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Web Access and Technology

In today’s digital age, the internet is a necessity. It connects people, educates, creates jobs and makes travel safer. However, many places in the United States, particularly in rural and economically depressed areas, have inconsistent internet and cellular service. Many homes and businesses do not have a fixed high-speed internet connection (also called broadband). These disparities leave people behind as many higher-paying jobs require a high-speed internet connection. Though some people substitute cellular wireless for a high-speed internet connection, this is not a long-term solution.

Lack of reliable high-speed internet creates access barriers in many different areas. Without reliable high-speed internet, health providers in underserved communities cannot use electronic health records or telemedicine to help treat patients. Banking, telecommunications, e-commerce, entertainment and online classes are limited or inaccessible. Access to customers and suppliers around the world are highly reliant on broadband infrastructure. Transportation systems and services use internet-based applications to improve mobility and increase safety for all. If these barriers are not addressed, the digital divide will grow. Viewing broadband access as an essential service will increase quality of life for all Minnesotans.

There have been legislative efforts at the federal, state and local levels to promote greater high-speed internet access. Many states have allocated resources to address access gaps and some local governments have prioritized building and implementing broadband infrastructure and providing public Wi-Fi to citizens. A combination of fiber optic infrastructure for broadband and the deployment of wireless 5G small cells on existing structures will help to connect more people regardless of location or existing coverage.

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