Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 9, 2014

Many Minnesota Businesses Want Faster Internet Services

Many Minnesota Businesses Want Faster Internet Services

New business survey shows online sales represent considerable revenues for Minnesota businesses, but more bandwidth, speed desired

Explore New Infographic

  1. Paul, MN – New research released today by Connect Minnesota shows that while online sales represent substantial revenues for state businesses, a significant number of Minnesota businesses want more bandwidth or faster Internet service. The survey reveals that 21,000 Internet-connected businesses want more bandwidth; of those, nearly two-fifths (39%) report that they can’t get faster service where they are located.

“The data continue to illustrate the importance of broadband to our state’s businesses and our economy,” said William Hoffman, state program director for Connect Minnesota. “Bandwidth and high-speed Internet access are no longer luxuries for businesses – they are necessities.”

Among other findings of the 2014 Minnesota business survey:

  • Online sales represented more than $36.8 billion in revenues for Minnesota businesses last year
  • More than one in five Internet-connected Minnesota businesses (21%) now rely on cloud computing services, including data storage and back-up, file sharing, and website hosting
  • 76,000 Internet-connected Minnesota businesses lack redundant or backup Internet service. This means that if anything were to happen to their Internet service, they would be unable to connect to the Internet
  • More than one in eight businesses say it is important for new employees to be able to create or edit a mobile app, while one in nine say it is important for new employees to know at least one programming language
  • Nearly half of Minnesota businesses (46%) say they spend their own time and resources training new employees on the software that their business uses

These and other findings are available on Connect Minnesota’s website.

Connect Minnesota’s 2014 business survey was based on interviews with 603 state businesses; the research was conducted as part of the State Broadband Initiative grant program for Minnesota, funded by the NTIA.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 9, 2014

App Camp for teens on Fond du Lac reservation – see the results

In August I had the opportunity to visit the Fond du Lac reservation (a Blandin Broadband Community) to learn more about the adoption activities in the area. The event was timed so that we could also see the results of their two-week App Camp. Students from the Ojibwe school were invited to apply to participate in the camp. Each student created an app and went home with an iPad.

It was fun to hear how easy most of them found it to create an app – once they got started. Most thought it would be difficult but found that not only was it pretty easy, it was fun too.

As usual the videos below will not be making network television any time soon – but it gives a nice idea of the range and interest of the students… Read More…

NTIA Workshop in Minneapolis: Building a Community Broadband Roadmap Full Notes

Last Week I attended the NTIA regional meeting on community broadband. It featured a number of ARRA-funded projects and others that have successfully promoted broadband expansion – deployment and adoption – in primarily rural areas. I have full notes and a few videos below but there were some general highlights for a quick take:

  • Two key ingredients mentioned especially by communities interested in broadband were communication and partnership. Successful communities spoke about the need to let folks know what was happening but also to tell your story. Finding the right partnership was also key.
  • A number of providers spoke about how they managed FTTH – from funding to construction to marketing. One tip – market and sell service as early as you can to build a customer base and start the cash flow!
  • The NTIA introduced their lessons learned – which is a great tool for anyone looking at community broadband.
  • Also it was really great to meet people in other states to hear what’s going on in other places. Right now Minnesota is not a leader in broadband. Depending on the source – we rank between 19-23 in the US. BUT it sounds like we’re doing a right now to catch up – with Blandin’s adoption work, the State funding, innovative providers – maybe we’ll leap frog into a leadership position!

Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 8, 2014

FTTH Council Meeting in Minneapolis: Full Notes

Last week I attended the FTTH Council regional meeting in Minneapolis. While I recognized quite a few people there, it was fun to see folks from outside of Minnesota too. Mostly it was fun to see Minnesota communities brag a little bit about the success they have had.

The meeting was attended by several state broadband directors – people who officially or unofficially work to promote broadband expansion in a state or region. There was a balance of community-minded folks and commercial providers and it was interesting to see where there was agreement and where there were differences.

Everyone agrees that where there is economic potential, providers are going with fiber. It is cheaper to maintain – it’s just a matter of upgrade schedules, which may or may not fit the community’s hope for fiber.

There are some differences in how to encourage fiber (or better broadband) to areas without economic potential. Building demand is a great start. But after that, the question is how much money makes is appealing, does one-time investment make a difference or is it a matter of streamlining the process by reducing regulatory barriers – such as permits, rights-of-way and cable franchising.

