Chisago County Broadband Summit: Surveys results and stories of a community that wants more

Yesterday I attended the Chisago County Broadband Summit. They unveiled results of their community broadband survey, heard from several politicians, the providers, Office of Broadband and had several broadband myths debunks. The meeting was very well attended – unfortunately because folks are frustrated and want better. I spoke to one gentleman who said his wife travels 50 miles (each way!) to work; he traveled at least 30 himself. Both work for places that allow telecommuting but with a connection advertised at 2 Mbps down that doesn’t work – especially since their work requires a virtual private network (VPN). They are looking forward to an upgrade to 12 Mbps but recognize that while much better than what they have, it may not be enough.

It was an interesting meeting. I shared earlier what I found to be a powerful story from the Mayor of North Branch on how broadband allowed her to get degrees online and change her life. The day was a series of stories an info. Read on for full notes…

Welcome from Nancy Hoffman

When I first started at Chisago County, I took the temperature of business broadband – retail couldn’t make sales without broadband to run credit cards. Manufacturer with 40 employees – his largest bill is his broadband bill. We need to fix that. Manufacturer relocated to Chisago only to find inadequate broadband. (Luckily we could fix that and they stayed.)

Thanks to the Blandin Foundation for leadership in the state and local support. Thanks to local support and BBC board members.

Chisago County “Got Internet” Survey

876 respondents out of 54,000 in the county – here are some of the results:

  • 35% said they would telecommute with better broadband
  • 45% would use broadband for student success
  • 86% would use broadband for web surfing and social media
  • 31% would open a business with better broadband
  • 94% would subscribe to better service if it were available

Survey write-in comments:

  • We only have access to dialup so we get email via text.
  • I offered to pay part of the broadband deployment/upgrade to my house. Provider says no.
  • My son says he will never move back to Chisago County from college – not with the current broadband.
  • I am a realtor – people do not buy in this area because the broadband is not sufficient.
  • Internet at the library rocks!

Broadband at Federal Level

Senators Franken and Klobuchar sent videos supporting the efforts in Chisago County.

Senator Nolan

Introduces Rural Broadband Caucus – trying to get urban (and other) colleagues to understand the broadband blight in rural areas. We have nice bipartisan support. There is money for broadband – but it’s scattered. We need to consolidate that funding.

Also introduced rural broadband funding act.

Where will funding come from? We need $50 billion to connect rural America. But decisions that need to be made. Some are easier than others. We need to look at where US money is going. Rethink money that’s currently going to foreign efforts that lead to war

Office of Broadband Development – Jane Leonard

It takes the fearless of the Vikings to get broadband.

  1. What does the OBD do?
  2. Gather info and data to inform policy.
  3. Execute programs

Support communities, providers and institutions.

Legislative action – $35 million for next round of grants – $5 for underserved areas (less than 100/20 Mbps) – $500,000 for low income areas – prevailing age no longer applied to last mile deployment

It takes more than market forces to deploy broadband in rural areas. We’re here to help that happen.

A meeting on the upcoming round of grants is tentatively planned for June 23.

Broadband Myths and Misconceptions – JoAnne Johnson

Myth: Everything’s going wireless?


  • The whole wireless issue is a boondoggle.
  • Less than 1% of your cell call goes through the air – it goes through fiber.
  • Spectrum is a finite resource. We could run out.
  • 5G has distance limitations.
  • As wireless gets more traffic it gets slower per interaction.
  • Datacaps

Wireless is part of the answer – but it’s not *the* solution in rural areas. We’ll want to get fiber as far as we can go. For the far reaches, wireline is still the way to go.

Gigabit can travel 35 miles on fiber versus 300 feet on copper.

Minnesota has a lot of old copper and as it gets replaced it will get upgraded to fiber.

Myth: No one really needs a gig


  • It’s not the speed, it’s the size of the pipe. With more pipe I can push (up and down) more content.
  • Growth of the Internet is 45% a year.

Myth: CAF 2 will take care of this.


  • All of the providers in MN – combined – don’t have the borrowing capacity required to deploy broadband throughout the state.

Chisago County Broadband Provider Panel

  • CenturyLInk
  • Frontier
  • Genesis
  • Nextera

CAF 2 @centurylink gets $54 million for 6 years to serve 114,000 households

We take fiber deeper into communities – covert to copper – then go copper to homes for 10/1 minimum

“There just isn’t enough capital for @centurylink to build everywhere. But we will partner with government to get funding.”

How far into the future to you plan or design for:

  • Frontier 1-3 for short term – long term is up to 20 years
  • Centurylink – CAF is 6 years but we have to do the backbone first because it’s so massive – but we also have 15 year planning on
  • Nextera – always looking to expand. Eliminating trenching with wireless does make for a cheaper alternative.

Average cost per mile for fiber ($5-8 per foot) versus copper. Copper is much more expensive – but it’s already installed.

What are you doing to improve reliability?

  • Distance away from D-slam is an issue.
  • CenturyLInk has built out to 30,000 towers

Closing Remarks – from Bernadine Joselyn

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, Conferences, 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.

2 thoughts on “Chisago County Broadband Summit: Surveys results and stories of a community that wants more

  1. My service on Jewel Lane in Lent Township is nearly non-existent! Frontier installed upgrades about 7/10 mile from us, but failed to go “the extra mile”. We realize now that Frontier has no plan to upgrade in our area, just more promises!

  2. I am sorry to hear that! The MN Broadband Coalition is hosting a meeting with legislators next week to talk to them about the areas of need in Minnesota. You are welcome to send a note on how you feel. We are collecting pictures of people holding signs to put faces to the issues. You can learn more here:

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