Posted by: Ann Treacy | January 29, 2015

Broadband brings population growth

This week the Daily Yonder featured a report by Broadband Communities that indicates that broadband is linked to population growth

Counties with better broadband access are adding population at 10 times the rate of counties that lack good broadband connections, according to a study by an industry magazine.

The study by Broadband Communities found that counties in the bottom half of their states’ broadband-access rankings had a population growth rate of only 0.27% from 2010 to 2013. Counties in the top half of broadband-access rankings increased their population by an average of 2.79% during the same period.

The trend was even more pronounced for counties at the top and bottom of the broadband rankings. Counties in the bottom 10% lost population — a decline of 0.55% — while the top 10% of connected counties gained 3.18%.

Good news for communities that have it. Good incentive for communities that don’t.

And an interesting note – especially for Minnesota policymakers who are planning to look at new state speed goals this year…

The study used 25 megabits per second as its definition of broadband, citing a statement from Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler that this speed is “fast becoming the ‘table stakes’ in 21st century communications.”

Last week, US Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, Edward J. Markey, D-Mass, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo introduced the Community Broadband Act to preserve the rights of cities and localities to build municipal broadband networks. It coincides with President Obama’s recent request that the FCC look into removing such barriers.

Here’s what I see as the high level meat of the act

No statute, regulation, or other legal requirement of a State or local government may prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting or substantially inhibiting, any public provider from providing telecommunications service or advanced telecommunications capability or services to any person or any public or private entity.

And there’s a “safeguard” that might in the end serve private providers as well as public. Perhaps digging from both sides of the tunnel, local governments will find better ways to deal with permitting and rights-of-way

(a) ADMINISTRATION —To the extent any public provider regulates competing providers of telecommunications services or advanced telecommunications capability or services, the public provider shall apply its ordinances, rules, and policies, including those relating to the use of public rights-of-way, permitting, performance bonding, and reporting, without discrimination in favor of—

(1) the public provider; or

(2) any other provider of telecommunications service or advanced telecommunications capability or services that the public provider owns or with which the public provider is affiliated.

There’s also language that promotes public-private partnership.

Minnesota has legislation that hinders public networks so we have a real interest here is seeing how this goes. I think the passing of decision making from State to Federal to Local may be a bigger issue in the eyes of many than the broadband twist.

DodgeFor the upcoming weeks I’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Dodge County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 16.9
  • Number of Households: 7,460
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 99.1%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 99.4%

Dodge County is doing well. It’s sandwiched between Rochester and Owatonna. I suspect that the infrastructure from/for the Mayo Clinic has been helpful to them. They have a number of providers in the are: BevComm, Charter, Citizens Telecom Company (and others). I don’t hear much about the area in terms of broadband – probably because they are so well served. One fun story is about a students at nearby St Olaf College who started a wireless broadband service in 2012…

This spring Darin Steffl ’13 climbed to the top of a 185-foot tall grain elevator in his hometown of Kasson, Minnesota, and installed four antennas.

It was the first step in a business venture that will give residents of Kasson, a rural community of about 6,000 people located 15 miles west of Rochester, a choice when it comes to their Internet service provider. Previously the only option residents had was a one megabit per second Internet plan from the local phone company that cost $80 per month. The antennas Steffl installed will enable them to buy Internet up to 20 times faster with pricing that ranges from $42 to $68 per month.

And Kasson is just the beginning. With the support of a $3,000 entrepreneurship grant he received from the St. Olaf Center for Experiential Learning, Steffl launched a company called Minnesota WiFi. This summer he’ll work to offer affordable, high-speed Internet to all of the rural residents of Dodge County, Minnesota, and he hopes to have 120 to 130 customers by September.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage… Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | January 28, 2015

Twin Cities gig market get a taste of rural broadband issues

An article in the Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal takes CenturyLink to task for their big announcement and slow roll-out of gigabit access…

The telecom provider has been breathlessly promising super-fast broadband access to Twin Cities homes and small businesses since last fall. But if you’re waiting for service in your neighborhood? Don’t hold your breath.

That’s because Louisiana-based CenturyLink (CTL), the biggest phone provider in the Twin Cities, has wired only a relative handful of areas with the fiber-optic cable that carries the high-speed data, reports the Pioneer Press.

There’s no mystery why. Rolling out new cable is really expensive.

