According to the St Paul Pioneer Press

About 14,000 low-income Twin Cities households are at risk of losing their low-cost Internet service, which they receive over an old Sprint data network that is expected to disappear Nov. 6.

The Internet service, provided by a St. Paul nonprofit called PCs for People, has permitted cash-strapped Twin Cities residents to ditch dial-up service for a much-faster broadband connection at a comparable cost.

But the service taps a wireless-data technology called WiMax that is not long for this world.

Mobile phone giant Sprint is abandoning its WiMax network as it shifts to the more-modern Long Term Evolution standard, which the other major carriers also use. That is good for typical consumers, but bad news for PCs for People’s disadvantaged customers.

PCs for People works with Mobile Citizen, which works with Sprint. It sounds like Mobile Citizen (and others) are working to find a contingency. It’s a new twist on redundancy. And it’s an urban version of what some rural communities work with all of the time. The people making the decision on infrastructure are far removed from the people who will have or will not have access to broadband based on their choice. It’s frustrating that a business has such control.

The article includes a few stories of the people who are in danger of losing their connectivity. One story provides a glimpse at the impact of broadband on someone with disabilities – another interesting twist…

As the big players in this dispute trade barbs, local users of the low-cost service grow increasingly nervous as the WiMax-shutdown looms.

Melanie Manson, a disabled Golden Valley woman, once made do with dial-up Internet access because that was all she could afford.

The pokey, unreliable online connection “was so frustrating,” said Manson, who copes with a crippling illness called systemic lupus.

That flaky service made her feel even more “like a second-class citizen,” she said. “I was not in tune with the speed of the world, or part of the world.”

In recent years, the woman’s horizons broadened as she tapped into the faster online service offered by PCs for People. She pays only $10 a month, about what she used to pay for AOL dial-up.

“Being disabled is isolating, and this helps me feel less isolated,” Manson said. “I really felt like I was part of society.”

Now she is terrified of losing this freedom. PCs for People has been pointing her and others to alternate lower-cost Internet service from the likes of Comcast and CenturyLink, but none of these offerings are as affordable for Manson.

Comcast and CenturyLink might be a good answer for some people. Both have low income packages – as do several other providers throughout Minnesota.

Crookston Times recently ran an editorial that stressed that $10 million investment in rural broadband was a small slice of the $2 billion surplus and it’s an investment that might not be adequate…

To most people strolling down the sidewalk, getting handed $10.6 million would probably result in an immediate retirement and a permanent move to a tropical paradise. But with a big state dominated by widely varying geography and rural areas that seem to stretch forever – and let’s not forget that $2 billion surplus – $10.6 million barely qualifies as the proverbial drop in the bucket.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities figured the legislature could afford to invest at least $100 million in broadband, maybe more. It makes one wonder what the state might do if there was a budget deficit instead of all this surplus cash…maybe come into your home, unplug your modem and bolt out the door?

It’s not so bad here in Crookston. As local officials like to say, we have some competition for our broadband services, and the “fiber is in the ground.” But it’s that “last mile” of service, as it’s called – which refers to actually getting the high-quality broadband service to a home or business – that’s often the biggest challenge, and the greatest expense.

We hear these days about our mobile workforce and a global economy that makes it possible for people to conduct business and commerce from just about anywhere, even the most remote location. But that’s true only if you have access to good broadband service. The future prospects of all kinds of small towns in rural Minnesota would be greatly enhanced by improved broadband service, and our state legislators know this. With a multi-billion surplus, this $10.6 million available for broadband grants was their response.

I wanted to share info on two upcoming international tech events. They are actually international efforts to encourage local events – by providing an excuse, a template and promotion. It might be too late to organize a local CodeDay – but it’s probably not too late to consider checking out the event in the Twin Cities to figure out if a local version makes sense next year.

CodeDay Nov 7-8

CodeDay is a series of student programming events held across the world. It’s the world’s largest series of educational programming marathons, in addition to being one of the most effective methods of education.

There are 22 cities participating, including St Paul. Sounds a lot like a hackfest (gather, collaboration, build an app or game) although the organizers differentiate it by saying there’s no competition.

Hour of Code Dec 7-13

The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104.

This is much easier to fit in. They have lots of curricular options on the website. Last year I downloaded a program for my 10 year old and she “coded” for days with it. The program used a game involving Elsa from Frozen to get my kids to create code to help her skate a figure 8. If you know a teacher, you might pass it on. Or if you know a kid you might take on the onus yourself. It’s easy! And it’ll help a kid learn if they like coding.

We’ve heard stories of iPads in schools in Minnesota. They’re great in a lot of ways, customized education, no more heavy books to carry every day BUT they are considerably more  helpful for folks who have internet access at home – interest access that doesn’t involve data caps. Wired recently posted an article that promotes data plans that support iPad use outside the school walls…

Lack of home Internet access for school children is an all-too common problem, one that the FCC has referred to as “the homework gap.” Today, American schools are investing billions of dollars in devices and educational technology for the classroom. Meanwhile, venture capitalists are investing billions more to fund new ed-tech ideas. All this spending has changed curriculums, as teachers become ever more reliant on the tech tools constantly dangled in front of them. Now, instead of handing out reading assignments and worksheets from a textbook, they can show kids videos from Khan Academy and assign them apps that collect data on their progress.

