I want to thank METN for sharing their talking points for policymakers (2015) with me. It’s an instructive sheet on what’s going on with technology in the schools today. But also it’s a great example of how to provide information to legislators. It’s brief with easy statistics and it tells the stories of how the issue impacts constituents. Policymakers are expected to have a huge breadth of knowledge and generally are pretty quick studies. Technology is difficult for many people who aren’t steeped in it daily so the details can bog someone down but I think it’s very easy to understand and appreciate the services they have described – the services that require continued funding.

BROADBAND TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACCESS FOR SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES

Minnesota schools and public libraries receive state support to help pay for the cost of high speed Internet access that remains after federal E-rate discounts have been applied. The annual appropriation for public schools is $3.75 million. For public libraries, it is $2.3 million. Currently the proration of funding is 43% as requests are over $9 million for K12 schools. To fully support school broadband needs an increase of $6 million a year for a total of $9.75 million for telecommunications/internet access equity aid is necessary to support school district connectivity.

Internet access is mission critical for schools and public libraries. Digital content, increasingly accessed over mobile devices, requires higher levels of bandwidth. Schools use the Internet in their daily operations for student instruction, food service, communications, transportation, accounting, and procurement. Public libraries need Internet access to manage collections, provide access to digital materials and research capabilities, and serve as public Internet access centers.

Use of mobile devices in schools and libraries has exploded over the past few years. This dramatic increase has severely taxed the capacities of both wireless servers and bandwidth.  Minnesota schools and public libraries need to greatly expand the broadband networks serving their institutions in order to keep up with demands for access that delivers online educational content, communication, and library resources.

Broadband access is critical to schools and libraries in order to provide the following services:

  1. Citizens without high speed Internet access at home or who lack proficient computer skills visit their public library and use the computers to communicate, file for government services, search for employment, research special topics, and conduct personal business. Families with dial-up or low-bandwidth connections use public library Internet for projects and software that require higher bandwidth. Citizens with wireless devices sync up with the public library wireless whenever they are in the building to place and respond to ongoing calls and messages.
  2. Schools are increasingly creating and using digital learning resources instead of purchasing traditional textbooks. Schools are also expanding networks to allow for students to bring their own Internet enabled devices for educational purposes and are using more school-owned tablet devices in classrooms. These conditions are causing a steady increase in the amount of bandwidth needed by schools. Students also use school-owned tablets or their own mobile devices at the public library to access educational resources and complete homework after school, in the evenings and on the weekends.
  3. Students access distance-learning opportunities from post-secondary education institutions, other Minnesota K-12 schools, and online learning programs. Broadband connections are used to provide post-secondary, advanced placement, and foreign language classes which otherwise are unavailable to rural students.
  4. Public library customers use online systems (MNLINK) to access books and materials through interlibrary loan, effectively making all the resources of all Minnesota libraries available to customers statewide.
  5. Institutions such as museums, historical societies, zoos, and other centers of culture provide interactive learning opportunities to students through “field trips” using broadband connections and videoconferencing. These experiences provide 21st century learning opportunities to students in rural areas who might otherwise miss out because of the high costs of long-distance visits. Hearing a Holocaust survivor’s first hand story or getting a lesson from a professional musician and even watching a live knee replacement surgery are all available to students through broadband access.
  6. Citizens interested in computer-related technologies depend on public libraries to provide education and training on a variety of tools and applications such as videoconferencing, web cams, GPS systems, digital cameras, presentation tools, and electronic reading devices, smartphones and tablets.
  7. Parents use school districts’ broadband connections to access information from district databases on their child’s educational progress and achievement, manage lunch accounts, and participate in the school community.
  8. Schools use broadband and cloud services to conduct their daily business using cloud-based classroom documents and communication tools. Schools are increasingly looking to web-based applications to manage finances, report required data to the state and federal government, and connect with the local community.
  9. Students in school library media centers and citizens in public libraries use resources found in the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM), and thousands of e-books, including electronic textbooks, through NetLibrary, the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum, and other sources. Public libraries provide access to downloadable audiobooks and ebooks, as well as electronic magazines, from remote locations to customer devices.
  10. Internet-based audio and videoconferencing technology is used to connect educators, librarians and peers across the globe. Students, teachers, librarians and administrators use broadband access to collaborate on curriculum development and library applications, conduct meetings, participate in professional development, and access information beyond the geographic and resource limitations of their communities.
Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 28, 2015

Next Minnesota Broadband Task Force is September 10

The next Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting is Thursday September 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at DEED’s offices (James J. Hill Conference Room) in the 1st National Bank Building at 332 Minnesota Street in downtown St. Paul.

The full agenda isn’t out yet. I will plan to attend and take notes as usual. I suspect they will start  digging into the reports that are due at the end of the year.

I have heard that they will be discussing speed goals and will schedule time for a public comment period on what speed goals  other entities/individuals believe should be adopted as the goals in Minnesota Statutes at 237.012 expire in 2015.

If you or your organization has an interest or ideas for what broadband speed goals should be considered, know of this opportunity to address the Task Force. The public comment period will be scheduled during the afternoon portion of the meeting.

Hot off the presses from the FCC

CenturyLink Accepts Nearly $506 Million in Annual Support from Connect America Fund to Expand and Support Broadband for Over 2.3 Million Consumers in 33 States

WASHINGTON, August 27, 2015 – CenturyLink, Inc. has accepted $505,703,762 in annual, ongoing support from the Connect America Fund to expand and support broadband for over 2.3 million of its rural customers.

The Connect America Fund support will enable CenturyLink to deliver broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps uploads to nearly 1.2 million homes and businesses in its rural service areas where the cost of broadband deployment might otherwise be prohibitive. “CenturyLink’s acceptance of over one-half billion dollars from the Connect America Fund represents a huge investment in broadband for its rural customers,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “This is the largest amount accepted by any company to date – and the opportunities that modern broadband will provide for the rural communities CenturyLink serves are priceless.”

Below is the amount of annual support provided by the offer and number of homes and businesses served by state:
[Ann’s note I’m only going to include the portion that includes Minnesota; you can see the full table on the original press release.]

centurylink CAF

Like telephone service in the 20th Century, broadband has become essential to life in the 21st Century. But, according to the FCC’s latest Broadband Progress Report, nearly one in three rural
Americans lack access to 10/1 broadband, compared to only one in 100 urban Americans. The Connect America Fund is designed to close that rural-urban digital divide.
The FCC’s traditional universal service program succeeded in ensuring telephone network coverage in rural America by providing subsidies where the cost of service would otherwise be prohibitive. In late 2011, the FCC modernized the program to support networks capable of providing broadband and voice services, and created the Connect America Fund to efficiently and effectively administer that support to expand broadband in rural areas where market forces alone can’t support expansion.

Over the next six years, Phase II of Connect America will provide more than $10 billion to expand broadband-capable networks throughout rural America nationwide, all without increasing the cost of the program to ratepayers. Overall, the FCC’s Universal Service Fund allocates $4.5 billion annually through various universal service programs for high-cost areas to support voice and broadband-capable
networks in rural America.

Carriers receiving Connect America Fund support must build out broadband to 40 percent of funded locations by the end 2017, 60 percent by the end of 2018, 80 percent by the end of 2019,
and 100 percent by the end of 2020.

Yesterday morning as I slept, my broadband connection was upgraded. I feel bad even reporting on that knowing that so many readers are stuck in places where nothing is getting upgraded despite the best efforts of locals but here’s the scoop from MinnPost

What happened?

Around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, quite a few of us got a free upgrade. Comcast, the largest cable provider in the metro area, doubled the speeds for each tier of its service. The most popular broadband choice, formerly in the 25-­35 mega­bit (mb) range is now delivering a minimum of 50.

