Arvig extends FTTH to 10,000 households in St Cloud, Rochester and Twin Cities

Presswire reports (shares a press release)…

Today, telecommunications and broadband provider Arvig has announced it has installed a fiber optic connection into more than 10,000 townhome, condo and apartment units within the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, and Rochester area. The telecommunications provider continues to grow its high-speed internet connectivity offerings, a service that has become increasingly important with many now working and learning from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Archive: Share a success story

This big week of inaugural events includes the inaugural meeting of the Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity. We had a 20-25 people attend – perfect for chat and connecting with each other. We spent a lot of time on the introductions – in part because the attendance grew as we spoke but it was worth it to learn more about each other. For example, I now know at least two people who could help me fill out the forms to get an FCC radio license.

It was also nice to have a mix of rural and Twin Cities folks; I hope that will help facilitate more working together. A silver lining of all of the pandemic restriction is that because everything is online these days, it’s easier to work with people in all locations without traveling. Of course the flip side is that it deepens the digital divide for those without access.

We had folks on the frontlines of teaching, librarians, policy folks, smart city folks and engineers. If this were my Destination Imagination team, I’d feel pretty good about our ability to problem solve. And there are open seats at the table next month if you want to join us.

A quick reminder – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch series includes 2 monthly sessions. Sessions will alternate between Broadband Infrastructure (2nd Weds) and  Digital Use and Equity (3rd Weds).

Feb 10, Broadband Infrastructure session will focus on how to work with legislators – more on that soon! Feb 17, Digital Use and Equity is still open. We surveyed folks about future topics today and will report back.

Senators Klobuchar, Smith and 151 others ask FCC to look carefully at RDOF applications

Telecompetitor reports

A broad coalition of Republican and Democratic senators and representatives have sent a letter to the FCC asking the commission to thoroughly vet RDOF auction winners. At stake is $9 billion in rural broadband funding awarded through the reverse auction, which was completed last year.

The letter was championed by Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Thune, as well as Representatives James E. Clyburn and Tim Walberg. Also signing the letter were an additional 153 senators and representatives.

Service providers were required to submit a short-form application in order to participate in the auction, which awarded funding for an area to the bidder that committed to deploying broadband to unserved locations in the area for the lowest level of support. A weighting system favored bids to provider faster service with lower latency.

Senator Smith and Senator Klobuchar both signed the letter. Here’s the paragraph (from the letter) that highlights their concern…

As responsible stewards of USF funds, we ask that the FCC redouble its efforts to review the long-form applications that will now be submitted. We urge the FCC to validate that each provider in fact has the technical, financial, managerial, operational skills, capabilities, and resources to deliver the services that they have pledged for every American they plan to serve regardless of the technology they use. We also strongly encourage the FCC to make as public as possible the status of its review and consider opportunities for public input on the applications. Such transparency and accountability will be essential to ensure the success of this program and to minimize any opportunities for fraud or abuse.

I have written about some of the concern about RDOF in Minnesota. And just earlier today I wrote about how many providers do not seem to be meeting their obligations in deploying broadband with federal CAFII funding. Here concerns outlined by Telecompetitor…

As Telecompetitor has noted, the 10 biggest RDOF winners won a combined 76% of the total funding awarded. Four of those winners are companies that traditionally have used fixed wireless technology who bid in the highest speed category (1 Gbps downstream), at least for some areas.

Fixed wireless equipment manufacturers persuaded the FCC that they had equipment capable of supporting gigabit speeds, although the technology is relatively unproven, especially for rural areas. Perhaps recognizing that, the big fixed wireless RDOF winners left themselves the option of deploying fiber broadband to meet their buildout requirements – one of them even bid to use fiber broadband exclusively for gigabit deployments. But some stakeholders have questioned whether some of the winners can afford to deploy gigabit fiber for the level of support awarded.

Also among the top 10 RDOF winners is satellite broadband provider SpaceX, whose technology also is relatively unproven. The company is in the process of deploying a constellation of non-geostationary satellites to support its bid in the second-highest speed category – 100 Mbps downstream.

Senator Klobuchar talks to Northern MN – broadband comes up

The International Falls Journal reports

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar reached out last week to northern Minnesota leaders to talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of local students, and on growing hunger.

In a phone call Thursday with International Falls School Superintendent Kevin Grover and three other northern Minnesota school superintendents, she said the information she learned would help her craft legislation aimed at assisting with the new needs communities are facing because of the pandemic.

Broadband came up…

The group also discussed the need to continue to improve broadband internet access in northern Minnesota, where areas still require “hot spots” for students to access their online learning programs.

Frontier and CenturyLink report they may not have met CAF II deployment deadlines for 2020 – in MN and other states

Telecompetitor reports

The CAF II program awarded funding to the nation’s larger carriers to bring broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas within their local service territories. Frontier accepted $283 million in funding annually and CenturyLink accepted $514 million annually.

