On Wednesday, Feb. 24, the Minnesota Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee heard three bills that provide funds for the rural broadband grant program and appropriation for the programs.

I co-authored one of the bills, SF 22, which appropriates $60 million in 2022 and 2023 for the border-to-border broadband fund.

Rural Minnesota has taken the economic and educational brunt of COVID and Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency. Over the last year, we’ve learned of the growing importance of reliable internet as it continues to expand and dominate every facet of life.

The legislation allows us to close some gaps, help unserved areas and ensure more Minnesotans have access to the quality broadband they need to succeed.

The Border to Border Broadband Fund targets the development of permanent broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Minnesota contains large segments of the state that fall into the unserved and underserved categories, which shows that this infrastructure is a critical need.

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This package of bills will provide accessible broadband to rural Minnesotans and ensure that their needs are being met. Internet access is not a luxury but a necessary utility in today’s world, and we must bring it to everyone in the state.

Sen. Jason Rarick represents District 11 in the Minnesota Senate.