Sherburne County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow rating: Ranking out 67 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 67
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.

Sherburne County: Great government network, stalled progress

Sherburne County is a mixed bag of served, underserved and unserved. It’s surprising given their proximity to the Twin Cities but the market has driven deployment, which means densely populated areas are served and other areas aren’t. But the community is working hard to change that.

The county is focused on getting better broadband to unserved places; five years ago, they released a feasibility study. They have been installing conduit in strategic areas throughout the county as part of several road projects that are included within our 5-year county road improvement plan. An RFP for the fiber optic conduit was released in 2018 and Arvig was awarded the contract to fill several portions of the conduit. The County has continued to install additional conduit since that time and hope to work with additional providers to improve the broadband service throughout the County over the next several years.

COVID has reignited the interest in deployment because across the county people have experienced forced adoption as schools, jobs and services move online. COVID has accelerated the pace of technology adoption but the acceleration hasn’t been unilateral, so the County is still required to provide services online and offline for folks who don’t have technology. It’s a tricky and expensive position. The county, schools and businesses have to make accommodations to reach everyone but that is slowing them down in other ways.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 73.66 72.36 67.11 28.02
25/3 (2022 goal) 82.9 91.63 89.23 75.4

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%
Scott 93.6% 85.7% 82.2% 64.3% 2.5%

What we learned in the past:

Sherburne County was a 2015-2016 Blandin Broadband Community.

Sherburne County has benefited a few MN state grants:

  • 2017 – Palmer Wireless – Sherburne County Road 3 – GRANT $110,661
  • 2016 – PALMER WIRELESS BIG LAKE INDUSTRIAL PARK – GRANT: $ 90,988
  • 2016 – PALMER WIRELESS DEL TONE ROAD AND ST. CLOUD AIRPORT – GRANT: $ 179,400
  • 2014 – Palmer Wireless, Becker Industrial Park – Award: $151,934.

Update from 2020:

In the past few years, the Sherburne County Public Works Department has been installing conduit in strategic areas throughout the county as part of several road projects that are included within our 5-year county road improvement plan. The County’s goal in installing this conduit infrastructure is to “dig once” and facilitate the expansion of broadband service for County residents, businesses, institutions and public facilities.

An RFP for the fiber optic conduit was released in 2018 and Arvig was awarded the contract to fill several portions of the conduit. The County has continued to install additional conduit since that time and hope to work with additional providers to improve the broadband service throughout the County over the next several years.

The County has also recently been accepted into DEED’s Telecommuter Forward program and we look forward to working with DEED’s staff to promote telecommuting options to our residents and business owners.

Is broadband a help or hindrance in dealing with COVID?

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

Sherburne County is a mixed bag of served, underserved and unserved. COVID reignited the interest in deployment because across the county people have experienced forced adoption as schools, jobs and services move online. COVID has accelerated the pace of technology adoption but the acceleration hasn’t been unilateral, so the County is still required to provide services online and offline for folks who don’t have technology. It’s a tricky and expensive position.

Luckily for students, Sherburne has good cell coverage. Schools have been handing out mobile hotspots to students without home access and that has worked well.

With the mixed access, Sherburne is experiencing a digital divide. Some kids can learn from home, some people can work from home and other can’t. The broadband is so mixed that the community is forced to make policies to adapt to all residents, which means they may not compete (with schools and work opportunities) with counties that have better, ubiquitous broadband.

The good news is that Sherburne is the fastest growing county in population. While there was a slowdown in 2008, growth has caught up and new development is happening. Broadband follows new development; and development follows broadband but as growth continues those paths seem to catch up to each other.

Checklist:

  • Find more articles on broadband in Sibley County(http://tinyurl.com/ztm6c9n)
  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 67 (down 6)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 10

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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