Minnesota Broadband Scenarios

There is much discussion about the accuracy of the Connected Nation maps and the legitimacy of the speed tests. When the legislature passed the funding for the mapping project, some of us joked that with 10 minutes and a napkin we could produce a pretty darn accurate map. We’d even share all of our data!

I also have doubts that the maps will spur providers to fill the broadband gaps. After all, the existing providers know exactly where they provide service and any competitor thinking about providing service can go to the city hall and hang around the coffee shop and get a pretty good idea where the gaps are.

I think that most of Minnesota can be categorized into a handful of scenarios based on location and their incumbent providers. I have taken an initial shot at outlining these scenarios herematrix. If you have comments, suggestions and additions, I would love to hear them and might incorporate them into the grid. If I was more graphically inclined, these scenarios could be easily illustrated using real communities or composite creations of our own naming. I would be very interested in working with anyone who is a mapping guru on this. Could be lots of fun and we could name these composite towns after our favorite children, politicians, pets or rock bands.

13 thoughts on “Minnesota Broadband Scenarios

  1. I’m confused about the “napkin” comment. As a contributor to the mapping project I would appreciate an explanation.

  2. Hello Zach,
    The napkin reference is a tongue in cheek reference to the informal nature of our mapping effort and that is might even be done over a meal.

    I am sure that you would be able to draw a very accurate map for your own company and would also be able to draw a fairly accurate map of your competitors’ service areas. Using my scenarios, I maintain that most towns are quite similar in broadband coverage patterns.

    The debate over map accuracy detracts from the real questions of whether ubiquitous broadband service should be required, what the service standard should be and the best strategies to accomplish the goals.

  3. There is the additional question about the wisdom of the legislature only requiring data at the county level of detail. I’m not sure how a map without any granularity is supposed to help except to overstate where broadband is available.

    The Leg asked for a map that borders on useless. I’m not sure what anyone knows now that we did not know last year.

  4. Regarding the matrix, thank you Bill, I think that is a great way of organizing the issue and moving us forward.

    I think that is a good way of presenting that data, though I would encourage some thumbnail estimates for upload speeds as well as download. For cable in towns and countryside, I would highlight none also as MN ranks high among states with large areas offering no cable service.

  5. Hi Chris,

    Good comments.
    As you know, finding information on upload speeds can be difficult. Plus you can only put so much information into little boxes!
    Do you have any data about cable television in towns of under 1,000 people? My experience tells me that if a town is over 750 people, they are likely to have cable. I do not know about towns smaller than that.

  6. I have nearly 100 cable systems in this state alone that are providing services to communities with populations 1,000 – 2,000 or less.

    If you’re looking for actual data about cable operators in small towns, why not ask the small town operators themselves?

    Just a thought.


  7. Chris – you’ll be pleased to note that the maps I compiled for my company and submitted to CN went well beyond the basic requirements (county level).

  8. Zach – that is good to know. I’m sure the Task Force would be interested if you would be willing to submit maps that have a greater granularity.

    In fact, I suspect others that are trying to create such maps would be interested too.

  9. Well right, but at some level in mapping data you have to stop drilling down. I think everyone here understands why it would be detrimental for a company to hand over “blueprints”.

  10. I think that the last couple comments illustrate the disconnect on this whole process. Understandably, providers are not interested in giving information that would show their network and market intentions or shortcomings for fear that competitors will jump into market opportunities. But this is exactly the information that communities want so that they can work to address shortcomings in service delivery.

    If I cannot see the layers of the map that show me where DSL, cable modem, fixed wireless, fiber-based high speed Internet is delivered, it is not of much use to me as a community technology planner.

    If Mediacom is competing in a market with FTTP, I cannot tell if Mediacom provides service. Mediacom might even be providing a higher data rate over its fiber coax than the phone company is providing over fiber and I could not tell that. Again, we need to see the layers to get value.

  11. Bill, there is a disconnect here. You’re asking private providers to make the very data that keeps them competitive on street by street level…public.

    You can’t tell me that disclosing to competitors (existing or potential) the layout, design, and foot by foot coverage of the single most important asset we have as a service provider is going to help us remain competitive as a business.

  12. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that revealing your service areas is going to help you remain competitive. What most of us are saying is that revealing your service areas on a block-by-block basis is not going to make you less competitive.

    Your (few) competitors know where you offer service already.

    The question is whether these maps offer a value to policymakers in the attempt to make sure everyone has fast, affordable access to the most important utility of the 21st century. But the idea that your competitors don’t already have this information (on a block by block level) is fairly silly. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult for a person to collect this information – it just takes time.

    Time means money and the state doesn’t want to pay that money so they instead have to ask the providers themselves who pretend it would be a great loss if their competitors knew what they all already know. So instead we waited a year for unhelpful maps. Possibly the worst of all worlds. Wonderful.

  13. Zach,
    I doubt that there is much that you not know about Qwest’s service in Hibbing or Virginia. For the most part, I can come into a community with aerial plant and see where the lines are and what would have to be done to extend services. I am not even an engineer.

    For any given community, it is not hard to understand what services are available in a community or part of a community with a few of the right people in the room. That would be a couple power users, the computer sales/service/networking guy and a realtor.

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