Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 9, 2015

Cell phone antennas coming to Minneapolis

According to MPR News.. 

Cell phone antennas could adorn as many as 4,500 streetlights in downtown Minneapolis, under a proposal that won approval from a City Council committee on Tuesday

Cell phone providers say they need to add bandwidth to accommodate large crowds armed with increasingly data-hungry wireless devices. If the city doesn’t allow the new antennas on its light poles and traffic lights, federal law would give the companies the right to install their own poles. …

Under the proposed ordinance, cell phone companies would pay the city $4,000 per pole to install the antennas, plus $720 a year in rent.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Minneapolis and how this plays out in other locations. I think Minneapolis is beautiful – but it’s an industrial beauty. How will folks feel about antennas in communities that feature a less industrial look?

libraryIn case you’re a new reader, I’ll tell you that I love libraries – so much so that I used to be a librarian. And I love broadband. So I was thrilled (but not surprised) to read in the Daily Yonder

A new study suggests there is a link between libraries and rates of household broadband adoption – but only in the most remote rural counties.  Libraries were the only type of “community anchor institution” to demonstrate this relationship.

Why? Well because libraries are where the people are…

Rural libraries have long been a crucial part of the small-town way of life: from developing reading programs for both youth and adults, to providing a place to go on-line and ask technology questions, to simply serving as a gathering place for community events.  They are often taken for granted by many residents, but are undoubtedly a source of community pride and identity.

Why rural areas?

Although we can’t definitively state why this link is only seen in rural areas, it may be that the relationships between librarians and their patrons in these small towns could lead residents to have more confidence that they can obtain a broadband connection at home.  Alternatively, the library may play a more central role in the lives of many rural people as compared to some urban ones, which could make the benefits of having quick access to the Internet more apparent.

We must caution, however, against making statements of causality.  In fact, we attempted to find out whether the relationship is a causal one by looking explicitly at those libraries that aggressively increased either their number of public computers or hours of public computer use over the period 2008 – 2012.  We found no evidence that these libraries were able to raise local broadband adoption rates faster than other libraries.

I have my own theory on why the impact is greater in rural areas.

Since 1994 I have worked in libraries promoting digital literacy. In 1994 that meant one-on-one training because frankly so few people had heard of the Internet a classroom didn’t make sense. Then for years you could fill a classroom easily by offering classes on anything Internet-related: email, build a website, genealogy… I think, especially in rural areas, we’re back to the one-on-one and very small classes.

There’s still a place in urban and rural libraries for continuing education classes related to Internet access. (Who couldn’t use a class in boosting digital skills? Minneapolis Public just started offering more advanced tech classes via Lynda.com – for example.) But for the real beginners I think small numbers and live training make the difference in adoption levels because (and Jack Geller has spoken of this effect too), we’re reaching the tech laggards. They need more hand-holding. In rural areas this is easier because in serving fewer people the classes stay small and are more effective.

I think the hard part is that we feel that the ROI is measured in people served. Maybe we need to look at the cost of not investing in digital literacy. How will we get healthcare, education, government services to the people who aren’t online – and what will that cost? Those costs will be greater in rural areas – it’s good the libraries are helping close the gap.

martinI’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 Martin County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 12.4
  • Number of Households: 9,035
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 59.17%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 59.17%

The bad news for Martin County is that they are not well served; they aren’t the worst but they still at less than 60 percent served. The good news is that Martin County qualified for a Minnesota Broadband Fund award through Dunnell Telephone…

Dunnell Telephone Co., City of Dunnell, Martin County. Awarded $625,000 as a 42 percent match for a $1.49 million project to build connections at state speed goals for 174 unserved households in Dunnell in Martin County. The remaining $867,650 (58 percent match) will be provided by Dunnell Telephone Co.

Community and Economic Development Impact: In addition to connecting local home-based businesses and providing local online learning opportunities, this project also increases access to health care services, as there are no local health care facilities in the area.

Also they were named a Blandin Broadband Community last fall…

Martin County hopes to increase access to computers and enhance skills and connectivity for all community members. There is a need for a better broadband opportunity and experience for our residents and businesses county wide. This will provide an opportunity that will benefit the residents and business in Martin County.

