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Rural Minnesota's Link to the Future

June 30, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The need for more access to high-speed and wireless Internet in rural America is among the key points of discussion at the National Rural Assembly, which wraps up today at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront.

Broadband access plays a critical role in nearly every sector of society, says Edyael Casaperalta, a programs associate with the Center for Rural Strategies.

"Access to health care, access to online education, access to businesses, for investment in their communities, jobs, emergency services. Access to broadband is essential for community survival."

The main hurdles to more high-speed and wireless Internet connections include lack of infrastructure and cost, Casaparalta says. One option being examined is to use money from the Universal Service Fund, into which every customer pays, totaling about $8 billion a year.

"It was originally designed to provide phone service. Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is considering transitioning that to provide Internet service as well."

Nationally, only 60 percent of rural households use broadband Internet. The rate is slightly better in Minnesota, at 64 percent.

Find out how connected your community is at broadbandmap.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN