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Kresha, Lueck support broadband funding; Lt. Gov. says it's not enough

ST. PAUL—Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Wednesday unveiled a series of proposals to increase broadband access throughout Minnesota. The proposals total $35 million including $7 million dedicated to improving broadband access for Minnesota students through new grant programs, a House release said.

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, has led the push for increased broadband support around the state.

"Because of innovation in education and health services, people in unserved and underserved areas in Minnesota are relying on adequate broadband speeds," Kresha said in the release. "Students, local governments, and main street businesses rely on increased broadband offerings to compete globally."

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, also backs the broadband funding.

"Major portions of rural Aitkin and Crow Wing county have the least access to broadband services of any place in the state," Lueck said. "We are doubling down on resolving that problem by continuing to invest in expanding broadband service in rural Minnesota."

Along with broadband education funding, Republicans proposed an additional $28 million for rural broadband expansion.

The funding focuses on unserved and underserved areas, as well as areas with larger numbers of low-income households.

However, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in a statement that the Republican broadband proposal wasn't enough, and pointed out that Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $100 million in grant funding.

"The governor and I welcome the work of House Republicans on broadband," Smith said. "Their proposals, however, barely make a dent in the need for high-speed, affordable broadband access in greater Minnesota. At the level of investment they are proposing, the 244,000 households in greater Minnesota without broadband connections will wait decades to get up to speed. This is bad for our economy, bad for greater Minnesota, and we need to do better."

The Senate DFL's budget target for broadband, among a broader list of supplementary budget targets unveiled Wednesday, was $85 million.