Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 9, 2014

Fergus Falls elected officials support broadband bill

In a recent article, the Fergus Falls Journal quotes two local politicians (State Rep. Bud Nornes and Mayor Hal Leland) on their approval for the Minnesota Broadband Development Fund bill…

The Minnesota House on Thursday approved a budget plan that would spend $322 million of the state’s surplus. Included in the plan is $25 million going toward upgrading broadband access throughout the state.
The bill would help local Internet providers build high-speed broadband infrastructure. The proposal up for debate at the state Legislature started out at $100 million, but was cut down because it didn’t fit into the budget, according to State Rep. Bud Nornes.
“I would have loved to be able to vote on that as a standalone bill,” Nornes said. “It’s primarily targeted at our part of the state. I think as it goes through the rest of this process, I’m confident the Senate will have at least that much in their bill.”
The state money would only be part of the cost toward upgrading broadband, according to Nornes. Local providers would still need to make investments on their own, however; the state funds would work like matching grants, Nornes said.
“They all have plans to improve their service area,” he said of local providers. “This would just enable them to get that done faster.”


Fergus Falls Mayor Hal Leland agrees, saying broadband is “absolutely critical” for any economic development or business in the area.
“It’s something that just has to take place if we’re going to have a state that overall is viable economically,” Leland said.

Like many rural areas, the town is well-served; the areas outside town are not…

But while the city is well served, the rural residents are not. At least 40 percent of the state has no availability to broadband Internet, Leland said. He supports the initiative at the legislative level to bring broadband to greater Minnesota, as long as they address the problem the right way — just enhancing what’s there won’t cut it, he said.
“We’re not eager to see other services that already exist be enhanced,” Leland said.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 9, 2014

79% Minnesota households use broadband

Connect Minnesota just released information on their latest residential survey. There’s a one percent increase in broadband adoption since 2012 – but it is harder to reach the people at the farthest edge of the digital divide. It’s nice to see some progress. It does seem that low-income and elderly households remain on that far end of the divide.

Residential Broadband Adoption up by 7 Percentage Points Since 2010

For Immediate Release

April 9, 2014

More than three out of four non-subscribers believe that home access could positively impact their quality of life

ST. Paul, MN – Connect Minnesota today released new data showing that broadband adoption in Minnesota is increasing, with 79% of households now subscribing to broadband service, up from 72% in 2010.* In addition to this growth in home broadband adoption, mobile broadband usage increased by 30 percentage points over the same period.

“We continue to see positive trends in both broadband access and adoption in Minnesota,” said William Hoffman, Connect Minnesota’s program manager. “As more of our educational opportunities, healthcare services, and economy move online, every Minnesota household will need to be connected.”

The data are available via an interactive widget on the Connect Minnesota website.

Among the key findings of the residential survey are:

  • More than 108,000 school-age children in Minnesota do not have broadband access at home.
  • More than 1.1 million working-age adults in Minnesota would need assistance with tasks that are often required by employers, such as creating a spreadsheet, going online from a mobile device, using a word processor, or sending an e-mail.
  • More than three out of four non-adopters in Minnesota say that it would be easier for them to shop, seek out healthcare information, or interact with government offices if they had Internet access at home.
  • Statewide, more than 441,000 households still do not subscribe to home broadband service. For many of these households, the main barrier to home broadband adoption is the belief that broadband is not relevant or beneficial to them.
  • Mobile broadband usage has also grown in Minnesota. More than one-half of Minnesota adults (56%) use mobile broadband service, up from 26% in 2010 when Connect Minnesota began measuring this trend.

This survey is conducted in support of Connect Minnesota’s efforts to close Minnesota’s digital gap and explores the barriers to adoption, rates of broadband adoption among various demographics, and the types of activities broadband subscribers conduct online, among other issues.

While the results show adoption is increasing, there are 441,000 households who do not subscribe to the empowering technology of high-speed Internet. Additionally, as highlighted above, more than 108,000 school-age children in Minnesota do not have broadband access at home To address this digital divide, Connect Minnesota offers the Every Community Online program where it offers free digital literacy training and low-cost computers and Internet access.

