Youth from the tribal school of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are attending the conference. (All photos courtesy of the Blandin Foundation)

When Americans decided it was time to clean up the smog that clouded major U.S. cities in the middle of the 20th century, they didn’t turn the job over to the auto industry, which was a major part of the pollution problem.

Instead, government set a standard for clean air and then held the auto industry accountable for getting the job done.

Broadband advocates, take note, says Bernadine Joselyn, public policy and engagement director for Minnesota’s Blandin Foundation.

Smiling guys

Joselyn’s remarks came at the opening of “Border to Border: Better Together,” a statewide conference of local and state leaders working on broadband projects and policy in Minnesota.

The public should have a stronger voice in setting the standards for broadband speed and accessibility, Joselyn said. Then the communications industry can get to work, the same way auto manufacturers started modifying automobiles to meet clean-air standars.

“It’s time for families and schools and communities to set the goals and leave the tactics to the providers,” Joselyn said. “They will rise to the occasion, just as the auto industry did.”

The Daily Yonder is attending the “Border to Border” conference in Minneapolis. (And yes, we’re told it’s snowing outside, according to reports from the dais.)

There’s a lot of activity here – broadband cooperatives, municipal technology officers, associations representing some of the state’s medical and financial corporations, and a score or so of young people who participated in a digital training workshop yesterday.

One of the goals of the conference is to create a statewide vision for Minnesota to guide public and private institutions as they plan.

We’ll have more from our conversations here in future posts. In the meantime, here is more from Joselyn’s opening remarks:

Ensuring that all people – especially people living in rural places and on tribal lands — have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it is hard. It’s going to take all sectors of society working together. Not-for-profits, business and government all must do their part.

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Bernadine Joselyn addresses the “Border to Border” conference in Minnesota on November 19, 2015.

That’s what this conference is about – being better together.

We have gathered to address the reality that Minnesotans without access to high speed broadband and the ability to use it are denied equal opportunity to participate fully in community life.

These are high stakes. Getting this right for Minnesota matters. Broadband has become the indispensable infrastructure of our age. . . .

Our parents and grandparents invested in the infrastructure upon which rural America was built – electricity, roads, bridges, telephones. Now it is our turn.

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