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Legislative Policies-LE-14

LE-14. State Broadband Policy Priorities for Cities (AH)

Issue: Little progress has been made in achieving the goals and the consensus speed goals for statewide minimum broadband deployment recommended by the 2009 Minnesota Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force, which must be achieved by 2015. To preserve and attract jobs and improve Minnesota’s competitiveness, policymakers must insist on greater progress toward the target placing Minnesota in the top five states nationally for broadband speed and statewide deployment.

There is increasing evidence and recognition at both the state and federal level that cities play a vital role in achieving significantly higher broadband speeds and capacity to ensuring robust, affordable Internet connectivity is widely available. The consensus report of the 2000 broadband task force noted that achieving these goals requires "a broad and perhaps unique collaboration between many stakeholders” and that no one size fits solution fits all communities or regions of the state. "While addressing ubiquitous broadband is a statewide goal, it is an issue that ultimately will have to be addressed by each community.”

Yet efforts begun in other states and threatened in Minnesota would effectively ban or unilaterally restrict municipal authority to provide or even partner with private sector companies to provide broadband services to unserved or underserved residents or businesses, that, in turn,must globally compete for business and jobs. Taking such actions with regard to statewide broadband is contrary to partnerships which already exist and to existing state law on electric utility service, telephony and economic development, which recognize local interests.

Response: The Legislature, governor’s office, and state agencies must make it a priority to respond promptly to develop policies and programs aimed at making it possible to achieve substantially increased speed and capacity of broadband services available at the local level.

To achieve these goals, the Legislature and state agencies should:

  • Identify and implement actions to achieve the goal of statewide deployment of advanced broadband networks and symmetrical high-speed capacity.
  • Continuously update and verify comprehensive statewide mapping of broadband services to identify underserved areas and connectivity issues.
  • Encourage public/private collaboration to achieve state broadband goals, including partnerships and cooperation in providing last-mile connections.
  • Support measures to authorize and encourage cities and other local units of government to play a direct role in providing broadband services.
  • Remove barriers to the exercise of local authority to provide such services, including repeal of Minn. Stat. § 237.19, that requires a supermajority voter approval for the provision of local phone service by a local unit of government.
  • Offer incentives to private sector service providers to respond to local or regional needs and to collaborate with cities and other public entities to deploy broadband infrastructure capable of delivering sufficient bandwidth and capacity to meet immediate and future local needs.
  • Remove barriers that prevent or impede cities, municipal utilities, schools, libraries, and other public sector entities from collaborating and deploying broadband infrastructure and services at the local and regional level.
  • In creating a new Governor’s broadband task force, the crucial role of cities and
    counties must be recognized to help achieve significantly higher broadband speeds and to ensure that robust and affordable Internet connectivity is widely available.
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