Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 17, 2014

Cable Providers Asked to Think About Local Content

Last week I went to the MTA conference. (I’m hoping to get a PPT to share and will post my notes as soon as I get it.) It was interesting to hear about how telecommunications providers are exploring new sources of revenue. The telephone/telecom game has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. (Remember long distance bills and payphones?) Cable is experiencing some similar disruptions. They have picked up broadband as a product but the content/video game is changing daily. Here’s a view form a recent editorial from Olmsted County

To remain viable, cable needs to adapt in other ways. When television was first taking hold, radio felt its fair share of growing pains. Now it is television’s turn to evolve. Much like radio, I think cable television still has a place in the marketplace, but finding that niche is essential to success. Licensing content to online companies like Netflix and Hulu works for content creators, but content distributors depending on providing viewers content delivered straight to the television are struggling.

I learned in college the best way for radio stations to remain relevant was to localize. Their content changed from being something people gathered around in the living room every night to enjoy, to in-car entertainment, and the industry survived.

I’d love to see cable television attempt to do the same. The local news broadcasts are honestly what I miss the most from our lack of a cable subscription. Harnessing the local strategy might be able to sustain cable’s content delivery, but they’ll need to be innovative in their process.

His suggestions remind me of Lake County and Cook County – both communities are building a place for local content online and/or on air with a mashup between YouTube, Livestreaming and community radio. The old motto for the Internet was always “think local, act global” – looks like that sentiment is as strong as ever.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 16, 2014

New dates for FCC Rural Broadband Experiments applications

Here’s the latest from the FCC on the Rural Broadband Experiments

WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU ANNOUNCES DATE FOR OPENING OF RURAL BROADBAND EXPERIMENTS APPLICATION FILING WINDOW AND FINAL DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS
WC Docket No. 10-90
Today, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces the new date for the opening of the rural broadband experiments application filing window, as well as the corresponding
application deadline.

The application filing window for entities interested in participating in the rural broadband experiments will open on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 9a.m. EDT. Applicants must complete
and submit FCC Form 5610 to participate in the rural broadband experiments. As part of Form 5610, applicants must attach a dedicated bid form for each proposed project, a single descriptive data
form listing all of their proposed projects, and certain project information.

A link to Form 5610 will be available at http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/rural-broadband-experiments on October 23. Applicants have 15 days from the opening of the filing window to submit Form 5610. Thus, the application filing deadline is Friday, November 7 at 6p.m. EST. Applicants are reminded that the application filing deadline is a firm deadline and are encouraged to file as early in the application filing window as possible to ensure that they have ample time to correct any errors that may occur with their application.

Applicants are encouraged to review all of the informational materials released by the Bureau, particularly the rural broadband experiments webinar. The webinar covers each step of completing Form 5610, including how to upload and attach bid forms, descriptive data forms, and project information. In addition, the Bureau has made available templates of the bid form and
descriptive data form, a sample project information submission, and guides dedicated to working with the rural broadband experiments census block list and completing the bid form. All these materials are available at http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/rural-broadband-experiments.

Minnesota Public Radio recently ran an article on an infrastructure upgrade on the Mayo Clinic campus…

A network of hundreds of new low-power, short-range antennas are in place throughout downtown Rochester’s underground walkway system, known as the subway.

The network will prevent dropped calls and speed up the wireless Internet for Mayo Clinic staff, giving them better access to patient records from mobile screens, AT&T said Tuesday. It “changes the dynamics for the use of technology in health care,” said AT&T Minnesota President Paul Weirtz.

Only AT&T customers can access the network currently, but other wireless carriers will be able to join in the future, a company official said.

AT&T also announced an expansion of its 4G LTE coverage to 11 additional communities in southeastern Minnesota and a $1.2 million donation to Mayo’s Proton Beam Cancer Therapy program.

