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Minn., others push fast broadband to hinterland

November 30, 2013 • Business


In this photo made Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, Kevin Beyer, general manager of Farmers, a century-old phone company, talks with mechanic Morrie Schacherer, left, and his father Al talk at the auto shop they run in Dawson, Minn., where the addition of rural broadband has enabled them to reduce tire inventory now that getting different styles and sizes is only a click away. Farmers laid down 600 miles of fiber cable beginning in 2011 with the help of $9.6 million in stimulus grants and loans. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

BOYD, Minn. (AP) — From a farm country studio 3½ miles down a gravel road, Jean Menden ships handmade silver jewelry as far away as Norway to customers who discovered the pendants, rings and bracelets through her website.

What the retired teacher turned silversmith lacked until recently was a robust, reliable Internet connection critical to her budding business. Before newly installed fiber-optic cable delivered ultrafast broadband to her home, it was a challenge for Menden to maintain her electronic storefront and tap into Web-based tutorials that help hone her craft.

“If you had two hours, you could watch a 10-minute video,” Menden said as she described the fitful connection that used to be the best available around Boyd, a town of 172 people not far from the Minnesota-South Dakota border.

The high-speed capability that’s an afterthought in big cities and regional centers is spreading ever deeper into the nation’s countryside, nudged along by billions in federal stimulus dollars and state efforts to expand a key amenity for both quality of life and business competitiveness.

A Commerce Department report to Congress this fall highlighted efforts in Nebraska to hook up 100 key community institutions and 25 public schools with Internet dependable enough to support distance learning and library access in remote areas. It showcased a collaborative in Oregon where broadband has been credited with Login to read more

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