Pennington County Broadband Profile: Two recent State grants should help keep up ranking

penningtonIn 2014, 92 percent of Pennington County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Coverage is about the same today for broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) unfortunately access for the 2026 speed goals of 100/20 are not being met – less than 10 percent of the county has access that fast.

Help is on the way. Pennington is in line to benefit from two Border to Border grants this year..

  • CenturyLink, Thief River Middle Mile – $1.32 million. The project will serve 491 unserved households and 118 unserved businesses in an area from Thief River to Roseau. CenturyLink will provide improved services that will encourage business development and increase access to education and health care in the region. The total eligible project cost is $2.65 million, with $1.3 million local match. [Roseau and Pennington Counties]
  • Garden Valley Telephone Co., Rural Thief River Falls East – $2.03 million. The project will serve 330 unserved households, 23 unserved businesses and 2 community anchor institutions in rural Thief River Falls. Garden Valley Telephone will upgrade broadband services that will improve economic and community vitality in the region. The total eligible project cost is $4.2 million, with a $2.2 million local match. [Pennington County]

Back in 2014, we got a unique look into the expense of serving an area like Pennington…

A provider in metropolitan Hennepin County currently pays about $.50 per Megabit to connect to the Internet backbone; the average cost of three providers in rural Pennington County is $15.33 per Megabit to connect to the Internet backbone.

Making the situation more challenging for all providers, there is a great discrepancy in the number of potential customers in Hennepin County versus Pennington County; population density in Hennepin County is 2,081.7/sq. mi and in Pennington County it is 22.6/sq. mi. Median income (2009-2013) also differs: in Hennepin County it is $64,403 and in Pennington County it’s $45,633. For these reasons and more, the business case for offering broadband in Pennington County Falls is far more challenging than in Hennepin County.

Pennington County is in line to receive $553,443 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 1005 locations. 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. Numbers:

The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 91.78
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 9.63


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 they ranked:

DDI score of 38.24 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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