Yet we tell our (mostly rural) neighbors that we don’t care how inconvenient, invasive, and awkward it can be for them to see their doctor as long as one in ten Minnesotans doesn’t have broadband internet access.
Broadband internet access is an equity issue in health and we need to do more.
The “Minnesota Model” for broadband access, as the Pew Charitable Trusts call it, works and draws state, state, local and private funds in partnerships. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission announced that more than $ 408 million would be pouring into Minnesota to build broadband Internet. In June, state lawmakers approved an additional $ 70 million.
In northeast Minnesota, a partnership with the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and the Bois Forte Community raised nearly $ 2.5 million for a project, the Internet according to Nett Lake, Palmquist, Indian, brings point and vermilion. Similarly, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has partnered with the state to bring broadband to the western part of the town of Cloquet and Perch Lake Township.
The Cloquet partnership was forward-looking: it promised in 2019, according to the state, that “faster internet speeds will open up … telemedicine, home nursing, electronic health records, online training, business development and more”. The Fond du Lac Band understands broadband access as access to health care.
But: The communities that remain disconnected from broadband are the ones who need our support most – those who don’t have access to professional scholarship writers and entrepreneurial companies and nonprofits that have initiatives to apply for grants for the development of Border-to -Border broadband can lead.
According to Zomi Bloom, telemedicine program manager at Wilderness Health, a collaboration of hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities working together to improve health care in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, “People are getting access to health care through virtual means ( z., Online access to medical records and use of patient portals to communicate with providers and to make appointments. A fast and reliable internet connection is essential for a successful telemedicine visit. “
In a message to me, Bloom also stated, “Telemedicine gives people access to health care when they are unable to travel or when their role as a breadwinner, parent or carer makes it difficult to plan health care on a busy day . Virtual health care is here now and we must do everything we can to do justice to all residents. “
St. Louis County Commissioner Ashley Grimm put it best in an electronic message to me: “This pandemic has made it clear that broadband is not a luxury, it is a need to provide expertise and to back our words with real investment. St. Louis County currently plans to allocate $ 2 million from our American Rescue Plan funds for broadband investments, but we need to increase that number significantly to meet this need. “
Instead of telling our fellow citizens in these last few communities without broadband Internet access that we will “if you ask,” it is time for the Minnesota Model to work to bring the Internet to communities without the resources or those Possibility to ask.
David Beard teaches writing and communication at the University of Minnesota Duluth.