Koochiching County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow Rating: Ranking out 59 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 59
Code: Yellow

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.

Koochiching County: incremental increases

Koochiching County has been working on getting better broadband for a while. They are well organized and engaged through Koochiching Technology Initiative (KTI); they are a Blandin Broadband Community. They have done innovative work in providing access in the homeless shelters. They have been active in getting residents to take the statewide speed test. Last year, Paul Bunyan Telephone was awarded a Border to Border grant that will help deploy Fiber to the Home to about half of the currently unserved households. But that project competition date is a year from now (2021).

COVID has exacerbated the difference between those with and without broadband and, of equal importance to the broadband leaders in Koochiching, the folks who can afford broadband. They have come up with innovative ways to reach seniors, students and folks experiencing homelessness.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 68.6 73.41 73.44 68.55
25/3 (2022 goal) 81.57 81.22 73.5 68.6

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%
Koochiching 82.5% 70.3% 60.5% 50.3% 3.1%

What we learned in the past:

Koochiching has been working with the Blandin foundation on the Iron Range Broadband Communities (IRBC) initiative with the Koochiching Tech Initiative leading the way. Koochiching has benefited from one MN state grant:

  • 2015 – Midcontinent Little Fork Middle Mile – Grant award: $277,448

Update from 2020:

  • Paul Bunyan Communications – North Central Minnesota Fiber Project– GRANT $2,562,916
    This last mile project will upgrade approximately 914 unserved and 439 underserved locations in parts of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and rural portions of Cass, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Minnesota Iron Range Resource & Rehabilitation Board, Koochiching County, and Morcom Township, Paul Bunyan Communications will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. A fiber-to-the premise project, the proposed project areas are a response to consumer demand and will provide relief in economically distressed communities that need new alternatives to diversify and strengthen.
  • Total eligible cost is $6,268,400
  • Local match is $3,705,484

Is broadband a help or hindrance in dealing with COVID?

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

We’ve learned that if you are in International Falls, you are served but get just three miles away and folks report they have trouble streaming Netflix. Fortunately, most people live in town but for those who don’t there are some barriers. Affordability is another barrier exacerbated by COVID. They created a COVID Response team; they came up with a mobile emergency network – a redundant network that could be used in a healthcare facility if there was an unexpected outage.

There are some difficulties now with getting devices and technology tools, but that is not limited to Koochiching. There are also challenges with training, especially with seniors.

Checklist:

  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 59 (down from 46)
  • Has worked with Blandin
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant
  • Household density: 1.9

Details:

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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