Minnesota lifted as leaders in recent report: How States Are Expanding Broadband Access

Today Pew Research released their latest report – How States Are Expanding Broadband Access. They looked at state to see what’s working and what’s not. They recognize that there are no magic bullets but found five practices that seemed to work well:

  • Stakeholder outreach and engagement.
  • Policy framework.
  • Planning and capacity building.
  • Funding and operations.
  • Program evaluation and evolution.

They also look at a few states that they found to be notable: Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. (Yay Minnesota!)

The pull our a few lessons that they attribute to Minnesota:

  • Key takeaway: Partners can be valuable advocates and sources of support for broadband programs.
  • Key takeaway: Setting a forward-looking goal and rallying everyone around it brings focus to a program and ensures that all stakeholders are working toward the same target.
  • Key takeaway: Setting a forward-looking goal focuses state investment on infrastructure that will continue to meet future needs.

And a little bit about what they say about Minnesota and partnership…

Strong, collaborative relationships between stakeholders are the cornerstone of Minnesota’s efforts to expand broadband access. “It is talking to people and understanding what they need … and trying to reflect their voice in the policy and programs,” said MacKenzie, the former executive director of the Office of Broadband Development.49 Minnesota has built these relationships through formal and informal engagement.

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, formed in 2011, provides a forum for stakeholders to study and discuss issues related to broadband.50 Its 15 members represent communities, businesses, local governments, educational institutions, health care facilities, tribes, and ISPs.51 As former Chairwoman Margaret Anderson Kelliher noted, “There is value in having an outside group that is not exclusively elected and appointed officials but has more of a perspective of a public view.”52 The task force releases an annual report outlining policy recommendations for the governor and Legislature, and its work has helped to advance the state’s broadband policy. (For more on Minnesota’s broadband policy, see the “Policy framework” section below.)

The nonprofit Blandin Foundation has been an important partner for Minnesota’s broadband program. The group has worked on broadband efforts since 2007,53 including engaging communities across the state on connectivity issues. It also provides grants and technical assistance to support broadband planning and adoption efforts, including helping communities write successful applications for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.54 (For more on Minnesota’s grant program, see the “Funding and operations” section below.)

Blandin also amplifies the voice of rural communities through the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, which it formed with the Office of Broadband Development in 2015 to “strengthen rural people’s capacity to be their own voice.”55 The coalition brings together local governments and community groups, business and philanthropic partners, and others from rural areas across the state that are interested in broadband development.56 And it lobbies the Legislature to support broadband expansion efforts, including funding for the Office of Broadband Development and the Border-to-Border grant program.

Of course I like the nod to the Blandin Foundation but I also like the example of the public private partnerships that have really pushed Minnesota to leader position. Bernadine Joselyn always says, you have to do it yourself but you can’t do it alone. The Pew Report backs up that idea.


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

About Ann Treacy

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

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