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.

A model for other communities and an opportunity for contractors…

Fiber Optic Network – Whitetail Woods

Dakota County is seeking bids for a fiber optic network to Whitetail Woods Regional Park in Empire Township.

Bids due: Oct. 19 at 4 p.m.

Send bids to: Dakota County Information Technology Department Attention: Dan Ferber 1590 Highway 55 Hastings, MN 55033

RFB – Fiber Optic Network – Whitetail Woods Project Maps

NTCA GIG_SealMore good news from Paul Bunyan…

Paul Bunyan Communications Named Certified Gig-Capable Provider by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

(Arlington, VA) (September 22, 2015) – Paul Bunyan Communications was recently recognized by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America, as a Certified Gig-Capable Provider for delivering gigabit broadband speeds and enabling technological innovation in the Lake George and Park Rapids communities.

As a Certified Gig-Capable Provider, Paul Bunyan Communications joins a national campaign to build awareness and industry recognition of community-based telecom providers that have built communications networks capable of delivering Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, which is 100 times faster than those currently available in many U.S. households.

“I applaud Paul Bunyan Communications for its commitment to delivering the Internet’s fastest speeds—an accomplishment worthy of much praise considering the unique and challenging circumstances small, community-based telecommunications providers operate under every day in serving some of our country’s most rural and remote communities,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. “By building a gigabit-capable network, Paul Bunyan Communications has not only overcome these challenges, but also shattered conventional benchmarks for broadband speed to enable cutting-edge technologies that drive innovation and promote economic development in their communities, region and nationwide.”

To achieve certification, telecommunications companies must show that gigabit technology is currently commercially available within 95% of one or more exchanges within its serving territory and that such service can be provided without new trenching or stringing new aerial facilities. This statement must be confirmed by a letter from an engineering firm or other independent source involved in the company’s network planning, deployment or operation.

More information about the NTCA Gig-Capable Provider certification program is available at


About Paul Bunyan Communications

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.  The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services, digital and high definition television services, Smart Home services, digital voice services, and more.

About NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA’s members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use. Visit us at

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 26, 2015

Registration Open! 2015 Fall Blandin Broadband Conference

Border to Border Broadband: Better Together – Registration is Open!2015 BB confernece
November 18-20, 2015
Minneapolis Marriott West

The Blandin Foundation and the Office of Broadband Development are pleased to invite you to participate in the November 18-20 conference, Border to Border Broadband: Better Together. Join community broadband champions, thought leaders and policy makers from across the state to recharge and celebrate our shared efforts to make border to border broadband come true for Minnesota.

This year, we are excited to welcome keynote speaker Susan Crawford.

Ms. Crawford is a professor at Harvard Law School and a co-director of the Berkman Center. She is the author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, co-author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance, and a contributor to’s Backchannel.

Ms. Crawford served as Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (2009) and co-led the FCC transition team between the Bush and Obama administrations. She also served as a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Advisory Council on Technology and Innovation and is now a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Broadband Task Force. Ms. Crawford was formerly a (Visiting) Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard’s Kennedy School, a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, and a Professor at the University of Michigan Law School (2008-2010). As an academic, she teaches Internet law and communications law. Ms. Crawford received her B.A. and J.D. from Yale University, and makes her home in New York City and Cambridge, MA.

For more information about Ms. Crawford’s work see Susan Crawford has a broadband solution. Is Minnesota ready for it? on the Blandin on Broadband Blog.

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

Sponsored by Blandin Foundation and the Office of Broadband Development. Border to Border Broadband: Better Together  is being held November 18-20, 2015 at the Minneapolis Marriott West. 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 24, 2015

More info on MN Broadband Grants: $29.06 million requested

Wanted to share the latest from the Office of Broadband Development on the Border to Border grant applications…

Broadband Applications Increase in Latest Funding Round

~Forty-four entities request $29.06 million~

ST PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has closed the application process for $10.58 million in funding that is available to build out broadband infrastructure in Greater Minnesota.

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. “The $10.58 million available this year is a start, but it’s essential that the Legislature provide sufficient funding next session.”

A list of entities seeking funding and the areas that would be served is available here.

