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

New Blandin Broadband Roundtables on Tuesdays begin this week

From the Blandin Foundation is introducing a new roundtable series – Tuesdays at 9am…

The Blandin Community Broadband Program’s five-week Broadband Leadership Webinar Series: Creating Successful Broadband Infrastructure Projects concluded last week. Thanks to all who participated!

Blandin Foundation will continue its online broadband leadership presence with weekly roundtable discussions on a variety of topics. Anyone is welcome to join and participate, to ask questions, to promote broadband partnership opportunities, to share positive experiences and express frustrations. The goal of the roundtable is to increase the ability of local broadband leaders to solve their local broadband puzzle. Host Bill Coleman will have some topics ready to go, but there will always be time for your particular question. The key to these sessions will be active discussions so that requires active participation.

Our kick-off topic will be the importance of the FCC’s upcoming RDOF auctions and what your community needs to do to ensure that the outcome is favorable to your community. Bill will also be prepared to talk about the Frontier bankruptcy and what that might mean for your area. We hope that these discussions will provide opportunity for follow-up action for your community and for shared broadband advocacy across your region and the state. Since we can’t get together over coffee, bring your own and join us! You can register for the roundtables here.


EVENT May 5: Student Experiences with Distance Learning – a conversation

Hosted by the Minnesota Youth Council and Youthprise, this looks like an interesting conversation from the points of view of the guest stars – teachers and students…

Join Representatives from the Minnesota Youth Council and Youthprise for a live-streamed conversation on the ways in which distance learning is impacting students and their learning experience. Listen as they talk through challenges, opportunities and resources for students across the state.

Tuesday (May 5)  4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Meetings in the Time of Coronavirus: Tips and Tricks of online meetings webinar archive

Thanks to everyone who attended the webinar on webinars today. It was a conversation as much as a presentation and we all learned from each other. It got us thinking that maybe it makes sense to consider a regular opportunity to meet up online to talk about what we’re learning and need to learn about technology in the time of coronavirus. We could have loose topics decided in advance and maybe try out a few webinar platforms while we’re at it. But the intention is to keep the content sparse and questions plentiful.

We wanted to know if others would be interested – no commitment, just gaging interest. Let us know in the poll below and if you have a topic you want ot suggest – please do it in the comments below – or email me at atreacy@treacyinfo.com

Meetings in the Time of Coronavirus: Tips and Tricks of online meetings
As we move online, all of us are getting a crash course on online meetings. We thought we’d open up our sandbox to talk about how we’ve been hosting Zoom meetings and what we know about Facebook Live, Google Hangouts and Twitter parties. (Mostly Zoom.) We’re not experts, but we’re practitioners. We want to create a safe space for everyone give it a go – you can share your screen or take a chance to ask a question!

And the chat Continue reading

Recognizing that rural connectivity doesn’t equal urban connectivity

The Center for Rural Policy and Development looks at the need for broadband in the time of pandemic and the difference in rural, town and urban broadband connections…

In rural areas, having a subscription to an internet service doesn’t equal a quality connection. Counties outside of the seven-county metro have a noticeably lower percentage of households with access to broadband or, in some cases, any internet at all. Figure 1 provides the average percentage of households by internet connection type by county group. The more rural a county is, the more likely it is to have a significantly lower percentage of households with an internet subscription. In fact, Minnesota’s most rural counties can have a percentage of households with an internet subscription that is 10 to 20 percentage points less than entirely urban areas.

The percentage of households who are subscribed to a broadband service decreases significantly as a county becomes more rural. In addition, the percentage of households relying on their cell phone data plan or dial-up connection increases with rural-ness. Data: U.S. Census Bureau, ACS 5-year (2013-2017).

What I find fascinating is the perentage (low as it is) of dial-up connectivity!

The article goes on to detail good works by local and national providers in improving access in Minnesota – a fleshed out version of what I’ve been tracking on the blog too – super helpful if you want to know exactly what folks are offering.

