One in Five in Rural MN unserved – can better maps or federal funding help?

GovTech reports…

For decades there has been a push to bring high-speed Internet service to all of Minnesota, but today about one in five rural Minnesota households still lack access.

“It’s criminal we don’t have high-speed Internet in rural areas,” said Wes Gilbert of Mankato Computer Technology.

They spoke with Blandin Broadband team member and colleague Bill Coleman…

Bill Coleman of Mahtomedi-base Technology Advisors Corp. has for 20 years worked with counties, communities, schools and others to improve Internet access.

“We’re chasing something that’s running very fast in front of us,” he said of getting universal access.

He said poor Internet speed is especially highlighted as people try to upload data.

The state’s definition of and goal for high-speed broadband has been a 25 megabits download speed and 3 megabits upload.

Bill offers an option for better mapping…

He said there are companies now able to better measure who really has high-speed Internet. A current speed test is being conducted in northeast Minnesota.

“Their mapping in a very sophisticated way and they can show where service is and isn’t despite what providers say. In many cases the service providers say they’re providing doesn’t really exist,” Coleman said.

“A lot of providers say they deliver 25 megs but it’s actually maybe 5.” Depending on how the service is being delivered, customers living farther away from certain equipment will have a slower speed than advertised, and if copper wires or other equipment isn’t good, it weakens speeds.

And hope from federal funding…

One federal program Coleman is hopeful could provide a boost is the Rural Development Opportunity Fund, funded through the FCC.

There is a total of $20 billion available and the money is to be distributed across the country using a “reverse auction.” That means Internet providers who show they can provide the most broadband for the lowest cost will qualify for the grants.

“The lower the speed (providers) promise, they get penalized. So the FCC is incenting the higher speed.

“It will be interesting to see the strategy of providers and how they bid and who gets these dollars,” Coleman said.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Policy 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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