This type of personalized education has been transformative for some kids. But for the hundreds of thousands of students across the country like Lopez, it’s isolating. For these kids, replacing the albeit imperfect equity of pen and paper with technology has put them at a distinct disadvantage, turning something as simple as completing homework into a Herculean effort.

But Qualcomm is working to make those iPads more useful at home by creating special rates for students who need it…

The unit, Qualcomm Education, is working to close the homework gap by convening other leaders in the wireless technology industry to help create the equivalent of a free-and-reduced lunch plan for data.

With this work, Qualcomm is capitalizing on a wave of momentum in the world of school connectivity. In addition to the federal ConnectEd program, which aims to give 99 percent of American students access to the Internet in school, the Obama administration also recently announced the launch of ConnectHome. Through this program, the government is working with service providers such as Google Fiber to bring high-speed broadband to 275,000 low-income households across the country.

They’re ambitious, well-intentioned initiatives that will, if all goes according to plan, have a major impact on the kids and families they touch. And yet, the companies backing these efforts—including AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and more—still earmark these programs as charity. That means they’ve set aside a finite amount of donations, and these donations have clear end dates. After that, schools will be left to figure out how to pay for the access they once received for free.

That’s where Qualcomm Education is hoping to make a difference. Instead of giving these data plans away for free, it’s pushing the industry to create a sustainable business model that might stand a chance of outliving these charitable donations. If carriers are willing to create a data plan for schools that costs around $10 a kid, then schools might actually be able to afford them. And carriers, forever motivated by their bottom lines, would have a monetary incentive to keep these projects up and running.

News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

BBC MapMinnesota Broadband Conference November 18-20
The Blandin Foundation and the Office of Broadband Development are open registration for the fall broadband conference, Better Together, to be held in Minneapolis on November 18-20.

Digital Storytelling Training for Native Youth at Broadband Conference
Franz Odasz will be working with select Ojibwe youth on digital storytelling as part of the Fall Broadband conference. Frank shares many of the free tools they will use in the workshop in advance of the conference.

Bernadine Joselyn speaks to Democratic Senate Committee in DC
The Blandin Foundation’s Bernadine Joselyn speaks to the Democratic Senate Outreach Committee on broadband as infrastructure need in rural America. She encourages Congress to act to invest more in broadband infrastructure and adoption.

Investment in Minnesota Broadband: Is it enough?
The Brookings Institute releases a report saying Minnesota’s economy has been doing well with low unemployment and good workers but success in the past does not ensure success in the future. To encourage success they recommend investment in broadband. But how to invest? Through CAF II, Minnesota will see $85 million invested in broadband over the next five years, but the speed requirements are only 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up, which is slower than the state goals. Is there a way to leverage that $85 million for investment in faster speeds? The Blandin Foundation recently led a discussion (via webinar) on how to make the most of USF to improve broadband in and out of schools in rural areas some suggestions may apply to CAF II as well.

Building Momentum for Greater Broadband Investment in Minnesota
Several policymakers (led by Senator Franken, Representative Thissen and Senator Kiffmeyer have are hosting discussions around the state to discuss broadband. They are encouraging citizens to talk to their representatives about greater financial investment next year. One indicator of greater need is the applications for the Border to Border Broadband grants; request for funds was nearly four times the funds available. Newspapers across the State have been reporting that message as well.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Talk Speeds at Funding
In September the Task Force heard from the FCC about CAF and E-Rates to spur conversation about leveraging funding to expand broadband access. They also discussed adequate speeds and the need to modify the existing speed goal of 5-10 Mbps up and 10-20 Mbps down. These topics were also discussed at a meeting earlier in the day at the MN State Bar Association – with the same speakers from the FCC.

Broadband Opportunity Council Report Calls for Federal Improvements
The Broadband Opportunity Council released a report highlighting four recommendations (that lead to 36 actionable items):

  1. Modernize Federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments.
  2. Empower communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use.
  3. Promote increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets.
  4. Improve data collection, analysis and research on broadband

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Representative Thissen meets with citizens in Aitkin to discuss broadband. He follows that up with a letter to the Editor in the local press encouraging people to continue the conversation.

Mid-Continent announces plans to upgrade connectivity in Annandale

A Burnsville neighborhood looks at Open Access Model through existing city fiber

Dakota County
Dakota County seeks bids for a fiber optic network to Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Duluth appreciates USF and Minnesota Broadband Fund but wants more support for Minnesota Broadband

Grand Rapids
Paul Bunyan GigaZone is coming to the City of Grand Rapids. More good news for Paul Bunyan; they were named certified Gig-capable provider by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

Martin County
Martin County, a BBC community, celebrates a summer app camp, starts a digital inclusion series at Community Education, starts a fiber feasibility study and more.

