Broadband is essential to jobs, business, school and thriving communities. State funding would help

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article on the importance of broadband today. They featured a couple of stories:

  • After more than 30 years of doing business in this longtime mill town, Optum Health plans to close its health care claims office this summer.
    The good news is the company’s 90 workers can keep their jobs. The bad news is that offer is good only if they’re able to work remotely. And those who live outside the city limits may not have access to the high-speed internet service they’d need to keep earning a company paycheck.
  • Schwagerl and her husband grow grain and raise pigs. And in her view, internet access is as essential to farming today as a good tractor.
    Schwagerl got high-speed internet on her Prairie Point Farm in 2017, after Big Stone County sold about $4 million worth of bonds on behalf of Federated Telephone Cooperative. The co-op, which had been unable to get funding through traditional channels, used the money to install high-speed broadband for its customers and will repay the county over 20 years. The project also received a $3.9 million grant from the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development program.
    “It made a huge difference in our ability to be efficient in our operations,” said Schwagerl, who is secretary of the Minnesota Farmers Union.
  • Some 140 miles north, in Ada, Minn., Edie Ramstad had been trying to run a worldwide internet company on dial-up service.
    Ramstad owns Weave Got Maille, which makes rings, tools and other supplies for chainmaille jewelry. Her dial-up service was so slow, Ram­stad said, that her employees sometimes had to drive to Fargo, 45 miles away, to upload product images to the company website.
    “We could always tell when the kids got out of school,” she said, “because we’d get booted off [the web].” It was so frustrating that several times Ramstad considered shutting down the business with its 16 employees.
    Last year, Ramstad found an internet provider willing to run lines to her business. But at $800 a month, it’s expensive — and even at that, she said, the service isn’t as good as a typical city-dweller would have in his or her home.

And they quote Bernadine Joselyn from the Blandin Foundation…

“It used to be that broadband was a competitive advantage. Now, it’s a cost of doing business,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement for the Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids, Minn. “We believe that broadband and the skills to use it are fundamental to healthy communities.”

Blandin has worked with almost 100 Minnesota communities and invested more than $10 million in broadband initiatives. The current proposal for state broadband funding, Joselyn said, “is really a victory in Minnesota in that it has gotten a lot of bipartisan support.”

Still, the governor’s “moonshot” would simply return annual broadband spending to its 2016 level of $35 million.

This entry was posted in economic development, MN, Policy 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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