I mentioned this the other day – but always happy to celebrate a Minnesotan doing national broadband work. With a thanks to Dakota County for the heads up…
Dakota County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Slavik has been appointed to a national task force that will study the lack of reliable broadband internet access and make recommendations to improve connectivity. Slavik is one of four Minnesota county officials on the National Association of Counties’ task force that includes 36 members from 21 states.
The task force was established following the release of a report by NACo and partner organizations earlier this year that found that 65 percent of U.S. counties experience the internet at speeds below a minimum standard, and 77 percent of rural counties operate below the standard.
The task force will focus on challenges facing rural communities and other underserved areas.
Slavik represents townships and rural communities in Dakota County’s District 1 as well as the cities of Farmington and Hastings. Many areas of Dakota County lack commercial broadband access and reliable internet connectivity, affecting businesses, government, schools and residents.
Improving broadband connectivity has been a priority for Dakota County. The Dakota Broadband Board is a partnership of the county, the Dakota County Community Development Agency and 10 cities within the county. The board manages and expands public-owned telecommunications fiber, and is working with commercial network and internet service providers to provide service to underserved areas.
“I hope to share our successes with others on the task force and help find solutions to improve access here in Dakota County and elsewhere,” Slavik said of his task force appointment.
Lack of reliable broadband can be a major barrier for students learning remotely, residents seeking medical consultation by video and business owners with online transactions. Without access to high-speed internet, many rural communities — and even pockets in urban areas — are isolated and left behind. A 2018 study conducted by Microsoft concluded that 19 million rural Americans do not use broadband, largely due to a lack of access.
“Our new task force will examine the intersection of public and private sector efforts to deploy broadband networks and create a blueprint for local governments to help bridge the digital divide,” said task force co-chair J.D. Clark, a judge in Wise County, Texas.