Carlton County: working for answers, recent feasibility indicates network is $70M


Currently 74 percent of Carlton County has access to broadband at speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up); however only 32 percent have access to speeds of 100/20, which in the Minnesota speed goal for 2026. They recognize they need a push to get up to speed.

Carlton County is part of a collaboration with neighboring counties (Carlton, Aitkin, Kanabec, Pine, Mille Laces) called the East Central Broadband Initiative. The region has been focused on getting better broadband for a number of years. In 2014, Carlton was named a Blandin Broadband community. They continue to work on efforts.

Recently they released a broadband feasibility study that outlines some of the issues…

Carlton County is in a challenging position. With its geographic proximity to the Duluth/Superior area, many businesses and residents find it hard to believe how drastically the level of speeds diminishes within such a short distance from these population centers.” Broadband is, relatively speaking, good along the Interstate 35 corridor and the associated urban areas. Outside the city limits, broadband service suffers in most of the rest of the county where there is a lower population density.

CenturyLink and Frontier cover the rural areas and are upgrading their services in some areas with state and federal funding. Existing phone lines provide the broadband access but limit the signal available to 10 MB download and 1 MB upload – not meeting the state goal.

Without a change in technology development, two options are open for broadband service in rural areas. 1) A total rebuild of broadband delivery to every household and business  in the county, urban and rural, would cost about $70 million, of which $40 million would come from federal and state grant funding. 2) A plan to connect all households and businesses in rural areas of the county would cost about $46 million, with a $30 million grant and $13 million organized locally.

Carlton is in line to receive $2,197,685 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 5,060 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 Carlton County ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 62.74
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 52.32


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 Carlton ranked:

DDI score of 41.99 out of 100.

More info:

  • There is a matrix of Minnesota broadband adoption projects; it includes projects from this area.
  • Districts: CD 8
    Senate: 11
    House: 11A

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!

This entry was posted in County Profiles 2017, 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s