Welcome to our next Digital Inclusion Corps Field Report. In this column, we hear from different members of our Digital Inclusion Corps pilot team. If you’re interested in learning more about the projects, check out the page.

This installment comes from Emily Kissane our Corps member in Minnesota, hosted at the State Library Services & Charter Center, Minnesota Department of Education.

Hello from Minnesota! I’m very pleased to be a part of the Digital Inclusion Corps and am eager to partner with rural and tribal communities in my state and to learn from my colleagues’ projects. My current position is with State Library Services, which is part of the Minnesota Department of Education, and in the past, I’ve worked on policy and implementation of statewide education and library networks. I thought I’d start with a statewide overview of access as context for my project, which I’ll describe in detail in future posts.

Policymakers in Minnesota recognize the importance of digital inclusion to the civic, educational, and economic health of the state. In 2011, Governor Mark Dayton created the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband to make policy recommendations promoting the equitable expansion of access. The governor also has a Broadband Subcabinet, comprised of he state’s information technology, employment and economic development, and commerce agencies.

The Minnesota Legislature sets broadband access and leadership goals in statute. The 2016 Governor’s Taskforce Annual Report reported progress towards meeting those goals. As of July 2016, 89.98% of all households in Minnesota had access at the statuory goal levels for 2022, including 77.45% of rural households. 70.83% of all households, including 52.46% of rural households had access at the 2016 goal levels.Low-income Minnesotans pay, on average, $9.95 for service up to 10 Mbps uploadand 1 Mbps download.

The Office of Broadband Development staffs the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband and Broadband Subcabinet while supporting other statewide initiatives.The state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, for example, provides funding to expand broadband service in unserved and underserved areas of Minnesota. The grants can pay up to 50% of project costs; the legislative intent is for state funds to be an incentive for new and current providers to invest in infrastucture. Political subdivisions, Indian tribes, nonprofits, and incorporated businesses are among the entities eligible to apply. The legislature provided $35 million in grant funds in 2016. The list and map of grantees shows the distribution of funds statewide.

Leveraging state resources to support regional and local partnerships is the model that best suits Minnesota. In addition to providing funding, the state connects communities with service providers, policymakers, and other programs at the state and federal levels.