BEVCOMM’s COVID-19 response: Low-cost options, donations to school, waiving late fees

Thanks to BEVCOMM for sending me their info to add to the growing list of what local providers are doing to ease the pain of Coronavirus threat

BLUE EARTH, MN — The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread across the country, prompting thousands of American businesses and schools to move to remote work and online instruction.
Turning online for work and education may cause stress for local families living without high speed broadband in their homes.
To support customers working from home, as well as school staff and students taking part in eLearning programs, BEVCOMM is offering: (1) A $9.95 broadband connection for eligible low-income families working from home and for students taking part in eLearning programs. Qualifications include: must be a new customer, qualify for Free School Lunch, or the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program. Some restrictions apply.
(2) BEVCOMM will donate $3,000 to each public school district in its serving area to help support the purchase of Wi-Fi hotspots.
(3) BEVCOMM has joined the FCC in the Keep Americans Connected pledge, which will promote connectivity for residents impacted by disruptions during this coronavirus pandemic. Given the scope of this pandemic and its impact on American society, we pledge for the next 60 days to: • Not terminate service to any residential or small business broadband or phone customer because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
• Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
Due to rising health concerns, the local BEVCOMM offices in Minnesota and Wisconsin will close their doors to the public effective at 8:00am on March 17, 2020. Please know BEVCOMM employees are still here to support you. They offer 24x7x365 Customer Service and Technical Support. Please reach out to them by calling your local BEVCOMM office or toll free at 800-473-1442.
Payments can be made over the phone with a credit or debit card, sent via postal mail, left in our local drop boxes, or paid online at http://www.bevcomm.net.
BEVCOMM installation and repair technicians spend much of their day in customer homes and businesses. For your safety and the safety of employees BEVCOMM will limit interactions to new broadband and phone installations and service outages. Thankfully, many technical troubles can be resolved remotely without having to send out a technician, however, there are times when they need to go on site to resolve the issue. Depending on the issue, BEVCOMM may ask to delay the resolution until exposure is less likely and requests that you communicate current health status prior to a scheduled appointment.

In addition, it is important to be aware of potential scams that may occur in relation to COVID19. Should you receive emails that look suspicious, please delete them and most importantly avoid clicking on links. It is a good practice to change passwords frequently.
Our nation is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, but no students should have to stop learning or employees stop working due to their internet connection. For more information and to upgrade your broadband subscription please contact us at 1-800-473-1442.
For more information regarding COVID-19, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/index.html

National Free & Low-Cost Internet Plans and building list of MN providers

National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is compiling a list of National Free & Low-Cost Internet Plans. I am trying to build a list for Minnesota. It is a list in the making! Please send any additions, changes or updates to the list my way atreacy@treacyinfo.com. When not clear, I have grabbed service areas from the Office of Broadband Development list by counties:

AND here are some of the National providers from the NDIA list that I know serve MN communities:

[Added Mar 26] You can see a list of the providers who have signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. It includes may in Minnesota (including MN Telecom Alliance, and means for the “next 60 days” they pledge:

  1. not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  2. waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  3. open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

In a similar effort, Stop the Gap is tracking Internet Providers’ response to the Coronavirus crisis. This list is very inclusive, a nice testament to providers stepping up it’s also very long.

[Added May 1]

Campus Technology adds a long list of “places to get wifi” nationally.

MN Broadband Day on the Hill: Ups and Downs means keep fighting

Today the MN Broadband Coalition hosted the fourth annual Broadband Day on the Hill (DOTH). You can see the video of the day (almost in its entirety) and the agenda below. On a high level, it was great to have folks from around Minnesota tell the legislators that broadband is important, the mapping is not accurate and we need to find new ways to reach the hardest to serve.

It was interesting to feel the vibe at the Capitol, which is all about the coronavirus. In the morning, Representative Ecklund started  by telling us what a game changer coronavirus has been and how right now there a need to prepare for emergencies. (Yesterday the University of Minnesota moved classes online – great for those who have broadband!) Rep Ecklund, Senator Draheim and Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan voiced support for broadband. Asked the room to keep fighting the good fight. But also conceded that right now coronavirus is getting the attention.