Connect Minnesota’s 2013 Residential Technology Assessment was conducted in late 2013 and includes responses from 1,218 residents. The survey was conducted as part of the State Broadband Initiative (SBI) grant program, funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and by the American Recovery and Reinvestment of 2009.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 8, 2014

Gamification of Civic Engagement via Technology

Gamification has come up in conversation half a dozen times in the last month – in short it’s using game theory (or not even theory just the idea of a game) to encourage increased participation – maybe in school or in this case with use of apps developed to facilitate citizen engagement. For me it’s come up in the world of hackfests – lots of developers are interested in the idea. It makes sense, almost by definition these hack attendees are techies who are interested in getting more involved in the community. So they’d love to get others involved in the community. For many of them gaming is fun pastime. So gamifying civic engagement is a perfect solution. And I’m not here to say it isn’t. I’m here to spread the word – and David Asp sent me a great article from GCN with some tips on building better civic apps…

Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics together with researchers with Emerson College’s Engagement Game Lab recently released a “lessons learned” booklet for developing and deploying innovative tools for engaging citizens. After many years of collaboration, the partners wanted to document their projects and processes to help other cities build on what they had learned.

The Design Action Research with Government: A Guidebook calls for collaboration between academic researchers and government offices, citizen-centered and research-based approaches well as a process that includes both research and iterative design and code.

One example…

One tool DARG is working on is StreetCred. It is based on Citizens Connect (CC), which was originally designed as a 311 app to help residents report graffiti or potholes directly to the right person at City Hall. However, in a survey of CC users, Boston found that, while CC had social features, people weren’t using them; 38 percent of users had never used the app to look at other reports; 41 percent reported they used CC “a minority of the time” and people reported items close to their home.

So when the city designed Street Cred, it incorporated gamification features such as allowing citizens to earn badges, compete with neighbors and share civic accomplishments. It also integrated Foursquare, Instagram, SMS and email to leverage existing mobile social sharing.  A new version is due out this spring

I just like to seed the boards with people who are interested in and understand the role that ubiquitous broadband should have on any effort to increase services online . So I’m sharing information on state boards that I think/hope might be of interest to some readers. Good luck – and please help folks who move services online understand that the unfunded mandates inherent in that move is infrastructure and access to computers. So helping to support broadband providers, libraries and other public access to computers and digital literacy should be part of the plan!

Vacancies: One (1) State Agency Representative for a term ending January 5, 2015.

Vacancies: Six (6) Seats
- One Local Public Health Representative
- One Community Clinics/Federally Qualified Health Centers Representative
- One Laboratories Representative
- One Pharmacists Representative
- One Health System Chief Information Officers Representative
- One Professional with Expert Knowledge in Health Information Technology

Please note:  Each applicant should have interest and expertise in health information technology. The applicant must be able to: 1) bring the perspective of the particular seat to Committee discussions and decisions; 2) keep the statewide interests of e-Health foremost in their decisions and votes; 3) review meeting materials ahead of time and be prepared to contribute clear and focused ideas for committee discussion; 4) attend meetings (or send an alternate) and participate in conference calls, alerting staff and the chairs ahead of time to any scheduled absence.

Vacancies: One (1) Specialty Care Provider Representative


Submit an Application
Complete the application form.

Applicants should include the following documents:
• Open Appointments Application Form (completed, signed and dated)
• Letter of Interest
• Resume or Biography

Applications may be submitted online, by email to, or by mail or in person to:

Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State
180 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
St Paul, MN  55155-1299

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 6, 2014

Annandale need better broadband

The Institute for Local Self Reliance is gathering videos on broadband in rural Minnesota. They recently posted a video from Annandale on the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

In the video, City Administrator Cindy Hinnenkamp talks about like without better broadband…

Hinnenkamp describes broadband in the areas outside of Annadale as “horrific.” She goes on to discuss how the community’s poor connectivity negatively impacts its economic health. She shares a story about entrepreneurs from an artisan spice business once located in Annandale. The company started with online sales but the owners anticipated opening a storefront in the downtown area of the lake community. After contending with eight outages in three weeks, the new business pulled up stakes and moved to Buffalo.

It’s a story I heard repeated this week at the East Central Broadband Conference. Businesses are moving because of broadband. They are relocating from areas without adequate broadband. They are choosing areas with better broadband. People want lakes, woods, arts, cross country skiing (well maybe not in mid April!) but people need broadband if they are going to work, study and live a convenient life to which they have become accustomed.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 5, 2014

Are you an educator with a broadband story to share?

