Feds OK $68.4M to help build out high-speed internet in Minnesota

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U.S. Department of Treasury and White House officials on Thursday announced that Minnesota was one of four states set to receive additional funding to build out broadband service.

Minnesota is set to receive $68.4 million to help build out high-speed internet access for roughly 8 percent of the homes and businesses that still lack that service.

Kansas, Maine and Maryland were also set to receive federal funds after their plans were approved by the Department of Treasury. State leaders will get money through the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund to support Minnesota’s border-to-border broadband development program.

The funding is expected to translate to the buildout of broadband service to an additional 23,517 homes and businesses, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said during a virtual news conference. Roughly 240,000 Minnesota homes lack high-speed internet access that meets state standards.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., shared stories of students, physicians and workers who’d had to travel to the parking lots of restaurants, schools or liquor stores during the pandemic to access the internet. And she said that Minnesotans should have consistent and reliable internet access no matter where they live.

“If they can get faster internet in Iceland, a country that has volcanoes and spewing lava, maybe, just maybe, we can get faster internet in Minnesota,” Klobuchar said.

The Minnesota Legislature approved and the governor signed into law an additional $110 million in funding to build out the state’s broadband infrastructure earlier this year.

White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling on the virtual call said that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted disparities in broadband access as students, workers and others attempted to learn, work and entertain themselves from home. He said Americans should be able to count on internet access that can meet the needs of multiple family members connecting at a time.

“The pandemic literally brought that home in a way we’ve never seen before,” Sperling said. “Your ability to work from home and to learn from home was critical.”

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