Industry leaders say Minnesota’s broadband access is growing on its own — a combination of federal, state and community funds has spurred projects throughout the state over the past 10 years — but federal action could mean better access far quicker than what internet service providers could normally accomplish.
“If nothing else, the pandemic showed us how much we need rural broadband,” said Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance.
Folks are working on fiber…
Christensen and other advocates say providers are working to address those disparities during the next few years by planning more wired fiber-optic networks. While those projects are more expensive than installing wireless broadband options, industry experts say wired connections are more reliable and better prepared for future technology.
In Madelia, where Christensen runs the local communications company, the community is set to build a fiber optic network to every home.
Bill Eckles, the CEO of Blue Earth-based BEVCOMM, said the south-central Minnesota internet provider has about half of its customers served through a fiber optic network. The company plans to have all of its customers served through wired broadband connections in seven years, and all of the farms BEVCOMM serves in the next three years.
Those projects need sustained funding, Christensen said. Broadband providers in Minnesota have a short construction season each year and many building supplies for broadband networks are in high demand, making them difficult to find.
“Whatever we do needs to be spread out over a longer term, over a couple years, so we have a chance to plan and order and get stuff in,” he said.