Bill Coleman’s letter to the editor in the Brainerd Dispatch…
As a rural broadband advocate and consultant, I read Rep. Kresha’s June 2 letter with interest.
I agree that he is one of the House GOP’s leading voices on broadband, but that voice is weak and out of tune with the needs of greater Minnesota.
He is right on his closing statement, “If we want students, small businesses, and local governments to keep pace with the rest of the state, we need this investment to provide high-speed internet access.” Kresha omits that many parts of rural Minnesota do have world-class broadband provided by cooperatives, local governments and public-private partnerships. And the real-world definition of high-speed is now 100 Mb (our 2026 state goal), not 25 or 10 Mb. No or poor broadband means being left behind.
Kresha is also correct that $35 million dollars was close to what the House proposed, but omits that this is far below what the Senate approved ($85 million) and the governor requested ($100 million). Curiously, metro area DFLers were the strongest proponents of rural broadband in the House.
The House also won new “challenge” procedures that protect the very incumbent providers that have failed to deliver rural broadband. These providers can now claim, after seeing all of the grant applications, “plans” to deliver slow broadband. This new challenge process might disqualify competitive providers’ grant applications even if they were deploying 100 percent fiber optic, future-proof networks. The uncertainty of the challenge process will inhibit the number of quality applications.
With a $900 million state surplus, $100 million in broadband funding would have been historic. A shared commitment to long-term broadband funding by state leadership would have been historic—$35 million is merely a small step forward towards a well-connected Minnesota.
Community Technology Advisors Corp.