I think the timing is good for legislators to hear that customers get frustrated when they don’t get the service they want and/or need especially when it has been marketed in their area. It’s a frustration I’ve heard about from lots of folks in rural areas. It seems like the frustration is often greater when the provider is not local. (I would not single CenturyLink out at all!) A local provider (public or private) is more accessible to customer. Another thing that helps is competition.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | January 28, 2015

Iowa is looking at $5 million for broadband

Sometimes it’s nice to see our neighboring states looking at Minnesota as a model. This seems to be the case in Iowa as the New Observer reports on their emerging broadband plans…

The committee, which is scheduled to meet in early February to finalize its draft, doesn’t have a budget recommendation, said Carver.

That concerns committee member Dave Duncan, also CEO of Iowa Communications Alliance. He noted neighboring states like Nebraska and Minnesota have more defined broadband budgets and time tables. In Nebraska, state officials released a plan last year designed to bring faster broadband to more areas by 2020; a Minnesota law signed last year sets aside $20 million for broadband expansion.

“I’m hopeful that our broadband committee will come together with a recommendation of a goal something like what some of those other states are doing,” he said.

According to the article, 80 percent of the state has broadband, which aligns with Minnesota number except that they define broadband differently, not as 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up as it is currently defined in MN…

About 80 percent of Iowa households — roughly 985,000 — have high-speed Internet with download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 1.5 megabits per second, according to Connect Iowa, an organization with federal support that is working with communities across the state to expand service.

Those speeds roughly translate to the ability of a household to do several things online before speeds begin to slow.

I might challenge that translation – at 1.5 Mbps there isn’t much uploading or interaction happening. It really makes the point that while a discussion on “what is broadband?” may seem dry, nerdy and boring, it’s really very important. That which gets measured, gets done! (Or more importantly, that which gets measured may get funded!)

They are talking about how much money to propose. In Minnesota, the numbers on the legislative table sit at $30 million and $200 million….

Branstad has set aside $5 million for broadband expansion in his budget proposal. He is weighing different factors before recommending more money for future budgets, according to his spokesman.

Duncan said any state funds will be helpful to service providers as they seek to offset the high costs of bringing broadband to rural areas of Iowa. The industry currently relies on federal subsidy dollars and grants. At least $130 million in federal subsidies was given in 2013 to service providers in Iowa through a fund that offers broadband and phone services support, according to data from the FCC.

DakotaFor the upcoming weeks I’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Dakota County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 258.9
  • Number of Households: 152,060
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 64.18%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 99.9%

I was surprised at the low coverage in Dakota County when mobile is out of the equation. Dakota County has been a standout in terms of building networks to anchor tenants and to other counties. (David Asp has been instrumental in that effort!) Building a county-wide network has saved Dakota County a ton of money in telecom fees alone; they went from $700,000 to $15,000. Dakota County has received awards for its digital efforts.

But at  residential level they are still at only 64 percent coverage without wireless. I know they have had plans to work with third party providers in an open access model to provide broadband to local businesses – perhaps that is an option for residential too.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage… Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | January 27, 2015

Governor Dayton proposes $30 Million for Broadband

According to a FACT SHEET on  21st  Century Economic Development from the Governor’s office he is proposing a $30 million investment in broadband.

New Broadband Investments. Last year, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $20 million in a new Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to help communities across Greater Minnesota gain access to high-quality broadband. This year, the Governor is proposing an additional $30 million to help further expand access

That is considerably less than the $200 million recommended by the Governor’s Broadband Task Force. But as I recall last year he started the session saying he wasn’t going to investment in broadband in 2014 – and the legislators and their teams got him to turn around. Hopefully the same will happen this year.

The 2014 Minnesota Broabdand Task Force report is out. The highlights are:

  • Minnesota will not meet the 2015 goals of 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. Right now 78.16 percent of Minnesota households have such broadband speeds available via wireline providers and 88.90 percent when mobile wireless service is included.
  • They are recommending funding for the Office of Broadband Development ($2.9 million) and for more Border to Border Infrastructure Grants ($200 million)

The focus on further funding from a group that has been successful in recommending it in the past is very exciting! The proposed $200 million doesn’t touch the estimated $900 million to $3.2 billion to build ubiquitous broadband but funding gets people to the table to discuss solutions!

