Broadband needs to move forward

There has been an extensive study. There are numerous examples of below par service. The Lake Connections debacle has compounded the problems. What is needed is a clear plan to move forward with improving internet access in the Ely area.
We’ve sat in numerous meetings, listened to experts and put enough information on enough flip charts to start several dozen campfires. But smoke signals won’t solve the problem.
People who live in the Ely area shouldn’t be treated as second class citizens because they don’t live in a metropolitan area. We have the same needs to be able to access the internet without waiting 10 minutes to download a small PDF file.
There needs to be an equality in Minnesota for broadband access. But there isn’t today. We’re not the only area that is struggling but we certainly can make a case for needed improvements.
When Joe Baltich was running for county commissioner he made a video about how Lake County spent millions of dollars to bring broadband to the folks who live in the outer limits of Fall Lake township. What did they get? Empty orange plastic pipe and the ability to pay property taxes for a service they don’t receive.
What happened with Lake Connections is an example of what not to do for local units of government. It all started with good intentions but the follow through was worse than nearly every Vikings kicker for the last three years. Miles and miles of empty plastic pipe without any fiber in it. And tens of millions in loans that won’t get paid back.
But that pain extends beyond the borders of Lake County. Since federal monies were used to improve service here, our area is listed is not eligible for further federal funding. If Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith want to do something to help Ely they can work to remove the funding ban for broadband.
We need solid plans that have the local units of government in and out cleanly with any further financial obligations. We’d like to see Frontier or any other provider step up to the plate and do what’s needed to provide access to the information superhighway.
But we only need look in the mirror to know waiting for Frontier is kind of like waiting for Godot. We can have some nice discussions and burn up some more flip charts but at the end of the day our internet access is still bad.
The Town of Morse has put forward a project that could work and would greatly improve internet access for people in that township. The city of Ely has a possible project for the downtown area.
But the time for studying and discussing needs to end. The time is now to put together projects that will improve the lives of people who live here. They deserve no less.