Funding recipients were given six years to complete buildouts to a specific number of locations and were given interim deadlines to complete deployment to a specific percentage of locations.

In a letter to the FCC, CenturyLink said it met or exceeded the program’s December 31, 2020 milestone in 10 states but may not have met the 100% milestone in 23 states. Frontier told the FCC that it met the year-end 2020 milestone in eight states but may not have reached it in 17 other states.

The companies must report more definitive deployment data by March 1.

Last year at this time, Frontier said it had met the CAF II deployment milestones for year-end 2019 in 16 states but might not have met the target in 13 others. CenturyLink said it had met milestones in 10 states but might miss the target in 23 others.

Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020, but attributed this year’s deployment delays to the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than the bankruptcy.

Neither company reports meeting their goals in Minnesota…

According to CenturyLink, states for which the company may not have met its 2020 CAF II deployment target include Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

States for which Frontier may not have met its 2020 CAF II deployment target include Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Frontier said it expects to meet its final CAF II deployment milestone by June 30 in all outstanding states except Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, where the expected completion date is September 30.

The frustration is that this leaves many people without broadband – again. The goal is to build to 25/3 (even lower in some areas) and they haven’t done that. To put that in perspective, it does not get them closer to the MN State speed goal of 100/20 by 2026. In Minnesota we are used to the State MN border to border broadband grant rules where project must build networks that are scalable to 100/100. That is not the case with these networks and getting to 25/3 does not mean getting to 100/20 will be easier.

Also there is the concern for customers that the promise or threat of building has kept competitors out of their market. The promise of a CAF II network has made it more difficult for the communities to get funding from other sources. CAF II funding focused on the providers only – communities didn’t not sign up or on to the program.

Keller and Heckman’s Overview of Broadband Funding Opportunities in the COVID-19 Relief Act

Remember Baller Stokes & Lide? And their awesome daily email of broadband stories? Well, Jim Baller, Sean Stokes and Casey Lide have joined Keller and Heckman, LLP, as Partners and their daily email has been rebranded as Keller and Heckman. And they remain generous as ever sharing their Overview of Broadband Funding Opportunities in the COVID-19 Relief Act. Here are the highlights of the overview – visit the website to dig into the details.

  • Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Grants (NTIA):  $300 million grant program for broadband projects by “covered partnerships” in eligible service areas. The term “covered partnership” is defined to mean (a) a State or one or more political subdivisions, and (b) a provider of fixed broadband service.
  • Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grants (NTIA):  $1 billion grant program for broadband infrastructure deployment, broadband affordability programs, distance learning, telehealth, and broadband adoption activities on Tribal land.
  • Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (FCC):  $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program providing a reimbursement subsidy for the provision of broadband service and associated equipment to qualified households in the form of a monthly discount not to exceed $50 ($75 for an eligible household on Tribal land).
  • Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program(NTIA): $285 million for grants to minority institutions, organizations, and consortia to support broadband development and adoption.
  • COVID-19 Telehealth Program(FCC): An additional $250 million to the existing FCC Telehealth Program.
  • Amendments to Secure and Trusted Networks ReimbursementProgram (“Rip and Replace”): $1.9 billion allocated to fully fund the program. Adopted various amendments relating to reimbursement for providers obligated to remove and replace covered communications equipment.

MN House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee hears from Telecom folks

The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee heard from a number of broadband providers and Minnesota League of Cities. It’s a chance for the legislators to learn a little bit about the providers and the type of broadband. Folks talked about what policies would make their lives easier, the investments they had made in Minnesota and their roles in helping during the pandemic. It’s helpful for legislators and I suspect the testifiers become the go-to people for telecom information.

I always think the questions are the most interesting part – because of course I’m better acquainted with what the providers are doing than what the legislators are thinking. Folks asked about 5G, autonomous cars, 911 outages and Internet of Things.

[The permanent video is now in place. please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the meeting by moving the cursor that times the video to the left. Hard to guestimate how far to the left as the video gets longer each minute. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

Starting now! Commerce Finance and Policy Info on Telecom.

Speakers include:

  • – Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance.
  • – Dana Bailey, Lumen.
  • – Patrick Fucik, TMobile.
  • – Paul Weirtz, AT&T.
  • – Daniel Lightfoot, League of Minnesota Cities.

*No formal action will be taken. 

Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance.

  • -They put the “wire in wireless”
  • Regulated by MN PUC, Dep of COmmernce, Attorney General and FCC

Dana Bailey, Lumen

  • Formerly CenturyLink
  • POTS has been overshadowed by competition
  • Invested $200M in Broadband in MN
  • Wants to change 237.025

Patrick Fucik, TMobile.

