Big Stone County Broadband 2014 Update: At 73% coverage but interest from providers to upgrade

Big StoneIn November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Big Stone County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 4.3
  • Number of Households: 2,293
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 72.37%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 72.37%

I have to admit that off the bat 73 percent coverage doesn’t sound too bad to me with a household density of 4.3 BUT looking at the map, there sure is a lot of unserved areas. (Red areas are unserved, purple are underserved and green is served.) So it seems to be that Big Stone must be caught in a situation where houses are served or not – no in between.

Big Stone is part of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC), which was a MIRC community – meaning they were one of 11 communities that received ARRA funding as part of a Blandin Foundation led effort to improve broadband adoption. So it’s a community that is ripe for broadband once the availability is increased. UMVRDC communities focused a lot of getting local businesses listed in online resources such as Google and social media channels.

Federated Telephone has applied for Minnesota Broadband Funds to serve 1072 homes in Big Stone that are currently unserved. If they receive funding, that will help Big Stone make the 2015 goal speeds. If they get FTTH to 1072 homes, they will be in very good shape. Federated also served Lac qui Parle County, just south of Big Stone so it’s conceivable that even if they don’t get the Broadband Funds, they may consider entering the area in the near future. (I don’t know anything but it just seems possible.)

If that doesn’t work out (and maybe even if it does) it looks like CenturyLink is also interested in expanding services in Big Stone. It looks like they applied for Connect America Funds in late 2013. In July 2013, Mediacom has also talked about upgrading service in parts of Big Stone County (Clinton ad Graceville)…

The higher-speed Internet service, Ultra 105, uses the technology known as DOCSIS 3.0 to provide Internet users with download speeds of up to 105 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 10 Mbps.

The October 2013 maps show Big Stone at 53.71 percent coverage, which means a 20 point increase in the last year.  So perhaps these upgrades are already reflected in the maps – but it’s positive to see a lot of interest in the area. The proximity to North Dakota might be benefiting them!

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 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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