How does your county rank for broadband access and use?

I was working on something completely different – when I had to find broadband adoption rates in Minnesota. The best I could find was access in the Census. The good news is that the numbers appear to be pretty recent (2020); the bad news is that while it’s listed as subscription rate, it appears in the small print (spelled out below) that they are tracking whether anyone in the house has access.

Here are the top ranked counties:

County Subscription Rate rank
Washington 92.6 1
Scott 92.3 2
Carver 91.9 3
Dakota 91.5 4
Wabasha 91.4 5
Anoka 90.8 6
Sherburne 90.6 7
Hennepin 89.2 8
Chisago 88.9 9
Ramsey 88.5 10

It’s striking to see that while the top ranked counties for broadband availability are a mix of rural and urban counties; the  top counties for access/use are decidedly metro leaning.

And the bottom 10 ranking counties (in reverse order)

County Subscription Rate rank
Lake of the Woods 62.2 87
Roseau 72 86
Watonwan 73.4 85
Todd 73.5 84
Renville 73.9 83
Norman 75.2 82
Redwood 75.7 81
Mahnomen 75.7 80
Kittson 75.8 79
Murray 76.7 78

Also interesting to see that the bottom rank counties for access/use included only one county that is on the bottom ranking for availability. (Redwood has that unfortunate distinction.)

Often I focus on availability here, which simply means there is access available to your household (or business). Access and use get into whether you take advantage of broadband. Availability can be solved with a big check – and we know that unprecedented amounts of funding will be coming into Minnesota to build broadband. We just need to pay the right providers to deploy service. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but encouraging use is more complex.

Access and use come down to affordability, knowledge and interest in using technology – inherent is affordability, knowledge and interest in a device as well as access. Some of the technology/broadband funding coming into the State will be available for tackling those barriers but that means changing people and how they do things.

Here is the full list of counties. (You can also download the list for a more usable format.)

County Subscription Rate rank
Aiktin 76.9 75
Anoka 90.8 6
Becker 83.7 30
Beltrami 82.5 37
Benton 85.2 26
Big Stone 81.8 45
Blue Earth 86.7 17
Brown 83 35
Carlton 78.6 67
Carver 91.9 3
Cass 81.5 46
Chippewa 80.1 56
Chisago 88.9 9
Clay 83.5 31
Clearwater 79.7 59
Cook 88.2 12
Cottonwood 77.8 72
Crow Wing 83.9 28
Dakota 91.5 4
Dodge 87.9 14
Douglas 78.2 70
Faribault 79.6 60
Fillmore 80.6 54
Freeborn 80 57
Goodhue 86.3 19
Grant 78.7 66
Hennepin 89.2 8
Houston 83.3 33
Hubbard 82.3 40
Isanti 86.1 23
Itasca 81.1 51
Jackson 82.1 41
Kanabec 78.6 68
Kandiyohi 83.5 32
Kittson 75.8 79
Koochiching 79.6 61
Lac qui Parle 81.4 47
Lake 81.9 44
Lake of the Woods 62.2 87
Le Sueur 86.3 20
Lincoln 78 71
Lyon 86.3 21
Mahnomen 75.7 80
Marshall 81.1 52
Martin 82 42
McLeod 84.3 27
Meeker 82.5 38
Mille Lacs 81.2 49
Morrison 78.6 69
Mower 82 43
Murray 76.7 78
Nicollet 86.4 18
Nobles 80 58
Norman 75.2 82
Olmsted 88.3 11
Otter Tail 79.2 63
Pennington 85.5 24
Pine 77.5 74
Pipestone 81.1 53
Polk 83.8 29
Pope 79.5 62
Ramsey 88.5 10
Red Lake 78.8 65
Redwood 75.7 81
Renville 73.9 83
Rice 86.8 16
Rock 83 36
Roseau 72 86
Scott 92.3 2
Sherburne 90.6 7
Sibley 79 64
St. Louis 82.5 39
Stearns 85.4 25
Steele 86.2 22
Stevens 83.2 34
Swift 76.8 77
Todd 73.5 84
Traverse 76.9 76
Wabasha 91.4 5
Wadena 80.5 55
Waseca 81.3 48
Washington 92.6 1
Watonwan 73.4 85
Wilkin 77.8 73
Winona 87.4 15
Wright 88 13
Yellow Medicine 81.2 50

So here’s the interesting small print…

The internet subscription info is sourced by U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS) and Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS), 5-Year Estimates. The PRCS is part of the Census Bureau’s ACS, customized for Puerto Rico. Both Surveys are updated every year.

“Subscription” seems to be a confusing term; they aren’t asking about subscriptions, they are asking about access

Question 10 asked if any member of the household has access to the internet. “Access” refers to whether or not someone in the household uses or can connect to the internet, regardless of whether or not they pay for the service. Respondents were to select only ONE of the following choices:

Yes, by paying a cell phone company or Internet service provider– This category includes housing units where someone pays to access the internet through a service such as a data plan for a smartphone; a broadband internet service such as cable, fiber optic or DSL; satellite; dial-up; or other type of service. This will normally refer to a service that someone is billed for directly for internet alone or sometimes as part of a bundle.

Yes, without paying a cell phone company or Internet service provider– Some respondents may live in a city or town that provides free internet service for their residents. In addition, some colleges or universities provide internet service. These are examples of cases where respondents may be able to access the internet without a subscription.

No access to the Internet at this house, apartment, or mobile home- This category includes housing units where no one can connect to or uses the internet using a paid service or any free service

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Research 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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