Pine County Broadband Profile: current ranking 68

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.

Pine County broadband ranking has dipped from 59 to 68. There has been very little increased access to broadband at speeds of 100/20 since last mapping.

Pine County representatives participated in a regional broadband meeting hosted by the Blandin Foundation. At the meeting, Steve Hallan gave an update to what’s happening in the county…

Schools in East Central formed a cooperative (ECMECC) to do two-way video done through cable. 12 years ago they needed to upgrade. TO get federal funding, the schools need to do an RFP. MidCo got the contract and that got them engaged. The kids are well connected at the school – but the homes are not necessarily connected. There are areas where MidCo doesn’t go and CenturyLink isn’t meeting the needs. We have town hall workers who can’t get online at the office. SCI has done a good job in some areas.

We have residents that drive to the Twin Cities to work; they should be able to telecommute.

The cities seem to have access – they problems is the no man’s land between cities.

It seems like private companies need 15 households per square mile to get necessary ROI.

I’m worried about the kids who live in the areas just out of range of broadband. The libraries are full. The coffee shops are full. They need access. Pine Tech has a computer lab because so many students don’t have access at home.

Part of Pine County is served by Frontier; they (and angry customers) have been the subject of a series of public meetings with the PUC. Former senator Becky Lourey voiced her dissatisfaction

When opponents say to me that residents living in small towns, sparsely populated rural communities, farming communities, forest communities, etc. should accept inadequate and intermittent connection, I say that back in the day we all had radio, access to electricity (granted paying for our entrance from the main line), to telephones and that in today’s world, access to fiber is the equivalent to yesterday.

There is some good news in Pine County; Savage Communications received a grant in the last round to increase broadband access in Pin County…

Savage Communications, Dell Grove Township Broadband Expansion – $118,248. This last mile project will serve 170 unserved households, 3 unserved businesses, and 1 community anchor institution near and around Grindstone Lake located within Dell Grove Township, Pine County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, SCI Broadband will improve broadband service levels to 250 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, meeting and exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. SCI will leverage its existing middle mile infrastructure to deploy a last mile fiber to the premise network to local businesses and residents. Building the fiber to the premise network will improve access to education, telemedicine, telecommuting and economic development as a whole within the region. The total eligible cost is $236,496, with an $118,248 local match.

Also Pine County participated in the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) initiative through their partnership with the Central Woodlands

The Central Woodlands Steering Team also prioritized partnering with township boards on broadband access. The Central Woodlands Inventory and Assessment project was designed to help townships move forward on broadband projects. For example, in Wilma Township in eastern Pine County, a retired resident leveraged $3000 in grant money for equipment to install new Wi-Fi technology to bring wireless internet to the town hall. According to project coordinator Penny Simonsen of East Central RDC, “Do not underestimate the power of a local stakeholder to influence the success of a project. Wilma Township is an excellent example of this, in a very positive way.”

Mediacom announced Gig upgrades in Pine County, specifically Sturgeon Lake Township and Windemere Township.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 40.12 42.84
100/20 37.37 38.18

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: 68

Pennington County Broadband Profile: current ranking 12

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.

Pennington County broadband ranking has gone from 77 to 12. They may take the most improved award for the year.

A series of state grants has helped:

  • CenturyLink, Thief River Middle Mile – $1.32 million. The project will serve 491 unserved households and 118 unserved businesses in an area from Thief River to Roseau. CenturyLink will provide improved services that will encourage business development and increase access to education and health care in the region. The total eligible project cost is $2.65 million, with $1.3 million local match. [Roseau and Pennington Counties]
  • Garden Valley Telephone Co., Rural Thief River Falls East – $2.03 million. The project will serve 330 unserved households, 23 unserved businesses and 2 community anchor institutions in rural Thief River Falls. Garden Valley Telephone will upgrade broadband services that will improve economic and community vitality in the region. The total eligible project cost is $4.2 million, with a $2.2 million local match. [Pennington County]

Also AT&T has announced investment in the area.