No where was that most evident than Governor Walz’s 2020 supplemental budget recommendations announced this morning (same time as the broadband activities)…

In his 2022 supplemental budget proposal the Governor is proposing general fund budget changes, including the general fund impact of the 2020 Local Jobs and Projects Plan released in January,  that total $346 million.  The Governor’s priority with this budget proposal is ensuring fiscal stability and addressing emergency response and preparedness needs across the state.

Broadband was not a part of the recommendations, although we were left with the impression that it was under serious consideration. As former Senator Becky Lourey pointed out, “Our timing is good. We can meet with our representatives and tell them how broadband can facilitate many tactics proposed to slow the spread of coronavirus – telehealth, telework, elearning and more.”

Broadband is a tool to help get Minnesotans through the risk of coronavirus, but only for those with access. It’s important that policymakers remember the need for ubiquitous coverage when they suggest strategies such as moving UMN classes online, moving public meetings online or suggest people work from home or they run the risk of creating (deepening) an equity gap!

  • 9:15am: Legislative Update—Nathan Zacharias
  • 9:30am: Bill authors Rep. Rob Ecklund; Sen. Rich Draheim
  • 9:45am: DEED Commissioner Steve Grove
  • 10:00am: Update from the Office of Broadband—Angie Dickison, Director
  • 10:15am: Legislative Meeting Tips—Nathan Zacharias
  • 10:30am: Legislative Meetings (On your own)
  • 12:40pm: Meet and Greet with Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan

EVENT ALERT: MN Broadband Task Force meetings: Jan 24 & Feb 18

The agendas aren’t up yet but the times, dates and locations for the first two meetings of the Minnesota Broadband Task Force are set:

  • January 24 from 10am to 2pm in the James J. Hill conference room at DEED
  • February 18 from 10am to 2pm at Land O’Lakes in Arden Hills.

Applications are open Blandin Broadband Communities Program!

I mentioned this last week – but the application is now available and the deadline is January 24, 2020..

Blandin Foundation is currently seeking four rural Minnesota communities to participate in a 2020-2021 cohort of the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program –  an intensive, two-year partnership between rural Minnesota communities (cities, counties, tribes, or other self-identified communities of interest or place) and the foundation. Selected communities work through a proven process to define their technology goals, measure current levels of broadband access and use, and seek technical assistance and resources to meet their goals.

Each BBC has the opportunity apply to Blandin Foundation for matching grants (around $75,000) for locally developed projects that advance community identified technology goals over the two-year project period.

For more information, download the BBC Application Instructions.

MiBroadband launches fixed wireless service to Fountain, Peterson, Spring Valley (Fillmore County)

Bluff Country News reports…

MiBroadband has launched high-speed internet in the areas of Fountain, Peterson and Spring Valley, the culmination of a project that started about one year ago.

Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company, MiEnergy Cooperative and Spring Grove Communications revealed just over a year ago that they were in the early stages of making high-speed internet a reality for underserved rural areas via fixed wireless broadband.

Fixed wireless broadband service works in a similar fashion to cell phone communication with an antenna on a tower to carry the signal to the customer’s fixed location. A radio at the customer’s home, farm or business receives the signal from an antenna on a tower. Customers do need a line of sight to the antenna, which can send a signal approximately five to seven miles.

MiEnergy Cooperative has placed a monopole at each of its substations serving the Fountain, Peterson and Spring Valley areas. The monopoles are part of the electric co-op’s infrastructure to allow for a broadband connection that send data from the substation to MiEnergy’s office to allow for improved electric reliability.

Those monopoles with broadband connections are what allow MiBroadband to offer high-speed internet service to rural areas that are unserved or underserved.

The article talks a little bit about the technology…

“It is faster and more reliable than what cellular carriers can provide. When compared to DSL you don’t see internet speeds limited by distance from the provider’s main office,” Fishbaugher stated. “With cable-based service, a neighborhood shares a finite amount of capacity which can degrade service at peak times. Fixed wireless doesn’t have those limitations.”

