IEDC report on how economic developers are expanding broadband access

The IEDC has written a guidebook of sort to help economic developers promote better broadband. As they say…

In response to the market’s failure to provide universal, affordable, reliable access, public networks and publicly facilitated solutions continue to grow. Economic developers play important roles in planning and  implementing these solutions, which this paper shows in three main sections:

  • A broadband “crash course” – key things to know about how broadband works
  • An overview of different communities’ strategic approaches and technical solutions
  • Actions economic development organizations are taking to expand access

And…

Five in‐epth case studies are included showing how economic development organizations have played a  central role in improving broadband access in their communities. Those roles include:

  • Convening stakeholders,
  • Gathering data,
  • Engaging in strategic planning,
  • Helping evaluate solutions, and
  • Helping secure financing for solutions.

This is a great tool if you’re in a position where you have to sell the idea of broadband. If you’ve been doing this for a while, the story won’t be new but the stats are. Here are just a few:

  • In 2021, major corporations, including Ford in Michigan and Target in Minnesota, have said they are giving up significant office space because of their changing workplace practices.
  • 51% of respondents said their corporate clients are now considering moving their business operations
  • A joint study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amazon found that in Virginia alone, universal broadband would mean at least $2.24 billion increased annual sales, $1.29 billion annual value added, 9,415 added jobs, and $452.4 million in annual wages.

The report also, as indicated goes into the nuts and bolt of broadband, such as…

  • Why satellite access doesn’t substitute for fixed access
  • Why 5g isn’t the answer to better community access
  • The digital divide: Who doesn’t have internet and why?

They even draw a few examples from Minnesota, especially Chisago County…

Chisago County, Minn. Case highlights:

  • Solution involved collaboration with incumbent ISP
  • Public funding layered on private investment got higher-quality service
  • Help from a rural community foundation
  • Role of survey data and citizen involvement

Minnesota has a couple of advantages when it comes to expanding broadband service. One of those is a longstanding commitment by the state to the goal of universal broadband access for residents (at speeds of 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026). The other is the Blandin Foundation, which, as part of its vision to create healthy, inclusive rural communities in the state, has focused for years on helping expand broadband access.

In 2015, Chisago County, located roughly an hour north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, began its broadband efforts in earnest. The work was spearheaded by the Chisago County Housing & Redevelopment Authority – Economic Development Authority (HRA-EDA) and its executive director, Nancy Hoffman. (Hoffman previously worked on broadband access in another rural Minnesota county and also has served as chair of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition.)

Chisago County was accepted into the Blandin Broadband Communities program, an intensive, two-year process in which rural communities define their technology goals, measure current levels of broadband access and use, and access technical assistance and resources to meet their goals. Each community also has the opportunity to apply to the foundation for a $75,000 matching grant for locally developed projects.

Led by a local steering committee, in 2016, one of the first actions was to survey county residents about their current broadband access, whether they would subscribe to better service and for what they would use it (such surveys are useful both to determine demand and to use in grant applications). The results found that 94 percent of residents would subscribe to better broadband service for uses that included improved quality of life, education, telecommuting and starting a business. Seventy-six percent of Chisago County working residents commute out of the county, so part of the goal from the HRA-EDA’s perspective was to give people the opportunity to work, shop and stay closer to home by telecommuting or starting their own business. The study also showed that numerous homebased businesses paid too much for poor service or had to find other locations to upload or download files.

Once the county had data on unserved/underserved areas and potential demand for improved service, the technical solution became the question. The steering committee began by talking to incumbent providers (of which there were seven in the county, including telephone and cable providers CenturyLink and Frontier).

They found a willing partner in CenturyLink, which had received federal Connect America Funds (CAF II) that it planned to use to upgrade service in half of Sunrise Township using DSL technology; CAF II speed requirements are just 10/1 Mbp. (Frontier served the other half of the town and declined to participate). To secure faster, more reliable service, the township proposed to invest local funding, combined with a grant from the state’s Border to Border Broadband grant program, to prompt CenturyLink to build a fiber-to-the-home network that met (at minimum) the state speed goals of 100/20 Mbps.

