MN Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Drive Adoption and Engagement of Your Mobile App

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the conversation on apps…

Drive Adoption and Engagement of Your Mobile App

Offering subscribers a mobile app increases your ability to control the home network — this helps with stickiness and enables you to deliver the ultimate subscriber experience. Now that you’ve got an app for subscribers, how can you get them to download and use it? Get our valuable tips on how you can drive app adoption and engagement

Joe Kohegyi, Director of Marketing Channel Activation, is marketer, product developer and business strategist with a love for understanding consumer behavior and connecting brands and products. With over 15 years of B2B and B2C marketing experience across multiple industries including telecom, Joe helps service providers quickly go-to-market as Calix’s Director of Marketing Channel Activation. Spent 5 years pursuing a career as a professional snowmobile racer before realizing his wife likes seeing her husband and being able to pay the light bill.

 

Candidate Liz Reyer (MN Senate District 51) supports better broadband

The Pioneer Press outlines Senate District 51 candidates. Liz Reyer mentioned a priority on broadband…

What would your top priorities be if elected? 1. Making sure every Minnesotan has access to a good job, affordable healthcare, & housing 2. Connecting every household & business to high-speed broadband to thrive in the new global economy 3. Confronting the climate crisis with clean energy powering the economy of the future 4. Fighting racial disparities in every action and for all communities.

Broadband 2020: Oct 7: Border-to-Border Broadband Project Presentations for the MN Task Force

Border-to-Border Broadband Development Fund Grantee Presentations

Hear about how Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Fund grants are impacting communities.

Rock County

Learn about the history behind Rock County’s border-to-border broadband as well as the projects we have been able to implement because of the broadband available in our county.

Kyle Oldre, Rock County Administrator and Emergency

Management Director.

Calla Jarvie is the library director for the Rock County Community Library in Luverne, Minnesota. Jarvie is the project leader for the Blandin Broadband Communities project in Rock County.

Melrose

What expanded Broadband means to the City of Melrose’s Industrial Park Expansion.

Hear about the “history” of Arvig and the Border-to-Border grant program. Melrose was the first gigabit city in the state of Minnesota and yet there were three businesses south of the interstate that needed more. There is always another pocket to serve.

Mark Birkholz is responsible for sales, operation and service delivery in the Southern Markets, which consists of eight companies and more than 32,000 core service accounts for Arvig.  Mark also is the Director of Customer Relations.  Since 1993, his experience in the communications industry has included management of accounting functions, customer service, billing, sales, marketing, human resources, regulatory, and information technology. Mark joined Arvig Enterprises in 2005 along with the acquisition of Midwest Information Systems, Inc. (MIS). He earned a BS degree in Accounting from Dickinson State University and an Associate’s degree in Sales and Marketing Management from the University of Minnesota, Crookston.

Colleen Winter, City Administrator, City of Melrose. Colleen  serves as the chief administrative officer of the City and is responsible for all day to day operations, policies and governance of the City and Utilities. Colleen has over 30 years experience in local government administration, economic and community development.

10:20   Breakout Sessions with Task Force Subcommittees

ng rural trends, socioeconomic analysis, industrial clusters, the digital divide, and leveraging broadband applications for community economic development. He is also the author of the book “Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age & Rural Communities”, which highlights a 21st century community development model that helps rural communities transition to, plan for, and prosper in the digital age. Dr. Gallardo is a TEDx speaker and his work has been featured in a WIRED magazine article, a MIC.com documentary, and a RFDTV documentary. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and two daughters.

Broadband 2020: Oct 6 happy hour preview of Oct 7: Broadband Task Force & Roberto Gallardo

We enjoyed an intimate open-house style happy hour tonight. And it was ladies night! I thought to capture the crowd at one point but people came and went. I brought my old MRNet Scavenger t-shirt from 1994 and as it turned out two of us worked at MRnet, which was *the* Minnesota ISP back in 1994. That got us talking about the “good old days” and it reminded us of the timeline we had at the 2019 broadband conference. I told folks I’d share the video tonight. It’s a fun throwback:

Feels like a lifetime ago but remembering the quick paced time of the early Internet helped us remember that times come and go.

