In an editorial. St Cloud Times outlines the ways that broadband can help, especially during a pandemic…
We are a long way from learning all the lessons this pandemic has for us. But about this, there is no question: Access to reliable, high-speed data networks is the great equalizer. In these unprecedented times, it’s the difference between learning and earning — or not.
When the virus arrived in Minnesota, the workplace and the classroom changed in the blink of an eye. Decent internet service became the key tool for keeping workers productive, or even employed, and connected students to their teachers and classmates.
Less discussed but perhaps just as important was the internet’s ability to deliver services like a doctor visit online, a counseling session, a visit with an aging parent in a nursing home, a music performance or a virtual happy hour with coworkers. The network’s most tragic job has been connecting families to seriously ill or dying patients quarantined in hospitals.
But back to the economy.
As companies whose workforces were well-equipped for remote work sent their teams home, a defining factor of success became the speed and reliability of the data stream to their workers’ homes. As anyone who has lived through 6 months of video meetings knows, that speed and reliability leaves something to be desired, even in sizable communities.
They tell Minnesota policymakers to make it happen…
Minnesota has done good work. The state has even set a statutory broadband speed goal for all Minnesotans of 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026. The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband in 2018 recommended $70 million per biennium in ongoing funding to provide businesses and households across Minnesota to access minimum broadband internet at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps through the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program.
But the 2020-2021 biennium allocation was $40 million, the most to date but not enough to help local governments and the private sector level the digital playing field for all Minnesotans.
With the pandemic forcing a mass, if involuntary, proof-of-concept for remote work at scale, all that’s left to do is close the gaps in our rural broadband and demand that lawmakers in St. Paul help fund it.