Private enterprise can do it better, and rural Minnesota isn’t an access desert.
Broadband has been a hot media topic lately. Various letters, articles and news stories have focused on how it isn’t available to many rural areas of Minnesota. Some have even used the word “broadband” in the same sentence as “rural electrification.” If broadband isn’t available, rural America will die! Is this reality or just scary fiction?
I own a central Minnesota broadband company and have been a leading pioneer in my industry for more than 15 years. I have several issues with these discussions.
Most of Minnesota is not underserved. For example, in Sibley County, people profess to not have viable broadband options. There are at least six different private-sector businesses currently offering good broadband services to this area. ConnectMN.org can confirm this. My company will be No. 7.
Internet access (for most areas) does not need to be funded by the government. The government has no place in this discussion other than to encourage the private sector to invest in areas that need more choices. Yes, it can be a catalyst — but it does not need to be a capital investor. The private sector can and should do the funding for broadband deployments.
Broadband deployment is a perfect example of capitalism at its best. Small companies like mine can quickly provide access with little or no government restriction. We can do this anywhere in the United States, and we have provided access to many underserved areas already with relative ease.
Most people do not understand broadband. They do not understand that there are several ways to deliver fast Internet access to the user. For example, my company, using current wireless technology, can deliver over 100 megabits per second to customers. Cable is capable of doing this as well.
The media and proponents of government-funded broadband feel that fiber is needed for everyone. While this is a noble thought, it is simply not economical or practical to do this everywhere — and it is not needed.
The proponents of fiber argue that it is needed to move us into the future. Terrestrial wireless is the “wave” of the future. It can deliver gigabit performance today, where it is needed, and it is only getting faster with each technology advance. It does not cost $20,000-plus per mile to deploy, like its fiber counterpart. Quite simply, we have access to non-fiber technology that can provide the “last mile” access to rural folks, while allowing them to do everything they want on the Internet.
Finally, some people argue that a lack of broadband is stifling the economic growth of Smalltown, USA. This is simply not true. Smalltown is facing many other challenges, and people are using broadband as an excuse. Let’s focus on the real, root causes, and not make excuses.
Broadband, specifically wireless broadband in America, is an American dream success story. We have been given the technology and the means to use it anywhere we want to provide competition. Competition drives prices down and quality up. I’m living the American dream, and I love it. No, thanks, I don’t need any government money — my company will be providing quality access to those who need it.
Please support the American dream by encouraging your government representatives to become a broadband catalyst and to put their wallets away for now (or longer).
Kyle Ackerman is the owner of Xtratyme Technologies.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.