Stevens County Broadband Profile: 99 percent access to 25/3 and 96 percent access to 100/20

stevensIn 2014, more than 99 percent of Stevens County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today more than 99 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and more than 96 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

There are two providers in the county that provide service at the 2026 goal speed: Federated Telephone Coop and Mediacom.

In 2015, they benefited from a Border to Border Broadband grant

Otter Tail Telcom, Swan Lake West. Awarded $438,937 to expand existing infrastructure and bring fiber-to-the-home services to 110 unserved locations, including permanent residences with work-from-home employees near Swan Lake, on the outskirts of Fergus Falls, along the I-94 corridor. The total project costs are $877,874; the remaining $438,937 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.

Steven County was a Minnesota Intelligent Regional Community, which means they have been making a concerted effort to increase broadband adoption with projects like an online tool for college renters and landlords, digital inclusion training and putting cemetery records online.

Stevens County is in line to receive $69,860 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 87 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.

Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 99.21
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 96.73

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 27.38 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

Steele County Broadband Profile: Well served with 99 access to 25/3 and 95 access to 100/20

In 2014, steelemore than 99 percent of Steele County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today more than 99 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and more than 95 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

Nearing the end of looking at every county, I’ve noticed some patterns – one is that there are a few counties that are well served and I never hear anything about them. Steele County is one of those. It always makes me wonder who the provider is. If a provider is focused on providing fast service; it gets done, often with little fanfare. Sadly the same isn’t true of a community. Community members can focus all they want, if the provider isn’t interested it’s difficult to make it happen. I hear about those communities.

The Office of Broadband Development has a list providers by counties, including the maximum download and upload speeds. Here are the providers that serve the area with reportedly faster access than 100/20:

  • CenturyLink – with DSL 105/40
  • Jaguar – with fiber 1000/100
  • Mediacom – with cable 150/20
  • Midcontinent Communications – with 200/20
  • Radio Link Internet – with fixed wireless 100/100

Steele County is in line to receive $1,612,611 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 2645 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.

Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 99.86
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 95.64

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 30.80 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

Stearns County Broadband Profile: 87 percent access to 25/3; 38 percent access to 100/20 but grants will help

stearnsIn 2014, 92 percent of Stearns County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 87 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 38 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

They are going the wrong direction but State grants will help.

In 2015, the St Cloud Times took a good look at broadband in Stearns County, outing services offered by the local providers. It is informative to look at the range (remember this is from 2015!)…

In the middle of 2014, Midcontinent doubled connection speeds for its customers, partly as a test, Simmons said. Channel-bonding technology allowed the company to change the 30 Mbps service most customers received to 60 Mbps, 50 to 100, and so on.

With a $75 million investment, the company is going to keep increasing speeds. Its Gigabit Initiative will bring 1 Gbps connections to all business and home consumers in the Upper Midwest by sometime in 2017, Simmons said.

Midcontinent uses hybrid fiber-coaxial technology to deliver Internet service.

CenturyLink also uses fiber to deliver service to residential areas and DSL in the home, according to Rachel Woodman, market development manager. The company has almost entirely abandoned copper in favor of fiber, a technology experiencing a CenturyLink “build-up” in the St. Cloud area. Woodman said the majority of Central Minnesota customers have connections of up to 40 Mbps available.

Charter Communications connects customers to the Internet through its coaxial cable lines and in-home modems.

Paul Bunyan Communications announced in late summer it has started construction on a fiber network in the Bemidji area that will bring connections with speeds up to 1 Gbps to customers. Some locations will receive the service this year, with the entire 5,000-square-mile service area being covered in coming years.

Some area companies, such as Skynet Broadband Inc. and CitEscape High Speed Internet, both based in St. Cloud, offer fixed wireless connections, the speeds of which are increasing along with in-ground technologies.

John Townsend, sales and marketing director for SkyNet, said starting now in January, the new SkyNet tower in Waite Park will connect users through a synchronized network that will “blast” signals to and from an exact point located by GPS. …

CitEscape offers residential access with download speeds of 1.5 to 10 Mbps, according to Laura Kangas. She and her husband Albert own and operate Palmer Wireless, the company that put Wi-Fi capabilities on buses in Becker, and they purchased CitEscape this fall.

She said one advantage her company’s wireless service has over mobile broadband through cellular networks or satellites is unlimited data. “Ten gigabytes doesn’t go too far anymore,” she said.

TDS Telecom offers Internet access, management and voice-related services to business customers in St. Cloud and residential users in the surrounding area.

