The Minnesota Association of Townships had an essay contest. One of the winners wrote about broadband policy and the need to improve broadband in rural places. Logan Cluff’s winning easy was posted in the Aitkin Age. I’ll only excerpt a portion of it – but as you can see he has some clear ideas…
Fiber to the home would be the best option to get broadband out to people. This technology would be able to meet the needs of people now and be expendable to what future needs may require. However, the cost of this technology is extremely high. Building a fiber network is a big gamble for any communications company, because there is no guarantee that people will take the service. Also the distance between people’s homes can be anywhere from one to 10 miles. Adding a fixed wireless technology to the mix would be a great option to reach more people and give some internet options to those without.
All governments need to modernize their telecommunications policies. The federal governments, Connect America Fund (CAF) that is used to help fund telephone services offered by corporate telcos, should also be available to other providers of internet access. Broadband is replacing phone lines and this money could get access to many more users. At the state level, Minnesota is moving in the right direction with the development of the Office of Broadband and the Border to Border grants. These grants are helping communities expand services to underserved areas but the extreme rural areas of Minnesota are still being left behind. The grant process is not easy and can be costly for lower income counties and companies to find a way to start. To help alleviate those issues, there should be different levels of funding based on the economies and current availability in a predefined area. Economic development will depend on the local government’s involvement and bringing attention to where broadband is needed. Not all communities will need the fastest internet service available, but they need it to be reliable and affordable.
Logan is a senior at Aiktin High School. I think it’s telling that community members are so well informed on the topic – access to better broadband is clearly important to the community.