A map of USI's coverage area. Areas notably missing include Phillips and North Minneapolis. They're expanding in to Northeast Minneapolis, St Louis Park, and Edina next year.

Every Map Is The Same Map: USI Edition

USI has rolled out their 2022 coverage map.

This map has a striking resemblance to some other maps I’ve seen around here. Hmm.

Someone who has a username “tcarter612” on reddit posted a thread about this rollout, purporting to represent the company. Someone commented,

Any update on the hole between Franklin and Lake St. and Hiawatha and 35w? You had said many, many years ago it was in the works but the buildout has just been around this area.
Screencapped January 12, 2022.

Our thread opener responded.

Sadly we were working in that area and our crews experience constant crime issues, guns pulled on us, vehicles stolen, equipment vandalized, and serious racial slurs/threats.

We will return once things calm down, for now sadly we need to leave all the work partially completed.
Screencapped January 12, 2022.

Another response from elsewhere in the thread.

I addressed Phillips earlier in the thread, USI has spent over 500k so far building Phillips, see note:
"Sadly we were working in that area and our crews experience constant crime issues, vehicles stolen, equipment vandalized, and serious racial slurs/threats.
We will return once things calm down, for now sadly we need to leave all the work partially completed. 
If any area is an unsafe work area we will remove our crews from the area, simple. So for now Phillips will go unserved.
Screencapped January 10-11, 2022.

This post all sounds incredibly fishy to me and smacks of someone telling a tale so they don’t have to do something they don’t want to do, relying on the implicit racism of the reader to cover their tracks. “Unsafe work area” is a pretty rude way to refer to my home. What kind of dang fool would steal a marked truck? And where’s this 500k they supposedly spent? Smells like structural racism.

I did what anyone would do, living in this “hole between Franklin and Lake St. and Hiawatha and 35w” and hearing someone talk like my neighborhood’s not a safe place to be. I called the customer service line, and got a callback from a Sam Turner, who appears to be a C-level.

Sam defended the posts of this mysterious, totally unknowable, tcarter612, whose identity would not be revealed during this conversation, but who has no supervisor I can speak with. I let Sam know that I found these posts incredibly insensitive to my neighborhood. Sam said that “tone is hard to read over text” and that Sam doesn’t find the posts offensive. I’m the only one who’s said anything about these posts, so obviously, the problem is me, not the posts.

As for what kind of fool would steal a marked truck, I am to ask Inspector Blackwell at the 5th precinct. … but wait a second. The 5th is all the way over north, it’s the 3rd that’s the only relevant precinct here. And supposedly there was an incident with guns pulled on them over by George Floyd Square. Hang on, that’s not here either. And obviously there’s not going to be any record of that incident at GFS anywhere.

USI already serves George Floyd Square, so incidents there, factual or not, can’t be the real reason they’re not serving Phillips.

So, the goalposts were moved on me – the issue is that Phillips is in a “crime wave” and they can’t get any contractors to work in this area, not in the whole city. “Except Northeast?” I asked. “Yeah, except Northeast.”

Hmm. This sounds a lot like the maps I looked at that one time.

The "Best" and "Still Desirable" areas of Northeast Minneapolis are on the rollout list for 2022.
Northeast, about 1950.

“Okay, what have you tried?” “Well, we’ve tried everything. We looked in to private security, but they were too expensive. We tried talking to MPD, but the city doesn’t have the resources to support-” I cut Sam off there. “So have you put out a call for contractors willing to work in this area? Posted this trouble you’re having on social media, or your website?” “No, and we’re not going to. We’re a private company and we don’t have to do anything.”


“Look, you’re accusing us of redlining. We’re not! We would have gone to Minnetonka and Richfield and Edina before Minneapolis if we were just after ROI. And if we were, there’s plenty of areas we would have skipped before we skipped Phillips, like North,”

Apart from their plans to expand into Northeast, USI does not serve North Minneapolis.

Not a shred of USI coverage in all of what we know as North Minneapolis.
Unless somehow Northeast got mistaken for North in my interlocutor’s mind, this is very blank.

“See the problem is, we got a building at Snelling and Lake. Just on the other side. So right after we bought it, the city tore up a bunch of Lake and put a 5-year moratorium on building under the new pavement, and by the time that moratorium was up it was too risky to build across it.” Ah, this is the $500,000 investment in Phillips! Not in Phillips! Adjacent to it! And serving 3 of the 4 quadrants of that building’s planned service area! Including areas north of Lake.


Phillips is all "definitely declining" code, Seward also has "hazardous". South of Lake is mostly "still desirable" as is anything along the riverfront.
A close-up of the area around Lake and Snelling.

“You want to tell me there’s not a crime wave in Phillips? I can’t send people in there! This isn’t about ROI, it’s about public safety.” Phillips is safe enough for more than 25,000 people to live and work, but not safe enough for USI to bury some fiber.

Okey dokey. I’m not getting my public apology, my C-grade neighborhood’s not getting service, all I can do is just go ahead and point out that yes, USI, your map *is* the same map.

Is USI redlining? You make the call.

And then:

  1. Talk to your city council member, and your strong mayor, about municipal internet.
  2. Ask your city council member to look into the city’s contracts and licenses with USI and ask them to ensure they are advancing the City’s interests in equitable access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.
  3. Bonus round for current USI subscribers: If the tone of those reddit posts isn’t what you want to see out of your internet provider, let ’em know.
Pine Salica

About Pine Salica

Pine lives in Minneapolis and works in Saint Paul. Pine hasn't owned a car for over a dozen years, and can count on one hand the number of times they've operated one in the last 12 months. Housing is a human right, car storage is not. Member of the Climate Committee.

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