As originally posted on Blandin on Broadband…
As I prepare to go on a nice vacation, I am looking at the calendar of upcoming meetings and presentations for which I need to prepare before getting on the airplane. Right when I return, I need to do a Broadband 101 for a county board in south central Minnesota. The first place I look to prepare is the Office of Broadband Development maps. This is a rich source of information with various ways to display the data. The question “How well are we connected?” is not as simple as it once was. The maps, in their various forms, should be used as conversation starters, not as a place to find definitive answers.
I first look at the maps, then go to provider websites to get more detailed information. The DEED provider database shows 13 wired and fixed wireless providers. Speeds vary from symmetrical gigabit over fiber to 500 Mb symmetrical via fixed wireless to 100 Mb/40 Mb over DSL. Three different fixed wireless providers show complete to partial coverage of the county. Seems like this county is well served, yet when I look at the Border to Border Broadband grant eligibility map, the vast majority of the county is shown as unserved and grant eligible. According to provider information, 82% of households have wired connections of 25 Mb/3 Mb while 78% have wired 100 Mb/20 Mb. Ten percent have symmetrical gigabit coverage.
As I talk with county commissioners, I will be asking them the following:
- *Do you believe that the maps and provider data are accurate?
- *What are you hearing from constituents?
- *What is “good enough” for your county?
These questions always stimulate interesting conversations.