Most of us know the irritation that is slow internet, especially when it comes to services that require streaming, such as conference calls over Google Hangout or video chats over Skype.
But imagine if you had to liken the speed of your internet to purchasing a new car that has wooden tires because of its painfully slow speeds.
In many parts of Greater Minnesota that comparison isn’t just a dismal worst-case scenario: that’s actually how they describe their web speeds.
When members of the GOP in Greater Minnesota were campaigning for office in 2014, many of their constituents felt confident that coming from those parts of the state would ensure that Greater Minnesota interests were a top priority. But newspapers are now calling the Republican-led House’s plan for broadband “a curious show of parsimony” (which is a fancy-schmancy way of saying extreme unwillingness to spend money).
For example: the Office of Broadband Development exists to implement more reliable web speeds in Greater Minnesota. While the program for broadband expansion had what constituents in Greater Minnesota described as a “meager allotment,” many of them had hopes that their Republican representatives would support more funding for the implementation of increased internet speeds.
Instead, the Republican-led House’s bill would eliminate the Office of Broadband Development.
“Say what?!” you may be asking yourself. How is getting rid of an office dedicated to helping constituents in your area beneficial?
Well, members of the GOP, such as Rep. Pat Garofalo, seem to be covering their tracks by saying something along the lines of: “wait a little longer and trust the market to deliver.”
While that may be a common mantra espoused by Republicans, in this case it’s simply a way to avoid reality. As of late 2014, there were 24 counties in the state where fewer than 50 percent of households had high-speed internet access. As pointed out by an editorial by the Star Tribune: those counties have been waiting for more than a decade for the “market to deliver.”
In the city of Annandale, about 50 miles northwest of Minneapolis with a population of 3,200, people described the hardships of not having access to strong broadband:
“New businesses expect good internet. When you buy a car, you expect tires on it. Unfortunately our car has wooden tires.”
In addition, small business owners have submitted editorials to their local newspapers stressing the hindrance of slow internet speeds. One owner, Edie Ramstad, who founded Weave Got Maille in Ada, said she was nearly courted to North Dakota because there would be guaranteed high-quality internet speeds. Luckily, her community received a commitment from a local phone company to install fiber optics shortly after, and she stayed.
But what about the communities that haven’t gotten that commitment?
Former GOP Rep. Dan Dorman delivered a scathing review detailing why he believes the House refuses to deliver on broadband:
“Basically what you see is that technological ignorance and politics have intertwined. I was in the House for eight years. I’ve seen this firsthand. In general, Republicans don’t like to spend money. If they can find a reason, any reason, not to to spend they’ll cling to it no matter what.”
When former legislators from the same party realize that GOP “frugality” is beginning to infringe on strengthening business in Greater Minnesota communities, it’s a sign that representatives are out of touch with their constituents, and somewhere along the way wires have been crossed.
And it’s safe to say those wires, if located in Greater Minnesota, were not made of fiber optics.
It’s time to extend a hand to Greater Minnesota, and ensure that residents can use their cell phones in ways that make them more functional than only a “square piece of plastic.”