Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 21, 2011

28% of Minnesotans lack broadband at home

Yesterday Connect Minnesota released the latest report from their summer survey of residents. (Earlier they released an interactive toos that show data on adoption throughout the US and a report that provided a profiles of folks who generally aren’t online.) This week’s report focuses on Minnesota.

Mostly the report pulls out data already available from the interactive tools released last week but it’s nice to see it in a list…

The survey reveals that:

  • 39% of Minnesotans living in rural areas do not subscribe to broadband service at home.
  • When comparing to the 72% of all households that do subscribe, there remain large gaps among key demographics:
    • 53% of low-income households;
    • 51% of Hispanic households; and
    • 68% of seniors are without broadband.
    • 54% of low-income households with children are without access to this essential tool at home.
  • The biggest gap is among low-income seniors. Only 21% of low-income seniors subscribe to broadband and only 32% have a computer at home.
  • The largest barrier to non-adopters is relevance – 29% of non-adopters say there isn’t Internet content worth viewing. The second most commonly cited barrier is that it is too expensive.
  • The number one reason Minnesotans say they started using broadband is because they needed it for business.

The Pioneer Press asked Bill Coleman what this meant on the frontlines…

Go a mile or two outside of, say, Mora, in Kanabec County, 70 miles north of the Twin Cities, and broadband availability practically vanishes, said Bill Coleman, a broadband consultant for the Blandin Foundation, a nonprofit concerned with rural Minnesota issues.

Seventy-five percent of Kanabec County has no available broadband, he said. The lack of access means residents are cut off from the increasing numbers of services offered online for convenience’s sake, whether it’s paying one’s taxes or buying a plane ticket, he said.

“Life becomes less easy and more expensive if you can’t get online,” he said.

I think it does emphasize the need for projects such as the ARRA-funded, Blandin Foundation-led Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative. I’ve been featuring stories and videos from visits in the field over the last couple of weeks.

A key to the success of the MIRC project is that each participating community was asked/allowed to come up with local solutions to boost broadband use – and they came up with projects that address the deficiencies above. Here are some examples that we’ve just mentioned here in the last week or so:

  • Benton County – is getting computers into the hands of people who need them through PCs for People
  • Willmar – is working to get access to computers in schools and working to get seniors online to connect with friends and family online
  • Lac qui Parle County – provides access and training to residents through their mobile computer lab in a bus that goes to several towns each week.
  • Morris – is using their web site and online newsletter to share events and news with community – especially to reach their growing Hispanic population
  • Stevens County – has computer and wireless access in the American Legion hall, a great place to reach older veterans and a great way to reach recently returning vets

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