Three quick highlights:

  1. Margaret Anderson Kelliher mentioned that the Task Force will be recommended $200 million for the Broadband Deployment Fund next year.
  2. Joe Caldwell from USI (provider in Minneapolis) spoke about broadband as a commodity – “just charge less and provide better customer service.” He was a character! And spoke as if maybe people and providers in rural areas just didn’t get it. UNTIL he heard about the cost differential to serve rural customers – he’s paying pennies per Mb to the Internet backbone; the rural providers are paying significantly more and don’t have the same population density. He was quick to say he wouldn’t go into rural areas. An important lesson for policymakers, providers and communities. Providing broadband in urban areas is not like providing broadband in rural areas!
  3. The Courts recently opened the door to the FCC looking at broadband in a different way – through commercial reasonableness lens. It’s a wonky distinction but one that is worth understanding because it can make a difference. I caught Dan Lipschultz from the PUC on video talking about it…

Read on for the full notes… Read More…

Not broadband, but I hope folks will help spread the word on Lifeline opportunities. It’s a bleak reminder of the far end of the digital divide…


Assistance with telephone charges is available to help low-income customers stay connected

ST. PAUL, Minn. – “In today’s society everyone should have access to an affordable, basic level of telephone service in order to meet essential, and in some cases, emergency needs,” states Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Beverly Jones Heydinger.

Access to local emergency services and community resources is vital to low-income and elderly residents. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) wants Minnesota residents to “stay connected” and is reaching out to those who need phone service but can’t afford it. During “Lifeline Awareness Week,” September 8-14, the PUC will promote the Lifeline Program, which offers discounts to help residents have access to basic local telephone service.

Under the federal Lifeline program, telephone customers who participate in or are eligible for certain assistance programs are able to receive a basic telephone service discount. This discount is in the form of a credit for $9.25 per month on traditional phone plans or 250 free minutes per month on participating pre-paid cellular phones.

To apply for benefits contact your local landline or cellular telephone company or the PUC. The PUC can be reached at (651) 296-0406, (800) 657-3782,, or visit the website at

The Bemidji Pioneer recently picked up a cue from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities imploring rural voters to remember broadband when making their choices…

An aging workforce with inadequate Internet connections is hurting rural Minnesota, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities says.

They are issues voters must consider when picking the next governor, said Glencoe Mayor Randy Wilson, the coalition’s president. “These are really tough and complex problems, and it is imperative that whoever the next governor is, he has a vision and a plan for greater Minnesota and will work with us to resolve these issues.”

Politicians have talked for years about the need to improve greater Minnesota’s workforce and Internet connections, as well as transportation, but relatively little has been done.

The coalition, an organization of 85 cities outside of the Twin Cities, discussed the issues at a recent conference in Rochester.

One striking figure is that just 45 percent of greater Minnesota homes “are connected at speeds needed for present-day applications,” the coalition reports. That compares to 92 percent of Twin Cities homes.

This year’s Legislature approved an initial contribution to improving rural broadband, otherwise known as high-speed Internet. But it was just a drop in the bucket of what rural leaders say is needed.

Sen. Matt Schmit, D-Red Wing, is leading a statewide tour for the second year to discuss the broadband issue. Since next year is when lawmakers and the governor compile the next two-year budget, rural leaders hope they can get more funding.

I have to add that I’m not sure I agree with the idea that relatively little has been done. I’d like to see even more happen – but Legislators approved an Office of Broadband Development and Broadband Deployment Fund – those are big steps in the right direction!

I post this update for a few reasons:

  1. The Office of Broadband Development has been clear about hoping to get a good response to the Minnesota Broadband Fund. (Applications should be available in a few weeks.)
  2. I love to see elected official focus on broadband. (Rep Kresha has been instrumental in the broadband fund.)
  3. It’s a chance to spread the word to folks in District 09B

Long Prairie Leader reports…

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, is seeking input from local citizens in an attempt to improve area Internet service and broadband access in Greater Minnesota.

An estimated $20 million in grants will be appropriated by the state to help boost broadband access. Kresha hopes a portion of the funding will be used to improve broadband access to underserved areas in District 09B. Constituent input is needed to determine where the problem-areas are, and which parts are in the greatest need for expanded broadband access during the grant application process. …

Kresha encouraged constituents to contact his legislative office and provide information about possible areas for broadband expansion in District 09B or elsewhere. Addresses and phone numbers are requested. Kresha asked constituents to contact his office at 651-296-4247 or to provide input or for more information.


Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 5, 2014

6th Graders are Learning to Code in Elk River

Schools in Elk River Minnesota are preparing students today for jobs tomorrow by offering coding classes to sixth graders. Tynker reports…

Elk River school district is well aware of the benefits of learning coding in today’s increasingly tech savvy world. Troy Anderson, Manager of Instructional Technology, spoke with us about their process for selecting and rolling out a curriculum that met their district technology goals.

To be fair Tynker is the curriculum they chose to teach coding – but it’s still nice to know that kids are getting the experience. The have tools for schools and home.


Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 4, 2014

Update from MN Public Broadband Alliance

Earlier this week SMBS in Southwest Minnesota hosted an event that celebrated their broadband adoption events planned as part of the BBC initiative. We also got a quick update from Dan Olsen the MN Public Broadband Alliance, a group of like-minded community broadband folks across the state. They have met several times – urban members are finding that rural members are as well served as urban and potentially more valuable to a statewide effort.

A few folks have been asking about the fall broadband conference. The details are not quite ready for prime time – but I can share what I know.

Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind

November 18-19

Cragun’s in Brainerd

It’ll be another great opportunity to meet with some communities in Minnesota who enjoy border to border broadband, some who have been working on it and others who are just starting to stir local excitement for it. We’ll hear from leaders who understand policy, technology and opportunity. There will be plenty of time to meet with the people you want to meet and chances to learn more about what your next step for broadband expansion could be – be it infrastructure or adoption.

I’ll post more when I hear it.


Tuesday SMBS had their BBC Strut Your Stuff celebration of broadband expansion events in the area. It was nice to meet the people behind the curtain and to hear about the success they had. You can learn more from the PPT and my notes below. We also got an update from the MN Public Broadband Alliance – I will post that video tomorrow.

Online presence for everyone – a chance to teach and/or work with local businesses to help them get online with business profiles on social media channels. They brought 28 businesses to Facebook, 10 to Twitter, and 21 to LinkedIn.

Social Media Breakfasts to help community focus on regional-based promotion.

PCs for People – A series of events giving computers to people in the communities.

iPads & eReaders in the Library – plan to include classes and to loan out the devices to places like senior center and preschools. They worked with others to find a good way to set up the devices safely, securely and in a way that is manageable.

Centrally managed community Hotspot – hotspots generate foot traffic for hosts and have been well received by users. Interested in going to new places – like maybe senior centers.

Ride the Wave – a region-wide promotional tool that encourages new people and businesses.

Update on SMBS – they are currently cash flowing and the board recently approved a network upgrade from 1 Gig to 10 Gig – because they need it!

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 2, 2014

Blandin eNews: September 2014

BBC MapNews from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

Blandin Broadband Communities: An Opportunity

Building on the successes of MIRC and BBC community broadband engagement projects, Blandin Foundation is seeking up to ten new communities for the 2015-16 cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Applications will be accepted through October 17, 2014. Learn more from an archive of a recent webinar on the topic:

Blandin Foundation Announces Broadband Awards

Blandin Foundation announces six grant awards totaling $123,190 that assist rural Minnesota communities in advancing high-speed Internet access and use in their communities Awards include the following:

Office of Broadband Development Funds

Throughout the summer, the Office of Broadband Development has been touring Minnesota to talk about the upcoming opportunity for community funding to build better broadband. The RFP should be out in September. Everyone is encouraged to apply in part to demonstrate the needs and enthusiasm for projects for the Legislature. Learn more about the opportunity:

Minnesota Broadband Doesn’t Rank

Akamai has been surveying broadband use and speed internationally for seven years. Back in 2010, Minnesota showed up as #10 for average measured connected speed by US state and St Paul was one of the top US cities for broadband speeds. Minnesota does not show up at all in the latest report, which means MN is not in the top 10 states; Minnesota cities are also not in the top 10.

How are libraries doing with broadband?

The American Library Association recently released a report on broadband in the libraries. Libraries are a place where patrons go to get access and learn how to use technology – but not all libraries are created equal. The report shows an average subscribed download speed of more than 100Mbps, compared to an average subscribed download speed of just over 21Mbps for rural public libraries. The situation on reservations is even worse. Another recent survey indicates that between 40-89 percent of tribal libraries don’t have broadband. Part of the problem may be that only 15 percent of the tribal libraries surveyed took advantage of E-Rate discounts.

Looking at Statistics, Broadband and Maps in Minnesota

Here are observations based on the Center for Rural Policy and Development’s State of Rural Minnesota 2014 presentation and Connect Minnesota broadband maps

  • The Western border of MN had experienced population decline in the last 25 years. The broadband in those areas is pretty good. The population is expecting to grow in the next 20 years.
  • The areas with the lowest median income also have poor broadband speeds.
  • The Twin Cities has some of the highest incomes and fastest broadband speeds.

