google glassI have Google Glass. I can’t say I use it often – but I remain optimistic about the potential. I would welcome training. So I think this could be a fun opportunity…

Google is currently inviting grant applications for a program called Giving through Glass:

How would you use Glass to amplify your impact? Individuals who work at US-based nonprofits are eligible to receive a pair of Glass, a trip to a Google office for training, a $25,000 nonprofit grant, and access to developers to make your Glass project a reality. 

Official guidelines and a link to the application form are available via http://www.google.org/spotlights/

I think one of the powerful things Google Glass can do is record transactions. So if I were a kid getting my tonsils out it might be interesting to see a video made via Google Glass of another kid who had been through the same experience. Or the flip side of that kind of use, if I were an adult getting a diagnosis from a doctor, I might want to record the discussion to view later as questions arose. Also I think there are some cool opportunities to view interactive maps on Google Glass – maps that show directions but also highlight local points of interest, such as a cool interactive map of Barcelona, recently featured in Wired. Although a map like that seems like a lot to take in such a small space. I hope some readers will have some good ideas too – maybe get those free glasses

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that there is Gigabit broadband access in parts of Minneapolis. It’s great news and interesting for a couple of reasons. First – it’s an opportunity for some homes to find a way to use Gig access and make their neighbors jealous. That might help build a demand for further expansion…

You can’t buy blazingly fast, 1 billion-bit-per-second Internet service just anywhere in Minneapolis, but 4,000 homeowners soon will be in the right place for it.

USI Wireless, a unit of U.S. Internet Corp. of Minnetonka, will expand its honeycomb of fiber-optic cables that support the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network, which the company operates under a contract with the city

Second – it’s a classic example of how networks get built and upgraded. You build to demand and upgrade as demand grows…

As Internet customers have placed more demand on the Wi-Fi network by downloading more video, USI Wireless has over the last three years installed more fiber to speed the delivery of data to antennas around the city. Those antennas then allow download speeds of 1 million to 6 million bits per second, or megabits.

But residents who live near the buried fiber can buy much-faster wired Internet service from USI Wireless, up to 1 billion bits per second, or 1 gigabit.

The price is good for homes in the service area…

The 4,000 homes that will be passed by the new USI Wireless fiber are in the southern part of the city, and include those on Hennepin Avenue (2600 through 2700 blocks), Lyndale Avenue (2400 through 2700 blocks) and James Avenue (1700 through 2800 blocks.) A complete list of affected streets is available at http://fiber.usin ternet.com/coverage-areas.

Homes adjacent to the fiber-optic cable can buy 1-gigabit wired Internet access for $99 a month, 100-megabit for $50 a month or 25-megabit for $25 a month, said Joe Caldwell, CEO of Minnetonka-based USI Wireless.

Neither Comcast nor CenturyLink, the leading providers of Internet access, offers a 1-gigabit residential Internet service in the Twin Cities. Comcast’s 25-megabit service costs more than twice as much as the USI Wireless service. However, Comcast and CenturyLink offer home Internet service throughout most of the Twin Cities, while USI Wireless serves only Minneapolis residential customers.

There have been some bumps along the way but it’s a nice example of a public-private partnerships that seems to be working…

USI Wireless, a unit of U.S. Internet Corp. of Minnetonka, will expand its honeycomb of fiber-optic cables that support the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network, which the company operates under a contract with the city.

I know many readers won’t be able to attend – but I plan on being there and will take notes. For others, this could be a very interesting discussion…

Please join us for our second TLC Meet-Up of the year on May 9th.

Click here to register.

Featured presentation: Racial Equity- Beyond Technology

Led by: Adja Gildersleve, City of Minneapolis

Location: Minneapolis Community Education, 2225 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

In our efforts of bridging the Digital Divide, we view digital literacy and access as a key tool in helping people use technology to gain social, civic, educational and economic opportunities. As we do this work, we also need to be aware of the systemic and institutional barriers that communities of color face. In this workshop, we will discuss the elephant in the room and generate ideas to close disparity gaps in the Twin Cities. Invite your colleagues to attend to broaden our group discussion on this important topic!

