2018 Minnesota Broadband County Profiles – from Aitkin to Yellow Medicine

In preparation for the 2018 Broadband Conference I have compiled the annual county profiles. For ranking I am using percentage of wired access to speeds of 100 Mbps up and 20 Mbps down – or the state speed goal for 2026. Last year I used wired and fixed wireless so there are some discrepancies although only for a handful of counties.

It’s always interesting to see who is gaining ground, who is losing ground and who is staying steady. Counties that get Minnesota broadband grants tend to be moving forward. There were a few other (USDA) grants that I think we’ll see have an impact next year.

Often I see the greatest leaps forward from the counties that know they are in trouble. There are a number of counties that were on the “10 worst served” list of 2010 that have managed to really turn it around. There are others that have pretty decent access to speeds of 25/3 but dismay access to 100/20. Those are the counties I often worry about – sort of like the student that’s just getting by. No one is feeling the pain but they will eventually. Then of course there are counties that know they are hurting and just haven’t been able to get traction for a solution.

Finally we really do have some awesome providers in the state. Many, but not all, are cooperatives. They are able to make the slow investment required when the population density is low. The return on that investment is often felt by the community before the provider – hopefully they are rewarded with more customers order more services.

Here are links to each county:

  1. Aitkin County
  2. Anoka County
  3. Becker County
  4. Beltrami County
  5. Benton County
  6. Big Stone County
  7. Blue Earth County
  8. Brown County
  9. Carlton County
  10. Carver County
  11. Cass County
  12. Chippewa County
  13. Chisago County
  14. Clay County
  15. Clearwater County
  16. Cook County
  17. Cottonwood County
  18. Crow Wing County
  19. Dakota County
  20. Dodge County
  21. Douglas County
  22. Faribault County
  23. Fillmore County
  24. Freeborn County
  25. Goodhue County
  26. Grant County
  27. Hennepin County
  28. Houston County
  29. Hubbard County
  30. Isanti County
  31. Itasca County
  32. Jackson County
  33. Kanabec County
  34. Kandiyohi County
  35. Kittson County
  36. Koochiching County
  37. Lac qui Parle County
  38. Lake County
  39. Lake of the Woods County
  40. Le Sueur County
  41. Lincoln County
  42. Lyon County
  43. Mahnomen County
  44. Marshall County
  45. Martin County
  46. McLeod County
  47. Meeker County
  48. Mille Lacs County
  49. Morrison County
  50. Mower County
  51. Murray County
  52. Nicollet County
  53. Nobles County
  54. Norman County
  55. Olmsted County
  56. Otter Tail County
  57. Pennington County
  58. Pine County
  59. Pipestone County
  60. Polk County
  61. Pope County
  62. Ramsey County
  63. Red Lake County
  64. Redwood County
  65. Renville County
  66. Rice County
  67. Rock County
  68. Roseau County
  69. Saint Louis County
  70. Scott County
  71. Sherburne County
  72. Sibley County
  73. Stearns County
  74. Steele County
  75. Stevens County
  76. Swift County
  77. Todd County
  78. Traverse County
  79. Wabasha County
  80. Wadena County
  81. Waseca County
  82. Washington County
  83. Watonwan County
  84. Wilkin County
  85. Winona County
  86. Wright County
  87. Yellow Medicine County

Yellow Medicine County Broadband Profile: current ranking 69

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.

Yellow Medicine broadband ranking bumped up from 71 to 69.

Earlier this year (2018), Yellow Medicine released a feasibility study

The primary purpose of the study was to determine the breakeven penetration level for each scenario. This represents the number of customers necessary for the scenario to always remain cash positive throughout the life of the financing. This analysis told us the following:

It does not look to be economically feasible to immediately build fiber everywhere without significant grant funding. This is not a surprising finding and is directly the result of the high cost of building fiber to farms.

* The scenarios that mix fiber and wireless technology look feasible. The scenarios can work even without grant funding, but some level of grant funding make the scenarios safer for an investor.

* The wireless network designed by Finley is intended to supply at least 25 Mbps download to rural homes in the county, which is a significant improvement for those homes with no broadband. Some customers will be able to get speeds faster than that on the wireless network.

However, implementing a wireless network would not be a permanent solution. All of the broadband trends in the country show that the amount of bandwidth needed by a typical home will keep growing, and at some point in the future the wireless network will become obsolete in the same manner that happened in the past with dial-up and DSL broadband.

The report discusses the next steps the county needs to take after digesting the results of this study. These include such things as looking for a partner to bring broadband to those areas without it today. The goal would be to have a partner by next year to hopefully be ready for future state grant funds.

We note that as this report was being written that the county announced a tentative agreement with Farmers Mutual Cooperative to bring fiber to a significant portion of the county. The county has agreed to provide $4 million in funding subject to the Cooperative being able to find grants and other funding needed to build the project. If completed this project would cover a little less than half of the parts of the county that don’t have broadband today.

It’s worth noting that Yellow Medicine and Farmers did not receive that grant. There were opinions on that feasibility study and public meetings were held. They were also part of an informal but informative speed test for locations in the area that demonstrated the uneven access available.

Mediacom has announced upgrades to the Gig program in Granite Falls. AT&T announced investments in the area.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 20.42 46.91
100/20 19.28 37.72

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 69

Wright County Broadband Profile: current ranking 21

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.

