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Northern Minnesota served well by broadband

Last year, Minnesota created an Ultra-high Speed Broadband Task Force that was charged with reporting back to the governor and the Legislature on how Minnesota is doing in broadband access. The task force recently released its final report.

It presents both a realistic view of where Minnesota is and where we need to be headed in the next few years. Unlike some had contended, Minnesota is no technological backwaters. When it comes to broadband access, we don't need to feel that we are anyone's poor cousin.

As the state's broadband mapping project found, 94 percent of Minnesota households have access to broadband. And the speeds the project found were nothing to be ashamed of -- 7 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload averages. Few, if any, other states can make that claim.

Last year, Japan -- always held out as a world leader in broadband accessibility -- sent a researcher to rural Minnesota, including Bemidji, to see how we were deploying fiber optics for broadband, thus enhancing economic development. After examining a number of different models for deployment around the U.S., the report found "the Minnesota model as the probable model for rural fiber" and correspondingly broadband, deployment.

Paul Bunyan Telephone is contributing to Minnesota's strong positioning, offering broadband to 100 percent of customers in a service area that spans over 4,500 square miles. The standard Internet speed for Paul Bunyan high-speed Internet customers is up to 10 megabits per second for both uploads and downloads and higher speeds of up to 15, 20, and 25 Mbps are also available.

We have done this because of the strong commitment that we have to our local communities and customers. We understand how increasingly important broadband is to conducting business, educating our students, providing medical services, and just living our daily lives. We are committed to keeping pace with the rapidly advancing technologies in telecommunications.

Even though providing broadband in our sparsely populated service area is two to three times more costly than in the metro area, our customers deserve access to the world just as much as those in the Twin Cities. That's why we're willing to make the investments in our communities that are needed to provide broadband and other advanced telecommunications services.

Since the late 1990s, Paul Bunyan Telephone has invested over $50 million to deliver broadband services to the region.

The Ultra-high Speed Broadband Task Force did a good job in weighing all of the competing public policy obligations that the state has and came up with a good blueprint for the future. It both recognized the efforts that providers like Paul Bunyan Telephone have made to put Minnesota in a very favorable position; and it also made some aggressive recommendations for the direction that Minnesota should be going.

It recommended that the minimum speeds for all residents of the state by 2015 should be 10-20 Mbps (download) and 5-10 Mbps (upload). In addition, the Task Force recommends that Minnesota aspire to be in the top five states of the United States for overall broadband speed (download/upload), in the top five states of the United States for broadband penetration, and in the top 15 when compared to countries for global broadband penetration.

Paul Bunyan Telephone applauds these goals and is committed to doing our part in putting Minnesota (and the communities we serve) in this leadership position.

Paul Freude is Paul Bunyan Telephone's CEO/general manager.