The game is only as good as the broadband that fuels it

Here’s a fun story from the Herald Journal Blog (Delano MN) about a teen who turned into helper of the world when his parents offered an Xbox as a prize for helpfulness. Turns out Xbox was only part of the recipe. They also needed to upgrade from satellite to CenturyLink…

However, the gamechanger came shortly thereafter, when we got CenturyLink.

For the first four years of living in our house in the country, we had been stuck with satellite Internet.

We had a 60 gigabyte monthly limit, after which Internet speeds were throttled to a crawl.

Since I work from home during the day, it had been a constant source of frustration, and even anger. The quickest way to tick off Dad was by watching a video without telling him, and sucking up his precious gigabytes.

Then, in late May, CenturyLink finally reached our house, with faster speeds, cheaper pricing, and, most gloriously, unlimited Internet.

If I sound like a shill, I don’t care. It felt like Christmas. I told the installer I wanted to give him a hug.

That’s also when the real fun, and the real fights, began with the Xbox.

The first thing the boys did after the new Internet was installed was download Fortnite. If it was Christmas for me, downloading Fortnite was Christmas, Easter, their birthdays, and winning the lottery all at once for the boys.

I imagine they’ll notice this even more as school begins and suddenly everyone is able to to work from home without slowing down the connection or reaching data caps!

Expanding Rural Electric Member Coop broadband coverage in Indiana could mean benefits of $12 billion

Purdue University just released a report that looks at the quantitative benefits of investing in broadband – they look specifically at extending/expanding networks deployed by Indiana’s Rural Electric Member Cooperatives (REMCs) – but expanding the network ubiquitously across the state. Here’s what they found…

We estimate the net benefits of broadband investment for the whole state of Indiana is about $12 billion, which is about $1 billion per year annuitized over 20 years at six percent interest rate. Year after year, added government revenues and cost savings would amount to about 27 percent of net benefits in the seven REMCs each year. If the rest of rural Indiana is like these seven Cooperative service areas, then 27 percent of the $1 billion per year would be government revenue and health care cost savings, or $270 million per year. In terms of total net present value of benefits, 27 percent of $12 billion is $3.24 billion in added government revenue and health care cost savings.

It’s interesting to see that 27 percent of the net benefits would be government revenue and health care cost savings. That’s a number taxpayers can use to determine the return of public investment in broadband. Last fall, I looked at community return on public investment in broadband – which came to about $1,850 per household. Taking it a step farther, figuring out how much benefit is there in government revenue and health care savings make it even easier to balance cost with benefit.

Weave Got Maille in Ada credited in Inc Mag for better broadband a jobs!

Just what kind of impact can one super niche internet business have in a community? Well ask Ada. Inc. Magazine just credited Ada’s own Weave Got Maille for better broadband and more jobs. (We wrote about them in 2015 too.)

Weave Got Maille manufactures chain mail supplies – tiny rings. Founder Edie Ramstad thought she’d be making 1,000 a day – turns out she does 2-3 million a day! But it was the business that almost wasn’t or at least almost wasn’t in Ada. Inc reports on some issues…

Lack of machinery was just one problem facing Ramstad, who at one point almost gave up, thwarted by Ada’s sparse infrastructure. Founded in 2012, Weave Got Maille was the first nonagricultural manufacturer in this farm town of around 1,600 people, 45 miles northeast of Fargo. “You can’t be an internet business with a post office that closes at 2 o’clock and puts a limit on how much you send because the mail carrier doesn’t have a very big car,” Ramstad says.

And unfortunately success only magnified the issues…

But the demand strained a business that, back then, operated out of a building in the middle of a wheat field. Ada is a county seat; but a few years ago it had only dial-up internet. The local post office turned away Ramstad’s business because it couldn’t handle the volume. As she struggled alone with infrastructure constraints and new challenges, like managing a scaling workforce, she grew increasingly frustrated.

But it turned around after Ramstad attended 1 Million Cups event in Fargo. They she got inspired and networked in with people who were also inspired and inspiring. Some of those stepped in to help her get the better broadband she needed…

Someone from Kauffman reached out to North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp on Ramstad’s behalf; Heitkamp asked the U.S. postmaster general to intercede with the Ada branch to increase its hours. After hearing Ramstad address a later 1 Million Cups event, the mayor of Fargo advised the governor of Minnesota to bring fiber to Ada. “Three years ago, the kids here could not even do their homework online,” Ramstad says. “Now we have good internet.”

