Funding rural broadband: A no-brainer for this legislative session
Friday, March 22, 2019
Consider this your daily affirmation of Minnesota’s excellence: We have the best funding structure for connecting our rural areas to high quality broadband internet access. You can thank the Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program housed within the Department of Employment and Economic Development for this. The overarching goal of this program is to extend high quality and affordable internet access to all Minnesotans, especially those in unserved or underserved areas. Despite the myriad partisan battles between 2014 and now, the Minnesota Legislature has allocated $90.5 million to the program, providing a booster shot to the economy of Greater Minnesota.
Internet access is not the most provocative topic to write or think about. Neither is electricity! However, like the electrification of America during FDR’s New Deal, internet access provides the glue for all communities to operate in the 21st-century economy. This access is necessary for tasks such as students completing their homework assignments, jobs requiring applicants to submit a digital version of their materials, and farmers updating their crop yields digitally. While nearly every state across America has rural areas, few have systematically stood up to solve this complex societal issue the way Minnesota has.