Stearns County Broadband Profile: 87 percent access to 25/3; 38 percent access to 100/20 but grants will help

stearnsIn 2014, 92 percent of Stearns County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 87 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 38 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

They are going the wrong direction but State grants will help.

In 2015, the St Cloud Times took a good look at broadband in Stearns County, outing services offered by the local providers. It is informative to look at the range (remember this is from 2015!)…

In the middle of 2014, Midcontinent doubled connection speeds for its customers, partly as a test, Simmons said. Channel-bonding technology allowed the company to change the 30 Mbps service most customers received to 60 Mbps, 50 to 100, and so on.

With a $75 million investment, the company is going to keep increasing speeds. Its Gigabit Initiative will bring 1 Gbps connections to all business and home consumers in the Upper Midwest by sometime in 2017, Simmons said.

Midcontinent uses hybrid fiber-coaxial technology to deliver Internet service.

CenturyLink also uses fiber to deliver service to residential areas and DSL in the home, according to Rachel Woodman, market development manager. The company has almost entirely abandoned copper in favor of fiber, a technology experiencing a CenturyLink “build-up” in the St. Cloud area. Woodman said the majority of Central Minnesota customers have connections of up to 40 Mbps available.

Charter Communications connects customers to the Internet through its coaxial cable lines and in-home modems.

Paul Bunyan Communications announced in late summer it has started construction on a fiber network in the Bemidji area that will bring connections with speeds up to 1 Gbps to customers. Some locations will receive the service this year, with the entire 5,000-square-mile service area being covered in coming years.

Some area companies, such as Skynet Broadband Inc. and CitEscape High Speed Internet, both based in St. Cloud, offer fixed wireless connections, the speeds of which are increasing along with in-ground technologies.

John Townsend, sales and marketing director for SkyNet, said starting now in January, the new SkyNet tower in Waite Park will connect users through a synchronized network that will “blast” signals to and from an exact point located by GPS. …

CitEscape offers residential access with download speeds of 1.5 to 10 Mbps, according to Laura Kangas. She and her husband Albert own and operate Palmer Wireless, the company that put Wi-Fi capabilities on buses in Becker, and they purchased CitEscape this fall.

She said one advantage her company’s wireless service has over mobile broadband through cellular networks or satellites is unlimited data. “Ten gigabytes doesn’t go too far anymore,” she said.

TDS Telecom offers Internet access, management and voice-related services to business customers in St. Cloud and residential users in the surrounding area.

Nextera Communications services businesses in Central Minnesota primarily with a combination of T-1 lines, according to President Greg Arvig, whose relation to the service provider that shares his name is through blood, not business.

Connections range from about 1 Mbps to a couple hundred, he said, with Nextera tailoring speeds to each application.

In 2015, a small portion of Stearns County benefitted from a Border to Border grant

Arvig (Mainstreet Communications LLC), Sauk Lake area. Awarded $536,702 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 217 unserved premises in the Sauk Lake area, which is located primarily in Todd County (with some project area in rural Stearns County) just north of Sauk Centre. This is an unserved area where no wired broadband infrastructure is available. The full project cost is $1.07 million; the remaining $536,703 (50 percent) will be supplied by a private investment made by Arvig.

Good news – they will benefit from two Border to Border grants

Albany Mutual Telephone Association, Big Watab Lake – $726,185. The project will serve 242 unserved households in the Big Watab Lake area in Stearns County. Albany Mutual will improve service for families that need high-speed broadband for school and work. The total eligible project cost is $1.45 million, with a $726,185 local match.

Palmer Wireless, Del Tone Road and St. Cloud Airport – $179,400. This project will serve 14 unserved businesses and 1 unserved community anchor institution on the east side of St. Cloud. Palmer Wireless will make improvements that will upgrade business connectivity in the Highway 10 corridor, increasing business development opportunities and customer access. The total eligible project cost is $460,000, with a $280,600 local match.[Stearns County]

Stearns County is also in line to receive $1,530,252 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 3883 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.


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: 87.58
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 38.01


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 30.79 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, uncategorized 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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