Nextera Communications services businesses in Central Minnesota primarily with a combination of T-1 lines, according to President Greg Arvig, whose relation to the service provider that shares his name is through blood, not business.

Connections range from about 1 Mbps to a couple hundred, he said, with Nextera tailoring speeds to each application.

In 2015, a small portion of Stearns County benefitted from a Border to Border grant

Arvig (Mainstreet Communications LLC), Sauk Lake area. Awarded $536,702 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 217 unserved premises in the Sauk Lake area, which is located primarily in Todd County (with some project area in rural Stearns County) just north of Sauk Centre. This is an unserved area where no wired broadband infrastructure is available. The full project cost is $1.07 million; the remaining $536,703 (50 percent) will be supplied by a private investment made by Arvig.

Good news – they will benefit from two Border to Border grants

Albany Mutual Telephone Association, Big Watab Lake – $726,185. The project will serve 242 unserved households in the Big Watab Lake area in Stearns County. Albany Mutual will improve service for families that need high-speed broadband for school and work. The total eligible project cost is $1.45 million, with a $726,185 local match.

Palmer Wireless, Del Tone Road and St. Cloud Airport – $179,400. This project will serve 14 unserved businesses and 1 unserved community anchor institution on the east side of St. Cloud. Palmer Wireless will make improvements that will upgrade business connectivity in the Highway 10 corridor, increasing business development opportunities and customer access. The total eligible project cost is $460,000, with a $280,600 local match.[Stearns County]

Stearns County is also in line to receive $1,530,252 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 3883 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.

Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 87.58
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 38.01

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 30.79 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

Sibley County Broadband Profile: hard work and a new cooperative change everything

In 2014, 90sibley percent of Sibley County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 59 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 50 percent have access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

Sibley County has been working on broadband for many years with Renville County. The counties and town tried working collectively with a Joint Powers agreement on getting broadband to their communities – fiber to the farm they said because they wanted to include areas outside the towns despite the high cost. They had trouble reaching consensus with all communities – specifically Sibley County left the project. That opened the door to a new solution – a cooperative. Since that time they have been working on that solution and it has been working. Here’s a brief outline of the coop from a Daily Yonder article

A unique partnership between RS Fiber and 10 cities is proving successful in Minnesota, which also has restrictions on public networks. The cities sold a General Obligation bond that they used to underwrite a loan to RS Fiber. The co-op leveraged the loan to raise more investment money.

RS Fiber retained Hiawatha Broadband Communications, a local ISP, to oversee all network buildout, operations and marketing. A fiber backbone will connect the 10 towns. During the three years it will take to complete the buildout, the co-op will provide 25-megabit symmetrical wireless and telephone services to the cities. In 2018 RS Fiber will ask the cities to pass another bond to finance the remaining buildout to take in surrounding farmlands. In total the entire network will cover over 600 miles and 2500 farm sites.

They have received positive attention for their work as a coop and most importantly a new tenant – a new Medical School is opening in Gaylord, which is Sibley County but because these counties have worked in tandem. I’m going to mention it here too!

In 2015, they got help State help with a Border to Border grant

R-S Fiber Cooperative, FTTH Project. Awarded $1 million to bring fiber-to-the –home (FTTH) service to 62 unserved and 536 underserved locations in Sibley and Renville counties. Total project costs are $3.32 million; the remaining $2.32 million (70 percent local match) will be provided by a line of credit that R-S Fiber Telcom has committed and partner equity. This project is part of a larger cooperative project estimated at $38.46 million that will upgrade broadband services to several thousand locations in the region. Hiawatha Broadband Communications will provide operational capacity.

Community and Economic Development Impact: In 2013, Sibley County was added to the Metropolitan Statistical Area of the Twin Cities. Twin Cities metro regional economic development strategy indicates that access to high-speed fiber networks is a critical component that companies consider when deciding whether to relocate to an area.

Sibley County is in line to receive $1,673,898 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 2245 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.

Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 71.27
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 51.01

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 46.83 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

Sherburne County Broadband Profile: Access has slipped to 75 percent access to 25/3 but efforts are improving speeds

In 2014, sherburne92 percent of Sherburne County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 75 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 28 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

Sherburne County is going the wrong direction; they have gone from well served to underserved as the definition of broadband changes. (The good news is they realize the problem.) Sherburne County is a Blandin Broadband Community, which means they are focused on improving broadband adoption and expansion. They are a team that is especially interested in expansion and upgrades…

They have a feasibility study and started an effort called Sherband to drive the effort for better broadband. They created a video on their need for better broadband. They have hosted conversations with politicians.

