Pope County Broadband Profile: current ranking 78

I am doing the annual look at broadband in each county – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year.

Pope County broadband ranking had dropped from 70 to 78.

But they received a Minnesota broadband grant in the last round

Hanson Communications, Minnewaska Area FTTP – $4,996,791. This Fiber-to-the-Premise project will serve unserved and underserved locations in Pope County, including: 274 unserved households and 535 unserved businesses; and 468 underserved households and 181 underserved businesses and 11 underserved community institution. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Hanson Communications will improve broadband service levels to 1Gbps down and 1Gbps up for rural subscribers in the Starbuck Exchange and the Lake Minnewaska Area in west central Minnesota, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. Hanson worked together with Pope County officials to identify those areas in the rural portions of the county receiving less than sufficient broadband services. The primary customers will be residential customers and traditional family-owned farms, all to be served by reliable, affordable, high quality broadband to improve community and economic development opportunities. The total eligible cost is $11,460,530, with a $6,463,739 local match.

Pope County had a feasibility study done in 2017, which certainly helped with the grant application…

CCG Consulting and Finley Engineering found in the study that bringing all-fiber to the 4,626 households in the underserved area of the county is expensive.  That’s why they designed a scenerio that includes a fiber ring around the county and utilizes wireless technology to serve portions of the county within that ring.  On that scenario, there would be about 1,358 households on fiber and 3,226 served through the wireless technology.  “This would be far and away better than what is out there now, but the goal is to bring fiber to each household,” Dawson explained.  He also said that the wireless technology has improved drastically over the past few years and is a viable system.

So, the plan would be to construct a 67.6-mile long fiber ring to cover the service area (the entire county).  That would mean there would be 765 miles of roads that would need fiber and the engineers stated that it would be more cost effective to bury that whole fiber network, so it would not be placed on rural poles.

Adding the wireless scenario would mean utilizing new and exiting towers throughout the county that would be served by fiber.  The wireless system being considered would delver speeds of at least 25 mbps.  “That’s the minimum and the goal would be to upgrade the white space spectrum to increase bandwidth,” he explained. …

Installing fiber everywhere in the county would cost about $29.3 million, according to the study.  If the combination of wireless and fiber were used, the cost would drop to about $9 million.  And in another scenario, the study excluded the city of Glenwood and used a wireless and fiber combination for the rest of the county and that was estimated to cost about $6.5 million.

Pope County was part of a region-wide discussion on broadband hosted by the Blandin Foundation where Representative Paul Anderson spoke up…

Rep Paul Anderson – Representing parts of Pope, Douglas & Stearns – this is not a budget year. Feb forecast came out with $320M surplus; we thought it would be higher. That number may be conservative. But the lower number makes us think. School safety and gun control are big issues – there was a meeting yesterday with standing room only. They are talking about $300 million a year to put an armed officer in each school; mental health counselors might be a use of money. I got a postcard from HughesNet. They talked about 25/3 with 20Gig data and Netflix quality broadband. Wireless has to play a part of any solution in our area. The State grants are great – but it increases costs when you need to pay livable wage. I don’t think we’ll get $50 million this year.

AT&T announced their investment in Pope County. Mediacom announced plans to upgrade parts of Pope (Starbuck) to Gig access. Finally, TDS plans to expand services but at speeds that will be too slow to have an impact on chart below…

The A-CAM program, part of the FCC’s Connect America Fund program, will provide $5.1 million for this particular project and TDS says hundreds of additional nearby locations not covered by this funding will also benefit. Depending on location, most of these residents will see speeds of 25/3 Mbps, with others getting 10/1 Mbps or 4/1 Mbps. TDS owns four telephone companies in Minnesota and employs about 225 people in the state. …

TDS Telecom (TDS) began design work earlier in 2017 in the Mid-State Telephone service area that includes part of Kandiyohi County as well as portions of Pope, Swift, Stearns and Chippewa counties.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 62.73 61.27
100/20 24.33 23.67

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 78

This entry was posted in County Profiles 2018 by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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