What does that mean? (Interesting commentary on perceived bottleneck for many users)

Emmett Coleman, Comcast’s VP for External Affairs (and brother to Mayor Chris and ex­Star Tribune columnist Nick), concedes that most of his company’s customers will barely notice the upgrade, and most of that will be the experience of what they don’t see, namely sluggishness when every member of the family is pulling a signal from the same router.

Why did they do it?

The upgrade comes, of course, ​amid a giga­bit war that includes Comcast, CenturyLink and US Internet here in the greater metro.​ (Because of some old agreements, Comcast still provides service to places like Hudson, River Falls, New Ulm and New Prague.) Each company is aggressively upgrading to 1 gig service, via existing wiring, to residences as well as full, fiber-­to-­the-­home 2 gig service and even higher speeds … at even higher prices, not all of which have been made official.

For folks in the Twin Cities, the article provides some instructions to reboot equipment to make sure the upgrade happens at your home. For everyone it’s a little glimpse at the power of competition.

A little bit off my beaten path – but I wanted to help spread the word and I figured some regular readers may be in a position to share this info with folks who may have been TerraCom customers in 2013…

Investigation found that the company failed to protect consumers’ personal information
SAINT PAUL – The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Minnesota Department of Commerce are alerting Minnesota customers of TerraCom Inc’s Lifeline phone service that they may be eligible for one year of free credit monitoring due to a data breach at the company.
In 2013, a national news story reported that personal information for some of TerraCom’s customers could be accessed through the Internet. In response, the Public Utilities Commission and Commerce Department initiated an investigation into the data breach and TerraCom’s handling of customer information. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated a similar investigation at the national level.
At the time, TerraCom had more than 2,400 wireless phone customers in Minnesota affected by the breach. TerraCom serves Minnesotans through the federal Lifeline program, which provides discounted phone service to eligible low-income consumers.
The FCC investigation found that TerraCom’s vendor stored customers’ personal information on unprotected servers that were accessible over the Internet. This included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdates and other sensitive information.
The FCC recently reached a $3.5 million settlement with TerraCom and a related company. As a condition of the settlement, TerraCom is required to develop and implement a data security compliance plan to protect customer information. In addition, the company must notify all customers whose information was subject to unauthorized access and offer them free credit monitoring services for one year.
“These corrective actions required of TerraCom should send a strong message to the company and the entire industry that the private data of their customers is to be vigorously protected,” said Beverly Jones Heydinger, Chair of the Commission.
“All telephone companies have a responsibility to safeguard their customers’ personal information, particularly with the duty and increasing need to protect against cybersecurity attacks,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “It’s important that TerraCom’s customers know they may be eligible for this free credit monitoring to protect against identity theft.”
The Commission and the Commerce Department are concerned that some of TerraCom’s Minnesota customers may not receive the company’s notification because of address changes or other reasons.
Consumers who were enrolled with TerraCom’s Lifeline service in 2013 and believe they may be eligible for the free credit monitoring should contact TerraCom at 877-351-4747.
The Commission’s Consumer Affairs Office can be reached by email at consumer.puc@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782. The Commerce Department’s Telecommunications Division can be reached by email at telecom.commerce@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1883.

farmHere’s the headline from a recently released USDA report

Seventy percent of U.S. farms and ranches now have access to internet, a 3 percent growth from 2013, according to the Computer Usage and Ownership report, released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

I’ll post the full press release below. First here’s the Minnesota focus:

Minnesota stats

  • 78 percent of farms in Minnesota reported having a computer
  • 75 percent have Internet access

Type of access in Minnesota

  • 2 percent have dialup
  • 28 percent have DSL
  • 11 percent have cable
  • 16 percent have satellite
  • 37 percent have wireless
  • 6 percent have other or unknown access

It’s always nice to get a report on how things are going and they’ve been doing this survey for a while so nice to see the growth but I think it’s time to ask new questions. There isn’t a quick definition of “Internet access” but when dialup is added to the mix and FTTH gets lumped in with the “unknown access” I don’t even have to ask. Even more telling is the section on what farmers are doing with Internet access. They drill down into what sort of websites the farm might access (USDA reports or conduct business with non-ag website) but there’s nothing about precision agriculture, remote monitoring or tracing produce/livestock.

