Access to reliable, affordable broadband Internet isn’t just a nice thing to have, it’s necessary for life in the 21st century economy. Whether we’re talking e-commerce or distance learning, telemedicine or precision agriculture, broadband is changing the way we connect with others and the broader world around us.
When Matt Schmit took office in 2013, Minnesota had convened two separate Governor-appointed task forces on broadband. Goals were set, but little if anything was done to ensure that the state was making progress. Since then, creation of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development and ‘Border-to-Border Broadband’ competitive grant fund has extend the reach of high-speed Internet to roughly 50,000 MN homes and businesses. In addition, hundreds of community anchor institutions – such as libraries, schools, and hospitals — have been connected, and just as important: the program thus far has leveraged over $80 million in non-state investment, making Minnesota’s nation-leading approach to expanding broadband access a truly successful public-private partnership!
The state’s broadband fund addresses a market failure – in this case, a situation where private investment capital is limited but consumer demand is strong, if not geographically concentrated. This approach is analogous to the incredibly successful effort to extend electricity to rural America a century ago. Imagine life without electricity. Broadband is no different.
As much as any other issue at the Capitol, broadband funding has brought people together to get things done – breaking traditional political and geographic barriers that oftentimes serve to divide rather than unite legislators and those they represent. Without doubt, expanded broadband investment is a proven and promising development at the legislature – and all around the state!