Agenda

  • Welcome and Grab Lunch – 11:00 – 11:15
  • Featured Presentation – 11:15 – 12:45
  • Announcements and Networking – 12:45 – 1:00

Please register so we have a count for lunch.

*Thank you to Comcast for providing lunch*

Parking is available at South Campus in the student and staff lots to the West and South of the building as well as on street. Don’t park in the Park & Ride / Transit lot on the East side.

Next TLC Meet Up Friday, October 10, 11:00 – 1:00

Sent on behalf of the Technology Literacy Collaborative.

http://tlc-mn.org/

Today MN House leadership held a press conference on broadband – specifically they had an assistant principal and some students from Mora Minnesota talk about how difficult student life can be when you don’t have broadband. In high school homework in not only researched but also turned in online; college applications and scholarship applications are turned in online too. That means close deadline (sometimes missed) and lots of drives to friends in town for students in unserved and underserved areas.

Policymakers made the point that to be leaders in education, every student in Minnesota must have adequate access at home as well as at school. It’s an equity issue, as well as an economic development imperative.

The House had $25 million in their budget for the broadband development fund; the Senate has nothing. It would be nice to see this move forward. It seems like the Senate just needs to get on board. (The Governor voiced his approval for funding before the Easter Break.)

Here’s the actual press release

Press/News Releases

Students, educators join House DFL lawmakers to call for investments in broadband infrastructure


Click here for full video of today’s press conference

ST. PAUL, MN – Fresh off a statewide tour over the Easter/Passover break, House DFL leaders and legislators joined educators and students at the State Capitol today to push for one of the 2014 session’s remaining priorities– our state’s first significant investment in broadband internet infrastructure.

“As we toured Minnesota, it was energizing to hear support from local and business leaders for new investments to build on our progress and strengthen Greater Minnesota,” said Speaker Paul Thissen. “Investing in broadband and expanding access to high speed internet to more Minnesota students is vital to our vision of a stronger Minnesota in every corner of our state.”

Nick Bakke, Assistant Principal of Mora High School, and 12th graders Thomas Pasillas, Michael Greenberg, Cassidy Carlisle and Ashlee Forslund joined Speaker Thissen, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and several House DFL lawmakers today for a news conference highlighting the important link between access to high-speed internet and access to a world-class education.

The House has passed a supplemental budget that includes a $25 million investment in broadband development. That legislation would expand fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in underserved regions of the state and help continue mapping deployment of broadband to measure Minnesota’s progress towards meeting broadband goals and where further investments are needed.

In addition, the House included $5 million in additional telecommunications aid to help Minnesota school districts pay for their telecommunications and internet access costs. In tandem these investments will provide enhanced learning opportunities for students in the classroom and in their homes.

Majority Leader Erin Murphy said the significant investment in broadband development included in the House supplemental budget goes hand-in-hand with the historic investments DFLers made in Minnesota’s schools and students during the 2013 Session, dubbed by many as the ‘Education Session.’

“Expanding access to high-speed internet in Greater Minnesota will provide our students with more opportunities to learn and succeed in the classroom,” said Murphy. “It’s a smart investment that builds on the academic and economic progress we’re seeing throughout our great state.”

State Representative Paul Marquart (DFL – Dilworth), chair of the House Education Finance Committee, noted that expanding access to broadband is another way to improve equity in education for students in Greater Minnesota.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in both the 2013 and 2014 sessions to improve equity in education for our schools and students in Greater Minnesota,” said Marquart. “By equipping our rural communities with high-speed internet, students and teachers will be able to access the latest online educational content, communication and information resources. This is going to help us build the World’s Best Workforce and compete in a global economy.”

Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), chief author of broadband infrastructure legislation, said high-speed Internet can potentially play a transformative role in how we educate our children.

“We’re living in two dramatically different Minnesotas,” Rep. Simonson said. “One Minnesota has easy and cheap access to reliable high-speed Internet. The other does not. Investing in broadband infrastructure is a critical way we can help Greater Minnesota catch up and compete.”

A recent study by ConnectMN, a nonprofit working in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, showed that 93 percent of Metro-area residents have access to high-speed broadband coverage as opposed to only 46 percent of households in Greater Minnesota.