  • Second largest wireless company
  • Goal to provide 97% of US with 5G low band in 3 years
  • Spectrum access makes it possible 80% of MN sites are 5G low band
  • Accelerated #COVID19 programs for students

Paul Weirtz, AT&T.

  • Traffic rose 20% in March (COVID)
  • $125B investment in wired/wireless service in 3 years
  • Launched 5G across MN in 2020
  • Committed to FirstNet

Daniel Lightfoot, League of Minnesota Cities

  • Works on rights of way for cities
  • Tries to allow tech growth AND city authority to manage and be compensated
  • Cord cutting puts PEG at risk


Q: What are the problems with 911 outages?
A: They are upgrading to digital 911 
A: There were outages with our network. Often issue with weather or equipment @lumentechco

“Networks are moving to IP – why would I need cable unless they are my broadband provider. Thanks and congrats to ramping up via COVID. There were issues with latency but that seems to be fix. IoT creates a drain on the network.” @EricLuceroMN

Q: How can we facilitate 5G? @BarbHaleyMN
A: Let us know city plans so we can react. Make it easy to get permits? @PaulWeirtz
A: Passing the 5G small cell legislation makes it easier. @FucikR

Q: Will there be conflicts with 5G cabinets and autonomous cars? @ElkinsForHouse
A: We are looking at it and we’re going to need open lines of communication. @DFLightfoot


MN House committee discusses $120 million for broadband – hear concern about federal investment

The Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy met to hear testifiers and Representative Ecklund talk about HF14, the proposed $120 million for broadband grants (over two years). Everyone seemed on broad with recognizing the need, even the increased need for broadband in COVID and post-COVID world. One concern seemed to be spending state money on broadband without knowing how much federal money will be coming for broadband. The committee expressed interest in meeting again once we did know how much Minnesota would be getting.

This didn’t come up in the meeting but I think it’s helpful to remember that there is an opportunity to maximize use of federal funding with the state grant. We’ve seen that with at least two previous border to border grants. Fish Lake Township and Sunrise Township both grants where the provider (CenturyLink) investing their federal CAF money and the community raised funds to apply for (and get) a state grant. The CAF money only required CenturyLink to build to 25/3 but the state funding required faster speeds (100/2o) and that the connection be scalable to 100/100. State funding can help lift the utility and longevity of any federal investment.

[The permanent video is now in place. please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the video by moving the cursor that times the video back to the left. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

“The proposal is $120 million for better broadband is meet the 2022 speed goals of 25/3 and prepare for 2026 speed goal of 100/20” @RobEcklund

The Office of Broadband Development gave a presentation…


Q: How much will MN get from Fed COVID funding? @GenePelowski
A: $300M total – states will fight for that funding. @mndeed
Q: What’s up with electric cooperatives?
A: Some cops provide service; others do not. It varies. Many deploy fiber; some used fixed wireless

Q: Are we on track to meet the broadband goals of 2026? @CedFrazierMN
A: That depends on state funding. 

Q: How do you reach all areas? @DaveLislegard
A: Grants provide extra incentive to serve the areas that are harder to serve. @mndeed
Q: Are there any immediate solutions?
A: We are tech neutral. We’ve seen hotspots for short term

Q: Can someone from industry tell us what we have done? @DebKiel
A: We will have more hearings. But they really stepped up to get students online during #COVID19 @mndeed
Q: If we invest $120M doesn’t that mean taxpayer funding – when fed might do it?
A: That is a concern. I talked to someone yesterday who said we might get a lot @GenePelowski

Q: We need kids to be in school? @RepJoeMcDonald
A: Yes, but telecommuting is not going away even after #COVID19 @JulieSandstede
A: We need broadband in my district @GenePelowski

They also heard from Vince Robinson from the MN Broadband Coalition:
“It’s nice to hear people talk more about how we fund broadband, not why. Livelihoods and lives in rural areas need broadband – work, school, health church.” #VinceRobinson

And from Andrea Zupancich, Mayor of Babbitt and realtor.
“People want to know about access to broadband before they buy a home. Businesses need to have business. Families are now sharing broadband so weak, they cannot do two Zooms at once. The need for broadband will not subside after #COVID19.”

Final comments from Rep Ecklund: Thanks for all. I’m sitting in a rented office because I don’t have adequate access to work at home.

Annual FCC Broadband Deployment Report – MN fares well for 25/3 speeds

The FCC has just released the latest edition of the Annual Broadband Deployment Report

The Federal Communications Commission today
released its annual Broadband Deployment Report, which shows that significant progress has been made to bridge the digital divide. For example, the gap between urban and rural Americans with access to 25/3 Mbps fixed broadband service has been nearly halved, falling from 30 percentage points at the end of 2016 to just 16 points at the end of 2019. Additionally, more than three-quarters of those Americans in areas newly served in 2019—nearly 3.7 million—live in rural areas, bringing the number of rural Americans in areas served by at least 25/3 Mbps broadband service to nearly 83%, up 15 points since 2016. The report showed an
overall decrease of more than 20% in the number of Americans without access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service since last year’s report, from more than 18.1 million at the end of 2018 to fewer than 14.5 million at the end of 2019.

