The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act added $1.5 billion to an existing grant program of the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA).
This is a significant opportunity, both because of the size of the allocation and its breadth of eligibility. The grants are available to local and state governments, non-profits, and other non-commercial entities that have a compelling case for using infrastructure projects (including broadband initiatives) to ameliorate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.
This is also an opportunity that demands quick action. EDA will receive applications and make awards on a rolling basis, so applicants with projects in advanced planning stages (and even those with a strong concept and an ability to quickly develop a project plan) should move rapidly to submit their applications.
Broadband Projects That Will Help Address Coronavirus Challenges Are Eligible
The EDA’s significant funding allocation—announced in an addendum to EDA’s notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) on May 7th—can be used for broadband projects (in addition to other types of projects) that will strengthen economic resilience, diversify the economy and workforce, or support recovery in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. (Examples of successful past projects can be found on EDA’s website—though we anticipate the new funding to be awarded to a broader range of broadband projects.)
The new MN County broadband maps are now up on the Office of Broadband Development websites- showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. Earlier I looked at how counties ranked for access to 25/3 (the 2022 MN State speed goal), to 100/20 (the 2026 speed goal) and now Gig access! (You can download the full spreadsheet of MN county details for speeds or 100/20 and Gig.)
We haven’t looked at Gig access in the past so I’m just going to put it out there and say congrats to the top of the list and good luck to the folks are the bottom. (You can also download this info in a spreadsheet – which will likely be better formatted.)
|Lac qui Parle||78.96||8|
|Lake of the Woods||3.82||69|
The new MN County broadband maps are now up on the Office of Broadband Development websites- showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. Earlier I looked at how counties ranked for access to 25/3 (the 2022 MN State speed goal) soon I’ll look at Gig access. You can download the full spreadsheet of MN county details for speeds or 100/20 and Gig.
Here I look at how counties rank for access to 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up (the 2026 speed goal).
Top 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 100/20 (drum roll please)
- Rock 99.93
- Ramsey 99.84
- Lac qui Parle 99.57
- Swift 99.5
- Beltrami 99.25
- Hennepin 98.97
- Big Stone 98.6
- Dakota 97.42
- Anoka 97.14
- Pennington 96.95
The counties in bold are returning to the Top 10 list. Pennington is a new addition; they replace Stevens, which comes in at number 11 with a percentage of 96.79. Congrats and nice work to these counties‼
Bottom 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 100/20 (starting with worst)
- Kanabec 26.41
- Redwood 36.48
- Yellow Medicine 37.71
- Pine 39.13
- Lincoln 40.42
- Faribault 40.56
- Aitkin 46.66
- Isanti 48.63
- Todd 49.12
- Traverse 50.97
The counties in bold are returning to the Bottom 10 list. I want to congratulate the counties that are off the bottom 10 list!!
- Becker from 87 to 50 (with 73 percent coverage up from 6 percent last year!)
- Otter Tail from 82 to 64 (with 66 percent coverage)
- Norman from 85 to 73 (with 54 percent coverage)
- Mahnomen from 86 to 53 (with 72 percent coverage)
Finally my favorite statistic – the most improved counties.
Top 10 Most Improved County by ranking
- Becker improved by 37
- Mahnomen improved by 33
- Hubbard improved by 27
- Roseau improved by 10
- Isanti improved by 8
- Kittson improved by 8
- Norman improved by 8
- Grant improved by 7
- Clay improved by 6
- Lac qui Parle improved by 6
You can download a spreadsheet of ranking for 2019 and 2020. Or see the full list below. I know the table will not transfer well to the website BUT it will be searchable.)
|Rank 2020||Ranking 2019||Change in rank|
|Lac qui Parle||3||9||6|
|Lake of the Woods||72||65||-7|
The new MN County broadband maps are now up on the Office of Broadband Development websites- show percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. It’s always interesting to use the new maps to see how the counties rank. Who is in the best shape in the short and long term? In this post I look at how counties rank when looking at access to 25 Mbps down and 3 up, which is the MN speed goal for 2022. (I will do another post that looks at 2026 goals of 100 Mbps down and 20 up and one on Gig access.) And I will compare to 2019 ranking.
Top 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 25/3
- Red Lake 99.99
- Rock 99.93
- Ramsey 99.86
- Clearwater 99.74
- Lac qui Parle 99.57
- Swift 99.54
- Beltrami 99.49
- Big Stone 99.48
- Hennepin 99.40
- Stevens 99.22
Great to see the top 10 with more than 99 percent coverage. The counties in bold were on this same list last year. Congrats to LqP for joining the list; it wasn’t much of a climb for them but nice all the same.
Bottom 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 25/3 (starting with worst)
- Redwood 44.59
- Todd 53.73
- Lake of the Woods 57.91
- Yellow Medicine 59.83
- Pine 60.24
- Kanabec 60.75
- Lincoln 60.91
- Fillmore 61.52
- Meeker 62.46
- Aitkin 63.62
Again the counties in bold were on this list last year. Both Redwood and Todd were listed at having greater coverage last year. I will dive into that when I look at County Profiles but it seems like perhaps providers are looking in greater granularity at the coverage this year or maybe updates were made to maps based on challenges from last year.