Under the program, entities can use the funding to pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of expanding broadband service in unserved or underserved regions of Minnesota. The maximum grant available to any single entity is $5 million.

“The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is serving an important need throughout Minnesota by providing access to high-quality, high-speed broadband service to our citizens, businesses and public buildings,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “The increase in applications during this funding round is a reminder that there are still a number of communities that lack high-speed broadband access.”

DEED officials said internal review of the 44 applications and scoring are now under way. The agency expects to announce which entities were approved for funding in November.

Connect America Funds (CAF) Phase 2 is going to be a game changer for the broadband landscape in rural America. The quick explanation is that larger providers were offered the opportunity to accept funding to help subsidize broadband expansion to rural areas. The stipulation was that the provider must provide service that is at least 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up to everyone in the service area. They have until the end of 2020 to complete deployment. (There are incremental requirements starting with 40 percent coverage by the end of 2017.)

Minnesota will receive $85 million to serve 170,355 locations. Here’s the breakdown and specifics:

  • PC Carrier – Eligible Locations – Support Amount
  • CenturyLink – 114,739 – $54,035,149
  • Consolidated Communications  – 4,266 – $2,516,502
  • Frontier Communications – 46,910 – $27,551,367
  • Windstream Communications – 4,440 – $1,519,856
  • Total – 170,355 – $85,622,874

If I’ve learned nothing else from the TV show Toddlers in Tiaras, I learned that sometimes you don’t want to win the first crown. Winning the first crown is better than winning nothing, but it usually puts you out of the running for Best in Show. Getting access at speeds of 10/1 is better than what the communities receiving CAF 2 funding have now. And any improvement is an improvement. BUT those speeds are slower than the Minnesota speed goals of 10/5 (The MN Broadband Task Force is looking to update those speeds.) and they seem even slower when you compare them to rural areas that have Gig access, such as Grand Rapids, Red Wing, Lac qui Parle County, New Prague, Rogers, Melrose and others.

The providers have said they will build out for faster speeds. Some will. Some won’t. I’m sure economics will determine the answer. Fiber to the Home is cheaper to maintain BUT it requires upgrades and it’s difficult to recoup the costs of those upgrades even with the CAF 2 subsidy in areas with low population density and great distance between locations.

So the news for these communities is mixed – they will see improvements in the next five years. But knowing that incremental improvements will be made makes it difficult for a new provider to come into town to compete with the CAF-supported incumbent provider.

Who will be getting CAF 2 funding?

Daily Yonder has created an interactive map hat shows which counties will receive funding. (It’s worth noting that the funding is not necessarily countywide – in fact it rarely is but it’s a measure.) The FCC also maintains a map that provides even greater geographic detail.

CAF phase II

Looking at FCC documents, you can find the funds received and locations targeted for CenturyLink, Consolidated, Frontier and WindStream. I added the totals to provide a list of counties, funds and locations to be served in each…

County – locations – fund amount

  • Aitkin, MN  – 7139         –  $3,388,534
  • Anoka, MN  – 861       – $183,316
  • Becker, MN – 2,341   –  $821,889
  • Beltrami, MN – 1,730   – $582,788
  • Benton, MN  – 1,516   –   $ 730,865
  • Big Stone, MN – 41    –  $6,265
  • Blue Earth, MN – 3,934  – $2,422,876
  • Brown, MN – 101           – $95,995
  • Carlton, MN – 5,060    –      $2,197,685
  • Carver, MN  – 2,715    –     $1,184,151
  • Cass, MN –  795        – $310,616
  • Chippewa, MN  – 666 –    $477,735
  • Chisago, MN – 5074     –   $1,357,845
  • Clay, MN – 663        – $440,804
  • Clearwater, MN  – 102      –   $58,269
  • Cook, MN – 3,458    –   $1,447,038
  • Cottonwood, MN  – 1388       – $1,090,723
  • Crow Wing, MN  – 2286   –  $919,145
  • Dakota, MN  – 1893       –  $763,925
  • Douglas, MN – 400        –  $150,194
  • Dodge, MN – 1,508 – $985,458
  • Faribault, MN – 256  – $176,448
  • Fillmore, MN – 1009   – $924070
  • Freeborn, MN – 1,295  –   $934,480
  • Goodhue, MN  – 1991   – $1,104361
  • Grant, MN – 58  – $48,629
  • Hennepin, MN  – 305  –     $92,485
  • Houston, MN – 178    –  $137,605
  • Hubbard, MN  – 2,857    –  $913,117
  • Isanti, MN – 5,504         –  $1,897,923
  • Itasca, MN –  6,101    –  $2,487,709
  • Jackson, MN  – 1,908     –   $2,448,189
  • Kanabec, MN  – 4966        –  $2,057,245
  • Kandiyohi, MN  – 2060       – $1,382,302
  • Kittson, MN  – 201        – $126,244
  • Koochiching, MN  – 1829        –  $1,010,358
  • Lac Qui Parle, MN  – 25      –  $14,003
  • Lake, MN – 3           – $792
  • Lake of The Woods, MN – 950      –  $424,315
  • Le Sueur, MN  – 2,859         – $1,579,260
  • Lincoln, MN  – 401        –  $390,651
  • Lyon, MN  – 1699        –  $1,341,020
  • McLeod, MN  – 2,479       – $1,511,085
  • Mahnomen, MN  – 599   –  $293,759
  • Marshall, MN   – 535        – $454,418
  • Martin, MN  – 2076        – $1,618,420
  • Meeker, MN  –  3258        – $1,768,690
  • Mille Lacs, MN  – 4258       –  $1,867,463
  • Morrison, MN  – 2,915       –  $1,519,359
  • Mower, MN   – 2383        –  $1,760,503
  • Murray, MN   – 1947        –  $1,330,429
  • Nicollet, MN – 1,515      –  $993,522
  • Nobles, MN   –  1,794       –  $1,434,091
  • Olmsted, MN  – 2942          –  $1,409,915
  • Otter Tail, MN  – 3,305       –  $1,421,898
  • Pennington, MN –  1,005     – $553,443
  • Pine, MN   – 7769        –  $3,911,753
  • Pipestone, MN   – 810        –  $644,932
  • Polk, MN  – 259               –  $195,223
  • Pope, MN  – 58         –  $33,275
  • Ramsey, MN  – 96              –  $19,030
  • Redwood, MN  – 415     –  $278,818
  • Renville, MN  – 1702     –   $1,493,456
  • Rice, MN   – 3,073         – $1,293,094
  • Rock, MN  – 9           –  $3,967
  • Roseau, MN –  1,648       –  $847,823
  • St Louis, MN  –  16,229            – $7,079,246
  • Scott, MN  – 680           – $315,273
  • Sherburne, MN   – 2,159            – $525,436
  • Sibley, MN  – 2,245             – $1,673,898
  • Stearns, MN  – 3883          –  $1,530,252
  • Steele, MN  – 2645          –  $1,612,611
  • Stevens, MN  – 87            – $69,860
  • Swift, MN  – 122       – $32,335
  • Todd, MN   – 796       – $387,849
  • Traverse, MN  – 352               – $293,728
  • Wabasha, MN  – 1,638     – $1,042,497
  • Wadena, MN  – 141      –  $70,122
  • Waseca, MN  – 2271       – $1,429,661
  • Washington, MN  – 1374        – $308,683
  • Watonwan, MN  – 821      – $679,539
  • Wilkin, MN  – 71           –  $47,246
  • Winona, MN   – 475     –  $245,212
  • Wright, MN  – 5488       –  $2,006,869
  • Yellow Medicine, MN  – 1250          – $977,738

pillarThe Brookings Institute recently released a report on Minnesota’s economy called, Pillars of Prosperity: Leveraging Regional Assets to Grow Minnesota’s Economy. The super abridged version is that Minnesota has been doing well with low unemployment and good workers but success in the past does not ensure success in the future. Minnesota must invest in infrastructure, especially at the regional level to support:

  • Innovation
  • Trade
  • Talent

Minnesota has the resources to invest now. We need to invest. I am heartened to say this is the same message I’ve heard from Representative Thissen on his broadband talking tour of the last month. He expects that Minnesota will have a budget surplus next year and he seems to believe that broadband infrastructure would be a wise investment with that surplus. This report backs him up.

