What Experts Say $ 100 Million in Broadband Funding Will Do for Minnesota

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The package should mean more broadband, with a wider reach.

“It’s like the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, in 1935,” says Christopher Gibbs, president of Rural Voices, a non-profit organization that connects farmers and community members. “We could even assimilate it to rural electrification. It’s a big problem.

As part of the plan, Minnesota will receive a minimum of $ 100 million to help build statewide broadband coverage. The bill would provide access to at least 83,000 Minnesota residents who do not have it.

Wertish, of Renville, says he works on his son’s 500-acre farm, growing corn and soybeans.

He hopes the plan will help the 14,000 members of the farmers’ union – while boosting connectivity in rural areas like never before.

“You know the pandemic has really shown us why we need it here,” Wertish says. “It’s not just farmers, it’s rural communities, it’s health care, it’s rural schools. It’s a way for people to come back to rural communities more if they want to supply and open a business. ”

A White House report found that nearly 12% of Minnesotans live in areas without broadband infrastructure capable of providing acceptable speeds.

The report also states that a similar number of households in Minnesota have no internet connection – and that nearly 63% of Minnesotans live in areas with only one internet provider.

“We did something long overdue, long talked about in Washington,” President Joe Biden told reporters on Saturday. “No parent should have to sit in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant for their child to do their homework because they don’t have an Internet connection.”

Wertish says broadband will help growers use GPS to monitor their crops and more easily order supplies over the Internet.

“We can use it to plant our crops, adjust your spraying or planting, and track your acres,” he says. “You collect a lot of data that is very important to you, but you also provide a lot of efficiency. ”

Experts say broadband will connect large, dispersed rural school districts.

Even healthcare in small communities could benefit from telemedicine, Gibbs says.

“They have to depend on video medicine and send them these specialists, not everyone can have a specialist,” he explains. “The way you would get it is rural broadband.”

The plan will also include an “affordable connectivity benefit,” to help low-income families pay for Internet access.

It is not known how soon the infrastructure funds will be deployed. The president says he hopes to sign the bill “soon”.

Wertish hopes that more broadband access could mean a new beginning for many.

“Whether they can work from home in rural communities or start their own business, be an entrepreneur – the doors open to a lot of these types of possibilities,” he says.


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