“On behalf of the Martin County EDA-IGNITE, we are excited that Martin County has been selected to become a Blandin Broadband Community. Broadband is an integral part of our infrastructure for our residents and businesses. We embrace the opportunity to work with the Blandin Foundation to enhance broadband in Martin County,” said Scott Higgins, Martin County Coordinator.

Leading their work is the Martin County Economic Development Agency. Together, with educational, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, the EDA will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Martin County.

So they are on track to see progress.

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…

BBC MapEach month e-News provides updates from the Blandin on Broadband blog, Minnesota broadband news and event alerts to keep you abreast of the progress being made to increase the use of broadband based technologies to help our communities, residents and institutions to be more productive, efficient and competitive.

Send your comments and suggestions to broadband@blandinfoundation.org.

News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

State Money for Broadband

With a statewide surplus, the legislature is looking at funding for broadband. The Coalition for Greater Minnesota Cities suggests $100 million, at least. The Senate includes $100 million, and the House started at $50 million and has since upped broadband investments to $130 million. Dayton has $30 million in his budget proposal. http://wp.me/p3if7-352 The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has also been vocal about the importance of state investment. http://wp.me/p3if7-350

Managed Traffic Could save Minnesotans $1M in Fuel

Minnesotans spend 63 hours a year in traffic. Managed traffic would help. It would be costly to deploy but the investment could save Minnesotans $1 million in fuel expenses. http://wp.me/p3if7-34Y Broadband providers learn about other ways the Internet of Things could impact their services and market at the MTA Spring Conference. http://wp.me/p3if7-34f

MN Broadband Task Force Looks at Use of Broadband

The Internet of Things was also a big topic at the March Broadband Task Force meeting. They learned about the role of broadband in monitoring big things like bridges and cars. There will not be a Task Force meeting in April as the Governor is expected to announce new Task Force members soon. http://wp.me/p3if7-347

Minnesota Holding at Midrange Broadband Ranking

The latest Akamai reports are in (for Q4 2015). Minnesota does not rank in the top 10. Here is where we rank: http://wp.me/p3if7-34x

  • Average connection speed: #22
  • Average Peak connection speed: #23
  • High broadband (>10 Mbps): #27
  • Broadband (>4 Mbps): #27
  • 4K Readiness (>15 Mbps): #28

Urban/Rural/Tribal Broadband Divide

The latest data finds that only 55 percent of those in rural communities, and 32 percent of tribal lands have access to broadband at 25 mbps compared with 94 percent of urban areas. http://wp.me/p3if7-34E (In Minnesota, we have access in 98 percent of urban areas; 53 percent of rural areas; and 42 percent of tribal areas. http://wp.me/p3if7-32M) While some look to wireless to fill the gaps, a recent report indicates that wireless is a complement, not replacement for wireline access. http://wp.me/p3if7-33T

Twin Cities Broadband Market is Booming

While rural towns are working on attracting providers or upgrades to their area, the Twin Cities is experiencing a surge of attention from providers. CenturyLink seems to be pulling fiber through residential St Paul http://wp.me/p3if7-34G and asking about offering cable in Minneapolis. http://wp.me/p3if7-33P Comcast may be handing off their share of the market to GreatLand. http://wp.me/p3if7-34n US Internet is looking to compete with big providers by expanding and upgrading broadband in the Twin Cities. http://wp.me/p3if7-356

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Big Stone County

Big Stone Country received funding from the Blandin Foundation to provide mobile functionality to their GIS application http://wp.me/p3if7-33o

Dakota County

Dakota County is bringing their Dakota County Broadband Initiative to various communities to talk about promoting better residential access to broadband via County built networks http://wp.me/p3if7-33l

Hubbard County

Paul Bunyan is bringing Gig access to parts of Hubbard County. http://wp.me/p3if7-33J

Iron Range

Iron Ranger Aaron Brown compares Iron Range to a town in Mississippi that has acquired a Gig for their forward-thinking residents http://wp.me/p3if7-33L

