Blue Earth County Broadband 2014 Update: Classic Swiss Cheese infrastructure

Blue EarthIn November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Blue Earth County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 31.9
  • Number of Households: 24,445
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 51.25%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 90.48%

Blue Earth is a rural county – but the county seat is Mankato, which is certainly a bigger city so I was surprised to see that broadband coverage is only half if you don’t count mobile access. Also Blue Earth (like Benton County) is a county where mobile access makes a difference to local broadband coverage.

Blue Earth has a long interest in broadband. In 2011, National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, and the Western Telecommunications Alliance created a video to educate Americans about Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposals that could profoundly affect rural America.

Mankato has received a nice nod on the telecommuting efforts. They just need to work on ubiquitous coverage. If you look at the map you’ll see that Blue Earth County has a classic Swiss Cheese infrastructure. Mankato is green, which means served. The smaller towns are purple, which means underserved and between the towns the areas are red – unserved.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage…

How does Minnesota define broadband?

The 2015 broadband goal for Minnesota is ubiquitous access to speeds of 10-20 Mbps (down) and 5-10 Mbps (up). These numbers actually reflect 6-10 Mbps up because Minnesota goals are a little out of sync with standard federal measurements. Connect MN measured access with and without including mobile access as it is often considered a slightly different service, in part because of the data caps involved with wireless services. (Data caps can make wireless an expensive primary broadband connection – especially for a household.)

Learn how the other Minnesota counties rank.

How is Minnesota working to promote border to border broadband?

In 2014, the Legislature approved $20 million for broadband grants to support broadband expansion in Minnesota. You can find a list of applicants online. The hope is the broadband sector is that more funding will be made available in 2015.