A report recommends high-speed broadband with download speeds of up to 20 Mbps by 2015, and could be a model for a nationwide broadband plan.
By W. David Gardner, InformationWeek
Nov. 6, 2009
A Minnesota task force has recommended that high-speed broadband be offered throughout the state in a program that could be a model for a nationwide broadband plan.
The task force report, released Friday, envisions Minnesota jumping from its 24th position in broadband access to a position among the top 5 states. The move could propel the state to national and global leadership in economic growth and increased quality-of-life opportunities.
“Minnesota’s Ultra High-Speed Broadband Report” examined the state’s rural areas as well as its 59-square mile Wi-Fi network in Minneapolis, one of the few successful Wi-Fi municipal networks in the U.S.
“Broadband Internet is the next generation of economic and quality-of-life infrastructure investment, like rural electrification and highways were for previous generations,” said task force chairman Rick King, who is chief technology officer for Thomson Reuters Legal. “Studies have shown that every $1 invested in broadband expansion creates at least $10 in economic growth.”
The report recommends that high-speed broadband with download speeds of 10 to 20 Mbps and upload speeds of 5 to 10 Mbps should be available to all Minnesotans by 2015. Those speeds are already available in a few urban and suburban areas of the state.
The Blandin Foundation, a Minnesota-based rural community advocacy organization, questioned whether the speeds recommended were high enough and whether the proposed deployment was affordable. “More emphasis should be placed on the need to design and implement financial tools to incent service in Minnesota’s remaining un- and under-served areas,” Blandin said in an analysis of the task force’s work. The foundation praised the report, but asked for more advances.
The task force’s 23 members studied the issue for a year and suggested that the state create a “Broadband Advisory Council for Minnesota” to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
U.S. broadband initiatives with government involvement in scores of municipal Wi-Fi efforts have generally failed, due to lack of proper investment and political difficulties between government officials and private companies. However, the Wireless Minneapolis Wi-Fi network has been successful in that it serves most of the Minneapolis area through an alliance with the city and US Internet. Some hard-to-reach areas called “Challenge Areas” are gradually being outfitted with radios and other equipment in an effort to cover the entire 59-square mile region.
Setting a high bar for the state’s broadband, the task force recommends that Minnesota ” currently ranked 24th in the nation in broadband delivery — reach the global top 15.