Business in Ada paying $800 per month for fiber

I’ve written about Weave Got Maille before – the super niche, super successful business in Ada, MN that manufactures chain mail. Think of what knights wear. I knew they talked the provider in the area into serving them fiber – what I didn’t know until I heard the story on MPR was that they are paying $800 a month for it…

And then there was the problem that plagues many small-town businesses: internet access.

“We were running an international online company with dial-up internet for a long time,” said Ramstad, who spent two years trying to get faster internet service to her headquarters in Ada. She finally paid for fiber optic cable to be laid and connected to her manufacturing plant, but internet access is still an issue: she pays more than $800 each month for the level of internet service that, in Fargo, often costs about $40.

Her goal for this year is to bring some internet competition to town and drive down prices for broadband service.

But Weave Got Maille isn’t the only business in town with needs…

That would make Ada’s mayor, Todd Sawrey, very happy. He runs West Main Pizza in town. The internet is essential infrastructure for his restaurant — and every business in town.

“If you do not have an internet presence, you’re not going to survive,” he said. “Edie has found [that] out, big-time. Even myself. If I didn’t have a website, if I didn’t have ways to do online ordering, you will die.”

Sawrey said he has been frustrated with government programs to expand broadband access, which he said often don’t account for the needs of rural communities.

The story in Ada bring up a few problems with access in rural areas: first – many areas don’t have access; second – lines are drawn that create have and have-not parts of the community…

Recently, he said, a local company received a government grant to expand rural broadband access by installing fiber optic cable.

“Well, they went and put it right down the main highways,” he said, but the cables “stopped at the edge of town, because the grant didn’t encompass being within the city.”

That project, while it wasn’t helpful for downtown businesses, means that Edie Ramstad can now get faster internet at her farm, three miles outside of town, than she can at her factory in Ada.

Weave Got Maille has moved a few times since its founding, and now operates out of a former service station in Ada. A refrigerated rail car that for decades sat abandoned next to the building is now used as storage.

Maybe there is a role for government in broadband deployment

Last night I wrote about an editorial from the Freedom Foundation in the Minneapolis Star Tribune saying that government should not get involved with providing broadband. It seems that the editorial has sparked a discussion. Yesterday there was a rebuttal to the editorial from someone on the frontlines…

But let’s put the politics aside and ask ourselves how we’re doing with CenturyLink or Xfinity. How’s monopoly business practice treating you? And how’s it compare to what you saw in South Korea, Denmark or Scotland? Koreans talk about our internet as “a trip to the country,” finding it crude and slow. Which it is. Fiber-optic cables stretch across the wild moors of Scotland where there are more sheep than people. And we’ve got DSL. If we’re lucky.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a place for government helping the people, and not asking whether it “pays for itself.” Are your roads paying for themselves? How about those sidewalks? The fire department? The police officers? It’s a brave experiment when the government of the people tries to provide internet for the people. Of course it may fail. It’s going up against The Big Guys, and a web of think tanks and propaganda writers hard at work protecting their freedom to charge you all they want.

What’s the cost to a community of not having broadband?

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She talks about the Lake County (Lake Connections) broadband project has a financial failure. I’ve written about Lake County many time in the past. They received federal funding as part of the ARRA program. They used it to build FTTH. The provide that built the network recently sold it at a loss.

But what would have happened if they didn’t build the network. Lake County is larger with few residents. A commercial provider is/was unlikely to expand to the area. Without broadband, it is difficult for a rural community to thrive. Research we did for the Blandin Foundation two summers ago found that people in Lake County were happy with the network and policy makers did not regret their decision. Each household with broadband reaps on the average a $1,850 economic benefit annually – at 2,500 homes that’s $4.6 million a year.

The Freedom Foundation offers a scenario they prefer, the public-private model…

Several Minnesota communities have opted to communicate their broadband needs to incumbent local providers to develop plans that would increase subscribers for the private internet company as well as achieving greater and faster service for local residents. These public/private partnerships deserve further study and support as a way to achieve greater economic growth in rural areas without the enormous risk that occurs to taxpayers when local government enters the market as a competitor.

Without a doubt that’s a model that many would like to replicate, but you need a willing partner. When you don’t have a willing partner, you need to come up with a plan B if you want your community to grow and thrive

U.S. Household Broadband Data Consumption – 268.7 GB in 2018

Telecompetitor reports…

U.S. households consumed an average of 268.7 gigabytes (GB) of data in 2018, up from 201.6 GB for 2017, according to a new report about U.S. household broadband data consumption from OpenVault, a provider of data consumption and analytics software. Median usage was 145.2 GB per household in 2018, up from 103.6 GB in 2017. The increase in average consumption was 33.3% and the increase in median consumption was 40%.

Open Vault attributed the different growth rates to growing consumption across service providers’ entire subscriber bases, rather than growth only among heavy users.

