Winona County Broadband Profile: 81 percent access to 25/3 and 100/20 and grants to help upgrade

In 2014, winona90 percent of Winona County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 82 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 81 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

Winona is doing well and they got a recent Border to Border broadband grant to help them do even better…

the county will get $416,000 to continue broadband expansion into areas of Wilson, Homer, Richmond, Pleasant Hill and Wiscoy townships.

The total project cost is estimated to be $868,000, with a match by HBC covering the rest.

The project is expected to reach 111 households, 112 unserved businesses, and two community institutions currently unserved or underserved.

Winona County administrator Ken Fritz said the county would like to continue using the programs if the state continues providing grants.

They had received funding in the past as well…

Last year the county was awarded $314,500 to a project to expand broadband into the Witoka and Wilson areas, with HBC covering the rest of the near $1 million project cost. That project started in spring 2016 and affected an estimated 256 households, 117 businesses, 90 farms, nine commercial and industrial businesses, 18 home-based businesses, a school and other public institutions.

In 2015 the county also received $247,000 for broadband expansion in Elba and Norton townships, including Whitewater State Park. The overall project is estimated to cost nearly $775,000. That project will provide improved internet to an estimated 135 households, 70 businesses, Whitewater State Park, Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, Crystal Springs Fish Hatchery, a school and other public institutions.

Winona has been an involved community. They were a Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (Blandin MIRC) community where among other projects they worked with Project FINE to provide digital inclusion training in multiple languages. Last summer (2016), Senator Franken’s team held listening session in the area to discuss broadband.

Winona County is also in line to receive $245,212 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 475 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.

Numbers:

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: 82.13
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 81.17

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

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 41.93 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!

Stearns County Broadband Profile: 87 percent access to 25/3; 38 percent access to 100/20 but grants will help

stearnsIn 2014, 92 percent of Stearns County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 87 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 38 percent has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

They are going the wrong direction but State grants will help.

In 2015, the St Cloud Times took a good look at broadband in Stearns County, outing services offered by the local providers. It is informative to look at the range (remember this is from 2015!)…

In the middle of 2014, Midcontinent doubled connection speeds for its customers, partly as a test, Simmons said. Channel-bonding technology allowed the company to change the 30 Mbps service most customers received to 60 Mbps, 50 to 100, and so on.

With a $75 million investment, the company is going to keep increasing speeds. Its Gigabit Initiative will bring 1 Gbps connections to all business and home consumers in the Upper Midwest by sometime in 2017, Simmons said.

Midcontinent uses hybrid fiber-coaxial technology to deliver Internet service.

CenturyLink also uses fiber to deliver service to residential areas and DSL in the home, according to Rachel Woodman, market development manager. The company has almost entirely abandoned copper in favor of fiber, a technology experiencing a CenturyLink “build-up” in the St. Cloud area. Woodman said the majority of Central Minnesota customers have connections of up to 40 Mbps available.

Charter Communications connects customers to the Internet through its coaxial cable lines and in-home modems.

Paul Bunyan Communications announced in late summer it has started construction on a fiber network in the Bemidji area that will bring connections with speeds up to 1 Gbps to customers. Some locations will receive the service this year, with the entire 5,000-square-mile service area being covered in coming years.

Some area companies, such as Skynet Broadband Inc. and CitEscape High Speed Internet, both based in St. Cloud, offer fixed wireless connections, the speeds of which are increasing along with in-ground technologies.

John Townsend, sales and marketing director for SkyNet, said starting now in January, the new SkyNet tower in Waite Park will connect users through a synchronized network that will “blast” signals to and from an exact point located by GPS. …

CitEscape offers residential access with download speeds of 1.5 to 10 Mbps, according to Laura Kangas. She and her husband Albert own and operate Palmer Wireless, the company that put Wi-Fi capabilities on buses in Becker, and they purchased CitEscape this fall.

She said one advantage her company’s wireless service has over mobile broadband through cellular networks or satellites is unlimited data. “Ten gigabytes doesn’t go too far anymore,” she said.

TDS Telecom offers Internet access, management and voice-related services to business customers in St. Cloud and residential users in the surrounding area.

Nextera Communications services businesses in Central Minnesota primarily with a combination of T-1 lines, according to President Greg Arvig, whose relation to the service provider that shares his name is through blood, not business.

Connections range from about 1 Mbps to a couple hundred, he said, with Nextera tailoring speeds to each application.

In 2015, a small portion of Stearns County benefitted from a Border to Border grant

Arvig (Mainstreet Communications LLC), Sauk Lake area. Awarded $536,702 to build broadband infrastructure to serve 217 unserved premises in the Sauk Lake area, which is located primarily in Todd County (with some project area in rural Stearns County) just north of Sauk Centre. This is an unserved area where no wired broadband infrastructure is available. The full project cost is $1.07 million; the remaining $536,703 (50 percent) will be supplied by a private investment made by Arvig.

Good news – they will benefit from two Border to Border grants

Albany Mutual Telephone Association, Big Watab Lake – $726,185. The project will serve 242 unserved households in the Big Watab Lake area in Stearns County. Albany Mutual will improve service for families that need high-speed broadband for school and work. The total eligible project cost is $1.45 million, with a $726,185 local match.

Palmer Wireless, Del Tone Road and St. Cloud Airport – $179,400. This project will serve 14 unserved businesses and 1 unserved community anchor institution on the east side of St. Cloud. Palmer Wireless will make improvements that will upgrade business connectivity in the Highway 10 corridor, increasing business development opportunities and customer access. The total eligible project cost is $460,000, with a $280,600 local match.[Stearns County]

Stearns County is also in line to receive $1,530,252 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 3883 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.

Numbers:

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: 87.58
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 38.01

ranking-roseau-to-yellow-medicine

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 30.79 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!

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.

Numbers:

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

kan-to-mow

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.