When DFL Chairman Ken Martin visited the Park Rapids area Tuesday, he discussed issues relevant to Hubbard County and the surrounding area in an interview with the Enterprise.
There were two questions on broadband…
What infrastructure needs will be addressed in this region?
We’re excited about the bi-partisan deal. It’s the largest infrastructure bill ever to pass in our country’s history. It is investing in the infrastructure of tomorrow while repairing the infrastructure of yesterday. It’s going to invest in bridges and roads, wastewater treatment plants, clean energy, electric vehicles, upgrading public transportation options and broadband.
I think of this through the lens of rural electrification that happened in the 1920s and 1930s in this country. It helped rejuvenate small town America and main streets. Without that, a lot of parts of the country would have been left behind.
Thanks to this infrastructure package, high-speed internet is going to be provided to every corner of our state. That’s an exciting development that should bring more jobs to communities here and that will allow people who work in different industries to stay in greater Minnesota.
Because more people are able to work remotely, there’s an opportunity to reimagine the workforce. But that requires good broadband access. We need to build that infrastructure that will result in economic development in places like Hubbard County and help diversify and expand the tax base.
When will better broadband reach this region?
As soon as this infrastructure bill is signed into law I think the money is going to start flowing out to communities. I don’t know the exact timeline for that but I think money will move quickly like with the American Rescue Plan. There is a great disparity in internet services in greater Minnesota because some internet providers have invested their own money in fiber optics and high speed internet capacities and others have not. This funding will help equalize that by providing money to companies who can then access it through grants to provide higher speeds and have the capability to do that, whether fiber optics or cell service. There are a lot of pockets in the state where you go five miles in one direction or the other and you are getting high-speed internet or not. That’s what we have to fix right now so it’s not this patchwork but wherever you live you will get the same level of service. This is an equity issue as well. A lot of people are being left behind. Their job or their schooling is being impacted by the fact that they don’t have access to high speed internet. We have a responsibility to address that. It’s a huge part of the infrastructure plan and will allow people in rural America to start to prosper again.