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Pioneer Viewpoints: Don’t paint with broad(band) brush

A lobbying group to represent the interests of outstate (read: not the Twin Cities) Minnesota at both the state, regional and national level is a smart move for communities similar in size and smaller than Bemidji.

The Greater Minnesota Partnership is just such a group, and Bemidji recently joined the new organization. The organization held one of several information-gathering meetings in Bemidji late last week for area civic and business leaders.

One of the topics raised was the issue of connectivity to broadband Internet services, or lack thereof.

And while we agree this is an issue for some communities in rural Minnesota, we are glad it is not a problem for Bemidji and the immediate area.

We are lucky in Bemidji to be so connected; in fact, we are ahead of the curve in many instances for cities our size. As a regional hub for commerce, health care and education, it is critical for Bemidji to succeed we need to have high levels of access to broadband connectivity.

That’s why companies such as Paul Bunyan Communications, Midcontinent Communications and others are important engines in our business community.

Paul Bunyan Communications alone has invested more than $50 million to provide broadband services to its coverage area, according to a company official. Investments such as these are the reason that Bemidji can boast such a boost when it comes to staying connected.

So, while the meeting was held in Bemidji and one of the topics was Internet connectivity, we are fortunate local leaders in government and business had the foresight to make sure we are on the forefront of connectivity issues.

In its lobbying efforts, the Greater Minnesota Partnership should remember not to paint with too broad a brush when it comes to characterizing issues in rural areas, lest outsiders get the wrong impression that all of outstate Minnesota is afflicted with a particular problem. Sure, general ideas of solving funding inequities and improving education initiatives are issues for us all, and should be addressed.

But when it comes to specific issues, such as broadband access, efforts should focus on those individual communities where it will help the most.