Morton hosts a social media Rock Star conference.

Nobles County
Nobles County gets funding from Blandin to explore public hot spots and a fiber feasibility study. Both have been going well.

North Branch
PCs for People distributes 46 computers in North Branch

Northeast Minnesota
Northeast Service Cooperative completes massive fiber optic project

Pine City
Representative Thissen meets with people in Pine City to discuss broadband.

Redwood County
Redwood County, a BBC community, starts a major telemedicine project, investigates GIS options, held a tech fair and more.

Sherburne County
Senator Kiffmeyer hosts Sherburne County broadband discussion

The Willmar hack, hosted by WorkUp, Kandiyohi EDC, Ridgewater College, Minnwest College and the Blandin Foundation is a big success. Apps developed improve security, manage the local bike share and prevent spread of aquatic invasion species.

Events & Opportunities:

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar 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 PotBill_Coleman

One of the many lessons that I am learning as I door-knock my way around Mahtomedi in my quest for the mayor’s seat is that the first words out of my mouth determine the quality of the conversation at the door. It’s important to have your message ready so that people are willing to listen.  Second you need to have a good question ready to get people talking about what they think is important. That allows you to be ready with responsive information and reinforcement.

Your community broadband team should be prepared for these community conversations!

DEED Office of Broadband 2014 Projects: A progress report
Thursday, October 8, 2015 03:00
Register Here!

This webinar will highlight three DEED Border to Border Broadband Projects that are providing broadband to unserved areas.  Each project illustrates a different approach with technology, business model and priority.  These examples will help you to imagine and plan your partnership


  •  Jane Leonard – DEED Office of Broadband
  • Dick Sjoberg of Sjoberg Cable/Roseau County – This project demonstrates the ability of existing broadband providers to edge out further from existing cable plant to serve outlying areas.
  • Laura Kangas of Palmer Wireless/Becker Industrial Park in Sherburne County – This project demonstrates how an existing small wireless ISP can use fiber technology to serve key business locations.
  • Jim Canaan of Interstate Telelcom Cooperative/Hendricks Township in Lincoln County – This project demonstrates how a new competitive provider can deploy fiber across a rural township to reach new customers.

Thanks to KarlKarlSamp2 Samp for the update on BBC Community, Nobles County…

We met at the BAC building. The group has met all of their priority projects IDed through Visioning.

  • The Robust Network Feasibility grant addressed about 5 of them, and is progressing nicely with the help of Finley Consulting – Slayton Office which specializes in Fiber projects.
  • Community WiFi – in partnership with MVTV- 9, 5 MB Wireless Hot Spots will be available free throughout the County so that no resident/student has more than 10 minutes to drive to get a free signal. First one is lighting up this week.
  • Digital Literacy Class at MN West – Curriculum is developed and it’s going through the academic approval process. It’s on schedule for Spring Semester Roll-out for juniors and seniors in high school for wo transferrable credits.
  • Community Ed. Classes are on the calendar and underway.
  • NCIC – Computers/devices ordered. Classes in various languages will start in January.

Potential Projects:

  • Wiring BAC community center
  • Library technology upgrade. Clint was in Rock County working on this when he moved to Luverne, and is in touch with other BBC Libraries (Jackson and Redwood) about ideas. He expects to be applying for some mobile devises (probably combo of laptops and pads) in the range of $7-9K. Match available may determine that amount.
  • MyOn – On-Line literacy programs for preschool and elementary age at Worthington Public Schools.
  • They would like to apply for another $1000 for Admin. funds. Due to how far they are from conf./gatherings, they have gone through their funds, and would like to continue to be able to cover travel costs for volunteers.  – OK?

Finally there was discussion about the CAF II build out. CenturyLink is active there, and has some plans for build out, but the maps were not very helpful to the Feasibility Study Group. They have spoken to CenturyLink and are trying to learn more.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | October 3, 2015

Rep Paul Thissen reminds Aitkin to speak out for broadband

The Aitkin Age recently ran a letter from Representative Paul Thissen about his recent visit to the area. He reminds readers of the political issue surrounding broadband last year…

The need for better high speed internet in rural Minnesota is an issue where we’ve made some progress, but must make much more. In 2013 a DFL-led legislature made the first significant investment in broadband infrastructure in our state’s history, but we knew that $30 million was only a down-payment. Minnesota’s Office of Broadband estimates the need in Minnesota at closer to $100 million per year. Unfortunately, the Republican-led House did not continue this commitment to rural broadband access in 2015. They initially zeroed-out our state’s broadband investment and ended up putting just $10 million into our broadband program. That’s because their top priority last session was massive tax breaks that benefit large corporations and businesses that predominantly reside in the metro area.