Kittson, Marshall & Roseau Counties

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $425,000 to Wikstrom Telephone to bring FTTH access to Kittson, Marshall & Roseau Counties. http://wp.me/p3if7-33j

Kittson County broadband coverage is 43 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-32U

Koochiching County

Koochiching County broadband coverage is 74 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-33F

Lac qui Parle County

LqP County broadband coverage is 99 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-33H

Lake County

Lake County broadband coverage is 77 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-33N

Lake of the Woods County

Lake of the Woods County broadband coverage is 47 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-33V

Le Sueur County

Le Sueur County wireline broadband coverage is 88 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-34a

Lincoln County

Lincoln County broadband coverage is 41 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-34v

Lyon County

Lyon County broadband coverage is 4 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-34N

McLeod County

Mcleod County broadband coverage is 99 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-34P

Mahnomen County

Mahnomen County broadband coverage is 55 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-34R

Mille Lacs County

Mille Lacs County wireline broadband coverage is 44 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-32X

Morrison County

Morrison County broadband coverage is 38 percent http://wp.me/p3if7-33D

Ramsey County

St. Paul will pay Comcast more than $2 million to upgrade the data network connecting more than 100 public buildings to high-speed fiber optic cable. http://wp.me/p3if7-33y

Red Wing

Red Wing successfully hosted their second annual Rural Hackfest – the Red Hot Hack http://wp.me/p3if7-34c

Renville & Sibley Counties

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $1 million to R-S Fiber Cooperative to bring FTTH to 62 unserved and 536 underserved locations in Sibley and Renville Counties http://wp.me/p3if7-33d

Rock County

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $5 million to Rock County Broadband Alliance to deploy FTTH to approximately 1,085 underserved and 265 unserved locations in Rock County http://wp.me/p3if7-336

Roseau County

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $261,575 to Sjoberg Cable improve broadband to 107 unserved and 49 underserved locations in Roseau County http://wp.me/p3if7-33h

Sherburne County

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $151,934 to Palmer Wireless to deploy 3.4 miles of fiber passing 21 underserved businesses in the Becker Industrial Park (city of Becker) as well as to 12 vacant city-owned lots covering 70 acres in Sherburne County. http://wp.me/p3if7-32R

St Cloud

St Cloud and Annandale consider their options with municipal network barriers lowering http://wp.me/p3if7-32P

Villard

Pope County approved a payment of up to $3,000 to bring a fiber optic line to the Massman Automation building in Villard http://wp.me/p3if7-33R

Events & Opportunities:

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Stirring the PotBill_Coleman

I am faced with two contradictory observations about broadband right now.  First, the intensity of desire for and the impatience for improvement of broadband has never been higher if our Blandin Broadband Communities are representative of rural Minnesota.

Infrastructure and service discussions are dominating our recently completed vision and project development meetings.  Over the years, I have told countless communities that the lack of high-speed broadband was going to be a significant detriment to their community’s economic competitiveness and quality of life.  That day is here.

Community leaders now tell me how the lack of quality broadband is having negative effects on business recruitment efforts and business retention programs.  School superintendents talk of the haves and have-nots of connected students and that impact on homework and curriculum.  Throughout the community, negative impacts are felt. Interest in Blandin Foundation’s Robust Network Feasibility Fund is stronger than ever with many communities gearing up to examine market, costs, business models and finance in preparation for an expected round two of DEED broadband grants.

That contrasts with my observation that broadband is not the hot topic at the Capitol that it was last session.  Last year, it seemed that the Senator Schmit tour, the task force recommendation for $100 million combined with the excitement for the creation of the Office of Broadband that the broadband topic was near the top of everyone’s priority list. That enthusiasm now seems to be a bit on auto-pilot. Although I am not actively engaged in the nitty-gritty of the legislative session, I do know that the rewards go to those who show up and make their voices heard.  With many new legislators, broadband backers must reach out and make sure that your own legislators know what a priority broadband is for your community.

