WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Department of the Treasury has awarded $68.4 million in federal funding to expand broadband access in Minnesota. The funding, enabled by the Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund created through the American Rescue Plan, will provide $68.4 million in federal funding to Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program (B2B Grant Program), allowing broadband providers to service more than 23,000 homes and businesses across the state that lack high-speed internet.
“We’re really, really excited about this Capital Fund award…This funding is expected to help us with an estimated 23,000 homes and businesses across our state. And I think we all know this is not just about being able to email your grandma. It’s necessary to access…school, getting classes online and being able to get community college classes,” said Klobuchar.
“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st century – it isn’t just nice, it’s necessary if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Smith. “I’m proud to have helped secure this funding, which will expand access to affordable, high-speed internet to thousands of Minnesotans.”
These resources will support broadband infrastructure and are designed to deliver reliable internet service needed for a household with multiple users to simultaneously access the internet to telework and access education and health monitoring. The Treasury Department designed its guidance to prioritize connecting families and businesses in rural and remote areas.
As co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus and Chair of the Rural Development Subcommittee respectively, Klobuchar and Smith have been national leaders in efforts to expand broadband access, support rural broadband, and bridge the digital divide. Klobuchar’s legislation with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC)to expand high-speed internet nationwide, which Smith co-sponsored, served as the basis for major broadband funding included in the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.
In May, Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to strengthen broadband access for rural communities. The Rural Broadband Protection Act will ensure that providers applying for federal funding can reliably deliver broadband to underserved, rural communities.
In March, Klobuchar and Senator John Thune (R-SD) led a bipartisan group of colleagues, including Smith, in urging the FCC to provide rural communities with guidance on their broadband funding status. She and Smith also secured significant federal funding as part of the government funding package to expand broadband access for rural communities in Northeast Minnesota, and led successful efforts to resolve a dispute regarding Red River Communications, helping bring high-speed Internet access to rural communities in the Red River Valley.
In November, she and Thune introduced bipartisan legislation to expand rural broadband access by strengthening the funding mechanisms for the Universal Service Fund (USF), which funds universal access to broadband and other telecommunications services.
Last July, she introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to expand rural broadband access by streamlining the funding process and removing barriers for broadband connectivity in hard-to-serve rural areas.
In December 2020, several of Klobuchar’s key broadband priorities were signed into law as part of the year-end omnibus package passed by the Senate. These provisions included funding to:
- Ensure students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet (based off of Klobuchar’s Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act);
- Implement theBroadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, bipartisan legislation to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband availability maps, which was signed into law in March of 2020; and
- Ensure federal funds for broadband deployment target unserved and underserved areas by directing the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to coordinate and share information on their broadband deployment efforts, a priority Smith has also advocated for.