First – I wish I had this capacity at my house. My cell phone (which isn’t AT&T) doesn’t work in my house. It also doesn’t work in my kids’ schools or many other places in my neighborhood. And I live in St Paul. Not a wooded suburb part of the city – I live between three college campuses. I think there are lots of areas that could use this boost.

Second – this is how we fill a Gig. I suspect Mayo Clinic is well prepared for serving broadband for work and non-work related interactions but this scenario makes me think of the schools too. This would be a great infrastructure in the schools to serve students with school computers and their own devices. And I’m a big fan of letting kids use the technology they have. My opinion was reinforced listening to an interesting webinar on Disruptive Innovations in Education: Classrooms Without Walls where Michael King, Recipient, 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Award described “digital literacy in the schools” as teaching kids the skillsets they need for the future workplace. And I have to think the future workplace is going to include some amazing iteration of the smartphone or tablet.

I wanted to share the following invitation to this fun networking event. I found out about it from the MICE email list. MICE is the Midwest Internet Cooperative Exchange. It is a local network exchange point for Midwest network providers. It helps keep Minnesota Internet traffic in Minnesota and builds local redundancies. Aside from the technology of MICE, I think it’s powerful to have so many of the local Internet architects talking regularly too.

Also this reminds me of some of the fun networking events the Internet community used to have in the 1990s. Again they were powerful conversations for finding out what’s happening and building early partnerships…

Cologix and our partners are proud to host the inaugural “Connect Minnesota” Networking Event which will be held Wednesday, October 22nd at the St. Anthony Main Event Centre for both a breakfast & a lunch session.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Breakfast Session: 7:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Lunch Session: 10:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Join us for breakfast or lunch, walk our exhibit hall and network with 100+ of the Midwest’s key telecom decision makers & market influencers.  Industry known guest speakers will be at both sessions.

Register here!

 

Minnesota Public Radio recently ran an article that outlines the state of “ultra-fast” broadband in St Paul and Minneapolis. US Internet currently provides ultra-fast broadband in some parts of Minneapolis. CenturyLink promises to offer Gigabit access over the next few years. Comcast already offers Gig access. The article observes that competition breeds better pricing and speeds…

Generally, the more high-speed Internet competitors in a market, the better the speeds and prices available to customers. That’s been the case in Chattanooga, where a community-owned electric utility is installing a fiber network, and Kansas City, where Google is deploying such a system.

Gigabit pricing generally starts at about $70 a month, said David Belson, who studies the broadband landscape for Akamai Technologies, a major Web content delivery firm.

Folks in rural areas are acutely aware of that conundrum. Where there’s no competition – there’s no competition. This is especially true where there is not only no competition – there’s no service or limited services. (The unserved and underserved 20 percent of the state.)

The article offers some suggestions…

At best, no more than 5 percent of Minnesota households have access to fiber networks, estimates Chris Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Mitchell said local governments can increase availability by building fiber networks on their own or in partnership with the private sector, providing financing help, and smoothing the permitting process.

When communities reconstruct streets on a large scale, they can also lay the foundation for future fiber networks. Mitchell wishes St. Paul had been doing that, as the city tore up and rebuilt streets city-wide.

Advice that makes more sense in a metro setting. Because while it’s disruptive to pull fiber anywhere – a real expense comes up when you’re pulling it for 2 homes (or businesses) per square mile.

I found it interesting that US Internet expressed an interest in expanding…

After US Internet wires more of Minneapolis, the company plans to expand in other communities, perhaps by next year, said vice president of technology Travis Carter.

Because I was present for a conversation when the US Internet owner Travis Carter learned about the different in price in serving rural and metro areas…

It started when Travis Carter from US Internet asked “so broadband – are we talking Gig?” Everyone sort of hemmed and hawed and finally said – actually we’re talking 10-20 Mbps up and 5-10 Mbps down. Gulp!