My advice – Do not just expect that DEED’s broadband grant fund will be renewed or increased to higher levels of spending. Broadband is competing with more traditional uses of state dollars with very organized constituencies – roads and bridges, human services, bike paths, k12 and higher education – the list is long and the interest groups well practiced in the legislative arts.  Turn your lone voice into a strong and clear community broadband voice.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 6, 2015

Broadband Market in the Twin Cities getting Interesting

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has an interesting article on the state of broadband access in the Twin Cities. There’s a quick rundown on the current status of access…

Workers drilled holes for US Internet’s fiber optic lines in Lowry Hill. White boxes showed up in Minneapolis’ Como neighborhood. CenturyLink’s fiber plans sent city inspectors in Minneapolis and St. Paul running around issuing permits for its new 1-gigabit service.

The average home in the Twin Cities area accesses the Internet at 27 megabits per second. Comcast, the cable TV giant, dominates the market, followed by CenturyLink, which descended from the phone system legacy of names like Northwestern Bell and U.S. West.

And an introduction to a potential game changer – US Internet…

Over the last few years, Minnetonka-based US Internet, a provider of business and wireless services, moved into residential Internet by laying fiber along a few streets in south Minneapolis. The company in a portion of Minneapolis offers Internet access at less than half its competitors’ prices — anywhere from 25 megabits per second to 10 gigabits (see chart).

Now, it’s planning an expansion that will test whether a local, private business can succeed in competition with the giants of the telecom industry. Its effort could drive down the prices that people in the Twin Cities pay for data while renewing a debate between market-driven and regulated access to it.

Some interesting commentary from Chris Mitchell on why USI is such a game changer…

Into this changing media landscape, US Internet is the local wild card, said Chris Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, a national organization based in Minneapolis. The firm charges $48 per month for 100-megabits per second service, compared to Comcast’s $115 per month or CenturyLink’s $92 per month.

“There are good reasons Comcast should be more afraid of USI,” Mitchell said. “Comcast competes with CenturyLink around the country. The cable companies have a history of duopoly — of a soft competition rather than hard competition because they recognize that a rough and tumble competition between the two would hurt each more than each is likely to gain.”

It will be interesting to watch. One complaint from the incumbents is that USI is not required to serve the entire community. So of course they can choose the areas that best suit them, which makes for a better business case. I guess that leads to the discussion of broadband – is it a commodity or is it a utility?

I have heard Travis Carter speak – most notably at MN Broadband Task Force meeting last June (2014). He reminds me of the ISP owners I worked with in 1995. Kind of a cowboy, focusing on answers and getting things done and ignoring all barriers. Not all of the ISPs I worked with in 1995 are still around – some were more successful than others, but I have to say I think they served to push Internet expansion forward.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 5, 2015

How much should MN invest in rural broadband?

The Crookston Times sat down with Tim Flaherty from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities to talk about the legislative season. This is what he had to say about broadband…

Broadband improvements: The CGMC is seeking $100 million, at least. The Senate includes $100 million, and the House started at $50 million and has since upped broadband investments to $130 million. Dayton has $30 million in his budget proposal.

Flaherty said the numbers don’t lie: 40 percent of homes in Greater Minnesota don’t meet minimum standards for broadband service. In the metro area, that percentage shrinks to 6.

“We’re not saying the state broadband programs don’t work, we’re just saying there are huge, huge gaps that must be filled if our cities are going to have any chance at growth,” Flaherty said.

 

 

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Chair Margaret Anderson Kelliher reminds the Legislature that broadband is a good investment in the Worthington Daily Globe

With a nearly $2 billion surplus, the Legislature should seriously consider the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, and go big on funding the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program and providing our schools and libraries with the additional funding they need to help ensure every child has access to reliable broadband.

Expanding access to broadband is crucial for expanding opportunity for all. As Minnesota looks to maintain a growing, competitive economy, and a high quality of life, we must continue to make progress to ensure that the state has access to broadband, from border to border. As the legislative session rolls along, let’s work together to make this a reality.

I love when broadband is the answer. WCCO recently ran a story on Governor Dayton’s hope to improve traffic by synchronizing traffic lights.