More help is on the way with a $20 million loan going to Garden Valley Telephone through the USDA to build smart grid infrastructure…

Recipient: Garden Valley Telephone Company
Loan amount: $20,360,000
Project description: This Rural Development investment will be used to make system improvements in Polk, Clearwater, Pennington, Marshall and Red Lake counties, and in the vacation resort areas of Maple Lake and Union Lake. The borrower proposes to construct 295.1 miles of fiber-optic facilities and construct fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) facilities. These improvements will enable Garden Valley to enhance services and provide voice, video and higher broadband speeds for subscribers.

And in the last round, Sjoberg got a Minnesota state grant to upgrade part of Pennington County…

Sjoberg’s Inc., NW MN Rural Broadband – $307,088. This last mile project will serve 98 unserved households, 10 unserved businesses, and 3 community anchor institutions in a large area west of Thief River Falls in Pennington County in northwestern Minnesota. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Sjoberg’s Inc. will improve broadband service levels to 1 Gbps down and up. This project will leverage investments made by Sjoberg’s and by ARRA/RUS grant/loan programs from earlier years and will finish out earlier state broadband grant projects, to complete Norden Township and a substantial portion of the unserved areas of Sanders and Rocksbury Townships. It will also support plans by DigiKey in Thief River Falls to add 1000 new employees. These employees are going to be knowledge workers, who will need access to advanced in-home broadband services for their jobs and for general quality of life in remote NW Minnesota. The total eligible cost is $614,176, with a $307,088 local match.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 91.78 91.78
100/20 9.63 90.75

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: 12

Otter Tail County Broadband Profile: current ranking 87

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.

Otter Tail broadband ranking has slipped from 82 to 87, or dead last for access to 100/20. Access to 25/3 is not as dire so residents may not feel a strong urge to make changes but as more people get better access, applications will assume better access and residents will be set up for frustration if they don’t start to aim for better broadband.

But there is some good news, local residents do recognize the need for better broadband. The presented their current status at a regional broadband meeting hosted by the Blandin Foundation earlier this year (2018).

Also former Senator Becky Lourey visited the area to learn more…

In fact, recent estimates anticipate that the necessary expenses for installation of broadband services across the county would total nearly $170 million.

Still, the improved service coverage would mean enhanced appeal for rural communities looking to attract medical professionals. At present, those considering small-town living may feel isolated.

The area did receive some state funding for better service a couple years ago…

A grant of $718,850 was awarded to the West Central Telephone Association in Wadena. The broadband expansion project will provide access for 174 unserved homes and 13 unserved businesses in Bluffton and Blowers townships in Otter Tail County and portions of Rockwood, Leaf River, North Germany and Wing River townships in Wadena County.

The total eligible project is $1.5 million, with a $778,755 local match.

And were even better positioned in the last round, where it looks like more funding will come directly to Otter Tail County

Arvig, Pelican Rapids Rural Non-ACAM – $633,642. This middle and last mile project will upgrade approximately 546 unserved households and 60 unserved businesses in the Pelican Rapids rural area of Otter Tail County. A funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Arvig will improve broadband service levels to at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload, meeting or exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. These investments will improve quality of life and business development opportunities. The total eligible project cost is $1,624,725, with a $991,083 local match.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 59.34 89.56
100/20 1.75 2.36

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: 87

Olmsted County Broadband Profile: current ranking 62

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.

Olmsted County is holding strong with a broadband ranking of 62 this year and last. Their access to 100/20 has increased that’s good news.

The county would like to see access outside of Rochester keep up with access in the city to allow for telecommuting, home-based businesses and attract potential workers at the Mayo Clinic.

Late in 2016, KMTelecom received a Minnesota broadband grant to improve access…

KMTelecom has received a 2016 matching state grant of just more than $764,000 to serve 195 unserved households, nine unserved businesses, the Mantorville Township building, and a small section of west-central Olmsted County.

It’s difficult to know if that project is reflected in the latest survey.

Mediacom has announced upgrades to service in Chatfield, Dover Twp, which should have launched in Summer of 2017.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 97.75 93.70
100/20 34.00 41.29

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: 62

Norman County Broadband Profile: current ranking 80

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.

Norman County’s broadband ranking has dipped from 71 to 80. The access to 25/3 has increased considerably since the last survey so I suspect residents feel like their situation is better but there has been no growth in access at speeds of 100/20 so feeling like they have enough broadband may be short-lived.

