MN Legislature to discuss policies to facilitate online interaction but not ubiquitous infrastructure required to support it

MinnPost reports on expectations of the Minnesota Legislature, which reconvenes tomorrow. Spoiler alert, if doesn’t relate to coronavirus it probably won’t happen.

A lot of the upcoming bill features accommodations to validate, facilitate and promote moving government transactions online. I highlighted some of the bigger items mostly related to telehealth earlier today but also things like applying for a marriage license can now be done online. In fact, broadband is required for the legislature to event meet tomorrow – as they are meeting remotely!

That’s great for anyone who has access to adequate broadband.

Right now, according to the Office of Broadband Development, only 68 percent of rural Minnesota has access to wired broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, which is the speed goal for 2026. I think we can recognize that coronavirus (aka age of Zoom) has turned what some called an “aspirational” goal for 2026 into a must-have for 2020, especially if you are lucky enough to be able to work online and maybe you have a partner who works remotely and a couple of kids trying to do remote learning. And then there’s Netflix. Who knew online video would be the killer app? Or should I say stay-alive app? There are only so many puzzles or crazy Internet memes a family can take before we need a break we can enjoy at home! It literally can save lives.

So much of our Stay at Home effort relies and assumes broadband – yet there is nothing in the bill to address those without access. Broadband has not been included in coronavirus-inspired state budgets. Before the escalated threat of coronavirus, there was bipartisan support for expanding (adding funds) and extending (making it an ongoing item) funding for the MN Border to Border grants.  The support may still be there but is overshadowed by the pandemic; unfortunately the pandemic is also expected to impact future state budgets.

Now is a time to recognize that to stay at home, everyone needs adequate broadband. We have a solution (the Minnesota Model) that has been working to reach more people we just need to expedite funding to meet the expedited needs. In this time of uncertainty – broadband is a battle we can win with adequate funding!

This entry was posted in MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards, Policy 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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