Minnesota Broadband and Biz: May 2012

by Guest


Blandin FoundationBy Ann Treacy,

Last fall, broadband analyst Craig Settles published a survey of economic developers indicating that 58% of rural respondents either have broadband strategies and tactics worked into their economic development plans, or are writing plans currently with these elements.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to see how broadband is having an impact in rural areas. Currently there seem to be at least three potential revenue streams born of broadband:

1) businesses using broadband to improve business

2) communities using broadband to attract or retain businesses and

3) the business of building broadband spurring economic growth.

Throughout May we saw examples of each stream in rural Minnesota. In the last month, the Blandin on Broadband blog highlighted some specific economic activity that relates to broadband in Minnesota:

Business Using Broadband

  • Earlier this month the University of Minnesota Extension published a report that looked at how effectively rural businesses are using websites and online marketing strategies. It turns out that they aren’t very effective yet. Only 42.6 percent of businesses had a website. On average, 9.9 percent of businesses in each community used social media.  There are efforts to increase use happening across the state from Lac qui Parle County to New York Mills.
  • A recent report from Connect Minnesota indicates that Minnesota businesses that use broadband are benefiting, earning approximately $200,000 more in annual median revenues than non-broadband adopting businesses.

Broadband for Business Retention and Expansion

  • Making a concerted effort to attract datacenters, Duluth looks forward to Involta opening new datacenter in Duluth this fall.
  • Winona uses grant funding from the Blandin Foundation’s MIRC project to create a website and public Wi-Fi hotspots to attract new residents to the area.

Business of Building Broadband

  • The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has been looking into ARRA funded broadband projects to ensure that the money distributed through the funds has gone into projects that are creating jobs and building infrastructure. Subsequently, ARRA projects located in Minnesota have been reporting our their impact on the economy.
  • Lake County has been running into issues as the incumbent local provider makes allegations against the business, but the County Commissioners forge ahead with plans to build fiber to the area.
  • Carver County continues to make ground despite setbacks, such as fiber scarcity. At the end of the first quarter 2012, they had expended approximately $4.5 million of our overall project budget of $7.5 million, with the majority for construction costs.
  • Anoka County moves forward, and will become part of a national study of ARRA projects.
  • Monticello will be presumably looking into options for management for their community-supported fiber optic network as current managers Hiawatha Broadband (HBC) step down from the position.
  • Paul Bunyan Communications slows down fiber buildsin Hubbard County until getting greater clarity on federal subsdies (Universal Service Funds and Intercarrier Compensation).
  •  Todd County decides to move forward wth plans to consider broadband for the area.