The FCC has determined that they have done a good job…

Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that the FCC determine annually whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans “in a reasonable and timely fashion.” Given the compelling evidence before it, the 2021 report finds
for a third consecutive year that deployment is occurring in a reasonable and timely manner. Nonetheless, the Commission continues its work to close the digital divide with the upcoming 5G Fund auction and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase II auction.

Here’s the summary for Minnesota:

And a look at how those 25/3 numbers look when you add wireless coverage to the mix:

They have a lot of detailed national tables, I’m including a high level look…

And I’ve tried to pull out the Minnesota info. It’s nice to see that Minnesota is well above average for 25/3 but the Minnesota state goal is 100/20!

Deployment of Fixed Terrestrial Fixed 25/3 Mbps and Mobile 4G LTE with a Minimum Advertised Speed of 5/1 Mbps Services By State and County (December 31, 2019)[1]

State, County or County Equivalent Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/
3 Mbps
% of Pop. with Mobile 5/
1 Mbps
% of Pop. with Fixed & Mobile Pop. Density Per Capita Income ($2018)
Minnesota 5,639,445 97.5% 100.0% 97.5% 70.8 $37,192
Aitkin County 15,886 72.2% 100.0% 72.2% 8.7 $27,646
Anoka County 356,909 99.2% 100.0% 99.2% 843.7 $35,806
Becker County 34,422 94.2% 100.0% 94.2% 26.2 $29,710
Beltrami County 47,182 99.3% 99.5% 98.8% 18.8 $24,781
Benton County 40,887 92.6% 100.0% 92.6% 100.1 $28,566
Big Stone County 4,991 93.5% 100.0% 93.5% 10.0 $30,489
Blue Earth County 67,650 99.2% 100.0% 99.2% 90.5 $28,824
Brown County 25,008 97.8% 100.0% 97.8% 40.9 $30,373
Carlton County 35,871 77.3% 100.0% 77.3% 41.6 $28,117
Carver County 105,081 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 296.6 $45,637
Cass County 29,778 89.7% 100.0% 89.7% 14.7 $29,053
Chippewa County 11,800 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 20.3 $30,168
Chisago County 56,564 92.1% 100.0% 92.1% 136.3 $33,927
Clay County 64,221 98.5% 100.0% 98.5% 61.4 $29,631
Clearwater County 8,817 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 8.8 $26,173
Cook County 5,463 98.5% 92.9% 92.2% 3.8 $32,703
Cottonwood County 11,196 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17.5 $27,209
Crow Wing County 65,055 95.1% 100.0% 95.1% 65.1 $30,900
Dakota County 429,016 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 763.1 $40,441
Dodge County 20,932 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 47.7 $32,795
Douglas County 38,140 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 59.8 $34,547
Faribault County 13,653 98.5% 100.0% 98.5% 19.2 $29,748
Fillmore County 21,067 96.6% 99.6% 96.2% 24.5 $29,440
Freeborn County 30,281 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 42.8 $28,459
Goodhue County 46,340 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 61.2 $33,400
Grant County 5,972 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 10.9 $31,940
Hennepin County 1,265,838 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 2,286.6 $43,976
Houston County 18,600 90.7% 99.7% 90.5% 33.7 $31,453
Hubbard County 21,491 98.1% 100.0% 98.1% 23.2 $29,312
Isanti County 40,591 81.3% 100.0% 81.3% 93.1 $32,008
Itasca County 45,130 94.4% 100.0% 94.4% 16.9 $28,636
Jackson County 9,846 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14.0 $33,358
Kanabec County 16,334 63.2% 100.0% 63.2% 31.3 $27,331
Kandiyohi County 43,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 54.2 $30,217
Kittson County 4,298 71.8% 100.0% 71.8% 3.9 $29,946
Koochiching County 12,229 82.3% 100.0% 82.3% 3.9 $29,051
