As originally posted on the Blandin on Broadband blog…
Over the past year, Blandin Foundation has worked with eight rural communities on its Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! Program. Each community recruited a team of at least eight broadband champions – elected officials and staff, school technology coordinators and superintendents, economic development and chamber officials, and citizen volunteers. I thank them for their dedication and congratulate them on their progress!
The broadband shortcomings in these communities – six counties, one tribe and one city – do not revolve around getting good broadband to one or two homes, or even a neighborhood. These communities face persistent and systemic shortcomings crossing, in most cases, the majority of the land area in these places. Even where cities are considered served, community surveys indicate that many people are unhappy with the reliability of the service and the poor customer service. The same surveys have documented the efforts that individuals have made in an attempt to obtain broadband services. Some respondents have called area providers regularly to ask about service availability. many others have simply given up and adapted as best they can to combinations of Internet service – cellular hotspots, traditional satellite, inconsistent fixed wireless service. Their stories are amazing.
Through the Accelerate Program, these community leaders are creating and pursuing the deployment of widespread, high-quality broadband solutions covering large areas. They are working intensely with providers of all types in a variety of ways. Minnesota should not be pursuing strategies or passing legislation that supports treating broadband as a question of getting broadband to one or two, one or two hundred or one or two thousand houses. We can and need to do a lot better than this type of small thinking. High quality, at scale. Solve the problem.