Minnesota is running faster when it comes to the availability of high-speed Internet access, but the goal keeps looking further and further away.
The percentage of households that have "broadband" available to them has inched up from 96.6 percent in January to 97.1 percent now, according to Connect Minnesota, the organization charged with providing the best data on the subject. That means the number of households pretty much forced to deal with dial-up service or satellite wireless is down to 61,000.
The problem is that definition of broadband (download speeds of 768 kilobits per second and upload speeds of 200 kilobits per second) looks less and less meaningful as every month goes by.
The most meaningful number to look at it in the report Tuesday from Connect Minnesota is perhaps 57.4 percent. That's how many Minnesota households can get download speeds of 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of 6 megabits per second.
That number is meaningful for two reasons: 1) Minnesota lawmakers set a goal of making the speed available to everyone by 2015 and 2) as people want to use more video and other data-intensive applications, that speed is increasingly going to be considered normal.
You don't need service that fast for email, browsing the web or even large file-sharing. As people move to applications for telemedicine and complex gaming, they will need it.
And by that measure, the state is 889,000 households short of the goal. (Definition: We're talking about terrestrial service and not counting mobile wireless.)
By that standard, in fact, 20 counties have zero accessibility. Even at the lowest standard, two counties -- Cook and Mahnomen -- have less that three-quarters of their households with access.
Cook County, of course, in the tip of the Arrowhead region, is laying fiber optic cable with an award of federal stimulus money that should boost those statistics in the coming year or two.
Connect Minnesota's report from Tuesday will be used next week in the first report that Gov. Mark Dayton's new broadband task force puts out. You can see all the data by going here.
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