Lac qui Parle County 6,623 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 8.7 $31,686
Lake County 10,641 91.7% 99.7% 91.6% 5.0 $33,602
Lake of the Woods County 3,740 60.7% 99.4% 60.7% 2.9 $26,526
Le Sueur County 28,871 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 64.3 $32,120
Lincoln County 5,639 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10.5 $28,504
Lyon County 25,474 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 35.6 $30,531
Mahnomen County 5,527 92.8% 100.0% 92.8% 9.9 $20,953
Marshall County 9,336 81.1% 100.0% 81.1% 5.3 $29,670
Martin County 19,683 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 27.6 $31,091
McLeod County 35,893 98.4% 100.0% 98.4% 73.0 $31,723
Meeker County 23,222 96.5% 100.0% 96.5% 38.2 $31,819
Mille Lacs County 26,275 76.9% 100.0% 76.9% 45.9 $26,679
Morrison County 33,384 91.3% 100.0% 91.3% 29.7 $28,792
Mower County 40,061 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 56.3 $29,116
Murray County 8,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11.6 $31,768
Nicollet County 34,274 95.3% 100.0% 95.3% 76.4 $31,225
Nobles County 21,629 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 30.2 $25,554
Norman County 6,375 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 7.3 $28,351
Olmsted County 158,280 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 242.3 $39,667
Otter Tail County 58,746 98.7% 100.0% 98.7% 29.8 $30,846
Pennington County 14,119 98.7% 100.0% 98.7% 22.9 $30,625
Pine County 29,578 67.6% 100.0% 67.6% 21.0 $25,302
Pipestone County 9,123 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19.6 $29,716
Polk County 31,364 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 15.9 $28,856
Pope County 11,247 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 16.8 $32,943
Ramsey County 550,321 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 3,615.5 $34,049
Red Lake County 4,052 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9.4 $29,731
Redwood County 15,170 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17.3 $28,011
Renville County 14,548 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14.8 $31,585
Rice County 66,963 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 135.1 $29,767
Rock County 9,315 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19.3 $30,544
Roseau County 15,164 78.9% 100.0% 78.9% 9.1 $28,049
Scott County 148,995 99.3% 100.0% 99.3% 418.0 $39,952
Sherburne County 97,231 94.0% 100.0% 94.0% 224.6 $34,013
Sibley County 14,865 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 25.2 $30,977
St. Louis County 199,070 89.0% 99.9% 89.0% 31.9 $30,321
Stearns County 161,073 96.2% 100.0% 96.2% 119.9 $29,815
Steele County 36,649 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 85.3 $30,822
Stevens County 9,805 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 17.4 $31,694
Swift County 9,266 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 12.5 $30,208
Todd County 24,661 79.9% 100.0% 79.9% 26.1 $25,848
Traverse County 3,259 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 5.7 $30,553
Wabasha County 21,627 99.4% 99.5% 98.9% 41.4 $33,664
Wadena County 13,682 97.1% 100.0% 97.1% 25.5 $24,864
Waseca County 18,612 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 44.0 $28,067
Washington County 262,419 98.3% 100.0% 98.3% 682.9 $43,789
Watonwan County 10,897 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 25.1 $27,772
Wilkin County 6,207 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 8.3 $32,066
Winona County 50,484 99.9% 99.6% 99.5% 80.6 $28,689
Wright County 138,370 96.2% 100.0% 96.2% 209.2 $34,325
Yellow Medicine County 9,709 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12.8 $29,379

