Waseca County Broadband Profile: current ranking 25

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.

Waseca County Broadband ranking has dipped from 3 to 25. It looks as if the coverage has gone down, but this might actually reflect different maps. The maps from last year included fixed wireless solutions; this year it’s wired only.

But Waseca should see even better results in the future. Consolidated Communications is upgrading parts of Waseca County – although that will only include speeds up to 80 Mbps, all competitively priced. And Mediacom has announced upgrades to gig service in Janesville, Waldorf and Waseca.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 98.75 75.30
100/20 98.75 75.06

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: 25

Wadena County Broadband Profile: current ranking 53

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.

Wadena County broadband ranking has dipped from 49 to 53. They are in that precarious place where most of the county has access to 23/5, which is adequate to do lots of things. SO they may not recognize that there’s a potential problem.  But as more people get faster speeds, applications will be designed for faster speeds and without a concerted effort to improve, Wadena may fall behind.

However there may have been improvements in 2018 that aren’t reflected in the chart below, as the local paper reports…

Unserved households and businesses in Wadena, Otter Tail and Todd Counties will be on the receiving end of high-speed internet access in 2018.

Townships receiving broadband include Wadena (Wadena), Compton (Otter Tail) and a small portion of Stowe Prairie Township (Todd).

West Central Telephone of Menahga and Sebeka received its third state grant and will be bringing high-speed internet service to 189 homes and 13 businesses next year.

According to West Central Marketing Director Geri Salmela, the telephone cooperative will be matching the state’s grant of $874,581 with a contribution of their own of $947,463.

The total cost of the project has been set at $1,822,044.

And certainly the latest grant awarded in the area wouldn’t be reflected…

West Central Telephone Association, Wadena Rural Phase III – $874,581. This last mile project will serve 189 unserved households and 13 unserved businesses within Compton Township in Otter Tail County as well as portions of Wadena Township in Wadena County and in Stowe Prairie Township in Todd County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and several regional development organizations, West Central Telephone Association will improve broadband service levels to 1 Gbps down and up, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. Building a fiber to the home network capable of Gigabit broadband service will finally provide residents and businesses with the reliable connectivity they have asked for and need. Students and instructors will be able to complete their work from home; healthcare professionals will have access to medical records and the ability to provide telehealth services; and businesses and farmers will have access to applications and online tools to boost their efficiency. The total eligible cost is $1,822,044, with a $947,463 local match.

And people in the area are talking about broadband. In a debate between District 9A Candidates (Incumbent Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore, and DFL challenger Alex Hering) ended up  talking about broadband. And West Central Telephone’s President Bruce Kinnunen and General Manager/CEO Chad Bullock recently participated in legislative visits in St. Paul with the Minnesota Telecom Alliance for their annual Day on the Hill event.

Part of what initiates and continues the conversation is the region-wide efforts as a Blandin Broadband Community

The Resilient Region is a five county collaborative (Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena) working to create a sustainable and inclusive region through the disciplines of housing, transportation, natural environment, and economic development to improve the quality of life of all residents. Broadband connectivity is an critical component of the Resilient Region Plan; in fact, they found that broadband touched every edge of the other projects they were working on – positioning them well to begin their work as a Blandin Broadband Community.

The Region’s connectivity priorities include: improved and expanded broadband access across the region with a focus on fiber, using technology to retain businesses and encourage entrepreneurism, ensuring Internet access for all children, and identifying additional funding and service partners.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 88.23 92.37
100/20 45.69 49.91

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: 53

Wabasha County Broadband Profile: current ranking 39

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.

Wabasha County broadband ranking has fallen from 33 to 39. I haven’t heard much from them in the last year. They were awarded a grant in early 2017; that deployment may not be evident in the numbers below…

New Ulm Telecom Inc., Mazeppa – $317,761. This project will serve 87 unserved households, 11 unserved businesses and 66 underserved households in Mazeppa Township in Wabasha County. New Ulm Telecom will improve services that will benefit farms, home-based businesses, telecommuters, a USDA office, Ag Partners, Mazeppa school system, and several banking institutions and insurance companies. The total eligible project cost is $706,135, with a $388,374 local match.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 83.59 74.35
100/20 61.70 66.17

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: 39

Traverse County Broadband Profile: current ranking 56

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.

Traverse County broadband ranking has dipped from 50 to 56.