And the business…

“While MiBroadband is not a cooperative, it is owned by cooperatives who have a history of providing excellent customer service.  Those same expectations on customer service carry over to this business to serve those who have had no options or who have had limited options for broadband,” explained Fishbaugher.

Broadband Struggles in Greater Minnesota featured on Almanac

Last Friday TPT’s Almanac did a nice feature on rural broadband. It’s a nice piece on a range of issues. And it’s only a 5-minute video.

The spoke to some folks who have trouble running credit card, and therefore a business, because of slow connections. The spoke to folks at Frontier, Brent Christensen at MN Telecom Alliance and Gary Johnson at Paul Bunyan Telephone (Cooperative). So they really got a wide range of views from providers.

New study correlates lack of broadband to lack of health insurance

A Communicating for America press release reports…

Communicating for America (CA), a rural advocacy organization, has released a new study that correlates the lack of high-speed internet to the lack of health insurance coverage and access to health care. The survey, conducted in September 2019, asked nearly 500 individuals whether having the ability to connect to broadband internet in their local area affected the way they engage with the health care system.

Of those surveyed, 39% in urban and semi-urban areas said they had high-speed internet. The number dropped to 21% in rural areas. The study’s findings went on to show people without high-speed internet were significantly less likely to have health insurance (61% had coverage) compared to individuals that have broadband internet (88%). A similar disparity was shown in health care systems. Of those without broadband internet, only 5% have used low-cost telemedicine for medical treatment, whereas 22% of individuals with high-speed internet have used telemedicine in the past. In addition:

  • People without access to broadband internet are significantly less likely to use online medical records (29%) than people who have broadband internet (59%).
  • People without access to broadband internet are significantly less likely to schedule appointments online (17%) than people who do have broadband internet (36%).

I don’t know much about Communicating for America. They are based in Fergus Falls. Their mission is to promote health, well-being and the advancement of all self-employed Americans and small business owners by utilizing our acquired experience in serving rural Americans. You can find the full report online.

The report doesn’t specify what “broadband” is but 39 percent sub/urban access versus 21 percent indicate a high bar definition. (24 percent of MN has access to a Gig.)  And 500 participants isn’t a huge portion – but the results are interesting.

Who are bottom 10 MN Counties for Broadband Ranking? And why?

Last week I posted MN Broadband Profiles for each county. Today I want to dig into the those reports to see if we can find some trends in the top counties.

Here we’ll look at the top ranked MN Counties for speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up (100/20), the MN broadband speed goal for 2026:

100/20 speeds 2019 Rank 2019 Change in Rank Blandin*
MN grant 2019 apps HH Density
Yellow Medicine 38.86 78 -9 y 2 2 5.6
Todd 38.68 79 2 y 2 1 10
Aitkin 37.74 80 2 y 2 3 4
Pine 37.26 81 -13 y 1 0 7.9
Otter Tail 35.34 82 5 10 3 10.8
Redwood 33.56 83 -11 y 3 2 7.5
Kanabec 26.93 84 -17 y 1 0 12
Norman 20.62 85 -5 0 0 3.3
Mahnomen 17.31 86 -2 1 1 3.5
Becker 6.22 87 -2 1 0 9.2

There are factors that can hinder broadband progress in a county, such as household density and lack of provider competition. There are factors that can help broadband progress such as public funding and community support. But for each county the barrier is different, as is the support. For community leaders and policymakers, it can be valuable to recognize both the barriers and potential support because unlike the top county list which saw little change this year, the bottoms list includes four new entries (Yellow Medicine, Pine, Redwood and Kanabec).

Also I might caution counties that rank well for access to 25/3 (the 2022 speed goal) to pay attention to what’s going on in their community. Do they have potential barriers they might work on now?

