These are the times that try poor country bloggers' souls, especially the moments of nincompoopery that Representative Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, dropped in a debate this week..
In District 10B candidates share positions, Chelsey Perkins' coverage for the Brainerd Dispatch of a candidate forum between Lueck and DFL challenger Erin Wagner, we read this passage:
. . . Funding for broadband internet expansion in rural areas, was also a success, he said, adding metro legislators don't understand those needs.
"Frankly, they just don't know what you're talking about when we're talking about no coverage or spotty coverage," Lueck said.
Everybody knows "metro legislators" is Republican code for "DFL." But as the infographic at the top of this page illustrates, those God-awful metro-centric Democrats stated the digital divide quite clearly when they posted the image to the Minnesota House DFL Caucus Facebook page on January 21, 2016.
That damn metro Minority Leader Paul Thissen and his crew, spreading those facts before the session started. We gather Lueck missed that part about his "metro" colleagues knowing what talk about "no coverage or spotty coverage" means.
The Aitkin Republican must have missed another image posted that same day:
Indeed, that inglorious metro bastard Thissen, who represents Minneapolis for cats' sakes, had been rattling on for months--months! we tell you!--about such matters. Witness his October 7, 2015 column in the Grand Forks Herald, GOP leaves communities disconnected by underfunding broadband:
At a recent forum about the lack of high-speed Internet access in greater Minnesota, a woman from Aitkin, Minn., told us, "this isn't just a need—it's a necessity."
I agree. The availability of high-speed Internet has become a critical issue of economic vitality and quality of life for all Minnesotans. Unfortunately, House Republicans ignored this critical priority for greater Minnesota and halted our momentum to ensure all Minnesotans have access to high-speed Internet.
Broadband infrastructure—the means in which we provide high-speed Internet access across our state—got its first significant investment in 2014 by our DFL-led Legislature. But we knew this was only a down-payment. In fact, the Governor's Broadband Task Force has recommended a $100 million per year investment in our state's Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program.
Many people in greater Minnesota began this year with high hopes, given the promises Republican legislators made on the campaign trail. But despite a $2 billion surplus, the Republican-led House did not continue this commitment to rural broadband access in 2015. They initially zeroed-out our state's broadband investment and ended up putting just $10 million into our broadband program.
They also proposed to eliminate the Office of Broadband Development. That's because their top priority last session was massive tax breaks that benefit large corporations and businesses that predominantly reside in the metro area.
We knew that $10 million for broadband was inadequate then, and we have now confirmed it. This past week, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development released their list of communities that applied for broadband grants. The resources passed by the Republican-led House will only cover about one-third of the requests, leaving dozens of Minnesota communities disconnected.
And as noted at the meetings, the skimpy Republican commitment probably discouraged a lot of communities from applying.
Consider what is happening in Pine City, Minn., and in many rural areas across the state. After closing time at the local library, you can see people huddled in their cars with their laptops, struggling to maintain a connection on the library WI-FI so that they can complete homework or send an e-mail.
We must do better—for a student who can't log on to the Internet to complete a research paper, for a small business owner trying to stay competitive with the metro area, and for a parent who wants to connect online with a son or daughter at college.
We hear a lot of happy talk from Republican legislators about broadband. But talk won't build a single mile of broadband infrastructure.
Before next session, I urge Herald readers to contact their legislators and urge them to put their money where their mouths are in support of broadband infrastructure funding.
Indeed, the Republicans ended up taking Thissen's advice--though with only one-third of what that equally-metro governor wanted for broadband.
Perhaps Lueck was talking about "metro" lawmakers in the state senate? Alas, no, since the Senate DFL's 2016 supplemental budget target for broadband was $85 million.
No wonder Lueck is reduced to placebaiting of the lowest sort. The fact is that "metro" legislators--like the leader of the Minnesota House DFL Caucus--fully understand the problem, as does the DFL governor and Lt. Gov. Tina "Bright Lights, Big City" Smith.
Indeed, the urbane Smith was on it, according to an April 2016 article in the Brainerd paper, Kresha, Lueck support broadband funding; Lt. Gov. says it's not enough:
However, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in a statement that the Republican broadband proposal wasn't enough, and pointed out that Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $100 million in grant funding.
"The governor and I welcome the work of House Republicans on broadband," Smith said. "Their proposals, however, barely make a dent in the need for high-speed, affordable broadband access in greater Minnesota. At the level of investment they are proposing, the 244,000 households in greater Minnesota without broadband connections will wait decades to get up to speed. This is bad for our economy, bad for greater Minnesota, and we need to do better."
Perhaps Lueck simply imagines that since so much of rural Minnesota is still left without reliable high-speed broadband, no one's going to fact check the complete blither that escapes from his mouth into the world as he placebaits his metro colleagues.
For more on this issue and Rep. Lueck, we recommend our post County commish factchecks what Dale Lueck talks about when he talks about broadband love and Fact Check: did #mnleg 2015 state broadband funding attract Connect America Fund dollars?. (Connect America Fund is a federal program--read the posts to learn why they're not adequate to serve Greater Minnesota's need for broadband speed.
Images: Infographics released by the Minnesota House DFL Caucus. Via Facebook.
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