Deployment of Fixed Terrestrial Fixed 25/3 Mbps and Mobile 4G LTE with a Minimum Advertised Speed of 5/1 Mbps Services By State and County
Segmented by Urban and Rural Areas (December 31, 2019)

  Urban Areas Rural Areas
County or County Equivalent Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/3 Mbps % of Pop. with Mobile 5/1 Mbps % of Pop. with Both Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/3 Mbps % of Pop. with Mobile 5/1 Mbps % of Pop. with Both
Minnesota 4,128,809 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 1,510,636 91.4% 99.9% 91.3%
Aitkin County 15,886 72.2% 100.0% 72.2%
Anoka County 304,638 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 52,271 96.8% 100.0% 96.8%
Becker County 8,099 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 26,323 92.4% 100.0% 92.4%
Beltrami County 14,985 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 32,197 99.0% 99.3% 98.3%
Benton County 23,708 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17,179 82.3% 100.0% 82.3%
Big Stone County 4,991 93.5% 100.0% 93.5%
Blue Earth County 48,100 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,550 97.3% 100.0% 97.3%
Brown County 15,947 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 9,061 95.7% 100.0% 95.7%
Carlton County 15,761 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 20,110 61.4% 100.0% 61.4%
Carver County 81,185 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 23,896 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Cass County 29,778 89.7% 100.0% 89.7%
Chippewa County 5,681 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,119 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Chisago County 24,580 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 31,984 86.5% 100.0% 86.5%
Clay County 44,115 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 20,106 97.0% 100.0% 97.0%
Clearwater County 8,817 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Cook County 5,463 98.5% 92.9% 92.2%
Cottonwood County 3,993 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,203 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Crow Wing County 23,809 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 41,246 92.5% 100.0% 92.5%
Dakota County 405,337 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 23,679 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Dodge County 9,876 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11,056 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Douglas County 17,037 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 21,103 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Faribault County 2,785 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,868 98.1% 100.0% 98.1%
Fillmore County 1,396 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,671 96.4% 99.5% 95.9%
Freeborn County 16,945 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 13,336 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Goodhue County 24,222 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 22,118 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Grant County 5,972 99.0% 100.0% 99.0%
Hennepin County 1,234,251 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 31,587 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Houston County 7,834 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,766 84.0% 99.5% 83.6%
Hubbard County 3,429 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 18,062 97.7% 100.0% 97.7%
Isanti County 14,717 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 25,874 71.2% 100.0% 71.2%
Itasca County 9,233 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 35,897 93.0% 100.0% 93.0%
Jackson County 2,745 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,101 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Kanabec County 3,351 96.8% 100.0% 96.8% 12,983 54.5% 100.0% 54.5%
Kandiyohi County 23,590 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,604 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Kittson County 4,298 71.8% 100.0% 71.8%
Koochiching County 6,379 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 5,850 64.0% 100.0% 64.0%
Lac qui Parle County 6,623 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Lake County 3,522 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,119 87.7% 99.6% 87.5%
Lake of the Woods County 3,740 60.7% 99.4% 60.7%
Le Sueur County 10,583 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 18,288 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Lincoln County 5,639 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Lyon County 12,829 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12,645 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Mahnomen County 5,527 92.8% 100.0% 92.8%
Marshall County 9,336 81.1% 100.0% 81.1%
Martin County 8,763 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,920 98.9% 100.0% 98.9%
McLeod County 18,996 96.9% 100.0% 96.9% 16,897 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Meeker County 7,848 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 15,374 94.7% 100.0% 94.7%
Mille Lacs County 7,454 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 18,821 68.0% 100.0% 68.0%
Morrison County 8,853 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 24,531 88.4% 100.0% 88.4%
Mower County 25,277 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14,784 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Murray County 8,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Nicollet County 24,434 96.1% 100.0% 96.1% 9,840 93.2% 100.0% 93.2%
Nobles County 12,281 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,348 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Norman County 6,375 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Olmsted County 127,419 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 30,861 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Otter Tail County 15,213 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 43,533 98.2% 100.0% 98.2%
Pennington County 8,835 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,284 96.6% 100.0% 96.6%
Pine County 3,091 96.7% 100.0% 96.7% 26,487 64.1% 100.0% 64.1%
Pipestone County 3,706 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,417 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Polk County 15,820 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 15,544 99.0% 100.0% 99.0%
Pope County 11,247 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Ramsey County 549,150 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 1,171 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Red Lake County 4,052 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Redwood County 4,260 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,910 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Renville County 14,548 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Rice County 48,679 98.6% 100.0% 98.6% 18,284 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Rock County 4,224 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,091 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Roseau County 2,424 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12,740 74.9% 100.0% 74.9%
Scott County 121,055 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 27,940 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Sherburne County 53,225 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 44,006 87.4% 100.0% 87.4%
Sibley County 14,865 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
St. Louis County 124,539 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 74,531 71.6% 99.9% 71.5%
Stearns County 98,473 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 62,600 90.7% 100.0% 90.7%
Steele County 25,120 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11,529 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Stevens County 4,995 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 4,810 98.3% 100.0% 98.3%
Swift County 2,818 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,448 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Todd County 4,876 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,785 74.9% 100.0% 74.9%
Traverse County 3,259 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Wabasha County 7,501 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14,126 99.1% 99.3% 98.3%
Wadena County 4,363 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,319 95.8% 100.0% 95.8%
Waseca County 9,205 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,407 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Washington County 218,979 98.8% 100.0% 98.8% 43,440 95.8% 100.0% 95.8%
Watonwan County 4,276 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,621 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Wilkin County 2,899 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 3,308 99.3% 100.0% 99.3%
Winona County 33,069 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17,415 99.7% 98.9% 98.6%
Wright County 90,431 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 47,939 89.4% 100.0% 89.4%
Yellow Medicine County 1,596 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 8,113 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%


The Institute for Local Self Reliance highlights the work of Le Sueur County

The Institute for Local Self Reliance highlights the work of Le Sueur County on their road to getting better broadband…

Over the last three years, Le Sueur County, Minnesota has assembled a task force of citizens, local officials, and business leaders which have succeeded in dramatically improving broadband for thousands of residents who previously had poor or no connectivity. In doing so, they’ve also forged relationships, inventoried local resources, and created a model which is likely to see the landscape go from one where nearly all residents in the county were under- or unserved by basic broadband at the beginning of 2018 to one where the vast majority of the community will have access at 100/20 Mbps in the next couple years. And if efforts continue to succeed, it’s possible we might see full fiber coverage in Le Sueur by the end of the decade, making it one of the most connected counties in the state.

