Rural Minnesota needs broadband to diversify: Heard on MPR

Today I’m thankful for archived radio shows. Yesterday on MPR, Marianne Combs spoke about rural Minnesota and the economy. On the show she had Aaron Brown, author of “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range,”  the website “Minnesota Brown: Modern Life in Northern Minnesota, ‘ and host of The Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. Larry Cuffe Jr., mayor of Virginia and Ben Winchester, research fellow in the Extension Center for Community Vitality at the University of Minnesota.

It was great to hear from three experts with deep seeded roots in rural areas. The show is definitely worth a listen if you missed it too. I’m going to pare my notes down to what was explicitly said about broadband.

Several people noted that broadband is necessary for economic diversification. Not everyone wants to work for the Mining or to farm, broadband opens the door to other opportunities. Entrepreneurs need broadband to work with people around the world or across the street. And you can’t attract new businesses without broadband.

Upload speed matters. Ben pointed out that download is the speed of consumption; upload is the speed of production. He moved from Hancock to St Cloud only to find his broadband worsened in the move. He compared his experience uploading documents to the old dialup days when you’d click to send, to go bed, wake up and hope nothing broke. People cannot do business that way.

Broadband isn’t just for hipsters, Aaron noted. He has attended broadband meetings on the Iron Range and attendees include a broadband cross section of the community. People need broadband for work, family and education. Three things that matter a lot in rural areas.

I believe all three speakers spoke about the power of the cooperative to meet the broadband need in rural areas, especially where the market has failed. The cooperative is in a unique position to invest in the community because the shareholders are in or of the community.

This entry was posted in economic development, MN, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

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

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