Pine County is one of the worst counties in the state for broadband coverage, but Pine County officials are hoping that a new program will help give broadband a boost in the area.
Pine County is ranked 84th out of 87 counties in the state for broadband speed and access according to a Blandin Foundation report – better than only Yellow Medicine, Redwood and Kanabec counties.
“Much of Pine County is served by one large national provider,” the report states. “That may be a bottleneck to better access in those areas, because ... lack of competition can impact the drive for improvement.”
Every year the Blandin Foundation ranks counties for broadband using data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development. Pine County has been falling fast in those rankings. In 2017 it was ranked 59th in the state, in 2018 it was ranked 68th, in 2019 it was ranked 81st and in 2020 84th.
Pine County Administrator David Minke pointed out that this is not a rural-vs.-urban problem, because eight of the 10 best-connected counties are rural—and Rock, Red Lake, Clearwater and Lac qui Parle are among the top counties in the state for broadband speed and access.
“We know how important highspeed broadband is to business, education, health care, and the quality of life,” Minke said. “We also know that many in our area do not have adequate broadband connectivity.”
Minke said that in January, the Pine County Board of Commissioners identified expanding broadband access as a top priority for 2021, and are now planning to take part in a new initiative called the Community Broadband Resources (CBR) Accelerated Program. This is a competitive program that will fund a county-wide team of at least eight people to go through a four-month program of education, community engagement and the feasibility study process starting in March.
A special county board meeting is coming up on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. via video conference, and is meant to begin a conversation of community leaders and stakeholders.
The meeting will feature a presentation by Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors and the Blandin Foundation on possibilities for improving broadband in the county.
To attend the video conference, contact Minke at David.Minke@co.pine.mn.us or 320-591-1621.
Find out more about the Blandin Foundation report here: