The Next Minnesota Economy is an ongoing series focused on the economic regrowth of the state after a year of regression… In the sixth of the series, Daily News examines broadband access and the difficulties of gaining statewide access.
They provided an overview…
In Minnesota, 92 percent of businesses and houses have access to a moderate level of internet service, but moderate access is not conducive to development and growth, Grove said. In rural Minnesota, 83 percent of businesses and homes have access to the minimum definition of broadband.
Mentioned difficult areas…
But getting broadband into lacking areas can be difficult, said Vince Robinson, CEO at Development Services, Inc. Geography and distance pose problems when it comes to remote areas of the state because every mile of fiber costs a set amount per space. The fewer people in a space, the more difficult it is to make a financial case for service providers to reach them, he said.
“These service providers cannot afford to do it on their own,” Robinson said. “That’s really the biggest issue: The folks that are left to serve are either hollowed out from activities that took place through other expansion programs … or they’re people that are on the fringes of service activities.”
And possible solutions…
There are federal programs and a state program — the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program — that can help target those communities. Providers can make use of federal funding to expand their services, but they may be expanding “moderate” services, which are too slow to support day-to-day activities.
It’s key that the state and federal programs have high goals for broadband access and the money to incentivize providers to expand high-speed broadband, said Marc Johnson, director of the East Central Minnesota Education Cable Cooperative.
“It’s vital for them that that boost is there for them to e able to consider serving some of these areas,” Johnson said.