The Grand Forks Herald recently ran an Op Ed from former Senator Matt Schmit on legislative priorities (infrastructure) that would lift of rural Minnesota. Legislators need to work together regardless of party or location and here’s what he said about broadband…
For many communities throughout Greater Minnesota and families living outside city limits, reliable connectivity to the information superhighway is just as important as paved highways. But more than 20 percent of rural Minnesota homes and businesses lack access to broadband and thus, the global economy.
This challenge is analogous to the need for rural electrification throughout the American heartland a century ago. Imagine life today without electricity. Broadband and its many applications for economic competitiveness and quality of life are no different.
Broadband is essential for home-based business and teleworking, distance learning, telemedicine and precision agriculture, not to mention an ever-increasing number of applications in everyday life.
Minnesota’s nation-leading Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program addresses a market failure—in this case, a situation where private investment capital is limited while consumer demand is strong, though not geographically concentrated.
In its first three years, the matching grant has funded 10 projects in northwestern Minnesota and has helped extend connectivity throughout the state to an estimated 25,000 homes and businesses and hundreds of community anchor institutions, including libraries, schools and hospitals.
It’s a great example of how smart public investment partnered with private sector or service cooperative know-how can make a real difference.
Broadband is the great equalizer for economic competitiveness and quality of life in Greater Minnesota. The 2016 Legislature recognized this fact and doubled its prior investment in the grant fund.
Now, the 2017 Legislature has a chance to build momentum around Minnesota’s proven approach to extending the reach of broadband.