Tri-State Neighbor has posted a story on the need for broadband in rural areas. The article promotes and seems possibly spurred by Rural Broadband Day at Farmfest yesterday. It’s interesting to see how something like presence at Farmfest can help raise issues and garner attention for broadband…

‘The new utility of our day and age’

When it comes to getting high-speed Internet connections in rural Minnesota, Wald sees broadband as another utility – such as the rural water or rural electric associations of today.

“It’s no longer a perk,” Wald said. “It is now the new utility of our day and age, of our generation. It’s not just a want, it’s a need.”

He said he would like to see more communities organizing rural cooperatives to bring broadband to underserved areas. The venture is not something that should be left up to private enterprise, many feel.

Widespread area to cover, but fewer customers within

As with rural electricity, the sparsely populated rural landscape makes it expensive to stretch fiber optic cable between would-be broadband users. With so few customers per mile, it’s not a profitable endeavor.

That’s why Minnesota DEED established an office for broadband development. Its mission is to help track the progress made in connecting Minnesota and helps communities gain access to federal funding programs.

Danna MacKenzie is executive director. She said that she hears stories similar to Wald’s all across Minnesota, adding that she has seen communities come together to make big things happen through broadband.

“We really look at Farmfest as a great opportunity to highlight the importance (of high speed Internet),” MacKenzie said

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 3, 2015

BEVCOMM connects Gigabit network in New Prague, MN

It’s great to see the list of Minnesota Gig communities increase…

BEVCOMM connects Gigabit network in New Prague, MN

New Prague, MN, August 1, 2015 – BEVCOMM announces immediate availability of unlimited Gigabit Internet speeds in New Prague, MN. Extremely fast Internet at speeds up to 1,000 Mbps and 100 times faster than the Internet speed in a typical U. S. household. Residential households with a fiber to the home connection can connect to incredible speeds, with no data limits for $90 per month with a bundled package.

“As demands and customer expectations for faster speeds increase, we are continually looking for solutions that help meet that demand and keep our community on the cutting edge,” states Exchange Manager, Dirk Berger, “Our fiber to the home network in New Prague makes Gig connections possible. Fiber is future proof, a technology that dramatically changes the way users connect with their world. We are excited to offer such amazing speeds at an affordable rate.” He continues, “With a Gig you can do absolutely anything and everything online with virtually no limitation—watch movies, videos, game, chat, shop, telecommute and more; and with many devices all on the same connection.”

About BEVCOMM

BEVCOMM is a fourth generation, family-owned telecom company and technology provider headquartered in Blue Earth, Minnesota. It maintains a history rooted in telephone service, providing dial-tone service and unified communications infrastructures to communities throughout Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa for more than 115 years. BEVCOMM is positioned to provide the reliable legacy services of today, with the innovative services of tomorrow. From local and long distance telephone service to high-speed Internet access, Digital TV, and customized business services, BEVCOMM offers a wide range of communications solutions. Originally founded in 1895, and currently employing 100 people, BEVCOMM is one of the largest locally-owned telecommunications companies in Minnesota. BEVCOMM has offices in Blue Earth, Minnesota Lake, Morristown, New Prague, Pine Island, Wells, & Winnebago, MN as well as Hager City and Weyerhaeuser, WI.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 1, 2015

Tuesday is Rural Broadband Day at Farmfest

I am planning to attend Farmfest on Tuesday and to take notes. It’s a fun event if you have the time and opportunity to attend. Here’s the schedule…

