Ya gotta wonder what sorta of Dad Jim Hagedorn would have been ?
Think of this scenario … As the Covid pandemic was erupting and leaving kids to play at home and dreaming of a DisneyWorld vacation … knowing full well that they could not go. Fast forward to today where Disney World patrons can be maskless, it would seem the right time to ask “Papa Hagedorn” about a DisneyWorld trip. Hopeful, yes … but realistic that his fiscal conservatism would be tested. Imagine the surprise when “Papa Hagedorn” offers an alternative … “How about I take you to see Valley Fair in Shakopee“. The kids are ecstatic … until the day arrives and “Fiscal Jim” pulls in to the parking lot and sees how much the parking costs and starts his return trip to his Blue Earth home. Shocked … nah … remember that “Fiscal Jim” only offered to let you “see Valley Fair” … not go in.
That scenario is what “Representative” Jim Hagedorn is offering by his sponsorship of HR 3369 Broadband for Rural America Act … it sounds great … but is it legislation that will elevate rural areas in Minnesota to what is needed today … or is it just to fool the voters that Jim Hagedorn hears the complaints and is addressing their needs ?
First, let’s look at how much “Fiscal Jim” is willing to spend … the bill provides $350 million in 2021 to modify the ReConnect program … that is $350 million for the whole nation. Then $7 billion for the next two years … Zero after that.
$350 million sounds like a good start … until you realize that USDA Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect) was authorized by Congress on March 23, 2018, at more than $600 million in the form of grants and loans (side note : Fiscal Conservative Tom Emmer was one of 90 Republicans to vote NO). The next phase of ReConnect is underway with a budget of $550 million, and the application window opened January 31, 2020. So, it looks like “Fiscal Jim” may want his constituents to know that he supports rural broadband … without highlighting that he would spend less.
At least “Representative” Hagedorn offers $7 billion over the two years which also sounds encouraging … until you realize that the Senate Republicans Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). have offered a $65 Billion plan that is now part of the latest Republican $928 billion infrastructure plan. The Biden Administration said that $65 Billion figure was acceptable … if wording is included prioritizing “support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives—providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities.”
That philosophy seems to be inline with Minnesota Rural Electric Association which sees electric co-ops as an asset in making broadband accessible to all Minnesotans. Minnesota has 44 distribution cooperatives serving 1.7 million Minnesotans in all 87 counties and with more than 135,000 miles of electric lines. In opposition to the Biden objective are Comcast (a contributor to the Friends of Hagedorn campaign), Charter (a contributor to the Friends of Hagedorn campaign), AT&T (a contributor to the Friends of Hagedorn campaign) and their respective industry associations who have spent years beating back co-ops desire to deliver broadband to rural Minnesota.
Sure wish Jim Hagedorn stop teasing his constituents that he supports expanding broadband when in reality he has failed to deliver. Can Minnesotans count on getting any of his proposed $350 million in 2021 ? Well, consider the $550 million Congress allocated in the second round of the ReConnect Program … on October 20, 2020, the Trump Administration awarded Minnesota with one award for $3,061,502 — in Minnesota’s Eighth District. During the first round in January 2020, the Eighth District received an award of $5.2 million. TWO awards ! $8.2 million ! Our neighbors, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin all fared better.
While other Republican Member of Congress listed broadband projects in their Community Project Funding Requests, “Representative” Hagedorn failed to even request one penny. Yep, other Members are fighting to get their share of the pot, and bring jobs and services to their districts, Jim Hagedorn is misleading his constituents.
So, when you read Jim Hagedorn’s press release touting of his commitment to expanding broadband in rural areas … think of the kid riding home from “seeing” Valley Fair … ’cause that’s all that “Representative” Hagedorn will deliver.