And encourages folks to speak up if they want more investment in broadband in the future…

I encourage everyone in your area to continue making your voice heard in the coming months and to contact your Representative Dale Lueck. The budget that Lueck supported last session fell short on rural broadband. Your support on this issue can help us make sure we don’t fall short again next session.

Earlier this week, Bernadine Joselyn was asked to speak to the Democratic Senate Outreach Committee on broadband as infrastructure need in rural America. Excited to have them discussing the issue – great to have Bernadine be part of the dialogue.

Here’s more on the meeting…


Washington, DC – Senate Democrats hosted a roundtable discussion on building a sustainable middle-class economy in rural America – emphasizing infrastructure needs like transportation, water and wastewater, and broadband Internet and looking for entrepreneurial opportunities in the energy economy and regional food systems.

“By fostering public-private partnerships that increase the flow of capital to rural America, we are helping to create economic opportunities that otherwise would not exist.  We must invest in the future of rural America by building its transportation and communications infrastructure — connecting urban and rural communities with regional economic hubs and improving the quality of life for families through increased access to well-paying jobs and affordable health care, education, and housing,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.

Here are Bernadine’s remarks…Bernadine Joselyn

Remarks to Democratic Senate Outreach Committee
September 30, 2015
Washington, DC

Blandin Foundation’s goal is the same as yours – to promote vibrant, prosperous rural communities.

That’s why our foundation dedicates a significant part of our resources to helping communities get and use broadband.

We make this investment because we understand that everything else we care about depends on world class broadband –

  • equal opportunity, education, health care, accountable and effective government, business growth, engaged citizens and vibrant communities.

“Rural people can disagree about a lot, but if you want consensus in a room full of rural advocates, ask about broadband. That’s our experience, anyway.”

~ Tim Maremo, Editor, The Daily Yonder

Blue or Red or Purple, Urban or Rural, everyone loves and needs broadband the same.

But rural people and people living on tribal lands have lots less of it.  Figuring out how to fund broadband is still a major challenge for many communities.

  • Just think: while 92% of urban households can get broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps (download) and 3 Mbps (upload), only 47% of rural households and 37% of people living on Tribal Lands can get that same level of access.

This is America’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ –  and rural places are being left behind.

I’ve got a sachel full of stories that illustrate the difference that broadband – or its absence – makes in the lives of rural people:

  • A mom crying when she gets her first subsidized internet hook up because now she can job hunt or take courses on line without paying for a sitter while she drives to a public internet access site;
  • families sitting in cars outside of McDonald’s at night to catch a wifi signal their kids need to do their homework;
  • entrepreneurs without an internet connection at home sitting in a parking lot to access public library wi-fi,
  • homebound grandmas reading to kids at Headstart via Skype,
  • snowbirds from Lake Superior’s North Shore, who have moved to Hawaii, stay connected to their hometown by watching their high school team’s football games livestreamed over the internet.

Bigger picture, here’s what we are seeing as the gap between urban and rural connectivity and affordability continues to grow:

  • large publicly traded companies have great difficulty bringing the necessary investment to rural areas
  • communities setting their own standard for what level of broadband is ”good enough” are unable to find a provider partner willing to invest with them in their future…
  • the Connect America Fund (CAF2) standard of 10/1 (compared to FCC broadband definition of 25/3) threatens to build in permanent second-class status for rural America.

Ensuring that all Americans – even rural Americans and Americans living on tribal lands — have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it requires that we all work together.  Not-for-profits, business and government all must do their part.

So what should the federal government do?

Last week the Obama administration’s cabinet-level Broadband Opportunity Council released a report on the steps the administration can take on its own to improve programs that support broadband access for poor and geographically remote communities.

The report estimates that changes in existing funding programs could open up $10 billion in federal grants and loans for “broadband-related activities.” Net government spending would not be affected, meaning that in some cases grantees would have to make the same amount of money go further if they were going to include broadband projects.

When implemented, the report’s recommendations will help America head in the right direction.  But it’s not enough.

Because there are real limits on what the Administration can do on its own, Congress must act.  The kind and amount of funding needed has to come from Congress.

Congress has made a positive difference in the past.

For example, ARRA investments in Minnesota deployed miles of network that wouldn’t otherwise be built yet and trained many people.  It was a game changer for hard-to-serve parts of Minnesota.

On behalf of the rural communities I represent, I urge you to consider the following ideas about what you can do to help rural America:

  • A number of bipartisan bills currently under consideration deserve your support:
  • The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act supports the critical care that skilled nursing facilities provide, often using telehealth services, thus helping to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality health care no matter where they live.
  • The Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities by providing incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers.
  • Senator Klobuchar is preparing a bill that builds on the idea of “dig once,” streamlining permitting for broadband deployment on federal lands, and improved cooperation with states.
  • Beyond that, here are other areas in which America needs your leadership.
  • Incent the States.  A very effective way for the federal government to partner with states is to provide incentives for States to come in with some match to federal resources. The E-rate 10% match is a good example. State legislators are motivated to engage on an issue when they can leverage additional investment from the federal government.  Adding a state coordinating role for federal broadband funding would give states the authority to enhance or incent collaboration.  States with coordinated approaches get more money.
  • More funding – preferably in the form of loans – for municipalities and co-op networks
  • Blandin Foundation believes that the best chance for broadband investment and deployment in rural is significant expansion of rural broadband cooperatives, especially in partnership with local units of government. . Co-ops and government/co-op partnerships are the right emerging partnership model for rural America.