Again, it’s useful to see the growth – but the utility is limited by the questions they ask. A policymaker reading this report wouldn’t get a glimpse at what’s happening on farms today and my fear is that decisions might be made based on the need and use of technology on the farms circa 1997 – when the Ag Survey started asking about computers. Back then the Internet gave a farmer a competitive advantage – the message I’ve been hearing is that not only is technology a necessity but better broadband is required to keep up with the data demands of precision ag and government reporting. Maybe we need to start asking about those things.

Here’s the full press release on the latest report…

USDA Report Shows Increasing Internet Access on U.S. Farms

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2015 – Seventy percent of U.S. farms and ranches now have access to internet, a 3 percent growth from 2013, according to the Computer Usage and Ownership report, released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), remained the most popular method for accessing internet, accounting for 30 percent of all farms and ranches with internet access. Despite remaining in the lead, however, the DSL access is down 5 percent, from the 35 percent of farms that used this method in 2013.

In contrast, wireless connection, which accounts for 29 percent, and satellite connection, which accounts for 21 percent of the U.S. total, showed significant growth in the past two years. Share of farms using these two methods went up 5 and 4 percent respectively.

According to the report, 43 percent of U.S. farms use computers for their business operations. Crop growers, at 47 percent, are more likely than livestock producers to use computers for business. In the livestock sector, 39 percent of producers use computers for business.

Farmers’ and ranchers’ business computer uses include:

  • 44 percent – Conducting business with a non-agricultural website
  • 44 percent – Accessing federal government websites
  • 19 percent – Purchasing agricultural inputs
  • 16 percent – Marketing activities

Farmers in the Western states are most likely to use computers for business. In that region, 48 percent of all farms use computers for that purpose. Western region was closely followed by the North Central and Northeast states, where 46 and 45 percent of all farms followed this practice. Southern states have the lowest percentage in this category. In that region 36 percent of all farms use internet to conduct business.

The Computer Usage and Ownership report is published biennially and is available online at www.nass.usda.gov

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 24, 2015

Save the Date! 2015 Broadband Conference

I’m very excited to share the following announcement…

Save the Date! Border to Border Broadband: Better Together
November 18-20, 2015
Minneapolis Marriott West
#mnbroadband

The Blandin Foundation and the Office of Broadband Development are pleased to invite you to save the date for the 2015 Border to Border Broadband conference. This year’s conference theme, Better Together, reflects the reality that it takes all of us to continue building the statewide momentum needed to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to broadband – the indispensable infrastructure at the heart of rural community vitality.
We are working out the details so look for more information in the coming weeks. For now, visit the conference webpage to view the preliminary agenda, and know that our aim is to create a conference experience that will inspire, equip and connect us all to be Better Together!

Be part of the conversation. Connect. Learn. Recharge.

2015 big conference logo

According to the St Cloud Times

The Blandin Foundation is giving $35,000 to the Sherburne County Broadband Coalition, part of $315,000 in 30 grants the group announced this week.

Brian Kamman, county information technology director, said $10,000 will fund improvements to the network at the Sherburne History Center. The building in Becker hosts outreach efforts for veterans, health and human services clients, and history enthusiasts. Kamman said with better wired and Wi-Fi connections, the facility will become much more usable for the community.

Internet service has been so poor it interfered with government services, according to Dan Weber, assistant administrator and economic development specialist for Sherburne County. Kamman said the new network will include private connectivity for county business in addition to public connections.

