Internet speeds part of 'Greater Minnesota for all' agenda

Minnesota House Democrats are branding a massive rural spending package as their “Greater Minnesota for all” agenda. They claim Republicans have not delivered on their promises when they took control of the House, but GOP lawmakers say their work isn’t done yet.

The plan calls for $45 million for local government aid to help reduce property taxes, $40 million for county program aid and $50 million for agricultural property tax credits. Democrats are also backing the governor’s call for $100 million in broadband expansion.

“It’s not fair in rural Minnesota when you got 94 percent of the households in the metro area who have adequate minimum speeds for internet and it’s only 61 percent out in rural Minnesota,” said Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). “In fact, many of the households in rural Minnesota, less than half the households have access to internet and that is the great economic equalizer.”

For rural broadband supporters, it’s about both access and speed. State data maps show household access to uploads of 6 megabits per second drops considerably outside of the metro. Only 24 percent of homes in Pine County get such internet speeds, and they’re the lucky ones in rural Minnesota.

“There are pockets in my district in Lake County and south St. Louis County that have nothing,” said Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown).

Democrats say their rural agenda is not about election politics but Republicans strongly disagree.