Minnesotans are known for their penchant for politics, their belief in strong local communities, and their love of getting together. As high-quality connectivity becomes a critical component of every day life, people who live in rural areas of Greater Minnesota are coming together in St. Paul on March 15th. The Minnesota Broadband Coalition is sponsoring the first Rural Broadband Day on the Hill.
A Panel And A Press Conference
Registration for citizen lobbyists filled quickly, but there will be a Broadband Issues Legislator Panel at 9:15 central time in Room N 500 of the State Office Building. It will include Representatives Layman, Garofalo, Baker, and Johnson, Senator Simonson, DEED Office of Broadband Development Director Danna MacKenzie and will be moderated by Steve Kelley, Sr Fellow Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
There will also be a press conference at 10 a.m. moderated by Steve Fenske, from the Minnesota Association of Townships. Speaking at the press conference will be several rural Minnesotans, including local broadband leaders:
- Mark Erickson - Mark was instrumental in establishing the RS Fiber Cooperative
- Joe Buttweiler - Joe is at Consolidated Telecommunications Cooperative now, but he was one of the leaders on the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative infrastructure in Cook County
- Marc Johnson - He’s with the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative (ECMECC) now and has extensive experience in education and the connectivity needs of anchor institutions
- Chuck Novak - As Mayor of Ely, Chuck’s priorities are economic development and high-quality connectivity in his city
- Sophia Stading - Sophia attends 6th grade in rural Lake Crystal, Minnesota
- Sammie Garrity - Sammie is also in 6th grade and lives in Lutsen. He attends school in Grand Marais.
For more on the speakers and the agenda, check out the official media advisory.
Stick Around To Watch The Legislative Process
After lunch, citizen lobbyists have scheduled appointments with legislators and will stay for two legislative committee meetings. The Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy in Room 1150 of the Senate Office Building at 1 p.m. and the House Committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance in Room 10 of the State Office Building. The specific agenda for these committees will be announced closer to meeting time. Committee meetings are typically open to the public.
While registration is closed, the Blandin Foundation has some great ideas for how you can grab legislators’ attention and show them that rural connectivity is important to you. Check out their step-by-step suggestions.
And remember, you can contact your legislators anytime via phone, email, or snail mail. You also should be able to meet with the Representative or Senators that represent you, although it may be difficult to get face time later in the session when committees meetings are extended and more frequent.