In closing, here are some key ideas I want to leave you with:

  • Rural is rich.  It is a place of resources and talent, where resourceful and self-reliant people can make small investments go a long way.
  • Broadband connectivity is key to innovation.  For example, precision agriculture – which significantly increases land productivity  – requires broadband-to-the-farm.
  • We need federal investment in both deployment AND adoption strategies for rural broadband.
  • Each rural community is unique and rural funding streams need maximum flexibility (not AS much true in urban spaces where you can count on a suite of institutions being in place)
  • Investment in rural America is an investment in national security: “a strong America relies on a strong rural America.”  And a strong rural American relies on broadband.
  • In sum, everything is better with broadband.

Most of all, I hope that you catch broadband fever.

Helping rural places get the broadband they need to remain vital will win you votes on both sides of the aisle.  Because a future-proof broadband network is now the essential infrastructure for rural.

And a little bit about the Senate Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee…

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and leaders from across the nation. Each year, the Steering Committee hosts numerous meetings with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities and enlist their help in the development of the Senate Democratic agenda. The Committee serves as a liaison between Senate Democratic offices, advocacy groups, and intergovernmental organizations.  It is one of two Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate and is chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) and vice chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH).

I’m pleased to share a guest blog post from Frank Odasz. Frank is going to be offering training for Native youth at the Fall Broadband Conference (Nov 18-20). I’ve heard about his good work for years – it’s been fun to work with him…

frankaustraliaThe First Ojibwe Digital Generation: Reframing the Rural Broadband Vision Based on Native Values

For the stories we can tell; Digital Storytelling for Global Citizens

From: Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting


I’m excited to announce I’ll be delivering on November 18th a unique digital storytelling workshop for Ojibwe Youth to share digital apps and tools for;

Youth to show how to digitally preserve elder’s stories and wisdom for all future generations.

Youth will learn to create free ecommerce websites in less than an hour, including using mobile apps, at

Youth will learn to quickly create video “Show and Tell” screencasts to allow them to teach others locally, and globally, on an ongoing basis.

New digital entrepreneurship models allow youth to “Make the living they want, living wherever they want” as self-employed Lone Eagles.

Learn More; Pre-workshop short videos to explore:

The first digital generation has powerful choices to consider. For the first time in human history, a global voice is theirs, if they choose to use it; to help others, and to empower our one human family;

  • Teaching Native Values for all global citizens on how best to support one  another, and build sustainable community, and cultural, capacity.
  • Teaching Native Values as Stewards of the Earth and Sky; for everyone to learn how to take responsibility to protect the environment.
  • Teaching Native Values for sustainable living as opposed to rampant consumerism, which wastes precious, and limited, natural resources.

I recently attended a conference for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, where an elder stated this profound bit of wisdom; “The further we can look back to where we come from, the further we’ll be able to see into the future as to where we are going.”  In many ways, we are coming full circle, returning to our origins.

As an online teacher of teachers, I follow many trends carefully and read a fair bit online, as well as learning from teachers when we Skype as they do their online lessons.  Did you know Internet video is returning us to being an oral culture, and that digital storytelling is the medium by which our global voices can be heard. By 2020, 80% of Internet use will be video related.

I heard another elder say we only have two things in life where we don’t have a choice; when we’re born and when we die. Everything else in life is a matter of choice.  So, I’m planning to share with you what I see as wonderfully amazing choices for your consideration.

Canoe Club in Metlakatla, Alaska says “We’re all in the same canoe, and need to learn how to all paddle in the same direction, as global citizens.”

We’re limited only by our imaginations

Workshop Presenter: I’m Frank Odasz, president of Lone Eagle Consulting, and I’ve been teaching rural citizens, and teachers, online since 1988. Enjoying the freedom of no bosses and no employees, I’m living my dream, living in a rural ranch house with the personal challenge to teach others online how to preserve their rural lifestyle, rural communities, and cultures.

Youth workshop attendees will be invited to consider their choice of whether to help me develop an online curriculum for 4 billion young people, mostly poor, who are due to come online by 2020.

That said, a quote from Charlie Brown is; “There is no heavier burden than a great potential.”

All my Lone Eagle resources are online without restriction. Recent conference video presentations and online resources are at and  A dozen rural grant templates are at

Included in the above resources are links to Lone Eagle’s recent Alaska Native Innovations Incubator (NTIA Technical Assistance Pilot) as a replicable broadband-related local model created specifically to inspire, and enable, all Native and rural communities to become intentionally innovative.

