Public News Service reports…
Starting Wednesday, Minnesota public schools will be closed for several days, and more people will work remotely because of coronavirus concerns. That has renewed calls for more broadband internet access in rural areas.
The state recently announced additional investments to establish more high-speed internet networks for rural residents and businesses. Nathan Zacharias, government relations liaison at the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, said while that extra money is helpful, there still will be areas where folks will struggle to work or learn remotely during this period of restricted public gatherings.
“We’re going to see more pressure and more stress with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Zacharias said. “And that’s putting pressure and stress on all our institutions, and it’s going to show that, really, broadband is no different than some of the other basic services that people need.”
Zacharias said it means some people won’t be able to check or send important e-mails, in addition to missing out on video conferences.
The coalition estimates 17% of Minnesotans lack broadband access. In 2019, the Legislature approved $40 million in grants to address the issue. And the coalition hopes an additional $30 million will be approved in 2020 to help close the remaining gap.