Then providers got down to brass tacks and budgets. Access (Gig) to the backbone in Minneapolis costs a provider 50 cents a month. In Red Wing it’s more like a dollar. In Thief River Falls, it’s $10,000-$20,000 a month. Clearly when wholesale costs vary so much, retail is a different game in remote areas.

Now I suspect that US Internet is thinking St Paul or Wayzata – not Thief River Falls – but it’s fun to think of someone as vocal as Carter bringing is metro sensibilities and expectations to the rural discussion!

UMVRDC

Thanks to Bernadine for the Visual Notes!

Last week, I got to be a fly on the wall during a fun discussion in Appleton Minnesota, hosted by UMVRDC (which covers five counties) and the Blandin Broadband Team of Bernadine Joselyn and Bill Coleman. I wanted to write about the meeting because I think they are on the cusp of a couple of trends in Minnesota:

  • People are talking about broadband – not just for geeks anymore!
  • The focus has broadened from city, to county, to region
  • The public sector is wondering what they’re role is; the private sector is wondering what the public role it too.

So why are people talking about broadband? Money. I think the Minnesota State Broadband Fund has got people thinking. Now this follows the ARRA funding and Google community competition from a few years ago. So we may not be on the bleeding edge here. But the previous discussions set a fertile ground and I think the push to get state funding got people who aren’t interested in broadband or broadband sake interested.

One of my favorite comments from the meeting came from a county director of IT. There was a move to further discussions and he noted that we needed to bring new people to the table. There was a time when IT wanted IT to discuss broadband – but not they are willing to open the door and others are happy to walk through.

So what are they talking about? Economic development, cost savings and innovation. The top topics discussed defined by attendees included:

  • Economic Development
    • Fear of losing jobs
    • GIS apps – for management and to attract outdoor enthusiasts
    • Need to start with online transactions as young people won’t come into the courthouse to pay a bill
    • Some counties have online credit card applications
    • Local banks want to counties to go online
    • Workforce transition to tech
    • An online presence is important!
    • Getting businesses to have websites, maintain websites and use social media
  • Spurring use by existing businesses
  • Spurring innovative tech use
  • Resource sharing
    • Staff
    • GIS info
    • Servers/Equipment
  • Workforce

They talked about barriers and benefits and what’s currently happening, which includes a couple applications for the State Broadband Fund and a history and interest in working with the Blandin Foundation.

Barriers

  • People
  • Competition
  • Differing priorities in counties

Opportunities

  • Regional Network –
  • Anchor tenants spend lots of money
  • Use backbone to spur last mile
  • Regional IT Committee
  • Regional IT (& others) Events
  • Fix redundancies

The counties were in different places as far as broadband access goes – but they were happy to share the relationships they had, especially the relationships that helped to build successful broadband networks – for example in Lac qui Parle County. They recognized the opportunity to build upon each other’s success.

They all were overworked – having more to do and no more staff to do it, which spurred the great interest in resource sharing. Having shared IT support would build human redundancies. (Maybe allow for phone-free vacations!) Creating standards among the counties would help support such an effort. They recognized the opportunity for many hands making light work – or again just supporting redundancies.

They also recognized that especially with middle mile and institutional networks that the value increases the more folks who are on it and the cost goes down the more that folks can ante up for the network. Scott County was lifted up as a great example of a county that had been able to build their network and recoup costs through reduced rental fees. It’s a good example of how public sector can support ubiquitous access – by building or supporting the building of middle mile infrastructure.

They realized in the end that it makes sense to meet regularly to talk about ideas and plans and just to check in to see where there are opportunities for collaboration and cost saving.

It was fun to see my colleagues Bill and Bernadine lead the group through the process. And this is an area where I have worked on broadband adoption projects, so it was also fun to see folks see opportunities to do even more – to create even greater value from the network. (If you want help in your community, you could contact the Blandin Foundation to ask about Community Broadband Resources grants.)