A petition signed by 50 percent of the residents in favor of the project helped spur Sunrise Township to action. The township raised the funds by bonding through a subordinated service district, assessed by parcel, rather than property value. After seeing Sunrise Township’s success, other communities began pursuing similar strategies to improve service. Fish Lake Township, also in Chisago County, has since completed a project in which it raised funds for the local share by issuing tax abatement bonds (property owners are assessed by value). Nessel Township followed suit the next year with the same financing model. The cost savings by having high-speed Internet much outweighed the additional cost the residents pay, which is about $100 a year or $10 a month.

Takeaways:

  • Get the right people together. Don’t worry about titles. Bring in people who get things done.
  • Cultivate personal passions. Harness the energy of where the group wants to go. Don’t fight it.
  • Show people they’re not alone. Work on building relationships of mutual trust. Relationships will carry the work forward.
  • Show successes early and often. Break down the project into bite-size pieces that the community can grab hold of and achieve. Celebrate the successes to re-energize before starting on the next piece. Sources: Interview with Nancy Hoffman; Blandin Broadband Communities Program, Blandin Foundation

And a few other mentions…

  • [Federal covid-19 relief funds] Many states and communities used CARES Act funds for infrastructure projects (which had to be used by the end of 2020, limiting flexibility). Itasca County, Minnesota, committed $293,000 in CARES funds to complete four projects in the county. The city of Chesapeake, Va., used it to fast-track the engineering design for a 170-mile fiber backbone that will connect over 200 sites and lay a foundation for gigabit broadband.
  • The Cargill Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Bush Foundation, and numerous other foundations and businesses based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region donated $2.35 million in grants to the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) and Partnership for a ConnectedMN to address digital inequities that affect many Minnesota students. Grants fund the distribution of laptops, fiber internet installation, training for digital literacy, and more

 

Report finds strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth

Deloitte released a report that looks at Return on Investment in broadband. They look at advantages of faster speeds and the need to focus on adoption and affordability…

Today, the digital divide still presents a significant gap after more than $100 billion of infrastructure investment has been allocated by the US government over the past decade to address this issue. The current debate regarding additional funds for broadband deployment implies that further examination is warranted regarding how to get to broadband for all and achieve the resulting economic prosperity.

Quantifying the economic impact of bridging the digital divide clearly shows the criticality of broadband infrastructure to the US economy. Deloitte developed economic models to evaluate the relationship between broadband and economic growth. Our models indicate that a 10-percentage-point increase of broadband penetration in 2016 would have resulted in more than 806,000 additional jobs in 2019, or an average annual increase of 269,000 jobs. Moreover, we found a strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth. A 10-percentage-point increase of broadband access in 2014 would have resulted in more than 875,000 additional US jobs and $186B more in economic output in 2019. The analysis also showed that higher broadband speeds drive noticeable improvements in job growth, albeit with diminishing returns. As an example, the gain in jobs from 50 to 100 Mbps is more than the gain in jobs from 100 to 150 Mbps.

The findings suggest further analysis is warranted before setting too high a threshold for broadband speeds (both uplink and downlink). Doing so could discourage investment in promising new technology that doesn’t yet meet predetermined thresholds but offers potential cost and rapid deployment advantages over today’s solutions. Furthermore, innovative solutions can help spawn a competitive broadband environment that improves affordability of broadband for all households. Overly stringent mandates on speed, on the other hand, run the risk of ruling out these innovations before they gain a market foothold.

Stakeholders should focus on several considerations as they move forward.

  • Place a renewed emphasis on adoption and affordability by ensuring consistent user experiences, analyzing trade-offs between delivering higher speeds and innovative new technologies, and seeking diverse solutions for unique, underserved geographies.
  • Segment underserved US geographies into more granular categories that recognize the vastly different coverage and affordability needs of underserved geographies.
  • Incorporate the expected growth in broadband consumption into future investments and programs by utilizing subscriber data (e.g., running an FCC speed test).

Bridging the digital divide will likely require public or private investment in the country’s communications infrastructure including both wireless and wireline. Regardless of the specifics of the investment, these guiding principles can help yield immediate gains in providing affordable access to underserved segments of the population and move the nation closer toward broadband for all and bridging the digital divide.

