Today MN House leadership held a press conference on broadband – specifically they had an assistant principal and some students from Mora Minnesota talk about how difficult student life can be when you don’t have broadband. In high school homework in not only researched but also turned in online; college applications and scholarship applications are turned in online too. That means close deadline (sometimes missed) and lots of drives to friends in town for students in unserved and underserved areas.
Policymakers made the point that to be leaders in education, every student in Minnesota must have adequate access at home as well as at school. It’s an equity issue, as well as an economic development imperative.
The House had $25 million in their budget for the broadband development fund; the Senate has nothing. It would be nice to see this move forward. It seems like the Senate just needs to get on board. (The Governor voiced his approval for funding before the Easter Break.)
Here’s the actual press release…
Students, educators join House DFL lawmakers to call for investments in broadband infrastructure
Click here for full video of today’s press conference
ST. PAUL, MN – Fresh off a statewide tour over the Easter/Passover break, House DFL leaders and legislators joined educators and students at the State Capitol today to push for one of the 2014 session’s remaining priorities– our state’s first significant investment in broadband internet infrastructure.
“As we toured Minnesota, it was energizing to hear support from local and business leaders for new investments to build on our progress and strengthen Greater Minnesota,” said Speaker Paul Thissen. “Investing in broadband and expanding access to high speed internet to more Minnesota students is vital to our vision of a stronger Minnesota in every corner of our state.”
Nick Bakke, Assistant Principal of Mora High School, and 12th graders Thomas Pasillas, Michael Greenberg, Cassidy Carlisle and Ashlee Forslund joined Speaker Thissen, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and several House DFL lawmakers today for a news conference highlighting the important link between access to high-speed internet and access to a world-class education.
The House has passed a supplemental budget that includes a $25 million investment in broadband development. That legislation would expand fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in underserved regions of the state and help continue mapping deployment of broadband to measure Minnesota’s progress towards meeting broadband goals and where further investments are needed.
In addition, the House included $5 million in additional telecommunications aid to help Minnesota school districts pay for their telecommunications and internet access costs. In tandem these investments will provide enhanced learning opportunities for students in the classroom and in their homes.
Majority Leader Erin Murphy said the significant investment in broadband development included in the House supplemental budget goes hand-in-hand with the historic investments DFLers made in Minnesota’s schools and students during the 2013 Session, dubbed by many as the ‘Education Session.’
“Expanding access to high-speed internet in Greater Minnesota will provide our students with more opportunities to learn and succeed in the classroom,” said Murphy. “It’s a smart investment that builds on the academic and economic progress we’re seeing throughout our great state.”
State Representative Paul Marquart (DFL – Dilworth), chair of the House Education Finance Committee, noted that expanding access to broadband is another way to improve equity in education for students in Greater Minnesota.
“We’ve made tremendous progress in both the 2013 and 2014 sessions to improve equity in education for our schools and students in Greater Minnesota,” said Marquart. “By equipping our rural communities with high-speed internet, students and teachers will be able to access the latest online educational content, communication and information resources. This is going to help us build the World’s Best Workforce and compete in a global economy.”
Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), chief author of broadband infrastructure legislation, said high-speed Internet can potentially play a transformative role in how we educate our children.
“We’re living in two dramatically different Minnesotas,” Rep. Simonson said. “One Minnesota has easy and cheap access to reliable high-speed Internet. The other does not. Investing in broadband infrastructure is a critical way we can help Greater Minnesota catch up and compete.”
A recent study by ConnectMN, a nonprofit working in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, showed that 93 percent of Metro-area residents have access to high-speed broadband coverage as opposed to only 46 percent of households in Greater Minnesota.
A House and Senate conference committee will meet this week to begin working on an agreement on a supplemental budget bill.