Senator Tina Smith hearing from the Broadband frontlines in Mountain Iron MN

Today Senator Smith met held an open round-table with a handful of broadband experts in Mountain Iron – about 25 people showed up to participate. The conversation wasn’t shocking but important. It’s always good to hear from folks on the wrong side of the front-lines. Senator Smith noted that broadband is absolutely necessary for 21st century economy.

Attendees talked about what a difference broadband could make to small businesses, home-based businesses, education and recruitment. One attendee said that he sits in the parking lot of Gilbert City Hall to upload his videos, which get millions of views. Another noted that the schools had a one (iPad) one students policy but that it felt discriminatory to the kids who don’t have broadband at home and those kids might live just a mile or two out of town.

The meeting was held at the Northeast Service Cooperative – home to middle mile fiber for the region. There’s hope and frustration with being so close and yet so far away to having fiber to the home. The communities are trying to find ways to get last mile providers into the market. There’s also frustration with the belief that some of these areas have service, when in practice people say they don’t have the broadband they need.

There is a need for public funding for broadband – in partnership with private investment. An announcement is expected (Monday) on federal infrastructure funding; people are cautiously optimistic. Funding is helpful but there is concern about the details. For example, a tiered service with different speeds for rural vs urban areas is not acceptable. There were suggestions to make sure that federal money is spent on networks that are built for the future and on streamlining process (quicker permitting and Dig Once policies) that would speed builds and encourage builds that serve entire areas – not just towns, leaving the outskirts unserved.

Affordability was emphasized, especially in terms of added costs such as data caps.

Mostly it was amazing on a cold Saturday with just a few days’ notice to have a full room people excited to talk about broadband.

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

3 thoughts on “Senator Tina Smith hearing from the Broadband frontlines in Mountain Iron MN

  1. I have left messages on this sight before not knowing if anyone actually reads my concerns.

    Since Tina Smith is a Facebook friend of my husbands, I will direct this to her. We live in Pine County, Duquette, MN. We live 5 miles from getting Broadband connectivity like our neighbors. Century Link has expanded to areas in Moose Lake, Cloquet, and other areas I close to us. I had Century Link in Osceola, Wisconsin until I moved here in 2015. I called Century Link when I saw their trucks close by. The agent told me they would be here right now if they could, but they cannot because my current provider is Frontier Net Work and they told me that Frontier was given a contract for service in our area. Their broadband stops 5 miles from our house. Please tell me why this Frontier network has the right to hold us hostage because they can’t or won’t expand our service to be able to enjoy the same internet as neighbors 5 miles away from me? My neighbor, is a friend and state Senator who lives one mile from me, because Tony is a Senator, he must have a better means of connectivity, or he would be cut off like us. Please bring us into 2018 with a promise to bring internet to all of Minnesota 🙏

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hello Sharon, your situation is identical to so many Minnesotans. Long ago, telephone companies were assigned territories, then required to provide service to all. There is no universal requirement on the phone companies to provide broadband. There are many areas in Pine County where CenturyLink does not provide broadband; they are also free to come to your house to provide broadband or anywhere in the state. You should make all of your elected officials aware of your desire/need for broadband – township, county, state legislators. Most projects to bring better broadband involve all of these levels of government plus a broadband provider. Pine County Commissioner Hallam has strong interest in broadband. The EDRDC and the regional economic development group GPS 45:93 are also working on this. Wilma Township did a little broadband project. Frontier is receiving federal funds to improve broadband in rural MN , but it us up to them when and where they make these improvements and not all Frontier customers will benefit. I work as community broadband consultant to Blandin Foundation. Contact me at if you would like to talk more.

  2. I’m sorry if I have missed previous comments. While I get a lot of spam, I do try to weed out the real messages.

    I can only imagine your frustration! You make an excellent case for the need for competition. When there’s only one provider, it becomes a seller’s market. I’m not sure how/why Frontier was given a contract for service in your area. Providers often choose not to enter a market that is already served – although maybe it’s a case of using government money to expand and that can mean funding only one provider.

    I report on broadband here – you might try contacting the Office of Broadband Development for more info

    I will ask around too and report back if I learn anything.

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