Several of those agencies and departments better known by their initials helped launch the country’s first nationwide broadband map last week-the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration), the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
More than 25 million records enable this searchable map, which provides a picture of accessibility down to counties and zip codes.
The map’s release coincides with a more informative report focusing on the broadband availability divide between rural and urban areas, and has more graphs than a Jeff Van Wychen report.
The federal report defines ‘broadband internet’ as a connection with a download speed of at least 3 megabits per second and an upload speed of at least 768 kilobits per second. That’s enough to efficiently navigate the web, but usually not enough for sophisticated telecommuting.
Minnesota is doing particularly well on narrowing the urban-rural divide when it comes to broadband internet. According to NTIA’s report, 100% of Minnesota’s urban areas have broadband availability and 94.9% of rural areas have broadband availability. Indeed, Minnesota keeps the urban-rural divide small on many of the NTIA’s standards, except for number of providers. While 99.8% of Minnesota’s urban areas have a choice of at least three different providers, only 82.6% of Minnesota rural internet users have such a choice-and if you make that at least four providers, the rural percentage drops to 64.1%.
Of course, availability, usage, and accessibility can be very different things-and not all sources agree on the numbers. According to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, 77% of Americans and 82% of Minnesotans are internet users. According to the latest report of the MN Broadband Advisory Task Force, 94% of Minnesotan households have broadband availability that meets the NTIA’s minimum speed requirement.
Regardless of the differing numbers, broadband internet availability is an important way to move all Minnesotans forward in the 21st century. It enables people like our friend Mari Harries at Finding Windom to live and work in rural areas, and it serves as an economic tool for countless businesses across the state. Better availability and accessibility will lead to a better Minnesota.