A House and Senate conference committee will meet this week to begin working on an agreement on a supplemental budget bill.

 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 21, 2014

Minnesota is a “state to watch for community broadband”

Government Technology recently wrote about 5 States to Watch in the Community Broadband Fight; Minnesota was one of those states…

Access to broadband in rural areas of Minnesota has been a hot issue over the last several years. A bill was introduced this year by Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Redwing, that establishes a grant and loan program to further expansion of broadband services to underserved areas.

Senate File 2056 – referred to as the Border-to-Border Infrastructure Program – would take $100 million from the state’s general fund to be applied to broadband projects. A companion bill in the House, HF 2615 was also introduced.

The measures generated debate throughout the state, as business owners in remote areas expressed the need for higher bandwidth to support the community. For example, according to a report in the Star-Tribune, it took a local McDonald’s franchise in Annandale approximately four hours to download a digital menu update. Whereas in other areas, the same task takes roughly 30 minutes.

Both bills have stalled in committee, however, and it doesn’t look like the issue will be taken up until 2015 at the earliest.

Optimistically, I hope that this is still kicking for the 2014 session. Also I’m hoping that the proposed funding might spur public-private partnerships in a way that makes Minnesota the state that made “community network” a term embraced by public and private partners!

This looks like a potentially interesting event – it’s happening in DC but will be made available online as well…

Join us! InSecurity: Race, Surveillance and Privacy in the Digital Age!

Now more than ever, digital tools sit at a precarious tipping point. There are many question about whether they will be used to address pre-existing disparities, or further entrench them.  Specifically, the Internet and new networked technologies have increased the threat of mass surveillance and digital discrimination against communities of color, migrant and low-wage workers, and low-income families–amplifying problems of criminalization, deportation, poverty and overall insecurity. As a result, data mining, location tracking, fusion centers and the brokering of sensitive financial profiles require a race forward analysis.

On Wednesday, April 30th, as part of the 2014 Knowledge Exchange, the Center for Media Justice, Consumers Union and the Open Technology Institute will co-host a conversation that stretches from intent to impact. Using contemporary examples from across the country, we’ll explore what digital rights and privacy safeguards are needed to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable communities are not placed at greater risk for violations of their civil and human rights.

RSVP now!

Event Details:

  • Time:   6:30-7:30pm ET
  • Date:   Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
  • Location:
  • In person
  • 1899 L Street NW Suite 400
  • Washington, DC 20036

Online webcast:

http://newamerica.org/events/2014/insecurity_race_surveillance_and_privacy

Annandale has been pretty vocal about their interest in broadband. Earlier this month, the city administrator spoke about the local need for broadband with the Institute for Local Self Reliance. In January, Annandale was the location of one of Senator Schmit’s listening tour sessions on broadband. This week the St Cloud Times mentions specifically Annandale’s interest again…

Spurred by residents’ complaints with their Internet service provider, Annandale leaders are mulling a big step: partnering with public or private entities to build its own Internet network.

Annandale and other Minnesota communities that are unserved or underserved by broadband service could get a chance to apply for state grants to build new networks. Lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton,

who campaigned on expanding broadband in rural areas, are considering allotting $25 million for such grants in 2014.

A House budget bill that passed earlier this month set aside those funds and established a state grant program for broadband expansion projects. Local governments, nonprofits or private companies all could be eligible for the grants if they apply and meet certain criteria.

A corresponding Senate bill didn’t include those provisions. The differences are expected to be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee after lawmakers’ Easter-Passover break, which is underway until April 22.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 17, 2014

Itasca Area Blandin Broadband Community update

Thanks to Mark Zimmerman for sharing the following update from the Itasca Area BBC. It’s fun to see how much they have accomplished in a year – I thought it might give other Minnesota communities some ideas for encouraging broadband adoption too…

Just about one year ago – in March 2013 – you helped host a community meeting here in Grand Rapids to identify and prioritize strategies that would help businesses and organizations in the Itasca area use broadband technology to enhance the overall economy.  From that discussion, seven distinct, but complementary, strategies were undertaken and I would like to share with you some quick progress reports on each.  The image below gives you a visual of the seven strategies currently underway, as part of the Itasca Area BBC, to increase of use of broadband technology.

itasca

These seven initiatives, launched in stages, are overlapping and are being promoted as a comprehensive strategy to meet the needs of local businesses and organizations who wish to enhance their use of broadband technology.

