To the editor:
Last year our neighborhood was excited to receive notice that Runestone Telecom would be installing high speed internet cable with access to our homes, thanks to the state Border-Border Grant Program. One year later we’re still waiting for that high speed internet access.
A news report in the April 9 Echo Press gives the statewide goal for internet access speed of 25 megabits per second downloading and 3 mbps uploading by the year 2022. Our home internet speed test is 0.89 mbps downloading and 0.19 mbps uploading, making basic internet access frustrating. I can imagine how impossible it would be to work from home or to do online schooling.
In the Echo Press report, Vince Robinson, chairman of Rural Broadband Coalition, claims the state’s biggest problem reaching the broadband goal is the remoteness of communities. Our neighborhood is two miles from interstate I-94 and two miles from a fiber optic internet cable installed more than 15 years ago.
The Echo Press also reported that Gov. Walz is proposing to budget $50 million for the state Border-to-Border Program for 2021. In 2016 Gov. Dayton proposed $100 million for the newly created state program. Republican legislators, who claim to represent rural interests, cut the grant to $28 million.
The latest update is the Minnesota Senate approved a bi-partisan bill that would grant $40 million to the Border-to Border Program in the next two years. Republican Sen. Torrey Westrom states how important broadband is for the rural economy and the lack of internet access “has damaged our economy, especially in Greater Minnesota, and caused our students to fall behind.”
If Republicans had been as concerned in 2016 when Dayton proposed the larger grant, maybe there would have been less damage to our rural economy and my neighborhood would have had high speed internet before the pandemic hit last year.