Fast Facts about the Bottom Ten Counties for 100/20 broadband access

  • 2 are in lowest 10 rank for household density ranking (Norman and Mahnomen)
  • 9 have ten or fewer households per square mile (Otter Tail has 10.8)
  • 9 have received MN broadband grants (Norman hasn’t)
  • 6 have applied for MN broadband grants in 2019
  • 6 have worked with the Blandin Foundation

Household Density

As noted in the report of the top counties, household density matters. You pay per mile for the wire (or fiber as the case is for future-looking networks) and you pay to dig the trench, to pull the wire; so the longer the distance, the more you pay. Then once the network is built, there aren’t as many customers to serve. And providing technical support can be more difficult when there are greater distances between customers. So, it’s difficult to recoup cost and make a profit.

All of the counties at the bottom have low population density. But the counties with the lowest household density are not on the list. Lower population density is a hindrance but not an absolute determiner in access to broadband.

Public Funding

Nine of the ten counties at the bottom have received MN broadband grants. It is difficult to measure the impact with ranking, because it’s a race where everyone is running and for the slowest runners that means beating their previous time, not the faster runners.

2019 2018 2107
Yellow Medicine 38.86 37.72 19.28
Todd 38.68 17.58 2.86
Aitkin 37.74 17.55 11.51
Pine 37.26 38.18 37.37
Otter Tail 35.34 2.36 1.75
Redwood 33.56 33.56 34.37
Kanabec 26.93 38.54 26.07
Norman 20.62 20.55 20.52
Mahnomen 17.31 13.53 13.03
Becker 6.22 12.95 6.58


Bottom 10 counties that have improved their ranking from last year (some improved but not enough to rank higher than lower 10):

  • Yellow Medicine (received grants in 2015 and 2016)
  • Todd (received grants in 2014 and 2017)
  • Aitkin (received grants in 2016 and 2017)
  • Otter Tail (received numerous grants from 2014-2017)
  • Mahnomen (received grant in 2017)

Bottom 10 counties that have not improved their rank from last year:

  • Pine (received grant in 2017)
  • Redwood (received grant in 2015, 2016 and 2017)
  • Kanabec (received grant in 2016)
  • Norman
  • Becker (received grant in 2016)

All of the counties that got funding saw improvement. The counties that saw the great improvement (Todd, Aitkin and Otter Tail) were awarded grants. Noman County is the only one that are not received a grant and their access has not improved at all. (An increase of .07 is more a margin of error.)

Other reasons there may be no change in the counties that have received funding are improvements may not have been competed before data was collected, the grant may have been for multiple counties and/or little money and in some grants only required an immediate upgrade to 25/3.

With these results it’s difficult to ascertain the impact of funding but I think it’s fair to say that without it most of these would see no improvement.

Community Support

We gauged community support by tracking counties that have worked with Blandin Foundation. There are other ways to boost a county but this was an easy measure to track.

Blandin has provided guidance to these counties either in the form of broadband coaching and grants for broadband adoption projects or in supporting a feasibility study. The programming and support is valuable but at the end of each cohort or project I have heard people say that the most valuable outcome was stronger communities relationships. Six of the ten counties had worked with Blandin. Blandin worked with two of the three counties that saw the most improvement.

With these results it’s difficult to ascertain the impact of community support but I think it’s fair to say less would happen without it.


Another factor in broadband access is competition. Roberto Gallardo and Brain Whitacre wrote about the impact of competition and type of provider (A Look at Broadband Access, Providers and Technology) at the census tract level. They created a map (top right) that show areas by number of providers and type, which is either “Top 6” national provider or other. Top 6 includes AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier.

One caveat is that the map defines broadband as 25/3 because that it is the federal definition. But for our purposes that doesn’t matter here; there are no providers that offer access to 25/3 and not 100/20.

Again, the Top 6 map uses census tracts not county boundaries, which makes it even more useful but it means we need to approximate the impact on the county.

The map on the left shows the bottom counties. The counties in east central MN (Aitkin, Pine and Kanabec) are in blue areas, which means there is only one provider serving those areas and that provider is a Top 6. Three of the counties in West Central MN (Norman, Mahnomen and Becker) are in green areas, which again means only one provider. Otter Tail, Todd, Yellow Medicine and Redwood are in areas that primarily seem to have a greater mix of providers.