There’s bad news and good news. Norman County was listed as one of the few non-competitive counties in Minnesota for broadband access; according to the FCC, which means half the locations with demand for the services don’t have a competitive provider located within at least half a mile or 75 percent of the census blocks don’t have the presence of a cable provider.

Good news for Norman County, Red River Valley Cooperative Power Association received an $8,000,000 loan from the USDA to work on infrastructure for a smart grid…

This Rural Development investment will add 414 consumers, build 47 miles of line, improve 44 miles and make other system improvements.  The loan amount includes $1,545,000 for smart grid projects.  Red River Valley is headquartered in Halstad.  It serves 4,606 customers over 1,802 miles of line in Clay, Norman and Polk counties in northwestern Minnesota. The economy of the service area is primarily agricultural.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 37.67 98.02
100/20 20.52 20.55

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: 80

Nobles County Broadband Profile: current ranking 24

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.

Nobles County broadband ranking has improved from 35 to 24. In early 2017 they received a MN broadband grant, that deployment may or may not be reflected in these latest numbers…

Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. received a $2.94 million grant to create a hybrid fiber and wireless network that will eventually bring high-speed internet to the entire county. The co-op matched the $2.94 million grant one-to-one, creating a total project cost of $5,889,156.

The project broke ground in July 2017. And the county stepped up to provide $1 million in funding when planned funding fell through…

Earlier this year, LCTC was awarded a $2.94 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, but another $1 million in anticipated grant funding fell through. In need of additional funding to complete the project, representatives from the cooperative appeared before commissioners in April seeking a $3 million loan. Discussion later turned to bonding for the money.

The funding will come through tax abatement.

There are other forces pushing broadband too. Mediacom announced that Worthington will be part of the Gig upgrade. AT&T announced upgrades in the area. The school is going to get a broadband upgrade. The local paper looked at the potential economic impact of broadband in the area, based on the Blandin Foundation reports on community return on public investment on broadband.

Telecompetitor has taken a look at the process in Nobles County: feasibility study funded by the Blandin Foundation leading to a successful state broadband grant…

All stakeholders in the project report are pleased with the progress so far. There are some key lessons learned from this evolving project. They include:

  • Initial feasibility studies are crucial, and Nobles County cited working with professional fi rms like Finley Engineering and their partners as an important critical step.

  • There are many partners and stakeholders involved in a project like this and open and transparent communication throughout all steps is vital to success noted Nobles County officials.

  • Involving the community early on played an important role in success factors. Nobles County enlisted local community members to participate in the early studies, surveying community members about the need for broadband.

  • Fixed wireless access technology has vastly improved and it is now a very viable technology to bring quality broadband to unserved and underserved rural communities.

  • Grant money and other support funding mechanisms are required to bring quality broadband to very rural communities.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 75.69 79.24
100/20 59.25 77.18

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: 24

Nicollet County Broadband Profile: current ranking 73

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.

Nicollet is another county where we see a big dip in ranking from 38 to 73 but it also looks like the big difference might be looking at wired connectivity-only this year. That change in lens makes it difficult to gauge progress in some counties, but we can still look at what’s happening in the area.

Consolidated Communications announced improvements in Nicollet County…

Consolidated Communications’ high-speed Internet services include no data caps and a free wifi router, all backed by local customer service. The new broadband packages can be bundled with Consolidated’s Digital TV and voice services to provide even greater savings.

Increased speeds are available within the following communities: Mankato, North Mankato, Amboy, Cambria, Eagle Lake, Ellendale, Faribault, Garden City, Good Thunder, Janesville, Lake Crystal, Madison Lake, Mapleton, New Richland, Nicollet, Pemberton, St. Clair, St. Peter, Vernon Center and Waseca.

Mediacom has announced improvements in the area too with Lafayette and Saint Peter scheduled for Gig access.

Local leaders are recognizing the need for improvements.

County Commissioners recognize the need for better broadband…

All of the legislative representatives want to push for broadband internet service, even to the most rural parts of Minnesota.

“It’s one of the responsibilities of government to provide this infrastructure,” Johnson said.

