Report calls for more, faster Internet accessST. PAUL — Judy Adamec of Minnesota’s Otter Tail County is a poster child for rural Internet connection problems.
By: Don Davis, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — Judy Adamec of Minnesota’s Otter Tail County is a poster child for rural Internet connection problems.
“I don’t pay bills online because it is quicker to write a check and mail it,” Adamec told a task force studying broadband service across the state.
The task force’s recommendations, released Friday, call for a dramatic expansion and speeding up of broadband service. The report, however, stopped short of detailing how the expansion would be funded.
The report did not call for state spending, but left that option open.
The group’s chairman said Adamec’s plight shows how many Minnesotans are at a disadvantage.
“If Ms. Adamec’s connection doesn’t allow her to pay bills online, she certainly will not be able to take advantage of online education, telemedicine or telecommuting,” said Rick King, chief technology officer of Eagan-based Thompson Reuters Legal.
King said high-speed Internet connections that broadband provides are a necessity, not a luxury.
A 2015 goal of making the needed changes was set, although lawmakers said that due to the recession the state likely will not be able to contribute financially for the time being.
King suggested the state can use “the bully pulpit” to convince private companies, such as those providing telephone and Internet, to expand and speed up services.
The report shows that only Washington County, in the eastern Twin Cities area, meets the broadband speed guidelines set for 2015. Washington is one of several counties, mostly in the Twin Cities area, with 98 percent or 99 percent broadband coverage.
At the other extreme, just 37 percent of those living in extreme northeast Minnesota’s Cook County have access to any broadband service, and what is available is among the slowest in the state.
“We have allowed our Internet access to lag in Minnesota for too long,” said Chairwoman Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, who heads a Senate communications committee and authored legislation establishing the task force.
Lagging broadband service hurts the state’s ability to recover from the current economic slowdown, added Sen. John Doll, DFL-Burnsville, and Rep. Sheldon Johnson, DFL-St. Paul.
Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.