Last week, Inside Towers reported on a $20 million broadband bill that was moving through the legislature to expand rural access across the state. The bill aligns with Minnesota’s goal to provide every household and business with broadband access by 2022. On Monday, the state Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill, and it now moves to the House for final passage, reported the Grand Forks Herald.
Legislators hope the federal coronavirus relief dollars will cover the cost. The majority of the $20 million will go to building broadband infrastructure, granting high-speed access to homes and businesses; $8 million will be concentrated on distance learning initiatives, and $2 million is earmarked for telemedicine infrastructure, according to the Herald.
Sen. Carla Nelson commented that the coronavirus pandemic has “exposed inequities in which communities can access the internet. We can no longer think that we are serving Minnesota when some parts of Minnesota don’t have broadband access,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent added that to prevent a COVID slide, similar to “the summer slide,” where some students fall behind based on existing disparities, expanding access to broadband is critical. “We’re also realizing that is not going to be equal across our communities,” Kent said. “We know that the disparities, particularly in education, that exist here in the state of Minnesota exist and are being exacerbated. That’s why it’s important we’re doing this.”
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