Bree Maki, Sen. Tina Smith’s Southern Minnesota outreach coordinator, said that they’re looking for hard-wired connections, not wi-fi hotspots. …

In the past, he said, township supervisors wanted to talk about annexation. Now, they want to talk about broadband. For those in rural Minnesota, access to reliable broadband will allow use of drones and precision agriculture, which could limit the amount of chemicals used in agriculture.

“There’s an argument to be made that the best thing you can do to improve water quality in rural Minnesota is giving farmers internet,” Ackman said. “It’s going to be a game changer.”

Legislators recognize the need too…

In the Mankato region, broadband coverage is worst in Martin and Sibley counties, with about 45 percent of households without broadband coverage. Some 30 to 40 percent of households in Watonwan and Waseca County have no access to typical broadband. Even in more populous Blue Earth and Nicollet counties about 20 to 25 percent of households are without broadband

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 86.10 83.91
100/20 54.54 33.29

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: 73

Murray County Broadband Profile: current ranking 51

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.

Murray County broadband ranking has improved from 53 to 51. It looks like all of the expansion has happened at the 100/20 speeds so while the increase in not big, it is building for the future.

Earlier this year (2018) Murray County released a feasibility study

The studies looked at the business plan for bringing fiber to the service area. The vast majority of the study area has (or will soon have) fixed wireless broadband. This technology can deliver broadband connections in the range of 25 Mbps download, and sometimes faster.

However, we know the county’s goal is to eventually have fiber everywhere and the current wireless broadband is not a permanent bandwidth solution. Broadband trends show that the amount of bandwidth needed by a typical home will keep growing, and at some time in the future these wireless networks will seem too slow and become obsolete in the same manner that has happened in the past with dial-up and DSL broadband.

Our analysis shows that it is not economically feasible to build fiber everywhere in the rural parts of the county using the existing Border-to-Border grant program—the 50% grant matching in that program is not high enough to create a sustainable network. However, it would be possible to fund fiber using these grants if the percent of the grant matching is increased above the 50% level used in awarding these grants today. It might also be feasible to build the fiber in stages over multiple years to get the needed grant funding.

It is likely to be a challenge for a service provider to building fiber today since almost all of the rural area is served with newly-built fixed wireless technology that is capable of delivering speeds of at least 25 Mbps download. Any potential fiber provider is going to worry that many households will be satisfied with that level of broadband speed.

And a subsequent article in the local paper says even more about their plans…

“The county does not plan to build a broadband network but is open to talking with providers who are interested in extending service to our citizens and may need financial assistance to do so,” Rucker said. “Murray County had the feasibility study completed so that any provider who wants to extend broadband service to our unserved and underserved areas could use the study as background to apply for state or federal grants to do so.”

The county has seen significant broadband investment from Woodstock since 2015, when it installed two wireless broadband towers around Lake Shetek. It continued over the last two years, installing eight internet coverage sites in the area, including towers in Lake Wilson, Slayton and Edgerton. The company plans to add another tower south of Chandler this year.

The towers, which are fed with fiber, provide 50Mbps download speeds at a range of six miles, according to Terry Nelson, Woodstock general manager. The speeds and service can vary, however, as wireless internet can be disrupted by geographical features such as hills, trees and windmills.

“We’ve done wireless in a lot of these areas, but there’s still little pockets that we can’t hit with some of our wireless,” Nelson said. “I would definitely never say the county is 100 percent covered, because it’s not.”

There’s a push for use in the schools

Through a partnership between SDN Communications and the Southwest West Central (SWWC) Service Cooperative, a fiber-based internet service will come to more than 30 school districts in southwest Minnesota, including every public school district in Nobles, Murray, Rock, Cottonwood and Pipestone counties.

Also, AT&T has announced improvements in the area. And Mediacom has announced planned improvement to Gig access in the county, specifically Fulda, Hadley, Slayton, Nicollet County, Lafayette and Saint Peter.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 50.47 51.00
100/20 41.65 50.78

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: 51

Mower County Broadband Profile: current ranking 79

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.

Mower County broadband ranking has dipped a from 14 to 79. I assume this reflects an anomaly in the mapping. (Last year’s mapping included fixed wireless access this year includes only wireline.)

