Monday, September 24, 2018

Ben Rueter

Broadband expansion can come from the community

Around the same time Dunn County Board of Supervisors began looking over the results of a broadband gap analysis study, President Donald Trump had starting talking about expanding broadband in rural areas.

In January, President Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention and introduced two executive orders meant to accelerate broadband expansion in rural areas. And then in February, President Trump detailed an infrastructure proposal where some funds might be used for rural projects like broadband.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband is defined by having a minimum of 25 megabytes-per-second download speed and 3 megabytes-per-second upload speed.

Over the past couple of months, Dunn County has been visiting the topic of broadband expansion.

A quick refresher on some of the big talking points from the broadband gap analysis study:

In the report, it states that fewer than 50 percent of residential respondents are satisfied with their internet. Of the businesses surveyed, 72 percent said internet service is available, but more than half, 55 percent, were dissatisfied with their internet service. In addition, 1 in 5 business respondents has considered moving their business out of Dunn County.

On a national level, according to the Broadband Progress Report adopted by the FCC in 2016, 39 percent of rural Americans (23 million people) lack access to broadband.

I talked recently with Dunn County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Eric Turner and he said that he doesn’t have a lot of confidence that many funds will come from the federal level to help push broadband expansion.

Where he said the push will be the greatest is from within the community.

“People are going to have to ask for it,” he said.

The study group that was formed to create the broadband gap analysis report for Dunn County is still intact and Turner said that the group is continuing to meet with the community to talk about the benefits and concerns.

He mentions that there are options available now. Such as ISPs renting space on top of grain silos and placing an antenna that boosts coverage.

Simply continuing to talk about broadband expansion is key right now because, Turner said, it’s importance could help retain jobs and families.

“It's going to be very doubt that they will want to move here if they don't have quality broadband,” he said.

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