Also, I wanted to give people a heads up on the events of tomorrow:

The conference will be hosting the MN Broadband Task Force. We’re delighted to be able to interact with them.

The Task Force will continue meeting after Roberto’s presentation. It’s open to the public and attendees are encouraged to join them. At 1:30 to see them at work. That won’t be hosted by the Blandin Foundation but you can get links to join the online meeting.

Last minute issues? You can get links to the Blandin portion of the meeting online and/or watch the livestream on YouTube or follow the Twitter hashtag #mnbroadband.

Clay County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow Rating: Ranking out 23 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 23
Code: Yellow

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Clay County: consistent, incremental improvements over years

If slow and steady wins the race, we might want to keep an eye on Clay County. In 2010, they made the FCC list of worst served Minnesota Counties; they are much better off now. They have seen consistent improvements through the years and local provider, Arvig, received a Border to Border grant in the last round that should help improve access for the next profile.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 87.57 82.32 82.52 74.13
25/3 (2022 goal) 90.31 95.82 95.45 83.15

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Clay 87.8% 79.3% 74.7% 57.9% 2.2%

What we learned in the past:

Back in 2010, Clay County made the list of the nine unserved counties in Minnesota based on the FCC Annual Broadband Report, which defined broadband as 4 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. Clearly Clay County has improved since then. They have a local Minnesota business providing service and choice of providers in much of the county. Their improvements have been slow but steady since we started looking at improvements.

Update from 2020:

2019: Clay County will benefit from a project that was awarded Border to Border funding in the last round.

  • Arvig (Loretel Systems, Inc.) – Cormorant Lakes Area Project – GRANT $430,780
    This middle and last mile project will upgrade approximately 481 unserved locations near Pelican Lake, Lake Ida, Turtle Lake, and Big Cormorant Lake in Otter Tail, Becker, and Clay Counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Otter Tail County, Arvig will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. These investments will improve quality of life and business development opportunities.
  • Total eligible project cost is $1,230,800
  • Local match is $800,020

Checklist:

  • Find more articles on broadband in Clay County. (http://tinyurl.com/hcgg9rm)
  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 23 (up 6 places)
  • Has worked with Blandin: no
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: no
  • Household density: 21.2

Details:

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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Chisago County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow Rating: Ranking out 52 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 29
Code: Yellow

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Chisago County: has plans, need funding

Like several other counties, Chisago County has areas where there is one national provider (or another). That can lead to bottlenecks when trying to get upgrades, but Chisago has found creative ways to work with national providers to get Border to Border grants to match federal funding. Border to Border grants require projects to build to higher speeds; the federal funding only required 25/3 Mbps and sometimes only as low as 10/1 Mbps. Chisago area has benefited from two grants in that model and a third was just funded in the last round. They are building a momentum for continued improvement.

Chisago County residents spoke with Blandin on Broadband about the impact broadband had on their ability to deal with COVID. (See video below.) The response was mixed because some residents are well served, and some aren’t. That leads to a local digital divide but that also means that the county (especially schools) needs to do things differently to accommodate both sides, which creates another level of digital divide when compared to counties that have ubiquitous coverage.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 71.92 71.26 69.53 65.45
25/3 (2022 goal) 84.34 83.85 73.27 65.25

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Chisago 90.7% 83.8% 77.8% 63.7% 2.0%

What we learned in the past:

Chisago County has benefited from two MN broadband grants:

  • 2017 – CenturyLink – Fish Lake Township FTTH Project – GRANT $1,833,724
  • 2016 – SUNRISE TOWNSHIP (CENTURYLINK) FIBER TO THE HOME – GRANT: $1,074,852

In 2018, a Blandin Foundation report looked at the impact of Federal CAF II funding in two towns in Chisago County. The study found that while some areas were upgraded beyond 10/1 Mbps; some remain at speeds that do not meet the 2022 nor 2026 MN broadband goals. With these funded grants, Chisago found a way, in at least some areas, to encourage providers to build to higher speeds; the state grants that require higher speed buildouts.