More white patients get COVID tested via telehealth; more black patients tested in ER

The UK Daily Mail reports…

White patients were more likely to be screened for Covid-19 during telehealth visits during the pandemic than their peers of other races, a new study suggests.

A research team led by members of the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute analyzed health record data at Hennepin Healthcare, a safety net hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to gauge when people were tested for COVID-19 based on a variety of demographic factors.

Researchers found that white patients were significantly more likely to receive a Covid-19 test than all other racial groups when they performed a doctors visit via telehealth, accounting for 64.5 percent of all tests.

Black patients received only nine percent of Covid-19 screenings performed by telehealth, while accounting for 45 percent of tests performed in an emergency department.

Black and white patients were around evenly likely to receive a Covid-19 screening in an in-patient setting, at 35.7 percent and 37.6 percent respectfully.

Researchers noted that patients who were receiving their tests in an emergency room or in-patient setting were more likely to need more intensive treatment, as their case of the virus was caught later than those who were screened via telehealth.

Non-English speakers were also tested less online (and off)…

Patients who speak English received a majority of the screenings no matter the setting, including a whopping 88 percent of screenings  performed via telehealth, and nearly 70 percent of tests overall.

They give some reasons…

Not all Americans have access to the stable internet connection necessary to access telehealth.

There is also a problem with insurers not knowing how to bill the visits properly, though many states, like Illinois, have passed laws regulating telehealth visits as normal doctor visits in terms of insurance and billing, preventing patients from being denied these visits by their insurance.

Researchers may have found another potential disparity in this study, though, as more research goes into the system that may be the future of medical care.

Health equity in Covid-19 testing was a problem early on in the pandemic as well, with the CDC reporting that ethnic minorities often faced barriers such as discrimination, transportation, lack of health care and more to not receiving same access as their white counterparts.

Many underserved, primarily minority, communities also were left without the needed supply of tests early on in the pandemic.

US home broadband at 77 percent according to Pew

Pew Research reports

Smartphone ownership (85%) and home broadband subscriptions (77%) have increased among American adults since 2019 – from 81% and 73% respectively. Though modest, both increases are statistically significant and come at a time when a majority of Americans say the internet has been important to them personally. And 91% of adults report having at least one of these technologies.

A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8, 2021, also finds that some Americans have difficulties when trying to go online. Some 30% of adults say they often or sometimes experience problems connecting to the internet at home, including 9% who say such problems happen often. Still, a majority of Americans say these connection troubles occur rarely (41%) or never (21%).

I’m always interested in what they find out about who isn’t online…

While a growing share of Americans say they have a high-speed internet subscription at home, 23% do not.

Financial barriers are among the more common reasons why Americans do not subscribe to high-speed internet at home: 45% of non-broadband users say a reason is that the monthly cost of a subscription is too expensive, while about four-in-ten cite the cost of a computer as too expensive.

Similar shares of non-broadband users say a reason is they have other options for internet access outside of home (46%) or their smartphone lets them do everything online that they need to do (45%). A smaller share of Americans (25%) say they do not have a home subscription because broadband service is not available where they live or not available at an acceptable speed.

Some 27% of adults – up from 17% in 2019 – say they do not have broadband at home for some other reason, including 11% who say it is because they are not interested, do not care for it or do not need it.

Broadband non-adopters were asked which, among the reasons they mentioned, was the most important reason they did not have a broadband subscription at home.2 Some 27% of non-broadband users say the most important reason for not having broadband at home is cost – including 20% who say a monthly broadband subscription is too expensive and 7% who say a computer is too expensive.

Student Home Connectivity Study: how students do homework in 13 rural, urban and suburban school districts

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has released a study on Student Home Connectivity. It looks at how students were able to get online from home in 13 US school districts. They look at speeds, devices, mobility and other factors that impact a student’s ability to do their homework. School districts include urban, rural and suburban school districts with an eye toward providing actionable recommendations for policymakers.