I don’t hear a lot about Traverse County but they did come up in a regional broadband discussion hosted by Blandin Foundation. Someone asked for an update on the county

What was the story in Traverse County?
They found an interested provider in the area. They cut a deal where the county lent the company money and provided some easier access to towers. Once the provider got a certain number of providers, they had to look at paying back the loan. They’ve been successful. It’s wireless. It’s maybe not 25/3 but it’s better than what people had before.
Wireless isn’t wireless – it’s wireless to a tower that needs fiber.
Fixed wireless isn’t a long terms acceptable solution for Minnesota. They are akin to party lines. MY connectivity cannot depend on my neighbor’s trees (or on whether they build a new barn).
But fixed wireless is working in places like Renville Sibley County – where people can get fixed wireless and are happy to have it until FTTH becomes available.

Mediacom has announced upgrades to Gig service in parts of Traverse County, specifically Wheaton.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 45.37 66.14
100/20 45.37 45.62

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: 56

Todd County Broadband Profile: current ranking 81

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.

Todd County broadband ranking has improved slightly from 83 to 81. But at less than 20 percent access to speeds of 100/20, they need help. Even access to 25/3, at 68 percent is not very good.

It looks like Todd may get some help with West Central Telephone and a grant from the last state funding round…

West Central Telephone Association will receive a grant of $902,695 for a project in northern Todd County. The project will serve 209 unserved households and six unserved businesses within portions of Staples Township and Villard Township.

The total eligible cost is $1,805,390, with a $902,695 local match.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 46.01 67.96
100/20 2.86 17.58

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: 81

Swift County Broadband Profile: current ranking 41

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.

Swift County broadband ranking has increased from 64 to 41.

Swift has joined the most recent Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) cohort, starting last summer (2018). That should help build awareness and increase adoption in the area.

Swift County was part of an informal but informative speed test survey at the end of 2017. It demonstrated the wide range of access available in the region.

Various providers are making changes. AT&T has announced their investment in the area. TDS will be expanding in the area using federal funds but only for speeds ranging from 25/3 to 4/1. And Mediacom has announced upgrades to Gig access in Appleton and Clontarf.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 78.95 99.64
100/20 30.41 64.15

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: 41

Sibley County Broadband Profile: current ranking 42

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.

Sibley County broadband ranking has slipped from 41 to 42.

There has been some back and forth on the RS Fiber cooperative broadband provider project, a which provides broadband (fixed wireless and/or FTTH) to parts of Renville and Sibley County. Because there’s so much news I’ll present this county (and Sibley) a little differently. I’ll provide headlines to the various articles related to the county – starting with the earliest article since the last county profile (Feb 2017):

Also Sibley County was featured in a case study Blandin published on the community return on public investment in broadband. Here is an excerpt…

RS Fiber was born. Phase 1 of the project had the 10 cities commit to a $8.7 million Generally Obligated Tax Abatement Bond in the form of an economic development loan to the RS Fiber Cooperative to construct the fiber backbone connecting the cities and a FTTH network in each community. In Phase 2, which could begin in 2019, the 17 townships will be asked to loan $5 million in G.O Tax Abatement dollars to the cooperative to begin construction of a fiber to the farm network. The cooperative will make the bond payments on behalf of the cities and townships. The cooperative will borrow another $42 million from various bank sources to construct and operate the network.

RS Fiber hired Hiawatha Broadband Communications to manage the network build-out, operations and marketing. As they build out their fiber-to-the-home network, RS Fiber is offering fixed wireless services (50 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up) to customers to hold them over until fiber is available. The build out continues, and as it does it impacts the local community.

Knowing that access is only half the battle, RS Fiber focused attention on building broadband demand by becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC). They worked together to create a plan to increase demand for and use of broadband in the community with classes for the community, including computer basics and more specialized classes; they distributed computers to low incomes households; they created an Innovation Center in Winthrop with things like hotspots, broadcast technology and a drone obstacle course.

And a breakdown on investments and returns:

he following investments have been made in the community:

  • $8.7 million Generally Obligated Tax Abatement Bond (between Sibley and Renville Counties)
  • $1 million Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant (2015) to RS Fiber
  • $150,011 from Blandin Foundation for broadband adoption
  • Total: $9,850,011

Using formulas devised to measure impact of broadband access, Sibley County has the potential to realize:

  • A combined household economic benefit of broadband of $32,774,600 annually
  • A combined increase in residential real estate value of $104,825,572

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 71.27 89.23
100/20 51.01 62.84

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: 42