Broadband Task Force Visits Benton County
The Minnesota Broadband Task Force visited Sauk Rapids for their March meeting. It was an opportunity for the Task Force members to learn about the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) from a participating community. They also heard from local residents about what is and what isn’t working with local broadband deployment and adoption. http://wp.me/p3if7-1DJ The next Task Force meeting will be on April 17 in Dakota County. (Details to be announced later.)
Internet Traffic to Double?
According to International Data Corporation, Internet-generated broadband traffic will increase approximately 50% year-over-year on fixed networks and double on mobile networks. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Dp Telecom providers are preparing for an increase and are talking about the role they can play with two broadband drivers: video and cloud computing. http://wp.me/p3if7-1E1 Others in the industry are asking about the role of wireless; could it (should it) replace or supplement wired solutions? http://wp.me/p3if7-1DL
Broadband Adoption – Why and How?
According to the Boston Consulting Group, the Internet accounted for $684 billion, or 4.7%, of all U.S. economic activity in 2010. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Dg If you’re not using the Internet, you are not in the running for taking advantage of that market. At the personal, business and community level, it makes sense to promote better broadband use. Luckily there are some tools to help.
• The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) unveiled tools to help communities address digital inclusion. http://wp.me/p3if7-1DE (See an annotated list of IMLS resources http://wp.me/p3if7-1CS)
• AT&T is encouraging greater use of broadband in education with their Aspire Education Grants. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Dd
• NetZero is offering a free wireless Internet option. http://wp.me/p3if7-1D7
MAP for Nonprofits recently released a report that highlighted innovative use of broadband and technology by Minnesota-based nonprofits. http://wp.me/p3if7-1D1 Projects range from creating shared databases that improve services to clients to shifting to texting to reach high school students. The key is not focusing on the technology but focusing on using technology to solve a problem.
Several broadband related bills were introduced to the Minnesota Legislature last month. Topics included tax issues and broadband equipment, fiber grants for education, restrictions on community networks, wireless hotspots in rest areas, the role of the PUC (Public Utilities Communication) and online learning. http://wp.me/p3if7-1CE Many of the bills remain stagnant but movement has been seen in the online learning bill, which would make digital learning a graduation component in Minnesota schools. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Eh. On a national level, the Minnesota Telecom Alliance has been keeping on with what’s happening at the FCC (Federal Communication Commission). http://wp.me/p3if7-1CX
Local Broadband News
Students in Alexandria adopt MIRC-developed digital inclusion curriculum and work with local seniors to boost computer skills and intergenerational friendships. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Dm
Working with PCs for People, Austin will soon receive 75-100 computers for low-income households. http://wp.me/p3if7-1E8
Remote telehealth options are made possible in Cold Spring Minnesota as GrandCare helps local residents get connected to healthcare solutions and loved ones online. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Dv
ARRA-supported Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services opens an office in Jackson. http://wp.me/p3if7-1DA
Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Funds runs into issues with US Internet falling short of estimated contributions, which was part of their proposal to provide the city with wireless service. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ds
A senior housing center in Sartell has setup six wireless hotspots and seven iPads to encourage residents to learn about new technology. http://wp.me/p3if7-1CH
Sibley & Renville Counties
Sibley & Renville Counties postpone vote on FTTH community network initiative. http://wp.me/p3if7-1DW
Cash mobs, quick but planned, rapid local buying, boost business for target Twin Cities’ shops. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ee
The Nerdery gathers a troop of 180 volunteers to build 18 websites for local nonprofits in 24 hours. http://wp.me/p3if7-1DG
April 4 – Spectrum Provisions of Tax Relief Act — Meaning, Impacts and Timing webinar http://wp.me/p3if7-1Eb
April 11 – TISP: Making the Connexion: A progress report on Eagan’s Data Center (Minneapolis) http://wp.me/p3if7-1E5
April 17 – Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting (Dakota County) http://tinyurl.com/7n2syt8
April 25 – Minnesota High Tech Association Spring Conference (Minneapolis) http://tinyurl.com/7t6oner
May 8 – Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting http://tinyurl.com/7n2syt8
Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)
Looking for local MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) events? Check the MIRC Google calendar: http://tinyurl.com/3oz5uzh or University of Minnesota Extension MIRC calendar http://tinyurl.com/66vxghj
Last week in his MPR Blog, Dave Peters took an interesting look at the ever-evolving fiber vs. wireless question. http://tinyurl.com/7x23wq4 It is a question that I get at every community broadband meeting that I facilitate.
On one hand, you have fiber. You know what you are getting with fiber – high capacity, extremely reliable, triple play services and more, and quite expensive to deploy in the rural countryside.
When people talk about wireless, confusion abounds. People use a combination of marketing and technical terms interchangeably. When bandwidth caps are discussed, people want to know “just how much is 2 Gb?” Wireless technologies may or may not be influenced by weather, trees and/or terrain. Frequencies may or may not be licensed. Accuracy of provider coverage maps is debated.
Peters’ blog also raised this important question – If an area is served first by a wireless broadband provider, will that kill the market for investment in upgraded FTTH or FTTN services? Will rural residents be generally satisfied enough with a lower capacity wireless service that there will not be the groundswell of support and commitment to motivate a significant investment in fiber, thereby causing an area to be underserved long into the future? I tend to think probably so.
Yet we would never argue the opposite case – that a new fiber network would dissuade investment in wireless technologies. Mobile connectivity is now an expectation and people have proven that they are willing to pay for it. The large wireless carriers have announced aggressive plans to extend 3G and 4G coverage areas to more rural areas.
I was quoted in the blog as stating that people need both wired and wireless services. I also think that the bar for fiber advocates continues to rise. More than ever, they need to demonstrate the value of large bandwidth applications, especially those that have been or could be deployed by local institutions like schools and health care providers.
More than ever, communities need to have a technology plan that ensures both fiber-based and wireless services coupled with an application deployment plan. Communities lacking any of the three – wired, wireless and applications – will struggle to compete for talented people and business investment.
Bill Coleman helps communities make the connection between telecommunications and economic development. As principal in Community Technology Advisors http://tinyurl.com/3f4dx7g for ten years, he assists community, foundation and corporate clients develop and implement programs of broadband infrastructure investment and technology promotion and training. Bill is working with the Blandin Foundation on the MIRC Initiative http://tinyurl.com/2c6mhh4, Community Broadband Resource Program http://tinyurl.com/cseu7e and other broadband projects.