Here’s a summary of their findings…

The findings and recommendations in this report are divided into four distinct topics. The recommendations in this report should be considered a guide for school leaders to support local decisions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing supports for student home internet connectivity. In fact, it is evident that no one solution will meet the needs of all students. Therefore, school districts must use a variety of strategies and interventions to ensure digital equity. The findings in this report are organized into four topics:

  1. Learning with Video is Essential for Education
  2. Students are Mobile and Rely on WiFi
  3. Certain Communities, Especially Remote and Rural Areas, Require More Support and Resources
  4. The Remote Learning Experience is Significantly Impacted by Device Quality

Learning with Video is Essential for Education

  • Over 85% of network traffic in remote learning is used for video (both synchronous and asynchronous).
  • A sufficient upload speed is critical for uninterrupted participation in synchronous video.
  • A sufficient download speed is critical for uninterrupted viewing of synchronous or asynchronous video.
  • Video-intensive content and applications are increasing in use and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Students are Mobile and Rely on WiFi

  • Many students participate in online learning activities outside of the student’s home, including joining from peers’ homes, and even attending classes from other cities, states, and countries.
  • 92% of students use WiFi instead of a wired connection, which makes it critical to address home WiFi issues.
  • Alongside district-provided devices, students often concurrently use mobile devices, such as their personal phone or tablet, which contributes to increased home bandwidth needs.

Certain Communities, Especially in Remote and Rural Areas, Require More Support and Resources

  • Students in more remote or rural areas most often have limited internet access.
  • Students working in areas with a large concentration of students may experience poor connectivity.
  • Even students from higher socioeconomic families have frequent problems in remote learning/online meeting experiences.

The Remote Learning Experience is Significantly Impacted by Device Quality

  • Quality of student experience can be impacted by age, type, and quality of device, as well as device configuration (i.e., user authentication and network filtering tools).
  • Student experience can be improved by routinely collecting datasets that provide insight into the student use of district-provided devices.

Access and Impacts Report: tracking Internet Essentials customers before the pandemic

The Technology Policy Institute just released a report on Access and Impacts: Exploring how internet access at home and online training shape people’s online behavior and perspectives about their lives

This research addresses these questions through a survey of subscribers to Comcast’s Internet Essentials pro[1]gram. The 2020 survey was fielded prior to the pandemic; it has a total of 618 respondents. The research also has a longitudinal design by which 218 respondents from a 2018 survey were called back in 2020.

They look at three questions:

  • How does having access at home shape people’s online behavior?
  • What factors may influence people’s online behavior once they subscribe?
  • Does having home internet access affect how people view their lives?

Here are the high level findings:

A study of Comcast Internet Essentials customers finds that home broadband service has…

A home access effect: 81% of IE subscribers say it helps a lot in carrying out online tasks, which in turn is correlated with:

  • Acquiring more computing devices
  • Expanding the scope of online activities
  • Optimism about the future

A digital skills effect, which is limited to the 34% of IE users who have had formal digital skills training.

  • Skills training is linked to higher levels of confidence in digital skills
  • This, in turn, has a link to greater internet use for education and other purposes
  • There is a correlation between digital skills training and people’s optimism about their futures

Looking at people’s digital skills training experience shows that:

  • Education is a large motivator for pursuing training

  • Learning how to better manage privacy and security of personal information also plays a role

  • Both in-person and online modes of training matter to users.

  • The time and location of training matters to those who pursue it, and many say a time that better fits their schedules would improve the training experience

MN Broadband Task Force Mtg May 2021 Notes: Fixed Wireless & State Demographer

Today the Task Force heard from a panel of Fixed Wireless providers. They spoke about advanced in wireless technologies and the range of customers they have. The also heard from Susan Brower, State Demographer. We learned that the state is growing but at a slower rate and that growth is uneven. There’s more growth in urban areas.

Here’s the whole lineup including some of Susan’s slides:

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from April 5, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Update on 2021 MN Legislation Deven Bowdry, DEED

Session ended May 17 with no action. But Senate, House and Gov agreed on $70 million over biennium for broadband – not sure if it’s State of Federal funding yet. Funding will not be included in Sen Westrom’s Ag bill. They passed a policy-only bill with nothing related to broadband. It will likely become an infrastructure bill. Spreadsheets expected May 28; June 4 bill language is due; Special session is June 14 – with all new bill numbers.