The Greater Minnesota Partnership is looking for stories from Minnesota educators who recognize the importance of broadband. If you are an educator, such as a K12 teacher or principal, with a story to share – please let me know through the comment below. They are looking for stories of success and stories of need. If you have a great project or story you’d like to share or if your students cannot get access or speeds needed for education, at school and/or at home, please let us know.

Participation in today’s webinar demonstrates that momentum is getting stronger for the Minnesota Broadband Development Fund in the legislature. It has support on both sides of the aisle. It has support from rural and urban areas; as demonstrated by a recent letter of support. What it needs now is for legislators to recognize that this is an issue that’s important to their constituents. If it’s important to you, now is the time to let your legislators and the governor know. (I’ll include some tips on how to do that below.) The webinar was informative and inspiring, featuring presenters and attendees who are very involved with broadband, economic development and policymaking. Lots of good questions and good insights. You can see the full webinar and presentation below…

Bird’s Eye View

The Minnesota Legislature is looking at a bill for $100 million for broadband development to help Minnesota reach the broadband goal of border to border broadband at speeds of at least 10-20 Mbps downstream and 5-10 Mbps up.

Details Matter

I wrote a post earlier outlining some of the details of the proposed bill. That was last week and changes have occurred since then but the big details remain the same:

  • Amount appropriated: the House is currently looking at $25 million; the original proposal was for $100 million
  • Definition of unserved. Priority will be given to unserved. There are two potential definitions of unserved (4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps up OR 10-20 Mbps downstream and 5-10 Mbps up)
  • Community characteristics. Priority may be given to communities with anchor institutions and/or communities that are economically distressed and/or where the greatest number of people can get upgraded and/or where additional funding can be leveraged.

How you feel about these details may depend on your interest and community.

Who to Contact

Thanks to the Presenters

Senator Matt Schmit, Dan Dorman from Greater Minnesota Partnership and Laura Zeigler from Minnesota League of Cities. (Laura maintains a site and Twitter account to help you keep up on the issue; Dan has a handout on the topic.)

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 4, 2014

East Central MN Broadband Conference: Full Notes and Video

Yesterday, despite April snow showers, a good crowd gathered in Hinckley to talk about broadband. It was the second annual East Central Broadband conference – and for the second time I was very impressed. I think the idea of a regional broadband conference is very smart. It’s an opportunity for regional neighbors to learn from each other, to applaud one another and to find ways to collaborate. They talk about how to work with providers to get unserved areas covered. The message was clear – these folks want to work with providers, they don’t want to become providers.

It was interesting to learn from Kevin Larson, a local broadband provider. He explained his $49 million investment in telecommunications in the area, his desire to do more and the roadblocks. The Behemoth is funding. If funding was available, he could deploy. He explained that they have access to spectrum for wireless, but right now the equipment to manage it is too expensive to make a business case to purchase. So they are testing new, lower cost equipment. Once it’s tested and true, they can deploy – and it’s a good sign that equipment is coming down in price – but it takes time to test.

They also talk about how to boost adoption. In this pretty rural part of the state, kids can spend hours on school buses so the wifi on the bus (aka rolling classroom) is a big hit. It’s an even bigger hit for students without access to broadband at home. Businesses are learning to take advantage of broadband too. There are local community portals and business training to help boost use. One line I loved came from Cloquet Valley, where they are adopting as fast as they can deploy.

I was able to capture much of the day in video – presentations and report outs from peer discussions on topics of interest.

Welcome and introductions from Bernadine Joselyn from Blandin Foundation

  Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 3, 2014

What’s it like to live with slow Internet access?

Listening to a legislative session the other day, I heard a few legislators ask about what a person can do with different broadband speeds. Can I do e-learning on DSL? Can I upload a video on satellite? So I was delighted to hear Stacey Stockdil (at the East Central MN Broadband Conference – full notes later) about her life with a DSL connection that clock in at 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps up (4/1). She has been logging how long it takes to do various tasks online.

Listening to her I am reminded that there’s a difference between broadband and Internet access, which I think was also an underlying question in the legislative session. A legislator had asked if there were areas where there was no broadband or the Internet. Really anyone with a phone can access the Internet – at dialup speeds but that’s so slow we don’t really count it anymore. It might require a long distance phone call. Access to broadband is different because there’s not one official definition of broadband. The State defined their broadband goal at 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. A federal definition, however, tracks broadband at 4/1.

