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)

Minnesota low income areas broadband grant webinar August 16

I know a lot of communities are making their plans for the infrastructure grants from the Office of Broadband Development. Those are grants for up to $5 million to deploy broadband to unserved and underserved areas. New this year, there is also funding available to increase availability for low income communities. The OBD is planning a session tomorrow to explain more…

Learn more about the newest addition to the Border-to-Border grant program, the $500,000 fund for projects that propose to expand the availability and adoption of broadband service to areas that contain a significant proportion of low-income households. The webinar will be held on Tuesday, August 16, from 1 to 2 p.m. Central Time. To register, contact David Thao at the OBD office at david.j.thao@state.mn.us or at 651-259-7442. You will receive the toll-free call-in number and online access instructions to be able to join the webinar. Please contact us before Tuesday at noon if possible to be sure you receive instructions before the webinar begins. We will also record the webinar and post the link on the Broadband Grants webpage.

Rep Hoppe re-supports incumbent challenge process in broadband grant program

In a rebuttal to a previous letter to the editor, Representative Joe Hoppe posts a letter to the editor in the Brainerd Dispatch supporting a broadband challenge process for incumbents when someone submits a proposal to serve their area or an adjacent area…

It seems to me that a challenge process might prevent broadband grants from being awarded to areas eligible for a federal broadband grant program or, more importantly, from being used in an area that already has broadband available. The letter writer may think it makes sense for limited public dollars to be awarded to duplicate existing broadband services, but I do not and apparently neither does the Democrat-controlled Senate or the governor who signed the broadband legislation and agreed to the funding level as well as the challenge language.

If we are going to use taxpayer dollars to bring broadband to rural areas as this program purports to do, the focus should be on those who cannot get broadband service due to lack of coverage and not those areas that are already eligible for federal funding or that have broadband available. It is time to stop making broadband a political issue. There are legitimate needs in Minnesota, unfortunately rhetoric doesn’t help move things forward.

I think it all depends on your definition of broadband – and I think that highlights a nerdy but important change in the latest round of broadband funding. Unserved areas will be defined by areas that have service less than 25 Mbps down and 3 up. Underserved areas have service less than 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up. Many providers (especially in rural areas) do not offer speeds of 25/3 or 100/20. And federally funding does not require those speeds.

This is a good way to help providers to step it up. Federal funding is great – but not if it doesn’t support speeds that make a difference.

News from the Office of Broadband Development: Grant updates

Just wanted to share info from the Office of Broadband newsletter…

Get “up to speed” on applying for the 2016 Border-to-Border Broadband Grants; informational webinars/ conference calls to be held

Starting on June 23rd, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD) staff will host a series of webinar/toll-free conference calls to launch the 2016 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. We will introduce this year’s changes to the program, walk thru the application, review the scoring criteria, and answer any questions. Please join us on June 23rd or on any of the other dates below – information presented at each call will be the same, so you only need to choose one date to participate.

  • Thursday, June 23, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 30, 8 to 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, July 13, 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Wednesday, July 13, 1 to 3 p.m.

To register, please send an email with your contact information (name, organization/community, address, email & phone #) to David.j.Thao@state.mn.us, or call David at 651-259-7442.  Please indicate which session you will attend. You must register to receive instructions on how to access the meeting and materials.

If you have questions about the grant program in general, please contact jane.leonard@state.mn.us or 651-259-7635.

Field Validation Underway on Broadband Grants projects

As part of its mission to manage Minnesota’s broadband infrastructure mapping effort, OBD has a contract with Connected Nation (CN) to conduct field validations to verify stated broadband coverage. In May, the CN validation trip included areas of broadband construction that were funded in part by the Border-to-Border broadband (B2B) grant program.

This photo of a vault (in Becker, MN, where the Palmer Wireless B2B grant project has concluded) is an example of the observations and testing conducted by the CN test engineers to identify and verify where new broadband construction has taken place.  At the Becker site, OBD staff were able to watch this aspect of mapping and verification take place.

Preliminary 2016 Grant Eligibility Map Now Online

An interactive map available through our website features a number of tools that can be used in many different ways. You can turn different data layers on and off and zoom in and out as you please. One of the tools on the map is the ability to determine if areas of a proposed broadband development project might be grant eligible under the criteria of the 2016 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.

To help applicants prepare for the new grant round, the OBD made preliminary updates to the grant eligibility layer to match the new definitions of “served”, “underserved”, and “unserved”.

You can view the map by going to the website at http://map.connectmn.org/, then select “Maps/Data” on the top of the page, then click the “Access” tab, and check the box titled Preliminary 2016 Grant Eligibility Information. (See red circled areas on the map below as a guide to where the links noted above can be found.)

NOTE: The data displayed on this map is preliminary (current as of 2/28/2015). The eligibility map containing the new data will be released mid-July 2016, in time for the application period for the 2016 grant round. If you have any questions regarding this map, please contact Ryan Yetzer at ryan.yetzer@state.mn.us, or call him at 651-259-7614.

HUD Seeks Comment on Two Ways to Encourage Broadband Build Out

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) is soliciting comments on two proposed rules that would improve broadband availability in affordable housing.

First, HUD is proposing that broadband infrastructure be installed at the time of new construction or substantial rehabilitation of multifamily rental housing that is funded or supported by HUD. The notice soliciting comments on this proposed rule is here.

Second, HUD is proposing that state and local governments include in their Consolidated Plans consideration of the need for broadband access for low- and moderate-income residents in the communities they serve. (Consolidated Plans serve as a framework for a local discussion on housing and community development priorities that align and focus funding from HUD’s block grant programs.)

Where access to broadband service is not currently available or is minimally available, consideration must be given to ways to bring broadband service to residents, including how HUD funds could be used to narrow the digital divide. To capture information on broadband in the Consolidated Plans, broadband providers and organizations engaged in narrowing the digital divide would have to be consulted during the plan preparation.

State and local government jurisdictions would also have to describe broadband access in low- and moderate-income occupied housing based on an analysis of data for its low- and moderate-income neighborhoods using the National Broadband Map or other available broadband data. The notice for this rule proposal is here.

Comments on both proposed rules are due July 18, 2016.