MN Farmfest Gubernatorial, US Senate and Congressional Candidate forums – all include questions on broadband

I had a great time attending Farmfest today. I attended to watch the Gubernatorial debate. There was one question on infrastructure:

 

All five candidates were there: Tim Walz, Tim Pawlenty, Lori Swanson, Jeff Johnson and Erin Murphy. Two candidates took the opportunity to specifically talk about rural broadband. Lori Swanson likened broadband to electricity and said that we need to invest in it. Erin Murphy mentioned her plan to use the newly approved online sales tax to invest in broadband; that will be $100 million or more a year.

I thought folks might also be interested in the question plans to make MN stronger.

I watched the U.S. Senate and Congressional Candidate forums from the comfort of my own home.

You can see the entire Senate Forum on the Farmfest site. There was one question on broadband and everyone said it was important to rural areas. People talked about it as a utility, expressed a need at more and faster broadband and talked about the need to continue public and private investment. Here’s that portion of the forum:

You can also see the Congressional Forum online. That forum included: Collin Peterson, Dave Hughes, Tom Emmer, Ian Todd, Angie Craig, Carla Nelson, Jim Hagedorn and Dan Feehan. (Jason Lewis had a conflict).

They also had one question broadband – and those asked felt that broadband was important for rural areas.

Ely business broadband survey – selling is top benefit now

Recently we heard from Ely about their participation in the IRBC program. Incredible Ely mentioned their business broadband survey. Incredible Ely works with local entrepreneurs – and as they work they will be tracking progress with future survey. Pam was kind enough to share the results – with a generous offer to talk with anyone about their program (pam@incredibleely.org).

I’m excited to share the results today. This is a baseline survey. They spoke with 60 local businesses and asked them basic questions about their business and broadband use. It’s interesting to see how local businesses are currently using the internet.

As you can see – top “most important use” is selling.

They also asked what businesses could do differently with quality internet. Here’s an abridged list (I removed suggestions that were similar):

  • Could research things faster
  • Develop an online retail presence
  • Greater internet efficiency = greater profits
  • Internet would be faster at work and at home
  • Develop website – advertise store products
  • It would give us the ability to increase online applications and fishing/camping trips
  • It will benefit our business if our individual clients have broadband. This will increase their ability to contact us because their outages will be decreased and they will have greater bandwidth to enable them to utilize some of our company’s services
  • Selling online retail (both in and outside the Ely area), now only sell wholesale
  • Could increase business by being able to get back to customers on a timely basis – Frontier goes down
  • Paying for only one internet service would be nice, now we have two services in case one goes down
  • We would have reliable music through the internet for customers
  • Not known at this point, too new
  • It would help with access to ATM
  • If we had better internet we would look at our marketing differently, internet speed impacts how we market
  • Internet reliability is important. If the internet is down we can’t check-in guests

 

Broadband and housing in Chisago County: broadband touches everything

I was just telling someone that broadband is the solution to almost any question. And today while I was reading the Comprehensive Housing Needs Analysis for Chisago County, Minnesota and I was reminder that it’s true.

The report projects housing demand from 2017 through 2030, and provides recommendations on the amount and type of housing that could be built in Chisago County to satisfy demand from current and future residents over the next decade. Lack of internet access was listed as a potential problem to attracting people….

Internet Access. Several interviewees mentioned the lack of broadband Internet and slow Internet speeds across parts of Chisago County. The lack of Internet connections could hinder housing development in the county as Internet access is critical for many households in today’s digital age. Many interviewees mentioned the desire to have a home based business or to be able to telecommute in Chisago County. Without high-speed reliable Internet, many will not consider moving to the county. Studies suggest high speed Internet connection to a home boost property values. We understand Chisago County recently received grant funds to analyze technology trends and to address the issue. Two townships in Chisago County have partnered with CenturyLink and MN Dept. of Employment and Eco-nomic Development Broadband Office to bring fiber to the home.

There’s also a note that lack of online marketing of housing options keeps some of the market closed to people form outside the area…

Point of Contact/Housing Resources/One Stop Shop. Several interviews stressed that housing options for rental housing are exceptionally low in Chisago County. Finding a rental housing unit can be difficult as there are few options to begin with and many buildings have high occupancy rates and are not necessarily marketing. Many of the rental properties throughout the county are smaller and are locally owned and managed and they are not actively marketing on the Internet or social media which is difficult for non-residents to find housing availability. Furthermore, many landlords mentioned there is not a lot of turnover as many tenants stay in the lease for years.