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Editorial: Task Force on Broadband has more work to do

The state's Task Force on Broadband recently released its 2012 annual report and proposals listed in the report are encouraging.

Much of the task force's work so far as been gathering information, which is necessary to move forward. We're looking forward to the next steps, however, and seeing progress in action.

We know firsthand that many areas throughout Hubbard County are unserved or underserved by broadband. The report confirms that there are parts of the state where people don't have access to broadband.

Over the last twelve months the task force has traveled across the state learning about the successes and opportunities in communities due to access to high speed broadband as well as the challenges presented by the lack of access, according to the report.

"We have witnessed how broadband can be an incredible equalizer between the more densely populated metropolitan area and Greater Minnesota, enable business growth and provide opportunities for Minnesotans to lead healthier lives," said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Chair of the Governor's Task Force on Broadband.

The task force has come up with goals and proposals to help bring broadband to residents across the state.

Some of the proposals include:

n Provide a tax credit or grant to incent broadband providers to build in unserved areas. Coordinate with Connect Minnesota to provide target areas that are underserved or unserved and provide priority for projects that will serve these target areas.

n Extend current sales tax exemption on equipment purchased for use in a central office to include the purchase of fiber optics and broadband equipment.

n Create a program or mechanism to coordinate rural broadband installation with state and federal programs assisting hospitals, schools, libraries, and public safety facilities with obtaining broadband.

n Implement a formal "Dig Once" process to coordinate highway construction and broadband deployment projects.

n Award scholarship dollars for broadband access for students, especially those that meet federal poverty guidelines.

n Increase funding to public libraries and schools for computer stations and Internet access.

n Establishment of an ongoing, post-Task Force resource within state government for high speed broadband-focused efforts in the future.

These ideas sound great. We just hope they come to fruition as well. Task force members have a lot of work ahead of them but it will be well worth it to have equal access to broadband across the state.