U.S. Household Broadband Data Consumption
Among OpenVault’s other findings for 2018:

  • Average usage for households with flat-rate pricing was 282.1 GB per household, which was more than 9% higher than the 258.2GB average usage for households on usage-based billing (UBB) plans.
  • The percentage of flat-rate (non-UBB) households exceeding 1 terabyte (TB) of usage was 4.82%, a full percentage point higher than the 3.81% of UBB households that exceeded the 1 TB threshold.
  • The percentage of households using 1TB or more almost doubled in 2018, rising to 4.12% of all households from 2.11% in 2017, while the percentage of households exceeding 250 GB rose to 36.4% from 28.4% during the same time frame.

Confirmation on Google’s data center in Becker?

Data Center Knowledge reports more on the Google Data Center in Sherburne County

Google’s parent company Alphabet is planning to build a $600 million data center in Minnesota, according to a regulatory filing last week by Excel Energy, the state’s largest energy company.

An initial report from Minnesota Public Radio, which broke the story, put the location of the planned data center in Becker, a town 46 miles northwest of Minneapolis with a population of about 4,500. But Becker Mayor Tracy Bertram told the Associated Press that her town is only one of several locations under consideration. However, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said Google has already decided on the Becker site.

Telehealth helps people stay in rural areas – policy makes is affordable

Business North talks about the scarcity of traditional healthcare access hurting rural communities in Minnesota…

The disparity of home health workers and personal care attendants is an ever-widening gap with no clear solutions in sight, and that is something Teri Fritsma Mogen, a Minnesota Department of Health senior workforce analyst, noted should be a major concern for the trickle-down effect it will have.

“If you don’t have enough home health workers to allow people to age in place, older folks will have to move to nursing homes or assisted living and that just moves the workforce shortage to another area,” she said.

Rural northeastern Minnesota has the highest need for specific mental health providers in the entire state, specifically alcohol and drug counselors and licensed mental health therapists, according to Fritsma Mogen.

“Including Duluth for alcohol and drug counselors the region has the second highest ratio in the state, and if you take Duluth out of that equation the ration is through the roof with 8,000 people to every one drug and alcohol counselor with the average in the metro roughly 2,000 to one,” Fritsma Mogen said.

Including Duluth and beyond, there is one psychiatrist for every 20,000 residents, far short of the statewide average of 11,000 residents to one psychiatrist.

And the impact of telehealth, especially since policy has helped offset costs of telehealth…

In 2015 the Minnesota legislature passed the Telemedicine Act, increasing the list of professionals eligible to bill for telemedicine practices, including physicians, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, dentists and psychologists. The Telemedicine Act took effect at the beginning of 2016, with some provisions not fully operational until 2017.

Louise Anderson, director of the Carlton-Cook-Lake-St. Louis Community Health Board said the use of telemedicine to meet client needs is expanding significantly.

“Meeting remotely with clients is especially important in rural areas of the region where mental health providers are less accessible,” Anderson said.

She noted video conferencing technology is also serving to fill a crucial gap for public health nurses. Providing Direct Observed Therapy (DOT) via video conferencing to monitor patients taking oral medication for treatment of tuberculosis has fulfilled some need efficiently.

“One example of this in our region was public health staff time and travel savings of 2.5 hours per day by using (video) conferencing with a patient who lived in a remote area of the county,” Anderson said.

Carlton County Public Health and Human Services director Dave Lee has been an advocate of using the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) compliant video conferencing technology called “Vidyo” in Northeast Minnesota.

In the Region 3 Adult Mental Health Initiative Area several counties are represented: St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Carlton and Koochiching, which comprises 23 percent of the state’s land and contains only 6 percent of the population. That geographical area also happens to represent an area where health challenges such as depression outstrip any other major health concerns two to one.

“All the data points to mental health being the number one chronic health condition in that part of Minnesota and the benefits of using telehealth tools to redirect resources quickly are huge,” Lee said.

Despite working on expanding video conferencing for mental health treatment over the last six years, Lee is frustrated with how slow the system has been to take hold. The technology exists, but he said attitudes are slow to change and minor legal and technical obstacles can take a long time to overcome.

Broadband expansion in Lincoln County through Woodstock

The Marshall Independent reports…

An expansion of broadband Internet possibilities in Tyler is scheduled to take place this year.

The community will be offered city-wide broadband service through Woodstock Communications. It will become part of the company’s efforts to use 21st century fiberoptics and wireless networking on behalf of rural southwest Minnesota communities.

Woodstock Communications General Manager Terry Nelson said the concept of city-wide service for Tyler has been on the drawing board for the past several years.

The upcoming project will resemble existing city-wide Woodstock networks in Westbrook and Balaton. They are one component of an expansion process that has also included targeted broadband service to schools, hospitals and other organizations. …

Woodstock Communications plans to install infrastructure for Tyler city-wide broadband during 2019, with a service start-up scheduled to begin in December.

Woodstock will have some competition…

Woodstock will become the third provider to offer Internet plans to Tyler residents. The others are Frontier Communications and Mediacom, both of which rank in the top 10 of all providers in terms of total nationwide subscriptions.

The article also includes interesting histories of several providers in the area.