Minneapolis Star Tribune pushes for state broadband fund

Following the broadband legislation is a full time job this week – once again there’s another editorial supporting the $100 million fund for broadband development, this time from the Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial staff

But that leaves nearly 30 percent of Minnesotans, and more than half of Greater Minnesota residents, still lacking affordable access — and, too often, any access at all — to the Internet speeds required to conduct a video chat or participate in a webinar. Forget about taking an online high school or college class, consulting with a physician in another city about a changing medical condition or serving business clients around the world.

The Governor’s Task Force does not think the state’s statutory broadband goal can be reached by the end of 2015, or anytime soon, without state and local government giving the market a push. Gov. Mark Dayton said recently that he concurs in that assessment. But his spending recommendations to the 2014 Legislature did not include his task force’s recommended remedy — a $100 million fund, from which competitive grants would be awarded to public-private partnerships committed to bringing broadband to places without it. …

More significant is the prospect of a substantial and lasting return on the investment. For Greater Minnesota businesses, a $10-for-$1 return was projected by a recent analysis sponsored by the Blandin Foundation. Conversely, the cost of not investing is the continuation of what a Moody’s report described last year as “increasing divergence” between the state’s metro and non-metro economies. That’s a costly and damaging trend.

Is an eye-popping $100 million fund needed this year? A smaller amount might be considered a down payment. But it will take a substantial sum, wisely used to leverage other funds and applied to areas of greatest need, to make a dent in a deficiency that will cost upward of $3 billion to completely eliminate. The conventional legislative competition for dollars tends to whittle big proposals down. But the opportunity to boost Greater Minnesota’s potential, and the downside of inaction, should raise this proposal to unconventional status.

This entry was posted in MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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