Mahnomen County Broadband Profile: current ranking 84

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.

Mahnomen County’s broadband ranking as dipped from 75 to 84. Mahnomen has decent coverage for 25/3 access, which may leave residents to think that they are not in need of improvements but they may find that “better broadband” is a moving target. Speeds that are adequate for applications today may not suffice tomorrow.

Late in 2017, Garden Valley Telephone received a state broadband grant that will help the area…

Garden Valley Telephone Company, Bejou – $1,304,421. This last mile project will serve 214 unserved households, 17 unserved businesses, and 7 unserved community anchor institutions in Bejou and surrounding rural areas within Mahnomen County, including portions of the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Garden Valley Telephone will improve broadband service levels to 1 Gbps down and 1 Gbps up, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. Bejou and White Earth leaders agree that the area is in desperate need of fast reliable Internet service to help the area progress, especially as technology continues to advance around them. The total eligible cost is $2,608,842, with a $1,304,421 local match.

Senator Utke celebrated the award.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 71.95 83.53
100/20 13.03 13.53

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: 84

Lyon County Broadband Profile: current ranking 29

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.

Lyon County has gone from ranking of 86 to 29! They went from no access to 100/20 to almost 73 percent. There was a concerted effort for improvement and that efforts continues. Midco received a state grant of $623,000 to serve 1,029 unserved households, 29 unserved businesses and 11 unserved community institutions in the communities of Porter, Taunton, Minneota, Ghent and Canby in Yellow Medicine and Lyon counties. That has clearly made a difference.

Late in 2017, Woodstock received a state broadband grant to improve broadband in parts of Lyon County…

Through the Woodstock Telephone Company, Balaton will benefit from a $413,009 state grant, combined with a local match of just over $1 million. The last mile project will serve 305 underserved households, 28 underserved businesses and six underserved community anchor institutions in the city of Balaton.

In its partnership with the state, Woodstock will improve broadband service levels to 1 Gbps down and 1 Gbps up, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal.

In Spring of 2018, the county released the results of a feasibility study

The studies looked at two scenarios—building fiber to the study area and building a hybrid combination of wireless technology and fiber. 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 without good broadband today. Some customers will be able to get even faster speeds on the wireless network.

However, we know the county’s goal is to eventually have fiber everywhere and so 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 time in the future a wireless network would become obsolete in the same manner that has happened in the past with dial-up and DSL broadband.

We view the hybrid fiber and wireless solution and a great first step towards improving broadband. This option would bring fiber immediately to about a third of the rural homes in the county, including the towns of Green Valley, Cottonwood, Amiret, and Florence. And the fiber constructed for this scenario is a first step in getting fiber closer to everybody in the county. We think a reasonable business plan is to start with the hybrid option and extend fiber to everybody over time.

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 enough to create a sustainable network. However, the hybrid fiber and wireless solutions all look to be economically viable.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 72.37 80.71
100/20 0 72.77

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: 29

Lincoln County Broadband Profile: current ranking 66

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.

Lincoln County’s broadband ranking has dropped from 54 to 66. It looks like their coverage has decreased or perhaps stayed stagnant from last year.

But they are looking at making improvements. They recently completed a feasibility study

Our study area looked at the feasibility of bringing broadband to the parts of the county that are not expected to have fiber construction over the next few years. In Lincoln County that means the rural areas served Frontier Communications and CenturyLink. The western part of the county is served today by Interstate Telephone Cooperative, and those areas are expected to get fiber. The study area also excludes all of the towns in the county except Arco since the other towns are served by Mediacom.

We then looked at two different business plan scenarios for getting broadband to everyone: building fiber everywhere and building a hybrid network that is a mix of fiber and fixed wireless. Finley Engineering developed estimates of the cost of deploying each network option and CCG used these costs in the financial business plans to see if there is an economically viable model for providing broadband in the rural areas.

The primary purpose of the study was to determine the breakeven penetration level for the rural study area. 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 build fiber to the study area 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 today. 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.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 54.27 53.44
100/20 40.00 39.21

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: 66

Le Sueur County Broadband Profile: current ranking 31

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.

Le Sueur broadband ranking has dropped from 16 to 31 but there is some discrepancy in their numbers it looks as if the percentage served has dropped. That may just be a sign of problems with the maps.

Last year, Eckles Telephone got a border to border grant to serve 51 unserved households, seven unserved businesses, 40 underserved households, and four underserved businesses in the rural Heidelberg area. Mediacom has announced upgrades to customers in their areas (Cleveland, Kasota, Lake Jefferson, Le Sueur, Montgomery).

This year Le Sueur has been working on a market survey of access and need in the county. And at the 2018 Minnesota Broadband Conference, Le Sueur will get a chance to workshop a feasibility study with attending consultants.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 90.39 72.68
100/20 82.78 70.65

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: 31

Lake of the Woods County Broadband Profile: current tanking 52

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.