The other $25,000 from Blandin will fund a broadband feasibility study, which Weber said the county hopes to start within the next couple weeks and complete by 2016. He said work by Compass Consultants Inc. of Perham will inform the county of best methods for improving Internet infrastructure in communities along U.S. highways 10 and 169.

ConnectHome is an effort to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. It’s a new effort and they are looking for someone to head up the program. I mention it both as an excuse to mention the program and because there may be a good fit from Minnesota. And if someone from Minnesota gets the job maybe some communities in Minnesota could be added to their roster.

Here’s more info on ConnectHome

Building on the Obama Administration’s goal to expand high speed broadband to all Americans, today, President Obama and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced, ConnectHome, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Through ConnectHome, Internet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation. …

Albany, GA; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Baton Rouge, LA; Boston, MA; Camden, NJ; Choctaw Nation, OK; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Durham, NC; Fresno, CA; Kansas City, MO; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; Macon, GA; Memphis, TN; Meriden, CT; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Rockford, IL; San Antonio, TX; Seattle, WA; Springfield, MA; Tampa, FL; and Washington, DC. …

HUD, is collaborating with EveryoneOn and US Ignite who worked with private- and public-sector leaders to build local partnerships and gather commitments that will increase access to the Internet for low-income Americans.  These partnerships will bring broadband, technical assistance, and digital literacy training to students living in public and assisted housing across America. …

Eight nationwide Internet Service Providers including; Google Fiber, Cherokee Communications, Pine Telephone, Suddenlink Communications, Vyve Broadband, CenturyLink, Cox Communications and Sprint have announced they are partnering with mayors, public housing authorities, non-profit groups, and for-profit entities to bridge the gap in digital access for students living in assisted housing units.

Skills training is essential to effectively taking advantage of all the Internet offers.  HUD is collaborating with Best Buy, The James M. Cox Foundation, a Cox Communications-affiliated Foundation, GitHub, College Board, in partnership with Khan Academy, 80/20 Foundation, Age of Learning, Inc., The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), The American Library Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Durant Independent School District to offer new technical training and digital literacy programs for residents in assisted housing units.

HUD is also taking major steps to provide communities across the nation tools to improve digital opportunity for its residents. Today, Secretary Castro announced that HUD will:

  • Begin rulemaking that requires HUD-funded new residential construction and substantial rehabilitation projects to support broadband internet connectivity.

  • Provide communities with the flexibility to spend portions of their Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grants on local broadband initiatives and associated connectivity enhancements, including approximately $150 million dedicated to the current competition.

  • Begin rulemaking to include broadband planning as a component of the Consolidated Planning process, which serves as a framework for a community-wide dialogue to identify housing and municipal development priorities.

  • Supply guidance and share best practices with HUD-funded grantees on how to more effectively utilize HUD funding to support broadband connectivity.

  • Integrate digital literacy programming and access to technology into related initiatives.

And information on the position

As a Neighborhood and Community Investment Specialist , you will:

  • Oversee the public private partnerships, which includes establishing and maintaining realistic development timelines, providing financial underwriting assistance, negotiating with all parties involved to structure projects, and providing proactive services;

  • Communicate and meet with PHA residents, assisted residents and community members and stakeholders, public private and non profit development entities, foundations and philanthropic organizations, and high level officials from state and local governments, the PHA, multifamily owners, and other federal agencies;

  • Represent OPHI on projects and activities, financial issues and other development issues to other HUD offices, other federal agencies and the public.

NetGain is asking everyone for their ideas and concerns about our digital future. It seems like a spinoff of crowdsourcing with some big backers and some filtering. The big backers include the Knight, MacArthur, Open Society, Mozilla, and Ford Foundations. They aren’t promising funding or prizes but it sure seems like a good thing for them to like your idea. Here’s their proposal or request

What is the NetGain Challenge?

The NetGain Challenge is an opportunity for you to help us identify the biggest challenges of our digital future.

We want you to think big, to surprise us and provoke us, to push us to think in new ways about the challenges and the opportunities.