Update from 2020:

Chisago remains focused on improving broadband in their area. In the last year, Chisago broadband advocate Nancy Hoffman received an honor from the Blandin Foundation. The County and city of North Branch were named Minnesota Telecommuter Forward communities, which means they promote broadband use. Also, they will benefit from CenturyLink’s successful application in the last round of Border to Border grants:

  • CenturyLink (Qwest Corporation) – Nessel Township FTTH Project – GRANT $1,657,550
    This last mile project will upgrade approximately 956 unserved and 64 underserved locations in Nessel Township in Chisago County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Nessel Township, CenturyLink will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. Building a fiber-to-the-premise network that provides advanced, high speed broadband services to households, businesses, and farms in the proposed grant area improves access to critical school e-learning applications while also making agricultural operations more efficient and enhancing crop production through enabled precision agriculture tools. The broadband network will improve access to rural health care resources and will stimulate a more robust local area economy.
  • Total eligible project cost is $5,525,167
  • Local match is $3,867,617

Is broadband a help or hindrance in dealing with COVID?
Chisago County met with Blandin on Broadband to talk about how their broadband situation helped or hindered the ability to deal with COVID restrictions.

The short answer is that it has been both. It’s a help where they have it and a hindrance where they don’t.

They have enough residents without access that they shaped plans around the divide. In the video you’ll hear the story of the have and the have-nots. Two were able to work from home without issues. School was possible. It might not be their top choice, but everything worked. For the other, his son missed classes due to outages in the spring. Trying to work from home, he found that his 25/1 Mbps access was not adequate and he was frustrated because that connection had recently been upgraded with federal funding and was still too slow to meet their needs. Neighbors down the block are less lucky.

The schools did what they could to support students with devices and even mobile hotspots to use at home; unfortunately, hotspots did not work for all households. Some are out of cellular reach.

Checklist:

Details:

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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Blue Earth County Broadband Profile 2020: Red Rating: Ranking out 42 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 42
Code: Red

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Blue Earth County: Stalled below 80 percent access to 100/20 Mbps

Between 2017 and 2018, Blue Earth County’s broadband access increased substantially but their ranking has remained stagnant since then. They continue to investigate avenues for improvement; the most recent feasibility study (Jan 2020) indicates that it would be expensive to install fiber. However, a local letter to the editor seems to indicate that at least some residents are ready to move forward. We’ll have to see if they have applications in the most recent Border to Border grant round (which closes Sep 30, 2020) and if they are successfully funded.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 77.81 77.91 14.13 55.6
25/3 (2022 goal) 85.36 78.33 77.95 88.35

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Blue Earth 91.6% 84.6% 77.0% 53.7% 3.4%

 What we learned in the past:

In 2017, Blue Earth’s broadband access was deemed non-competitive for business by the FCC. Last year, we noted that Blue Earth County was in danger of not making either the 2022 or 2026 MN speed goals. There were some anomalies, but we’ve moved past to get a consistent picture. It’s not as dire as non-competitive, but signs point to not making the speed goals.

At the end of 2018, Blue Earth County Board resolved to kickstart efforts to bring more broadband options and data fiber connections to the area. In April 2019, they were awarded funding from the Blandin Foundation for a broadband feasibility study, which has been used to help support applications to the state broadband grant program but those applications to date have been unsuccessful.

Update from 2020:

Early in 2020, Blue Earth County unveiled their feasibility study, which included a tough message: If Blue Earth County wants to have rural broadband internet, it’s going to have to pay a potentially unworkable amount of money.

According to the study, it could cost more than $35 million to install 1,067 miles of fiber to connect all rural areas of Blue Earth County, excluding the Mankato area and larger cities such as Lake Crystal and Madison Lake. A combination of wireless networks and fiber, about 161 miles in total, would cost about $11 million to install.

Despite the cost, there was a subsequent local letter to the editor that indicated that residents were prepared to invest: “In these times where rural America is being left behind, according to certain politicians, it seems there would be some kind of push to subsidize rural broadband or require some telecom and broadband providers to contribute to a development fund. Broadband is to the 2020s what rural electricity was to the 1930s. We know rural America got its electricity. Now it needs its broadband.”

These comments were made before the pandemic.

Part of Blue Earth County was served by Jaguar, which was acquired by MetroNet in July (2020). MetroNet claims they will invest $150 million to grow their Minnesota market.

Checklist:

  • Find more articles on broadband in Blue Earth County. (http://tinyurl.com/j5pe9kr)
  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 42 (down 3)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 31.9

Details:

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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Brown County Broadband Profile 2020: Red Rating: Ranking out 47 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 47
Code: Red

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Brown County: Improvement will be expensive, but they are looking

In 2017, Brown County looked like they were poised to meet speed goals. They have seen little improvement since then, but they will benefit from a Border to Border grant project funded in the last round. That project will help 51 unserved households, 13 unserved businesses, and 64 unserved farms in the New Ulm area in Brown County. Hopefully that will help build a momentum moving forward.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 74.6 74.5 73.76 72.89
25/3 (2022 goal) 83.67 83.66 96.31 95.92

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Brown 86.5% 76.1% 68.8% 51.3% 3.6%

What we learned in the past:

Brown County has benefited from two MN state broadband grants:

  • 2107 – New Ulm Telecom, Inc.– Hanska A&D FTTP – GRANT $324,894
  • 2016 – New Ulm Telecom, Inc. – Hanska – GRANT: $ 200,397

Update from 2020:

Brown County will benefit from a Border to Border Grant awarded in the last cycle:

  • 2019: Nuvera Communications, Inc. – New Ulm SW Project – GRANT $385,600
    This last mile project will serve 51 unserved households, 13 unserved businesses, and 64 unserved farms in the New Ulm area in Brown County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Nuvera Communications, Inc. will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2026 state speed goal. This fiber-to-the-premises network will provide reliable, affordable, high quality broadband to rural farms, businesses, and homes. Broadband access will enable these businesses and residences to utilize new technology and tools to grow and enhance their business and community. Residents will also have increased access to health care and education, that will allow them to thrive in a modern world.
  • Total eligible cost is $1,101,713
  • Local match is $716,113

In March 2020, Nuvera reported that construction had begun on in rural areas of Sleepy Eye, Hutchinson, Mazeppa and Aurelia, Iowa. An enhanced fixed wireless solution was also installed in rural New Ulm by St. George. Fiber overbuilds were completed in four housing development areas in Prior Lake.

Checklist:

  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 47 (down 3 places)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 17.4

Details:

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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Benton County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow Rating: Ranking out 21 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 21
Code: Yellow

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Benton County: big leap two years ago, perhaps poised for more

Two years ago, Benton County moved the broadband needle from 26 to 88 percent for access to 100/20 Mbps after benefitting from two MN Border to Border grants. Change has been minimal since that time, but they will benefit from another grant awarded in the last round. Hopefully, we will see greater increase next year. They are at the top quarter of the ranking but to maintain rank and move ahead they need to stay focused.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 89.36 88.18 25.83 14.28
25/3 (2022 goal) 92.05 91.47 87.49 87.61

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Benton 89.3% 76.8% 74.8% 54.2% 3.6%

What we learned in the past:

Benton County saw a big leap in access in 2018, presumably after getting two Border to Border grants in 2017 (and one in 2014) in their area:

  • 2017 – Benton Cooperative Telephone Company – Rice Ramey – GRANT $765,015
  • 2017 – Palmer Wireless – Duelm Hwy 95 – GRANT $162,814
  • 2014-CenturyLink Foley, Benton County–Balkan Township – Award: $382,883.

