Daniel Roland/AP

Gov. Mark Dayton’s task force on broadband is recommending the state spend $200 million next year to develop greater access in areas that don’t meet state speed goals.

The money wouldn’t come close to building everything the state needs for universal access but would expand on the $20 million the Legislature approved this year for a handful of public-private partnerships to build needed access to homes, farms and businesses, task force chairwoman Margaret Anderson Kelliher said.

The state’s Office of Broadband expects to start taking applications for that money by the end of the month and to make project awards by the end of the year.

This year’s money should help pay for four to six projects that would show interest and need in rural Minnesota for better  service, state  Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, said Thursday. Experience with those projects could help lawmakers decide on whether to expand funding next year,  he added.

Schmit and Kelliher spoke in Minneapolis at a broadband conference sponsored by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that drew officials and telecommunications providers from a variety of states.

It is estimated that about 300,000 Minnesota households don’t have access to Internet speeds that they should to function well in today’s economy and that to supply access would cost between $900 million and $3 billion.

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, who helped foster Republican support for the money in the past session, told the conference he understood there are places where the private market alone will not provide what is needed.

In the hope of learning as much as possible from this year’s projects, Kresha said, “I’d rather see exemplary failures than mediocre successes.”

Receding water levels of White Bear Lake.  Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

The lawsuit over White Bear Lake’s low water levels will continue after a Ramsey County judge declined to take sides on motions for summary judgment.

A group of White Bear Lake homeowners has asked Judge Margaret Marrinan to find the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at fault for the lake’s low water levels, saying the agency allowed too much groundwater pumping from the aquifer connected to the lake.

But the judge said in an order issued Friday that evidence presented in the case so far does not lead to a clear conclusion.

“Whether the (DNR’s) management of water appropriation permits or its management of this resource actually violated fiduciary duty to the public remains a fact question,” she wrote. “The volume and quality of exhibits and opinions produced by all parties cannot lead the court to any other conclusion.”

While the homeowners cite increases in groundwater pumping of the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer, the DNR has pointed to weather patterns as reason for the lake’s plunging water line.

The judge has said the homeowners have legal grounds to sue.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey continues its research on the relationship between groundwater and White Bear Lake in the north and east Twin Cities suburbs.

The water level on White Bear Lake has rebounded by about 2.8 feet from its all-time low set in 2013 but is still down several feet from a decade ago.

Here’s the ruling:

 

Want to know where the rich people are in Minneapolis and St. Paul?

What about the old people?

Foreign born?

Wilder Research has just revamped its Minnesota Compass neighborhood profiles to make it a lot easier to create those snapshots at a glance.

Minnesota Compass  has compiled census and other information about Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods for the past three years. But the site just got easier to use.

With one click, you can create themed maps like those above. Another click and you can zero in on a specific neighborhood for its profile.

Craig Helmstetter, Wilder Research senior research manager, pointed out some stark contrasts as examples of what you can learn.

In Minneapolis, the North Loop area and the Near North neighborhood lie right next to each other, but their median incomes are on different planets, $70,000 apart.

In St. Paul, 30 percent of the residents of St. Paul’s Thomas-Dale neighborhood were born outside the United States, but right next door in Como Park, only 7 percent were.

It’s not new that the Twin Cities is a varied mosaic of neighborhoods. But take some time to play around with the data. Who rents and who owns? Who has health insurance? Where are concentrations of poverty?

You might learn something about where you live.