Mower County Broadband 2014 Update: maybe Austin can lead the way

mowerI’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 Mower County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 22.2
  • Number of Households: 10,166
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 90.22%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 90.87

Mower County is one of those counties that looks like it’s in good shape; and it is unless you are one of the 9 percent. Austin, the county seat, is a community that been focused on broadband for a while. They made a serious bid to become a Google Fiber community back in 2010. Before that they were looking at municipal wireless hotspots.

More recently they stay focused on fiber. Last summer they released their community vision based on a fiber feasibility study they commissioned…

Vision 2020 released the results of a feasibility study Friday which showed Austin could support a fiber Internet service. According to the study, the high-speed broadband Internet service could be built for about $35 million and could be run by all kinds of organizations, from public utilities to a private co-op.

Under the Gig Austin plan, all of the Austin Public Schools district could access fiber Internet. Laura Helle, director of vision creation at Vision 2020, said the committee believed rural properties near the city that were still part of the district would need access as some providers don’t cover those areas.

They just need to find a way to broaden their view to include the whole 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 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 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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