Social Media Breakfasts:  The sixth Social Media Breakfast Itasca Area is coming up April 29th featuring Pat Garmoe, co-founder of Social Media Breakfast Twin Ports.  Pat will present a roadmap for how businesses can garner more sales or leads through the web. These popular one-hour meet-ups have been attracting 20-45 people to the Itasca Technology Exchange the last Tuesday of every month. Kathy Kooda of Computer Enterprises, Lorrie Yeschick of Torrent Technologies, Troy Anderson of White Ivy Design and Desiree Yourczek of Art Unlimited, have been serving in leadership roles. Bud Schneider of Arrowhead Promotions and Fulfillment has recently joined the Leadership Team.  You can stay connected with the fun by joining the Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/socialmediabreakfastitascaarea/#

Social Media Training:  Two levels – basic and advanced – of social media training are in the development stage in partnership with IASC Community Education.  Look for one to two hour sessions on using Facebook, Twitter and Google Analytics in the coming months.  Classes will be available through www.getlearning.org.

I.T. Professionals Network:  The second quarterly meeting of the I.T. Professional Group was held, also at the Itasca Technology Exchange, on March 7th featuring a round-table discussion on computer back-up strategies.  These brown-bag lunch gatherings attract over 20 local I.T. Professionals from the private, public and nonprofit sectors.  Jean MacDonell of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital chairs the group whose purpose is to provide a forum for networking, education, and knowledge sharing.

Business Technology Assessments:  Curt Walczak, Small Business Development counselor, along with IEDC staff, have worked with 13 businesses to date with plans to complete another 23 assessments by year-end.  Online applications continued to be accepted through IEDC’s website at www.itascadv.org.

Student Intern:  Starting this month, ICC marketing student Melissa Flatley will be working out of IEDC’s offices with a goal of assisting 100 businesses, one-on-one, to improve their web presence.

Itasca Technology Exchange:  Vacant space at the ITE has been remodeled and repurposed to host technology-related gatherings.  Local I.T. Professionals are being tapped to help IEDC market ITE’s data center to those who may benefit from this community resource.

Community Portal:  :  www.minnesotasnature.com  Itasca Community Portal has officially launched its new site on the MinnesotasNature domain.  78 business listings have been entered, 2 volunteer opportunities posted, 5 community blog posts submitted to the Portal and 5 community calendars are hosted on the site.     A County-wide “Community & Business Marketing Summit” meeting was held at Blandin Foundation.  Attendance was 52 and included important community members from Bigfork, International Falls, Cohasset, Marble, Taconite, Grand Rapids, Itasca County, and the media.  Various community meetings will be held to present the Portal to the community leaders.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 16, 2014

Minnesota High Tech Association Spring Conference: May 6

The MHTA is always a great conference…

May 6th Spring Conference to feature sessions on entrepreneurship and innovation

MHTA’s annual spring conference has been the premier technology and business conference in Minnesota for many years. Scheduled for May 6th, the conference will feature a full-day, education-based agenda; an exhibit hall featuring cutting edge technology and organizations and unparalleled networking opportunities. This year, due to attendee and industry feedback, the conference will feature six tracks of breakout sessions focused on different areas – two of these will be innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are core to our mission here at MHTA,” said Angela McLaughlin, MHTA events manager. “We are excited to be able to reflect that at our annual conference and offer a full track of sessions dedicated to each of these topics.”

The entrepreneurship track will offer attendees insights on communicating for successful results – whether you are starting your own company or working with entrepreneurs.

Local entrepreneur Robbie Cordo and angel investor Tom von Kuster will share tips and tactics from their successful experiences in pitching and funding projects. Bjorn Stansvik, CEO of Mentor Mate will challenge attendees to look at the big picture of the transformative power of technology in his session on elevating humanity. Taylor Cowan of Microsoft and Blake Miller of ThinkBig Partners will discuss strategies for successfully engaging with start-up communities.

