“Think of your old DSL, dial-up, the old tune-up noise that we used to hear when we’d connect to the internet–believe it or not, there’s some areas where that’s the type of internet still there,” said Anoka County Economic Development Specialist Jacquel Hajder. “In a metropolitan county, it seems crazy, almost, to have that issue.”
Hajder said many internet providers do not see valuable investment in rural areas in terms of laying fiberoptic lines to facilitate higher-speed internet, but in some neighborhoods the county is helping residents and businesses find ways to connect or pay for fiberoptic infrastructure.
“If we have areas in our county where our future workforce aren’t connected, that impacts economic development,” said Hajder. She said her office has helped identify grants–including CARES Act funding cities have received–to help pay for the infrastructure. She said if cities can identify COVID-specific needs, that federal aid may be able to help pay for it. The more than $40 million the county received in CARES Act funding is designated for other expenditures at this point.
“All of it is complicated, all of it takes time, so the more we can help our partners in the communities coordinate these resources and funds that keep coming out, the better chance we have at finally getting some of these areas served,” she said.