More unflattering speed stats for MN broadband

Earlier this week I noted that Minnesota was bumped from the Akamai broadband speed rankings. Today I find out that according to Pando Networks, the entire Midwest is a slow zone for downloads. Pando is a company that accelerates content delivery, increases download completion rates and provides detailed performance data. So their interest here is commercial. (I like to know someone’s motivation going into research.) Between January and June 2011, they tracked downloads by as many as 4 million users across the US. They tracked completion rate and speed. Minnesota fares better in completion than speed, which maybe means we’re too patient for our own good. Our average completion is 86 percent; our average speed is 498 Kilobytes Per Second.

Just to put 498 Kilobytes Per Second kbps (which is about 4 megabits per second) in perspective – the Minnesota Broadband goal is 10 to 20 Megabits per second download by 2015. (Just wanted to note the bytes versus bits difference.)

Here are some observations from Pando…

The most striking findings were the core differences between the average speeds on a state-by-state basis. The data indicates that the fastest state was Rhode Island at an average of 894 KBps, which was almost three times faster than the slowest, Idaho, which had a dismal 318KBps. Rhode Island and Idaho may stand out as the extremities, but the disparities they highlight reflect more expansive, regional trends. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region contained eight of the ten fastest states. With California, Oregon, and Washington in the top 15, the West coast was also a remarkably a speedy region. On the other hand, the rural Midwest and Mountain-West states of which Idaho is a member comprise nine of the ten slowest states. Middle America’s slow connectivity could be representative of its more widespread populations and a lower demand for high-speed data infrastructure.

The second part of Minnesota’s broadband goal is to be one of the top states in the nation for broadband speed. So while we could make the case that we’re half way there for the speed goal (at if we had ubiquitous speeds of 4 Mbps, which isn’t the case) but there’s no denying that we’re not making this top of the state rankings on this report – or Akamai.

 

Minnesota No Show on Akamai Reports

Akamai does a “State of the Internet” report every quarter. They just released Q1 2011. In January, we reported that Minnesota made some of Akamai’s Top 10 Rankings for Q4 2010. So, I was excited to see how we did this time around. Spoiler Alert – we don’t show up at all!!

The Akamai looks at:

  • Attack traffic (which countries are origins for the most attacks)
  • Internet and Broadband Adoption they report (a 5.2% increase globally in the number of unique IPv4 addresses connecting to Akamai’s network)
  • Mobile Connectivity (Average peak connection speeds on mobile providers around the world ranged from 22.7 Mbps to just over 1 Mbps.)

Here’s how the US ranked…

Areas you don’t want to rank:

  • Attack Traffic, Top Originating Countries/Regions – US comes in #2
  • Attack Traffic from Mobile Networks, Top Originating Countries/Regions – US is #7

Areas you do want to rank:

  • Unique IPv4 Addresses Seen By Akamai – US comes in #1
  • Average Measured Connection Speed by Country/Region – US comes in #14 (which means we don’t rank since the report really only looks at Top Ten)
  • Average Connection Speed, Top 100 Global Cities – US has 18 cities; top ranked is Riverside CA at #39; Fond Du Lac WI is #89
  • Average Peak Connection Speed by Country/Region – US is #13
  • Average Peak Connection Speed, Top Global Cities – US has 23 cities
  • High Broadband Connectivity, Fastest Countries/Regions – US is #12
  • Broadband Connectivity, Fast Countries/Regions – US is #32
  • Narrowband Connectivity, Slowest Countries/Regions – US is 28

There’s a whole section on the US – again here’s my take – not a sign of MN! I suppose the good news is that we didn’t make the slowest state list.