This 8 minute video inspired the above “innovations incubator” and is strongly recommended to show locally,

The Alaska Native Tradition of Creative Adaptation.   Released Nov. 1, 2013,

I welcome all calls, emails, and can even Skype with anyone interested;
My skype ID is frankodasz and my email is
My Cell # is 406 925 2519

I’m offline for the next week celebrating my father’s 93rd birthday, but will check in online every few days to see if anyone would like to schedule a time to talk or skype.

We are all related,

Frank Odasz
President Lone Eagle Consulting

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 30, 2015

Increased broadband providers led to increase in hate crimes

I debated about sharing this not-great news about broadband, but it seemed like an opportunity to promote digital and information literacy. According to EurekAlert

New research from Carlson School of Management Professor Jason Chan and NYU Stern Professors Anindya Ghose and Robert Seamans finds that broadband availability increased the incidence of racial hate crimes committed by lone-wolf perpetrators in the United States during the period 2001-2008. The addition of a single broadband provider led to as much as a 20 percent rise in racial hate crimes in areas where racial tensions were especially high.

Ouch! There were a number of other factors that also contributed to the rise – broadband does seem to play a role. The research indicates that broadband had little effect on recruitment efforts of known hate groups – but seemed to embolden the lone wolves as the excerpt above notes.

One issue is that people can really hone the news and information that they choose to receive online. One preventative measure might be digital literacy training and public service announcements. In library school I took a whole class in how to teach people to qualify resources, to understand authorship, ownership and purpose. We can start in the schools where the audience is captive but it seems like there’s a need to reach a broader audience too. The goal would be to recognize information versus option as well as to understand hate speech.

Another preventative measure is to combat the messages of hate with messages of tolerance or appreciation of diversity. Now granted that’s difficult because as I just said, each user can really filter the information we get online but maybe we go offline to address the issue.

One interesting aspect of the research is that they found that this wasn’t true in all communities and in researching the different communities they found that the ones with elevated hate crimes had searched for racially charged phrases. Ars Technica explains…

However, one major factor altered the relationship between rising broadband access and rising hate crimes. “Counties that have higher racial tendencies tend to have a higher effect,” study co-author Jason Chan said in a phone interview with Ars Technica. Meaning, if a county has more population segregation by race, added broadband correlated with a much higher rate of hate crime. The same was true if a county’s Internet users searched for more racially charged phrases online—often with the words “hate” or “jokes” attached. If not, then the impact, while present, was far less significant.

It seems like that information might be useful to pinpoint communities that could use help fighting hate crime. We could use the technology to find those communities and as an early warning system to future. That’s where to focus prevention efforts.

It also opens a Pandora’s Box of using search results (in aggregate or honed) by geography to get a snapshot of what’s going on in a community. Wouldn’t it be fun to know who is Minnesota is searching for broadband?

Sometimes how news travels is as telling as the actual news itself. I have seen several local newspapers pick up on the press release from DEED on the Border to Border broadband grant applications. Here’s part of the article..

The agency’s Office of Broadband Development said it received requests for $29.06 million from 44 entities by the Sept. 15 application deadline. During the previous application period, the state received 40 applications. Funding for the agency’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program was approved during the 2015 legislative session.

“With grant requests nearly triple the available funding, it’s clear that the need for investment in rural broadband access is significant,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith in a news release.

And here are the places I’ve seen it posted – so far.

Outside of MN (and relevant):

  • Government Technology

Between that and the recent slew of legislators talking about broadband in communities (I’m on my way to Big Lake for such a meeting as I type) I can see that the momentum is building for asking for increased legislative support next year. Proponents just need to make sure that they stay diligent.

Monday night Senator Kiffmeyer hosted an information session on broadband in Big Lake, Minnesota. It included a panel of experts to help detail the issues, options and hopes to the community at large. The meeting was well attended – in part I’m sure sue to Sherband, a community effort to raise awareness of broadband. I’m sure they helped to spread the word but also they have been building a buzz for the topic for several months.

Folks are frustrated because – as the community maps indicate, Big Lake is a dead or slow zone – a black hole someone noted, in a region that seems to have better broadband in nearly every direction. They were frustrated with Windstream, the provider that covers most of the area and chose not to attend the session. Frontier, Charter and Palmer Wireless were there – all seemingly interested in developing partnerships to bring better broadband to the community.

The meeting included stories of people having trouble due to lack of adequate broadband, successful broadband adoption and research projects especially supported by the Blandin Foundation and a discussion of the business case for serving an area like Big Lake from the business, municipal and cooperative perspective. The big question remained – how do we get providers to come to our area? Several suggestions were made – first get involved with Sherband, second start created the business case for prospective providers and talk with your money by trying to support the providers who are interested in expanding coverage to the area.