Tuesday, August 4 – RURAL BROADBAND DAY

  • 8:00 a.m. Show Opens
  • 9:00 a.m. Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
    The task force is committed to crafting policies that expand broadband access throughout the state to ensure that all communities, businesses and citizens have access to vital resources.
  • 9:00 a.m. Welcome by Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, Introductions, Approval of Minutes
  • 9:15 a.m. State and Federal Broadband Initiatives
    MODERATOR: Margaret Anderson Kelliher
    PANEL MEMBERS:
    Colleen Landkamer, State Director, Rural Development, USDA
    Brett VanDerBosch, Field Representative, Office of Sen. Al Franken
    State Senator Matt Schmit
    State Rep. Ron Kresha
  • 10:15 a.m. Presentation: Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge
    Joshua E. Rice, Ph.D. Assistant Extension Professor, Science of Agriculture Specialist University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Youth Development
  • 10:35 a.m. Public Comments and Overview of Remainder of Day
  • 11:00 a.m. Keynote by Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith
  • 12:00 p.m. Linder Farm Network Ag Information Hour Focused on Broadband
  • 1:15 p.m. Rural Broadband: The Future of Agriculture
    MODERATOR: Lynn Ketelsen, Linder Farm Network
    PANEL MEMBERS
    Mike Macrie, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Land O’ Lakes
    Jerry Johnson, Founder & CEO, Superior Edge
    Jason O’Flanagan, North American Field Marketing & Sales Support Manager for Advanced Technologies Solutions Group, FUSE Technologies
    Bob Young, Chief Economist & Deputy Executive Director, Public Policy, American Farm Bureau Federation
    Paul Lanoue, Farm Business Management Instructor
  • 2:30 p.m. Rural Broadband as a Rural Development Tool
    MODERATOR: Lynn Ketelson, Linder Farm Network
    PANEL MEMBERS:
    Lisa Hughes, MN Southwest Regional Economic Developer, MN DEED
    Bryan Lydick, CEO, Redwood Area Hospital
    Dave Gelhar, RVI/SpecSys
    Kent Kelly, General Manager, Fortune Transportation
  • 5:00 p.m. Show Closes

I’ve seen two articles this week that address or allude to the amount of money being spent to get more people online. One addresses the efforts spent on broadband adoption efforts – and I hope to talk about that soon. The other talks about federal funding (the 2011 ARRA stimulus funds) to deploy broadband. Specifically Politico looks at the Rural Utility Service (RUS) and investigates what they did wrong as they administered the broadband deployment funds.

What concerns me is that we’re going to throw out the baby with the bathwater!

It’s important to look at history – but at least from my chair, I’m much less concerned about blame as I am about how can we learn from history to make broadband deployment better.

Better Planning

To be fair, there were hiccups. I remember the ARRA efforts of 2011 well. The article points out some strange things at the onset – for example the funds were set up and intended to be decided before the National Broadband Plan came out. The ARRA projects were announced in 2010; the National Broadband Plan was released in March of 2010 – after the applications would have been submitted and certainly then after any criteria would have been developed for the applications. So the funded projects and the National Broadband Plan are not well connected. But as I recall the effort was first and foremost to create jobs immediately. And so the goal was disperse funds. Also there was a congressionally imposed deadline on spending that money – probably related to jobs and less suited to the inherent nature of the projects.

Better Measures

Creating a goal first and funding projects that help reach that goal would have a better way to go. Also that helps set benchmarks to measure success. One complaint in the article was the need for better numbers and measures. Back when the ARRA awards were announced, I know we tracked the Minnesota awards being worth $242,717,516. In fact we crowdsourced a document that detailed the Minnesota awards and assessed the following goals:

  • For Last Mile projects – 61,139 Homes, Businesses and Critical Community Facilities Passed
  • For Middle Mile projects – 1105 Critical Community Facilities
  • For Public Computer centers – 8 New Computer Centers
  • For Broadband Adoption Programs, Mapping and Technical Assistance Grants – goals were more project-oriented

Benchmarks help assess the ROI as well as track success toward goals.

Streamline the process.

The article points out that permitting and financing had been problems…

Quietly, RUS killed 42 broadband infrastructure projects that it had heralded only months earlier. The agency rescinded more than $300 million in loans and grants before a single check was written. In many cases, local officials had struggled to finance their share of their networks, or obtain the permits needed to lay new fiber cables or erect new wireless towers.

Google Fiber also notes that streamlining the process makes deployment easier. Predictability and ready access to information make it easier to get the job done and it seems that government funding might have some political pull in streamlining processes. Maybe this is an chance for the left and right hands to talk.

Understand Risk and Embrace it or Don’t

The article talks a lot about risk aversion…

“We put in $2 billion (to the farm bill) to do that,” the senator grumbled to Bush, “but the Department of Agriculture has been dragging its feet.” By making onerous demands on its applicants and keeping them waiting months for approval, Harkin said RUS had managed to leave $1.6 billion on the table.