McKinsey & Company recently released a report (Offline and falling behind: Barriers to Internet adoption) that provides a look at broadband adoption from a worldwide perspective. There are many reasons to read the report. For today I have pulled out what I think we can glean from the global view that might help us at home. Here are a few things I thought were interesting…

The report credits five trends for getting people online in the last 10 years…

the expansion of mobile-network coverage and increasing mobile-Internet adoption, urbanization, shrinking device and data-plan prices, a growing middle class, and the increasing utility of the Internet.

The rate of broadband adoption is slowing and we need to make changes to quicken the pace again…

Without a significant change in technology, in income growth or in the economics of access, or policies to spur Internet adoption, the rate of growth will continue to slow. The demographic profile and context of the offline population makes it unlikely that these individuals will come online solely as a result of the trends that have driven adoption over the past decade.

NOTE: Both local and national experts offered a similar observation in 2010 and the ITU offered some worldwide solutions at the same time.

They paint a picture of who isn’t online. The picture will look familiar to anyone watching the field – it’s rural, elderly, low-income… In short the picture includes four barriers: incentives, affordability, user capability and infrastructure. In areas where adoption is lowest, all four barriers are present – they are interrelated.

We estimate that approximately 64 percent of these offline individuals live in rural areas, whereas 24 percent of today’s Internet users are considered rural. As much as 50 percent of offline individuals have an income below the average of their respective country’s poverty line and median income.4 4.This estimate is based on the simplifying assumption that the highest earners are members of the online population. Furthermore, we estimate that 18 percent of non-Internet users are seniors (aged 55 or older), while about 7 percent of the online population are in that age bracket. Approximately 28 percent of the offline population is illiterate, while we estimate that close to 100 percent of the online population can read and write. Lastly, we estimate that 52 percent of the offline population is female, while women make up 42 percent of the online population.

Some efforts are currently being made to make a difference…

Governments are setting ambitious goals for mobile-Internet coverage and investing to extend fixed-broadband infrastructure and increase public Wi-Fi access. At the same time, network operators and device manufacturers are exploring ways to further reduce the cost of access and provide service to underserved populations. In addition, content and service providers are innovating on services that could improve the economic prospects and quality of life of Internet users.

Pew Research recently released their latest data on who is not online. Here’s a high level look…

  • 15% of American adults do not use the internet at all, and another 9% of adults use the internet but not at home.

As of May 2013, 15% of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the internet or email. Asked why they do not use the internet:

  • 34% of non-internet users think the internet is just not relevant to them, saying they are not interested, do not want to use it, or have no need for it.
  • 32% of non-internet users cite reasons tied to their sense that the internet is not very easy to use. These non-users say it is difficult or frustrating to go online, they are physically unable, or they are worried about other issues such as spam, spyware, and hackers. This figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys.
  • 19% of non-internet users cite the expense of owning a computer or paying for an internet connection.
  • 7% of non-users cited a physical lack of availability or access to the internet.

Last summer, Connect Minnesota came out with a similar study for Minnesota and found that

  • 22% of adults did not subscribe to broadband at home

Of that 22%…

  • 41% said it wasn’t relevant
  • 19% said cost
  • 15% didn’t know
  • 13% lacked digital skills
  • 6% said it wasn’t available

There’s a distinction between the surveys; Pew looks as use and Connect MN looks at subscription but give that wiggle room and the fact that the survey is a year apart, the numbers are too different – except as Pew points out the number of people who lack digital skills or comfort is much higher in the more recent survey. What’s nice is that they went a step further to see what could possibly be down to reach them…

Overall, most adults who do not use the internet or email do not express a strong desire to go online in the future: just 8% of offline adults say they would like to start using the internet or email, while 92% say they are not interested. We also offline adults whether they would need assistance going online if they did wish to do so, and found that only 17% of all non-internet users say they would be able to start using the internet on their own, while 63% say they would need assistance.