It’s a geeky distinction, but essential difference as we look at state and federal funding to reach unserved areas. I hope it helps to hear about life at 4/1…

Yesterday I went to the EduTEch conference at St Thomas University. I took pretty Complete notes, which I’ll post below. From a broadband perspective it was interesting to hear about education technology as a growing industry in Minnesota and to hear about the role of technology in effective pedagogy.

The day included a showcase of local emerging technology companies that support education – such as KidtoPro, which develops software tools for charter schools that facilitates experiential tech learning and Zivix, which has a modified guitar that connects with your iPad as a guitar teaching tool. (Remember that for your Christmas list next year!) I have videos of the showcase presentations.

It’s exciting to think that education technology is becoming a local industry cluster. It’s an industry that’s clean, well-paying and can be done anywhere – well anywhere with broadband.

Much of the day was spent talking about the impact of technology on education. We took a look at how little the classroom has changed over time and evaluation seems to have changed even less. Someone mentioned that the idea of knowing something has become obsolete as we can now look up ready reference questions on Google – but students need to learn how to learn, how to work collaboratively and how to be entrepreneurial. We heard from seventh grade students who are going to a school (Venture Academy) that focuses on peer-directed, now-focused, performance-oriented education. It’s made a difference for each student and technology plays a role. The school uses a flipped classroom approach and students are encouraged to pursue self-directed study, which is much easier with access to technology.

I was very impressed with the school – what caught my attention (as a parent) was their Maker Shop. Kids have access to maker tools – from traditional shop tools, to a 3D printer, to Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Kids are encouraged to invent and innovate in school. The school us currently 6th and 7th grade and plans to add a year as the students age. I have a 4th grader; I’ll be revisiting Venture Academy next year!

Notes from the conference…

Read More…

In the era of the Internet of Things, it’s fun to see smart homes becoming an option for residents in 200 Minnesota communities. Thanks to Mediacom for sending their press release…


Mediacom Broadband Delivers Smart Home Technology to 250,000 Minnesota Homes

Automated homes just a click away with smartphones, tablets, laptops

GRAND RAPIDS, MN – March 31, 2014 – The ability to control a home with a swipe of a smartphone or tablet is becoming a reality for residents in 200 Minnesota communities where broadband service is delivered by Mediacom Communications. The company announced today that its new home automation and security service, called Home Controller, is now available to the nearly 250,000 homes located along Mediacom’s fiber-optic network deployed throughout much of Minnesota.

Home Controller uses a broadband connection and touch-screen pad to give homeowners control, from virtually anywhere in the world, to turn lights on and off, adjust temperatures, activate or change security settings, and keep a watchful eye on the front porch or back door.

“The always-connected home is no longer a scene from ‘The Jetsons,’” said Mediacom Regional Vice President Bill Jensen. “Mediacom’s extensive broadband network is widely available and technology improvements have lowered costs, making this an affordable and more mainstream service that is as valuable to families living in smaller communities as it is to Metro area homeowners.”

The smart home technology operates through a secure wireless network in homes connected to Mediacom’s high-speed Internet service. Automated features include live cameras; thermostat controls; detectors for carbon monoxide, moisture and smoke; motion sensors and security alerts. All features are customized to each home and can be controlled with smartphones, tablets, or a computer Web browser.

Jensen explained that Home Controller customers simply tap an icon on their smartphones or tablets to remotely set thermostats or turn lights on or off. Even more popular, he said, are monitoring features such as those that provide alerts every time a door is opened. “Do you wonder if your kids returned from school at 3:30 pm? Home Controller can keep a log of every time a door is opened, and a camera delivers real-time images to let you see who has come in or out,” Jensen said.

“Mediacom is the first cable company to launch home automation and home security services to non-metropolitan areas,” said Joe Appio, Mediacom’s Vice President of Home Management. “Our goal is to activate smarter homes, one house at a time, and give our customers a best-in-class experience that is simple and easy to use”.

In recent weeks Mediacom has demonstrated its home automation and security service at community home shows in Redwood Falls, Grand Rapids and several metro-area communities. The hands-on demo allowed home show visitors to tap a screen that changed lights, triggered an alarm or captured on image with a camera monitor.

