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Minnesota to receive over $650 million to expand broadband access

Rural broadband has been a top priority of state and federal officials. Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch.

By Michelle Griffith, Minnesota Reformer

Minnesota will receive over $650 million to expand access to broadband thanks to the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which should make a major dent in Minnesota’s effort to provide high-speed internet to all Minnesotans who want it.

The state has set a goal of universal access to high-speed internet by 2026. The allocation from the feds comes after the Minnesota Legislature this year passed $100 million in broadband infrastructure funding.

The nearly $652 million granted to Minnesota for broadband expansion is part of President Joe Biden’s Monday announcement of a new $42.5 billion grant program to expand broadband access.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith on Monday said high-speed internet access is essential for education, health care and connecting with loved ones.

“It isn’t just nice to have, it’s essential if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” Smith said in a news release.

Last year, over 290,000 households in Minnesota didn’t have access to broadband with 100 mbps for downloads and 20 mbps for uploads, according to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband 2022 report. Internet speeds around 100 to 200 mbps are ideal for most households, as they can handle streaming and video chat for multiple users at once.

One in three rural Minnesota households doesn’t have access to 100/20 mbps internet, according to the report.

The governor’s broadband report estimates that it will cost Minnesota over $1.38 billion between 2022 and 2026 to connect the more than 290,000 households to the internet with at least 100/20 mbps speeds. The average cost per connection is $9,500, according to the report.

Walz said the nearly $652 million in federal funds will go towards broadband infrastructure grants overseen by the Office of Broadband Development within the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The feds are expected to release more funding for broadband expansion to states early next year.

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