Itasca County big improvements recent and upcoming will set them up with fast broadband for the future

itascaIn 2014, Itasca’s broadband coverage was 55 percent. Now it is 79 percent for access to 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 76 percentage to 100/20. They are building broadband for the long haul they just need to expand coverage. They are making great strides with Paul Bunyan Communications, a local cooperative provider based in Bemidji that has been expanding their GigaZone access throughout the region.

Itasca County will get help with broadband coverage with a Minnesota Broadband grant; Paul Bunyan Communications to begin expansion construction this spring that will pass a minimum of 1,030 locations in portions of Arbo Township, Balsam Township, Lawrence Township, and Nashwauk Township in Itasca County, portions of Straight River Township in Hubbard County, and portions of Osage Township and Green Valley Township in Becker County.  The project is estimated to cost $3.9 million, with Paul Bunyan Communications contributing $2.16 million, $1.74 million from the State of Minnesota Border to Border Grant, and Itasca County contributing up to $75,000 towards the Itasca County portion of the project.

Itasca is the home county of the Blandin Foundation. They have been part of broadband adoption efforts for many years. Most recently the Itasca County BBC initiative highlighted many of their efforts to get businesses online and using social media to promote themselves and the community. Connect Itasca has been working to build a better business case for broadband deployment in the area by using a tool that helps with market research and development.

Itasca County is also in line to receive $2,487,709 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 6,101 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 Itasca County ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 78.92
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 76.35


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 Itasca ranked:

DDI score of 43.24 out of 100.

More info:

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.

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