Rural Minnesota short of Internet speed

Minnesota has work to do to make online work balanced between urban areas and the rest of the state.

Thief River Falls’ Digi-Key employs 2,600 people as one of the largest and fastest-growing electronic components distributors in the world, former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher wrote in an introduction to a report on the spread of high-speed broadband Internet connections. But not all rural areas are as lucky, she added: “We are not on track to meet” speed goals set for 2015.

“The private sector is continuing to expand service and new technology is improving the quality of the service across the state,” said Kelliher, chairwoman of a task force looking into broadband. “But without partnership from the public sector, it will be incredibly challenging to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to high-speed broadband.”

Getting broadband to rural areas is important, she said. “We have witnessed how broadband can be an incredible equalizer between the more densely populated metropolitan area and greater Minnesota, enable business growth and provide opportunities for Minnesotans to lead healthier lives.”

The report showed that 62 percent of Minnesotans can access at a speed state officials set as the minimum acceptable. But many rural counties fall far short of the goal.

The task force recommended that tax credits or state grants be give to offer Internet to areas now not served, to extend existing sales tax breaks for equipment used to expand the Internet and provide aid to poor students who need Internet access.

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