Don’t let broadband disparity create two Minnesotas


It was a breath of fresh air to read the final report from the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Taskforce, the group Governor Pawlenty appointed to research Minnesota’s broadband needs. Specifically, the report says all Minnesotans should have access to download speeds of 10-20 megabits per second and upload speeds of 5-10 megabits per second in six years.

While those speeds are still slower than many other developed nations’, it’s a step in the right direction. In order to get the sort of speeds the commission recommends, you must live in the Twin Cities or a major regional center. If you live in rural Minnesota, you’re relegated to dialup or relatively slow and expensive satellite service.

As broadband service continues to become just as important as water and electricity, the disparity in speeds between urban and rural is creating two Minnesota’s. We can’t let that happen.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

So how can we ensure all Minnesotans have access to fast broadband? Unfortunately, the private sector has taken little interest in building a broadband infrastructure in rural Minnesota. Much like rural electrification last century, it’s going to take a partnership of government, small business, and community members to get the job done.

It’s happening already. On Tuesday, Cook County residents (Minnesota’s Arrowhead) approved a 1% local sales tax increase that, among other things, leverages federal recovery dollars to build a county-wide fiber optic broadband network.  As a result, Cook County will be in a position to attract businesses that need a strong broadband infrastructure and a lower cost of living than say, Silicon Valley.

A fully-connected Minnesota can put us ahead of other states as we retrain and attract new job-creating businesses.

The Governor’s taskforce has issued the call. Let’s answer it. It’s time for Minnesota to make an broadband investment in our state’s economic future.