Efforts to secure REAL broadband continue

Efforts to secure REAL broadband continue

October 5, 2020

Efforts to secure REAL broadband continue

Many rural Kandiyohi County residents still remain without access to high-speed broadband and the many benefits that come from having such access. The situation has never been more apparent than in the past months of social distancing, working from home and distance learning.   

The Broadband and Advanced Technology Committee of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission (EDC) is a committee focused on securing high-speed broadband for all people in our county. The committee’s past efforts have expanded broadband, but we are well aware that today’s digital demands make this issue more urgent. All Kandiyohi County residents, businesses, remote employees and distance-learning students need high‑speed internet access to thrive in our digital world.

Starting in May of this year, the EDC began surveying residents to assess just what issues are being experienced and where efforts need to be focused to get everyone up to speed! The number of respondents from Kandiyohi County was 351.

Survey results that standout are:

Residents of the cities of Willmar, New London and Spicer and the townships in the same general area, Lake Andrew, Norway Lake and Dovre were the top responders.

83% (292) of respondents have either one or two people working from home and 48% (166) had students participating in distance learning.

Half of those who responded receive their internet access from telephone companies, such as TDS, Frontier or CenturyLink. Second highest (20%) are cable company (Charter) subscribers and 19% receive non-cellular wireless services.   

Over 65% (227) of those who responded said the internet has not met their needs during the pandemic. The issue for most (61%) was connections that slow down or drop.  

And 97 of 349 Kandiyohi County respondents have had to use a public site or other hot spot to upload or download assignments, classwork or communication for work.

When asked about the benefits of broadband while staying at home, answers fell in these categories:
  • The ability to work from home
  • Connecting with family members
  • School work
  • College assignments
  • Staying connected with friends
  • Entertainment at a time when there is not much else to do
  • Keeping up-to-date on COVID-19 and other health-related issues
When asked about the issues faced, this is what we heard:
  • Not enough bandwidth
  • Dropped connection
  • Unable to finish a meeting
  • Unreliable
  • Often difficult
  • Not helpful, need to reset several times a day
  • Unable to perform my job duties due to slow and dropped internet
  • Chose to go to the workplace when I should not have so children could do distance learning
  • If it works, I get by
  • Unable to open files for classes or remote into the network for my job
  • We many times go sit outside of the Lake Lillian Library to access the internet
  • Often max out the cell phone data plan which makes data even slower
  • Extremely slow, reminds me of the dial-up days
  • I am so hoping we can soon get real broadband
  • No issues now that we have fiber to our home

Fiber to every home is the best way to access true broadband and speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload would be the minimum goal. The state standard by the year 2026, is speeds for all households and businesses of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload in order to thrive in today’s digital world. We have work to do to reach those standards in rural Kandiyohi County.

The information the EDC has collected will be helpful for:

  1. Understanding the real-life benefits of good broadband and the challenges for those who are not getting by;
  2. Utilizing the data and stories in grant applications for funding toward deployment of high-speed broadband;
  3. Securing a broadband provider to deploy the broadband and manage the services; and
  4. Evaluation of what can happen when high-speed broadband is secured throughout the county.

For more information and details about the survey, please check out the survey results here.  If you have any questions, feel free to call the EDC at 320-235-7370 or toll-free 866-665-4556. 

To continue helping Kandiyohi County and its broadband efforts, we encourage you to participate in the Broadband Speed Test Initiative. Your participation will help with the EDC’s future state Border-to-Border Grant applications.