Blandin Broadband e-News April 2015: County updates and Internet of Things

BBC MapEach month e-News provides updates from the Blandin on Broadband blog, Minnesota broadband news and event alerts to keep you abreast of the progress being made to increase the use of broadband based technologies to help our communities, residents and institutions to be more productive, efficient and competitive.

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News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

State Money for Broadband

With a statewide surplus, the legislature is looking at funding for broadband. The Coalition for Greater Minnesota Cities suggests $100 million, at least. The Senate includes $100 million, and the House started at $50 million and has since upped broadband investments to $130 million. Dayton has $30 million in his budget proposal. The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has also been vocal about the importance of state investment.

Managed Traffic Could save Minnesotans $1M in Fuel

Minnesotans spend 63 hours a year in traffic. Managed traffic would help. It would be costly to deploy but the investment could save Minnesotans $1 million in fuel expenses. Broadband providers learn about other ways the Internet of Things could impact their services and market at the MTA Spring Conference.

MN Broadband Task Force Looks at Use of Broadband

The Internet of Things was also a big topic at the March Broadband Task Force meeting. They learned about the role of broadband in monitoring big things like bridges and cars. There will not be a Task Force meeting in April as the Governor is expected to announce new Task Force members soon.

Minnesota Holding at Midrange Broadband Ranking

The latest Akamai reports are in (for Q4 2015). Minnesota does not rank in the top 10. Here is where we rank:

  • Average connection speed: #22
  • Average Peak connection speed: #23
  • High broadband (>10 Mbps): #27
  • Broadband (>4 Mbps): #27
  • 4K Readiness (>15 Mbps): #28

Urban/Rural/Tribal Broadband Divide

The latest data finds that only 55 percent of those in rural communities, and 32 percent of tribal lands have access to broadband at 25 mbps compared with 94 percent of urban areas. (In Minnesota, we have access in 98 percent of urban areas; 53 percent of rural areas; and 42 percent of tribal areas. While some look to wireless to fill the gaps, a recent report indicates that wireless is a complement, not replacement for wireline access.

Twin Cities Broadband Market is Booming

While rural towns are working on attracting providers or upgrades to their area, the Twin Cities is experiencing a surge of attention from providers. CenturyLink seems to be pulling fiber through residential St Paul and asking about offering cable in Minneapolis. Comcast may be handing off their share of the market to GreatLand. US Internet is looking to compete with big providers by expanding and upgrading broadband in the Twin Cities.

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Big Stone County

Big Stone Country received funding from the Blandin Foundation to provide mobile functionality to their GIS application

Dakota County

Dakota County is bringing their Dakota County Broadband Initiative to various communities to talk about promoting better residential access to broadband via County built networks

Hubbard County

Paul Bunyan is bringing Gig access to parts of Hubbard County.

Iron Range

Iron Ranger Aaron Brown compares Iron Range to a town in Mississippi that has acquired a Gig for their forward-thinking residents

Kittson, Marshall & Roseau Counties

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $425,000 to Wikstrom Telephone to bring FTTH access to Kittson, Marshall & Roseau Counties.

Kittson County broadband coverage is 43 percent

Koochiching County

Koochiching County broadband coverage is 74 percent

Lac qui Parle County

LqP County broadband coverage is 99 percent

Lake County

Lake County broadband coverage is 77 percent

Lake of the Woods County

Lake of the Woods County broadband coverage is 47 percent

Le Sueur County

Le Sueur County wireline broadband coverage is 88 percent

Lincoln County

Lincoln County broadband coverage is 41 percent

Lyon County

Lyon County broadband coverage is 4 percent

McLeod County

Mcleod County broadband coverage is 99 percent

Mahnomen County

Mahnomen County broadband coverage is 55 percent

Mille Lacs County

Mille Lacs County wireline broadband coverage is 44 percent

Morrison County

Morrison County broadband coverage is 38 percent

Ramsey County

St. Paul will pay Comcast more than $2 million to upgrade the data network connecting more than 100 public buildings to high-speed fiber optic cable.

Red Wing

Red Wing successfully hosted their second annual Rural Hackfest – the Red Hot Hack

Renville & Sibley Counties

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $1 million to R-S Fiber Cooperative to bring FTTH to 62 unserved and 536 underserved locations in Sibley and Renville Counties

Rock County

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $5 million to Rock County Broadband Alliance to deploy FTTH to approximately 1,085 underserved and 265 unserved locations in Rock County

Roseau County

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $261,575 to Sjoberg Cable improve broadband to 107 unserved and 49 underserved locations in Roseau County

Sherburne County

The Office of Broadband Development awarded $151,934 to Palmer Wireless to deploy 3.4 miles of fiber passing 21 underserved businesses in the Becker Industrial Park (city of Becker) as well as to 12 vacant city-owned lots covering 70 acres in Sherburne County.

St Cloud

St Cloud and Annandale consider their options with municipal network barriers lowering


Pope County approved a payment of up to $3,000 to bring a fiber optic line to the Massman Automation building in Villard

Events & Opportunities:

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Stirring the PotBill_Coleman

I am faced with two contradictory observations about broadband right now.  First, the intensity of desire for and the impatience for improvement of broadband has never been higher if our Blandin Broadband Communities are representative of rural Minnesota.

Infrastructure and service discussions are dominating our recently completed vision and project development meetings.  Over the years, I have told countless communities that the lack of high-speed broadband was going to be a significant detriment to their community’s economic competitiveness and quality of life.  That day is here.

Community leaders now tell me how the lack of quality broadband is having negative effects on business recruitment efforts and business retention programs.  School superintendents talk of the haves and have-nots of connected students and that impact on homework and curriculum.  Throughout the community, negative impacts are felt. Interest in Blandin Foundation’s Robust Network Feasibility Fund is stronger than ever with many communities gearing up to examine market, costs, business models and finance in preparation for an expected round two of DEED broadband grants.

That contrasts with my observation that broadband is not the hot topic at the Capitol that it was last session.  Last year, it seemed that the Senator Schmit tour, the task force recommendation for $100 million combined with the excitement for the creation of the Office of Broadband that the broadband topic was near the top of everyone’s priority list. That enthusiasm now seems to be a bit on auto-pilot. Although I am not actively engaged in the nitty-gritty of the legislative session, I do know that the rewards go to those who show up and make their voices heard.  With many new legislators, broadband backers must reach out and make sure that your own legislators know what a priority broadband is for your community.

My advice – Do not just expect that DEED’s broadband grant fund will be renewed or increased to higher levels of spending. Broadband is competing with more traditional uses of state dollars with very organized constituencies – roads and bridges, human services, bike paths, k12 and higher education – the list is long and the interest groups well practiced in the legislative arts.  Turn your lone voice into a strong and clear community broadband voice.

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN 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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