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 Response Page - Schmit  Interview -      
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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the 
Matt Schmit  interview of

Broadband key to rural economic development and regional competitiveness


Minnesota State Senator Matt Schmit believes broadband connectivity can promote economic development in rural Minnesota. Today, 500,000 Minnesotans, across 20 to 25 percent of the state, don't have access to state Internet speed goals, which are 10 Megabytes-per-second (Mbps) for downloads and five Mbps for uploads. This lack of high-speed access led Schmit to author the 2014 Border-to-Border Broadband Law, which creates a competitive matching grant program to expand broadband connectivity in rural Minnesota. The Legislature appropriated $20 million for the program, which will give priority to the hardest-to-reach areas.

Schmit says the state funds are intended to leverage an infusion of capital from the private sector. The state matching grant program, he says, begins to address the problem of lack of capital and could convince private or cooperative providers that some formerly questionable broadband projects are now feasible.

Connect Minnesota is collecting data to track levels of connectivity over time, which Schmit feels is important for accountability. He calls high-speed broadband Internet access "the rural electrification project of the 21st century" and says the state must commit to expanding that access.

For the complete interview summary see: Schmit interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (8.8 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (7.6 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. State aid is necessary. (7.8 average response) Unless Minnesota state government provides help, it's unlikely that higher-speed internet service will be extended to rural, underserved locations.

4. Broadband growth benefits economy. (8.3 average response) Such expansion would boost the state's economy, helping, for example, farmers to apply more precise crop practices and entrepreneurs to grow businesses in sparsely-populated areas.

5. Leverage state dollars for private capital. (7.5 average response) Given the magnitude of investment required to extend broadband coverage, such as that needed to install hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable, limited state dollars should only be used to stimulate a far greater amount of private investment.

6. Use state aid only where goals unmet. (5.5 average response) Investment of state dollars for broadband expansion should be restricted to locations falling below previously established state goals for minimum internet speeds.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.







2. Further study warranted.







3. State aid is necessary.







4. Broadband growth benefits economy.







5. Leverage state dollars for private capital.







6. Use state aid only where goals unmet.







Individual Responses:

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Dave Broden (10) (10) (2.5) (10) (7.5) (0)

1. Topic is of value. Very well articulated the concerns, needs, and approach to providing broadband to all people of the state and the value metrics that apply.

2. Further study warranted. Seek interview of users from across the state: how it is enabling business, agriculture, and individuals in all aspects including public safety, business, and health care.

3. State aid is necessary. The State must provide the incentives for broadband to evolve and be in place in a timely period. Broadband will evolve for various reasons but consider the analogy to electricity via REA. This must occur and state regulations and incentives must enable, not control.

4. Broadband growth benefits economy. All aspects of the economy and social interface will gain with broadband access and increasing communication speed. The broadband is evolving as the backbone of the economy and communications.

5. Leverage state dollars for private capital. Definitely agree that state funds must be used only as incentives to stimulate the broadband capability. Also while fiber is the most likely approach the state must not get locked to one technology for broadband for speed. Technology alternatives are evolving and speed goals must be increased to maintain leadership in broadband capability.

6. Use state aid only where goals unmet. Criteria for filling capability gaps should be established to enable uniformity of speed across the state, but as needed, the investment should track also with opportunities for increased capability, economic development, public safety, etc.

Ray Ayotte (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Bruce Lundeen (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (5)

5. Leverage state dollars for private capital. Is it possible that improvements in wireless service will allow that technology to exceed fiber-optic services? There is the latency problem where the time of radio wave propagation between the earth and a satellite is measured in seconds, but is instantaneous communications always necessary? Is it possible a combination of technologies —wireless and fiber-optic — achieve the same objectives?

Jerry Fruin (10) (5) (10) (10) (7.5) (2.5)

Don Anderson (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (5) (10) (2.5)

Kevin Edberg (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

2. Further study warranted. The economic implications of having access to 21st Century technology in rural areas [are] huge. Access to high speed internet can allow individuals to decouple where they live from what they do, giving relatively high income individuals the opportunity to live in rural communities but do work that today is associated with urban centers, allowing rural communities to benefit from re-population technologies, and leveraging other quality-of-life assets.

3. State aid is necessary. The analogy to rural electrification is right on. Private for-profit firms would not drop electric lines to farms because those farms were not profitable to serve. The use of locally-owned and locally governed cooperatives changed the dynamic, because the focus was now on getting service at cost, with governance insuring that customers were paying for what they needed. The role of the USDA Rural Utility Service (RUS) was critical in creating lending capacity to support development. The state grant program here kick-starts that effort.

4. Broadband growth benefits economy. All true

5. Leverage state dollars for private capital. Agreed.

6. Use state aid only where goals unmet. I would also limit state dollars only to cooperative efforts as a matter of policy, ensuring that funds maintain the highest level of benefit to the greatest number of citizens, without excess profit taking by monopolistic firms that dominate the industry currently. In addition to creating access to the technology, we have to be thinking about what competitive conditions we are creating after the technology infrastructure is built.

Joe Sertich (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10)

Bev Bales (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Thanks for Senator Matt's work on this. We are really behind in this state in that area, so we need to work on it.

Lori Ehde (10) (5) (10) (10) (8) (10)

Thank you for the information.

Tom Spitznagle (7) (5) (6) (6) (2) (5)

Does the state really need to involve itself in the funding of communications technologies that are normally provided by private enterprise when it is cost-effective to do so? Also, the assumption that wherever somebody lives in the outer reaches of Minnesota they should have access to the same level of services as, say, someone living in a city, is faulty unless it can be economically justified. For example, Cook County, at the tip of the Arrowhead, received federal money to lay fiber optic cable throughout the entire county including to many fairly remote areas within the Superior National Forest. Most citizens I know in these remote areas were already satisfied with existing cell phone and satellite services and wondered why the government was pouring money into laying fiber optic right up to people’s cabins in the wilderness. It’s become somewhat of a joke. Most remote customers will not sign up for the new services when they become available, but some will sign up. Question is whether or not this is really a prudent use of public money. Now we will have duplication of the same services previously available at a reasonable cost from private companies – all at mostly government expense.

Chuck Lutz (9) (8) (8) (9) (7) (8)

Mina Harrigan (10) (8) (8) (8) (10) (4)

Roger A. Wacek (na) (na) (5) (0) (0) (5)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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