We understand some Iron Range legislators’ concern about allocation of any funding this session to expand broadband access.
After all, if rural areas such as the Iron Range do not get proper treatment because of our greater need for broadband expansion, then the area is well served by lawmakers from the area driving a tough bargain to ensure we get our fair share of broadband dollars.
We continue to urge at least $100 million in broadband funding, with a focus on rural areas that are currently much more lacking than in urban settings.
But some comments by Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, in a Mesabi Daily News story last week on the issue are simply baffling.
Metsa said that many northeastern Minnesota residents would be happy with just basic connectivity coupled with a promise of more in the future.
“Your average home consumer up north is happy they can stream Netflix, watch a Youtube video, share videos on Facebook with your family, that’s probably the typical use.”
Well, yes all those things are certainly nice to have. Hey, can’t beat a good episode of “House of Cards” on Netflix. But we think Range residents want more than just access to Youtube videos and Netflix and Facebook. They want and deserve much better broadband.
And what about the economic development component of improved and expanded broadband to communities? That alone should have all the region’s legislators fighting and fighting hard for every dollar they can get for better broadband on the Range.
Broadband is modern-day infrastructure so critical to the economy of rural Minnesota.
Small businesses represent the majority of job growth in the country. And many businesses, including the Delta Airlines customer service center in Chisholm, are fostering a new workplace environment that allows employees to work from their homes. But that requires good broadband.
In addition, national Small Business Administration statistics show that nearly 50 percent of all new businesses are home-based. And, of course, those businesses require good broadband.
Come on, Rep. Metsa, this issue is about a lot more than Netflix, Facebook and Youtube.