Lake of the Woods broadband ranking has increased from 87 (last) to 52. What’s really impressive is that, according to the numbers, all of the new broadband in the county meets to 100/20 broadband speed goals. They are building for the future.

The new maps likely reflect the impact of two of the state grant projects

Sjoberg’s will receive $354,740 to serve 126 unserved households, 30 unserved businesses and one community anchor institution in several areas of Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties.

Wikstrom Telephone will receive $950,823 to serve 236 unserved households and 26 unserved businesses in sparsely populated areas of Kittson, Marshall, Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties.

Now they just need greater expansion of the same level broadband.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 50.61 50.47
100/20 0 50.47

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: 52

ore info:

Lake County Broadband Profile: current ranking 11

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.

Lake County’s ranking has increased from 13 to 11. In 2010, Lake County got an ARRA award of $66.3 million to improve broadband access in their area; about $10 million of the award was an outright grant; the rest was a low-interest loan. There were bumps along the road to getting fiber to the community and bumps remain. As it stands today, there are portions of the county that are not yet served with fiber, an outstanding loan, and local provider Lake Connections is looking to sell the network while it is managed by Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC).

Money is still owed on the network and they have received at least one bid for the network…

On June 13, 2017, the county entered into a deferral agreement with RUS for principal and interest payments on the condition Lake County sell Lake Connections to provide the federal government with maximum recovery of the loan and grants. When the deferral agreement was executed, the county owed approximately $48.5 million on the RUS loan.

In August 2017, the county executed a memorandum of understanding with RUS in which RUS agreed to accept the sale price of Lake Connections in full satisfaction of the county’s debt for the construction of the network, according to documents provided by Lake County Administrator Matt Huddleston. If the Pinpoint bid is the winning bid, RUS will receive $3.5 million to satisfy the $48.5 million debt.

Lake County was one of five counties we looked at for the reports last year on Measuring Impact of Broadband in 5 Rural MN Communities. It looks at the value of the network in a different lens – specifically we looked at the benefits of the network to the residents. We found that community-wide the residents reap $13.7 million each year and the household value (community-wide) and increased by $38.5 million. We got to those numbers by looking at two formulas – the value of houses with broadband increase 3 percent (times the number of house with broadband) and annual economic benefit per household is $1,850.

That doesn’t pay for the network – but it does demonstrate the value of the network to the community. As part of the research for that report, we spoke to members of the community. Many were quick to say that given the chance, they would go ahead again with the network to help the community reap the benefits.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 94.32 94.30
100/20 94.32 94.30

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: 11

Lac qui Parle County Broadband Profile: current ranking 6

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.

Lac qui Parle broadband ranking has dropped from 2 to 6. There was a slight dip in access from last year. I presume that reflects a correction is this year or last but they are still more than 97 percent covered.

Lac qui Parle was part of an informal speed survey. They are promoting their fiber through a partnership with Southwest MN Careers.

The problem in LqP County is that while most of the county got FTTH through a federal ARRA grant in 2010; the county seat of Madison did not qualify for the upgrade because their connection speeds were deemed to good for the upgrade. So LqP is in an unusual position where the biggest city is least served and the rest of the county has FTTH.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 99.36 97.35
100/20 99.36 97.35

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: 6

Koochiching County Broadband Profile: current ranking 28

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.

Koochiching County slipped from 27 to 28 but they have seen improvement. The good news is that the broadband they have is good; the bad news is that they need more of it.

MinnPost had an article on population loss in the county; telling the story of one resident who was able to make it work because of an internet connection…

With the help of the Internet, Conat has grown the company from a small storefront in International Falls to a manufacturing facility in nearby Ranier with several full-time employees in the last half-decade.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 68.60 73.50
100/20 68.55 73.44

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: 28

Kittson County Broadband Profile: current ranking 30

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.

Kittson County has bumped up from ranking 82 to 30. In 2016, Wikstrom Telephone received $950,823 to serve 236 unserved households and 26 unserved businesses in sparsely populated areas of Kittson, Marshall, Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties. That must have had some impact.

And Wikstrom received another grant at the end of 2017…

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.

Senator Johnson celebrates the state’s investment in the area.

AT&T has talked about upgrades they have made in the last five yearsAlthough that might not have a big impact on 100/20 coverage.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 65.62 71.38
100/20 3.46 71.38

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: 30

Kandiyohi County Broadband Profile: current ranking 86

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.

Kandiyohi has slipped from 79 to 86. They are in a tough position. They have been working on better broadband for years.

Last year, Consolidated Telecommunications Co. (CTC) was awarded a $4.94 million grant to improve serves in New London, Spicer and Willmar and Frontier was awarded a grant of $1.02 million to improve service in rural Kandiyohi County.

Unfortunately, the CTC project did not work out.

The County was going to match the grant with tax abatement bonds. Proceeds from the bonds ($5 million) would be loaned to CTC for the project. The debt would be paid from tax abatement revenues and property taxes which will be reduced or cancelled by the loan payments from CTC.  The loan would be paid back fully by CTC with no impact to the tax base in Kandiyohi County.  The project started with a series of open house meetings in the communities in the proposed service areas. The goal was to get people to sign up for service and pay $25 down payment to show their commitment to taking services.

