In 2010, Minnesota residents who had little to no actual internet begged their local government for help getting them connected. A bill was then introduced which would have made it easier for communities to start their own communication utilities. But telephone and cable companies objected, and it eventually died.
In 2011, Sibley County, Minnesota decided that they were going to put together a feasibility study to bring fiber to their city because their internet was so universally hated. As noted by Community Broadband Networks, Frontier Communications stepped in and starting telling residents that their service was really “just as good” and that all municipal broadband projects fail.
The fact that Frontier was trying to tell residents that their internet was just fine while the residents complained loudly enough to the city council to demand a study of bringing fiber to the city…..is another clue as to how out-of-touch the ISP’s can be with what is actually going on inside a city.
Also, Frontier didn’t mention that there are many, many municipal broadband projects that do succeed with good business plans. Do some fail? Sure.
In 2012, Minnesota put forth legislation to stop communities from building their own broadband networks even though CenturyLink and MediaCom were REFUSING TO DELIVER SERVICES TO THOSE REGIONS. Minnesota’s HF 2695 explicitly barred any community from building a broadband network to serve their needs.
Recently, Annandale City (MN) Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp described her town’s struggle with internet connectivity as “horrific.” She goes on to discuss how a business left the city after contending with eight outages in three weeks. She also explains why the Internet is so terrible in the town:
“Our big issue is not that we don’t have service but that we have one provider that has shown little interest in improving it.”
In a Star Tribune article, Pete Kormanik, the owner of a local McDonald’s, expressed his disbelief that in today’s world, his business takes hours to download data for a digital menu board. This lack of any actual internet consistency forced him to switch to an AT&T antenna which suffers during cloudy days.
Thankfully, several Minnesota politicians are now introducing SB 2056 [PDF] which pushes for local broadband projects in under-served areas. Dubbed the Border to Border Infrastructure Program, it would bring $100,000,000 from the state’s general fund to be applied to broadband projects. The bill has bipartisan support but has not been prioritized by either the Governor or Senate leadership within the Legislature.
A reasonable plan for those who are not happy with their lack of any choices? No wonder Comcast and other incumbent ISP’s don’t support this bill.