Friday, the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed legislation to distribute emergency broadband funding. In the wake of COVID-19, $27 million will be available to increase vital broadband infrastructure in unserved areas of the state for education, remote work, and telemedicine. All of these areas have been significantly impacted by the lack of internet rural areas, and this bill increases employment opportunities, options for education, and access to everyday necessities for those in Greater Minnesota.
“The passage of this broadband funding marks significant progress for Greater Minnesota,” said Senator Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point). “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!”
$15 million will be designated in 2020 to a “distance learning broadband access grant program” for students lacking internet access this fall. $2 million will go towards reimbursing licensed healthcare providers who invest in and install telemedicine equipment for COVID-19-related care.
The Border-to-Border Broadband Fund, which targets the development of broadband in unserved and underserved areas, is a significant recipient of the bill and will provide substantial help for businesses, telecommuting, and distance learning. The program will receive $10 million of the $27 million appropriation. All projects will be up and running by the end of 2020, guaranteeing access for outstate communities.v