Previously, they were one of the original MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities), the Blandin Foundation’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)-funded broadband adoption program.

Update from 2020:

Benton County saw a slight increase in access in the last year. They will benefit from the most recent round of MN Border to Border grants:

  • Benton Cooperative Telephone Company – Ramey Phase I – GRANT $936,759
    This last mile project will serve approximately 253 unserved households, nine unserved businesses, two unserved town halls, and 97 unserved farms in the Ramey ILEC exchange in portions of Alberta and Granite Ledge Townships in Benton County, and portions of Hillman, Lakin, and Morrill Townships in Morrison County, and a portion of Page Township in Mille Lacs County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, Benton Cooperative Telephone Company will improve broadband service levels to at least 25 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload, and a maximum speed of 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload, meeting or exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. These homes and businesses will have faster access to needed crop prices, ordering parts, educational opportunities, and telemedicine services.
  • Total eligible project cost is $2,676,454
  • Local match is $1,739,695

Checklist:

  • Find more articles on broadband in Big Stone County. (http://tinyurl.com/zfgwstd)
  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 5 (down 1)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 4.3

Details:

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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Becker County Broadband Profile 2020: Yellow Rating: Ranking out 50 of 87

Green=served Purple=underesrved Red=unserved

Rank (from 100/20 megabits per second): 50
Code: Yellow

Annually, Blandin Foundation pulls together data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and broadband news to gauge progress toward the state broadband goals (25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026). Leaders can use this information to improve broadband access and use in their communities. To see how the state is doing overall, or to compare counties, visit the Blandin Foundation interactive map. Or check out past years’ reports: 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Becker County: from last to midrange ranking is progress!

In 2016, Becker got a boost in the form of a MN Border to Border grant; they went from bottom ranking (87) last year to ranking 50 in the race to countywide coverage of 100/20 Mbps. While 50 is not good standing, it is a great leap and a trajectory in the right direction. It looks like that momentum is poised to continue; Becker will benefit from a recent grant through Arvig that will improve service in Becker, Clay and Otter Tail Counties.

Broadband Access:

2020 2019 2018 2017
100/20 (2026 goal) 73.41 6.22 12.95 6.58
25/3 (2022 goal) 78.99 91.36 88.94 69.41

Computer Access:

County Households with computer …with desktop or laptop …with a smartphone …with a tablet et al …with other
State of MN 90.3% 81.1% 76.5% 59.3% 3.5%
Becker 86.1% 74.8% 69.3% 53.3% 3.3%

What we learned in the past:

Last year we saw that much of Becker County is served by one large national provider. That is likely a bottleneck to better access. They have benefited from a 2016 MN state grant in their area:

  • 2016PAUL BUNYAN COMMUNICATIONS HUBBARD, BECKER & ITASCA COUNTIES – GRANT: $1,742,232

It appears as if the impact of that project is now documented in the maps as they went from 6 percent coverage to more than 73 percent coverage since last year’s county profile.

Update from 2020:

Becker will benefit from a recent MN Border to Border grant:

  • Arvig (Loretel Systems, Inc.) – Cormorant Lakes Area Project – GRANT $430,780
    This middle and last mile project will upgrade approximately 481 unserved locations near Pelican Lake, Lake Ida, Turtle Lake, and Big Cormorant Lake in Otter Tail, Becker, and Clay Counties. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Otter Tail County, Arvig will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. These investments will improve quality of life and business development opportunities.
  • Total eligible project cost is $1,230,800
  • Local match is $800,020

Checklist:

  • Find more articles on broadband in Becker County. (http://tinyurl.com/jkah37b)
  • 100/20 Mbps ranking: 50 (up from 87)
  • Has worked with Blandin: yes
  • Has received a MN Broadband grant: yes
  • Household density: 9.2

Details:

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. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Lack of good broadband access is a strong predictor of childhood poverty: true in MN too?