I think it helps make the case that digital literacy and digital inclusion initiatives are valuable. I think the 34-41 percent who don’t see the relevance help make the case for a some kind of public service promotional campaign. Unfortunately I think that education is very tied into understanding of value. And in my experience we’re down to the folks are the very far reach of the digital divide and a one-to-many approach doesn’t work as well as the high tough individual training.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 8, 2014

IT Network Supervisor: Job Opportunity in Eagan

OK A little bit off my beaten path, but I figure the right person for this job with the City of Eagan might be reading…

IT Network Supervisor

DEPARTMENT:  Information Technologies

ACCOUNTABLE TO: Information Technology (IT) Manager

TO APPLY: Apply online

APPLICATION DEADLINE:  Friday, October 10th at 4:30p.m.

POSITION SUMMARY:

The Information Technology (IT) Network Supervisor is a new position and is responsible to assist the IT Manager with the research, evaluation, design, procurement, implementation, administration and management of all network equipment.  The IT Network Supervisor is expected to find and solve problems, make improvements, and document the City and AccessEagan networks under their own initiative, without close supervision.  This position will be a shared resource and expected to split their time between to the City’s network and AccessEagan Fiber network (an open access fiber network available for business, commercial, and institutional use).

Position is the primary point of contact for AccessEagan Service Providers wanting to lease capacity from the City’s open access fiber network (AccessEagan), so strong customer service skills and dedicated follow-through are important.

Position may be supervising additional staff in the future. (Learn more)

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 7, 2014

Blandin Broadband eNews October 2014

News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

Minnesota Fall Broadband Conference Join community broadband champions, thought leaders and policy makers from across the state to recharge and celebrate shared efforts to make border to border broadband come true for Minnesota. Sponsored by Blandin Foundation and Connect Minnesota, the Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind conference is being held November 18-19 at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Q0

New Research on Local Government Models for Broadband Development

With support from the Blandin Foundation, Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance has published a report that highlights several Minnesota communities and their varied approaches to local government-led efforts for local fiber networks. http://wp.me/p3if7-2QO

Minnesota Businesses Want Faster Broadband

New research released by Connect Minnesota shows that while online sales represent substantial revenues for state businesses, a significant number of Minnesota businesses want faster Internet service. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OH

MN Public Broadband Alliance

MN Public Broadband Alliance is a group of community leaders who are interested in finding ways to support community broadband networks. They have met several times – urban members are finding that rural members are as well served as urban and potentially more valuable to a statewide effort. Member Dan Olsen provides an update. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Os

Remote Healthcare Made Easy

GrandCare demonstrated their home healthcare and remote monitoring system to attendees of the Minnesota State Fair. As they explain, “If you can work a TV remote, you can use a telehealth home healthcare system.” http://wp.me/p3if7-2QE

Funding Opportunities

  • Blandin Foundation is accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) program. Participating communities enter into an intensive two-year partnership with the Foundation and have access to a series of Foundation resources, including planning and facilitation support, a fund for community broadband-related projects, training and technical support, and more. Deadline is October 17. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Pm
  • The Minnesota Office of Broadband Development has released the application for Minnesota Broadband Funds. $20 million is available; up to $5 million available for any grant. http://wp.me/p3if7-2PU The deadline to apply is October 28.

 

  • The FCC released their Rural Experiments Application form but delayed the opening and closing date. The FCC will host a webinar on the process on October 9. They also discussed the process at the recent FTTH Council meeting. http://wp.me/3if7 (Link includes video of FTTH Council presentation.)
  • The Minnesota Department of Human Services has money to “help communities rebalance their long-term care service delivery system and increase their capacity to help people age 65 and older to stay in their own homes and communities.” Sounds like an opportunity for telehealth applications. http://wp.me/p3if7-2PS
  • Frontier Communications and Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) have developed a new $10 million partnership set on driving growth and revitalization in rural towns and cities within the telco’s 27-state territory. http://wp.me/p3if7-2P4
  • The Bush Foundation, Verizon Foundation, USDA, Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge and Minnesota Local Government Innovation awards all have funding opportunities that could support broadband expansion efforts. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OX

