Kanabec County Broadband Profile 2020: Red Rating: Ranking out 87 of 87

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 87
Code: Red

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Kanabec County: ranking last for access to 100/20 Mbps

The Kanabec Broadband Initiative has been working on better broadband for years. Last year we saw that much of the County is served by one large national provider. That may be a bottleneck to better access in those areas, because as we noted last year, lack of competition can impact the drive for improvement.

COVID has exacerbated the situation of mixed access in Kanabec County. Some students were able to access school work at home during the pandemic shutdown; others were not. Some folks were able to work from home; others were not. The lack of communitywide access meant the county could not move all services online, making it even more difficult to deal with COVID restrictions.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 26.41 26.93 38.54 26.07
25/3 (2022 goal) 60.75 66.05 67.07 34.04

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Kanebec 84.4% 71.2% 67.7% 50.6% 1.8%

What we learned in the past:

Kanabec County has worked with the Blandin Foundation. The Kanabec Broadband Initiative has been working on better broadband for years.

In 2018, a Blandin Foundation report looked at the impact of Federal CAF II funding in two towns in Chisago, Isanti and Kanabec Counties. CAF II money went to qualifying providers to subsidize network deployments that can deliver service of at least 10/1 Mbps. 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.

Kanabec benefited from a state broadband grant:


Update from 2020:

Kanabec County has been working on improving broadband in their area for several years. Coming up with innovative ideas, such as the digital navigators.

Is broadband a help or hindrance in dealing with COVID?

Kanabec County met with Blandin on Broadband to talk about how their broadband situation helped or hindered the ability to deal with COVID restrictions.

Talking to two people who live in town (served) and work with people around the county (underserved), I learned what a difference a mile or two can make.

The schools sent a survey home with kids; 6-12 percent of students (depending on location) didn’t have access to broadband. BUT when asked if that broadband was sufficient, 20-30 percent said they lacked access. The schools tried to help students without access by providing devices and mobile hotpots, unfortunately hotspots did not work for all households because of spotty cellular access.

They have seen increased interest in people looking to move into the county, but only in areas with broadband.

The extremes in access builds a digital divide within the county. The need to cater to the extremes means the schools need to modify their expectations, which sets up a digital divide between Kanabec and counties with more ubiquitous broadband.


  • Find more articles on broadband in Kanabec County. (http://tinyurl.com/gvyes6n)
  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 87 (down 3)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 12


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 MN County Profiles 2020 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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