Steven Ross at Broadband Communities has taken a deep dive into broadband and children in poverty and kids who take more than four years to complete school (or education). He looks at the top and bottom counties in each state in aggregate, he found…

Lack of good broadband access is a strong predictor of childhood poverty. That’s the finding of Broadband Communities’ recent analysis combining county-level broadband data it has collected since 2010 with comprehensive, county-level poverty data compiled by the nonprofit organization Save the Children.

These are pre-COVID numbers but he ascertains that the situation is likely worse now…

All data in this article refers to a pre-COVID United States, but broadband disparities now are even worse than they were at the start of 2020 given work-from-home and distance-learning demands brought on by the pandemic. In urban areas where access is available but not always affordable, providers usually have made it available free or at low cost during the COVID-19 lockdown. Almost half of all rural homes have no broadband at any price.

Ross goes on to look at rural versus metro and other interesting factors, but I’m always interested in the Minnesota perspective. So I’m taking a deeper dive based on his study. Because we have local mapping, I have used those rankings (25/3 and 100/20) to look at broadband. And I found percentage of children in poverty a little differently; I used SAIPE State and County Estimates for 2018 (same year as Ross) and their percentage of children (0-17) in poverty. I can pretend this was a check and balance but really it was an easier way to get very similar info with less math for me.

I looked at the top and lowest broadband ranking counties and it aligns with Ross’s work. The top counties had average lower poverty rates and the top counties with faster broadbnd (100/20 vs 25/3) had the lowest averate rates:

  1. Top 10 counties for broadband (100/20), the average poverty rate is 13.54 percent
  2. Bottom 10 counties for broadband (100/20), the average poverty rate is 16 percent
  3. Top 10 counties for broadband (25/3), the average poverty rate is 14.85 percent
  4. Bottom 10 counties for broadband (25/3), the average poverty rate is 16.47 percent
  5. The state poverty rate is 18 percent

I’ve included a table below that compares the broadband coverage and poverty rate. To get some broad swth view, I’ve highlighted in yellow the lower half of the poverty rates and the higher percentages of broadband coverage. So you’d like to see your county come up all yellow.

As Ross points out in his report, this doesn’t tell us cause or effect but there does seem to be a connection.

eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband conference and opportunities (Sep 2020)

OPPORTUNITY! Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand
The Blandin conference planning team has decided to lean in and move the annual conference online – and reformed it into a monthlong series of opportunities. Coming in October! Here are some of the highlights announced so far:

What are Digital Navigators?
Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — with community members through repeated interactions.

MN Broadband Task Force August Meeting notes
Newest Task Force member, Jason Hollinday from Fond du Lac, joins the group to hear from Minnesota Department of Education Overview on CARES Act Funding for Distance Learning and from a few experts from the Department. Bernadine Joselyn spoke talk about the ConnectedMN program that augments the federal funding. They talked about the 2020 Task Force report.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Local Broadband News

Beltrami County
Beltrami County certified as telecommuter-friendly community

Chisago County
Chisago County chat: broadband has been a help and hindrance in pandemic planning

Faribault 
Bevcomm gets $5,000 grant, $15,000 loan to improve broadband in Faribault County

Harmony
Harmony MN is working on short and long term broadband improvements (Fillmore County)

Iron Range
Iron Range Schools and families are focusing on broadband

Kanabec County
Kanabec County chat: spotty broadband means different COVID experience across the county

Lake Crystal and Madelia
Lake Crystal and Madelia are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities

Le Sueur County
Le Sueur County chat: broadband reliability is a hindrance but also spurring optimism

North Branch and Chisago County
North Branch And Chisago County are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities

Region 9
Tele-Mental Health Portal helping reach folks in Region 9

Rock County
Rock County chat: broadband made work, school and healthcare seamless during COVID

Southern MN
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation ask people in South MN to take the MN Broadband speed test

St Louis County
Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) Working on better broadband in St Louis County

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Access. adoption and use are the three legs of broadband promotion.  Access is the network.  Adoption is affordability and basic training. Use is increased sophistication of technology by individuals, but also entire economic sectors, like retailing, education, health care and manufacturing.  I have observed the inconsistent pace at which these three factors move forward.  Broadband network deployment is heavily influenced by federal, state and even local government finance programs.  Federally, we saw the underwhelming impact of poorly designed and executed CAF II program and more positive continuing results of the ACAM funds.  The next big this is the RDOF reverse auction that will heat up in October and November.  We have seen the overwhelmingly positive results of the MN Border to Border Broadband Fund.  In rural, if the government is not funding it, wired broadband investment just is not happening.

Adoption is driven by availability and affordability, especially the latter.  Affordability took a big leap forward with the Comcast Digital Essentials Program.  Originally designed as some eye candy to allow regulators to approve Comcast’s purchase of competitors, the company continues to implement the program and has increased the speeds provided during the pandemic.  Some other providers have followed suit and have started their own programs, some of which have since abandoned their low-cost programs.  The new Connected MN program will be a helpful addition, at least short-term, to the adoption toolbox.  Prior to the pandemic, the digital “homework gap” was highly noted, but not cause for significant policy response.  With kids attending school from home, the gap became a chasm.

Sophistication of use was mostly held back by fear, regulations, inflexible management and other non-technical factors.  The pandemic busted through all of those barriers around tele-health (payments, privacy), tele-work (management oversight and e-security issues), e-commerce offerings and purchases (fear and lack of investment by businesses and fear and tradition by consumers).  “Necessity as the mother of invention” swept away many of these artificial barriers.

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens as we move forward post-pandemic.  Will federal and state governments decide to limit funds for broadband projects or will broadband deployment be a centerpiece of economic stimulus packages?  Will downtowns and suburban office buildings need to be converted to housing as people continue to work from home?  Will education be transformed with more choices for either at-home or at-school offerings?  Which direction will the health care industry go with tele-health?  Affordability is certain to be front and center on the adoption front.  Today, school districts are providing devices and connectivity for students.  Will this continue or will we be content to again worry about the homework gap for a significant portion of the student population.

Seems like some good questions for our candidates!

eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband conference and opportunities (Aug 2020)

Save the month of October: Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand
The Blandin conference planning team has decided to lean in and move the annual conference online – and reformed it into a monthlong series of opportunities. Coming in October!
First announced Keynote is Roberto Gallardo from Purdue University’s Center for Rural Development. He will be talking about digital infrastructure to transformation: leveraging broadband for community economic development. Also he and his team from Purdue are offering a unique opportunity for three communities to pilot an accelerated version of their Digital Ready Community program.

OPPORTUNITY: Partnership for ConnectedMN opens applications
ConnectedMN is a public-private partnership of philanthropic and business leaders from across Minnesota. They are providing funding to help students and families get the broadband and devices they need to participate in distance education. Applications are open until Sep 1, 2020.

OPPORTUNITY: Statewide Speed Test Initiative
The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition launches of the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative to find out exactly where broadband service is available in rural Minnesota and what speeds people are receiving.

OPPORTUNITY: MN Broadband County Profile Focus Groups
As part of the Minnesota Broadband Profiles this year, counties are invited to talk about their COVID experience based on broadband situation with one question, “Is broadband helping or hurting your community’s ability to function during the pandemic?”

