What the pandemic revealed about Minnesota’s efforts to bring high-speed internet to everyone in the state

Thirteen years after Minnesota first established a broadband task force to study how to bring the internet to everyone within its borders, COVID-19 has not only highlighted how critical broadband is for rural communities throughout Minnesota, it’s also reinforced how difficult and expensive reaching that goal has become. The Legislature has spent more than $126 million since 2014 on a grant program to address the state’s internet disparities, but the issue has once again become a top issue for many at the Minnesota Capitol.

Why federal grants may set rural broadband in some areas of Minnesota back for years

Minnesota officials announced the winners of $20.6 million in grants to develop high-speed internet across Minnesota, the latest infusion of money approved by lawmakers to fully connect the state. Many celebrated the cash, which Steve Grove, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, called a “vital” push to correct disparities in internet service that were highlighted during the pandemic. Yet the grants also drew frustration from some broadband developers. That’s because Gov.

Questions over federal broadband grants roil Minnesota’s rural internet program

When the Federal Communications Commission announced $312 million in grants for one relatively small company to build broadband in Minnesota, it stirred controversy among those who worry the internet provider can’t deliver what it promised. Now that squabble over the company, LTD Broadband, has spilled over into Minnesota’s own grant program for development of high-sp

Distance learning while homeless in the Twin Cities: It’s complicated and challenging

Prior to the pandemic and resulting shift to distance learning, the St. Paul Public Schools district had already deployed a one-to-one iPad program, districtwide. District staff still had to troubleshoot internet access issues with families — and efforts have been made to help deliver hotspots and devices to students who may be doubled up with other families in neighboring communities.

Minnesota state efforts to close internet gap hampering distance learning aren’t being expedited — at least for now

Using data collected from providers across the state, many Minnesotans live in areas that are underserved or unserved — meaning they have inadequate downloading and uploading speeds or no access at all. In addition, there are households that show up as being covered in this map that are actually unserved. Getting a clear count on just how many Minnesota students are lacking adequate broadband access, however, has proven to be a challenge.

Lack of broadband access adds to challenges for school districts in Greater Minnesota

Students in the Blue Earth (MN) Area Schools district are staying connected with their school communities through a spirit week challenge posted on the district’s Facebook page that’s already been shared 80 times. When it comes to ensuring equitable access to lessons, however, Superintendent Mandy Fletcher says she and her staff are having to put a lot more thought into how they plan to use online platforms. The district became a one-to-one district several years ago. It currently has enough Chromebooks to pair each student in grades 3-12 with their own device.

Why even the most ambitious broadband bill at the Minnesota Legislature still won’t bring speedy internet to all Minnesotans

A group of Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) and Republican lawmakers are pushing to narrow MN's broadband gap by injecting $70 million over the next two years into a grant program for internet projects. But while the new money from the bill (House File 7) would keep MN on track to meet one of its broadband access goals by 2022, the state has a long and expensive road ahead to reach a more ambitious pledge — to bring must faster (100 Mbps/20Mbps) universal internet to the state by 2026. But the state’s approach to broadband hasn’t been without controversy.

How broadband helped a small town in Greater Minnesota land a high-tech business

In 2015, Gibbon (MN) joined nine other cities and 17 townships in creating a cooperative that promised to bring broadband Internet access to 6,200 residents across both Renville and Sibley counties. RS Fiber Cooperative laid fiber optic cable through Gibbon in 2016. Each of the cities involved in the cooperative now has fiber optic cable, with speeds of up to 1 gigabyte; the second phase of the project – to bring broadband to the countryside – should begin in 2020.