ST. PAUL - Minnesota House Republicans edged up their proposed broadband spending Monday as they worked to wrap up their budget plan.

The new figure of $40 million for two years is $5 million more than the GOP said it would push last week. It is short of $100 million sought by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and $85 million proposed by Democrats who control the state Senate.

The money would be used to expand high-speed Internet to unserved areas, mostly in rural Minnesota.

Executive Director Steve Gottwalt of the Minnesota Rural Health Association, a former Republican state representative, told a House committee that "high-speed broadband is important for telemedicine," which is being used more and more in rural areas.

"For those who think that new technology is on the horizon, we can't wait," Gottwalt added.

Former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, leader of a broadband task force, said that while schools generally are well served by high-speed Internet, "when students go away from school ... that is when the problem starts."

Teachers make assignments for online work, which many students must do from public wireless services away from home, she said.

The House provision is expected to be folded into an overall budget bill.

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