2015 chart 2

Here are their specific recommendations:

The Task Force strongly encourages policy makers and legislators to give serious consideration to advancing its recommendations to further the deployment and adoption of broadband. They include the following and are detailed on page 8:

  • Authorize $2.9 million for the Office of Broadband Development
  • Authorize $200 million for a Border to Border Infrastructure Grant Program
  • Create an Office of Broadband operating fund to promote broadband adoption and use
  • Increase School and Library Telecommunications Aid for the 2016-17 biennium
  • Expand video health care and telemedicine initiatives for 3rd party payer reimbursement
  • Support efforts of schools utilizing 1:1 devices via development of best practices
  • Make sales tax exemption for telecommunications permanent
  • Review existing permitting criteria to see where there might be possibilities to streamline

Digging in a little deeper… Affordability

The report opens the doors to many meaty discussions in 2015 – the most interesting I think it affordability at the household and community level.

2015 mapI noticed that while the stats are given for coverage with and without inclusion of wireless connections in the reports, the introductory letter refers only to the stats that include wireless coverage. (There’s a 10-point differential in the numbers.) The difference may unearth an issue that has come up in Task Force meetings. The Task Force is technology agnostic but the inherent costs in wireless connections (data caps for end users) raise the question – should affordability factor into the accessibility equation? The subject is broached on page 11 where the report states that this will be a topic of further discussion in 2015. It will be an interesting discussion!

And affordability isn’t only an issue at the hosuehold level. The root of the issue in rural areas is cost of backhaul to rural areas. (And the Task Force recognized that access is largely a rural issue on page 10.) The report outlines the issue…

A provider in metropolitan Hennepin County currently pays about $.50 per Megabit to connect to the Internet backbone; the average cost of three providers in rural Pennington County is $15.33 per Megabit to connect to the Internet backbone.

Making the situation more challenging for all providers, there is a great discrepancy in the number of potential customers in Hennepin County versus Pennington County; population density in Hennepin County is 2,081.7/sq. mi and in Pennington County it is 22.6/sq. mi. Median income (2009-2013) also differs: in Hennepin County it is $64,403 and in Pennington County it’s $45,633. For these reasons and more, the business case for offering broadband in Pennington County Falls is far more challenging than in Hennepin County.

Digging Deeper – role of government

At a time where there is a lot of discussion on the balance of public and private partnerships (I posted two views on the issue last week – one form the private sector and one from the public) for broadband these recommendations are private-friendly. There’are recommendations for sales tax exemption and streamlining permitting. There is no discussion on the laws on the book that make it more difficult for a municipality to become a broadband provider. (That is the type of issue that President Obama targeted in his speech in Cedar Falls two weeks ago and therefore it may be addressed by the FCC.)

Digging Deeper – adoption (and more affordability)

The Connect Minnesota reports on adoption – specifically the barriers to home adoption – are valuable in determining what could be useful in closing the digital divide. Cost it turns out is the top issue. (Good news – the Washington Post claimed a 15 percent discount in monthly fees would persuade a third of non-adopters to look again.) The report offers some other suggestions for adoption on page 23.

Minnesota ranking for connectivity/speed does not meet the 2015 goals. Broadband adoption does. At least according to NTIA reports, Minnesota ranks fifth for adoption with 82.4 percent. As a national study, they aren’t using the Minnesota state definition of broadband but probably the national definition (4 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up). The report itself seems to use Internet and broadband interchangeably. (They ask “if” you’re connect; then ask how but the options include dialup and satellite.)

So while it’s good to know that Minnesotans are adopting – this survey doesn’t take speed or access to broadband (as opposed to satellite or dialup) into consideration. So it’s difficult to know when access to better broadband or cost of better broadband might be a barrier.

Looking forward…

Having gone to Task Force meeting for years, I can tell you that affordability and role of government have consistently been two of the most difficult questions to discuss. Building upon the good work of prior Task Forces, the current Task Force has been successful is establishing an Office of Broadband Development and garnering state grants for broadband expansion. (Both discussed in the report.) It will be interesting to see what happens to these issues in 2015.

The Coalition for Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) is asking the legislature to look at rural issues especially broadband…

“We’ve traveled around Greater Minnesota and the most frequent question we received was whether there would be more broadband funding,” Peterson said.