10:15 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Fixed Wireless Panel – Luke Johnson, Broadband Operations Manager, Meeker Cooperative Light & Power – VIBRANT Broadband Terry Nelson GM/VP, Woodstock Communications Mary Lodin, CEO/Partner and Jay Mankie, CTO/Partner, Genesis Wireless, Tim Johnson, Operations Manager, MVTV Wireless

Questions:

Can fixed wireless provide symmetrical services?
Only at lower speeds 10/10, 20/20 even 50/50 but not up to 100/100

How much is fixed wireless?
$39.95/month to 99.95 – we really need to average $50 per customers to remain sustainable.
We have 300-400 people who only use email; we have others that seem to stream constantly.
Folks can get 25 Mbps for $35/month.
Woodstock has a service that starts at $24.95/month. It’s a legacy from a Moose Lake municipal service and it’s mostly seniors who only email. No streaming.
If we want symmetrical speeds we have to go with fiber.
If someone wants a light package we can serve northern areas but the trees make it difficult. They try to map accordingly.
Costs can be high for end users – and sometimes we need to go to them to help pay for those costs and people do it – especially with fiber? Do people really need FTTH or do the hybrid solutions work.
It might be helpful to have a “bank” of funds to help offset some of these installation costs for folks who need it.

How has COVID impacted demand?
Many people now know they can work from home and many of them will continue working from home. That might not be the case with students.
Evening hours are the busiest for most providers. They built the network for those nighttime peaks; so we were ready for the shift to day time use. For most, they got new customers and upgraded existing customers.
Learned that we need to deploy quicker in rural areas. They were installing 7 days a week. They’re still seeing growth and people are not getting the lower packages; the buy at higher levels.
Sometimes you can get around obstacles.

How can we help you?
What about a program that helps upgrade existing customers? Rather than introduce a faster competitor, but look at who is the incumbents and how can the State help make them faster. Especially in areas where you might have 4 customers per square mile. The customer is there – we just need to upgrade.
Need better education. Wireless had gotten a bad rap – and there are good ways and bad ways to build it. The new technology is a very good solution.

How many residents actually need a Gig – we have to quick chasing these numbers. Getting to 100/100 with today’s technology is difficult but providers feel they can get there in the future. Not sure about higher speeds.

Cost to build a tower:
In Meeker $120,000
300 ft tower $100-175,000
And there’s a 50 percent increase in steel costs

How do you deal with businesses in range but out of line of sight?
We work with them – taking down trees or extending existing towers.

11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower

Minnesota had growth but it has slowed, as has the US growth. Our population is getting older. (More people living longer than babies born.) Most growth is in 7-metro counties and up the Highway 94 core. IN rural areas – there’s not as much growth but these areas are not quickly emptying out. It’s more of a stability that most people think.

In rural areas – we are seeing population declines, albeit modest decline. It has picked up in some areas in the last decade. Entirely urban areas are growing.

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, June Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

What are we going to do with RDOF? Can we get the legislature to look at the problem of RDOF closing the door on so many communities that night have qualified for Border to Border grants and are now left in the lurch.

Cable/broadband average costs almost $1200 annually in US

Telecompetitor reports

Americans spend $147 billion annually – an average of $1,141 annually per household on cable and internet bills, according to an analysis of household cable/internet spending from doxo based on anonymized billing data. More than four-in-five households (82%) pay cable and internet bills, which average $116 a month.

The research suggests that the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which pays $50 a month ($75 in tribal areas) toward the cost of internet service for low-income families, could help considerably with paying broadband bills.

Minneapolis made the lowest price list…

The five major municipalities with the highest average internet and cable bills were New York ($133), Boston ($129), St. Louis ($125), Los Angeles ($123) and Kansas City, Mo. ($121). The five major municipalities with the lowest average monthly internet and cable bills were Salt Lake City ($98), Miami ($101), Minneapolis ($101), Philadelphia ($106) and Denver ($108).

Cable and internet bills amount to 2% of consumers’ income per year, according to doxo’s analysis of household cable/internet spending data.

