Rural communities in Southeast MN speak out about the need for broadband internet

(ABC 6 News) – Nearly nine million federal dollars will go towards local projects in water infrastructure, education, and public safety. The money will also go towards expanding high-speed internet.

Families are moving out of communities like Welch, Minn. because they need better internet access. Things that many are familiar with now like working from home, or attending school online become near impossible in small towns without broadband.

About 18 families live in Welch. One family had to drive to a Mcdonald’s parking lot to find internet for distance learning during the pandemic.

"There is no internet in the valley here. Taking classes, working from home, telemedicine — that requires a lot of bandwidth," said Mike Creglow, a Welch resident.

Mike Creglow has lived in Welch for over 20 years. He loves the country, but his job needed him to stay connected.

"I’m kind of an advocate for broadband in this area," Creglow said.
According to Creglow rural Minnesota needs high-speed internet, otherwise, people will be forced to move to larger cities in an increasingly connected world.

U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar are bringing $3.2 million for broadband to rural communities.

"This is important for small businesses because they can’t compete around the world if they don’t have high speed," Klobuchar said.

Other projects receiving money include over $500,000 for a Zumbrota water main, $2 million for college rural manufacturing programs, and $500,000 for the Rochester Police Department to update their records storage system.

"We don’t have enough workers for certain manufacturing jobs. We always need more nurses," said Klobuchar.

She hears rural Minnesota most needs tradesmen and nurses, so she’s directing money to those programs. Some of the money comes from Congress’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Klobuchar’s office said these communities could see funding in the next few months, but depending on the project, installation could take much longer.