Lawmakers fight over how to expand broadband in rural MN

- High speed broadband access is something many people take for granted in the Twin Cities, but this is not the case in the greater Minnesota, where there is not enough coverage. Lawmakers at the state Capitol are fighting over how to jump start investment.

Gov. Mark Dayton asked lawmakers for $100 million to expand broadband access in rural Minnesota. The Senate is pledging $85 million and the House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday for $40 million over two years

The Senate's $85 million would go to the border-to-border fund to partner with internet companies to extend high-speed internet lines to rural areas.

It’s not just senators pushing for the money; the state Farmer's Union and the Minnesota Association of Township are as well.

"21 century agriculture demands broadband access,” Steve Fenske with the Minnesota Association of Townships said. “And every day they go without it, they are operating at a disadvantage in the global economy."
House Republicans have the same goal, but a different philosophy of how to get there.

They believe the Senate plan duplicates a lot money already pledged by the federal government.
In addition to the $40 million in the jobs bill passed Wednesday, they also passed another $7 million in an education bill this week to allow rural schools to buy mobile hot spots for students to check out and bring home.

“To the people who say there is going to be lack of investment in Minnesota, it's the exact opposite,
Rep. Pat Garofalo, the job growth committee chairman, said. “We've got so much investment coming that we may have a shortage of workers of fiber optic stretching and trenching installing this infrastructure.”

Governor calls the Republican plan “gamesmanship.” He is meeting with GOP leaders Thursday.

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