Minnesota Gets Almost $4 Million for E-Health

Minnesota’s State Innovation Model initiative awarded $3.8 million in grants to help 12 community collaboratives use e-health to promote health and improve care coordination. These grants will enable providers across different health care settings to have access to the information they need to coordinate care and keep people healthy and out of the hospital.

Several Minnesota Connections Make Top FTTH Stars List

Broadband Communities make list of top FTTH stars. The Blandin Foundation was pleased to make the list again, as did many other organizations with Minnesota connections: 3M, Baller Herbst Law Group PC, Calix, CenturyLink, Finley Engineering, Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, KGP Logistics, MasTec, Pace International and Suttle.

Senator Schmit Recognized for Broadband Advocacy

Senator Matt Schmit was named a “Legislator of Distinction” by the League of Minnesota Cities for his work promoting the expansion of broadband Internet connectivity to rural areas that lack access and, specifically, for introducing legislation that created a fund to promote investment in new broadband infrastructure throughout the state. Senator Schmit was one of 12 senators to receive the award.

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Barnesville and Rollag

The Red River Rural Telephone Association is receiving an $8.5 million USDA loan to construct 145 miles of buried fiber optic cable in North Dakota areas and in Barnesville and Rollag in Minnesota. The project will complete Red River’s fiber-to-the-premises network.


The City of Barnesville has owned the phone system for over 100 years. They are investing $3.8 million in a Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) project.

Cass and Crow Wing Counties

ARRA-funded projects in parts of Cass and Crow Wing counties is complete. The project included installing nearly 100 miles of fiber optics cabling and twenty cabinets in order to connect more than 900 area residents to broadband.

Goodhue County

Goodhue County Education District is using about $50,000 from the Blandin Foundation to provide teachers with online access to professional development.

Itasca County

The Blandin Foundation is working with Itasca County to assess and survey broadband opportunities using a tool from COS Business Engine.

Kanabec County

Kanabec County celebrated their progress with broadband through the Blandin Broadband Communities program. Projects include community interactive video, business training hotspots and more.

Ramsey County

The Ramsey County Board recently voted 6-1 to approve a five-year agreement with Comcast to provide high-speed broadband communications between government buildings.

Twin Cities

Currently 8000 households in the Twin Cities take advantage of Comcast Internet Essentials (reduced Internet rates for low income households).

Broadband Opportunities:

Sep 2: Applications due for individuals interested in the Grants Specialist Coordinator for the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development

Sep 9: Deadline for Digital Cities Survey Award Application

Sep 12-14 Hack4Good #6 (various locations)

Sep 25: Proposals are due for Vendors interested in Community Technology Survey in Minneapolis

Oct 14: Applications are due for the FCC Rural Broadband Experiments program Learn more from a recent webinar archive

Oct 17: Blandin Foundation BBC Community applications are due


Sep 2: BBC Strut Your Stuff Tour (Southwest MN Broadband)

Sep 2-4: FTTH Council Regional Conference (Minneapolis)

Sep 4: NTIA’s Building a Community Broadband Roadmap Workshop (Minneapolis)

Sep 9: BBC Strut Your Stuff Tour (Lake of the Woods County)

Sep 10: BBC Strut Your Stuff Tour (Lake County)

Sep 10: Teens, Technology and Social Media (Free Webinar)

Sep 18: BBC Strut Your Stuff Tour (Lac qui Parle Valley)

Sep 25 – Minnesota Broadband Task Force Monthly Meeting

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

Over the past two weeks and in the near term future, our Blandin team gets the pleasure of hearing our Blandin Broadband Communities’ teams “Strut Their Stuff.”  These presentations are a chance for them to reflect and report on their activities of the past twenty months.  From team formation, planning, project development and implementation, they all have great stories to tell and results to show.  A common phrase that we love to hear “We are not done yet!”  The accomplishment list and the to-do list seem to grow in tandem, possibly with the to-do lists growing a bit faster as the communities see an expanding list of possibilities.  These teams are implementing projects that have real impact on their communities with both old and new leadership.  When one person is given accolades, their response is to always point to others who deserve the credit.  The Blandin on Broadband Blog has been reporting on these meetings so I encourage you to check out the details on their accomplishments.

