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CGMC Board adopts policy position that would allow more cities to be eligible for broadband grants

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program provides grants to broadband providers to extend or upgrade their systems. In order to qualify, projects must be awarded to areas with no or very poor broadband service.

Noticing that the first two rounds of grant awards were weighted heavily toward sparsely populated areas, CGMC staff reached out to the Office of Broadband Development, which provided a list of the 204 cities that would qualify under the current grant program. Only one city on the list has more than 3,000 residents, and only three CGMC cities currently qualify. This was clearly not the intent of the CGMC or the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP) when we initiated the grant program. It also runs counter to one of DEED’s goals for the program, which is  to provide grants to “underserved” areas to help boost economic development.

The CGMC and GMNP have repeatedly supported program criteria that would allow grants to be awarded to projects that target unserved and/or underserved areas. This balances a desire to connect everyone in the state (“unserved”) with a desire for the state to encourage economic development (“underserved”), producing a significantly larger return on the state’s investment. The largest providers strongly support connecting the most remote, least populous areas first (“unserved”), as it discourages competition. It is now clear that current state speed goals will not result in providing better broadband service to many businesses and residents in Greater Minnesota.

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