The report says broadband is part of a recipe that makes Minnesota attractive to people and businesses…

Quality infrastructure and good governance provide the foundation for regional economies and enhance the impact of these three pillars. A region’s infrastructure, including its roads, bridges, railways, transit, housing, broadband technology, and essential supports for work such as child care, determines both whether a region is attractive as a place to live and work and whether firms and industries can thrive there. Good infrastructure makes it easier for firms to move goods and ideas readily around the globe and improves access to educational opportunities, jobs, residential neighborhoods, and amenities. Access to transit and quality housing influences whether workers and families can benefit from the opportunities created by a region’s economy. In contrast, inadequate infrastructure adds additional costs for both people and firms, making a place less efficient and less attractive.

State officials can support regional efforts with vision and investment…

In the near term, state officials should focus on what its top leadership can do best: establishing a high-level vision and goals for Minnesota’s growth and prosperity; providing critical investments in innovation, trade, and education and talent; and creating shared interests among regions to benchmark progress against key indicators of success. Investments in roads, broadband, other infrastructure, and housing are important, and will have far greater impact when they complement investments in the three key pillars of growth.

Minnesota gets a nod for broadband investment in the past – followed with encouragement to continue investing…

In the last few years, Minnesota has made critical investments in economic development to position the state for quality growth and opportunity. From the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership and the MN FastTRAC program to new broadband infrastructure programs and global trade offices, the state of Minnesota has responded to emerging challenges and opportunities with investments in the assets that matter most for long-term growth and opportunity. These actions will strengthen the pillars of growth in the global economy.

Yet, the state should not stop there. In the future, the governor and state legislature could structure programs and investments that can better inspire regional efforts to strengthen innovation ecosystems, encourage increased trade and foreign investment, and help more Minnesotans obtain the industry-relevant education and skills they need to compete in the next economy.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 23, 2015

Paul Bunyan GigaZone Comes to the City of Grand Rapids

Good news for Grand Rapids…

The GigaZone Comes to the City of Grand Rapids

2,100 locations now in the GigaZone, the rest of city expected by end of 2015

(Bemidji, MN) (September 21, 2015) – The GigaZone is quickly becoming one of the largest Gigabit networks in the United States. While only activated just 9 months ago, Paul Bunyan Communications has announced over 2,100 locations in the Grand Rapids area have recently been upgraded and are now in the GigaZone.

“When we announced this initiative a year ago we made a commitment to bring the GigaZone to our entire service area which we know will take a few years. That said, I did not anticipate we would be able to reach so many locations so quickly. What a testament to our entire team. It’s exciting, particularly for those who are included this year, but we will continue to do as much as we can to bring the GigaZone to all our members and communities we serve as fast as we can.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

“I’m not aware of another Gigabit project that has been activated to so many in such a short period of time. It’s a benefit of having the region’s only all fiber optic network, a project that started in 2004 and is nearly completed. This provides the capacity to roll out the GigaZone much more quickly and efficiently that most other providers. It also will allow us to meet the increasing demands of broadband innovations” said Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications IT & Development Manager.

The GigaZone is currently available to over 9,400 locations including all of the cooperative’s service area of rural Park Rapids, Lake George, Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids, and areas of Bemidji and now Grand Rapids. GigaZone upgrades are expected by the end of the year in the remaining areas of Grand Rapids.

Paul Bunyan Communications recently mailed out information to the new locations in the Grand Rapids area that are now in the GigaZone and the cooperative has an online map available showing the active areas of the GigaZone as well as those areas that will be constructed/upgraded during the remainder of 2015.

“We have already seen the demand for GigaZone services from the region with lots of people wondering when it will reach their location. The online map of the active areas and plans for this year is a great resource for those interested in checking on their specific location.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

GigaZone service options include unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit. Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone voice service. All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.

Most current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds.  To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties. The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services, digital and high definition television services, Smart Home services, digital voice services, and more.

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