“Our communities and businesses need high-quality broadband to be competitive in today’s economy,” Seifert added. “It is essential for business growth that everyone in Greater Minnesota has the same access to fast, reliable broadband that has long been available in the metro area.”

Seifert said the broadband infrastructure fund created by the Legislature last year will help to bring high-speed Internet to areas of rural Minnesota, but that many areas still face significant connectivity problems.

“Following the announcement of the recipients of the broadband fund, there were people left on the cutting board,” said Seifert. “We really want to urge the Legislature of that unmet need in rural Minnesota.”

The 2014 session approved $20 million for broadband. This year $200 million is being discussed.

Peterson said that since the beginning of the economic recovery six years ago, there’s more than a 50 percent increase in jobs that need properly trained employees. He pointed to higher education falling short in specialized requirements of new jobs.

“I know one example of a company that came in using German equipment, and the only people who knew how to work it were the Germans,” Peterson said in an interview after the news conference.

The CGMC has taken an elevated interest in broadband for about two years now. Last fall they urged voters to think of broadband as they went to the polls.

Posted upon request of Minnesota Public Broadband Alliance..

The Minnesota Public Broadband Alliance whose members are from cities and counties who provide services or funding for broadband networks would like to respond to the industry perspective with the municipal perspective. The language in quotes is from MTA’s opinion piece on the President’s speech in Iowa regarding broadband.

“Last week the President spoke in Cedar Falls, Iowa about Broadband and his administration’s ideas on how to get it to rural America connected and by whom. The President’s (and many in DC) solution is for local units of government to build competitive networks.”

We welcomed the President’s comments in Cedar Falls but we don’t think he believes that local government overbuilds are the ONLY answer to providing a robust broadband network.  Nor do we as a group.  We do believe that the more flexibility our citizens have in getting broadband to everyone, the better the state will prosper.  This would include public – private partnerships like Lac Qui Parle county’s network as well as public – public partnerships like SMBS’ partnership with Windom.

“There are three problems with this concept. First, how does a municipality overbuilding a community where there are already one or more private providers help solve the problem of getting broadband to the areas without it?”

How does it help?  The same way it helps a private provider, by increasing the market geography so that there can be an increase in market share to finance the more costly build outs.  In the case of cities, there are city limits of authority and separate finances between city, county and even township finances, which in turn limit where a city can go, much like a cable company.  That’s why you are seeing far more new energy coming at the county level to address rural build outs to the under and unserved citizens.
“Second, telecommunications is not like other utilities. Unlike electricity, water, wastewater, and gas, telecommunications is a competitive utility.

We agree, telecommunications is a competitive utility. But unlike the industry, our emphasis is on the ‘utility’ while private providers emphasize the ‘competitive’. The landscape changed in 1996, true. But in 1996, there was no broadband and getting people a dial up connection to the Internet was considered progressive. There were only a few, perhaps twelve, people in the 104th Congress to vote against the Telecom Act.  Congressman Collin Peterson and Senator Paul Wellstone were two of them.  They were concerned that new “competitive monopolies” would form and leave rural Minnesota behind. They did do that, in the form of RBOCs, ours was US West at the time.  The point is that the landscape is constantly going to change as telecommunications becomes broadband communications.

“While competition is generally good for consumers, it also puts pressure on the companies to operate more efficiently and it can act to limit the amount of capital resources that a company can reinvest in its network to provide services, including broadband.”

True again, however the difference here between municipalities and private corporations is this–a corporation makes those decisions based on what’s best for their shareholders, while municipalities (much like cooperatives) decide based on how to best serve their customers.

“Third, there is no transparency of process for taxpayers. Right now in Minnesota any local unit of government can spend millions of dollars on overbuilding broadband networks. They usually issue Revenue Bonds for the project, and when they can’t pay the bonds back, they default on the bonds, like the City of Monticello did.”

Since you brought up Monticello, one of our members, let us take an opportunity to add this information to the discussion.  There was an overwhelming vote by the public to proceed taken, the private providers were asked to provide higher broadband service and declined at the time, and from our perspective, the lawsuit filed by TDS which delayed the issue of bonds and construction was the killing blow to the Monticello project’s competitive position.  During the time the lawsuit was in district court, then appeals court and ultimately refused by the Supreme Court and dismissed, both TDS and Charter overbuilt their own networks to fiber and lowered their prices. Good for consumers as this is, it looked like bullying in the marketplace from this side of the street.  Monticello continues to look for the best options for their constituents and we will continue to assist them as they move forward.