Welcome from Mayor Danielowski

Here are more notes and videos… Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 28, 2015

Burnsville neighborhood looks at Open Access Model with city fiber

Dakota County is great about sharing their tools and their processes for getting fiber. A lot of effort has been made in getting anchor tenants fiber with the back burner idea that once fiber is pulled throughout the county that a commercial provider might be ready, willing and able to step in to use that fiber to provide FTTP connectivity to local homes and businesses. It looks like Ville du Parc (a neighborhood in Burnsville) has been paying attention to that plan.

Ville du Parc recently approached the Burnsville City Council about a plan to bring fiber to homes in the area. A lot to be learned from the question – and answers, here are notes from the recent meeting

The City Council of the City of Burnsville met for a Work session at Burnsville City Hall, 100 Civic Center Parkway, Burnsville, Minnesota, on the 15th day of September, 2015

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. by Mayor Kautz.

  • Council Present:           B. Coughlin, E. Kautz, S. Nguyen, M. Sherry
  • Council Absent:           D. Kealey
  • Staff Present:               H. Johnston, M. Collins, J. Faulkner, B. Jungmann, S. Albrecht
  • Others Present:             J. Gessner


Public Works Director Steve Albrecht facilitated a discussion regarding the City’s potential role in residential broadband.  The City Council received a petition from Ville du Parc neighborhood requesting the City bring broadband/fiber optic service to that neighborhood and do a feasibility report detailing the costs.  The City Council has an adopted Outcomes statement – “Burnsville facilitates community-wide accessibility to broadband technology”.  State Statute allows cities to use the 429 assessment process to extend technology to properties under certain conditions.  One of the conditions would depend on whether current providers do or intend to provide fiber options for the residents.  Staff could contact all the providers to find out.


It should be noted that the City’s overall fiber plan was never intended to provide access to all neighborhoods. There is limited capacity to provide fiber to certain areas; the Ville du Parc neighborhood is an area that is available. If the Council agrees, we would need a take a broader look at the whole system considering the possibility of receiving multiple petitions in the future. To conduct a broad study of the system would require someone with expertise since this has not been done before.

Mr. Albrecht proposed the following questions for the Council:

  1. Does the City of Burnsville want to consider leasing limited fiber capacity for residential use?
  2. If the answer to #1 is yes, will the City consider extension of fiber to residential areas that do not have access to fiber via private providers?

Mr. Albrecht clarified that the City would not become a provider, merely lease dark fiber to a provider who would then supply to the residents.  Staff is not aware what, if any, neighborhoods currently have access to broadband in the City and will inquire of the current providers.  All neighborhoods have access to internet and cable.

City Manager Johnston noted that the 429 assessment process provides a financing mechanism to get the fiber from its current location to the home.

Council discussed:

  • Frontier has leased fiber from the City but has not used it
  • Century Link or Comcast could potentially lease the fiber to provide broadband access to residents
  • Expanding to other single-family residential neighborhoods could prove difficult; neighborhoods with associations would be easier.
  • Since the City has adopted this Council outcome, should take a deeper look into the issue.
  • Concerns about the City’s costs to evaluate the system for residential deployment
  • Staff should contact current internet providers to find out which neighborhoods have broadband access and if they intend to provide in near future.
  • Ms. Johnston reported that our current fiber revenue agreements are approximately $25,000
  • The fiber is a City asset that should be used and could provide revenue
  • School Districts and others are relying more and more on internet and need faster connections

Craig Ebeling, Ville du Parc resident, reported that the neighborhood does have access to Comcast and Century Link, however this petition seeks to have fiber optics brought into the neighborhood.  This would provide a much higher speed capability than Comcast or Century Link can currently provide. The dark fiber could be used by the current providers or some other provider.  The neighborhood recognizes that this hasn’t been done before in Burnsville, or possibly even in Dakota County, but there is the possibility to change how high speed internet is deployed to residential neighborhoods.  It’s important to remember, that the fiber exists today because it was the cheapest thing to do for City utility system at the time, but it also has this other benefit. The study would provide the City much information about how this asset could be used. This petition specifically indicates strong interest, but would ultimately depend on the cost. The neighborhood appreciates any consideration.

Mr. Albrecht recommended the City develop a plan and explore the options.  Once we talk to all the providers, we can get a better understanding of their plans for the City and whether the City needs to supplement this in the future.

Council consensus is that more information is needed before making this decision and directed staff to conduct research and bring back at the All Day Worksession; include discussions with Dakota County.

I’ve been slogging and thinking about the recently released Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC) Report and Recommendations. I think it’s an important document because what gets measured gets done and they have lots of measurements specified in the report. Also there is a real recognition that deploying broadband to the far corners is a whole new game. I think a key statement about the need for government intervention comes early…

Much of the easy work has been done – building out broadband infrastructure in more profitable areas of the country where the community capacity is strong and the business case is compelling; and encouraging broadband adoption and use among people who are already “digitally ready.”