“What Home Controller is showing Minnesota consumers is that they can use the power of Mediacom’s broadband network to run their homes more efficiently, with new home automation technology to take care of what’s most important to them,” Appio added.

A Home Controller system requires Mediacom’s Internet service and is available at price levels ranging from $34.99 per month to $44.99 per month. Security features connect to UL-certified emergency response centers where licensed professionals monitor and respond to alarms 24 hours a day.

To make the connected home a reality, Mediacom’s Home Controller uses the iControl software platform. The software has earned top awards within the electronics industry and top 100 winner of the House Product of the Year Award.

# # #

About Mediacom Communications Corporation:
Mediacom Communications is the nation’s eighth largest cable television company and one of the leading cable operators focused on serving the smaller cities in the United States, with a significant concentration in the Midwestern and Southeastern regions. Mediacom Communications offers a wide array of broadband products and services, including traditional and advanced video services such as digital television, video-on-demand, digital video recorders, high-definition television, as well as high-speed Internet access and phone service. Through Mediacom Business, the Company offers affordable broadband communications solutions that can be tailored to any size business.

Media Contact:
Phyllis Peters, Mediacom
Office: 515-246-2295  | Mobile: 515-707-7148

Mediacom is the only U.S. cable company and broadband provider to deploy the new-generation technology of home automation and security to wide areas of consumers living in non-urban areas. Mediacom’s Home Controller service is now available to residents in 200 Minnesota communities located in these 48 counties where the company’s fiber-optic network delivers broadband service.

Lac qui Parle                 Rice

Big Stone                     Lake                             Rock

Blue Earth                    Le Sueur                       Scott

Brown                           Lincoln                         Sibley

Carlton                        McLeod                        St Louis

Carver                          Meeker                        Stearns

Chippewa                     Mower                          Steele

Cottonwood                  Murray                         Stevens

Dodge                          Nicollet                         Swift

Faribault                       Nobles                          Traverse

Fillmore                        Olmsted                       Wabasha

Goodhue                       Pine                             Watonwan

Hennepin                      Pipestone                     Waseca

Houston                        Pope                            Winona

Itasca                           Redwood                      Wright

Kandiyohi                     Renville                      Yellow Medicine

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 1, 2014

Blandin Broadband e-News April 2014

News from the Blandin on Broadband BlogBBC Map

Blandin Foundation Extends Rural Broadband Commitment
Blandin Foundation commits to extend work in rural broadband another two years (through 2016) and allocates $1.5 million more for community broadband grants. Since making rural broadband use and access a focus in 2003, Blandin Foundation has invested $9.8 million and partnered with leaders in more than 60 communities and 80 organizations across rural Minnesota on various projects.

Broadband Deployment Fund
The Legislature is looking at funding for broadband deployment. (The House is saying $25 million.  The Senate says $100 million. The details of the fund indicate that some communities will be better poised to take advantage of the opportunity. For example, priority will go to communities with current speeds slower than 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps up. How will your community compete? The Blandin Foundation is hosting a webinar this Friday to discuss the bill further.

Many organizations and individuals have chimed in with their view on the Broadband Development bill, especially after the Governor stepped away from the bill Minneapolis Star Tribune, Senator Schmit and letters to the editor from the general public. Research has shown that broadband supports rural development.

Blandin Foundation is Looking for Your Story
The Blandin Foundation is collecting stories of broadband use and need. If you have a story please share a short (1 minute) “selfie-type” video that finishes the statement, “I value broadband most when….”

Other Broadband and Related Legislation
The Legislature has reinstated the tax exemption for telecommunications equipment. There is a bill to provide funding to promote civic technology in Minnesota. Open Meeting procedures are being discussed; as more agencies use websites to communicate, the Legislature considers allowing agencies to announce meetings on their own sites rather than newspapers. On the federal front, Senator Franken recently asked the Department of Justice to look into the Comcast Time Warner merger.

Broadband Project Funding
The Minnesota Cup is looking for ideas; good ideas will compete for $300,000 in prizes. Comcast is also looking to reward innovation from local businesses (that are customers of Comcast).

