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Minnesota Broadband Vision

As a foundation dedicated to rural community vitality, Blandin Foundation knows that broadband is critical for everything we care about: economic development, leadership, educational opportunity, and social equity. For that reason, for the past decade we have devoted considerable resources to helping rural Minnesota communities have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it.

At the November 2015 Border to Border Broadband: Better Together conference hosted by Blandin Foundation and the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, more than 170 people from across Minnesota worked to create, and by consensus adopt, a new vision for broadband for our state:

Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.

Since then, dozens of organizations with rural economic and community vitality at the heart of their missions have joined these broadband champions in formally endorsing the vision. The list of endorsements continues to grow as the vision gains momentum across the state.

"This vision is crucial to our schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, and local businesses. Broadband deployment is a necessity to help grow our small-town rural economy, support Minnesota's entrepreneurial spirit, create new jobs, attract new people, and modernize the education and healthcare services so essential to quality of life." ~US Sen. Al Franken

"I applaud Blandin Foundation, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and many other stakeholders in Minnesota that developed the Minnesota Broadband Vision during last year’s “Border to Border Broadband: Better Together” conference. I share your goals of ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to affordable, high-quality broadband that opens new opportunities in education, healthcare and the economy of tomorrow." ~ US Sen. Amy Klobuchar

There are four concepts we consider to be key to this vision:

  • Everyone – This includes all of us, everywhere. Urban, rural, suburban. Resident, student, business owner, worker, traveller.
  • Affordable – Price is important, but is only one component of affordability. Working from home, convenient completion of homework and online classes, and home tele-health all increase affordability.
  • World-class – High-speed, reliable and redundant networks are required to be globally competitive and to be competitive with well-connected neighboring towns and counties. Both wired and wireless networks are necessary in today’s connected world: wireless networks without wireline connections are like planes without airports.
  • Survive and thrive – Broadband is an essential service comparable to roads, clean water and electricity. The ability to retain and attract businesses and people is significantly affected by the availability and quality of broadband. How many young adults or adults of any age would choose a community or purchase a home that lacks quality broadband?  

There are multiple paths available to achieve this vision. The private sector has made significant investments in broadband infrastructure in Minnesota. While we value how much these firms are doing to invest in the next generation of technology, it is clear -- especially in our rural towns and countryside -- that market forces alone will not attract the required capital investment to achieve this vision. Making sure everyone is connected is such a monumental task that we cannot let the provider community shoulder the burden alone; public sector participation is also needed.

Based on how the FCC defines broadband, 23.11% of Greater Minnesota households don’t have access to broadband, compared to 1.82% without access in the metro area. Minnesota remains in the middle of the pack nationally in broadband rankings.

Rural leaders see the impact of broadband – or the lack of it – every day as they work to maintain the prosperity of their communities. The lack of quality broadband in towns and in the rural countryside has a crippling impact that increasingly cannot be overcome by traditional quality of life factors, tax incentives or economic development marketing. In a January 28 editorial, The Albert Lee Tribune said it well: “High-speed Internet access is something that is taken for granted in metro parts of the state. Don’t forget about Greater Minnesota.”

Is your organization considering endorsing the vision? We understand that some boards require a formal resolution documents, so we've drafted a resolution in support of the vision (below) that you may use.

The Minnesota Broadband Coalition has created resources for people and organizations who want to make the case that world-class broadband is critical for community and economic vitality. Visit their website: http://mnbroadbandcoalition.com/.

 

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