Editorial: Now is the time for more broadband funds

Published 9:21 am Thursday, January 28, 2016

Here at the Tribune, much of our day is dependent on the Internet. If the Internet is down, our operation is stunted and sometimes even halted as we rely on it to do many things.

Internet is becoming something that is not only a helpful tool, but a necessity — at least for our business.

We imagine we are not the only business in Freeborn County that relies on the Internet for much of its operations.

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The same can be said across Greater Minnesota as it has become more of a necessity for businesses to have Internet access.

What about residents? How important is access to high-speed Internet for them?

It is clearly a big deal as leaders of the Albert Lea Public Library have launched a survey to gauge Internet usage for Freeborn County residents.

While the demand is clear, what is being done to ensure that everyone in our state — and our county — has access to high-speed Internet? Based on how the FCC defines broadband, 23.11 percent of households don’t have access to broadband in Greater Minnesota, while 1.82 percent don’t have access in the metro area. Minnesota routinely ranks in the middle of the pack nationally in broadband rankings.

We encourage the Legislature to invest more than in years past for the development of rural broadband Internet access.

Last year, the Legislature and governor passed $10.84 million in funding for one year.

Gov. Mark Dayton and House Democrats this year have proposed $100 million for border-to-border broadband access. Proposals have not yet been announced from both parties in the Senate from the House Republicans. The governor’s task force on broadband is calling for $100 million each year for the next two years.

High-speed Internet access is something that is taken for granted in metro parts of the state. Don’t forget about Greater Minnesota.