Governor’s Task Force on Broadband releases 2016 report, calls for $100M in broadband funding

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, which includes officials from industry and local communities, released its annual report Dec. 27 and called for $100 million in ongoing biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Development Grant Program. The report also specified policy recommendations to streamline regulations, establish a legislative cybersecurity commissions, and assist low-income households.

A letter from 17 organizations ‒ including the GMNP and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) ‒ was included in the report and displayed broad unity in opposing a new incumbent-protecting grant challenge process that large internet providers successfully advocated for in the 2016 legislative session. The Governor’s Task Force did not take a position opposing the challenge process.

However, the report did not recommend focusing on funding remote areas over economic development in cities. As the GMNP and CGMC have noted to the Legislature, strong broadband infrastructure depends on all rural areas “coming up” together ‒ both to keep systems sustainable and to encourage rural economic growth. The GMNP and CGMC secured changes to the grant program last year that expanded grant eligibility to many cities. This runs directly counter to the wishes of large broadband providers, who are concerned about competition and its accompanying service upgrades and price decreases for consumers.