News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog
Potential Funding for Broadband
For communities interested in expanding broadband, there are at several potential pots of funding on the brew:
- There has been a push in the Minnesota Legislature to request $100 million for broadband deployment. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Bm This is based in part on recommendations from the 2014 Minnesota Broadband Task Force report. Time will tell if the proposal passes.
- The Blandin Foundation has a number of grant opportunities for rural Minnesota communities looking to expand broadband. Learn more on the free webinar on March 13. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Bv The next deadline for applications is April 4.
- The FCC is looking to expand the Connect America Fund (CAF). Details will be revealed later this spring but it’s not too early to show an interest. http://wp.me/p3if7-2zz Several events have been planned to discuss the initiative, including a webinar from Connect MN http://wp.me/p3if7-2Au and an upcoming free webinar from the FCC on March 19. http://wp.me/p3if7-2By
- The FCC is also looking at investing an additional $2 billion over the next two years to support broadband networks in US schools and libraries. http://wp.me/p3if7-2zi
- The US Department of Commerce is offering grants to support the implementation of regional economic development strategies. The deadline is March 14, 014. http://wp.me/p3if7-2zL
Highlights from the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Conference
The Border to Border Broadband: A Call to Action conference was well attended by community leaders, broadband promoters and policymakers. http://wp.me/p3if7-2zq Here are a few of the highlights:
Broadband Policy Discussions
A big topic of discussion at the Minnesota Legislature is the proposed $100 million for broadband deployment. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Bm Also there is a push from industry and the Minnesota High Tech Association to reinstate a sales tax exemption on telecommunications equipment. http://wp.me/p3if7-2AS A bill has been proposed to require smartphones to have a kill switch. So if lost or stolen they could be shut off and rendered useless remotely. http://wp.me/p3if7-2AY For information on federal policies, especially those impacting telecommunications companies, check out advice shared by premier telecom lawyer Jim Baller. http://wp.me/p3if7-2zU
Local Broadband News
A Bemidji State University-led consortium wins a $500,000 grant from the USDA to expand distance learning and telemedicine opportunities for rural northern Minnesota residents. http://wp.me/p3if7-2zX
Dakota County shares an example of a broadband RFP (Request for Proposal) to investigate broadband development options; included is a list of deliverables. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Ax
Consumers on the Iron Range call broadband a utility adding, “Even if people can afford high-speed internet, they can’t actually buy it.” http://wp.me/p3if7-2BD
Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods, a Blandin Broadband Community, is working on a number of broadband projects, including technology upgrades in the library and online business training for local establishments. http://wp.me/p3if7-2A8
A new app is developed in Minnesota that helps community members connect to each other. http://wp.me/p3if7-2As
Discussion on the E-Democracy St Paul Issues Forum bemoans the fact that Minnesota/St Paul does not make the list of communities Google is considering as next market locations. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Ba For any community wondering what it takes to make the list, Google provides a checklist. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Bz
The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group, a Blandin Broadband Community, is working on a number of projects including iPads in the hospitals and social media training for local businesses. http://wp.me/p3if7-2A6
ProtectMyRep is a new website that helps kids learn how and why to take control of their online reputation. It was created by a program at the University of St Thomas. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Bi
Minnesota-based Target is looking to Pinterest to increase online marketing efforts. http://wp.me/p3if7-2A0
Minnesota Telecom Alliance Annual Conference http://wp.me/p3if7-2xI
US ~ Russia Innovation Conference (St. Paul, MN) http://wp.me/p3if7-2Ao
Deadline for Blandin Broadband Grants http://broadband.blandinfoundation.org/programs/
East Central Minnesota Regional Broadband Conference (Hinckley, MN) http://wp.me/p3if7-2AV
Red Hot Hack (Red Wing, MN) http://www.redwingignite.org/
Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)
Stirring the Pot
By Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors
The Minnesota broadband policy pot is beginning to simmer and will soon be at a boil. For the first time, we have the following in place at one time: an Office of Broadband Development, aggressive state task force funding recommendations, a team of legislative champions, and proposed broadband funding, with a state budget surplus!
At the federal level, the FCC is seeking innovative solutions to rural broadband deployment through its proposed experimental program.
With all this positive energy, community leaders might think that they can just sit back and watch fiber deployment happen across their piece of rural Minnesota. That is wrong, wrong, wrong!
On the legislative side, constituents need to let their senators and representatives know that broadband funding is a HIGH priority. Monitoring the various and understanding how various amendments might affect the final outcome of the legislation is a critical and constant task. There are many competing demands for the available surplus supported by well-organized stakeholder groups. If Internet Service Providers and community broadband advocates cannot get on the same page, legislators might support initiatives where there is more consensus.
At the legislature and at the FCC, there seems to be a “solve this problem one place at a time” mindset. It does not appear that there will be a “top-down, one size fits all” solution. This approach bodes well for the well prepared – for those communities/counties/regions with public-private partnerships or public sector strategies in process, for those who are committed to add their own funds to supplement the FCC or state dollars, for those with “shovel-ready” projects. Can you include your area in that readiness category? With 500,000 unserved Minnesota households, appropriated funds fall short of need.
My advice: don’t sit and wait for someone else to deliver a solution. Follow the successful path of those communities whose federally funded stimulus fiber networks are almost now complete; they were prepared when that funding became available. Put your community at the front of the line with aggressive planning and partnering now so that you can adjust your plans to fit whatever programs and dollars emerge over the next several months.