OPPORTUNITY! MN Border to Border Broadband Grant Applications Available
The Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is soliciting applications for Border to Border Broadband grant funding of broadband infrastructure projects. The deadline for the applications is September 30, 2020.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Aitkin County is moving forward with broadband in some areas – get the low down

Crow Wing County
Crow Wing County puts $1.5M of CARES funds into broadband & CTC

Lake Shore
Lake Shore City to seek bids from providers to extend broadband (Cass County)

Little Falls
Broadband Life in Little Falls – when the maps say you’re served and you know you aren’t! (Morrison County)

Rural MN
Many advantages to living in rural MN – broadband isn’t always sone of them

Twin Cities
Regional Economic Framework Draft by Met Council includes broadband SWOT

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

I recognized a bit of the challenge that broadband providers face this weekend as I was thinking about upgrading my classic 1987 16-foot Lund fishing boat.  Someone made me a tentative offer, somewhat out of the blue.  It is a good boat with a new transom that I installed last year.  No leaks which is a big positive!  The vintage motor runs great once you get it started.  I have now got it set up the way I want with the right accessories.  A big advantage to this boat is there are no monthly payments!

To upgrade to a boat that is newer, bigger, faster, more features involves a lot of analysis, risk taking and expense.  To get a new boat that is similar in size and features to mine would be six times my current investment.  To get a used boat costs less but creates more risk and calls to mind the saying, “better the devil you know!”  Some boat brands have a great reputation but still all kinds of negative online reviews and problems.

I have learned from ISPs that getting people to switch services, either an upgrade from their existing provider or to a new provider is a tougher sell than one would think.  There is a lot of uncertainty in terms of installation, timing, new email addresses, expense.  Is the faster Internet worth the expense?  All kinds of questions.

There are all kinds of online forums that can provide comfort to the boat buying process.  You can get great feedback on boat models, motors and price.  I think that community broadband champions can play this role to advocate, especially advocating for new broadband competitive providers.  Think about how you can support the companies who have been willing to invest in your community by supporting their marketing efforts and ensuring their success.

By the way, I am sticking with my old boat, at least for now!

2020 MN Broadband County Ranking for 25/3 speeds – how do you rank?

The new MN County broadband maps are now up on the Office of Broadband Development websites- show percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. It’s always interesting to use the new maps to see how the counties rank. Who is in the best shape in the short and long term? In this post I look at how counties rank when looking at access to 25 Mbps down and 3 up, which is the MN speed goal for 2022. (I will do another post that looks at 2026 goals of 100 Mbps down and 20 up and one on Gig access.) And I will compare to 2019 ranking.

Top 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 25/3

  1. Red Lake 99.99
  2. Rock 99.93
  3. Ramsey 99.86
  4. Clearwater 99.74
  5. Lac qui Parle 99.57
  6. Swift 99.54
  7. Beltrami 99.49
  8. Big Stone 99.48
  9. Hennepin 99.40
  10. Stevens 99.22

Great to see the top 10 with more than 99 percent coverage. The counties in bold were on this same list last year. Congrats to LqP for joining the list; it wasn’t much of a climb for them but nice all the same.

Bottom 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 25/3 (starting with worst)

  1. Redwood 44.59
  2. Todd 53.73
  3. Lake of the Woods 57.91
  4. Yellow Medicine 59.83
  5. Pine 60.24
  6. Kanabec 60.75
  7. Lincoln 60.91
  8. Fillmore 61.52
  9. Meeker 62.46
  10. Aitkin 63.62

Again the counties in bold were on this list last year. Both Redwood and Todd were listed at having greater coverage last year. I will dive into that when I look at County Profiles but it seems like perhaps providers are looking in greater granularity at the coverage this year or maybe updates were made to maps based on challenges from last year.

I want to cheer the counties who got off the bottom 10 list:

  • Marshall from 82 to 74
  • Murray from 81 to 78
  • Renville from 79 to 76
  • Martin from 78 to 38!!

You can download the full spreadsheet of MN county details or check out the table below. (I know the table will not transfer well to the website BUT it will be searchable.) Continue reading