'If it were easy it would have been done by now': Why high-speed internet remains elusive for many in rural Minnesota

In most of the Twin Cities, where about 60 percent of Minnesotans live, the internet is oxygen — at once ubiquitous and unnoticed. But for somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of Minnesotans, according to recent estimates, the internet is still ephemeral.  The state has been involved in broadband since the Gov Tim  Pawlenty (R-MN) era. There is an Office of Broadband Development, and a Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force, and Border-to-Border Broadband grants that have supported community efforts to get high-speed internet with $65.58 million in the last three years.

What Comcast-Charter switch means for subscribers, and why fiber is stymied

[Commentary] Should Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner and subsequent spin-off of its Minnesota customers into a new entity managed by Charter Communications be approved, local customers face a lot of unknowns.

How would the new entity -- tentatively called "NewCo" by Comcast and "SpinCo" by some -- be managed? Would its customer service, technology options and pricing packages be comparable? Would the new company be as willing to invest in system upgrades and better Internet service in a market where consumer options are limited at best?

  • Charter: worse broadband, but better TV for some. Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, favors community-owned networks, but concedes that locals could take some comfort that Comcast offers access to some of the industry’s faster Internet speeds. "But now we're facing the prospect of not only being stuck on cable, but of going backwards.”
  • Ownership scheme 'a very bad sign'. Under the arrangement, Comcast would spin off 2.5 million of its current customers, including those in Minneapolis and St. Paul, into the new, publicly traded holding firm in an effort to reduce its national footprint and make its $45.2 billion Time Warner bid more palatable to federal regulators.
  • Duopoly alternatives stymied. Whatever may ultimately emerge from a hybrid company, it would likely be more of the same high prices for Internet speeds that are insufficient to keep Minnesota competitive nationally, asserts Joe Caldwell, CEO of locally based provider US Internet.

New owner Glen Taylor: less liberal Star Tribune ahead

A Q&A with new Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor to talk about the purchase. Taylor, a former state senator, says the Star Tribune, which fellow Republicans criticize as liberal, will “have better balance,” aided by veteran staffers retiring -- though the shift has been ongoing and would’ve happened even if he hadn’t bought the paper.

The new owner acknowledging political changes at the state’s largest daily will likely send tremors through Minnesota’s political and journalistic establishment (including the Strib’s newsroom). Asked if the Star Tribune, always regarded as a liberal newspaper, rightly or wrongly, would change under the Republican’s leadership, Taylor responded: “I think it is important in the paper -- and this is where I don’t know for sure, I think the paper is responsible for reporting both sides. I don’t think you can say if you are the news -- and I think the news does this too much.”

He said the decision is made in which reporters are hired, for instance. “Individuals can say I want to give you both sides, or you can have the pros and cons [each giving their side]. My thought is that you are more likely to find two different reporters, one not seeing it from one side and the other not seeing it from the other side, and both of them reporting,” he explained.

Sens Franken, Klobuchar have questions for Comcast-Time Warner

Both Minnesota senators say they have questions for Comcast and Time Warner before the two media giants are allowed to merge. The only difference: Sens Amy Klobuchar (MN-Democratic-Farmer-Labor) is taking a look, while Al Franken (MN-Democratic-Farmer-Labor) is taking aim.

When the cable giants come before a Senate committee to justify their $45 billion deal, they’ll face an audience of skeptics like Sen Klobuchar, who says she has a series of concerns about the potential merger, and outright critics like Sen Franken, who is working to convince regulators and the public that the merger could be bad for cable and Internet customers.

“I’m concerned that consumers are going to get stuck with higher costs, that this is going to decrease competition, that some people will get less choices, pay more for those choices and get worse service,” Sen Franken said. He has been perhaps the most vocal congressional critic of the merger. He’s written two letters to regulators warning them of his concerns, and waged a public campaign against the deal through both his official office and his campaign, including a rare national television interview in February.