“I don’t want to sound too cynical,” Harkin told Andrew, “but it almost sounds like the cable companies and the big phone companies have gotten to somebody and said, ‘We don’t want this program to work.’”

Harkin then delivered to Andrew a brief sermon on the mission of RUS: “We were not risk averse when we put telephone lines out to farmsteads and our small towns in America. We knew there was risk in doing that, but we managed it. RUS manages risk. And that is what I am asking in broadband, manage risk. Don’t be so risk averse that you say, ‘We cannot give a loan out there because we want to make 100 percent certain that the company we give it to will not default and will not fail. Some of them will …”

There’s a reason many of the rural communities need financial support – the business case is hard to make to serve areas with low population density, that serve potential customers who are least likely to adopt in terrain that is often difficult. The Minnesota Broadband Fund distributes grants, not loans. As I recall they decided that was more realistic to manage but it also opens the door to serving the areas who might need the funding most over serving the areas that are most likely to recoup costs it might even allow for a sliding scale of public partnership based on likely ROI. That might help support business ventures where/how they need it most to deliver high cost areas.

And what about Lake County?

Finally I have to say something about the Lake County part of the article. It’s interesting to read the recap and to hear how the author seems to attribute many of the problems to the RUS. That may have been one facet. They also ran into barriers with rules with investors, incumbent provider’s allegationsincumbent provider’s tower access and other issues. But they signed up their first customers a year ago. They (like 150 other projects) are hustling to complete construction during their extension to July 31, 2015. And they are now home to some interesting adoption efforts – such as intergenerational tech classes.

Lake County is probably another opportunity to learn – but they are moving forward and fiber has changed the landscape of what they are doing.

It’s fun to get a sneak peek at who is applying for Minnesota Broadband Funds. Today’s peek comes from the Swift County Monitor-News

Swift County again has pledged bond funds to help Federated Telephone expand broadband fiber optic cable to unserved areas in the eastern half of the county. However, the costs have gone up substantially.
Last October, the county approved bonding for up to $5 million with the funds going to Federated as part of a $10 million project. Federated had agreed to make the bond payments over a 20-year period. It also agreed to pay the bonding issuing costs. …

Last year, Federated was also working with Big Stone County on expansion of broadband fiber with that project awarded $3.92 million to construct broadband infrastructure to 1,072 un-served residences.
DEED has said that it wants grant awards to show geographical fairness across the state, which meant that once Big Stone was approved, Swift County was out of consideration.
Now Federated, with the help of the Upper Minnesota Regional Development Commission (RDC) in Appleton, is again seeking grant funds and asking for county backing.

There are at least three things I love about this story

  1. It takes place in Minnesota
  2. It’s a project that started out at a Code for America event
  3. It’s a way that technology can increased civic engagemen

The details come from Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal

GovDelivery has acquired Textizen, a Philadelphia-based startup that lets government agencies communicate with the public through text messaging.

St. Paul-based GovDelivery didn’t disclose terms of the deal.

Government agencies can use Textizen to send texts containing surveys, event reminders, project updates and other notifications. It also allows governments to receive and analyze messages sent by residents.

The company previously participated in nonprofit Code for America’s incubator program, which funds and mentors government-technology startups.

“The Textizen team has demonstrated that it can use interactive text messaging technology and creative problem solving to help improve government and engage citizens,” GovDelivery CEO and founder Scott Burns said in a news release. “Textizen’s capabilities allow us to help government succeed in the critical area of driving individuals to take action.”

My secret wish – GovDeilvery hired the Textizen staff (that is true) and they moved to the Twin Cities and infused new enthusiasm, skills and experience into the local civic coding scene!

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 27, 2015

Drones for Precision Agriculture in Minnesota

Last week I wrote about drones delivering medicine in Virginia; this week I learned about what’s happening in Minnesota through The Daily – the University of Minnesota newspaper…

David Mulla, director for the University’s Precision Agriculture Center — the first of its kind in the world — said researchers and farmers are increasingly using precision agriculture technology. He said use of robots offers greater flexibility for farmers, allowing them to monitor small areas in fields.

“Precision agriculture is in the top 10 revolutions for agriculture,” Mulla said.

Jonathan Chaplin, a professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, said precision agriculture’s main purpose is to reduce costs and the environmental impacts from farming.

“I use drones because they are relatively inexpensive nowadays. But there are limits to what you can do with them and what they can see or measure,” Chaplin said.

Drones allow farmers to tailor the amount of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides they use, which can have a negative impact on the environment. Using the technology allows farmers to monitor the use of fertilizer, he said.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 25, 2015

Rural Broadband “no longer a luxury”

MinnPost recently published a story on rural broadband – and the need for better broadband. It’s great to see rural broadband get the attention of the mainstream new sources. It’s good to see this happen before, during and after legislative season.

I think the writer (Gregg Aamot) does a note job of describing the need for better broadband up and down the supply chain – from builder to buyer for thriving economic development. He tells a few stories, but the Crystal Cabinet tale best exemplifies that need for a better connected change of economy…

The company ships its cabinets across the United States, from customers just a few miles away in central Minnesota to celebrities in Hollywood. Yet the viability of Crystal Cabinet Works, which employs 430 people and projects growth of 20 percent over the next three years, depends, in part, on the random patchwork of Internet service in Minnesota.

Currently, the company pays for separate Internet service at each of its three locations in and around this city of 4,700, which sits in both Sherburne and Mille Lacs counties. Some of its Internet capacity is hosted by servers in the Twin Cities. Its drafters, meanwhile, are limited by bandwidth constraints, as are the dealers who use the Internet to share kitchen and bath designs with the company.

All of those layers result in extra costs, delays and less productivity, said Sandy George, the company’s IT director. “At some point, if this is not addressed soon, it will become a serious business issue,” she said.

In numerous pockets of rural Minnesota, some close or even in the Twin Cities region, many businesses and residents live with unreliable, slow or expensive Internet service, a problem that affects all sorts of people, businesses and agencies …

Next CenNext Century Cities is a bipartisan city-to-city collaborative of over 100 mayors and city leaders who are working to ensure fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access for their residents. Several Minnesota cities are members. Next Century Cities recently published a Policy Agenda to point folks who want to support community networks in the right direction.

It takes a look at practical – or at least actionable – ways different segments can support community networks:

  • Local government
  • State government
  • Federal Government
  • Philanthropy
  • Community

It was nice to see a few Minnesota efforts used as examples:

Looking at Dig Once Dakota County gets a nice nod…

Additional Example: In Minnesota, Dakota County has saved many millions of dollars to date by laying fiber as part of other capital projects and ensuring local governments work together in planning and executing projects in the rights-of-way. [http://www.ilsr.org/all-hands-on-deck-mn/]

Dakota County gets another nice nod for streamlining permitting and rights of way management…

Example: “One Stop Road Permit Shop” from Dakota County saves an estimated $400,000 annually for the county and partner municipalities. More importantly, it has greatly simplified the permitting process for the public and private sectors alike. [Podcast and transcript: http://www.muninetworks.org/content/dakota-county-fiber-richthanks-dig-once-approach-community-broadband-bits-podcast-117]

The State of Minnesota is recognized for the Minnesota Broadband Fund…

Additional Examples: Minnesota established its one time $20 million Border-to-Border Broadband Fund in 2014 [http://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program/]; Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) has some capacity to help rural communities expand Internet access: [http://www.ilsr.org/rule/2887-2/]

And establishing the Minnesota Broadband Task Force…

Example: Minnesota established an “Ultra High-Speed Broadband” task force in 2008. The group decided on official goals for broadband in the state by 2015, which has emboldened broadband expansion advocates to demand better policies because the state has not achieved its goals. A key lesson was the importance of the Task Force traveling around the state to have local hearings, giving residents, businesses, and organizations an opportunity to speak. [Final report: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2009/11/documents/Final-BB-Report.pdf]

Blandin is recognized for their support of feasibility studies.

And Monticello is used an example of what can happen without federal support for market competition…

Example: After the city of Monticello, Minnesota, built a municipal fiber network to improve Internet access in the community, Charter lowered its rates well below its own cost to drive out the new competition. [http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/03/predator-or-prey-charter-cuts-internet-pricesto-compete-with-city-owned-network/]

The Daily Yonder recently posted an Analysis on Why Rural Hospitals are Closing. It’s an interesting look at various factors – worth reading especially if you aren’t living it. Part of the answer is that people aren’t saying in rural hospitals anymore. Younger people choose to go elsewhere when they can and even older folks are going for procedures but not to recuperate. Part of the reason I suspect that hospitals are getting less use is that telehealth tools do allow people to stay home longer.

