Many people in Minnesota and Wisconsin can access the Internet. But, as many experts have shown, there are still issues, namely: speed, quality, reliability, and affordability of their connections.
Take the Carson family of Little Marais, Minnesota. Two years ago, David and Denise Carlson upgraded from dial-up to wireless mobile broadband through a cellular network.
And though it is better, their broadband runs no faster than 800 kilobits per second. Most broadband options operate at least at 1.2 megabits per second. YouTube videos can barely play smoothly at 768 kilobits per second.
But, the Internet landscape in this region is truly hit or miss. 600 feet East of the Carlson home, a neighbor can only use dial-up. And yet, 1,000 feet away, another neighbor gets reliable and quick wireless broadband.
Many experts in the two states consider this situation to be unacceptable and look forward to the stimulus funding set aside by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) as a way to improve on the current landscape.
"All Minnesotans need a basic level of connectivity. And we’re not there yet," says Rick King, the chairman of Minnesota’s Ultra High-Speed Broad Band Task Force. "One of the nice things is the government stimulus money is dealing with unserved and underserved areas," he continued.
The 26-member task force was established in 2008 by the state legislature to complete a report for ensuring statewide access. Additionally, the state has partnered with Connected Nation to create maps that pinpoint unserved and underserved areas in the state.
While Wisconsin does not have a state-appointed task force, there are about 60 organizations--including schools, telecommunications companies, and city governments--applying for stimulus funding.
The applications "range from a few thousand dollars to $20 million," said Gary Evenson, administrator of the telecommunications division of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which plans to develop a map of the state’s coverage.
Increased reliability, quality, and affordability of high-speed broadband Internet will help thousands of families like the Carsons, bringing more business opportunities, more well-rounded education, and many more benefits to America’s rural areas.