“Ultimately, this affects the City’s bond rating and makes borrowing money more expensive in the future, which means taxpayers have to pay more………In other words, a city’s monopoly utility is subsidizing their competitive utility.”

And TDS customers in other territories are subsidizing the low prices in Monticello but that’s a long discussion to have later.  Monticello’s bond rating is A2, classified as high average and not inappropriate for a municipal rating.

“In those rare cases when there is no other viable alternative, there has to be transparency in the process for local units of government to complete against the private sector……. School districts are required to hold a specific number of public meetings, follow a pre-described time line and process to ensure taxpayers are properly informed before they vote. Municipalities should have to do the same thing before they risk taxpayer money. The better question is who could possibly be against transparency of government process and why?”

Well, here’s why…the comparison is flawed since school districts impose their own levy and are not part of the local municipality government.  A city or county levies for many reasons and does not hold hearings on each separate use of their finances, but there are public hearings on the levy itself.  Those revenues are then shared and used for things like an economic development commission, building a new hospital or upkeep of park property.  We have transparency in public finance in Minnesota because we owe it to our citizens.  We do not owe business cases to our competitors.

“We are all on the same page when it comes to concept that all Minnesotans deserve access to quality broadband.”

Yes, we are.  We only ask that we move forward to the thinking that public providers and public partners are not the problem, but part of the solution.

Crow WingFor the upcoming weeks I’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Crow Wing County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 22.5
  • Number of Households: 26,033
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 36.66%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 59.76%

Part of Crow Wing County got an upgrade last summer when TDS finished their ARRA-funded project, which mostly served Michigan. And there was concern with another ARRA-funded project that also brought some middle fiber to Crow Wing County about the network competing with existing commercial efforts. (CNS has issues with Eventis building infrastructure in the area as they already had fiber in areas.)

The disconnect I suspect is that Brainerd is well served, the outskirts of the county are not. There’s clearly some service, but regardless of which number you look at (36% or 60%) there are lots of people without services. Crow Wing County is one of the few counties were there’s a drastic difference between the wired and wireless coverage. And while the wireless service meets the state goal speeds one issue is the potential cost of data caps.

Crow Wing County is part of Region Five (the Resilient Region), which was just named a Blandin Broadband Community last November.  They have a long-standing (yet renewed) focus…

Leading their work is the Resilient Region Virtual Highway Connectivity Committee, one of several committees working on advancing the Resilient Region Plan. Together, with education, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, this committee will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in the Resilient Region.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage… Read More…

I’m sharing this on hope that some folks can make it and so others might get some ideas to replicate…

Hennepin County and Open Twin Cities are proud to present Geo:Code; an open data code-a-thon hosted at Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central on Saturday, February 21st and Sunday February 22nd! This event is free and meals will be provided.

Transparency & Accessibility

Hennepin County is celebrating the first year of its Open GIS policy by taking part in International Open Data Day and Code for America’s CodeAcross. Residents are invited to explore government data, experiment with civic technologies, and collaborate with Hennepin County on solutions for problems facing your community. Inspired by civic technology principals, we’re excited to support the creation of a more transparent Hennepin County and information and services that are accessible to all residents.

Share Project Ideas and Data Requests

What issues and projects should teams work on at Geo:Code? What data do you want to see the county publish on its open data portal? Let us know at

Accessibility Jam

To support Geo:Coders who want an early start on their projects, MN.IT Services and Open Twin Cities are hosting a pre-event workshop on January 31st at the Minneapolis Central Library. Geo:Code Accessibility Jam will use Service Design to learn about accessibility and usability and their role in developing more effective civic technology and open data initiatives. Coming out of the Jam, you will be prepared to put what you’ve learned into practice at Geo:Code Code-a-thon, and will be familiar with a powerful process for creating technologies and services that are truly accessible to your users.

Where, When, and How


Both events will be held at the Minneapolis Central Library – 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis,MN

Date & Time

  • The Geo:Code Code-a-thon will be February 21st and 22nd, 9am to 5 pm
  • The Geo:Code Accessibility Jam will be January 31st, 9am to 5pm


Follow and Tweet at @geocodehc and #geocodehc

Great to hear about gigabit access in Minnesota…

Gigabit Internet service has come to northern Minnesota.  Paul Bunyan Communications announced today it has activated the first area of the GigaZone.

