Summary of the 2020 Rural Lincoln County Broadband Survey

In late 2020, Lincoln County-Extension, in collaboration with Lincoln County,  conducted a survey of property owners in the unincorporated portions of the County to determine high speed internet availability and demand within the County. The community anecdotally understood that there was limited access to broadband outside of the County’s incorporated cities of Merrill and Tomahawk, however, additional quantitative data was needed to ensure informed decision-making processes and assist in productive communication with area internet service providers, community stakeholders, and potential funding partners.

One thousand, three hundred and sixty-two households completed the Lincoln County Broadband survey communicating their current access and need for high-speed internet. Respondents lived throughout Lincoln County.  Consistent with their percentage of Lincoln County households, the majority of respondents resided in the Towns of Merrill, Bradley and Pine River. A third of respondents did not have access to reliable high speed internet service, with nearly 33% of respondents indicating that they do not have access to broadband at their residence.

Lack of high-speed may also have a social and economic cost for Lincoln County. Of the 33% of survey respondents who did not have adequate access to broadband, a third indicated that they were likely to start, move or grow a business in Lincoln County if they had access to adequate, reliable, and affordable broadband internet services. One survey respondent commented, “Broadband has gone from a want to a need in our current situation and it is likely to become more critical as time goes on.”

Key takeaways from the Lincoln County 2020 Broadband Survey include:

  • Internet service was generally poor. Even when respondents reported satisfaction with internet service, many did not actually have access to high-speed internet. Using the vast majority of respondents (78%) did not have internet that met the Federal definition of broadband internet (speeds of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload).
  • Even poor internet service is expensive. Survey respondents indicated that they paid 28% of respondents paid greater than $80 per month to access the internet, while 49.1% of respondents paid greater than $60 per month for internet service.
  • Cost limits access to high-speed internet. Over thirteen percent of respondents indicated that they did not subscribe to internet service due to cost. Other than availability, the number one factor limiting respondents from having a monthly subscription to broadband service was cost.
  • Many respondents were dissatisfied with incumbent internet service providers and wireless technology. When offered the opportunity to share their thoughts many respondents expressed frustration that incumbent internet service providers were providing a poor level of service or had not expanded service. There was also frustration over the lack of reliable access to the internet from satellite providers.

The final report provides the complete results of the survey along with summary information, graphs, and charts.  You can read the complete report by downloading the Lincoln County Broadband Survey Report  (pdf, 36 pages)