The innovation track will feature companies with established track records in technologic innovation, companies like 3M, Mayo and H.B. Fuller – who make innovation look easy. Speakers will offer a glimpse behind the curtain and describe how these companies promote and incent innovation within their company cultures to keep their products and processes on the cutting edge.

Speakers include: Jilian Foxen, Senior Program Coordinator, Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo, Michelle Gishkowski, IT Lead Systems Analyst, Mayo , Anne Gold, Senior Engineer, 3M, Tara Korkowski, External Innovation Manager, H.B. Fuller, Hassan Rmaile, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, H.B. Fuller and John Woodworth, Change Agent – R&D Systems Manager, 3M.

For view a full conference agenda, session descriptions, speakers and to register visit http://www.mhta.org/event/spring/.

Limited sponsorships and exhibit space remains – reserve yours today before it is too late. Contact Angela McLaughlin (angleam@mhta.org or 952-230-4552) for details and availability.

Happy National Library Week! To celebrate I was going to invite my co-working coffee shop friends to shoot me ready reference questions – or maybe just shush a few people, then I found something even better – a public hearing on libraries and broadband.

This is one of those meetings that looks wonky and not top priority – until you consider the role that libraries play in your community in terms of bridging the digital gap. Libraries provide access to computer and broadband (via public computers and often Wi-Fi) and librarians are often the first line of defense for digital literacy. The FCC has pledged to invest $2 billion in broadband for libraries and schools. And libraries are pilot testing a mashup of spectrum white space broadband access and local WI-FI networks as a way to serve wireless access in a community.  If you want to make sure that your library continues to serve your community to the best of its ability, it makes sense to learn more. (Broadband access in individual Minnesota libraries is not the same!)…

“Libraries and Broadband:  Urgency and Impact”

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced today that it is holding a public hearing, “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact,” to examine the need for high-speed broadband in America’s libraries. The hearing will take place on April 17, 2014 from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. [I assume that’s EST time.] at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. The hearing will be webcast. Details about accessing the webcast will be announced shortly.

[Here are the details as provided by the ALA Washington Office Blog: Alternatively, participants can also tune into event virtually, as IMLS will stream the hearing live on YouTube or Google+. Library staff may also participate by submitting written comments sharing their successes, challenges or other input related to library broadband access and use into the hearing record on or before April 24, 2014.]

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is charged with advising the President and Congress about the library, museum, and information service needs of the American public. The agency is conducting this public hearing to establish a public record on the need for and impact of high-speed broadband connectivity in America’s libraries.

IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth will chair the hearing along with members of the National Museum Services Board including, Christie Pearson Brandau of Iowa, Charles Benton of Illinois, Winston Tabb of Maryland, and Carla Hayden also of Maryland.

Hildreth remarked, “This is an opportunity to showcase ideas for streamlining and increasing the efficiency of the E-rate program. We want to hear about how high-speed connections in libraries coupled with library-developed programs and services can be a catalyst for learning and community and economic development.”

The hearing will consist of three panels:

  • The Vision: What happens when we get it right? This panel will explore innovative practices and partnerships as well as potential solutions that can serve individuals and communities well.
  • The Data: This panel will explore what we know about broadband connections and services in America’s libraries. What are the metrics that we need to assess whether sufficient connectivity is in place? What are the metrics that can be used to assess success?
  • The Stakes: What’s at risk? This panel will explore what is at risk when libraries lack sufficient connectivity.

Submit comments to comments@imls.gov. Comments received by May 1, 2014 will be included in the record. Each comment must include the author’s name and organizational affiliation, if any.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 15, 2014

Governor Dayton supports broadband development fund

According to the Post Bulletin

Gov. Mark Dayton said he has been convinced it is important to fund the initiative this year.

Broadband supporters want lawmakers to allocate $100 million toward helping expanding high-speed internet into rural parts of the state. Dayton did not include funding for the program in his budget and had originally raised concerns about the plan having a lack of specifics. But he told reporters he supports including some level of funding for broadband this year.

He seems to advocate a slower start to a potentially longer running program…

Dayton did not say what level of funding he would support for broadband, but it would be less than the $100 million supporters want. Instead, he said he supports providing enough money to get the grant program started. If it proves to an effective strategy for increasing access to high-speed internet, then advocates can point to those results and come back next year for additional dollars.

“They need to start modestly and then prove the effectiveness of what they are doing,” he said.

The House passed a budget that would mean $25 million for the broadband development fund; the Senate has not touched it in weeks – leaving it out in the cold for now. Although there has been lobbying to support a fund and now that the Governor is on board perhaps they’ll take it up again.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 15, 2014

Net Neutrality: What it means to a Minnesota business

Minnesota-based, successful business owner Tom Salonek had a letter in Minneapolis Star Tribune on his perspective on Net Neutrality – spoiler alert, he’s for it. I think he does a good job outlining the impact of Net Neutrality and explaining why it’s important to small and midsized businesses.

He describes Net Neutrality…

Net neutrality is akin to our current roadway system, where everyone has access to the same roads and speed limits, with the exception of the occasional toll road. Now imagine a different system in which the only free route goes down winding back country roads, has detours and a speed limit of 45 mph. A direct route for this same trip using the freeway system and a speed limit of 70 mph is available — but only for a significant fee.

Frames it from the business perspective…

The problem with a closed Internet is glaringly clear for the millions of small and medium-sized businesses around the world: they will be at a technical disadvantage when competing with larger organizations that have deeper pockets.

And lest you conclude that my argument sounds like sour grapes from a small-business owner, please remember that the equal playing field of the Internet created the sites most people use today, like Google and Facebook.

This is why the FCC must prevail in enforcing open Internet rules.

Outlines the FCC’s perspective…

Specifically, the FCC rules are based on three principles:

Transparency: Broadband providers must disclose information regarding their network management practices, performance, and the commercial terms of their broadband services;

No blocking: Fixed broadband providers (such as DSL, cable modem or fixed wireless providers) may not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices. Mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services;

No unreasonable discrimination: Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service. The no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination rules are subject to limited exceptions for “reasonable network management.”

 

Bill_ColemanI was honored to present the final keynote presentation at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin TX last week.  My session was part of the Rural Telecommunications Congress track.  My presentation highlighted some of the great community and organizational projects developed with the support of the Blandin Foundation.  Using the Intelligent Community elements as the framework, I highlighted about 20 projects out of the more than 200 projects funded over the past several years.  As the final presentation at the end of a long conference I was a bit nervous about speaking to an empty room.  I promised those who stayed a unique bonus at the end of my presentation! 

For the last several years, the Rural Telecommunications Congress has co-located their annual event with the Summit.

The following are some fun facts and points of view that I thought were interesting.

Michael Render is a researcher who tracks the impact of fiber connectivity on real estate values and telecom provider revenues.  He noted the following statistics:

  • The average revenue per customer (ARPU) for broadband providers is $150 for those connected by fiber; copper-based customers pay less than $100 monthly with fewer and less premium services available.
  • Home buyers were willing to pay $5,337 more for a house connected by fiber; for those whose existing house is connected by fiber, they are willing to pay even more ($6,500) to ensure that their next home is fiber connected.
  • Apartment renters are willing to pay $150 per month more for fiber connectivity.
  • Rural Counties with broadband have higher average incomes
  • 85% of relocating businesses say that fiber is very imp or important in their location search.  Connectivity ranked fifth in importance of many factors.  Workforce occupied several of the higher-ranking factors (skills, availability, price).
  • 11% of FTTH residents have home businesses; they say that FTTH enables $10,000 more in annual income
  • There are 65 new jobs created per 1,000 passing FTTH
  • Where FTTH previously brought “early adopter” community status, the community without is increasingly seen as a laggard.

Joanne Hovis of CTC Technology and Energy discussed the incremental approach to a community-wide FTTH approach.  Joanne notes that any community with significant public sector facilities – schools, libraries, city and county government and/or health care providers can make a sound business case for fiber investment that will turn a scarce bandwidth scenario into one of abundance – moving organizations from 1.5 Mbps T1’s and 10 Mbps connections into 100 Mbps and Gbps connections.

The locally-owned network can then be incrementally extended to businesses in the downtown area or business park, before tackling the residential market.

Todd McDaniel of College Station, TX used this approach in a slightly different way.  They extended the assets of the Texas A&M network to create an open access network over which private sector providers compete for the community’s public sector and business customers.  He noted the importance of fiber connectivity for business site selections.

Throughout the conference, other speakers noted that the enhanced levels of broadband competition will bring price and service benefits to the community’s businesses whether they are customers of the community network or remain with the incumbent providers.  They also noted that virtually all RFPs from site selectors now have questions regarding fiber and/or broadband connectivity.

Craig Settles put forth an interesting point about the importance of who leads community broadband initiatives.  He argues that the local economic development organization should be at the forefront rather than IT people (too technical) or elected officials (too political).  Economic development officials can argue on the basis of community need rather than a specific technology solution.  He believes that a community commitment to connectivity can be successfully marketed as a commitment to the future.  He recommends economic developers find a tech geek mentor to increase leadership understanding of tech choices.

This is a short summary of just some of the good speakers at this event.

Over the weekend, the Bemidji Pioneer ran a letter from Mayor Bruce Ahlgren from Cloquet and Mayor Tom Stiehm from Austin imploring the Senate and Governor Dayton to promote and support the broadband development bill…

The members of the House have already shown their commitment to Greater Minnesota by addressing our most pressing needs, broadband expansion and local government aid (LGA), in their omnibus budget bill. Now it is time for the Senate and governor to step up and be leaders on these important issues.

A lack of adequate broadband coverage is the most critical economic development issue facing Minnesota’s rural communities. Currently, only one-third of Greater Minnesota has the same high-quality broadband coverage available to more than 90 percent of metro-area households (according to data provided by ConnectMN). This puts our communities at a tremendous disadvantage.

The House recognizes that the broadband disparity must be addressed immediately, before business owners, students and residents in Greater Minnesota fall further behind their urban counterparts. As a result, it voted to include funding for a state broadband infrastructure fund in its budget this year.

Senate leadership has been frustratingly silent on broadband. By failing to act, the Senate is effectively agreeing that the disparity between Greater Minnesota and the metro area should continue.

While the governor recently acknowledged his willingness to support funding for broadband this session, Greater Minnesota needs him to take more than an ambiguous stance. He should assert his leadership by sending a strong message to the Legislature that it needs to pass $100 million in funding for broadband, the amount recommended by his own Broadband Task Force.

Just over a week ago, the Blandin Foundation hosted a discussion on the broadband development bill. They discussed the bill in detail, including information on which communities might be best supported by such a bill.

GCN recently wrote about efforts to deploy the US Digital Government Strategy and Open Data Policy…

Announced March 19, the program – named after GSA’s headquarters at 18th and F streets in Washington, D.C. – has gathered a team of 15 public- and private-sector digital technologists to create and release new software tools to support a range of public, commercial and government applications.

More than 20 open source code repositories generated by 18F are now available at github.com/18F. FBOpen is one of them. It’s an open API server, which offers data import tools and sample apps to help small businesses search for opportunities to work with the U.S. government,. The developers with the 18F program are taking data from the Federal Business Opportunities’ website, FBO.gov, and wrapping it in an open API server, and making the data searchable with a simple query. 18F also built a representational state transfer (REST) API for users to build their own query tools.

The result is source code that can be downloaded, updated and improved. It provides new functionality for small businesses that had difficulty finding this information before.

The explanations quickly get pretty geeky – if you like geeky, check out the article – or check out the GitHub site. Even if you don’t do geeky, I think it’s exciting at a high level. In short, the government is making more data available in more usable formats. By usable I mean something akin to machine language more than something your average citizen could pick up and use. It creates an opportunity for businesses and social entrepreneurs to use that machine-friendly data to create applications and tools that regular citizens can use.

red hot hackIf you’re interested in how this works or interested in being a part of the work, I suggest you try to attend a local hack event. At hack events, groups gather to talk about and/or implement ways that open data turns into useful tools. Planning has begun for Hack for Minnesota, but the planning is early. I’d also promote the Red Hot Hack – a hack event in Red Wing at the end of April. They are encouraging civic hackers and entrepreneurs to attend – as well as folks who interested in working with hackers. The event is free – I’m planning to attend and I’m always hoping to learn more!

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