Minnesota Rural Counties say fund broadband

The Austin Daily Herald posts an editorial from Minnesota Rural Counties’ Dan Larson about the need for better broadband in rural Minnesota. InForum posts a similar letter from Paul Gerde, a Pope County commissioner and chairman of Minnesota Rural Counties …

But that system only works if you have access, and without any clear pandemic end in sight, hundreds of thousands of primarily rural Minnesotans are stuck in digital darkness while the gigabyte world streams by.

We all feel the isolation brought about by social distancing and sheltering in place orders, but those orders hit people harder who are cut-off from work, school and loved ones due to lack of adequate broadband access. With the rural economy already lagging, this is not good news.

Our member counties are on the front-line of the public health, public safety and economic security battle to get a grip on this unprecedented outbreak, and we stand in unified support of the shelter in place directives from the state and federal government. But those directives turned a spotlight on the farms, businesses and homesteads, primarily in rural areas, being left-behind through no fault of their own due to lack of access to high-speed broadband.

He asks the Minnesota Legislature to fund better broadband…

There is a $30 million bipartisan broadband bill waiting for passage at the Legislature, and $50 million in unfunded projects sitting on the sidelines that could work as a much-needed kick-start for the rural economy.

Without taking anything away from the need to mitigate the immediate health and economic impacts of COVID-19, while also recognizing nearly one-in-five rural residents are being asked to shelter in place until further notice with virtually no access to adequate internet service, we urge Governor Walz and state legislative leaders to consider broadband funding as a priority this session and sustain that funding until state speed goals are met.

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