Our Blandin team looks forward to even more fun in the upcoming months; that is, selecting our new Blandin Broadband Communities.  We hope that it is a difficult task to choose among many communities that are ready to pursue this type of initiative.  Your community could be a city, a county, a tribe, a region, a telecom provider service area – whatever makes sense to you and your team.  Be ready to make a commitment to making things happen.  With a quick organizational and planning phase, our Blandin Broadband Communities quickly move into project development, funding and implementation.  One extremely positive aspect of the work that our communities have accomplished is silo-busting.  Even in smaller communities, our BBC’s are partnering in new and exciting ways with organizations down the street and across the state.

For our BBC and MIRC alumni, we will be expanding opportunities to continue in partnership. I am very much looking forward to that!

More program and application details are included in this newsletter and online so check out the details there.


Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 2, 2014

Mobile Devices in Minnesota Education

Connect Minnesota Recently released a report on Mobile Devices in Minnesota Education

Across Minnesota, 90% of households with school-age children report that they subscribe to home broadband service. This means that more than 108,000 schoolage children in Minnesota still do not have broadband access at home. Almost one-half of parents or guardians who do not subscribe to broadband (46%) cite cost as their main barrier to adoption.

Outside of their homes, Minnesota students access the Internet using a variety of resources. Across the state, 84% of parents or guardians who have school-age children say that their children use the Internet while at school. In addition, 9% of parents or guardians report that K-12 students in Minnesota access the Internet at someone else’s home and another 9% say their children access the Internet at their local libraries for schoolwork.

Schools in Minnesota recognize the need for students to have broadband access and provide the necessary equipment for them to stay connected. Statewide, 22% of Minnesota parents or guardians with school-age children at home say that at least one child has a school-issued laptop or tablet device.

This year two of my kids will get tablets from school – but from two different schools. (One goes to a public high school; the other goes to a private school.) I will be watching closely to see what they actually do with them. I’m an advocate as you can imagine. If for no other reason, I’ll glad to see them not tote backpacks that I can’t lift. But I am hoping that the teachers are prepared to make good use of them.

I’d like to see them get a flood of applications from Minnesota!!

The Center for Digital Government and the Digital Communities program have launched the 14th annual Digital Cities Survey!

  • ALL U.S. cities are invited to participate – there are no population limits (includes consolidated city and county governments).
  • You identify the Top 10 IT-related initiatives of which the city is most proud.  You provide the links, we’ll do the rest.

The survey is available online at:   Extended Deadline: Tuesday, September 9, 2014. Awards are based on four population classifications. Top-ten ranked cities will be honored at an awards reception held during the National League of Cities annual convention Nov. 18-22 in Austin, on, in articles and in best practices publications. The Center thanks survey underwriters AT&T, Laserfiche, McAfee and Sprint for their support of cities across the nation. If you have any questions, or if the city responded in the last few years and a copy of the response is needed, please contact Janet Grenslitt, Surveys and Awards Director,

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 30, 2014

Teens, Technology and Social Media: Free Webinar Sept 10

A little off the beaten path – but I thought folks might be interested whether they have kids, work with kids or teach kids…

Teens, Technology and Social Media: Impacts on Healthy Relationship Development

Significant numbers of teens and young adults use social media as their main source of communicating with friends both those they have met in person and online. Today’s technology allows adolescents instant but distant access to each other yet at what price?

We wonder – “How will social media affect young people’s ability to build healthy, ongoing relationships? How will the new technologies affect their social skills? What can we do to help teens and young adults navigate this new terrain safely while building essential interpersonal skills?”

Join Jennifer Myers and Aaron Larson as they:

• Share how social media impacts the relationships and interactions of teens and young adults.

• Introduce a just-released supplementary lesson from Relationship Smarts PLUS on Technology and Social Media, using the new Dibble Digital platform.

Presenters: Jennifer Myers, M.A., L.P.A., holds a masters degree in clinical psychology, is a full-time Instructor in the Psychology Department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC, and has a private clinical psychology practice at Carolina Counseling Center, specializing in adolescents. Aaron Larson, Dibble Digital Coordinator. Prior to this Aaron worked for the US Department of Health and Human Services as a Healthy Marriage Specialist on the President’s Healthy Marriage Initiative. He was also the director of the National Healthy Marriage Institute.

Who should attend: PREP Grantees, Extension Agents, Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs, Family and Consumer Sciences teachers, Out-of-School Time Instructors, anyone who is concerned about social media and teens and wants to make a difference.

When:Wednesday, September10, 2014
, 4:00 pm Eastern/
1:00 pm Pacific

Duration: 60 minutes

Cost: Free!

Register NOW!  by clicking on this link.

Questions about Webinars?


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