Data highlights Digital Divide by localities across the Twin Cities

Patch has published articles around the Twin Cities highlighting broadband access by zip codes. It’s an interesting look at how very local the digital divide is. (I just wrote about access in Mendota Heights and should have realized more articles would follow but some days I don’t read all of the instructions before I take the test.)

Here’s the high level info from Patch:

Microsoft estimates that about 157.3 million people in the United States cannot or do not connect to the internet at broadband speeds, which is defined by the Federal Communications Commission as download speeds of 25 megabits per second and three megabits per second upload speeds.

The company gathered data by ZIP code on the connection speed of devices when they used a Microsoft service in October 2020.

And specific details by area…

In the Mendota Heights area:

  • ZIP code 55118: 94.9 percent
  • ZIP code 55120: 60.2 percent

In the Southwest Minneapolis area:

  • ZIP code 55408: 62.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55409: 40.0 percent
  • ZIP code 55410: 62.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55416: 61.3 percent
  • ZIP code 55419: 57.7 percent

In the Edina area:

  • ZIP code 55410: 62.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55416: 61.3 percent
  • ZIP code 55423: 66.2 percent
  • ZIP code 55424: 87.6 percent
  • ZIP code 55435: 70.9 percent
  • ZIP code 55436: 79.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55439: 76.6 percent

In the Lakeville area:

  • ZIP code 55044: 100.0 percent

In the Burnsville area:

  • ZIP code 55306: 30.6 percent
  • ZIP code 55337: 89.1 percent

In the Shakopee area:

  • ZIP code 55379: 76.1 percent

In the Apple Valley Rosemount area:

  • ZIP code 55068: 86.8 percent
  • ZIP code 55124: 72.2 percent

Broadband coverage in Mendota Heights varies drastically by zip code – how about your area?

Patch reports

Microsoft estimates that about 157.3 million people in the United States cannot or do not connect to the internet at broadband speeds, which is defined by the Federal Communications Commission as download speeds of 25 megabits per second and three megabits per second upload speeds.

The company gathered data by ZIP code on the connection speed of devices when they used a Microsoft service in October 2020.

In the Mendota Heights area, Microsoft provided the following information on the percent of residents who use the internet at broadband speeds at each ZIP Code.

  • ZIP code 55118: 94.9 percent

  • ZIP code 55120: 60.2 percent

Not in Mendota Heights, you can still track your coverage…

Didn’t see your ZIP code above? Search by ZIP code and distance here.

Broadband in US – good but expense according to reports

Broadband Search looks at cost of broadband around the world. They make a lot of comparison based on location but in the end here are some core facts:

  • US ranks 2 for most expensive broadband:
    The average cost of a broadband internet connection in the United States is $61.07, according to data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Overall, the average cost of internet amongst OECD countries is $37.78.
  • US ranks 3 for fastest download speed:
    The average internet speed, according to data collected by Speedtest.net, shows the average download speed in the US is 143.28 Mbps, which is good for 3rd overall amongst OECD countries.
  • US ranks 13 for price per MB
    Residents paying around $0.43 per MB of data.

So, US is expensive but good broadband. The article points out that you might expect different results from a country that claims to be the most developed, richest and most free capitalist market in the world. They offer reasons why costs in America are so high:

  • Competition (lack thereof)
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Focus on urban customers

With so much federal and state money going into broadband right now, it seems like a good time to take a look at these issues.

Mental Health Telehealth Visits increase by 2,515 percent during pandemic

Business Wire reports

Medica members accessing mental health care through telehealth technology has increased by 2,515 percent since the pandemic began in March 2020. Meanwhile, Medica’s network of providers offering mental health care via telehealth has increased more than sixfold in the same period.

More details…

In the first quarter of 2020, early in the pandemic, Medica processed approximately 650 telehealth claims for mental health. During a similar time stretch spanning late 2020 to early 2021, Medica had processed 17,000 claims.

An analysis of mental health telehealth claims provide some insight to the effect of the pandemic. The top three conditions treated by telehealth were anxiety, depression and trauma (which includes diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder and reactive attachment). For those conditions, approximately 70 percent of claims were telehealth visits.

A breakdown of mental health telehealth claims for all conditions shows that people ages 35 to 49 used this service the most when seeking mental health care, followed by those ages 27 to 34. For those claims, women outnumbered men by a 3:2 ratio.

In the first few months of the pandemic, the number of Medica’s in-network providers offering mental health services through telehealth increased from 5,500 to 39,800 nationally. In Minnesota, the number increased from 3,841 to 7,130.

Medica will continue to support telehealth…

Medica has placed a priority on ensuring its members have access to mental health care in the setting that is most comfortable for them. To ensure they have access to the highest quality providers, Medica will continue to reimburse these visits – office and telehealth – at the same rates.

Minnesota ranks 33 with average broadband download speed of 81.1 Mbps

HighSpeedInternet reports…

In 2021, our internet speed test results show the national average internet speed is 99.3 Mbps.

And if your speeds don’t’ compare they have a recommendation…

You can always look for a faster internet provider in your area, but sometimes the speeds you need aren’t available. If you find yourself in an internet desert, you may want to move somewhere that’s more tech-friendly.

Ouch!! That recommendation may have been slightly tongue in cheek – or not – but it’s a bad sign for communities that can’t get close to the national average.

Minnesota ranks 33 with an average download speed of 81.1 Mbps.

Here is how they got to their results…

Our results include speed tests from February 1, 2020, to March 16, 2021, and include 3,105 cities. We required a minimum of 100 speed tests for cities to be included in our data set.

We filtered out incomplete, duplicate, and cellular phone data to see what most people were working with on their laptops, desktops, and home-connected devices.

After filtering, we used a total of 1,761,079 results generated from our internet speed test tool to rank states as the fastest and slowest for average internet speeds in the United States.

Broadband affordability: customer prices increase faster than inflation while provider costs do not

Derek Turner has a new report, Price Too High and Rising: The Facts About America’s Broadband Affordability Gap

This report lays out the facts on pricing and profits for the U.S. broadband industry. We discuss the varying ways to measure prices, the important differences between these methods, and how certain methods can be used to obfuscate the reality of what is happening in the market and at the kitchen table. We present government and industry data, noting the strength and weaknesses in each form, and highlight how the ISP industry and its apologists use this kind of data to mislead. Some of our findings include:

  • Monthly Broadband Bills Continue to Rise Far Faster than the Rate of Inflation
    (sample stat: That means the nominal increase in broadband bills was more than four times the rate of inflation during those three years)
  • Low-Priced Offerings Are Disappearing, Threatening to Cement the Digital Divide and Disrupt the Post-COVID Economic Recovery
    (sample fact: ISPs are eliminating their budget tiers. Entry level prices in some markets have increased by 50 percent or more in the past four years)
  • U.S. Government Data Contradict ISPs’ Claims About U.S. Price Superiority
  • ISPs Are Enjoying Record Profits as They Increase Prices and Reduce Investments
  • (sample fact: Capital investment by broadband providers large and small declined during the previous four Years)

The paper goes into great details, well researched and cited details. It was the framing of the issue that caught me, especially as broadband’s importance accelerated during the pandemic…

While plenty of goods and services get more expensive over time, broadband stands out for several critical reasons.

First, broadband prices consistently increase faster than the rate of inflation while the providers’ own costs do not.2 This makes this increasingly-critical infrastructure service both more expensive in real terms to users and more profitable for the ISPs.

Second, in almost all consumer product markets, particularly those involving technology, producers offer a wide array of service offerings that attract buyers of all means. But as the broadband market matures, the nation’s top ISPs are increasingly moving away from low-priced entry level tiers in favor of higher-priced, higher-speed packages, which they market as having increased value.

Chisago Lakes surveys show that more than 60 percent not happy with broadband speed or reliability

Thank you to Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce for sharing their recent survey of broadband access and use in the community. They had 726 respondents, which is pretty darned good. They ask, is your broadband enough – for school and/or work? And they ask about broadband satisfaction with broadband reliability and speed – turns out in both categories, more than 60 percent of respondents said their satisfaction was poor or fair.

Chisago Lakes is part of the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program, which means funding from Blandin and coaching from Bill Coleman helped get this done.