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High-speed Internet for all

Published (2/18/2010)
By Nick Busse
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A recommendation to provide high-speed Internet access to every Minnesotan by 2015 is on track to becoming an official state goal.

Sponsored by Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul), HF2907 calls for Minnesota to transform itself into a national and international leader in providing broadband access. The House Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division approved the bill Feb. 12, and sent it to the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

The bill calls for a boost in speed: no less than 10 megabits per second for downloads and five megabits per second for uploads for every user in the state. In addition, it states that Minnesota should rank among the top five U.S. states for both speed and access to broadband Internet, and rank comparatively to the top 15 nations globally for broadband access.

Johnson said the bill is based on the recommendations contained in the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force final report. Rick King, former chairman of the task force and chief technology officer for Thomson Reuters North American Legal, said Minnesota currently ranks about 24th in the nation in providing high-speed Internet access.

“High-speed broadband has the potential to unlock enormous economic growth in the state,” King said. He added that 80 percent of the state’s economy is tied to “knowledge and service industries” that would benefit from better Internet connectivity.

King said the bill’s stated goals for download and upload speeds represent the “minimum support” for transmission of two-way, high-definition video — something he said will enable health care providers to improve their services.

Under the bill’s provisions, the Commerce Department would be required to submit annual reports to the Legislature on progress made toward reaching the goals. Additionally, the bill would establish a 15-member Broadband Goal Advisory Group to advise the department and the Legislature on broadband issues.

A companion, SF2254, sponsored by Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee.

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