Internet speed results throughout Big Stone, Swift, Lac qui Parle, Chippewa and Yellow Medicine Counties

I am pleased to share the results of a pretty informal but what I think is a very useful charting of Internet speeds in Minnesota Region 6W. Spearheaded by UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Center), they asked County Commissioners in the area to test their speeds. There are only 15 spots plotted on the map but it’s a good snapshot in time.

Plotting 15 points probably doesn’t meet any scientific standard – but it’s a look at what people on the front lines are experiencing. The high level numbers help paint the picture of inequity:

Download speeds:

  • Mean Download – 24.85 Mbps
  • Median Download – 18.20 Mbps
  • Highest Download – 90.61 Mbps
  • Lowest Download – 0.63 Mbps

Upload speeds:

  • Mean Upload – 22.31 Mbps
  • Median Upload – 13.185 Mbps
  • Highest Upload – 94.3 Mbps
  • Lowest Upload- 0.35 Mbps

It’s important to note that this is reflective of what people are experiencing based on their choice of provider and choice of service. It doesn’t show what’s available. Someone may have access to a faster choice and not take it – due to cost, disinterest or other reasons. And whenever you test a connection speed there are mitigating circumstances – for example speed of local network and speed of computer. But again this is a snapshot in time. If someone were in the field looking for a place to relocate, or trying to get online while on vacation – this is what they could find.

You can see the specific tests charted below. It’s compelling. It would be interesting to see more tests plotted. It would be interesting to have this data for the whole state.

Literature review on the impact of broadband

When you need numbers to make your case I know where you can go! To the new report from Purdue University (by Roberto Gallardo, Brian Whitacre and Alison Grant) – Research & Policy Insights: Broadband’s Impact A Brief Literature Review. It looks at research related to broadband specifically on the following topics:

  • Economic Development
  • Migration & Civic Engagement
  • Education
  • Telework
  • Telehealth
  • Smart Cities, Big Data, & Artificial Intelligence
  • Agriculture

Again, it’s a great reference tool to help give you quality answers to help make the case for better broadband. It’s also inspiring to read. I wanted to share just a portion they wrote about rural broadband…

Focusing on rural areas is important since they are lagging behind urban areas when it comes to broadband deployment and use (Perrin, 2017; Good, 2017). Furthermore, rural places need digital connectivity in order to compensate for their remoteness (Salemink, Strijker, & Bosworth, 2015). Studies that have given specific attention to rural areas have noted a positive relationship between rural broadband access and adoption and greater economic growth (Stenberg, et al., 2009), attraction of new firms (Kim & Orazem, 2017), higher household incomes (Whitacre, Gallardo, & Stover, 2014), small business growth (Shideler & Badasyan, 2012), increase in annual sales and value added (Canzian, Poy, & Schuller, 2015), and growth in annual payroll and number of business establishments (Kandilov & Renkow, 2010). In addition, a recent article explored the effects of USDA broadband loan programs on agriculture and found a positive impact on farm sales, expenditures, and profits among rural counties adjacent to metropolitan counties (Kandilov, Kandilov, Liu, & Renkow, 2017).

Additional studies have estimated the economic impact of rural broadband or lack thereof. The Hudson Institute estimated that broadband companies contributed $2.4 billion in 2015, supporting over 65,000 jobs and $100 billion in e-commerce (Kuttner, 2016). Another report conducted by Ohio State University attempted to estimate the economic benefits associated with increasing broadband access and adoption in Ohio. Using two research articles that estimated broadband consumer surplus ($1,850 per household per year was used in practice), they concluded that reaching full broadband coverage and adoption among currently unserved Ohio households would result in $2 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years (Rembert, Feng, & Partridge , 2017). Following a similar methodology, another study found that assuming full access of 25/3 Megabytes per second (Mbps) fixed broadband in the United States and a 20 percent adoption would result in $43.8 billion in economic benefits over 15 years (Gallardo & Rembert, 2017).

Important to note is that distinguishing between broadband access/availability and adoption is critical. Even if broadband is available, subscribing or using it (adoption) is not a given. In fact, Internet know-how or utilization is not randomly distributed among the population. For example, a study among young (college-age) Internet users found that parental education, gender, and race/ethnicity impacted the level of web-use skills (Hargittai, 2010). Furthermore, the relationship between entrepreneurs and creative class workers found that broadband adoption actually had a negative relationship with creative class type of workers in rural communities, while higher broadband availability is associated with a higher level of entrepreneurs (Conley & Whitacre, 2016). Another study found that increases in broadband adoption were more significantly related to changes in median household income and percentage of nonfarm proprietors than broadband availability (Whitacre, Gallardo, & Strover, 2014). Thus, it is important to distinguish between the impact of broadband access/availability and adoption/utilization since the digital divide consists of both (Gallardo, 2016).

Broadband gaps everywhere – but especially in Central time zone and Republican districts

The Brookings Institute recently outlined the need to improve broadband availability and adoption across the US. They note that while availability is an issue, adoption is an even greater issue and that every member of Congress represents at least some area that needs help with both.

Republican areas are in greater need of availability …

Broadband is widely available across the country, but Republican members of Congress disproportionally represent populations without physical access to high-speed internet. Overall, Republican House members serve districts where 89.4 percent of residents can physically access a wireline broadband connection. The gap equates to nearly 18.6 million people who physically cannot access broadband in their home. By comparison, Democratic House members represent districts with 97.5 percent coverage, leaving a much smaller gap of 3.5 million people.

Central time zone is in greater need…

Availability gaps are especially pronounced in the Central time zone. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) represents the only district in the country where broadband is available to less than half the population. There are five other districts where broadband is available to between 50 and 60 percent of their population, all of which are along this central spine (AL-1, MO-8, LA-5, AR-4, MS-3). While Republicans represent most of the low-availability districts, Democratic-represented districts like AZ-1, MS-2, MN-7, and MN-8 also fall into the bottom quintile of availability, each housing over 150,000 people who cannot connect to broadband in their home.

Republican areas are in greater need of adoption…

Republican legislators represent the bulk of these low-subscribing neighborhoods, which house over 51 million people. Many of the largest gaps are the same districts with limited broadband availability. Yet in others, like Rep. Thomas Rooney’s (FL-17) district in south-central Florida and Rep. Doug Collins’ (GA-9) district in north-central Georgia, broadband is widely available but subscribership is low.

Democratic legislators represent over 22 million people who live in low-subscription neighborhoods. In the districts with the biggest subscription gaps, more often than not broadband is widely available. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s (CA-40) district in east Los Angeles has 100 percent availability, but nearly half-a-million people live in low subscription neighborhoods. Similar subscription challenges in districts with high availability include TX-34, TX-33, and NM-1.

Digital Divide Index scores for all MN Counties – a MN Broadband Conference highlight

Last week’s Minnesota Broadband conference was so content rich, I thought I might post some of the highlights this week at a more leisurely pace.

A top highlight was Roberto Gallardo’s presentation – The Digital Age: So What? (You can see Roberto’s slides and video presentation.)

Roberto walked us through the impact and growing speed of technological changes to set the stage for looking at counties in Minnesota to see whether we are prepared for the digital age. Specifically he looks at

  • Infrastructure and Adoption (Do people have access to broadband and do they use it?)
  • Socioeconomic factors (age, poverty, education,
  • Combines those to get a DDI number

The higher the number the bigger the digital divide. You can learn a lot from the numbers in terms of planning a strategy to combat digital  – if you’re Infrastructure number is high – you need better infrastructure. If you’re Socioeconomic number is high, you may need more digital inclusion programs.

Minnesota scoring is:

  • DDI – 21.51
  • Socioeconomic – 41.37
  • Infrastructure – 21.02

Roberto shared county profiles for all Minnesota counties.

Roberto also took a look at how counties have fared based on their DDI number (or their quartile). He found that counties in the highest quartile (remember higher is bad)

  • Saw the greatest population decline from 2010-2015
  • Saw the greatest decline in establishments
  • Saw the greatest decline in jobs

Check it out and see how your county compares to the rest of Minnesota.

Growth and use of smartphones and devices in MN from 2000 to today

The Minneapolis Star Tribune takes data released this month from the American Community Survey and turns it into some really nice graphics and charts. They showcase the growth of digital devices from 2000 to today.

The evolution of technological adoption is an interesting look at who has what. You can see the steady increase of internet access as opposed to the steep incline of the tablet. It’s interesting to speculate the impact on social media and phone and internet and devices. As more options become available it seems as if all growth increases. (Laptops and workstations aren’t in the chart.)

And you can see the Minnesotans seem to be a little ahead of the national numbers – or as we like to say, well above average!

Record breaking traffic – 60 Terabits Per Second (Tbps) on Sep 12

Akamai Technologies reports

Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM), the world’s largest and most trusted cloud delivery platform, announced today that it set a new record on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, for the peak level of traffic delivered on its network. At more than 60 Tbps, the number eclipsed the previous record of 47 Tbps set on August 29th, 2017. The new peak was driven by several major events taking place concurrently on top of the normal day-to-day traffic that Akamai delivers.

SO what is Terabytes Per Second?

Terabytes per second (TBps) refers to a data transmission rate equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes, or 1,000,000,000,000 bytes per second. This extremely fast data transfer rate is used to quantify various kinds of data transmission between pieces of equipment or software environments, or for some other kinds of data handling. Terabytes per second may also go by the acronym TB/s.

So why do I mention it?

Because it gets to the issue that broadband demand is continually growing – at the individual, community, state and worldwide level.

How does Minnesota’s digital divide compare?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Nationally, about 77 percent of Americans have a high-speed internet connection, served up via broadband networks either on their home computers, tablets, phones or other devices, according to 2015 data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Minnesota, while slightly ahead of the national rate, lags behind many states on the West Coast and Northeast where home broadband is most common.

How do they define broadband?

Measuring whether someone has broadband at home – which the survey defines as either cable, DSL, fiber optic, satellite, mobile broadband, or fixed wireless online connections on any device – has basically become a proxy for whether they have internet at all. Older forms of online connectivity have become relatively rare. (About 14,000 households still use dial-up in Minnesota.)

How did MN do?

Minnesota came in at about 80 percent, according to the survey conducted in 2015. More recent studies limited to Minnesota yielded slightly higher estimates for the state.

The article also shares a map from the Office of Broadband Development