Chisago County Broadband 2014 Update: uneven access in the county

ChicagoFor the upcoming weeks I’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Chisago County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 44
  • Number of Households: 19,470
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 71%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 86.64%

Chisago is sort of in the B- grade range for broadband. The area around Center City, Taylors Falls and up 35 are served but a lot of land (in purple in the map above) is still underserved. Last year, Senator Schmit started his broadband listening tour in North Branch. The turnout was good and attendees were pretty frank about CAF funding and ability to serve areas with low population density. Below is an excerpt from the meeting

And notes from the same meeting that hits on the main problem – uneven access in the community…

People in town have pretty good access. Although there are pockets of underserved areas. Some of those underserved areas have shaky cell phone access too. As you venture outside the city limits the broadband service degrades. People living outside the city don’t have it and it makes a difference to their quality of life. There are providers outside the city. They know the service they provide isn’t enough but it was better than nothing.

Chisago County was recently named a Blandin Broadband Community. It sounds like business training and economic development will be cornerstones in their initiative…

The BBC program will benefit across the entire county for the residents, communities, and businesses. Chisago County anticipates the program benefiting job seekers and students as well as marketing the community and providing businesses with technology assistance for a competitive business climate.

Hopefully that will help build a demand that will be met to increase broadband in the county.

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), Digital Divide, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

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

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