I want to cheer the counties who got off the bottom 10 list:
- Marshall from 82 to 74
- Murray from 81 to 78
- Renville from 79 to 76
- Martin from 78 to 38!!
Le Sueur County News reports current views from two incumbents and two newcomers who have won the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party’s endorsement to represent Le Sueur County and surrounding areas in St. Paul. Here’s what they say about broadband…
Rep. Lippert: “I ran for office initially and I’m running for office again because I care about small areas. I grew up in a town of 700 people in northwest Iowa and I’ve been an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for 17 years serving small churches and small towns in Wisconsin and most recently in Northfield. I want small communities to have what they need and rural areas to have what they need. I want us to be connected to the rest of the state and for the state to see itself connected to us in small towns. Because it doesn’t matter what we look like or where we’re from, we all need high quality affordable healthcare, we all need to stay home when we’re sick, we need good schools for our kids, we need high speed broadband. That’s at the heart of why I’m running.”
Rep. Lippert: “With COVID-19 it’s shown us the disparities that were already there before COVID-19, but they’re even more clear. The geographic disparities are very clear right now and we need to make sure that rural communities are not left out or left behind.The broadband issue is really key. We need to make sure that kids have high speed broadband so they can do homework and people can do their jobs. The farm economy is a major concern. We just passed bill on the house floor yesterday that I was the lead author on that paused farm foreclosures until December 1. Making sure that farmers are able to bridge this gap and withstand the farm is really important. Paid family leave is something that is really important too. We need to make sure that when people are sick they have economic security to stay home and they don’t feel that they have to go to work to get a paycheck and risk others getting sick too.”
Prom [Erina Prom, vice chair of the Le Sueur-Henderson School Board]: “There’s a quote by an educator that I’ve been coming back to over and over. Just the idea of ‘Everybody talks about returning to normal.’ Normal wasn’t working and we shouldn’t actually go back to what it used to be. Together, we actually have an opportunity make a new normal that works for everybody. The quote is from Dwayne Reed and he says ‘I hope that our new normal today exposes what was wrong with our old normal yesterday and sets us up for for a better normal tomorrow.’ COVID-19 has laid bare so many inequities amongst Minnesotans and we have the opportunity to really go in and do more than a band-aid fix. We can address inequities in healthcare access and prescription drug coverage, we can address the inequities of internet across the state of Minnesota with border-to-border broadband, we have the opportunity to invest in clean energy across the state of Minnesota while also ensuring that it’s an affordable option.”
From the MN Broadband Coalition…
Save the Date!
Minnesota Broadband Coalition Virtual Meeting
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
1:00 PM – 3:00 p.m.
Please join this meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone:
You can also dial in using your phone.
(For supported devices, tap a one-touch number below to join instantly.)
United States: +1 (646) 749-3122
– One-touch: tel:+16467493122,,304599317#
Access Code: 304-599-317
Agenda Coming Soon!
An announcement and invitation from the partners…
TAKE THE TEST and SHARE THE LINK https://expressoptimizer.net/public/
Koochiching and Itasca County in partnership with the Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) is pleased to announce the formal public kickoff of a crowdsourcing project covering the entire areas of both counties. This broadband speed testing initiative is being conducted by GEO Partners, LLC during a time when more people are at home per the Governor’s “Stay at Home” directive. This includes over 10,000 students (K-12) as well as parents required to work from home and thus should provide the most comprehensive, accurate accumulation of actual broadband speeds ever conducted in these counties while demand on the system is highest.
The data collected via a one minute speed test can be conducted from any device connected to your broadband signal including cell phones and will result in statistically valid data and mapping. This data will then enable any locale in Koochiching or Itasca County to utilize the validated information for a broadband expansion project and seek grant funding from the FCC, USDA or Border to Border state program. We anticipate a higher than normal volume of participation, partially because of all the students who are struggling to stay connected to their E Learning while living in rural areas in the county. Collecting data from cabin owners across our lake enhanced counties will also be vitally important data.
Representative Rob Ecklund a Koochiching County resident and the chief author of a bill for broadband funding praised both Itasca and Koochiching County boards for their support of this project as he knows all too well how living without quality high speed broadband makes life more challenging. Representative Sandy Layman from Itasca County took the speed test this morning and expressed how simple and quick the test was. “My results were interesting as my download speed was almost half as much as the upload speed, so I will take the test again”, she stated.
School districts in both counties have already been contacted and asked to send a message to their students to “Take the Test” and help jumpstart these projects. Both counties will ask county employees to participate; local businesses and social media will play an important role in getting the message out throughout both counties. Koochiching Technology Initiative and Blandin Broadband will both play important roles in keeping the momentum going as the speed tests will likely run for 8 to 12 weeks.
RAMS, as an organization has been a strong advocate for broadband expansion across Northeastern Minnesota. RAMS’ and the Commissioners of your counties, recognize that high speed quality broadband is a critical utility to economic development, education, business and virtual healthcare. RAMS is grateful for the partnership with Koochiching & Itasca County on this project and encourages everyone to TAKE THE TEST and SHARE THE LINK https://expressoptimizer.net/public/ TAKE IT NOW! Your participation is important and no personal information will be collected.
Maps of the County speed tests will be accessible on the RAMS website: https://expressoptimizer.net/projects/Koochiching/speedtestmap.php