“Telehealth – can absorb future strain on rural health care systems”

UnitedHealth Group recently published a report on the state of rural health care today. The report includes suggestions for improvements. Here are the highlights from UnitedHealth’s press release…

Practical Roadmap toward 21st century rural health care for more than 50 million Americans

  • Projects an increase of around 5 million newly insured rural residents by 2019 – even as the number of physicians in rural America lags
  • Quality of care is rated lower in rural areas in 7 out of every 10 health care markets; both physicians and consumers in rural areas more likely to rate quality of care lower than those in urban and suburban markets
  • Innovations in care delivery – particularly telemedicine and telehealth – can absorb future strain on rural health care systems

This report is a definite call to action. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m in Ireland and they recently closed a rural hospital here – and I’ve been hearing about more healthcare (ambulance) closures. So I’m very interested in emphasizing the need for a call to action – before it’s too late. The UnitedHealth report and a related article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune outline some proposed steps in the right direction…

First we clearly need broadband for folks to access telemedicine. I am reminded of the Blandin Broadband Conference in 2009 when we heard from Eindhoven (in the Netherlands, which has won awards for the broadband plan and deployment). One of the points that they made was that broadband helped them serve their residents more cost efficiently – and telemedicine was once example. So while it may cost something to deploy broadband – they considered it a long term cost saving measure.

Second we need to increase rural practitioners. The Star Tribune had a nice Minnesota example of how one organization is doing that (And I’m hoping to write more soon on the “brain gain” studies by Ben Winchester that indicate that finding qualified candidates (experienced and educated) might be easier than one might think…

The report says Minnesota is doing a good job of serving rural residents relative to other parts of the country.

“This is old hat to us,” said Jim Boulger, a psychologist and professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Duluth campus, which has been training doctors and looking for ways to improve access to rural and American Indian communities since 1972. …

Boulger said about 47 percent of doctors who have trained at the medical school in Duluth now practice in communities with fewer than 20,000 people.

Third we need to change policies – both in terms of allowing healthcare providers to be reimbursed for telehealth efforts but also in terms certification. We saw that in Minnesota couple of years ago in Adrian Minnesota – where the town opened a telepharmacy and needed to work with the pharmacy the town over for certification.

Both the National Broadband Plan and the Minnesota Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force report mention telehealth as a benefit of broadband. UnitedHealth is calling out for a look at telehealth. I know the time may not be right for funding of any sort – but maybe this is an investment we have to consider.

Construction begins on the Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project

It really is construction season in Minnesota – especially now that some of the ARRA-funded projects are coming to fruition. Monday we reported on construction in southern Minnesota, today it’s northern Minnesota. CivSource reports

Work begins today [July 26] on a new broadband network in Minnesota designed to connect anchor institutions like public offices, schools and libraries. The Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project is a $24 million broadband network that will provide greater access throughout the state. Enventis, a subsidiary of HickoryTech, will be managing the build out. The project will extend a middle-mile network to anchor institutions and provide public offices and agencies with a high capacity network.

Eventis started the working on the network in July in Superior, Wisconsin and will extend fiber over nearly 430 miles throughout northern Minnesota. Along with anchor institutions and public offices residents of the area will have the opportunity to subscribe to broadband access.

We wrote a little more about the Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project when they received funding

Enventis Telecom – This approximately $16.8 million award, with more than $7.2 million in matching contributions, will allow Enventis Telecom to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in Minnesota. The project plans to directly connect 70 community institutions to broadband. As many as 350,400 people stand to benefit as do 28,000 businesses. Enventis estimates that the project will create more than 250 jobs.

I’ve been paying more attention to that jobs factor lately. I’ll be eager to see how many jobs are created.

Minnesota Associations Comment on FCC Broadband

The League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), the Suburban Rate Authority (SRA), and the Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators (MACTA) have jointly submitted comments the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI): Acceleration of Broadband Deployment: Expanding the Reach and Reducing the Cost of Broadband Deployment by Improving Policies Regarding Public Rights of Way and Wireless. The NOI is looking for comments on local governments’ rights of way management and compensation practices and policies.

The National Broadband Plan introduces the idea of big changes in policy with an effort to increase deployment (and adoption). I suspect the comments would be interesting to read because there are so many approaches to deployment. The devil is really in the detail. The LMC, SRA and MACTA have really focused on Rights of Way…

These comments respond to the main NOI topic areas by explaining ROW and facility management practices in Minnesota and describing how such practices effectively provide access to communications providers while protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. The regulatory framework for use of city, town and county ROWs in Minnesota is principally governed by Minnesota Statue, Section 237.162 and 237.163 and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) Rules. These statues and rules draw from the long history in the US and Minnesota regarding the common law of city police power.

They go on to detail the policy in Minnesota; it’s a great primer (or a reminder). They strive to make the case that the FCC should consider the experience and success of state policymakers when moving forward with federal policies…

The LMC, SRA and MACTA do not believe that Minnesota Statutes, rules or local ordinances have discouraged or created barriers to broadband deployment. Minnesota cities welcome and desire broadband deployment, and our policies allow us to work with any company willing to provide service. We believe our policies have helped to avoid problems and delays in broadband deployment.

We urge the Commission to conclude that ROW and facility management and charges are not impeding broadband deployment. There are concrete reasons to believe that additional federal regulations would prove costly and disruptive to our communities. There is simply no need for such additional regulation.

ComcastInternet Essentials – Reduced Broadband for Families with Children in the National School Lunch Program

Thanks to Bill Coleman for sending me the details on the Comcast deal. I wasn’t able to find a map of Comcast’s coverage in Minnesota, but I was able to find a web site where you could plug in your address and see if you qualify. I think the coverage with be Twin Cities heavy. I’ve seen a few discussions of this deal on various community/nonprofit email lists. Folks were asking if anyone had heard of any hiccups in the systems for the families – but so far I’ve heard nothing. I think it’s another great example of the providers stepping up to help broaden adoption.

COMCAST UNVEILS THE MOST AMBITIOUS AND COMPREHENSIVE BROADBAND ADOPTION EXPERIMENT WITHIN ITS COMMUNITIES

Internet Essentials Provides Low-Cost Internet Service, Affordable Computers and
Digital Literacy Training to Families with Children in the National School Lunch Program

Recently, Comcast launched a program it calls “Internet Essentials”, an ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption experiment. It’s the first program to address three of the primary barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified – 1) a lack of understanding of how the Internet is relevant and useful; 2) the cost of a home computer, and 3) the cost of the Internet service. Available this fall to low-income families with children who are eligible to receive free lunches under the National School Lunch Program, the goal of Internet Essentials is to help close the digital divide and ensure more Americans benefit from all the Internet has to offer.

Internet EssentialsSM from Comcast is one of the first programs of its type to directly confront the digital divide by providing affordable access to quality home Internet service, a discount-priced computer and Internet training to families that have at least one child who receives free lunches through the National School Lunch Program. Internet Essentials will be available in the 2011 “Back to School” season.

For $9.95 per month, participating families receive:

  • XFINITY Internet Economy Service (currently up to 1.5 Mbps download)
  • Option to purchase a computer for under $150
  • Access to online, in print and classroom digital literacy training

A household is eligible to participate in Internet Essentials if it:

  • Is located where Comcast offers Internet service
  • Has at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program
  • Has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days, and
  • Does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment

Internet Essentials can help students, families and the community in several ways:

  • It will provide low-income students with access to the Internet and all it has to offer at home;
  • Enable teachers to use online resources and tools to expand the flow of information and personalize learning opportunities for students;
  • And, allow parents to become more engaged with their children’s education.

We need everyone’s help to reach those who will benefit from Internet Essentials. For more information and to print or order fliers and brochures to help promote this new program at no charge, please visit www.internetessentials.com.

SMBG Groundbreaking in Lakefield

I want to thank John Shepard for sending notes and photos from the grondbreaking in Lakefield, MN last Friday. The event is part of Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group’s (SMBG) ARRA-funded effort to deploy fiber to eight communities ((Jackson, Lakefield, Windom, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake and Okabena) that will then be able to connect up with Windomnet. SMBG recently revealed their pricing for the area.

It looks like the event had remote support from Senators Franken and Klobuchar. Franken sent a letter and Klobuchar phoned her comments saying, “It’s not about one town, it’s about the whole region.” The economic development potential of the new infrastructure was noted, “Once this is up and running the impact will be huge… We want jobs going to Okabena, not India.”

You can get more details in the Worthington Daily Globe.