High Speed Broadband internet might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to whether rural families and businesses succeed or fail, but Senator Amy Klobuchar says it’s vital for the future of rural Minnesota.
She introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act on Wednesday, a bill that would invest $100 billion to build broadband infrastructure in areas across America that are struggling to remain competitive.
The bill would also ensure that telecommunication companies that are awarded that money will offer low-priced high speed internet for customers and discounts for low-income families.
“We have to stay competitive by having high speed broadband everywhere in our state. It’s going to become a have and have not for school kids, and our businesses and small businesses if we don’t have high speed internet in rural areas,” said Senator Klobuchar.
Areas like Clay County and Otter Tail County, where large chunks of the counties have no access to broadband what so ever.
“It is as important as electricity. It is vital, whether you’re talking about manufacturing, whether you’re talking about agriculture, whether you’re talking about the tourism industry, all of those are increasingly reliant on broadband,” said Nick Leonard, the Deputy Administrator for Otter Tail County.
“It’s the way everything is going. We need to stay competitive. Clay County will lose business to other areas if we aren’t served by broadband,” said Jenny Mongeau, the District 3 Clay County Commissioner.
Business isn’t the only sector suffering from lack of broadband in rural Minnesota.
“There is a story of a student in Otter Tail County who actually had to drive to Battle Lake and do her biology quizzes in a liquor store parking lot because that was the only way she got high speed internet,” said Senator Klobuchar.
16% of rural households in rural Minnesota don’t have high speed internet, making it difficult to complete assignments in an increasingly broadband dependent school system, and to remain competitive with other students around the country.
“It isn’t a reasonable way to ask kids and their families to do their schoolwork,” said Leonard.
Both Clay and Otter Tail counties have been looking at alternative options that include state and federal grants to help bring widespread broadband access to their counties.