We all take advantage of broadband in our every day lives—whether we realize it or not. It may be a call to the clinic where the staff utilizes an electronic record-keeping system. Or a simple visit to the library. It might be a purchase at the grocery store where they scan product codes at the register. Or an email from a grandchild.
If you’ve been following our SherBand blog posts, you have a pretty clear picture of how broadband can benefit individual quality of life by connecting people, providing convenience and creating safer communities. You understand how broadband can improve lives through enhanced healthcare and education. But have you considered the greater impact broadband has on society?
Here’s a larger snapshot of how broadband affects life in the 21st century:
Energy and Environment
The opportunity for broadband to reduce or avoid energy use, and thus help the environment, is evident in where we work, how we shop and what we consume. For example, as people telecommute for work, it saves gas and car emissions. Plus, digital communication is reducing the demand for snail mail and magazine and newspaper subscriptions. This reduces the need for paper, saves trees and conserves energy.
Government and Citizen Involvement
Today’s technology allows live streaming of government proceedings, from city council meetings to federal sessions – offering transparency and making proceedings available to the general public. Government websites and social media provide a continuous stream of information to residents, while email makes it convenient to communicate with elected officials. We can also pay taxes on-line, register our vehicles, and even procure fishing licenses with the click of a button.
Local businesses rely on broadband for immediate online sources of information relative to their industries. Banks, health service providers, retailers, and government organizations depend on reliable broadband to provide services to their clients. Small business owners right here in Sherburne County depend on the Internet as an e-commerce venue, enabling them to sell their products across the globe. Larger businesses use the Internet to find and retain employees.
As you recognize the big picture impact of broadband, you may notice the shortfalls of access in our county. Our rural residents feel this pinch every day—with every shaky connection and frustrating lack of service. In order to survive and thrive in a global economy, everyone in Minnesota needs access to affordable, world-class broadband and the skills to use it.
There are many common-sense ways we can increase broadband access. One is with funding. The MN legislature recently passed a broadband development bill allocating $35 million for Fiscal Year 2017. Of the funding, no more than $5 million would be used to serve underserved areas, and up to $1 million may be used for administrative costs; $500,000 may be awarded to expand availability to areas that contain a significant portion of low-income households.
While this is a start, it is not enough. Please join us to continue to educate people and connect with our elected leaders to share our concerns—personal and societal—regarding the need for affordable, accessible broadband coverage.
We’d love to hear from you. Come find us at the Sherburne County fair—July 14-17.