Letter of the week

Rural Minnesota needs full broadband funding

This is an urgent request for you to contact your legislators to fully fund rural Minnesota broadband. It’s painful to admit our area is part of the not-served 9 percent of the population in the state. Aitkin County has areas under-served when it comes to having access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet service.

We cannot wait any longer, and it didn’t help that the funding bill was vetoed last year. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is a rural Minnesota issue. 

We need bipartisan support to fully fund the MN Rural Broadband Coalition and the governor’s recommendation of $70 million over the next two years. The not-served-nine-percent of households, businesses, schools, emergency services and hospitals in the state still struggle along on the dark side of the digital divide. A key funding committee in the Minnesota House adopted the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and governor’s proposal to fund the program at $70 million over the biennium, while the Senate funds the program for one year only at $30 million. Our area cannot be silent and continue to be underserved. When the legislature concludes its business for 2019 in May, it should be sure to fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program at $70 million.

Don Niemi, Aitkin County Commissioner

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