WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus; Senator Tina Smith (D-MN); and Representative Pete Stauber (R-MN) announced that they have secured significant federal funding to expand broadband access in Pine County.
“This federal funding will support Pine County’s broadband initiatives, enabling people from all parts of the county to access critical work, school, and business opportunities online,” said Klobuchar. “I am proud to have worked with local leaders to secure these resources, and I look forward to continuing to partner with those in the community to address broadband infrastructure needs.”
“As I have said for years, broadband isn’t just nice to have, it’s essential if we’re going to build a 21st century economy that works for everyone,” said Smith. “I am proud of our work to secure this funding, which will have a direct impact on the lives of Minnesotans.”
“Broadband access is critical in today’s society, yet too many of our rural communities lack quick and reliable high-speed internet,” said Stauber, “I fought for this funding for Pine County to help my constituents gain access to broadband and help close the digital divide between rural and metro communities in Minnesota.”
County Commissioner Terry Lovgren, whose district encompasses much of the project area, stated: “I am very excited for this project, for the 2,440 households and businesses that will be able to receive this benefit allowing them to work from home, do schoolwork or just relax watching a game or movie— activities they are not able to do at this time. This is a huge success for our county! Pine County has been working hard to bring broadband to our residents knowing it will be a long road as we are a large county ranked 86 out of 87 for counties with the worst broadband. We have made good progress correcting this by getting broadband to many unserved/underserved residents with the knowledge we have a long way to go. In 2021 it was made clear that broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity, one that we hope to make available to all of our residents.”
Klobuchar, Smith, and Stauber secured $5.57 million to complete broadband initiatives in Pine County. This investment will help to bring high-speed internet to the nearly 54 percent of households in Pine County that currently lack connectivity.
Klobuchar and Smith have been actively involved in securing this federal funding for projects benefiting communities across the state through a process called “Congressionally Directed Spending” (CDS). Throughout the CDS process, Klobuchar and Smith have considered project proposals and advocated for funding in close coordination with leaders from across the state.
Projects are expected to receive funding over the next several months.
Klobuchar and Smith have been national leaders in the effort to expand broadband access across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted in November included several provisions from Klobuchar’s legislation, which Smith co-sponsored, with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) to help bring high-speed internet to every family in America, including to:
- Provide significant funding for the expansion of broadband infrastructure.
- Distribute monthly subsidies for low-income families and tribal communities to put towards internet bills.
- Issue Digital Equity Grants to increase broadband adoption by helping communities gain the digital literacy and technology skills they need to take advantage of the internet.
- Establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to streamline processes for community hubs like schools and small businesses to access federal broadband resources through a simplified application process.
- Require the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to issue rules to promote and incentivize a standard format for broadband internet service providers to disclose to customers the price and terms of their service offerings.
- Provide funding for:
- Broadband expansion in Tribal communities;
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, which furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas;
- Middle broadband, which is the section of a network that connects the backbone of the internet to the local connection site, often including institutions like schools, libraries, and government offices; and
- States and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance rural broadband projects.