The fact that voters opted to replace one of the state’s leading voices for rural broadband doesn’t lessen the need for funding.
The state’s task force on rural broadband has once again pointed to the need for aggressive funding, $110 million over the next two years.
Unfortunately, these recommendations have led to political wrangling rather than being heeded as means to support economic growth in the state. In recent years, former Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, has been southeastern Minnesota’s loudest voice on the topic. We need a local legislator to step up and take his place.
Internet service is quickly becoming as important as electrical connections for people looking to relocate. Newcomers want download speeds that meet or exceed federal standards.
While most southeastern Minnesota counties report that 90 percent or more of their homes meet minimal broadband requirements, which are actually below federal definitions, the numbers decrease when looking at established statewide goals. Fewer than 50 percent of Olmsted County households have access to fixed broadband service that meets 2026 goals.
We must find ways to bring those numbers up, if the state intends to be an economic force.
A 2016 Hudson Institute study noted that rural broadband supported more than $100 billion in e-commerce nationally in 2015. That’s people in outlying communities doing business elsewhere. It’s giving local customers and businesses the chance to actively engage in the statewide economy on a daily basis.
The need exists, and the benefits are real. Now, we just need voices to help continue spreading the message.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN