Senator Hauschild Expresses Frustration for Rural Communities being told to ‘Just Wait’ for Broadband Funding

Presses His Legislation to Fund Broadband Projects in Low-Density Communities

SAINT PAUL, MN — Senator Grant Hauschild (DFL-Hermantown) told a Senate committee Wednesday that, for too long, small-and-rural communities across Minnesota have been told to wait to get the essential broadband services that are commonplace in more densely-populated communities, and he pressed his legislation that would help bring new broadband services to low-density areas that aren’t currently connected. 

“Rural communities are constantly told to wait. Wait for funding, wait your turn, you don’t have the density, or you don’t have the property tax base.  Whatever it is, you don’t get what the urban centers get, and you don’t get what the suburbs get,” Senator Hauschild told members of the Agriculture, Broadband, and Rural Development Committee.  “The reason we created the low-density program is because we realize that funding is not getting equitably to all of Minnesota.” 

Senator Hauschild told committee members that in 2023, he helped pass $100 million for broadband, with $40 million targeted to low-density communities. While the current rules require local communities to contribute 25 percent of the cost of broadband projects, with the state covering up to 75 percent, for some low-density communities the cost is still unattainable.

His new bill allows the Lower Population Density program to grant up to 90 percent of a project’s cost with the local local communities contributing a 10 percent match. This change would allow more communities the ability to raise the necessary funds needed to match a state grant.

Voice From the Northland

At Senator Hauschild’s request, Janet Keough, a Supervisor in rural North Star Township, testified in favor of the bill before the committee.  She told the members that her township has a population of just 203 residents and 85 homes.  Township residents have been working since 2009 to attract a broadband provider, but the low density of homes and long distance from existing broadband infrastructure make it economically difficult to achieve.  She said the grant funding in Senator Hauschild’s bill could make it financially feasible to attract a broadband provider. 

Senator Hauschild said that as the legislative session moves forward, he will continue his push to bring broadband to communities that have so far been left behind.

Senator Grant Hauschild represents Senate District 3 – the Arrowhead, Iron Range, and Northland. He is vice chair of the Labor Committee, and serves on the Education Policy Committee, Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee, and Taxes Committee.

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