Conference & Meeting Notes

  • Minnesota Broadband Task Force The Task Force met in Perham, which provided an opportunity to hear from Arvig, the local provider. A representative from John Deere gave a presentation on precision agriculture and the Task Force talked about their 2014-2015 Annual report and presented recommendations from the sub-groups. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Qb (Link includes both presentations and video from the meeting.) They also discussed a letter from Regional Resiliency asking them to look at a number of regulation and policy issues (such as reimbursement parity) that are currently acting as a roadblock to greater use of telehealth applications. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Pt
  • NATOA in St Paul The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Administrators met in St Paul last week for their annual conference. They discussed broadband adoption, deployment, policy and plans. FCC Chair Tom Wheeler was an inspirational keynote speaker. Senator Schmit and Representative Simonson were recognized for their role in improving broadband policy in Minnesota. http://wp.me/p3if7-2QQ
  • NTIA Workshop NTIA Workshop held a workshop in Minneapolis that highlighted many ARRA-funded projects. Two key ingredients mentioned by communities with successful broadband projects were communication and partnership. A number of providers spoke about how they managed FTTH – from funding to construction to marketing. And the NTIA introduced their collection of lessons learned. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OL
  • FTTH Council Meeting The FTTH Council Meeting also met in Minneapolis. With a balance of community-minded folks and commercial providers, it was interesting to see where there was agreement and where there were differences. Everyone agrees that where there is economic potential, providers are going with fiber. It is cheaper to maintain – it’s just a matter of upgrade schedules, which may or may not fit the community’s hope for fiber. There are some differences in how to encourage fiber (or better broadband) to areas without economic potential. Building demand is a great start. But after that, the question is how much money makes is appealing, does one-time investment make a difference or is it a matter of streamlining the process by reducing regulatory barriers – such as permits, rights-of-way and cable franchising. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OJ

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Bemidji
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities spoke to and/or visited a number of towns around Minnesota to get them talking about the need for expanded broadband. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Oz

Crookston
The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities spoke to and/or visited a number of towns around Minnesota to get them talking about the need for expanded broadband. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Pa

Dakota County
Network Collaboration Engineer David Asp and .Net Systems Analyst Rosalee McCready speak with Chris Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance on the County’s approach to maximizing all opportunities to get fiber and conduit in the ground. http://wp.me/p3if7-2PW

Elk River
Schools in Elk River Minnesota are preparing students today for jobs tomorrow by offering coding classes to sixth graders. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Ou

Fond du Lac Reservation
Students from the Ojibwe School wrote essays on “What broadband can do for my community.” http://wp.me/p3if7-2Ok

Those same students participated in a summer “App Camp” and recently had an opportunity to show of the mobile apps they had created. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OB

Itasca County
Itasca County has been working with the Blandin Foundation and COS Systems to find broadband gaps and opportunities for partnership in the region through a tool developed by COS Systems. http://wp.me/p3if7-2QC

Lac qui Parle County
Broadband access and education help local businesses use the Internet to research http://wp.me/p3if7-2Qo and promote http://wp.me/p3if7-2Qq their products in LqP.

Lac qui Parle Valley
LqPV “strutted their stuff” with a presentation on their Blandin Broadband Community efforts including live streaming of school events and programming by students, iPads in the classroom and a tech engineering center. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Pq

Lake County
Lake County “strutted their stuff” with a presentation on their Blandin Broadband Community efforts including senior digital literacy training to keep people in their homes, a community web portal and lie streaming programming and computers to low income families. http://wp.me/p3if7-2P0

Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods “strutted their stuff” with a presentation on their Blandin Broadband Community efforts including local hotspots for public use, computers to low income families and lots of training. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OY

