A local lawmaker has signed on to bill that would establish a 51-million dollar grant program that would help establish border-to-border broadband in Minnesota.

House Representative Clark Johnson (D-North Mankato) says he met with New Ulm Telecom and West Central Telephone to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

“These folks are able to access federal money, but they also need the state money combined with that, along with their own efforts. It really is a nice kind of public, private partnership, slowly but surly expanding broadband. So, I think I’ve been a co-author on those bills ever since I’ve been here.”

State Officials estimate that 252-thousand households in Minnesota don’t have access to high-speed internet.

Rep. Clark Johnson

“That’s limiting development, it’s eliminating some healthcare options, it’s also limiting what kids can do in school. So, if we’re going to have a level playing field and really build the infrastructure needed for a strong rural Minnesota, we’ve gotta get this done. I just hope that with a surplus we can find a very substantial investment again in broadband.”

Johnson points out that the Governor would like to see 30-million dollars directed towards broadband, while House Republicans have suggested 15-million dollars in funding.

“Maybe they could compromise at 29-million, how does that sound,” joke Johnson. No but, hopefully it’s somewhere in between there. The larger the better, again. It’s not cheap, but boy, the payback is tremendous.”

Over the past seven years, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force has worked to extend broadband to 34-thousand households and 5-thousand businesses.