There is no prize, no promise of funding – we are simply asking you to help us think more strategically about the road ahead.

Participate in the NetGain Challenge

Give us your best analysis, in 1000 characters or less, of the biggest challenges that lay ahead of us.

How can technology make democracies more participatory and responsive? How will we connect the entire world’s population to the Internet and make sure the benefits of information technology are broadly shared? How will we archive all information and make this knowledge accessible? How can we encourage more technologists to make public interest work part of their career path?

We want you to think big.

Submit your challenge by clicking the orange button to the right and help us focus on the most significant challenges of our digital future. We are looking for ideas from across the globe. We will be reviewing submissions twice a day for at least the next six months, and we will update this website in the coming months as this new donor collaboration evolves. Thank you!

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 21, 2015

Minnesota is Fastest-Growing State For Tech Jobs

According to Forbes Magazine Minnesota is the Fastest-Growing State For Tech Jobs

Why is Minnesota No. 1? Headquarters for big corporations like UnitedHealth Group UNH -1.85%, General Mills, 3M, U.S. Bankcorp, and Target, it’s also known as “Medical Alley,” because it’s home to device companies like Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific. All of those firms hire armies of tech workers. It also has an impressive number of fast-growing technology-specific companies like enterprise cloud software maker Code 42, supply chain management software firm SPS Commerce and JAMF Software, a firm that helps companies install and manage their Apple products. Earlier this month JAMF reportedly reached a deal with IBM to integrate Apple into IBM’s cloud technology systems.

All told, those companies have been in tech hiring mode for the last six months, landing Minnesota at the top of the ranking, released by Dice.com, a 24-year-old website based in Santa Clara, CA. Dice is a leading site for technology job postings. This is the fourth year Dice has put out the list. It culls its information from Bureau of Labor Statistics data that covers hiring in the fields of computer systems design and related services over the last six months, ranking states according to employment growth rate percentages.

Why is Minnesota No. 1? Headquarters for big corporations like UnitedHealth Group UNH -1.85%, General Mills, 3M, U.S. Bankcorp, and Target, it’s also known as “Medical Alley,” because it’s home to device companies like Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific. All of those firms hire armies of tech workers. It also has an impressive number of fast-growing technology-specific companies like enterprise cloud software maker Code 42, supply chain management software firm SPS Commerce and JAMF Software, a firm that helps companies install and manage their Apple products. Earlier this month JAMF reportedly reached a deal with IBM to integrate Apple into IBM’s cloud technology systems.

All told, those companies have been in tech hiring mode for the last six months, landing Minnesota at the top of the ranking, released by Dice.com, a 24-year-old website based in Santa Clara, CA. Dice is a leading site for technology job postings. This is the fourth year Dice has put out the list. It culls its information from Bureau of Labor Statistics data that covers hiring in the fields of computer systems design and related services over the last six months, ranking states according to employment growth rate percentages.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 21, 2015

Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grants

The Bush Foundation distributes grants to communities with innovative ideas. Eligible organizations can apply for grants between $10,000 and $200,000. The application deadline is Thursday, November 5 at noon Central. Applications open September 8.

Here’s their take..

Our Community Innovation programs are meant to be in your corner – to inspire and support you in creating innovative solutions to challenges in your community. Seek funding to do the work of creating an innovative solution through our Community Innovation Grants or get the recognition you deserve for your track record of innovative solutions with the Bush Prize for Community Innovation. Think bigger, think differently. Together we can break through our toughest problems.  (Learn more.)

It seems like a great opportunity to expand broadband use and innovation. Good luck!

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 20, 2015

Open Data + Agriculture + Youth = great ingredients for a Hack

USDA recently posted a story on a “first of its kind” camp for teens in DC to work with agriculture related open data to create cool apps. In the last few months I have seen agriculture, especially precision ag (which is almost like saying color TV) get more attention. It’s getting attention because it requires more broadband that most rural areas have. And because since the bird flu scare tracing food products has become a top priority and precision ag is key to the solution. (Better tracking/tracing products is just one reason farmers need better broadband.)

