By Ann Treacy
The Minnesota Broadband Task Force released a Status Report and Policy Recommendations in September. The statewide legislative goal is to have ubiquitous broadband coverage with speeds of 10-20 Mbps download and 5-10 Mbps up by 2015.
Currently, less than 60 percent of the state meets that goal; there is clearly a need to build more.
Building broadband infrastructure has been an economic driver in Minnesota for many years. The industry received a boost when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) began providing stimulus funding to spur growth in the area . Many ARRA-funded projects are still building in Minnesota and we have also seen a number of other, non-ARRA-funded broadband projects start to take off as well.
In the last month, the Blandin on Broadband blog has highlighted several stories on businesses that build broadband:
- The ARRA-supported Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project connects Minneapolis and St. Paul to Duluth with fiber and Superior as well as linking Brainerd to Fargo and Moorhead.
- Arrowhead Electric Coop, which also received ARRA-support, continues to dig, construct and splice their way building dark fiber across Cook County.
- Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS), which received finding for their fiber network, is expanding with LocaLoop to offer wireless broadband services in Southwest Minnesota.
- Minnesota Fiber Exchange (MFE) is working with Ramsey County to build two fiber networks;one for government use and the other for dark fiber to be leased to last mile providers.
- RS Fiber continues to work on getting approval from Renville and Sibley counties and area cities to build a fiber network. Most of the cities have voted to move forward; the counties plan to vote on the issue on October 9.
On a related note, federal policy makers recently looked at the idea of taxing broadband as a way to fund the Connect America Fund, which supports broadband deployment in rural areas, however the idea was quickly dismissed.
If you are interested in learning more about broadband in Minnesota, the theme of the Minnesota Fall Broadband conference is Building Our Connection Future: Minnesota’s Better with Broadband.