts, including the Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act, to strengthen broadband access for rural communities. If the bill passes, the Federal Communications Commission would study whether it’s necessary to expand the contribution base of the Universal Service Fund to make sure contribution requirements are equitable.
“Currently, the USF is primarily funded through landline fees, disproportionately impacting seniors, who are more likely to use landlines than other Americans,” Klobuchar’s release said.
Across the country, the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program allocates $42.5 billion for expanding high-speed internet access.
Minnesota legislators passed a bill in May that allocates $125 million over the course of fiscal years 2024 and 2025 for border-to-border broadband funding. Twenty million dollars per year is dedicated to lower population density program grants. Lawmakers raised the amount of grant awards available per project from $5 million to $10 million. They created a lower population density grant program. In that program, the state could fund up to 75%, instead of 50%, of the cost of projects in unserved and underserved areas of Minnesota.
In 2016, Minnesota legislators decided to set the state’s broadband goal to be to enable all homes and businesses to have at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds by 2022 and at least 100 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload speeds by 2026.
States have until 180 days after June 30 to submit their proposals describing how they will run their grant programs, the U.S. Department of Commerce said.
“The BEAD funding will be used to deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service,” the department said. “Once deployment goals are met, any remaining funding can be used to pursue eligible access-, adoption-, and equity-related uses.”
The department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will approve the initial proposals on a rolling basis. Upon approval, states can request access to at least 20% of their allocated funds.