In 2015, they (via Palmer Wireless) received a Border to Border broadband grant

Palmer Wireless, Becker Industrial Park. Awarded $151,934 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 addition, one of the vacant lots is the future site of the Northstar station. The total project costs are $303,870; the remaining $151,936 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Palmer Wireless via a line of credit.

And they received another grant in 2017

Palmer Wireless, Big Lake Industrial Park – $90,988. The project will serve 17 underserved businesses and 1 underserved community anchor institution in the Big Lake Industrial Park. Palmer Wireless will improve services that will have a positive impact on the economic health of Big Lake and businesses in the park. The total eligible project cost is $211,600, with a $120,612 local match. [Sherburne County]

Sherburne County is in line to receive $525,436 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 2159 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.

Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 75.40
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 28.02

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 17.03 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

Sen Klobuchar and Rep Peterson talk rural broadband and farm bill in Detroit Lakes MN

The Duluth News Tribune reports

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson met with about a dozen Internet service providers in Detroit Lakes on Friday, Feb. 24, to help solve a nagging problem—how to get high-speed Internet service out to everybody, even rural areas where there is only one home or farm every mile or two.

One possible solution—put funding for it in the new Farm Bill, which would cut red tape, simplify the regulatory and funding process, and put the focus on rural areas where the need is greatest.

They have a plan to get the idea rolling…

About $230 million in federal money has gone to Minnesota for broadband, versus about $35 million in state money, so the federal effort has not been unsubstantial, Klobuchar said. But a sustained effort is needed, with a steady funding source.

Klobuchar will recruit six senators who are focused on rural issues, while Peterson will recruit six similar House members, and the group will work with industry experts to thresh out a feasible funding plan.

Area broadband providers gave their thoughts too..

Mark Birkholz, director of southern markets for Arvig Communications, and Gary Johnson, CEO and general manager of Paul Bunyan Communications in Bemidji, were among a half-dozen or so service providers and others who met with Klobuchar and Peterson at the Detroit Lakes Library.

They had high praise for the Minnesota state agency that works with broadband but not so much for federal agencies.

Federal money is capped and often comes with so much regulatory requirements that an additional staffer must almost be hired to deal with it all, Bickett said.

A big problem is that federal funding from the Universal Service Fund is largely tied to taxes on landline telephones, which are fading away as cell phones take their place. Logically, Internet taxes would replace landline taxes, but there is such fierce sentiment in the U.S. House not to “tax the Internet” that it’s politically difficult to make that switch. …

Federal funding also penalizes Internet service providers if they provide service outside their specific areas, even if a neighbor across the street has no service provider and is begging for broadband.

The Trump Administration has also hit the pause button on one initiative that was about to go into effect to provide broadband to lower income, underserved areas such as Indian reservations.

“We serve three tribes, how do we afford it?” said Johnson, of Paul Bunyan Communications. “It was a lifeline for broadband, we were about to hit go, now there’s a big pause button at the FCC.”

Scott County Broadband Profile: 96 percent access to 25/3 supported by county-built 10Gig backbone

In 201scott4, more than 99 percent of Scott County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 96 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 88 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

Scott County is well covered. In 2007, they started with a 94-mile optic ring. They told their story of saving several years ago at a Broadband Task Force Meeting

Scott County built a backbone with 146 strands of fiber (10Gbit). The county owns conduit but has contracts to share with public and private entities. This solves a lot of internal communications issues but they need to get out to the Internet. So they lease fiber with McCloud and connection to commercial providers through that and the 511 building (big telecom hub).

They ended up developing more than they wanted to build because providers were not as interested in helping them build a connection that might reach their potential clients. Also it ended up being cheaper to build.

Network is fully operations to all schools, libraries, government buildings in the County. They attracted the MNET. The ROI was immediate due to reduced charges to the County. The private providers are running it. For example, the schools were paying $58 per Mbit per student now they pay $6.83 per Mbit per student.

And outlined the benefits at an NTIA meeting years later

We (Scott County) saw disparity between cost and access. A T1 in SE Scott was about $5500/years; in NE Scott it was $900/year. This project means we now buy it for about $30/year. Scott County Government now pays $35,000/year less for better broadband now.

They have been part of the Metro County Fiber Interconnect – counties making concerted efforts to connect to each other.

Scott County is in line to receive $315,273 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 680 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.

Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 96.10
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 88.38

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicineMississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 11.78 out of 100.

More info:

  • Find more articles on broadband in Scott County (http://tinyurl.com/gt4afcy)                            

§  There is a matrix of Minnesota broadband adoption projects.

§  Districts: CD 2
Senate: 20, 55, 56
House: 20A, 55A, 55B, 56A

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!