Frustrated citizen in Minnetrista wonders why the city doesn’t have broadband

Lake Pioneer reports on frustrated voiced at a city council meeting in Minnetrista on June 4…

Most recently, new resident Mark Feldman came before the council at their Monday, June 4 meeting to discuss this issue.

“My concern is that we have no access to high speed internet. Frontier apparently comes to our property but they themselves measured it at less than one megabyte per second so that’s not adequate for internet,” Feldman told the council. “I don’t know why we can’t have high speed internet at our residence.”

As city staff informed Feldman, unfortunately, internet companies are looking to make a profit. Different companies have different density requirements that an area needs to meet before they will invest in setting up high speed internet in that area, to ensure that they will make a profit on the investment. The difficulty that Minnetrista residents have encountered, and residents of other cities as well, is that internet companies set high density requirements, and often aren’t willing to collaborate or share resources with competing companies. Furthermore, their practices are not highly regulated, a fact that has generated some recent push-back for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“The city of Minnetrista is roughly 36 square miles, with 7,000 people here, so we’re not really densely populated,” explains City Administrator Michael Barone. “We’re kind of at the mercy of the vendor and the marketplace that reacts to that. So they have marketing plans for rolling out additional high speed internet to their communities but as far as we know it’s going to be difficult for us to advocate to get additional high speed internet here.”

Poor internet connectivity is frustrating, and while much of it is beyond the City’s control, they are looking for a solution. “It is important for residents to know that the City is currently and has been actively searching for ways to increase internet access and speed,” says Director of Administration Cassandra Tabor. “Last year the City applied for the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grant through the State of Minnesota and DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development). These monies were designated to be matched by cities applying and promote the expansion of access to broadband to all areas of Minnesota.”

Unfortunately, the City of Minnetrista was not successful in qualifying for this grant as they did not meet the criteria of ‘under-served’ for internet. “Our median income was too high, and current providers in the area submitted documents that showed intent to grow their services in our area by 2020,” Tabor explains. “The City does not have regulatory control over internet and cable providers but does work closely with residents to rectify service issues when needed.”

The city did have some recommendations for residents…

While city staff continue to work towards a citywide solution, they also recommend solutions for individual residents to pursue. “Residents can reach out to Frontier Communications, request to have their speed checked to ensure they are getting the internet speed that they are paying for, communicate any concerns with Frontier Communications directly and request changes to service or access,” Tabor explains. “Frontier has individual agreements with each customer they serve, including the City of Minnetrista for the administrative and police buildings, and the City does not manage individual agreements with Frontier on behalf of the customer. Some City residents have had luck with HughesNet and other dish or satellite based providers, this would be something residents could pursue if they desired.”

Unfortunately Minnetrista is not an anomaly. There are other towns – or spaces between towns that are left unserved or underserved. This is the dark side of what the report I did (with Bill Coleman) last Fall demonstrated. Local residents benefit when they get broadband (to the tune of $1,850/year/household) but the local broadband provider doesn’t necessarily reap the same benefits. So it’s difficult for a commercial provider to make the investment. Yet, also difficult for a city, county or other local ombudsman-type organization to see that barrier and not want to find a solution.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, 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.

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