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Broadband bill advances in Minnesota Legislature

ST. PAUL - A Senate committee unanimously voted to spend $100 million next year to boost rural high-speed Internet.

The committee deals with rural issues, and is composed mostly of rural lawmakers. The bill could face opposition in its next stop, the Senate Finance Committee.

Bill sponsor Sen. Matt Schmit, D-Red Wing, said there is "a drastic difference" between rural and urban Internet speeds.

A governor's broadband task force set speed goals, and most rural parts of the state fall short.

Rock County Commissioner Jody Reisch said he has worked for an East Coast insurance company for 20 years, and now can meet on line instead of flying to New York.

However, he said, it is difficult to get broadband speed fast enough in rural Minnesota.

It is not just businesses that need the fast connection, he said.

"My kids no longer take textbooks home," he added, but need to log onto web sites for their homework.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he supports high-speed broadband, but does not think there is a plan to expand the service to rural areas with enough specifics for him to support.

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