January 14, 2023

Minnesota’s New Broadband Line Extension Program Will Help Close The Gap For Rural Minnesotans Without Broadband Service

Anyone who has worked on broadband issues at the Capitol has heard the stories – rural families who know there is a fiber line running down a main road near their home or farm, but because of the distance from that line to their home or farmstead, getting the connection installed from that line to their home is cost prohibitive.  Last year, the Minnesota Legislature solved that problem by creating a broadband Line Extension program housed at the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD).

Here is how the program works.  For families or businesses who need that final connection, but the cost of that final connection is too high, that family can notify OBD of its situation either through an online portal or (if the family lacks online access) can order a paper form from OBD to let OBD know about their situation. Then, every six months OBD will send a list of the addresses collected from those unserved families and businesses and provide it to broadband providers serving near those areas.  Those broadband providers will then have an opportunity to bid to provide service to those locations with the aid of a subsidy funded by the Minnesota Border-to-Border broadband fund.  The providers who submit bids using the lowest amount of subsidy from the state broadband fund (a process called a “reverse auction”) will win the opportunity to connect the unserved families and businesses who submitted the line extension requests to OBD.  The provider has one year to install the service which must provide symmetrical speeds of 100 Mbps upload and download.

“The great thing about the line extension program is that it puts the power in the hands of the consumer to do something about their situation instead of having to wait for a broadband provider to come to them,” said Tony Mendoza, a partner at Schindel Segal Mendoza, PLLC, who helped draft the legislation to create the program.  OBD is currently accepting requests from Minnesota families and businesses.  Links to the online and paper forms for submitting a line extension request can be found here:  https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/extension/