About CVII

The Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative (CVII) was formed in 2011 by an ad hoc group of township leaders and interested citizens concerned that Internet service in our rural region was not meeting the current and future needs of residents. In some areas, residents do not have access to any Internet services, while existing service in other areas is not up to current standards for broadband.

cvii_mapSeven townships — Alden, Ault, Fairbanks, Gnesen, Normanna

, North Star and Pequaywan — came together to form a Joint Powers Board, the Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative Steering Committee, to work as a group to promote broadband access, knowing that individual townships do not have sufficient population or “clout” to be effective.

A joint powers agreement among the townships was needed to access grants and authorize the expenditure of funds. The agreement also establishes a central organization for coordination and cooperation in promoting and leveraging broadband Internet in these townships.

The committee is composed of representative township supervisors from the seven townships involved in the joint powers agreement. Two unorganized townships (53-15 and 54-13) are also part of the Initiative.

Officers of the committee are Janet Keough, North Star, as Chair, and Terry Nutt, Ault, as Vice Chair. Linda Britton, clerk of the North Star Township, is the secretary/treasurer. Representing the other townships are: Alden — Doug Fairbanks, Fairbanks — Rick Olson, Gnesen — Paul Glaesemann, Normanna — Kimberly Grubb, and Pequaywan — Scott Mead.

Our goal

CVII’s goal is to make broadband Internet service, at the State of Minnesota Standard of 10 MBPS download and 6 MBPS upload, available to all people within the Cloquet Valley townships to meet their needs umarkets.com/ for business and jobs, education, and personal health and enrichment.

Read minutes of CVII meetings

One of CVII’s first actions was to survey area residents about their need for high-speed Internet. The results overwhelmingly pointed to a general dissatisfaction with current conditions and a great deal of interest and need for better service.

Survey of residents

The survey of more than 500 respondents showed a high level of dissatisfaction with current Internet service and a strong interest in true, high-speed broadband service.

For example, when asked to rate the Internet service currently available, about three out of four people (76%) rated it only fair or poor. Interest in subscribing to ultra high speed broadband Internet service, such as what is currently being developed in other parts of northeastern Minnesota, is very high, particularly among full-time residents of this area. More than nine in ten (95%) of those living here full time said they would be “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to subscribe to broadband service at roughly the cost slower service is currently being offered. Among seasonal residents, interest in a six-month subscription is lower (63%), but still quite high.

Studies conducted 

With financial help from St. Louis County, AgStar Financial, and the Blandin Foundation, the CVII team has conducted two feasibility studies by outside consultants to provide an idea of options available to us:

1. An objective comparison across all internet provider types (wireless, satellite, DSL, fiber optic) to provide us with the speed, capability, and advantages and disadvantages of each.

2. An engineering analysis of “fiber to the home (FTTH)” and “fiber to the node” (FTTN) to demonstrate where and how fiber optic could be deployed and at what cost.

U-Reka Broadband Ventures study

U-Reka Broadband Ventures from Stillwater conducted the study of the potential, current capability, and interest of Internet providers in upgrading broadband service in the CVII townships. We also wanted to document the pros and cons of each type of provider.

For our analysis, Townships of Alden, Ault, Fairbanks, Gnesen, Normanna, North Star and Pequaywan, as well as the unorganized townships 53-15 and 54-13, were included. U-Reka conducted in-person interviews with satellite and cellphone providers, DSL providers, and fiber optic projects to help us understand the real potential, download and upload speeds, issues of latency and data caps, cost, and various pros and cons for our rural townships.

These in-person interviews included Frontier Communications, CenturyLink, Arrowhead, Lake Connections, Northeast Service Cooperative, Coop Light and Power, AT&T, Verizon, Air Fiber, Wildblue/Exede and HughesNet.

U-reka staff also drove around our area and looked for indicators of broadband services, such as infrastructure exchange boxes and cell phone towers. They examined the regional maps that have been developed at the state level, showing regions that are poorly served for Internet (e.g. Connect Minnesota maps and FCC Mobility auction area maps). They asked area residents to conduct speed tests of their home-based systems to determine the actual speeds of service that are available. U-reka then developed comparison tables of bandwidth and price to help us compare the various vendors.

Opportunities today: New, faster satellite systems, such as Exede, and HughesNet Gen4, seem to be an improved option for standard Internet tasks, such as email, web surfing, social networking, and video downloading (watching movies and other video). Advanced uses for some secure voice and encrypted activities may be limited. Latency (lags between video upload and download) is much higher for satellite Internet. Like some other wireless options, satellite Internet is provided with monthly data plans that can limit intensive video activities.

Short-term opportunities in the future: Coop Light and Power is interested in expanding its tower-based system to support “Smart Grid” technology and faster Internet access.

AT&T and Verizon are considering participating in the FCC Mobility Fund Auction, which would help them enhance their wireless Internet and cell phone capabilities in our area. Mobile wireless Internet providers offer data plans with specific caps at various price points. Areas near cell towers can get Internet using “hot spots” on their cell phones from ATT and Verizon.

Longer-term opportunities in the future: The future of plans of Frontier or Century Link in the area are unknown at this time although CVII is pursuing upgrades in their service.

Lake County is building its fiber optic system (“Lake Connections”) through a portion of the CVII area, but there are no plans at this time to provide service here. Once Lake County has begun service to its county customers, they may be convinced to expand as a “middle mile” provider or potentially to provide fiber to the home.

pdf-iconDownload a copy of the U_Reka study results. (Note: This is a large file, so it could take some time to download if you have a slow Internet connection.)

Compass Consultant study

Compass Consultants from Perham provided an engineering analysis of bringing “fiber to the home (FTTH),” “fiber to the node (FTTN),” and DSL to the home throughout CVII townships.

The study demonstrated that we are an excellent rural market for enhanced broadband service, based on our residents’ interest, population, and projected population growth.

CCI provided designs to deploy two different systems for broadband to residents and seasonal owners throughout the CVII area. Maps, technology designs and capital requirements for construction were provided.


Download and read the Executive Summary of the Compass Study (PDF).