Periodically we will present commentaries on topics of interest to community and economic developers across rural Minnesota. Below is a list of all commentaries with the most recent listed first.
Becoming a Broadband Leader
Recent articles and editorials in a variety of newspapers and blogs have expressed concern about Minnesota's standing and direction in its deployment of broadband technology. Specific concerns seem to fall into two categories; that Minnesota does not seem to be as competitive in its efforts to get its share of the $7.2 billion in stimulus funding dedicated to broadband development; and second, that the leadership and direction from our Governor in this regard is both confusing and unclear.
Regarding the Governor's action, I must admit to some confusion myself. For those who don't follow this closely, governors across the country were asked to provide their input on the many stimulus proposals submitted from their respective states; and our governor did just that. However, Governor Pawlenty chose not to publicly disclose his input to the federal government; which creates some confusion in helping us better understand his vision for the State of Minnesota in this regard. At the same time, while keeping his thoughts confidential is somewhat unusual, I really do not believe that it had a meaningful impact on the competitiveness of the collective proposals from Minnesota.
Regarding our standing as a state, I am not overly concerned that we are collectively lagging behind; or that we will not be receiving our fair share of the federal funding pie. First, it has been clear to me that relative to most other states, Minnesota as a whole has always been in pretty good shape. Sure we have rural areas that are both digitally unserved and underserved, but all states that have large rural tracts are in that position. In fact, the initial data and maps produced last year by Connect MN indicated that a large majority of Minnesota is well served, with reasonably good connection speeds. In other words, we have a good base to work from.
Looking forward, there's much to be excited about given the numerous broadband activities occurring all over Minnesota. First and foremost was the passage of a bill by the legislature establishing statewide goals and leadership for broadband development. Senate File 2254 was sent to the Governor for his signature in late April.
I am also encouraged by the broadband projects that have already been funded and the proposals that are currently being reviewed for funding. Some selected projects underway include:
It is also important to remember that this is just the first round of these federal broadband grants and loans, which focused primarily on unserved areas. As we move into the second round, projects to enhanced underserved regions as well as more competitive areas will follow.
As stated in the recently passed Senate File 2254, Minnesota aspires to be one of the top five states in the nation in universal access, connection speeds and broadband adoption. Projects like these and the ones that will follow are precisely what we need to do to achieve that goal.
Geller is professor & head of the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. He also serves as the director of the federally-funded EDA Center at UMC. He can be reached at email@example.com