Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith says funding to expand broadband Internet access in Greater Minnesota is a “really important” part of Governor Mark Dayton’s agenda for the 2017 legislative session. Smith says the current strategy for expanding broadband in Greater Minnesota is working and the state needs to keep at it. She says, “There are still I think almost 20 percent of households in Greater Minnesota that… don’t have access to broadband at the speeds that are kind of just adequate speeds.”
Republicans say the private sector is upgrading Internet service in Greater Minnesota and there’s no need to spend taxpayer dollars. Smith disagrees, saying companies won’t expand broadband in rural areas where it’s not profitable. “There are parts of the state geographically where it is not possible to make money expanding broadband Internet access, and that’s where the public sector comes in,” Smith says. “It’s exactly what we had to do with rural electrification in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Republicans and Democrats have wrangled over the issue in past legislative sessions and it will likely happen again in 2017.
Here’s Bill Werner’s interview with Lt. Governor Smith: