Benton County has been actively seeking to improve broadband for many years. They were part of the ARRA-funded, Blandin-led Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities project; it sought to increase broadband adoption. In 2015, CenturyLink was awarded $382,883 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 162 unserved households in Foley, Benton County and Balkan Township (near Chisholm in St. Louis County).
When I looked at Counties in 2015, Benton was one of the counties where there was a big discrepancy between wired and wireless access. Without including mobile access, broadband reached only 63 percent of the households; with wireless it has 93 percent coverage. (Definition of broadband was slower in 2015.)
As I said then, as a resident, I suspect that mobile access is a double-edged sword. Mobile access is better than nothing but on a practical basis, the data caps can get quite expensive, especially if you are using a mobile connection as a primary business or family connection. And wireless access does not stand them in good stand preparing for 100/20 (Mbps down/up) access since wireless doesn’t meet those speeds.
Another double edged sword is CAF 2 funding. Benton County is slated to receive $730,856 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 1,516 locations. Unfortunately CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.
The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how Beltrami ranked:
- Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 87.61
- Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 14.28
Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how Beltrami ranked:
DDI score of 31.05 out of 100. So Benton is in a better position than the Minnesota average.
- Find more articles on broadband in Benton County. (http://tinyurl.com/zuk3zeg)
- There is a matrix of Minnesota broadband adoption projects; it includes projects from this area.
- Districts: CD 6
Senate: 13, 14, 15
House: 13B, 14B, 15B
I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!