Getting up to speed on statewide broadband

State Sen. Chuck Wiger
District 43

One issue we will be talking about as we head into the 2014 Minnesota Legislative Session is the possibility of expanding broadband into every corner of the state. We know that life and business on the internet is really only in its infancy. With the fast paced speed of technological advances, we need to be conscious of the future and what we can do to keep up.

Expanding access to broadband is a major player in this discussion. From business and entertainment to schools and public safety, ensuring that everyone has quality access to the internet is a growing need.

Business is constantly changing. Business owners no longer need bricks and mortar to reach their clients. Reaching millions of buyers from around the world is a major advantage for many businesses, but it is only an advantage if they have quality access. If you would like to look at it from a different vantage point, if your business currently has access, you will benefit from this expansion by the increase of possible clients throughout the state.

As TV, movies, gaming and even books continue to grow on the internet, so goes the demand. Admittedly, entertainment is not on the top of the list of needs, but improving access to entertainment would help to improve the quality of life throughout the state.

As the Senate E-12 Education Finance Chair, I often wonder about the future of schools and new ways for our students to learn. It goes without saying, that the jobs of tomorrow will rely heavily on computers and the internet.

As legislators, we need to make sure our state has a level playing field and this means making sure there is access for all students.

In responding to emergencies—timing is everything. The faster our first responders can have needed information, the faster the can be there to help those in need. Public safety can also be improved through alerts to families at home. Severe weather reports, Amber Alerts and other alerts can be transmitted and received in an instant.

I am looking forward to having this conversation this session. This decision will have a big impact on the state’s economy, safety and education climate and we will be seeking input from people all around the state. We will also be hearing from the Governor’s Broadband Taskforce which has been asked to develop an action plan for identifying and correcting disparities in access and adoption of Broadband in all Minnesota communities—urban, rural and suburban. For more information on their work, visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce website (http://mn.gov/commerce/). You can find their page through the “Telecom and Broadband” link.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.

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