Little Falls (District 09B)
Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls encourages local citizens to think about the Minnesota Broadband fund and how it can improve area Internet service and broadband access in Greater Minnesota. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OD

Mille Lacs County
Mille Lacs County “strutted their stuff” with a presentation on their Blandin Broadband Community efforts including Wi-Fi on buses, computers to low income families, business training and conversations on feasibility studies on how to improve access and affordability in the community. http://wp.me/p3if7-2O6

Northern Minnesota
Paul Buyan Communications announces plans to launch the GigaZone, their new advanced regional Gigabit fiber network that will be one of the largest Gigabit networks in the country. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Po The move to Gig gets kudos from other Minnesota providers, such as Gary Evans (formerly of HBC). http://wp.me/p3if7-2Qi

St Cloud The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities spoke and/or visited a number of towns around Minnesota to get them talking about the need for expanded broadband. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Pa

St Paul
Concordia University has partnered with The Learning House, Inc., to launch Coding Bootcamp@Concordia, the first credit-bearing coding camp in the US. http://wp.me/p3if7-2PK

A plan to create a high-speed Internet link to the Minnesota governor’s mansion in St. Paul has been shelved amid questions about its purpose and $261,000 price tag. http://wp.me/p3if7-2OT

Southwest Minnesota
SMBS “strutted their stuff” with a presentation on their Blandin Broadband Community efforts including social media breakfasts, community hotspots and devices in the library. http://wp.me/p3if7-2Op

Twin Cities
In 2015 Minneapolis Employment and Training in partnership with MHTA will kick-off an innovative new approach to training workers by launching a series of Minneapolis Coding Bootcamps. http://wp.me/p3if7-2O8

Events:

Oct 9-10: Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA) Fall Conference (Minneapolis) http://wp.me/p3if7-2PI

Oct 10: What is a MOOC? (Minneapolis and online) http://wp.me/p3if7-2Q9

November 18-19: Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind (Brainerd) http://wp.me/p3if7-2Q0

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.)

I’m going to share the following news – although I haven’t been able to find much more about the newly formed (or maybe just newly named) Vast Broadband. I did learn that WOW is the 13th largest cable provider in the US. According to the press release below they serve 50,000 customers over 14 states. They have an office in Tracy MN

Pamlico Capital and Clarity Telecom Complete Acquisition to Form Vast Broadband

Pamlico Capital (“Pamlico”) and the management team of Clarity Telecom (“Clarity”) have closed the previously announced acquisition of broadband assets in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa from WOW! Internet, Cable & Phone (“WOW!”). The Clarity team will transition the platform from WOW! in the coming months and rebrand the operation as Vast Broadband, while continuing to provide high-speed broadband, video and voice services to more than 50,000 residential and commercial customers. Clarity and WOW! will work together to provide a smooth transition for customers and employees.

Pamlico initially partnered with Clarity’s management team in 2003 to build NewWave Communications (“NewWave”), a rural broadband company that grew to serve 160,000 subscribers. After successfully exiting NewWave through transactions with Time Warner Cable (2011) and Rural Broadband Investments (2013), Pamlico partnered with Jim Gleason, Keith Davidson, and Larry Eby to create Clarity Telecom, a search company formed to pursue rural broadband investments. Clarity identified WOW!’s systems in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa as an attractive platform for growth and entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the assets in June.

Jim Gleason, CEO of Clarity, noted, “We’re delighted to complete the purchase of the WOW! Properties in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The growth opportunities considering the local economy, the excellent network and the local staff commitment make this a very exciting acquisition into the broadband communications industry. Our team has evaluated many opportunities in the past year and we’re excited to partner with Pamlico to re-enter the broadband space.”

Pamlico Partner Art Roselle said, “We’re pleased to complete the purchase of the WOW! systems and excited to get to work building Vast Broadband with the Clarity team. We remain very impressed with the quality of the systems we have acquired, and believe that under the management of Jim Gleason and his seasoned team, the systems represent an attractive platform for building a leading broadband business.”

The acquisition represents the fourth investment in Pamlico Capital III, a fund with $650 million of aggregate commitments.

Pamlico and Clarity were advised by K&L Gates LLP (legal counsel). GE Capital and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc. provided debt financing to support the transaction.

I know I’ve written a lot about the App Camp in Fond du Lac, but I think it’s pretty cool and the Blandin Foundation created this great video so I figured it was worth sharing the story again…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 3, 2014

MyBallot Voting app: help make it better

MyBallotI’m a long time volunteer for E-Democracy. One of the early (web) apps developed by another E-Democracy volunteer is MyBallot. Visit it, type in your geographic information and it will tell you who is going to be on your election ballot this election.

BUT there is one big caveat … MyBallot is only the app and it’s free but it’s up to everyone to keep it up to date. I see that the information is right for my zip code. Is it right for yours? if it’s not please send a note to feedback@myballot.info.

I mention MyBallot because I think it’s a helpful tool, because its Minnesotan but also because it’s a great example of how technology promotes crowdsourcing of civic tools. It’s up to all of us to make sure it’s accurate for all of us. But if we all pitch in we all have a very helpful tool that can save many of us from reinvesting the wheel.

The NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) held their annual conference in St Paul this week. I was able to attend some sessions.

The big highlight was FCC Chairman as lunchtime keynote. He could be a coach! He spoke about Net Neutrality, competition, the role permit-decider have in attracting providers, the (You can find his remarks online.) I thought his remarks on the network compact were interesting:

I also heard an update on policy issues – federal and local. The Internet sales tax was a hot topic. From the world of not-so-shocking – no one wants to pay taxes, people want the benefits tax supports. It seems as if NATOA is hoping for a temporary extension to the No Sales Tax plan rather than a permanent decision. They also discussion the Wireless Tax Fairness Act and touched on Net Neutrality and the Comcast Time Warner Merger. League of Minnesota Cities’ Laura Ziegler gave a nice run down on the Minnesota Broadband Fund and how it came to be:

Next I attended a session Public Options for Broadband Deployment. William Aycock from Wilson NC spoke about how their local existing municipal utility took on the issue of broadband. Joanne Hovis framed the option of public networks for communities – by posing deployment as ownership as opposed to  renting from someone else. Jim Baller was able to add the Minnesota spin:

I was sorry to miss the first day, which focused a lot of adoption. I posted the agenda late last week. I’ll try to post more details if they come out.

Read More…

Fun to share a new report on Minnesota community broadband initiatives…

In 2010 the Minnesota legislature set a goal: universal access to high speed broadband throughout the state by 2015. As 2015 approaches we know that large parts of Greater Minnesota will not achieve that goal, even as technological advances make the original benchmarks increasingly obsolete.

But some Minnesota communities are significantly exceeding those goals. Why? The activism of local governments.

A new report by ILSR, widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable organizations on municipal broadband networks, details the many ways Minnesota’s local governments have stepped up. “All Hands On Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Expanding Fiber Internet Access” includes case studies of 12 Minnesota cities and counties striving to bring their citizens 21st century telecommunications.

“When national cable and telephone companies have refused to modernize their communications systems, local governments have stepped up. And in the process saved money, attracted new businesses, and made it more likely that their youth will stick around,” says Chris Mitchell, Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

  • Windom, which is one of the most advanced networks in the state, built their own network after their telephone company refused to invest in their community.
  • Dakota County showed how a coordinated excavation policy can reduce by more than 90 percent the cost of installing fiber.
  • Lac qui Parle County partnered with a telephone cooperative to bring high speed broadband to its most sparsely population communities.

ILSR’s report is particularly timely because this week, the governor’s office began accepting applications for the state’s new $20 million initiative Border-to-Border program.  “We hope that before communities submit their applications they read this report to learn what others have done,” says Mitchell.

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