Also I was struck at Farmfest by the discussion related to agriculture education. Precision ag requires a tremendous amount of tech skills. One way to build ag/IT skills is to get students who are likely to consider farming interested in technology. Another way is to introduce kids who are interested in technology to the opportunities in precision ag. An app camp or heckfast is a perfect opportunity. It’s also a good opportunity for kids (and adults) to learn about how open data can be manipulated to create tools and information that can help us improve on how we do things.

Here are a list of the open data sets with links to the apps they created…

This special camp is the first of its kind in the United States specifically focused on Open Data and Agriculture. The participants delivered presentations based on the following data sets:

1) Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-consumption-and-nutrient-intakes.aspx

2) Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/price-spreads-from-farm-to-consumer.aspx

3) Food Environment Atlas

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-environment-atlas/.aspx

4) US Bioenergy Statistics

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/us-bioenergy-statistics.aspx

5) Major Land Uses

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/major-land-uses.aspx

6) Super Tracker and Other Tools

http://catalog.data.gov/dataset/meat-poultry-and-egg-inspection-directory-by-establishment-name/resource/9d2d9f2b-f46c-4dd5-9621-8429cbead22f

7) FoodKeeper

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/usda-foodkeeper/id978186100?mt=8

Willmar is hosting a Hack in September. Maybe this will spur some ideas for that event – or even better spur some folks to attend to dive deeper into precision ag opportunities at the event.

Hot off the presses from DEED…

Need more information and have questions about the 2015 Broadband Grant Program? Over the next two weeks, the Minnesota Office of Broadband will host webinars on the 2015 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program to discuss the 2015 grant program, the application process, and answer any questions. Grant applications are due on September 15, 2015.

The first webinar will be held on Monday, August 24, 2015, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Central Time). The second webinar, a repeat of the first, will be held on Monday, August 31, also from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Central Time).

To register to attend the webinars, please send an email with your contact information to Jane Leonard, Broadband Grants Administrator, at jane.leonard@state.mn.us . Please indicate which (or both webinars) you will be attending. You will be sent instructions on how to access the webinar.

Quick Summary: The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program funds the build-out of infrastructure to promote the expansion of broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved. It was established by the 2014 Minnesota Legislature to assist with costly broadband deployment projects that might not occur without public financial assistance. In this 2015 grant round, $10.3 million is available. Priority is given to projects that leverage greater amounts of funding from other private and public sources. The state grant limit per project is $5 million and cannot exceed 50% of the total eligible costs of the project.  All grant project work must be completed by June 30, 2017.

More information about the grant program, and the grant application, is available at http://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program/index.jsp.

I am getting to know the path to Willmar well. I was there yesterday for a small meeting of local folks and Senator Amy Klobuchar talking about broadband. As always it’s inspiring to hear what people are doing with broadband (fun precision ag from Haug Implement) and frustrating to hear about barriers (Ridgewater College has to be careful about how they approach federal funding when students don’t have ubiquitous broadband access at home).

It’s clear that people need broadband to go to school, start a business (or continue a business) to access the preferred healthcare. It’s also clear that communities need it to attract businesses, investments and people – especially young people.

It was interesting to hear the view from Frontier because part of the equation that weighs heavily on them is ROI.

Funny enough Senator Klobuchar touched on that need in her introduction when we talked about the need to improve universal service funds in a way that opens the door to better broadband without hurting the businesses that have made investments. There is a feel – which echoed last week’s meeting – that the local independent providers are better positioned to create solutions that meet the hometown need as demonstrated by a local provider who was able to create a solution for the K12 network when the incumbent changes how they provided service.

Again the question is how to best support smart investment in markets where the business case is difficult to make because if we can businesses like Haug can innovate, flourish and lead economic growth in Minnesota.

Read More…

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