The hard work that remains is reaching those communities where geography and economics work against deployment and reaching individuals who do not yet have the same opportunities to use broadband to meet personal and professional goals.

However, I would replace “easy” in the first line with “financially rewarding”. Private business has done a good job providing service when and where financially feasible. And with government support (ARRA stimulus funding, USDA loans, traditional USF funds and other), they have provided service where it has become financially feasible. Providing service where and when it isn’t feasible is a different venture. For a while the industry tried using the high cost subsidies to help support broadband development but that was using landline fees (at a time when landlines are decreasing) to support a growing need.

Ironically, this document is preceded by many changes in the USF, although that is decided by the FCC not the White House anyway. In fact, the report specifically says it doesn’t address: Lifeline, E-Rate, retransmission consent, tax incentives and bonus depreciation – but it does offer some other concrete recommendations. (Including one that relates to E-Rate.)

Recommendations/Actionable Items

The report focuses on four recommendations (that lead to 36 actionable items)

  1. Modernize Federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments.
  2. Empower communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use.
  3. Promote increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets.
  4. Improve data collection, analysis and research on broadband

Some of the actionable items will be no-brainers for folks who follow broadband issues. Dig Once is one example – a good policy that encourages agencies and providers to work together to “dig once” to install broadband and install as much capacity as possible. Some involve “clarifying broadband eligibility”, which also makes sense, removes some guess work for planners and emphasizes the importance of broadband in the eyes of the federal government. Some encourage the federal government to collect, disseminate and support access to information – from best practices to encourage adoption to whereabouts of federal assets.

There were a couple of actionable items that caught my eye…

USDA: Expand broadband eligibility for RUS Telecommunications Program: RUS will revise regulations that currently limit broadband investment in specific areas with inadequate service. This change would open funding opportunities to a different provider even though an incumbent exists and would allow new entrants to access an estimated FY16 funding of $690 million.

This may open the door to new providers to enter areas that are un- or underserved. The question is what is the definition of adequate service, how much will be invested and what kind of organizations can apply (municipalities? Cooperatives?).

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): $25 million in new grants to advance Health Centers’ use of health IT: HHS will support Health Centers’ efforts to use health information technology to improve healthcare. HHS will award $25 million in grants to help health centers implement electronic health records and other health information technology to improve quality of care and patient access to personal health information. Since patient and health center use of electronic health information relies on having access to those records, training and technical assistance to facilitate access to broadband will be listed as an eligible expense in this grant program.

This looks like new money. Most items include ways to open the door to including broadband in old money, which is helpful. New money is good too.

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS): Provide libraries with tools to assess and manage broadband networks: IMLS will fund a new initiative to develop a network assessment toolkit and technical assistance program for rural and Tribal libraries. These libraries provide critical public access to computers and the Internet with support and training from professionals, but many have inadequate connectivity and Wi-Fi. The toolkit will help libraries configure, modify and manage their networks. After piloting in 30 rural and Tribal communities, an expanded rollout will be considered.

As a former librarian, I appreciate the role that libraries are poised to play in part because libraries have been a go-to place for many people needing access to technology. I find this item compelling if it include piloting new networks such using white spaces and other spectrum for wireless networks.

I like the idea of convening stakeholder. I like the focus on adoption and training but I think assessing what is out there before creating anything new makes sense.

Blandin’s Impact

The BOC put out a call for comments and recommendations as part of their research. Blandin Foundation was one of the 248 entities that responded. The report cites a items and credits Blandin for supporting them, including

  • More research
  • Dig Once
  • Adoption support
  • Sharing best practices on adoption, infrastructure and planning
  • A reach out to all citizens

But even more than those specifics, Blandin called out an incident in their recommendations that makes the case for helping all agencies understand that broadband is a priority…

Though USDA has long supported telephone cooperatives through its traditional loan programs, the conservative nature of the RUS lending policies discourages the formation of new cooperatives seeking to bring broadband services to unserved and underserved rural locations.  The federal government should consider new policies to support the creation of new broadband cooperatives.

To address this opportunity, in 2014, Blandin Foundation applied for USDA funding to support the creation of a unique Cooperative Development Center focused on broadband cooperatives.  In their comments, the USDA reviewer was not able to make the connection between broadband development and business and economic development.  Clearly, this connection exists and a stronger recognition by federal agencies needs to be established.

Above I say some recommendations seem like no-brainers – but really only to those of us who live, sleep, eat broadband. To others this may serve as a wakeup call or as permission to make broadband a priority.

Also inherent in the excerption I shared in Blandin’s support of cooperatives. The BOC report wasn’t as explicit in their support but perhaps when the talk about supporting new entrants, that opens the door to cooperatives. The truth is that most funding decisions need to go through Congress (it’s one of those things the report doesn’t address) but calling out the cooperative and municipal networks in this report would serve as a wakeup call or permission to Congress to include coops and community networks into their existing equations.

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,109 other followers

%d bloggers like this: