The Senate version of the Minnesota Broadband Development Fund bill

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Earlier I combed through the House version of the Broadband Development Fund legislation. Today I’m combing through the Senate version for differences. There aren’t many – but there’s at least one big difference. The Senate is still talking about $100 million in funding, while the House has reduced that to $25 million.

Smaller differences: The Senate is looking at doling the money out in grants and loans; the House focused on loans only. The House has a formula that would designate two-thirds of the funding to go to areas with lower population density (fewer than 100 households per square mile) and a third to go to more populated areas (more than 100 households per square mile).

This is based on the latest version of the bill I can find online (from March 12). I have the proposed text below and have highlighted the differences.

Current Version – 1st Engrossment

1.1A bill for an act

1.2relating to telecommunications; broadband; establishing a program to award
1.3grants for the expansion of broadband service to underserved areas; appropriating
1.4money;proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116J.
1.5BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

2.8 Sec. 2. [116J.395] BORDER-TO-BORDER BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT
2.9GRANT AND LOAN PROGRAM.
2.10 Subdivision 1. Establishment. A grant program is established under the
2.11commissioner of employment and economic development to award grants and loans to
2.12eligible applicants in order to promote the expansion of access to broadband service in
2.13unserved or underserved areas of the state.

The House has changed this to grants only – for ease of administration.

2.14 Subd. 2. Eligible expenditures. Grants and loans may be awarded under this
2.15section to fund the acquisition and installation of middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure
2.16that support broadband service scalable to speeds of at least 100 megabits per second
2.17download and 100 megabits per second upload.
2.18 Subd. 3. Eligible applicants. Eligible applicants for grants or loans awarded under
2.19this section include:
2.20(1) an incorporated business or a partnership;
2.21(2) a political subdivision;
2.22(3) an Indian tribe;
2.23(4) a Minnesota nonprofit organization organized under chapter 317A;
2.24(5) a Minnesota cooperative association organized under chapter 308A or 308B; and
2.25(6) a Minnesota limited liability corporation organized under chapter 322B for the
2.26purpose of expanding broadband access.
2.27 Subd. 4. Application process. An eligible applicant must submit an application
2.28to the commissioner on a form prescribed by the commissioner. The commissioner shall
2.29develop administrative procedures governing the application and grant and loan award
2.30process. The commissioner shall act as fiscal agent for the grant and loan program and
2.31shall be responsible for receiving and reviewing grant and loan applications and awarding
2.32grants and loans under this section.
2.33 Subd. 5. Application contents. An applicant for a grant or loan under this section
2.34shall provide the following information on the application:
2.35(1) the location of the project;
3.1(2) the kind and amount of broadband infrastructure to be purchased for the project;
3.2(3) evidence regarding the unserved or underserved nature of the community in
3.3which the project is to be located;
3.4(4) the number of households passed that will have access to broadband service as a
3.5result of the project, or whose broadband service will be upgraded as a result of the project;
3.6(5) significant community institutions that will benefit from the proposed project;
3.7(6) evidence of community support for the project;
3.8(7) the total cost of the project;
3.9(8) sources of funding or in-kind contributions for the project that will supplement
3.10any grant or loan award; and
3.11(9) any additional information requested by the commissioner.
3.12 Subd. 6. Awarding grants and loans. (a) In evaluating applications and awarding
3.13grants and loans, the commissioner shall give priority to applications that are constructed
3.14in areas identified by the director of the Office of Broadband Development as unserved.
3.15(b) In evaluating applications and awarding grants or loans, the commissioner may
3.16give priority to applications that:
3.17(1) are constructed in areas identified by the director of the Office of Broadband
3.18Development as underserved;
3.19(2) offer new or substantially upgraded broadband service to important community
3.20institutions, including, but not limited to, libraries, educational institutions, public safety
3.21facilities, and healthcare facilities;
3.22(3) facilitate the use of telemedicine and electronic health records;
3.23(4) serve economically distressed areas of the state, as measured by indices of
3.24unemployment, poverty, or population loss that are significantly greater than the statewide
3.25average;

The definition of distressed is broader in this version.

3.26(5) provide technical support and train residents, businesses, and institutions in the
3.27community served by the project to utilize broadband service;
3.28(6) include a component to actively promote the adoption of the newly available
3.29broadband services in the community;
3.30(7) provide evidence of strong support for the project from citizens, government,
3.31businesses, and institutions in the community;
3.32(8) provide access to broadband service to a greater number of unserved or
3.33underserved households and businesses; or
3.34(9) leverage greater amounts of funding for the project from other private and
3.35public sources.
4.1(c) The commissioner shall endeavor to award grants and loans under this section to
4.2qualified applicants in all regions of the state.
4.3EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective the day following final enactment.

4.4 Sec. 3. [116J.396] BORDER-TO-BORDER BROADBAND FUND.
4.5 Subdivision 1. Account established. The border-to-border broadband fund account
4.6is established as a separate account in the special revenue fund in the state treasury. The
4.7commissioner shall credit to the account appropriations and transfers to the account.
4.8Earnings, such as interest, dividends, and any other earnings arising from assets of the
4.9account, must be credited to the account. Funds remaining in the account at the end of a
4.10fiscal year are not canceled to the general fund, but remain in the account until expended.
4.11The commissioner shall manage the account.
4.12 Subd. 2. Expenditures. Money in the account may be used only:
4.13(1) for grant and loan awards made under section 116J.395, including reasonable
4.14expenses incurred by the Department of Employment and Economic Development to
4.15administer that section; or
4.16(2) to supplement revenues raised by bonds sold by local units of government for
4.17broadband infrastructure development.
4.18 Subd. 3. Appropriation. Money in the account is appropriated to the commissioner
4.19for the purposes of subdivision 2.
4.20EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective the day following final enactment.

4.21 Sec. 4. APPROPRIATION.
4.22$100,000,000 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of
4.23employment and economic development to award grants and loans for the development of
4.24broadband infrastructure under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395, or to supplement
4.25revenues raised by bonds sold by local units of government for broadband infrastructure
4.26development. This appropriation does not cancel to the general fund but remains available
4.27until expended.

The House reduced the fund to $25 million

1.6 Section 1. [116J.394] DEFINITIONS.
1.7(a) For the purposes of sections 116J.394 to 116J.396, the following terms have
1.8the meanings given them.
1.9(b) “Broadband” or “broadband service” has the meaning given in section 116J.39,
1.10subdivision 1, paragraph (b).
1.11(c) “Broadband infrastructure” means networks of deployed telecommunications
1.12equipment and technologies necessary to provide high-speed Internet access and other
1.13advanced telecommunications services for end-users.
1.14(d) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of the Department of Employment and
1.15Economic Development.
1.16(e) “Last-mile infrastructure” means broadband infrastructure that serves as the
1.17final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the end-use customer’s
1.18on-premises telecommunications equipment.
1.19(f) “Middle-mile infrastructure” means broadband infrastructure that links a
1.20broadband service provider’s core network infrastructure to last-mile infrastructure.
1.21(g) “Political subdivision” means any county, city, town, school district, special
1.22district or other political subdivision, or public corporation.
2.1(h) “Underserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses
2.2lack access to wireline broadband service at speeds that meet the state broadband goals of
2.3ten to 20 megabits per second download and five to ten megabits per second upload.
2.4(i) “Unserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses
2.5lack access to wireline broadband service at speeds that meet a Federal Communications
2.6Commission threshold of four megabits per second download and one megabit per second
2.7upload.