The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 11, 2014

Broadband -- Is it a government obligation?

Broadband has been a hot media topic lately. Various letters, articles, and news stories have focused on broadband and how it isn’t available to many rural areas of Minnesota.

Some have even used the word “broadband” in the same sentence as “rural electrification.” “If broadband isn’t available, rural America will die!” Is this reality or just scary fiction?

I own a central Minnesota broadband company and have been a leading pioneer in my industry for over 15 years. I have several issues with these discussions.

Most of Minnesota is not underserved. For example, in Sibley County they profess to not have viable broadband options. There are at least six different private sector businesses currently offering good broadband services to this area. ConnectMN.org can confirm this. My company will be number seven.

Internet access (for most areas) does not need to be funded by the government. The government has no place in this discussion other than to encourage the private sector to invest in areas that need more choices. Yes, they can become a catalyst — but they do not need to be capital investors. The private sector can and should do the funding for broadband deployments.

Broadband deployment is a perfect example of capitalism at its best. Small companies like mine can quickly provide broadband access with little or no government restriction. We can do this anywhere in the U.S. and we have provided access to many underserved areas already with relative ease.

Most people do not understand broadband. They do not understand that there are several ways to deliver fast Internet access to the user.

For example, my company, using current wireless technology, can deliver over 100 mbps to our customers. Cable is capable of doing this as well. The media and proponents of government funded broadband feel that fiber is needed for everyone. While this is a noble thought, it is simply not economical nor practical to do this everywhere — and it is not needed.

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