The report acknowledges that “statewide estimates do not necessarily reflect the reality faced by each Minnesota community.” In addition, Commerce Department commissioner Mike Rothman described the report in modest terms: “This data provides a baseline and is a first step in an ongoing process.”
But critics go further and say that the report’s speed claims are way off.
This issue is that the maps indicate that 94 percent of Minnesota households have access to broadband (as defined by 3 Mbps) and folks disagree with that assessment.
Geoff Daily wrote an article earlier this week on the National Broadband Maps ($300 Million And All I Got Was This Lousy Broadband Map). Some of his points are compelling and seem to reflect issues brought up by the Star Tribune. He remarked, “In terms of the data itself, it’s hard not to feel like it’s really incomplete and somewhat inaccurate.”
I don’t really disagree with either accusation on the accuracy. There has been concerns all along with the fact that Connect Minnesota gets its data from the providers – but so far I haven’t heard of a better, realistic way to do it. So for this year, I think we have the best maps we could realistically get and the maps are definitely accurate enough to highlight underserved areas.
Moving forward, I think it’s up to us to help make the maps better by testing the speeds ourselves and reporting in. From what I have seen, Connect Minnesota is very responsive when users have voiced specific issues with the maps.
Perhaps the other issue is the perceived value of the statewide percentage of household availability. Looking at the maps that track household broadband availability by county gives a better picture of the issues in Minnesota. The Twin Cities (which includes a great percentage of households in the state) is covered 95-100 percent according the map (included here). Counties such as Cook, Aitkin, Mahnomen, Redwood, Lincoln, Pipestone and Rock are hovering around 40-60% coverage. That tells the story.
Communities have been able to pick up that story, learn from it and are using it to urge action. Redwood County is one example. In that way, Connect Minnesota has done a great job. Their maps are getting people talking about broadband, understanding the implications of broadband and reacting to improve their standing. That’s valuable.
One caveat is that in Minnesota, these maps should be used to track our progress towards our goal of ubiquity. I think the maps do provide a disservice if there’s a chance that someone is going to say that 94 percent is good enough.