“The GigaZone provides Internet capabilities unsurpassed by any other rural provider or region in the country.  The GigaZone not only provides the capacity to handle current communication technologies quickly and efficiently, it also meets the increasing demands of the next generation of broadband innovations,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

“Our cooperative already has the region’s largest all fiber optic network, upgrading it for the GigaZone continues our commitment to keeping our region at the forefront of broadband access.” said Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications IT & Development Manager.

The area of Bemidji that saw GigaZone construction in 2014 has been activated and can now receive GigaZone services. The first GigaZone customer was Mike Beard in Bemidji who had services installed yesterday.

“Like a lot of people, I find our house using the Internet on a lot more devices than ever before so when I heard about the GigaZone I knew I had to get it.  I want to be able to watch movies and TV shows online without everyone else in the house slowing me down!” laughed Beard. “I was not a member of Paul Bunyan until now because I didn’t want a landline but in the GigaZone you don’t have to have one.  I was able to choose what I wanted so I added GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi which will provide the fastest speeds Wi-Fi can offer and I won’t have to worry about buying and setting up my own Wi-Fi router or replacing it if it breaks. I also added PBTV Lite, even though I plan to use Amazon Prime I want to be able to watch new episodes of my favorite shows.”  (PBTV Lite is one of many TV service options available)

Most current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds.  To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.

GigaZone services are expected to be made available in Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids in February and in March in the cooperative’s Park Rapids exchange which also includes areas in Lake George, Two Inlets, Dorset, and Emmaville.   Additional upgrades are planned in and around Bemidji and Grand Rapids in 2015.  Ultimately the GigaZone will encompass the cooperative’s entire 5,000 square mile service area.

“We know that many of our members will want access to GigaZone services and we will make it available as quickly as we can.  It will take us a few construction seasons to get it everywhere we serve but once done it will be one of the largest Gigabit networks in the United States!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

GigaZone service options including unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit.  Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone voice service.  All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.  The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services, digital and high definition television services, Smart Home services, digital voice services, and more.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | January 23, 2015

Free Webinar: Tell FCC to protect rural consumers, January 28

Thought folks would be interested…

Telephone service is changing.

Help us tell the FCC to protect rural consumers.

Join our webinar to learn more about these changes and how to respond.

“It’s time to comment: Tell the FCC to protect rural consumers”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

4pm-5pm Eastern

Register here.


Some companies want to change the technology they use to bring telephone service to your home.

A switch in technology could bring unwanted changes to the service available in rural communities. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently accepting comments about this issue, and it is important that rural voices are heard.

Comments are due February 5th.

Join Edyael Casaperalta, coordinator of the National Rural Assembly’s Rural Broadband Policy Group, and Jodie Griffin, Senior Staff Attorney and expert on tech transitions at Public Knowledge, to learn more about how these changes impact your home phone service and how you can tell the FCC to protect rural consumers.


Another way to comment: Fill out this *BRIEF SURVEY*

We’d like to know how your telephone service experience has or has not changed over the last few years.  Please fill out this brief survey in English or in Spanish.  We’ll make sure your responses are presented to the FCC.

CottonwoodFor the upcoming weeks I’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Cottonwood County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 7.5
  • Number of Households: 4.857
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 60.52%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 60.52%

Cottonwood is one of those middle of the pack counties. As you look at the map, you can see a lot of red (underserved) areas. In fact the only area that is served, is the area around Windom. According to information the FCC released two years ago, Cottonwood County is an area that is slated to get upgrades from CenturyLink through CAF (Connect American Funding). Looking at a Connect MN chart from May 2013, there hasn’t been much increase in coverage since that time. (In May 2013, 60.13%  of Cottonwood County was served.) So perhaps improvements are coming soon!

Windom is well covered and home to Windomnet, which has been a cornerstone for expanding broadband throughout Southwest Minnesota. Windom was also a MIRC community, which means they got Blandin leadership and ARRA funding to do broadband adoption work. SO there is interest in the area. Between CenturyLink and Windomnet, perhaps there are some options for deployment.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage… Read More…

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