Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Minnesota Governor Recommends $100 Million Rural Broadband Funding

Minnesota Governor Recommends $100 Million Rural Broadband Funding: In 2016, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants to triple the state's past broadband efforts.

When Dayton commented on the state's $1.87 billion budget surplus, he recommended that Minnesota allocate $100 million in grant funding for rural broadband development. If that funding is approved by the state Legislature this spring, the current grant program would require applicants to at least match the funding offered, which means the state may soon see a total of $200 million in rural broadband funding.

Underfunded efforts such as these to build "rural broadband" telecommunications infrastructure are states' best efforts to respond to the enormous infrastructure deficiencies they are facing. The problem is there simply isn't enough money available at the state government level to build modern, fiber optic telecom infrastructure serving every home, school and business within their borders. Allocating millions won't address a problem that requires billions. State subsidy programs also tend to reinforce infrastructure disparities since it's more feasible to build middle mile infrastructure with limited funds than to build complete infrastructure that reaches neighborhoods.

Telecommunications is interstate infrastructure in the 21st century, just as roads and highways were in the 20th -- and substantially funded by the federal government. States can only chip away at the nation's telecom infrastructure deficiencies. Given the nation is now a generation behind where it should be, the federal government should undertake a crash telecom infrastructure program to prepare it for the 21st century. Doing so would provide a significant economic stimulus, create jobs and facilitate economic development, education, healthcare and mitigate commute transportation demand on those aging 20th century highways. The resulting economic multiplier effect would return many of those federal dollars invested in the form of tax revenues.

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