Wright County broadband ranking has bumped from 65 to 21!

Through Midco, Wright received state funding in the last round of grants

Midco (Midcontinent Communications), Annandale East – $537,050. This project will build out improved broadband service to 40 unserved households, and 531 underserved households and 7 underserved businesses, in the area northeast of Annandale near Bass Lake and Clearwater Lake in Wright County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Midco will improve broadband service levels to up to 1 Gbps upload and download, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. Residents will be able to increase work and business development opportunities, and complete a quality education online through this extension from the broadband system Midco recently built in Annandale. The total eligible cost is $1,074,100, with a $537,050.

Historically, Wright County is home to Monticello, one of the famous of infamous municipal broadband networks out there. Monticello built their own fiber network – but in process the incumbent also built a fiber network and even sued the city. It looks like Monticello is continuing to bring in competition and looking at the numbers the providers are reaching outside the city limits.

Mediacom has announced upgrades to the Gig program in Howard Lake.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 81.17 87.89
100/20 29.26 80.61

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 21

Winona County Broadband Profile: current ranking 15

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.

Winona County broadband ranking has bumped up from 17 to 15. The coverage for 25/3 access is the same as 100/20; they are planning for the future, they just need more expansion.

Last March, Chris Mitchell of Institute for Local Self Reliance had Gary Evans of HBC on his podcast. It is an interesting history of broadband in Winona. A really nice case study.

Broadband is always a hot topic around Winona. They have interesting digital inclusion programs through local provider Project FINE, such as a coding class for kids. The opposite end of digital inclusion, Red Wing Ignite continues to work with kids, businesses and entrepreneurs and recently joined the Growing Smart Gigabit Communities program.

Winona has been the beneficiary of state grants. Mediacom has announced upgrades to the Gig program in Winona, specifically in Dakota and St. Charles City.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 92.13 86.48
100/20 81.17 86.31

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 15

Wilkin County Broadband Profile: current ranking 20

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.

Wilkin County broadband ranking has remained steady at 20. There coverage for access to 25/3 and 100/20 is about the same. They are building for the future, they just need more expansion. (In eight years, they have gone from one of the worst to number 20 for 2026 goals.)

Good news is that through Advantenon, Wilkins County received state funding in the last round of grants.…

Advantenon, Rural Grant, Stevens and Wilkin Counties – $316,554. This project will serve 528 unserved households, 132 unserved businesses, and 8 unserved community anchor institutions in eligible areas across these three western Minnesota counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Advantenon will improve broadband service levels to 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload, exceeding the state speed goal set for the year 2026. This project delivers the goal of Border to Border coverage for all residents of the covered counties, benefiting residents, businesses and public entities alike through enhanced access to healthcare services, education options, entertainment and business connectivity not previously possible. The total eligible project cost is $659,488, with a $342,934 local match.

Local provider Red River Communications is proud of their local coverage

The communities we serve in Richland County were awarded the status of “Smart Rural Communities” by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. Our entire fiber network earned Red River Communications the designation of being a “Gig Capable Certified Provider,” meaning every single one of our members on our fiber network in Richland and Wilkin counties can receive true gigabit Internet speeds.

This year, community leaders in Wilkin county have been vocal about their broadband needs:

In March, Minnesota Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, and Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, held a town hall meeting at Breckenridge City Hall where broadband was a hot topic.

In April Wilkin Commissioner testified in St Paul for rural broadband funding. County Commissioner Klindt said…

His aerial applicator company covers a three-state area where agriculture is king. “Frustrating,” is the polite word he would use to express his feelings about the internet service available to track weather and planes.

He used a wireless service for 10 years, but it was slow. “Dial-up was faster,” he said. It took several minutes to load a single map that takes seconds for anyone in most other areas of the state. “I just switched to satellite only to find the service drops when weather moves in — which is when I need it most!”

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 80.84 86.53
100/20 80.84 82.08

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 20

Watonwan County Broadband Profile: current ranking 34

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.

Watonwan County broadband ranking has slipped from 31 to 34. Although the actually coverage has increased since last year.

New Ulm Telecom did get a state grant in the last round of funding that should help with Watonwan’s ranking…

New Ulm Telecom, Hanska A&D FTTP – $324,894. This last mile project will serve 9 unserved households and 38 unserved businesses in the Hanska area south of New Ulm near the border of Brown and Watonwan Counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, New Ulm Telecom, Inc. will improve broadband service levels to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. This Fiber-to-the-Premises network will provide reliable, affordable, high quality broadband to rural farms, businesses, and homes. Broadband access will enable these businesses and residences to use new technology and tools to grow and enhance their business and community, including increased access to health care and education. The total eligible cost is $721,988, with a $397,094 local match.

Also AT&T has announced investment in the area and Mediacom has announced Gigupgrades in the county, specifically Butterfield and St James.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 65.26 70.70
100/20 64.58 68.42

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 34

Washington County Broadband Profile: current ranking 9

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.

Washington County broadband ranking has held steady at 9. The access has actually increased in the last year. They are in good shape with 96 percent coverage.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 96.52 97.21
100/20 94.97 96.10

The speeds reflect the Minnesota speed goals:

  • 25 Mbps down and 3 up by 2022
  • 100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026

Current ranking for 100/20 access: 9