Mediacom has announced that part of Mower County (Adams, Brownsdale, Le Roy, Lyle, Waltham) are part of the Gig upgrade. And the county was optimistic about the opportunities inherent in the CAF II auction.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 94.78 78.47
100/20 90.20 23.31

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: 79

Morrison County Broadband Profile: current ranking 59

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.

Morrison County broadband ranking increased from 66 to 59. Looking at the rates of improvement, it appears as if Morrison is playing for the long game. All of the improvement has been in the 100/20 speeds.

Good news is that Benton Cooperative got a state grant of $765,000 to improve access, mostly in Benton County, but Buckman Township in Morrison will see improvements too. It is the second grant to improve access in that area.

Morrison County is part of the Resilient Region and has been included in their research and Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) activities

Research unveiled at the conference found that, combined, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties could see more than $78.6 million in economic benefits over 15 years if broadband access and use improved. Tech expert Robert Gallardo, assistant director at the Purdue Center for Regional Development, produced profiles of all Minnesota counties using his Digital Divide Index.

And activity is happening on the ground to increase adoption, for example the library is hopping.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 74.13 71.08
100/20 28.83 42.74

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: 59

Mille Lacs County Broadband Profile: current ranking 49

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.

Mille Lacs County broadband ranking has dipped from 47 to 49 but they have seen some improvement.

Mille Lacs applied for a broadband grant in the last available round and were unhappy to not receive funding…

The denial of a state grant to partially fund a countywide wireless network in Mille Lacs County has officials frustrated, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development did not select the county’s application for broadband funding.

This rejection comes after a year’s worth of studies and public outreach, and county officials said they believed their project received less consideration than some that would impact 100 or fewer residents. The Mille Lacs County project would serve approximately 26,000 residents.

A consulting firm working with the county on the project intends to request information from the state concerning grant selection criteria.

I suspect if there is future funding for broadband, Mille Lacs County will apply.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 47.86 62.00
100/20 47.07 54.42

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: 49

Meeker County Broadband Profile: current ranking 57

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.

Meeker County broadband ranking has bumped up one from 58 to 57. They received a grant in 2015 that has helped. Also AT&T has been investing in the area. And parts of Meeker County (Collinwood Twp., Cosmos, Darwin, Dassell Twp., Grove City, Litchfield, Litchfield Twp.) are on Mediacom’s plan for Gig access. And the county is taking steps to encourage improvements too.

In February (2018), they were part of a regional discussion on broadband hosted by the Blandin Foundation. They provided an update on broadband in county at that time…

Meeker County – David Krueger

We got $25,000 from Blandin for a feasibility study. Access is uneven. Preliminary results show that consumers and businesses need more of what they may not know they need. They need more education as well as broadband.

A couple of years ago people started to recognize that they didn’t have adequate broadband or if they could it was too expensive. We realize that if we had more customers that would help create a business case for providers to come in and/or upgrade services. Students are needing better broadband. They get ipads from the school. Now they’re going to McDonald’s to do some homework.

What are the barriers in place? The technology required is based on needs of the users. Is there a possibility for dark fiber, a cooperative model, partnerships, shared use of conduit, future planning… But we need to build demand to make sure we maximize use and ROI.

Two years ago, businesses thought they were fine with existing broadband. Now they need more. We need to focus on future needs to create a solution for today and tomorrow.

The county has also started a new way to promote Meeker County Made products to support local manufacturers but they also realize that manufacturers need better broadband…

“Another initiative that Meeker County is involved in is working on a stronger broadband presence,” Krueger said.

Jack Maytum, senior business analyst for Design Nine Consulting, was among those present at the luncheon. Design Nine is the consulting agency hired to study Meeker County’s broadband internet presence and determine what’s necessary to keep up with technological advances.

“In 10 or 15 years, we’re going to be at the point where dial-up internet used to be,” Krueger said. “This analysis is all about what your businesses need for the future.”

Taking steps forward to provide the best outcomes for manufacturing businesses across Meeker County, Meeker County Made, the speakers said, hopes to bring national recognition to an industry that has provided a careers to a great number of the population as well as economic growth.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 98.58 71.45
100/20 38.13 45.08

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: 57

McLeod County Broadband Profile: current ranking 43

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.

