Introducing the Blandin Community Broadband Program (BCBP)
As the ARRA-supported MIRC initiative winds down, Blandin Foundation is planning to continue the momentum with the Blandin Community Broadband Program (BCBP). Through BCBP, the foundation extends its broadband focus in 2013 and 2014 with up to $1.5 million in grants and technical support available to rural Minnesota communities, including:
- Blandin Broadband Communities program - an intensive two-year partnership with 10 rural Minnesota communities
- Community Project Grants - Matching grants available to all rural Minnesota communities (application instructions will be released in December 2012)
- Community Broadband Resources - Non-grant resources
Please keep an eye on the Blandin Foundation website and Blandin on Broadband for more details in the next week, including a calendar of informational sessions hosted by regional partners.
Technology in Schools
Educators are still wrestling with how best to use technology in teaching. Recent surveys indicate that virtual education in the K12 world has not been overwhelmingly successful. However, transformational changes are starting to happen with use of technology in higher education as first-rate college courses are being made available online for free to motivated learners. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Oa
Minnesota Broadband Task Force
In July, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met in Deer River in Northern Minnesota. It was an opportunity for Task Force members to tour Leech Lake reservation and computer lab and to check out what Deer River Schools has been doing to integrate technology (such as video presence and iPads) into the curriculum. Members got to sample the online Ojibwe language class. They also made plans to create their report of recommendations, which is expected by the end of the year. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Mm
Who is Online?
The US Census recently released data related to Internet access. The numbers come from the 2010 census; it isn’t location specific, but it gives a glimpse at various characteristics of who has a computer at home, who accesses broadband from home and what people do online. Did you know there was a five percent difference in computer ownership based on whether a household was led by a man or woman? http://wp.me/p3if7-1NQ
What are they Doing?
Calix released a report that highlights what rural residents are doing with broadband. While the report indicates that most of the network traffic is downstream for residents, business use of the network accounts for 40 percent of the upstream traffic. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ns Connect Minnesota also released a report on the status of online healthcare in Minnesota. Most healthcare businesses are online. More than half of Minnesotans who are online seek healthcare info; that percentage increased for folks over 65 and/or with disabilities. http://wp.me/p3if7-1LT
Local Broadband News
Anoka, Dakota and Hennepin Counties
Anoka, Dakota and Hennepin Counties all received recognition in the national Top Digital County Awards. http://wp.me/p3if7-1NH
Learn more about the MIRC program in Benton County via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1MN
Learn more about the MIRC program in Cook County via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1N1
Arrowhead Electric moves forward with installation of Middle Mile fiber; you can follow their progress on Facebook. http://wp.me/p3if7-1M0
Grand Rapids/Itasca Area celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring computer giveaways with PCs for People and discounted broadband service from Paul Bunyan, digital literacy programs and expanded access to public TV programming. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Nx
Now that the residents are served, Southwest Minnesota Business Services is starting to focus on getting businesses on the fiber network in Jackson. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Md
Itasca celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring added computer and digital literacy training at the Somali Center, through the Willmar Senior Network and at the community education center. They have also been working with iPads in the schools. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Mg
Learn more about the MIRC program in Kandiyohi via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1MS
As the fiber network forges on in Lake County, so do the arguments about the federal ARRA loan for the network. Local leaders see it as an investment in the economic future of the community; incumbent providers see it as a risky investment. http://wp.me/p3if7-1NU
Leech Lake celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring an asset mapping initiative, digital literacy classes, and greater access to computers with a new computer lab and computer giveaway program with PCs for People. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Nq
Stevens County celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring digital literacy and knowledge worker classes, a website that puts local landlords and student-renters on the same page, increased access to public computers and better access to local information through the historical society. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Mv
Thief River Falls
Learn more about the MIRC program in Thief River Falls via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1MU
The Line highlights broadband programs for Twin Cities’ communities. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Nn
Upper Minnesota Valley
Learn more about the MIRC program around the Upper Minnesota Valley via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1MZ
Winona celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring a new city website to promote the area, more access to public computers, a website to support local businesses and digital literacy training. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ms
Learn more about the MIRC program in Winona via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1N3
Windom celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring several e-learning projects, a new community website, public safety initiative and iPads for patients in area hospital. http://wp.me/p3if7-1O3
Learn more about the MIRC program in Windom via video: http://wp.me/p3if7-1MX
Worthington celebrates their MIRC success with a wrap up meeting featuring technology in school and community center, PCs for People computer giveaways, extending public TV programming and cultural education. http://wp.me/p3if7-1O5
September 11: Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting http://tinyurl.com/7n2syt8
November 1: Tekne Awards http://www.tekneawards.org
November 13-14: Building our Connected Future: Minnesota’s Better with Broadband (Duluth, MN) http://tinyurl.com/d9z668l
Looking for more events? Check out Tech.MN’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.)
The introduction of 12 Mb satellite service has got lots of people thinking about “what is good enough?” What are the benchmarks for good enough? We are seeing Gb fiber availability heavily marketed in Kansas City and Chattanooga and made available in many places with FTTx networks. Clearly that is “good enough.” I have a 12 Mb connection from Comcast and most times that seems good enough, except when I do a speed test and I am getting less than a couple Mb. There are also times when I get 20 Mb over my 12 Mb connection. For rural township residents that struggle with dial-up or slow DSL or 1st generation satellite, an upgrade to an “up to 12 Mb” connection seems like a blessing. The same is true with a provider promise of future 6 Mb DSL or fixed wireless service.
The truth is that the characteristics of what makes up “good” broadband vary between people, even in the same household. For those who download or stream video as their primary activity, speed is everything and bandwidth caps are considered a fatal flaw. For teleworkers, the ability to log in to corporate Virtual Private Networks is critical; some teleworkers are being told that only wired networks will do as wireless networks are considered too unreliable due to weather and other variables. Mobility is a critical concern for others who want to bring their connectivity and their devices with them wherever they go.
The emergence of this high capacity satellite also clouds the technology upgrade path. Previously, rural communities, especially townships, could envision a path that included incremental fiber installation – to key anchor institutions and to cell towers with fiber being pushed closer and closer enabling better DSL speeds or even FTTH. With enhanced satellite services, will the increasingly fragmented broadband marketplace still support fiber installation or will satellite Internet and television combined with a cellular telephone/smartphone be the end-game telecommunications package for rural residents? I wonder!