It’s nice to see that telehealth is addressed in a proposed solution that would keep health care options in rural areas– the Rural Emergency Care Hospital Act…

Senator Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa and Senator Cory Gardner (R) of Colorado have introduced Senate  Bill 1648, “The Rural Emergency Care Hospital Act.” The act would reduce hospitals’ financial reliance on vanishing inpatients.

The act would let rural hospitals with fewer than 50 beds, including Critical Access Hospitals, be re-designated as “Rural Emergency Hospitals.”  Such hospitals could maintain an emergency room and  ambulance and telemedicine services, as well as other traditional hospital functions, including convalescent skilled nursing care. But they could stop providing acute inpatient care.  Medicare would pay the hospital 110 percent of its costs of emergency room and ambulance services.  The hospitals would be permitted to charge Medicare for the costs of telemedicine back-up.  The emergency rooms and physicians staffing them would have to meet some new quality requirements.

The bill would let small rural hospitals save money by getting out of the inpatient care business.  They would be generously reimbursed for their emergency care, including “observing” patients, that is, keeping them for a day or so.

Would these changes be sufficient to keep failing small rural hospitals afloat?  That depends on whether local people use them.

USDA awards $349 million for rural electric including Smart Grid Technology: Minnesota gets $25.5 million

Always good to see Minnesota get funding. Nice to see part of it going to smart grid technology. Just wonder if there isn’t a way to tie the infrastructure funds into a boost for broadband too – maybe some dig once or tower options…. (I’ve highlighted the Minnesota portion.)

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $349 million in funding for 15 rural electric infrastructure projects to build or improve more than 1,844 miles of transmission and distribution lines for rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 13 states.

“Eighty years ago, USDA took on the challenge of bringing power to rural America and it helped make this the greatest, most productive country on Earth,” said Vilsack. “Today we are continuing that commitment by investing in the next generation of power transmission – smart grid technology – to make our electric system more reliable, efficient and effective. Upgrading the electric grid will not only improve reliability and better manage costs, but it will also bring jobs and increased economic opportunities, helping to build a sustainable and dynamic future for rural residents and businesses.”

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which makes insured loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities. The loans primarily finance the construction of electric distribution facilities in rural areas.

For example, the Macon Electric Cooperative in Missouri has been selected to receive a $15.2 million loan to build or improve 51 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $2 million for smart grid projects.

The Douglas Electric Cooperative, Inc. in South Dakota is receiving $1.3 million to build and improve 15 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $270,000 for smart grid projects.

The Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative will receive a $25.5 million loan to build or improve 171 miles of line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $2 million for smart grid projects and $222,000 for service to Native Americans.

The total of $349 million in electric loans includes a $44 million loan to Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative announced by Vilsack on July 17.

Smart grid increases the reliability of electric power by helping utilities better manage the electric grid to improve operational efficiencies. It includes metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems, and other system improvements.

USDA has been committed to improving production and transmission of electricity for rural America since the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935. In 2014 alone, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service awarded $2.7 billion in electric loans. These loans helped 4.6 million rural residents receive improved electric service.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 23, 2015

Drones deliver medicine in rural Virginia

In 2013, I saw a great TED talk on drones and how they would be a great solution for delivering medicine in rural areas.. They were talking about rural in emerging countries – but that doesn’t squelch my excitement to be seeing it happening in Virginia – as reported by The Rural Blog

The first federally approved drone delivery of medicine took place on Friday at a rural field hospital in southwest Virginia, Yann Ranaivo reports for The Roanoke Times. “The drone, a hexacopter roughly the size of a portable fire pit,” made three trips from the airport two miles away, delivering 20 pounds of medicine to benefit two dozen patients at the annual Remote Area Medical mobile clinic in Wise County.

It’s a great use of a drone!

Earlier this week I mentioned new fudning from the USDA coming to Minnesota. I’m pleased to share more information from the Duluth News Tribune on the funding that the Fond du Lac reservation is receiving…

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the News Tribune that access to high-speed broadband allows communities to improve the quality of life of their residents. He said broadband allows local business owners to sell their products to a wider range of customers, helps schools provide more advanced learning opportunities and provides resources to hospitals.

“All of these things are designed to provide opportunity, equal opportunity to business owners, to students, to folks who are in the health-care system,” Vilsack said. “To make sure we improve quality of life and support quality of life.”

The grants include $3 million for a project within St. Louis County and $3 million for one in Carlton County; the Fond du Lac Reservation straddles the county line. Fred Underwood, IT director for the Fond du Lac band, said officials hope to begin construction before the year ends. The project must be completed within 24 months.

“We want to get moving on it as quickly as we can,” Underwood said. “It’s going to have a significant impact.”

The Fond du Lac band will contribute $2.2 million to the project. Underwood said that once construction is completed, 1,200 more households will have access to high-speed broadband. Members of the band are not the only ones who will have access; broadband will be available to everyone in the project area.

The USDA is trying to focus on helping Native American communities, Vilsack said.

“This particular grant is a continuation of our ongoing effort (to help) tribes … of investing a good portion of our grant money in those particular areas,” he said.

The Fond du Lac Reservation is not the only area receiving assistance in this latest round of broadband funding. Projects in South Carolina, Montana, Wisconsin, Alaska, Oklahoma and Virginia also are receiving grants or loans to help bring high-speed Internet access to rural communities.

The White House recently released an interesting infographic on the Digital Divide. Here’s a run down of stats…

Overall stats

  • 98 percent of Americans have access to the Internet
  • 75 percent have access at home

Income

  • 80-90 percent of affluent homes have access
  • 50 percent of lowest median income homes have access

Education

  • 90 percent of households where head of house has a BA (or higher degree) have access
  • 79 percent of households where head of house has some college have access
  • 63 percent of households where head of house has a High School degree have access
  • 43 percent of households where head of house has a less than High School degree have access

Ethnicity

  • 87 percent of households where head of house is Asian have access
  • 77 percent of households where head of house is White have access
  • 67 percent of households where head of house is Hispanic have access
  • 61 percent of households where head of house is Black have access
  • 58 percent of households where head of house is Native American have access

And location matters too

white house adoption stats

The Verge broke down differing segments and found that income was the most determining factor…

But when looking at broadband adoption overall, the US places 16th globally. And when you zoom in closer on the map, the divide looks less like one of urban and rural and more like one of class. For example, in several sections of central San Antonio, Texas, less than 65 percent of residents are online, while in sections of the northern suburbs, more than 83 percent are. The central sections are more densely populated but also poorer; the northern sections are more suburban, but wealthier.

This relationship holds true nationally. Both geography and income correlate with internet adoption, but income appears to play a larger role. Going from regions in the bottom quarter ranked by population density to the top quarter results in a 9 percent increase in average internet adoption. But going from the bottom income quartile to the top results in a 24 percent increase.

The findings fit with what Pew Research Center’s Lee Rainie has seen as well. “Rural areas are less likely to have broadband access, but generally if you’re looking at non-adoption, socioeconomic factors are more determinative than geography,” he says. “Income and education are highly correlated with internet use.”

It helps make the case that the Task Force is on task looking at affordability this year. And the Verge highlights the need too…

Consequently, getting everyone online in the US will be a matter of affordability and education, says Raman Jit Singh Chima, policy director at Access Now. Increasing competition among service providers could help lower costs, he says, and extending the FCC Lifeline phone subsidy to cover broadband would put internet access within reach of more people. (Last month, the FCC began the process of extending the Lifeline program to cover broadband.) Increasing internet access at schools and funding education programs at libraries and community centers would show more people how to get online and why doing so is useful.

As I mentioned yesterday, the newest Minnesota broadband maps are out. There are some big changes – many of the changes can be attributed to the change in definitions. Minnesota defined broadband as 10M down and 5 M up. The federal government used a 10M/6M ranking until earlier this year when they went with 25M/3M.

The last ranking chart we had for Minnesota looked at 10M/6M. This new map looks at 10M/5M. That makes a difference – as you can see. But there are also some standout improvements that are clearly based on more than a change in definitions.

