Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why do we need broadband Internet service?


Q. Is broadband the same as “fiber optics”?
Q. I have Internet access now. How can I tell how fast or slow my current service is?
Q. What is the Lake County fiber optic project all about?
Q. What are the current sources of Internet service in the CVII area?
Q. Why don’t we have fiber optic broadband in our area like they do in other places?
Q. Why is my DSL internet so slow?
Q. What’s the difference between wireless and wired internet in terms of speed and what it can do?
Q. What can I do to help bring faster, more reliable internet to our area?
Q. What are the state and federal governments doing about the lack of Internet in rural areas like ours?
Q. Where can I learn more about broadband developments in Minnesota?


Q. Why do we need broadband Internet service?

Broadband connects you to the world and lets do things that were previously impossible (or at least very difficult). With a broadband Internet connection, you could… work from home … operate an online business … teach or take a class from home … watch movies when there is too much snow to go to town… use Skype or other services to video-conference with family or business coworkers or customers. The possibilities are endless.

Some doctors are now using such telecommunication to reach patients in outlying areas. Home security and personal safety services are now being offered that require broadband connections. Those of us in rural areas need these services even more than people living in the city. And, who knows what vital services will be available in the future through broadband?

The critical point that those of us without a reliable, high-speed Internet service are being left behind, as important services become available that require broadband connection speeds.

Q. Is broadband the same as “fiber optics”?

Broadband refers to the speed at which Internet services are delivered. Fiber optics comprise the cables that carry light as a signal to bring that information to the home. There are several ways to deliver broadband service. Fiber optics is currently the fastest method — much faster than DSL, satellite, wireless or cable.

Q. I have Internet access now. How can I tell how fast or slow my current service is?

Here are several Websites that provide measurement of your connections speed:

http://speedtest.net
http://connectmn.org
http://bluefield.wv.speedtest.frontier.com/

Q. What is the Lake County fiber optic project all about?

Using funds from the US Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service, Lake County is building a fiber-to-the-home (“FTTH”) network serving Lake County and a portion of eastern St. Louis County, under the name, “Lake Connections

.” Residents in those areas will be able to receive new state-of-the-art telecommunication services, including ultra-high-speed symmetric (two-way) broadband service, video services, conventional voice services and new services that are available only via high-speed, fiber-optic cable.

The Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative is investigating whether it would be feasible to extend that network to include our area in the future, as one option to improve Internet service here.

Fiber-to-the-home networks differ from conventional telecommunications services, which are delivered over a copper line (DSL service), copper coaxial cable (cable service) or wireless services (ground based tower, cell phone, or satellite services). Fiber-optic networks deliver data through fiberglass fiber, using lasers and other technologies that operate at speeds up to 10 to 100 times faster than other available services.

Q. What are the current sources of Internet service in the CVII area?

Several Internet providers currently operate in the Cloquet Valley. None of them provides broadband-quality (10 MBPS download/ 6 MBPS upload) service at this time.

CenturyLink operates a portion of the southern part of the Cloquet Valley. They are a provider of fixed-line phone service and DSL Internet access.

Frontier Communications is another phone provider that offers DSL Internet access to Ault, Pequaywan and Fairbanks townships.

Coop Light & Power is currently rolling out a tower-based wireless Internet service to portions of the southern part of the Cloquet Valley, starting in Normanna Township. You can read more about this service here. (If you’re interested, please be sure to complete the questionnaire at the bottom of that page.)

Satellite providers — Exede and HughesNet Gen4 — offer their services throughout the Cloquet Valley.  Exede is offered through a Northeast MN consortium of electric cooperatives.

Q. Why don’t we have fiber optic broadband in our area like they do in other places?

It is very expensive to lay fiber optic cable over a wide area. With a rural population, cable must travel long distances between customers, so installing fiber to the home (FTTH) is often not cost-effective, from the standpoint of private industry. In some rural areas, public financing or public/private partnerships have been necessary to bring fiber to homes.

Q. Why is my DSL internet so slow?

The speed of DSL access is affected by several factors, including the number of people using it and the distance from the point of connection to the Internet (the “node”). DSL in much of the Cloquet Valley operates at long distances from the providers’ central offices, so it is much slower than most DSL service available in cities.

Q. What’s the difference between wireless and wired internet in terms of speed and what it can do?

Wired internet is carried over telephone copper wire or fiber optic cables. In urban areas, some providers run special Internet cable to the premise. Wired systems are generally more reliable than wireless because they are not affected by weather, topography, or other “line of sight” obstacles, such as trees and hills. However, since they often run along roads, construction and sometimes road damage can also damage the cables. This occurred during the 2012 flood in NE Minnesota in some areas.

Wireless Internet typically comes into the premise by radio waves, transmitted from towers (cell phone towers, Internet-specific towers) or from satellites. Wireless systems require a receiver at the premises, such as an attachment on the computer, a modem or a satellite dish and receiver.

Fiber-optic wired systems offer, by far, the highest speed and reliability and offer increasing capability in the future since they have very high capacity. DSL wired systems (over copper telephone wires) are sometimes equivalent to some of the latest wireless systems, including 4G cell phones and satellites. However, in rural areas, such as ours in the Cloquet Valley, copper wire can phone networks are sometimes quite old and extend long distances from local hubs, lowering the speed and capacity of the network at the premises.

Q. What can I do to help bring faster, more reliable internet to our area?

Get involved! We encourage you to visit this Website frequently for more information and for updates, attend a meeting of CVII, and write or phone your Congressman, Senators, County Commissioners. Another simple thing you can do to start with, is take a speed test at Connect Minnesota and the FCC test site. Both sites are compiling a data base of Internet speeds and this is a way to show where we stand compared to the rest of the country.

Q. What are the state and federal governments doing about the lack of Internet in rural areas like ours?

In Minnesota, the state legislature adopted a broadband goal of 10 Mbps download and 6 Mbps upload to be available to all citizens, border to border, by 2015. Governor Dayton convened a Broadband Task Force in 2012 that has been looking at the challenges of making broadband internet available to all citizens. At the present time, the Minnesota Legislature and the Governor are considering measures such as tax incentives to providers to upgrade Internet service, a “dig-once” policy, and other actions.

Many counties in Minnesota and some cities have, on their own and with private partners, constructed broadband networks. Examples include Lake County, Cook County,  and others.

The Blandin Foundation

has been providing leadership within Minnesota to promote development of broadband, increase Internet use and adoption by citizens, and providing forums for public and private discussions about how to achieve the Minnesota Broadband Goals.

At the level of the US Federal Government, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture have offered competitive grants and loans to communities seeking to construct broadband networks. The USDA Rural Utilities Service has several programs that support broadband in rural areas. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) supported by legislation, has begun to divert the “Universal Service Fee” away from telephone development into Internet improvement. The Connect America Fund (CAF) the FCC is offering incentives to Internet providers to upgrade their customers in under-served areas. This is a very new program and we need to watch how local internet providers in our area begin to use CAF funds.

Q. Where can I learn more about broadband developments in Minnesota?

A good place to keep up with broadband news in Minnesota is the Blandin Foundation’s broadband blog, BlandinonBroadband.