Here’s the problem – Minnesotans apparently spend 63 hours a year in traffic. That a huge waste of time and resources. One way to fix that is to synchronizing traffic lights. That could be done if they were all online. (Big version of the Internet of Things.) I’ve been learning about traffic management from David Asp, who has been working on that in Dakota County.

The cost will apparently be big. The report says there are 800 traffic signals in Minneapolis and it will cost $3500 to inspect and synch each one. But in the end it could save Minnesota taxpayers $1 million in fuel costs. (Never mind time!)

Traffic may not be the priority issue in Lake of the Woods as it is in the Cities. But it does feel like yet another way to measure the return on investment in broadband.

mahnomenI’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 Mahnomen County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 3.5
  • Number of Households: 2,019
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 55.4%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 55.4%

Mahnomen County is clearly at a disadvantage. They were at less that 40 percent coverage in 2011; in fact the FCC listed Mahnomen as one of the 10 least served counties at that same time. So there’s been some improvement. But not much.

CenturyLink (in 2013) expressed interest in Connect American Fund (CAF) funding in Mahnomen. CenturyLink has also supported the local schools. (It was part of a settlement of sorts.) There’s room for more attention and it will require more attention to get them to a better place with broadband coverage.

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: Bernadine Joselyn | April 1, 2015

BoB hits a milestone: A note from Bernadine Joselyn

Dear Faithful BoB reader:

Today is a Red Letter day for the Blandin on Broadband Blog… or “BoB” as we affectionately call it. … drum roll…

BoB writer, editor and curator extraordinaire, Ann Treacy, modestly informed me that BoB has hit the milestone of 1,000 followers!

Please join me in thanking Ann for her work and congratulating her on reaching this impressive number.

I, in turn, thank all of you BoB readers who are doing the real and persistent work out in communities where it matters – and creating the great community broadband stories that Ann shares via the blog.

Bernadine Joselyn
Director, Public Policy & Engagement
Blandin Foundation

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 1, 2015

McLeod County Broadband 2014 Update: Well served

mcleodI’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 McLeod County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 28.9
  • Number of Households: 14,639
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 98.36%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 98.66%

McLeod County is well covered for broadband. I don’t hear a lot about it. I know the Eagle Cam in Hutchinson is a big hit online. And actually Hutchinson has been pretty active with broadband from the Little Crow Telemedia Network, they were part of a recent computer donation tour from PCs for People and the local paper has been featuring broadband for years.

Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. I think their location and local providers such as NU-Telecom and MVTV Wireless help.

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…

lyonI’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 Lyon County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 14.2
  • Number of Households: 10,227
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 4.14%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 4.14%

Lyon County is clearly in bad shape when it comes to broadband. Or there’s something very strange about how the numbers were collected.

When I look up addresses in the area it looks like there are a few providers: Arvig, Charter, Frontier MVTV Wireless but none of them must be serving the whole area. I know MVTV is always looking to expand; maybe that offers possibility for the community. We have seen counties with lower population density encourage providers to come into the area. But at this point I haven’t seen or heard of much development (adoption or deployment) happening in the area. Although I’d be delighted to hear that I’m wrong and there are efforts in motion.

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…

Organizing the Community Around Key Broadband Topics – Creating the Right Team
When: 3 pm on April 9
Register Online!

This webinar will feature a round table discussion of community leaders engaged in local broadband initiatives. Panelists will share their range of experiences, including the formation of their team, educating elected officials and residents, selecting and working with consultants, dealing with incumbent and prospective providers.

Confirmed participants include Janet Keogh of Cloquet Valley, Mark Erickson of RS Fiber and Dawn Hegland of UMVRDC and their pursuit or regional broadband.  More panelists will be confirmed soon.

[Added April 6] Julie Rath of Redwood Area Development Corp is also confirmed.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | March 30, 2015

CenturyLink is focusing on fiber – but where and when?

centurylinkI watched as “someone” strung fiber all around my neighborhood last week. Then on Friday I finally saw a CenturyLink truck cruising the work. Mystery solved. I had heard rumor about the possibility of an upgrade last summer – but I wasn’t sure how that was going to shake out, especially after the City of St Paul hitched their wagon to Comcast.

It’s nice to live in an area that’s seeing some action and competition. But I think of the areas that aren’t as lucky and it was through that lens that I read a recent article from CCG Consulting on CenturyLink’s interest in fiber. So the good news is that there’s someone who is invested in maintaining wired connectivity…

But in reading between the lines I think they really want to invest in fiber. CenturyLink inherited possibly the worst local network in the country when they merged with Qwest. Qwest had been in marginal financial shape for so long that they had let the networks in most markets deteriorate significantly. Qwest instead invested on long-haul and large city downtown fiber to make money in transport, long distance and sales to large businesses. And they did okay in those areas and have one of the best nationwide fiber networks.

CenturyLink has the most to lose of the large ISPs. AT&T and Verizon have become cellular companies that also happen to be in the landline business. The cable companies have captured the lion’s share of the residential data market almost everywhere. But CenturyLink has no fallback if they lose landline-based revenues. They inherited a network that lost the residential battler everywhere in head-to-head competition with the cable companies. And in every large city they have significant competition for business customers from CLECs, cable companies and fiber providers.

So I think CenturyLink has hit upon the right strategy. In every market (or at least in every neighborhood) there is likely to only be one fiber provider who is willing to build to everybody. Over time, as households and businesses want more data, fiber is going to be the only long-term network that will be able to satisfy future data demand.

And that’s a good thing as the article points out that gigabit wireless may be overly optimistic…

I keep hearing about having gigabit wireless products someday, but the physics of that product will require mini cell sites that are close to customers. And that means having a cellular network that is fed by neighborhood fiber. Anybody who thinks that the cellular companies are going to be able to supply that kind of bandwidth with the current cellular networks doesn’t understand the physics of spectrum.

The problem for rural areas is inherent in the historical piece of the article. CenturyLink inherited a tough network for rural areas. It sounds like they will upgrade as they can but as a commercial provider, they will still be relying on a business case model. It makes the case for trying to build a local business case and/or building local infrastructure to help build the case. Time and time again we hear that even with wireless, infrastructure will be necessary.

 

 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | March 27, 2015

A big gap between urban, rural and tribal broadband access

I’m catching up on non-Minnesota broadband reading today. The NTIA recently wrote about the last iteration of the National Broadband Map as it stands today. (The FCC will be picking up the job via 477data collection.) I’m going to paste in a bigger chunk for context but it’s really the last bullet point that caught my eye: The latest data finds that only 55 percent of those in rural communities, and 32 percent of tribal lands have access to broadband at 25 mbps compared with 94 percent of urban areas.

Our job as broadband advocates really isn’t done until both of those gaps are closed.

The most significant finding from the latest data, announced by President Obama [4]earlier today, is that the United States has met the President’s goal [5] of ensuring 98 percent of the country has access to wireless broadband at a speed of at least 6 megabits per second (Mbps) down/1.5 Mbps up. Other key findings from the June 30, 2014 dataset include:

  • As we have seen in every data release since our first in February 2011, broadband speeds continue to increase. The rate at which we are seeing speeds increase, however, is slower at every national speed threshold that we track.

  • At lower speeds, Internet access is widely available across both rural and urban areas. The latest data shows that 99 percent of the country has access to advertised broadband speeds at 10 megabits per second (Mbps) through either wired or wireless services, and 93 percent have access to this speed through wired service alone.

  • Nearly 85 percent of the country has access to wired broadband at a speed of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, which is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new benchmark level [6] for broadband speeds. Cable provides 82.69 percent of the U.S. population with speeds of 25 Mbps or more, while fiber to the premises serves about one in four Americans (24.20 percent) at that speed.

  • However, there is still a big gap between urban and rural areas when it comes to access to broadband at 25 Mbps. The latest data finds that only 55 percent of those in rural communities, and 32 percent of tribal lands have access to broadband at 25 mbps compared with 94 percent of urban areas.

NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative (SBI), which funded grants to collect the data used in the Broadband Map, is coming to a close. The data we are posting today is the last set of data that states will collect under this program. NTIA is transitioning the broadband map to our long-standing partner, the FCC, which will collect data as part of its 477 data collection program.

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