They follow the story from start…

Until the middle of the last decade, residents were largely on their own to find solutions. Starting about five years ago, however, things began to change. One Le Sueur resident who had paid individually to bring better Internet access to her home so she could run her small business took the initiative to bring up issue to the county board. Shortly thereafter, a diverse and energetic group came together to form the local broadband task force, including community residents, the IT director for a collection of the town school districts, IT Manager for Le Sueur County Jeff Niesen, local business leaders, the county board, and the county administrator. All agreed that there was a case for better broadband for homes as to drive economic development.

Le Sueur worked on a feasibility study…

Work to improve local connectivity began in 2017, when the county helped secure a $50,000 from the Blandin Foundation to do a feasibility study and look for solutions. At the same time, in 2018 the county put out a broadband survey to get a handle on where service was and wasn’t (for reasons we’ll reiterate until we’re blue in the face or it’s fixed), illustrated in the map to the left where red areas of the county are unserved, purple areas underserved with connections between 25/3 Mbps and 100/20 Mbps, and green areas served by wireline broadband of at least 100/20 Mbps. By 2019 these preliminary endeavors were done, but the county — realizing that tackling the entirety of the $14 million project consisting of 800 miles of fiber in one attempt was unrealistic — approached expanding broadband in a targeted and incremental fashion instead.

That led to a successful MN Border to Border broadband grant…

The first move was to use the feasibility study as the basis for issuing an RFP to partner with local ISPs to apply for a Border to Border Broadband grant operated under the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) program, which in 2019 led to a successful partnership with a local telephone company for a project covering 225-250 homes using 100 miles of fiber in Derrynane (pop. 525) and Lanesburg (pop. 2,100) Townships on the northern end of the county, along with a handful of homes in nearby Montgomery and Lexington townships.

Then reaction to the pandemic…

Le Sueur had no more warning than did any other community in forecasting the current pandemic, but when it hit the local broadband task force kicked into high gear. Three projects were realized to bring better connectivity to the region.

  • The first of these is a partnership with ISP MetroNet using CARES Act funds for a fiber network expansion which has connected about 420 homes (including 59 completely unserved) using 49 miles of fiber in Waterville, Kilkenny, Montgomery, Cordova, Sharon, Lexington, and Kasota.

  • The second project is a partnership with NetWave Broadband to add wireless hardware to seven towers throughout the county in Cleveland, Cordova Township, Kasota Township, Le Center, Montgomery, Tyrone Township, and Waterbill with a rough range of seven to ten miles each to bring service up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds out to the remaining 80% of the unconnected.

  • Third and finally, the county has installed free public Wi-Fi access to seven areas around the county, including boat landings, community parks, and campgrounds.

Blandin gets a nod…

You can see the gains made in te last two years in the map to the left, where red areas (unserved) turned purple and purple areas (underserved at <100/20 Mbps) turned green. Le Sueur is a Blandin Broadband Community for 2020-2021, and the county attributes its success over the last three years to the energy brought by local residents and county officials. It seems from the outside that part of their success, also, has been in finding and forging relationships with local and regional ISPs to the benefit of both residents and those companies.

Rep Tim Lippert lists top DFL priorities – including $120 million for broadband

KYMN 95.1FM in Northfield reports…

With the state legislative session in full swing, Democrat Representative Todd Lippert said the DFL has some top priorities for the year, including emergency housing assistance, broadband distribution, education funding, and childcare grants.

“Among those top priorities is emergency housing assistance. We want to provide $50 million for emergency housing grants, make sure the eviction moratoriums extend until the end of the peacetime emergency to make sure that people have a roof over their heads. Broadband distribution is a key concern, obviously, so we have $120 million for broadband. That’s going to be enough to connect 155,000 Minnesota households that still need access to high-speed broadband, and that’s enough to get that done. We want to be supporting our schools, supporting students to help them catch up with learning lags that may have happened or extra expenses that school districts have incurred. And childcare grants are something else that will be very important.”

EVENT Jan 21: Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity: Share a success story

Just letting folks know that this session has moved to Jan 21, to not conflict with the inauguration on Jan 20. We have more than 30 people signed up. Please join us!

Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 21: Share a success story

Pleasure join us for the inaugural Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 21 from noon to 1pm. It’s an opportunity to talk turkey with colleagues and cohorts around Minnesota and beyond! Normally they will be on a specific (but loose) topic but to get the ball rolling, I wanted to invite planner and folks from the front lines to share their best stories of success. Please come and brag!

It will give us some good ideas to replicate. It will give us stories to share with legislators. Most of all, it will help set the stage of success for 2021!

(Register now – for the first, all or several of the upcoming sessions.)

