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Editorial: Time to look at a faster Web

A task force studying broadband Internet service across Minnesota has determined that much of the state is sorely needing a Web connection upgrade.

A news story that appeared in Saturday's Daily Globe detailed the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force's recommendation, made in a report issued Friday, to expand and speed up broadband service across the state. A goal of 2015 has been set for the desired changes, though there was no specified funding source for the expansion.

Rick King, who chairs the task force and is chief technology officer at Eagan-based Thomson Reuters Legal, suggested Minnesota -- in lieu of its budgetary woes -- use "the bully pulpit"and ask private companies that provide telephone and Internet service to fund Internet upgrades. The report notes that state policies "should encourage high-speed broadband development through tax incentives and public-private collaborations aimed at individuals, businesses and Internet providers."

A quick glance at some statistics from the task force's report demonstrates the need. One county in the state -- Washington County, in the metro area -- completely meets the task force's desired guidelines for broadband speed. While other counties in the metro have around 98 or 99 percent broadband coverage, only 37 percent of residents of northeast Minnesota's Cook County have that type of access, and extremely slow Internet service to go along with it.

While this may now be a non-issue for many people, broadband coverage will only become increasingly important in the coming years. From a communications standpoint, Minnesota must not take the risk of having large numbers of its citizens cut off from the rest of the world.