More views on Legislative broadband budget: Think rural, think more investment

Just wanted to do a quick weekend catch up on what folks around the state are saying about the current state of the broadband budget at the Legislature. (If you have an opinion, you can still contact your legislator. Just let them know you think it’s important!)

One of my favorite comments comes from my Iron Range friend and great writer, Aaron Brown, as posted in the Minnepaolis Star Tribune

Waiting for the Minnesota legislature to act on broadband infrastructure for rural Minnesota is a lot like trying to update your operating system on a rural computer. It takes forever and halfway through you have to start over because of some stupid error message.

He goes on to make his case for broadband investment…

As I wrote recently, failure to invest in broadband at this juncture in our economic and political history would be a historically epic mistake. Some skeptics argue that physical wires aren’t the future of broadband, but that seems more an excuse than anything. Cellular data and satellites can deliver internet to millions, but at great expense and not at the universal download and upload speeds necessary for modern commerce. Ask my wife and I; we deal with these issues daily with home-based business, freelance work and online teaching that actually pay our taxes and enroll our boys in a Greater Minnesota public school. Or don’t, I guess. We’re actually used to that.

The political roadblock to rural broadband is, pure and simple, control issues. Some simply refuse to acknowledge that the people, by way of their government, have an important interest in fostering access to the modern internet. These slow actors will have lots to talk about with the politicians who opposed rural electrification 100 years ago when they get to Heaven for Dummies. Meantime, the campaign continues and I know who’s going to win … eventually. The question is how much damage will be done to the economy of rural Minnesota on the way to happy victory.

Winona Daily News  asks Legislators to remember rural (other rural papers published the same plea) …

Today, we kind of feel like whistling as loud as we can to see if we can get their attention to expand outside of St. Paul. Psst. Hey. Over here! Remember us, from Greater Minnesota?

There’s all kinds of disagreement about how much money to put into broadband Internet development. Lawmakers can’t even seem to settle on an amount somewhere between $8 million and $17 million, which would be a magnitude less than the $200 million a nonpartisan state panel recommended— seems like those at the Capitol don’t quite get it yet that broadband is one of the most essential economic development projects the state can undertake in the modern technological age, beneficial to everyone from farmers to hospitals.

How about a comparison to Wisconsin from the Duluth News Tribune?

Like their neighbors to the west in Northeastern Minnesota, residents of Northwestern Wisconsin are eager for broadband and for their state officials to lay the groundwork for its infrastructure the way state officials did a century ago for electrical service and telephone connections.

The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee last week offered funding for broadband expansion grants “by a modest but crucial $7.5 million per year,” state Sen. Janet Bewley of Mason reported in a column submission received by the News Tribune on Friday.

“Even more importantly, it would have reserved these new funds for counties with high unemployment and limited broadband access. The motion would have doubled funding available for Broadband Expansion Grants,” Bewley wrote. “Unfortunately, our reasonable proposal was rejected by majority Republicans on the Finance Committee.”

Frustrating for Northwestern Wisconsin and other rural areas of Wisconsin, elected leaders in the Badger State seem to be moving even more slowly on broadband than their counterparts in the Gopher State, whose pace has been criticized.

Finally, a quick roundup from MinnPost

In the Grand Forks Herald, Dan Dorman and Gary Evans bemoan the lack of interest in the broadband expansion program. “Clearly, Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators don’t fully grasp the level of need and the importance of upgrading broadband in Greater Minnesota. Last week, the jobs committee of the House Republican majority included no funding in its budget for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, a fund-matching program aimed at getting private companies to invest in broadband infrastructure. The DFL-controlled Senate jobs committee put only $17 million into the program. The governor, who campaigned on the notion of ‘border-to-border broadband,’ included only $30 million for broadband in his budget plan, far less than the $200 million recommended by his own task force.”

This entry was posted in Funding, 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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