McLeod County ranking has dipped from 36 to 43. In February (2018), the Blandin Foundation held a meeting in the region to talk about broadband. We got a glimpse of the situation in the county…

They don’t have an economic development department to work on broadband. So no one seems to be championing the effort on a county-wide basis. BUT, as part of RS Fiber, two cities are getting connectivity (FTTH). Hutchinson has cable and halfway decent speeds – but outside of Hutchinson, the county is not well served. There was a MN State grant in 2014 just outside the city of Hutchinson via New Ulm Telecom.

McLeod may want to look at starting or joining a concerted effort to improve broadband. Or they may be able to benefit from efforts around them; although that’s not guaranteed.

Some efforts have been made. There was a Minnesota broadband grant application in the county that was not funded. AT&T announced improvements in the area. And Mediacom has announced upgrades in McLeod County, specifically Brownton, Hassan Valley, Hutchinson, Lester Prairie, Silver Lake, Stewart, Winsted.

Yet, McLeod was one of seven counties deemed non-competitive by the FCC, which means half the locations with demand for the services do not have a competitive provider located within at least half a mile or if 75 percent of the census blocks do not have the presence of a cable provider.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 98.58 56.38
100/20 56.92 58.57

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: 43

Martin County Broadband Profile: current ranking 48

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.

Martin County broadband ranking has dipped from 39 to 48. The problem really is that they have seen no improvement since the last mapping survey. Martin County was a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) and through that partnership they had a feasibility study done. It seems that Martini County is in a position that other rural counties may find themselves…

Martin County is in a challenging position. The two largest cities – Fairmont and Sherburn, along with the community Granada and its surrounding rural area, are relatively well connected. However, the remaining rural areas and communities throughout the county in some cases have no access to any broadband options at all. The digital divide challenges any provider to build a business case for expanding service offerings in the rural areas.

Incumbent providers have plans to improve some areas of Martin County, but the specifics have not been determined.

They used the feasibility study to create a successful state broadband grant in 2016

The county was awarded $1.68 million to serve 1,784 unserved households, 51 unserved businesses and nine unserved community institutions.

Presumably the next mapping will reflect the impact of that project.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 55.64 50.84
100/20 54.06 54.80

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: 48

Marshall County Broadband Profile: current ranking 54

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.

Marshall County broadband ranking has improved from 78 to 54. They’ve seen great improvements in speeds of 25/3 and 100/20. AT&T has been investing in the area. They got a state broadband grant (via Wikstrom) in 2015 for $425,000 and Wikstrom received another $43,000 the following year. And Wikstrom got another $1.3 million in the last round of grants

Wikstrom Telephone, Wiktel NW MN Broadband – $1,307,785. This project will serve rural sparsely populated areas in Kittson, Marshall, and Roseau counties in far northwestern Minnesota, passing 300 unserved homes and 31 unserved business locations. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Wikstrom will improve broadband services levels to 1 Gbps down and up, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal, on a fiber optic network, and in some locations will extend the service from routes built via the 2016 Border to Border State Grant program

Good news is that Garden Valley Telephone recently received a $20 million loan from the USDA to improve infrastructure in the area…

Recipient: Garden Valley Telephone Company
Loan amount: $20,360,000
Project description: This Rural Development investment will be used to make system improvements in Polk, Clearwater, Pennington, Marshall and Red Lake counties, and in the vacation resort areas of Maple Lake and Union Lake. The borrower proposes to construct 295.1 miles of fiber-optic facilities and construct fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) facilities. These improvements will enable Garden Valley to enhance services and provide voice, video and higher broadband speeds for subscribers.

Broadband is a hot topic at local meetings

Wyatt-Yerka said, after listening to the small-group part of the program, that audience members had some of the same concerns as many people in the region. Getting more reliable broadband Internet access was one of those concerns. Wyatt-Yerka said some of the problems in getting broadband in the region had to do with cost, and while there were state broadband grant programs, the fees to apply could be a deterrent. He suggested decreasing the application fees.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 33.49 76.93
100/20 9.20 48.20

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: 54