Getting residents to sign up in advance was key to CTC moving forward.  This become key because the financials substantially changed from the time of the grant application submission to the project buildout timeline.  Interest rate increases drove up the cost of debt CTC would be incurring substantially.  Despite encouragement from several sources – including Representative Baker – they did not get as many signed up as CTC needed to move forward.

One issue – CTC was looking for 50 percent of the residents to sign up and pay a deposit to move forward. What happened? More than 50% of the people in the project area signed up and more than 44% had sent in the $25 deposit at the time that CTC pulled the project.

LTD Broadband has been working to fill the gaps. They started building broadcast tower sites across the county summer 2017. And continued the expansion summer 2018, LTD Broadband recently expanded wireless service to the lakes area of Kandiyohi County with the installation of LTE equipment on water towers in Spicer, on Green Lake, in New London and a tower site by Long Lake.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 77.25 77.20
100/20 8.14 10.64

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: 86

Kanabec County Broadband Profile: current ranking 67

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.

Kanabec County ranking has improved from 68 to 67. The have actually seen  an increase coverage but they are not keeping up with the rest of the state.

Kanabec has been a Blandin Broadband Community. There is a Kanabec Broadband Initiative. They have been part of the East Central Regional Broadband Group.

At the end of 2017, CenturyLInk announced upgrades in Kanabec County…

Rural residents that have struggled to find ways to access the internet from their homes may be in luck as Century Link is expanding services to include an additional 1,400 homes in the Braham area, and 3,000 homes in the Mora area.

But these is some concern that the upgrades will not be sufficient…

“This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go,” he said. Jelsing explained that even though Century Link advertises speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, actual speeds tend to vary. For Jelsing, he had hoped upload speeds would be considered equally as important as download speeds. While download speeds help consumers who are interested in streaming video, upload speeds are essential for supporting local businesses that need to send data —not just receive it.

While 10 Mbps bandwidth will be a huge improvement for those with no wired internet options, it’s still below the FCC’s definition of broadband which is 25Mbps download / 3Mbps upload.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 34.04 67.07
100/20 26.07 38.54

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: 67

Jackson County Broadband Profile: current ranking 33

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.

Jackson County broadband ranking has slipped from 26 to 33. They have been hovering at about 69 percent coverage for at least three years now. Three years ago that coverage was enough to make a community (or provider) complacent but as the numbers, indicate they are slipping.

But they have been having discussions; Senator Klobuchar came to Jackson County in last 2017; broadband was a hot topic for the crowd.

AT&T announced upgrades in the area with 26 individual network updates to cell towers on its 4G LTE network in 25 southwest Minnesota communities.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 68.90 68.83
100/20 68.90 68.79

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: 33

Itasca County Broadband Profile: current ranking 23

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.

Itasca’s broadband ranking has slipped from 21 to 23. Itasca has seen increases in access over the last few years and the improvement continues. In November (2017), Paul Bunyan was awarded Minnesota Broadband Grant for portions of Itasca County, St. Louis County, and Hubbard County. That will help.

They did have Senator Smith come to talk about broadband back in March (2018).

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 78.92 86.15
100/20 76.35 79.44

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: 23

Isanti County Broadband Profile: current ranking 45

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.

Isanti County has slipped from 43 to 45. But they have seen improvement in access to 100/200 speeds. In February 2018, they release a survey of public opinion of local broadband…

  • Eighty-eight percent of residents say they need better Internet-data service, 92 percent said Internet access is very important and 1 percent said it is not important.
  • Eighty-three percent of businesses say they need better Internet-data service and 95 percent said the Internet is essential to their business.
  • Sixty-six percent of businesses said limited Internet access at employees’ residences impacts their business.
  • Twenty-four percent of businesses said Internet service options impact their business’ decision to relocate or stay in the county.

The survey was also discussed at the East Central RDC broadband roundtable about the same time (Feb 2018).

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 53.52 73.67
100/20 49.29 56.62

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: 45

  • Find more articles on broadband in Isanti County. (http://tinyurl.com/gozt2ka)   
  • Districts: CD 8
    Senate: 31 & 32
    House: 31A, 32A

Hubbard County Broadband Profile: current ranking 55

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.

Hubbard County broadband ranking has slipped from 48 to 55. They had received some grant funding (via Paul Bunyan) in the past. Paul Bunyan got another grant for upgrades in the area in November 2017…

Paul Bunyan Communications has been awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to portions of St Louis, Hubbard and Itasca Counties.
As a result, the cooperative will begin expansion construction next spring that will pass a minimum of 830 locations.

Senator Utke celebrated the grant.

Info on Access:

Speeds % served 2017 % served 2018
25/3 87.42 95.65
100/20 46.43 46.61

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: 55