Marshall County broadband profile: Marshall’s broadband ranks 85 out of 87 but improvements are planned

marshallMarshall County is in bad shape when it comes to broadband coverage. Only 33 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and only 9 percent has access to speeds of 100/20, which is the Minnesota speed goal for 2016. But they have had some good news.

Although the impact may not be seen in the maps yet, they did get Border to Border funding in 2015

Wikstrom Telephone, Kittson, Marshall, Roseau Broadband Extension. Awarded $425,000 to bring fiber-to-the-home service to 73 unserved and 43 underserved locations in Kittson (15 premises), Marshall (50 premises) and Roseau (51 premises) counties. The total project costs are $943,827; the remaining $518,827 (55 percent local match) will be provided by Wikstrom.

And they recently received funding in the latest round of Border to Border grants – so perhaps we’ll see improvements in the future. Because the grants are required to be scalable to 100/20, they should at least be setting themselves up for greater coverage by the 2026 standards…

Wikstrom Telephone Co. (with Beamco Inc.), Rural Alvarado – $43,481. The project will serve 11 unserved households and 1 unserved business in the Alvarado area, in a remote part of Marshall County. The telephone company and Beamco Inc., a local engineering and manufacturing company, are partnering to improve services in the area.

Marshall County is also in line to receive $454,418 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 535 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.


The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 33.49
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 9.20


Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 53.94 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

Broadband last few feet – creating broadband-ready buildings in MN

The Department of Employment and Economic Development blog recently mentioned three of the Broadband Task Force report recommendations.

They mention the biggies…

The wish list for the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband includes:

  • $100 million in ongoing funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program

  • $10 million in operating funds for the Office of Broadband Development located within DEED.

And they detail the call to make public housing broadband ready…

One recommendation is called the “last mile,” referring to the challenges that broadband providers need to overcome to deliver high-speed connectivity across the final leg between the provider’s network and the home or building.

But once the high-speed connection is brought to the outside of a building another problem appears. Many existing buildings do not have proper interior wiring or duct work to enable the high-speed connection to be delivered to the devices that consume it. And this becomes even more of an issue in multi-tenant buildings as more consumers or businesses are affected. …

The Task Force developed this recommendation: Amend building codes to require that multi-tenant housing units funded with public dollars deploy cabling (such as category 5/6 or multi-mode fiber) that supports easier management of broadband connectivity.

Broadband as part of the Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is intended to encourage banks and other depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate. Last summer the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas published a report (Closing the Digital Divide: A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations) that helps financial instructions understand how broadband fit into the CRA.

craThe report’s goals are:

PART ONE: An understanding of how broadband is now an integral part of community development and meets the “primary purpose” definition of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

PART TWO: A road map of best practices for closing the digital divide.

PART THREE: A selection of references and examples to help identify opportunities to close the digital divide in their communities.

PART FOUR: A list of tips for preparing their case for digital opportunity investments and CRA reference guides to help ensure planned CRA activities meet regulatory requirements.

PART FIVE: A template to make their case, which highlights the types of lending, service and investments that are valuable to their institution and target communities.

PART SIX: Appendixes of broadband resources for understanding the needs and opportunities in their assessment areas.

Obviously it focused on the needs of the financial institution – offering advice on what a community needs and how to explain those needs and the role of the financial institution is meeting those needs but the information appeals to a wider audience. It includes an index of “experts in closing the digital divide”, an explanation of the “three legs of the digital divide stool” (access, computer and training) and the impact of broadband on the community.

Nominations OPEN for the Dot.Org Awards!

It would be great to see a lot of rural winners…

Who are the leaders in innovative uses of technology? Which organizations are pioneering new approaches in communications? The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is proud to present the Dot.Org Awards, recognizing nonprofits who are using technology and communications in inspiring, effective and creative ways.

The Dot.Org Awards honor Minnesota nonprofits leading the sector in uses of new technologies and communications, including:

Creative Campaign
Program Delivery
Website Redesign

Nominations are now OPEN!

Where is Minnesota’s worst broadband? A look at the maps and data

mn-broadband-map-2016I’m going to come clean here, a friend who works on broadband in emerging nations asked me to talk about last mile access in rural Minnesota. So this post is for him – but useful to lots of folks I think. And if you have a story of where you think the worst broadband is – please feel free to share it in the comments below.

To get a look at the detail of broadband access in Minnesota we have a few tools.

Coverage maps of each county. There are maps that focus on 10 Mbps down and 6 Mbps up (aka 10/6). Maps that looked a served (100/20), underserved (between 25/3 and 100/20) and unserved (less than 25/3). And maps that track maximum download speed – down to speeds of 768 Kbps – 1.5 Mbps. This is the maps I’d use to determine some of the slowest areas.

I used the data from the various maps and charts to create a comparison of counties. That might help you peg the counties with the greatest number or size of gaps. Although the benchmark for the comparison is 25/3. You can see this in map format too. (And pictured at the right.)

There is an interactive map too that in theory provides info down to 4/1 speeds but I wasn’t able to make it work effectively for a area – just for an address.

Politics and Broadband: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Platform Comparison

The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition have done a comparison of Clinton’s and Trump’s broadband policies:


While I love the graphic – I’m going to type out the high level text too – for anyone using assistive technology and because I like text.

Clinton’s policies

  • Connect 100 percent of household to affordable broadband by 2020.
  • Connect more anchor institutions
  • Continue investment in CAF, RUS and BTOP
  • Back the FCC’s decision to extend Lifeline to broadband
  • Invest $250 billion in infrastructure as well as establish a $25 billion infrastructure ban to provide grants
  • Deploy 5G wireless
  • Reallocate and repurpose spectrum
  • Foster a civic Internet of Things though public investment

Trump’s policies

  • Create a business climate that rewards risk and promotes innovation
  • Challenge legacy forms of business
  • Give innovators the freedom to create
  • Facilitate access to spectrum
  • Create public policy for competition essential for an Internet of Things to thrive
  • Ensure that governments keep pace with technology deployed in private sector
  • Encourage public-private partnerships

Advancing the Vision Learning Stations – Community Success Stories

The sessions includes Learning Stations featuring projects funded through the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. Station presenters:

  • Border to Border Phase I (St. Louis County), Northeast Service Cooperative (invited)
  • Central Itasca County Fiber, Paul Bunyan Communications
  • FTTH Project (Renville and Sibley Counties), RS Fiber
  • FTTP Project, Rock County Broadband Alliance
  • Middle Mile (in 20 southwestern MN counties), MVTV Wireless
  • Winona County Whitewater Area, Hiawatha Broadband Communications

(videos will be added as they are uploaded)