Report on Minnesota Community Networks
Chris Mitchell and Institute for Local Self Reliance have recently released a report: Minnesota Local Governments Advance Super Fast Internet Networks. It highlights a handful of community networks in Minnesota; places where the local government spearheaded or at least played a leading role in getting broadband to the community.

Local Broadband News

Paul Bunyan Communication Broadband High Speed Internet is now optimized for Netflix.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa plans on a five-year, multi-million dollar economic development strategy that covers everything from education to infrastructure, including an $8 million dollar broadband development project.

Cook County
The Northeast Service Cooperative has received the Brian L. Talbott Award for its Northeast Minnesota Middle Mile Fiber Project, which provides broadband through a 915–mile fiber optic network throughout northeastern Minnesota.

The Jackson Public Library System received $11,000 to purchase a range of computers. The grant comes from the Blandin Foundation via Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services, a Blandin Broadband Community.

Minnesota River Valley
The Minnesota River Valley expresses a need for better broadband, pointing out that in places such as rural Le Sueur County, high-speed Internet is still not an option for many residents.

Thief River Falls
Just months after the launch of Arctic Cat’s official eBay store, they are seeing approximately 10 percent of their Shopatron powered U.S. sales coming from the new online sales channel.

Rural Minnesota
Developed by three brothers from Minnesota, the RowBot travels farm fields between rows to cover the ground with fertilizer. GPS and obstacle-prevention software keep the robot from trampling the crop.

Saint Paul
Comcast plans to continue their Internet Essentials programs to provide low cost broadband services to low income households. They also announced more than $1 million in grants to dozens of non-profit organizations across the country to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones.

With support from the Blandin Foundation, Scandia is surveying local residents about their broadband needs.

Trout Lake Township
Paul Bunyan has announced plans to bring super-fast Internet services to every household in Trout Lake Township.

Two Harbors
Students at Two Harbors’ High School are volunteering to assist seniors in the community with their technology questions. It’s a project sponsored through the Blandin Broadband Communities program.

EduTech Showcase and Forum (St Paul, MN)

East Central Minnesota Regional Broadband Conference (Hinckley, MN)

Deadline for Blandin Broadband Grants Watch this informational webinar or visit the Foundation’s website

Webinar: Minnesota Legislation to Fund Broadband Development (1:30-2:30pm)

Webinar: Making 700 MHz Wireless Work in Rural Minnesota (3-4:00pm)

Spring GIS Users Group Meeting (Apple Valley MN)

APRIL 24-26
Red Hot Hack (Red Wing, MN)

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.)

Bill_ColemanStirring the Pot

By Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

The current debate at the legislature on the broadband fund follows the narrowness of the discussion of the state broadband task force over the past couple years. That discussion has focused on two topics… 1) how does Minnesota reach its state broadband goal? And 2) how do we increase adoption?

Both are important topics, but miss important and critical issues. For example, cable companies, in particular, have done a pretty good job in providing residential services in communities that do meet the state goals, yet these companies’ networks may not reach businesses in the industrial zones. If those businesses request network extensions, they get a price estimate that may be discouraging. The distance from the telco central office to the industrial park may limit availability of DSL as well. In the past several months, I have heard of these broadband barriers to economic development in both rural and suburban communities. So a community can be “served,” but not really have the services they need to grow and attract businesses.

Another example is the whole national discussion over Gigabit networks. As more communities get these networks, we will soon find out “what you can do with a gig.” The exciting paradigm shift in these communities will be the dynamic that bandwidth availability shifts from scarcity to abundance. The other part of this Gigabit transformation is about economic development marketing. Try googling “Austin, TX fiber”, then try “Twin Cities fiber” or substitute Minneapolis. One community will have three widespread Gigabit networks; Minneapolis has one neighborhood. On Google, one community has hundreds of links regarding fiber, the latter not so many.

Served, under-served, unserved. An assessment of a community’s broadband status is not summed up in a word or number. I hope that the legislature lets DEED use professional judgment to determine how best to invest appropriated broadband dollars.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | April 1, 2014

Why doesn’t MN get more funding for civic technology?

There are always two sides to broadband expansion – deployment and adoption. One of the win-win ways government can get involved in broadband expansion is by promoting adoption. It helps build the business case for providers to deployment more broadband. I think a great way to promote broadband is through civic technology – encouraging use of technology to encourage greater civic engagement. There are at least a couple ways to do this – make government information open and accessible, encourage development of technology tools (such as with the recent Capitol Code hackathon), provide funding to encourage openness and technology development.

