Sebeka Menahga Review Messenger
April 10, 2009

In anticipation of a national economic recovery plan, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar convened a roundtable discussion at the State Capitol to identify key priorities for promoting high-speed broadband Internet access and service in Minnesota.

President-elect Obama has indicated that investments in broadband communications infrastructure will be a significant part of the large-scale economic recovery plan expected in early 2009.

"Broadband has become a key infrastructure for our 21st century economy," said Klobuchar. "It's essential that all of our communities have affordable access to high-speed Internet service. I want to go back to Washington and make sure that federal broadband investments will serve the needs of Minnesota."

Klobuchar noted that the United States has become an international laggard on Internet access. According to the International Telecommunications Union, the U.S. ranks 24th in the world in broadband penetration. In the U.S., rural access and usage is significantly lower than the national average.

"In many communities," Klobuchar said, "the problem is that access is either too slow or too expensive, or both. As a result, businesses, hospitals, schools and even law enforcement are all at a disadvantage."

Klobuchar said that broadband service is becoming increasingly important for job creation and economic development. She cited a recent study by the Brookings Institution, which estimates that every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration per year would lead to the creation of nearly 300,000 new jobs.

"What Obama can do for our broadband infrastructure is similar to what Roosevelt did for rural electrification and what Eisenhower did for the national highway system," Klobuchar said. "It's a crucial investment in the future of our economy."

Klobuchar serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has authority over telecommunications issues. She cosponsored the Broadband Data Improve-ment Act (S. 1492), which was signed into law in October. The legislation will improve the quality of the data collected by the federal government on broadband services. It also authorizes a grant program for states to create statewide broadband initiatives.

Participants joining Klobuchar for the round-table discussion included:

•Bill Coleman, Blandin Foundation (Grand Rapids)

•Jeff Hunt, Park Rapids Area Schools ISD 309 (Park Rapids)

•Pam Lehman, Lac qui Parle County Economic Development Authority (Madison)

•Tim Lovaasen, President, Minnesota Communications Workers of America (Minneapolis)

•Tony Mayer, West Central Telephone Cooperative (Sebeka)

•Tim Rice, Lakewood Health System (Staples)

•Brita Sailer, Minnesota State Representative (Park Rapids).