St Cloud Assesses Broadband Access in Stearns County

Over the weekend, the St Cloud Times ran an article that took a deep dive into broadband access in Stearns County. They spoke to providers, business owners and residents. They provide a nice primer on current broadband terms (HD, LTE, Mbps…) and a look at what the local providers are interested in doing in the future. I’ll just excerpt portions talking about the providers in the area…

In May, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill establishing a $20 million fund to help expand broadband access across the state.

One company that has applied for some of that funding is Midcontinent Communications.

To this point, Midcontinent has built its entire network with “100 percent private risk capital,” said Tom Simmons, senior VP of public policy.

Simmons spoke of concern with companies using public funds to overbuild areas that do have access. But he expressed support for state and federal subsidies in areas where it is not economically feasible to bring broadband connections….

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.



This entry was posted in MN, Vendors 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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