Task Force recommends spending $120M to bring broadband to unserved households

The Governor’s Broadband Task Force has released its annual report and funding recommendations to the Legislature.

The Task Force is recommending $120 million for the next biennium. This recommendation is based on the projected cost to bring broadband service to the 157,000 unserved households (defined as not meeting 25 mbps upload speed/3 mbps download speed) in Minnesota. The report also notes that many of these households are very difficult to serve, especially without a provider willing to apply for and use a grant. Future spending will require service that meets or exceeds the state’s 2026 broadband speed goal of 100 mpbs upload/25 mbps download speeds.

The Task Force also recommends a review of the current speed goals and suggests adopting a symmetrical service at 100 mbps upload and download speeds effective in 2026.

It is good to see the Task Force begin to address ways to reduce the number of households that are not currently meeting the 25 mbps/3 mbps speed goals. However, the report does not address how to address the “donut hole” of excluding parts of counties because they have adequate service today. The best example of this can be found in Lac qui Parle County, where the entire county—with the exception of the county seat, Madison—is served by fiber.
 
The report will be submitted to the Legislature for consideration in the 2021 session.