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Aitkin County

Table of goal data by year
Year 25/3 Mbps 100/20 Mbps
2020 #11 of 87
98.57%
#9 of 87
97.14%
2019 #82 of 87
60.17%
#80 of 87
37.74%
2018 #85 of 87
45.68%
#82 of 87
17.55%
2017 #86 of 87
27.48%
#76 of 87
11.51%
Coverage map graphic

Rank: 80 (out of 87) for access to 100/20 megabits per second (Mbps)

Aitkin County has seen a little broadband expansion since the last annual county broadband profile; their ranking (for 100/20 Mbps access) has dropped from 80 to 81. The good news is that the maps were created in April and we have seen some improvements over the summer; but they have a long way to go.

The county has been working on broadband for years and, like last year, they are gaining traction. They received $1.9 million in funding from the USDA and another $1.8 million from MN Border to Border grants. They have a continued partnership with the Blandin Foundation, which has supported some broadband improvements and broadband adoption.

They were at a code RED in terms of broadband preparedness; optimistically, I upgraded them to yellow. The county is making a big push, although one barrier for them is that much of the county is served by one, large national provider.

What we learned in the past:

Aitkin County government and residents have long been organized to promote broadband access and adoption. From 2015-2016, they worked with Blandin Foundation as part of the Central Woodlands Blandin Broadband Communities Cohort and, more recently, they have been part of the IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities) cohort. Last year we saw that much of Aitkin County is served by one large national provider. That is likely a bottleneck to better access. But the county persists. They have benefited from two MN state grants in their area:

  • 2017 – SCI – Shamrock Township Broadband Expansion – GRANT $148,503
  • 2016 – MILLE LACS ENERGY COOPERATIVE FTTP PROJECT – GRANT: $1,757,640

Update from 2020:

The area received $1.9 million in USDA funding and almost $2 million in MN Border to Border grants. Those projects are being deployed this summer (2020). Waukenabo Township celebrated the start of Fiber to the Home in August. They were also able to use IRBC (Blandin) grant funds to improve access in some places. 

In May, the Blandin Foundation Broadband Team visited with the county to hear about how broadband adoption programs were going. Access, seniors and healthcare had been hot topics.  COVID happened as they were deploying many projects, including some essential healthcare projects. So COVID helped patients adopt and broadband helped patients be safe.  They were able to serve 900 patients online (with their new MyChart enhancements) in the first few weeks of the quarantine because they were prepared. You can see the whole conversation in the video below.

NEW MN GRANTS:

  • Emily Cooperative Telephone Company – Round Lake Fiber Project – GRANT $376,000
    This last mile project will upgrade approximately 242 unserved and 103 underserved locations in the Esquagamah Lake and Round Lake areas of Aitkin County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Aitkin County, Emily Cooperative Telephone Company will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The use and development of broadband will provide various home-based business options, stimulate economic growth, and stimulate innovation and investment.
  • Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) – MLEC Phase 3 FTTH Project with CTC – GRANT $1,253,955
    This last mile project will serve 282 unserved and 225 underserved households, businesses and farms in areas of Farm Island and Nordland Townships in Aitkin County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota, CTC, and Aitkin County, MLEC will improve broadband service levels up to 1 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. The use and development of broadband will provide new and improved home-based business options, stimulate economic growth, and encourage innovation and investment in the area. Education, health care, energy efficiency, and public safety will also be advanced with access to broadband Internet.
  • SCI Broadband (Savage Communications Inc.) – Glen Township Broadband Expansion Project – GRANT $195,848
    This last mile project will serve 269 unserved homes, three unserved businesses, three unserved farms, one unserved community institution and five underserved homes in areas of Glen Township in Aitkin County. In a funding partnership with the State of Minnesota and Aitkin County, SCI Broadband will improve broadband service levels up to 250 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload, exceeding the 2022 and 2026 state speed goals. SCI will leverage its existing middle mile infrastructure to deploy a last mile fiber to the premise network to local businesses and residents. Building the fiber to the premise network will improve access to education, telemedicine, telecommuting, and economic development as a whole within the region.

Find more articles on broadband in Aitkin County.

Household Density

3.7

Number of Providers

11

As of 2019 · Source: MN DEED

Households with Device Access

Computer 83.7% 90.3%
statewide
Desktop or Laptop 70.8% 81.1%
statewide
Smartphone 63.9% 76.5%
statewide
Tablet 47.9% 59.3%
statewide
Other 2.9% 3.5%
statewide

Has Worked with Blandin Foundation

Yes

Has Received MN Grant(s)

Yes

Government Districts

U.S. Congress: CD 8

MN Senate: 10

MN House: 10B

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