Blandin Broadband eNews April 2013

BBC MapMinnesota Broadband Adoption up Six Percent; FTTH not as good

Connect Minnesota surveys show that broadband adoption in Minnesota is increasing; 78 percent of households subscribe to broadband service, up from 72 percent in 2011. Six percent may not sound like a lot, but in a steady market and a demographic that many have suggested will be difficult to coerce into adopting, it’s a welcome trend. In terms of high end access, research from Broadband Communities Magazine indicates that 2-3 percent of Minnesota has access to fiber. That compares with 10 percent in South Dakota, 22 percent in North Dakota and a national average of 8 percent.

Wired vs Wireless

A recent survey by Connect Minnesota indicates that 51 percent of adults in Minnesota use the Internet on their cell phones or subscribe to mobile wireless service for a laptop or tablet computer; that percentage is up from 39 percent last year. A recent Pew Internet and American Life report promotes the growing use of smartphones by teens; 78 percent of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half of those own smartphones. That translates into 37 percent of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23 percent in 2011. A recent survey in Telecompetitor indicates that broadband users in the UK would give up mobility and video before losing their wired connection. Other recent examples indicate that mobile works well for consumer activity, but perhaps less well for more engaged activities.

Telecommuting is Strong in Minnesota

Last month, telecommuting took a hit when both Best Buy and Yahoo decided to rein in telecommuting in their own businesses. A host of Minnesota locals have come to defend telecommuting, including Minnesota Telecom Alliance, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Fergus Falls Journal.

Libraries and Broadband

On March 21st, Connect2Compete launched EveryoneOn, a 3-year national public service campaign to promote digital literacy. The key message of the campaign is to encourage limited or non-Internet users to learn how to do “one thing better online”. Libraries have jumped on the opportunity making programs and materials available to everyone. Tangentially, a library in Providence has begun to offer mobile hotspots for check-out, so patrons can try broadband at home.

Broadband Means Better Economy in Rural Areas

The National Agricultural & Rural Development Policy Center released a report that indicates that low levels of adoption, providers and broadband availability were associated with lower median household income, higher levels of poverty and decreased numbers of firms and total employment.

Update on Policy Broadband-Related Bills

There have been some interesting broadband discussions at the state and national levels. The TISP Forum early in the month included a lively discussion on policy. On a national level, the USDA is looking at changing the definition of rural, which may have an impact on future broadband funding and incentives. Several specific bills have come up as well:

  • Minnesota Telecommunications Regulations Bills (HF 985/SF 584) – The role of the state PUC is expected to diminish considerably by 2019 due to decisions made by the FCC; this bill sets out to transition to that change. The Minnesota Telecom Alliance recently hosted a conversation with FCC Commissioner Clyburn, which provided some insights into the FCC’s plans.
  • Minnesota Office of Broadband Development Bills (HF1255 / SF1128) – The bill would establish and fund an Office of Broadband Development to help coordinate broadband efforts in the state and create tools to help providers anticipate opportunities through practices such as Dig Once.
  • Minnesota E911 fee and the Telecommunication Access Minnesota fee (HF389/SF367) – The bill would extend the E911 fee and the Telecommunication Access Minnesota fee to prepaid wireless customers to establish a broadband development grant program.
  • The US Senate approved a bipartisan amendment introduced by Senator Al Franken to promote investment in broadband infrastructure for rural areas. The amendment does not indicate action, but an interest in broadband.
  • In March, Senator Amy Klobuchar said she would introduce a bill that would allow for cell phone unlocking.

Local Broadband News

Following Comcast’s recent rate hikes, the mayor of Eagan, MN, writes lawmakers and regulators asking for the right to rein in what the city’s residents pay for cable.

Ely bans social media. Timing is key on this story posted on April 1.

Itasca County
Through MIRC funding, KOOTASCA Community Action brought computers and broadband connectivity to local Native American student families. They partnered with PCs for People and Paul Bunyan, the local broadband provider to make it happen. The free trial ended in January yet only 4 households have dropped their Internet service from Paul Bunyan Communications, which means an 84 percent retention rate.

The Kanebec Times picks up the story on the five county (Pine, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Carlton and Aitkin) initiative to promote and expand broadband in the area.

A frustrated customer in the same area expresses frustration with incumbent providers who aren’t interested in expanding or upgrading their networks:

Lac qui Parle County 
LqP’s Computer Commuter is featured on KARE 11 as Minnesota’s only portal to the information highway that drives into town on one.

Lake County The Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee request information regarding Lake County’s (ARRA) BIP program funding.

Minneapolis is making a concerted effort to promote digital literacy over the next year. Their efforts started with a series of events on March 21.

Minneapolis Good Samaritan finds smartphone is a key to accessing information and getting things done.

Google is reportedly testing a one-day product delivery service; Target is one of the merchants involved.

Gov Tech announces their 2013 Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers list. Two Minnesotans on the list: Carolyn Parnell and Massoud Amin.

Northern Minnesota
Mediacom Communications doubles the speeds of its broadband Internet service throughout its Northern Minnesota territory, including some communities in Carlton, Itasca, Lake, Pine and St Louis Counties.


April 10: Technology and Communications Conference (Minneapolis)

April 11-13: NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Conference (Minneapolis)

April 23: Minnesota Broadband Task Force (Twin Cities)

April 30: MHTA Spring Conference (Minneapolis)

June 1-2: Civic Hack Day (various locations TBA)

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

Bill_ColemanStirring the Pot

A regional broadband event, a draft feasibility report and an email from a newly satisfied broadband consumer have me thinking about the path to achieving the Minnesota broadband goal.

Congratulations to the organizers of the East Central Broadband Summit.  With 80 attendees and the active participation of many broadband providers, it was an exciting day of active conversation.  The organizers are now following up on at least a couple of the priorities identified at the event and it will be interesting to see if the conversations begun at the Summit can lead to broadband solutions – wired, wireless or hybrid – in these five underserved communities.

Redwood County is now reviewing the feasibility study partially funded through the Blandin Foundation Robust Broadband Networks Feasibility Fund program.  The study examines a couple of options for bringing Redwood County up to the state broadband standard.  The study is unique in its significant assumption about the role of the area incumbent providers.  Again, it will be interesting to see if study and discussion can lead to a broadband solution.

The email that I received was from a health professional who had contacted me more than a year ago about her frustration with a lack of broadband at her home in northeastern Minnesota.  Thanks to the entrepreneurial folks at Laurentian Wireless, her situation has greatly improved.

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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