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Editorial: Broadband needs to be addressed at state level

Access to broadband continues to be a concern in rural Minnesota and in particular Hubbard County’s lakes area.

Recently, State Senator Matt Schmit visited several communities, including Park Rapids, to talk about the importance and need for reliable, high-speed Internet access.

After visiting with local providers about the hurdles they are facing in providing broadband to every home and hearing from people who need access at home to provide flexible work schedules or give children access to do homework, he is suggesting some of the issues be addressed in the 2014 legislative session.

This is important.

“Imagine lacking electricity or telephone service at your home or business,” he said in a commentary. “Admittedly, it’s a hard thing to do. Not long ago, though, the services we now view as essential utilities were anything but. While today we take for granted this type of connectivity, many Minnesotans still lack reliable access to the essential technology of our day – broadband Internet.

In recent years high-speed broadband has become the key platform for applications in telehealth, distance learning, e-commerce, and precision agriculture – just to name a few, he added. Broadband is an economic driver with limitless potential, allowing people to connect and businesses to compete in new and meaningful ways. For Greater Minnesota, broadband connectivity makes traditional barriers of time, distance, and resources obsolete.

Schmit is suggesting that the 2014 legislative session presents us with an opportunity to rewrite key provisions of the telecom law that serve as needless barriers and don’t translate to 21st Century life.

We agree and hope this is addressed this session. The Governor has created a task force that has been working recommendations and now is the time for action.

Broadband access needs to become available to all.