There is a bill in the legislature that would support Open Government, Civic Technology and Open Data. The proposal is to appropriate funding for a grant to Minnesota nonprofit E-Democracy to…

1.10promote statewide adoption of open government strategies, the use of technology for civic
1.11innovation, and the wide use of public data sets in the public and private sector.

I am a longtime E-Democracy volunteer. I want to put that out there because clearly that comes with some bias – but I think that increasing access to civic technology would encourage broadband adoption. And Open Minnesota recently made a good case that there is federal funding out there for civic technology and Minnesota is not taking advantage of it…

The Knight Foundation’s exhaustive and widely scoped study of nearly $700 million dollars in investments in ”civic technology” presents a shocking picture of Minnesota’s engagement.

Minnesota accounts for only 0.1% of the amount invested in start-ups and grants in civic technology. Other than some $625,000 invested by the Knight Foundation itself in E-Democracy’s inclusive online community engagement in St. Paul neighborhoods (a grant), Minnesota is completely off the radar.

As a state that prides itself on civic innovation and the use of technology, this gap in activity is dramatic. Our window of opportunity to be a place where you invest in commercial and nonprofit social enterprises pursuing digital technology for good strategies is closing as other regions step up and invest in their civic technology ecosystem.

As legislative committees explore opportunities for economic development and broadband promotion with the supplemental budget this session, exploring how to foster investment in civic technology should be included. As the House targets for “government operations” and the supplemental budget are zero, funding for the “open government” half of the Open Minnesota proposal is unlikely. However, the economic development and economic efficiency aspect of civic technology and open government data as an economic resource should be pursued with vigor (#2 and #3 in our plan).

I haven’t been following the bill, but as the excerpt states above the chances of funding aren’t strong – but I think even at the local level openness (providing access to data) and encouragement (such as the Red Hot Hack being planning for the end of April) are tools that support civic technology, encourage broadband adoption and support the business case for broadband deployment. Also local governments might look at the opportunities for federal funding as a means to support civic engagement and broadband.

Providers, communities and policymakers have been saying that funding is essential to reach the state broadband goal by 2015. The goal is ubiquitous access at speeds of at least 10-20 Mbps downstream and 5-10 up. Most broadband champions – in communities and industry alike -are glad to see a proposal at the legislature that proposes funding for broadband deployment. BUT have you looked at the details? Depending on the definitions agreed to in the proposed legislation’s final language, some areas of Minnesota will be better positioned to take advantage of funding than others.  Will your community benefit? Or are there changes you’d like to suggest to your elected representatives before the bill passes?

Also there are some differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills. The biggest difference? The Senate is still talking about $100 million; the House has reduced that to $25 million.

To  help us all better understand the “devil in the details” of this proposed funding for broadband deployment, Blandin Foundation is hosting a webinar-based conversation with legislature-watchers who are well positioned to answer your questions and to represent the perspectives of the constituencies they represent.  Our goal with this webinar is to help you recognize whether your community could benefit based on the will be well served. The webinar comes just before legislators will make any final decisions, we encourage you to attend and learn more. (In preparation, the Blandin on Broadband blog combs through legislation:

Time: 1:30 on Friday (April 4)

Participants include:

  • Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation, Moderator
  • Senator Matt Schmit
  • Dan Dorman, Greater Minnesota Partnership
  • Laura Ziegler, League of Minnesota Cities
  • Industry representative – to be confirmed


Register here:

Posted by: Ann Treacy | March 31, 2014

The Senate version of the MN Broadband Development Fund bill

Earlier I combed through the House version of the Broadband Development Fund legislation. Today I’m combing through the Senate version for differences. There aren’t many – but there’s at least one big difference. The Senate is still talking about $100 million in funding, while the House has reduced that to $25 million.

Smaller differences: The Senate is looking at doling the money out in grants and loans; the House focused on loans only. The House has a formula that would designate two-thirds of the funding to go to areas with lower population density (fewer than 100 households per square mile) and a third to go to more populated areas (more than 100 households per square mile).

This is based on the latest version of the bill I can find online (from March 12). I have the proposed text below and have highlighted the differences. Read More…

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