MinnPost asks about the Rural-Urban divide – reader asks about broadband

Last week MinnPost looked at the Urban divide…

Some differences are cultural, or a matter of perception. But as data suggest, there are also real differences between urban and rural Minnesotans, to a degree, who they are, and the jobs they work. There are also real similarities: on the whole, Minnesotans are pretty well-off economically and face a lot of the same challenges.

The article mentions population division…

More than half of the people in Minnesota live in the 7-county metro, which is around 3,000 square miles or less than 3.5 percent of the land covered by the state.

Age difference…

The median age in Twin Cities counties tends to be in the 30s, while in some counties in northeastern Minnesota around 50.

Population trends…

In Minnesota, denser areas are becoming more dense, and sparsely populated areas are becoming denser less quickly or losing population altogether.

Jobs…

Country Minnesotans do work in a different industry mix than city Minnesotans. City dwellers are far more likely to work in professional and scientific fields, and financial, insurance and real estate fields than people in Greater Minnesota. Small town and rural-dwellers are more likely to work in natural resources jobs and construction jobs.

Income…

People in cities make more money, too: the average full-time, year-round worker in an urban area makes nearly $51,000, more than $10,000 more than people in rural areas, small and big towns.

And issues…

A report from the Center for Rural Policy and Development in Mankato notes the importance  of remembering that with problems common across the state — lack of affordable child care, transportation funding needs and a looming workforce shortage, to name a few — the solutions sometimes have to be different.

The article doesn’t mention broadband – but a commenter does…

Rather than throw more money at roads that people don’t need, how about putting money into high speed internet service? Governor Dayton has long championed this avenue without a lot of support from the legislature, who typically cut the budget and slide the money into road construction instead. Judging from the article above, I can only assume this is because the representative’s buddies in small towns have construction companies and they employ a lot of people when a road is being built. By contrast, internet utilities are few and far between, are owned by just a few people, and you don’t need a ton of people to do the installation.

So it’s not as attractive in the short term as it’s not a big jobs bill.

But looking at the long term, high speed internet is exactly what Minnesota needs. These days there aren’t a lot of businesses or jobs that don’t use a lot of bandwidth, from CAD drawings to marketing material to EDI (electronic data interface) orders. If you want a business to succeed in a small town and compete in new markets, they need to be able to reach those additional markets and service them. In this day and age, you’re not going to accomplish that using mail any more than you would via Pony Express.

From an employee point of view, fast internet helps them reach jobs no matter where they are at. The firm I work for is based in downtown Minneapolis, but we have employees who work from home in Mankato, Hutchinson, North Dakota, Phoenix, and other points across the United States. Having high speed access at both ends lets us hire technical people no matter where they may live.

If people can work from anywhere, then they can live anywhere too. And those salaries are spent in their community, boosting local merchants, schools, and and the greater area’s economy.

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

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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