Citing the need for internet access in modern society, especially during a pandemic, the Minnesota Senate was able to pass a bill during a special session that aims to bring access to those without it.
The bipartisan bill unanimously passed on Saturday appropriates $27 million to fund rural broadband internet. The funded grants can be applied to both fund and reimburse the costs of bringing broadband to unserved and underserved areas. The funds are to be used for the purposes of rural learning, telehealth, and telecommuting, with a minimum 100 megabit download/upload rate.
“High-speed internet has become a utility of equal importance to electricity, and the COVID pandemic has only reinforced that fact. As schools were forced into distance learning, doctors attempted to expand telemedicine, and more and more people shifted to remote work, we learned just how necessary broadband access is in our daily lives,” said Senator Jeremy Miller.
$15 million of the $27 million will go towards bringing the internet to students, $2 million will go to reimbursing telehealth costs, and the remaining $10 million will go to broadband funding for economic purposes.
The House version is bipartisan as well, with 2 Democrat Authors, Reps. Ecklund and Vang, and 1 Republican, Rep Kresha.
“The passage of this broadband funding marks significant progress for Greater Minnesota. COVID-19 has highlighted that internet access is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. Our rural communities deserve to be on the same playing field as the rest of the state. We will keep up efforts for expansion to help our communities thrive!” Said, Senator Carrie Ruud.