Stearns County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow rating: Ranking out 33 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 33
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.

Stearns County: steady, incremental improvement

Stearns County has benefited from MN Border to Border grants in the past, which is likely how they saw great coverage increase between 2018 and 2019. They will benefit again this year, as a project in their area received funding in the last round of MN Border to Border grants. In fact, the Governor visited the Stearns County to announce the grants, which is a nice way to build excitement in that area. Stearns has also heard from other providers who are interested in serving the area. They just need to make sure that those providers serve broadband to 100/20 Mbps if they want to make the 2026 speed goal.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 82.41 81.07 40.17 38.01
25/3 (2022 goal) 88.04 91.72 88.96 87.58

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%
Stearns 90.4% 79.6% 76.0% 57.5% 3.0%

What we learned in the past:

Stearns County has benefited from two MN broadband grants:

  • 2017 – Albany Mutual Telephone Association – Two Rivers Area – GRANT $616,743

Stearns County also is in line to  benefit from FCC funding because Midcontinent Communications will receive $719,916 over  ten years to expand services in Stearns County.

Update from 2020:

Stearns County hosted Governor Walz for the announcement of the Border to Border grant awards. Midco announced news service in the area last fall (Oct 2019); $2.1 million technology and facility investment that opens the way for the gigabit internet service. From Midco’s St. Joseph facility, the gigabit service branches out to 15 other Central Minnesota cities. About the same time Meeker Cooperative announced a change in its service area, which includes Meeker County, when it announced in November that it had begun installing a fiber optic backbone, connecting its 14 substations throughout the county to provide Vibrant Broadband. Unfortunately, the service does not get to the 100/20 Mbps speed goal: In a test it conducted earlier this year, Meeker Cooperative found download speed with Vibrant Broadband is approximately 50/8.

Stearns County will benefit from a Border to Border grant awarded in the last round:

  • Arvig (Melrose Telephone Company) – Eden Valley & Melrose Area Project – GRANT $393,890
    This middle and last mile project will upgrade approximately 84 unserved and 336 underserved locations in the Rice Lake and Brown Lake areas in rural Stearns County, and part of the Melrose industrial park near Interstate 94. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and the City of Melrose, Arvig will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. Having this advanced access to the Melrose industrial park will address the needs of existing businesses and attract additional businesses. The rural Eden Valley portion of the project will see improved quality of life, including opportunities for business, education, health care, and telecommuting options.
  • Total eligible project cost is $1,125,400
  • Local match is $731,510


  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 33 (down 1)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: no
  • Household density: 40.5


  • Districts: CD 6
    Senate: 12, 13, 14
    House: 12B, 13A, 13B, 14A, 14B
  • Find your reps

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 (, 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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