I will try to dig deeper into each county – but wanted to post the high level info so others could use it too. (Here’s a Word version since tables and WordPress don’t always mix.) I will highlight any big leaps in access and try to indicate whether a county has risen or fallen in the ranking.

Quickly – three cheers counties that are now in the top five ranking – some a pretty rural:

  1. Red Lake
  2. Ramsey
  3. Clearwater
  4. Lac qui Parle
  5. Stevens
2014 Ranking County 2014 HH Served 2015 HH Served 2015 Ranking
1 Hennepin 100.00 98.89 6
2 Ramsey 100.00 99.75 2
3 Anoka 99.99 97.2 8
4 Red Lake 99.99 99.99 1
5 Steele 99.93 87.94 18
6 Dakota 99.90 97.17 9
7 Scott 99.81 90.1 15
8 Washington 99.65 95.28 10
9 Clearwater 99.64 99.5 3
10 Carver 99.50 91.07 14
11 Dodge 99.40 75.12 38
12 Lac qui Parle 99.36 99.36 4
13 Stevens 99.26 99.23 5
14 Waseca 98.80 70.55 45
15 McLeod 98.66 70.29 46
16 Polk 98.52 85.93 21
17 Le Sueur 98.47 75.39 37
18 Beltrami 98.46 98.07 7
19 Meeker 98.31 59.48 66
20 Rice 98.20 88.37 16
21 Olmsted 98.10 94.72 11
22 Freeborn 95.79 82.08 29
23 Goodhue 93.54 69.48 49
24 Wright 93.32 78.84 32
25 Benton 92.79 79.93 31
26 Sherburne 91.86 74.1 40
27 Stearns 91.68 84.35 24
28 Pennington 91.64 91.6 13
29 Isanti 91.54 50.36 74
30 Nicollet 91.36 84.04 25
31 Mower 90.87 82.44 27
32 Blue Earth 90.48 78.26 36
33 Winona 90.23 83.86 26
34 Sibley 89.93 50.46 73
35 Chisago 86.64 61.02 64
36 Grant 85.85 88 17
37 Brown 85.39 86.11 20
38 Clay 82.50 82.16 28
39 St. Louis 80.18 78.37 35
40 Lake 77.32 85.46 22
41 Hubbard 76.45 82.04 30
42 Wabasha 76.29 62.12 60
43 Koochiching 74.00 63.45 59
44 Big Stone 72.37 69.6 48
45 Fillmore 69.75 46.22 76
46 Houston 68.88 72.18 43
47 Jackson 68.78 68.9 50
48 Wilkin 67.05 71.39 44
49 Itasca 66.72 69.82 47
50 Rock 66.29 66.29 51
51 Traverse 65.51 65.56 53
52 Watonwan 64.58 64.58 56
53 Otter Tail 64.33 66.13 52
54 Carlton 62.81 58.88 67
55 Redwood 62.61 63.62 58
56 Norman 61.92 61.92 63
57 Marshall 61.4 30.85 82
58 Cottonwood 60.52 61.98 61
59 Wadena 60.48 86.51 19
60 Crow Wing 59.76 85.21 23
61 Becker 59.68 60.92 65
62 Martin 59.17 55.09 70
63 Nobles 59.15 65.21 54
64 Renville 58.39 52.56 71
65 Pipestone 57.57 57.01 69
66 Kandiyohi 57.47 74.4 39
67 Mille Lacs 55.99 33.28 81
68 Mahnomen 55.40 63.84 57
69 Lake of the Woods 47.08 47.08 75
70 Roseau 45.67 45.67 77
71 Murray 43.53 45.2 79
72 Kittson 43.08 3.46 87
73 Lincoln 40.90 40.89 80
74 Morrison 38.44 61.94 62
75 Faribault 38.06 92.47 12
76 Cass 37.70 57.39 68
77 Pope 31.40 64.76 55
78 Swift 30.68 78.64 33
79 Kanabec 28.54 28.05 83
80 Yellow Medicine 25.85 26.99 84
81 Todd 25.69 50.74 72
82 Chippewa 24.63 72.28 42
83 Pine 24.63 23.63 85
84 Cook 20.70 45.57 78
85 Douglas 16.21 78.57 34
86 Lyon 4.14 72.64 41
87 Aitkin 0.06 15.88 86

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