National Skills Coalition shares examples, data and meaning of digital skills in workers and the workplace

Thank you to Amanda Bergson-Shilcock from the National Skills Coalition for sharing her presentation, American Workers’ Digital Skills: What the data tells us. The presentation includes:

  • Examples of digital skills in the workplace
  • Data of US Workers’ foundational digital skills
  • What the data means
  • How we can connect the dots for policymakers

The presentation was given in June so COVID is part of the picture, which is important since COVID has changed nearly everything we do – and some of the changes are likely here to stay.

I don’t want to be a spoiler but it includes great examples like how KFC created a VR (virtual reality) escape room to train new employees. You can’t escape until you demonstrate the correct 6-step chicken frying process. There are lists of OSHA-approved construction training online – designed for tablets and smartphones. There’s AR (augmented reality) training for Boeing assembly workers – turns out fewer mistakes than with tradition or traditional-online training.

Where we are sitting with digital skills is not great – 13 percent of those surveyed had no digital skills and 18 percent had limited skills. Those percentages varied by industry; 18 percent of hospitality workers had no digital skills. Their jobs are among the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Working from home becomes a lot more difficult without digital skills. Even if you could sew, bake, fix cars or do something else skilled offline – you’d almost need to promote online to get work during the pandemic.

A surprising statistic – 20 percent of workers with no digital skills are supervisors. That is putting the supervised workers and the employer at risk as I assume someone without digital skills would be hesitant to adopt new technologies. (There are exceptions; I remember a farmer near retirement who hired a young, precision ag expert to learn the ropes as the current team retired out.)

The thing that wasn’t surprising to me is that lack of digital skill impacts all demographics – in other words, there are “kids” without digital skills too. Being able to text without looking or post an Instagram picture is not how they assess digital skills. Everyone needs to learn digital skills. Some pick them up more quickly than others – but no one is born knowing how to add bullet points to a document. Not surprising is the greater gap seen with workers of color and/or immigrants. Structural racism helps drive digital skills gaps.

The presentation is interesting and easy to browse through. If you don’t have people in your life without digital skills or if the only ones you have are long past retirement, it’s easy to think the issues is smaller than it is.

How do we make social media safe again?

The Guardian looks at recently highlighted negative use of social media and asks 10 experts in the field what we can do to prevent people from using social media as a tool to spread hate and misinformation. Below are 10 recommendations…

  1. Hire 10,000 librarians for the internet
  2. Fund training for teachers, our ‘informational first responders’. I’ll add that librarian learn how to teach information literacy. It was my favorite class when I was doing my Master’s in Library and Information Science.
  3. Understand the limitations of the first amendment …
  4. … and think beyond the US and Europe
  5. Protect the journalists and researchers who study platforms
  6. Change recommendation algorithms to promote accurate information – and reward those who fight online harms
  7. Implement strong rules against harassment, hate, and harm
  8. Enforce the rules platforms already have
  9. Address the ‘architectural exclusion’ of marginalized communities from platforms
  10. Reform tech’s liability shield to create accountability for the conduct – not speech – of users

I’m going to add more form the final point, since it gets discussed in tech forums already and the Guardian has a nice, succinct description…

Section 230 [the US law that shields tech platforms from liability for third-party content] allows powerful tech companies to invoke the laissez-faire principles of the first amendment to absolve themselves of responsibility for abuse and extremism that flourish on their platforms, undermining the concept of collective responsibility necessary for a functioning society, both online and off. Section 230 should be amended so that online platforms are no longer immunized from liability for the conduct, as opposed to speech, of their users, or when these platforms encourage, profit from, or demonstrate deliberate indifference to harmful content.

I could talk about this for hours – but I’ll let it sit. Making online work safe is as important as making the real world safe and we’ve

What are WI and IA doing about broadband? Governors are pledging $200M and $450M

Sometimes it’s helpful to see what the neighbors are doing. It looks like both Wisconsin and Iowa are thinking about boosting their broadband investment – and both cite COVID as a reason for at least emphasizing the issues in rural areas.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports

The governor [Tony Evers] said he would propose nearly $200 million in broadband funding in his 2021-23 state budget, five times the amount included in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 budgets combined.

His 2019 budget allocated $54 million for broadband expansion in the form of grants to service providers, the largest amount in state history, and the $200 million would nearly quadruple that spending.

“We feel confident that the budget will be in good shape and balanced, and that we will be able to move forward with a few initiatives, one of them being broadband,” Evers said in an interview.

KCRG (ACB9in Iowa) reports

In Governor Kim Reynolds Condition of the State Address Tuesday, she pledged $450 million to be spent on expanding high-speed internet.

Reynolds said the pandemic proved how hard it was for rural communities to get access to quality internet services.

“The past year we have learned that we need better internet for virtual learning, and for those of us who have had to work from home,” said Carole Hebl of rural Oxford.