Carlton County: ranks 74 (out of 87) for access to 100/20: code red

Carlton County does not appear to be on track to meet the MN broadband speed goals for either 2022 or 2026. There are some anomalies with the measures, especially a dip in access to 100/20 in the last year but even without it they seemed unlikely to make the goal.

Percentage of Served Population by Speed and Date
Carlton 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 47.57 58.22 52.32
25/3 (2022 goal) 71.71 67.29 62.74

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

In 2017, Carlton benefited from a MN state broadband grant:

  • 2017 – Carlton County w/ Frontier – Phase I: Cromwell/Kettle River – GRANT: $569,058
    The project will leverage federal CAF II funding available to Frontier Communications combined with State of Minnesota grant dollars to bring enhanced broadband to 298 currently unserved households in the western one-third of Carlton County in northeastern MN, in and around the communities of Cromwell and Kettle River.  The project will improve broadband service levels to the 2022 state speed goal of at least 25 Mbps download by 3 Mbps upload.

But the improvements, as explained in the grant proposal need only be to 25/3 access, which does not leave them well situated for meeting the 2026 goals.

Carlton County is part of a collaboration with neighboring counties (Carlton, Aitkin, Kanabec, Pine, Mille Laces) called the East Central Broadband Initiative, which grew out of Carlton County’s participation in the 2015-16 Blandin Broadband Community cohort,.


While countywide there are nine providers, you can see from the map below that much of Carlton County (and indeed the surrounding area) is served by only one provider – and that is a large national provider. It can be a challenge to get a national provider to work in an area with such low population density.

In 2018, a Blandin Foundation report looked at the impact of Federal CAF II funding in two towns in Chisago, Isanti and Kanabec Counties: Lindstrom and Braham. CAF II money went to qualifying providers (including the national providing serving Carlton) to subsidize network deployments that can deliver service of at least 10/1. The study found that while some areas were upgraded beyond that speed; some remain at speeds that do not meet the 2022 nor 2026 MN broadband goals.

Carlton County could benefit from future grants. In 2019, SCI Broadband has applied to upgrade service in Carlton. (That doesn’t mean they will get the grant; they have only applied.)


  • 100/20 ranking: 73 (down from 44)
  • 25/3 ranking: 74 (down 2)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 15.5
  • Number of providers: 9


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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)
This entry was posted in County Profile 2019, Red 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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