Hennepin County Broadband 2014 Update: almost (but not quite!) ubiquitous coverage

hennepinFor 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 Hennepin County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 784.3
  • Number of Households: 475,931
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 98.53%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 100%

I think it is safe to say that there is a market case for broadband in most of Hennepin County and that is why their coverage is so good. (Part of Minneapolis can get 10 Gig access!) But broadband availability has not always been what residents have wanted. There have been government and community efforts in Hennepin to encourage better broadband. Back in the day the City of Minneapolis worked with US Internet to provide wireless service through the City. (Coincidentally US Internet also the provider now offering 10 Gig in some parts of the city.) And there were efforts around Minnetonka to improve service for a while too (around 2011). So even urban areas have their challenges for access. (Affordability and adoption are also issues – but not necessarily part of these profiles.)

I must admit I’m much less interested in urban counties than rural counties so I look at these results from a rural eye. For example, I am surprised to see that Hennepin County does not have ubiquitous coverage – unless you include wireless service. It raises the question – is ubiquitous coverage possible? Hennepin County has nearly 800 homes per square mile and they can’t make the numbers work. Compare that to Lake of the Woods County with one person per square mile. (And 47% broadband coverage.) How can we make it happen in even area with much lower population density?

It’s difficult to see the coverage available with the map; upon first glance there’s lot of blue, which indicates unserved areas but also represents lakes. But it is clear to see that farther West you go the more purple (DSL) and pink (cable) you see. It really is Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs that are very well served.

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 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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