Benton County Broadband 2014 Update: Wireless access make a big difference in coverage

bentonIn November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Benton County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 36.5
  • Number of Households: 15,079
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 63.38%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 92.79%

Often there isn’t a significant difference between percentages served based on inclusion of mobile access; mobile access makes a huge difference in Benton County. Without mobile access broadband reaches only 63 percent of the households; with it it’s 93 percent.

As a resident, I suspect that mobile access is a double-edged sword. Mobile access is better than nothing but on a practical basis, the data caps can get quite expensive, especially if you are using a mobile connection as a primary business or family connection.

Benton County was a MIRC community, which means they were participants in an ARRA-funded, Blandin Foundation-led broadband adoption program that began in 2010. You can learn all about the program in the video below, which is an archived webinar on the program:

The Office of Broadband Development received applications for broadband funding in late 2014. There are several potential projects that come from the Benton County area. Specifically CentyuryLink is looking to serve Foley/Benton County and Balkan Township – and others are looking to serve areas nearby. I’m sure funding from the OBD would help get those projects off the ground, but even if they aren’t funding it at least demonstrates an interest in improvement.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage…

How does Minnesota define broadband?

The 2015 broadband goal for Minnesota is ubiquitous access to speeds of 10-20 Mbps (down) and 5-10 Mbps (up). These numbers actually reflect 6-10 Mbps up because Minnesota goals are a little out of sync with standard federal measurements. Connect MN measured access with and without including mobile access as it is often considered a slightly different service, in part because of the data caps involved with wireless services. (Data caps can make wireless an expensive primary broadband connection – especially for a household.)

Learn how the other Minnesota counties rank.

How is Minnesota working to promote border to border broadband?

In 2014, the Legislature approved $20 million for broadband grants to support broadband expansion in Minnesota. You can find a list of applicants online. The hope is the broadband sector is that more funding will be made available in 2015.

This entry was posted in County Profiles (2015), MN, Policy, Research 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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