Some rural lawmakers make it a priority for the state to help fund expanding high-speed Internet, known as broadband, to the entire state, as does Gov. Mark Dayton. But other lawmakers say the state has no business getting involved in what should be a private business matter.
State Sen. Matt Schmit, D-Red Wing, spearheaded a successful effort earlier this year to put a down payment on the issue, but much more money is needed, advocates say. The question is whether the state should get involved.
Rep. Joe Schomaker, R-Luverne, said that he hears a lot about the issue in his southwestern Minnesota district. People there “want broadband,” he said.
On the other hand, the Republican lawmaker said that he thinks the state should be careful about putting money into broadband.
Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, is a proponent of increasing state spending: “We need to do much better than we have in Minnesota. We really have a patchwork quilt in Minnesota when it comes to broadband services.”
However, he admitted, “it’s an expensive fix. … It will require some significant investment.”
Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, agreed.
“It borderlines on being a necessity,” he said. “Those who are aren’t able to use it are a little behind.”
Others wonder if some are in too big of a hurry to lay fiber optic cable throughout Minnesota when another option, such as satellites, may be better.
Then there is Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who said does not hear that the Internet is a problem in his area. “Absolutely not” is his answer to whether the state should fund broadband.
I get two sides to the issue because I think in many cases the focus on broadband is secondary to the focus on taxes and investment – and people have more visceral reactions to public funding. BUT I’m a little disappointed in someone who says there isn’t a problem. Representative Drazkowski doesn’t think there’s a problem because Mazeppa is pretty well served by NU-Telecom, which offers speeds up to 28 Mbps. There are lots of smaller towns in Minnesota that are well-served, often by local, independent providers such as NU Telecom. BUT there are still plenty of areas that aren’t!