State maps out broadband coverageNearly 97 percent of Minnesotans have access to Internet broadband, but the availability and speed of that service is far from uniform, according to a map of the state’s high-speed Internet access released last week.
By: The Associated Press, Lake County News Chronicle
Nearly 97 percent of Minnesotans have access to Internet broadband, but the availability and speed of that service is far from uniform, according to a map of the state’s high-speed Internet access released last week.
The map, compiled by the nonprofit Connect Minnesota with the state Department of Commerce, shows great disparities at the county level.
Rural counties, not surprisingly, showed the least availability – less than half of Cook County households had broadband availability, for instance. The number is 80 percent in Lake County, putting it in the bottom five of 87 counties for availability.
Urban counties enjoyed high availability of upper-tier broadband, the kind that would be useful for advanced applications like telemedicine and high-definition video.
The report, based on data from 134 broadband providers, showed an estimated 66,700 households, or 3.4 percent, lacked basic broadband service.
But that figure misses a lot. The report uses a federal definition of broadband that starts at download speeds of 768 kilobits per second, about half the speed of an average DSL telephone line.
Last year, the state adopted a goal to have all households have access to download speeds of at least 10 megabits – or 10,000 kilobits – per second by 2015.
The report shows that an estimated 301,300 households have no access to 10-megabit service.
The report found a 72 percent adoption rate for Minnesota households that have broadband available, even the slowest, which is slightly higher than the national adoption rate of 67 percent.
Minnesota differed from most other states in one key way, the report said. The state has super-fast broadband of 50 megabits per second and 100 megabits per second in some areas, which still is rare across the country, and it had patches of ultra-fast fiber optic lines running directly to homes.
The so-called fiber-to-the-home broadband was available to less than 4 percent of Minnesota households but spread across 50 counties, thanks to rural telephone cooperatives that have been adding fiber to their systems for several years.
“We look at the report as a benchmarking tool,” said Phillip Brown, director of government affairs for Connect Minnesota. Policymakers can use it to figure out how to close the gap.
The maps need more pricing information to make them more useful, said Christopher Mitchell, director of telecommunications programs for the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He said some rural areas have expensive but slow broadband, and people decided it isn’t worth the cost even though they want broadband.
To see the map or read the report, go to connectmn.org and click on the tabs marked “Mapping” or “Research.”