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Report: Slow Internet Access Can Stifle MN Rural Economies

April 29, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Communities without high-speed Internet access will likely be economically crippled, losing out on opportunities available to those with high-speed connections. That's the conclusion of a new report from the Center for Rural Strategies about broadband access in rural America.

In Minnesota, 54 percent of communities have broadband access at speeds rated below the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) minimum standard of 4 megabits per second, according to the group SpeedMatters.org.

Report author Dr. Sharon Strover explains that such routine functions as ordering supplies can put a business with narrow Internet bandwidth behind the eight ball.

"If you've ever tried to pull up a graphic image on a dial-up connection, you are waiting for a really long time. That means that, in order to do something as simple as ordering a part, you are at a huge disadvantage."

In a sink-or-swim business world, the report predicts communities without high-speed access will sink. Minnesota is ranked 32nd in the nation for online access speeds. However, Dr. Strover says there are some encouraging signs.

"I believe that the FCC and other federal agencies are taking this far more seriously than they ever did. The money that the stimulus funding pumped into broadband should help."

The FCC is expected to report this year - as it did last year - that broadband providers are not expanding their services in a timely and satisfactory fashion.

The full report is online at ruralstrategies.org.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN