Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 18, 2015

Frontier accepts $27.5 million in CAF funding for Minnesota

According to a recent press release, Frontier accepted more than $283 million in Connect America Funds to serve 1.3 million rural Americans. In Minnesota that means $27,551,363 to serve 46,910…

Frontier Communications Accepts Over $283 Million Connect America Fund Offer to Expand and Support Broadband for 1.3 Million Rural Americans

Washington, D.C. (June 16, 2015) – Frontier Communications Inc. has accepted $283.4 million from the Connect America Fund to expand and support broadband to over 1.3 million of its rural customers in 28 states.

The Connect America Fund will provide ongoing support for rural broadband networks in Frontier’s service area capable of delivering broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps uploads in over 650,000 homes and businesses nationwide “The Connect America Fund will enable Frontier to expand robust broadband in its rural service areas, benefitting its customers and their communities,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “This is a major step forward in the FCC’s efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to modern broadband and the opportunities it provides, no matter where they live.”  (The press release includes breakdowns by state of amount received and households served.)

I’m also including a map that the FCC recently posted; it doesn’t appear to include the latest funding announcements but it gives an idea of who has accepted money, which areas are out of the running and who is still undecided.

FCC Map

Last week I posted responses from the Blandin Foundation and Senator Klobuchar to the Broadband Opportunity Council. This week I’m happy to share notes from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development. Their notes are considerably longer, so I’ll excerpt some below and link to the comments in their entirety

How can the federal government promote best practices in broadband deployment and adoption? What resources are most useful to communities? What actions would be most helpful to communities seeking to improve broadband availability and use?

MNOBD Response: The MNOBD has several suggestions to assist in overcoming the challenges related to the deployment and adoption of broadband that would be helpful to states and communities. A useful tool would be a one-stop website that identifies resources that are available across all federal agencies for broadband deployment and adoption. With one website to link the resources available at the federal level, users, providers and communities would be readily able to identify information and support to assist in their individual situation. Federal programs would also be better able to connect the resources they have available to the population that is most likely to benefit. NTIA, with its expertise on broadband, could be tapped to lead and coordinate the development of this website.

Continuing federal support and maintenance of a national broadband map at a higher granularity than census block level would also be a useful endeavor. If federal agencies truly are interested in assuring that broadband deployment and competition are available to more people and more communities, than there must be a mechanism to measure that availability. What gets measured gets done!

The MNOBD would also recommend that the BOC enable the development of a framework for “It Takes All Hands” approach to closing the gaps in access and adoption. In addition to federal resources, “All Hands” include large and small providers, along with state and local governments. Agencies should be freed or directed to work with states on coordination of strategies and tactical moves. NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program, which has already developed expertise on broadband, could be expanded to lead the “All Hands” framework at the federal level. Included within this framework would be a continuation of NTIA’s role in creating, collecting and maintaining aggregated on-line best practices resources.

Federal agencies should also confer with states before awarding grants and be open to additional inputs when evaluating investment opportunities. There should be an awareness of state broadband development plans and priorities so that opportunities to leverage each other’s investments can be identified.

When federal agencies are interacting with state partners as part of their normal working relationship and broadband issues arise, our federal partners can help reinforce the value of including state broadband planning representatives in the discussions and planning processes.

Another area where the federal government can coordinate with states is by sharing data that can be used to create broadband investment priority maps. Examples include geospatial E-rate data, locations of veterans eligible for telehealth services, FirstNet RAN network map with areas of sub-optimal coverage identified so state investments can give them a priority ranking, and high priority agricultural management areas that could benefit from connected Ag tech applications.

In addition to the above thoughts on best practices, the MNOBD also supports the following specific ideas for resources and actions that would be useful to communities and providers working to improve their broadband situation and demonstrate the federal agencies see broadband as a priority:

  • The standardization of permitting forms, policies and standards across federal land management agencies. 
  • The creation of standard agreements between federal agencies to ensure interagency cooperation and coordination. 
  • The allocation of federal staff specifically for telecommunications permitting to minimize processing times.  The development of standard processing times (less than one year) so providers can schedule construction projects in a timely manner. 
  • The easing of permitting requirements in previously disturbed areas such as dedicated corridors and roadways. 
  • The implementation of a tool that would allow broadband providers the opportunity to learn about, with appropriate lead times, and be able to install infrastructure during other construction projects. 
  • The designation of corridors to install backhaul fiber to existing communications sites. 
  • The establishment of an electronic application system that tracks the permitting process and have staff input requests for information and applicants allowed to supplement documentation to ensure applicants do not have to resubmit information. 
  • The designation of a state contact for each state to ensure consistency across field offices, forests, national parks. 
  • In coordination across federal agencies, and with significant input from state officials, have land management agencies designate broadband corridors that would connect communities, cell tower sites, government facilities and other areas of economic activity. These corridors should be included in planning documents (e.g. Resource Management Plans). State and federal agencies could assist broadband providers to help determine areas of need and proactively encourage them to install services in these broadband corridors through a simplified permitting process. 
  • Federal agencies could be provided with funding to connect government facilities and allow broadband providers the opportunity to bid on projects. These agencies could serve as anchor tenants, and additional conduit installed during projects that may be used to serve future needs. These agencies could also encourage colocation opportunities on communications sites (e.g. existing towers).
  • An inventory of federal assets accessible by providers or communities interested in improving their broadband services would also be a useful tool at the local level.
Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 17, 2015

2015 Farmfest Marks Minnesota’s First Rural Broadband Day

Very fun news. I went to the Farmfest last year, it’s definitely worth the trip and even more so now that they’ll be celebrating broadband in style…

EAGAN, Minnesota, June 15, 2015 – IDEAg Minnesota Farmfest will launch and celebrate Minnesota’s first ever Rural Broadband Day on Aug. 4. The farm show’s opening day in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, will highlight the importance of broadband access across rural America.

High-speed broadband access is essential for farmers and ranchers to run successful businesses in rural America. With the rise of precision technology in agriculture, farmers and ranchers can increase their efficiency, communicate with their customers and reach new markets around the world.

“Minnesota Farmfest is the perfect platform for discussion about rural broadband,” said Ray Bianchi, senior director of expositions and events for the American Farm Bureau Federation and IDEAg Group. “Farmfest has been produced for the past 30 years and our event has grown because of the commitment of farmers to the latest innovations in seeds, equipment and technology. Broadband is an essential part of this complex of new ideas.”

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband will kick off the day. The task force is committed to crafting policies that expand broadband access throughout the state to ensure that all communities, businesses and citizens have access to vital resources.

“Broadband Internet, like the interstate highway system of the 1950s or the railroads of the 1880s, is the backbone of today’s economy, helping expand opportunity and improve our quality of life. Expanding access to broadband is crucial for expanding opportunity for all,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association and current chair of the Governor’s Taskforce on Broadband. “As Minnesota looks to maintain a growing, competitive economy, and a high quality of life, we must continue to make progress to ensure that the state has access to broadband, from border to border. Rural Broadband Day is a great venue to highlight the progress that we’re making and look forward to the future of broadband.”

Big news – the USDA just announced funding for cooperatives. Comes at a time when folks in Minnesota have been thinking about cooperatives for bringing broadband to their areas – led in many ways by the RS Fiber Network.

Here’s the announcement from the UDSA

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to help rural cooperatives develop new markets for their products and services. USDA is making the grants available to non-profit corporations and institutions of higher education through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program.

“Cooperative organizations are important catalysts for economic growth and job creation in rural America,” Vilsack said. “The lack of investment capital is often the key factor holding many rural areas back from economic prosperity. The investments that USDA is making available will help organizations start cooperatives, expand existing ones, boost sales and marketing opportunities, and help develop business opportunities in rural areas.”

USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant program improves economic conditions in rural areas by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve the operations of rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through cooperative development centers. Other eligible grant activities may include conducting feasibility studies and creating business plans.

USDA is making up to $5.8 million in grants available in Fiscal Year 2015. One-year grants up to $200,000 are available. In most cases, grants may be used to pay for up to 75 percent of a project’s total costs. Recipients are required to match 25 percent of the award amount. The grants will be awarded prior to September 30, 2015. The recipients will have one year to utilize the awarded funds.

The application deadline is July 30, 2015. For additional information, see Page 34129 of the June 15, 2015 Federal Register or contact the USDA Rural Development State Office.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 16, 2015

Free Blandin Webinar June 18: NTIA’s Broadband Program

Everyone is invited to the next free webinar hosted by the Blandin Foundation…

Thursday, June 18 from 3-4pm
Register Here

NTIA’s Broadband Program

Join Laura Breeden from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to learn more about their BroadbandUSA program, and their role in coordinating the President’s overall Broadband Initiative, including the anticipated White House-hosted broadband summit. Hear about the newly formed Broadband Opportunity Council, and opportunities for citizen-champions to provide input and feedback to the mapping of broadband-related work being undertaken by the federal government.

Laura Breeden, Program Director for Public Computing and Broadband Adoption, joined NTIA in May 2009 to lead the public computing and sustainable broadband adoption components of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a $4.7 billion competitive grant program that is part of the Recovery Act. Under her leadership, BTOP awarded more than $450 million for projects to make 21st century computer and Internet services more available, affordable, and useful. More than $250 million of these funds support “sustainable broadband adoption” projects in low-income urban and rural areas throughout the US. Since 1983, Ms. Breeden has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors to advance the use of modern digital communications for the public good. Ms. Breeden holds a B.A. in Urban Studies and Education from Oberlin College.

 

I want to thank Mary Minnick-Daniels for allowing me to share a recent email from her. There’s a back story but the quick take is that Mary was just sharing pieces of what she had seen in the field related to how artists are (and can) use broadband. I was going to use the notes for a post – but her email was so rich in content I asked her if I could share asis, and she kindly agreed.

I have been noticing some trends in my work as Regional Arts Council Director, despite the fact that I am not an artist and am no technology expert.  Back in the day I saw artists really struggling to make a living and sell their work.  Those that were incredibly successful were those on the “circuit” – they’d sell their artwork at fine art and craft fairs around the nation.  The American Craft Council shows are an example.  Then the recession hit.  What I heard from regional artists is that their sales dropped dramatically.  They were scrambling to find a new way to sell their work and make their living.  A number of established artists  started using Etsy.  At the same time young artists began using etsy as well – they had never been part of the fine art and craft circuit community.  However, they began building their own community online.

Lately I’ve been hearing all sorts of examples you may be interested in.  In no particular order:

  • An artist lives in a rural area and has no access to life drawing models – she now uses the internet to find her models for life drawing and for other projects.  She shared that usually the models only ask for a print of the work in return.
  • A recent ECRAC grant recipient, Hugh Bryant, took an art risk, documented what turned out to be a failed artwork, and he’s now sharing his experience – “You Can’t Win ‘Em All”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN3qcOk3cMc
  • Many of our artists are (just recently in the last few grant rounds!) using time lapse photography to document their work.
  • Keith Raivo of Mora, received a Fellowship recently.  He’ll be making a large sculpture of a Viking ship that will pop-up (my term) at various locations in Mora.  The ship will also be a bench and the bow will have a Gopro installed so that the interaction of people with the work of art can be documented.
  • There are 2 other Fellowship artists this year that will be using the internet to share their artwork.

Paul Howe is an artist at Franconia Sculpture Park in our Region.  He is making a public, large scale, outdoor sculpture this summer.  While the project is underway he’ll have a tripod mounted camera to automatically take photographs of the site every 2 minutes which will be compiled into a stop-frame animation to be uploaded to his website.Smartphone users will be able to access this via a QR code that I will place on the signs around the artwork site.

Rebecca Tishman will be focusing on a new body of work, literally.  Her previous work has highlighted the physical struggle to achieve bodily perfection but also the internal and silent consequences.  She will now be using models and will make rubber molds of their body parts.  She will then cast them in iron and forge elegant curvilinear steel sculpture that the models will wear and be restricted by.  Tishman’s work is documented online.

Finally, my thoughts go to grant applications themselves… ECRAC is moving toward an online grant application system.  Because many of the artists we work with are older adults they are worried about the process.  However, we think we can train them and that this system will allow for younger artists to participate even more readily than in the past.

Mary Minnick-Daniels
Executive Director

Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 14, 2015

Burnsville leases dark fiber to Sprint

So what can a local government do with dark fiber? Rent it out to providers. Have it ready so that each providers who wants some doesn’t need to install it. (Dig once and dig on the local government’s schedule.)

Here’s how that looks in Burnsville based on notes from a City Council meeting this week…

The City entered into a Communication’s Site Lease Renewal Agreement in 2011 with Sprint Spectrum, L.P. (Sprint) for antennas located on the City’s Heather Hills Water Tower and their associated communications equipment installed adjacent to the water tower (Sprint’s facilities).

Pursuant to the Renewal Agreement, Sprint has requested permission to install fiber optics to serve its facilities. The City has excess dark fiber optic strands and conduit available at the Heather Hills Water Tower site. City Staff working with Sprint proposed options to utilize City excess dark fiber optic strands.  The goal at the water tower/antennas sites (where we have several tenants leasing space for telecommunications) is to minimize any

additional encumbrances and disruption to the City’s property whenever possible.

The License Dark Fiber Agreement with Sprint is for the use of Two (2) excess Dark fiber optic strands within an existing City conduit.  Sprint’s fiber backhaul provider has fiber within a few feet of the City’s property; therefore the Dark Fiber route is rather short (1,172’) and will run from the right-of-way into the City’s property where the City’s Telecommunication’s building and Sprint’s facilities are located.  The license fee to be paid by Sprint will commence at $322.32 annually with a 5% increase each January 1st for the use of the dark fiber and conduit.

Happy to share a press release from Paul Bunyan on more people getting better broadband…

GigaZone Activated for Thousands More Locations in Bemidji
20,000+ expected to be within GigaZone after construction and upgrades in 2015

(Bemidji, MN) (June 10, 2015) – The GigaZone is quickly becoming one of the largest Gigabit networks in the United States. While only activated just 3 months ago, Paul Bunyan Communications has announced another 2,800 locations in the Bemidji area have recently been upgraded and are now in the GigaZone.

“When we announced this initiative back in September 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 7,300 locations including all of the cooperative’s service area of rural Park Rapids, the Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids, and areas of Bemidji. GigaZone upgrades are expected during the remainder of the year for over 12,000 additional locations in Bemidji, Cass Lake, Park Rapids, and Grand Rapids.

Paul Bunyan Communications recently mailed out information to the new locations in the Bemidji 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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Earlier this week I wrote about Blandin Foundation’s response to  President Obama’s plan to focus on broadband in the US, starting with the Broadband Opportunity Council. I’m pleased to share Senator Klobuchar’s response too…

Klobuchar Highlights Ways to Improve Broadband in Comments to Newly Formed Broadband Opportunity Council

The Broadband Opportunity Council was recently formed to provide government agencies, businesses, states, and other stakeholders with the opportunity to give suggestions about ways the country can continue to increase broadband investment and adoption

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and a long-time advocate of expanding broadband, Klobuchar wrote a letter to the council offering ways the federal government can improve access to high-speed broadband for all Americans, including advancing public-private partnerships and modernizing infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC – As the newly formed Broadband Opportunity Council gathers comments for consideration, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is highlighting ways to improve broadband in Minnesota and across the country. The Broadband Opportunity Council was recently formed to provide government agencies, businesses, states, and other stakeholders with the opportunity to give suggestions about ways the country can continue to increase broadband investment and adoption, and is chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture. As a member of the Senate Commerce and Agriculture Committees and a long-time advocate of expanding broadband, Klobuchar wrote a letter to the council offering ways the federal government can improve access to high-speed broadband for all Americans. Her recommendations include promoting and strengthening existing federal programs, improving coordination with states, advancing public-private partnerships, and modernizing infrastructure.

“As I travel around Minnesota, I often hear from community leaders, residents, and businesses about their need for access to reliable broadband. However, their ability to attract these services varies. Rural residents often have lower speeds than those in urban areas. Additionally, there are still lower adoption rates among seniors and low-income households,” Klobuchar wrote. “The federal government can encourage investment and adoption of high-speed broadband, both wired and wireless, by promoting and strengthening existing federal programs, improving coordination with states, advancing public-private partnerships, and modernizing infrastructure.”

Klobuchar is a leader in Congress on promoting widespread broadband access and increasing America’s competitiveness in the global economy. She is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction on telecommunications issues. She recently led a bipartisan letter with Senator John Thune (R-SD) and 61 other senators calling on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize rules intended to ensure that Americans in rural areas have access to affordable broadband services. She has introduced 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.

She also authored the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act to require states to simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects, including building a new highway or adding a new lane or shoulder to an existing highway. President Obama issued an executive order in 2012 that included an initiative known as “Dig Once” that was derived from this legislation.

The full text of the senator’s letter is below:

Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 13, 2015

$10 million for broadband in Minnesota Special Session

As predicted, the special sessions was quick. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Tightly packed into temporary quarters for a special session, Minnesota’s political leaders scrambled early Saturday to finish voting on nearly half the $42 billion two-year state budget. Their work, started Friday, included a struggle over a controversial spending and policy plan for environmental and agricultural programs, with the House and Senate volleying versions late into the night before it was approved, avoiding a state government shutdown.

The Duluth News Tribune reports specifically on the state of broadband in the budget…

Expanding broadband in rural Minnesota will get $10 million, down from $20 million approved a year ago, $100 million that broadband supporters wanted and $30 million Gov. Mark Dayton suggested. House Republicans began the year with no broadband money in their plan.

“There is no question we have missed an incredible opportunity here,” Rep. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, said about broadband.

I’m not sure about Annandale’s broadband earmark. (And it’s Saturday and I’m in New Orleans but I will try to learn more on Monday.)

 

Posted by: Bernadine Joselyn | June 12, 2015

Summit on Rural America: People Matter, Leadership Matters

Bernadine_InCommonsThis week it was my honor to participate in a “summit on Rural America” hosted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The goal was to get people “inside the beltway” to think about “rural as rich” – a place of resources and talent, where resourceful and self-reliant people on Main Street can make small investments go a long way. The critical need for all Americans to have affordable access to Broadband and the skills to use it was a big theme of the day. Here are my notes of highlights of the day.

  • Representative from the White House Council on Rural says: most important investment we (including fed government) can make to address persistent rural poverty is invest in kids.
  • Chuck Fluherty is talking about BB and “quality of place” as key to rural vitality.
  • Repeated calls for need for community leadership capacity building
  • Significant call to “place-based” philanthropy to partner and focus NOT necessarily on Economic Development (job creation ) directly but rather on developing human capacity.
  • Place-based philanthropy being called on to step into role of conveners and host conversations across community silos.
  • Fluherty also talking about the importance of inclusion and is endorsing collective impact model.
  • Recognition here that 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)
  • Calls to think forward 7 generations
  • National foundations being called upon to spend more of their wealth on rural
  • “People matter. Leadership matters”
Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 12, 2015

Annandale lost legislative earmark is getting attention

Before the Gubernatorial vetoes, Annandale was in line for $2 million for broadband. Now of course everything is in question and in the mire of the unknown people are trying to figure out what happened and what should or should not have happened.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Annandale feels that their loss may have been politically motivated…

They lobbied for and received a $2 million earmark for broadband development in the House jobs and energy bill, only to see it go down in a veto by Gov. Mark Dayton.

City officials met with Dayton’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, to plead their case. In a notarized letter obtained by the Star Tribune, Mayor Dwight Gunnarson and City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp wrote that the governor’s staff said they did not like earmarks.

But at one point in the meeting, city officials said, Tincher’s tone changed. According to the letter, Tincher looked at Dan Dorman, a former House Republican-turned lobbyist who was working with Annandale, and said, “Don’t forget, your firm spent an awful lot of time beating up on Democrats.”

An awkward pause followed. Dorman later said he was taken aback and told Tincher, “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

After the meeting, Gunnarson said in the letter that he asked Dorman about the remark. Dorman told the mayor that he thought it was rooted in a bonding analysis his firm, Flaherty and Hood, prepared that showed the bonding proposal favored the metro area. Flaherty and Hood represents a number of outstate jurisdictions.

“I asked if the citizens of Annandale were being punished because of this,” Gunnarson said in the letter, and Dorman replied that he thought so.

On Tuesday, Tincher acknowledged that she made the comment, but in a statement said: “It is completely false to suggest that opposition to Annandale’s earmark was politically motivated.” She added: “Our administration believes in a competitive process to distribute this funding and that it is wrong to allow one community to jump in front of others, simply because they have secured favor with a particular lawmaker.”

In his veto letter, Dayton said the Annandale earmark undermined the competitive bidding process for state broadband funding and “sets a dangerous precedent.”

Posted by: Ann Treacy | June 12, 2015

CenturyLink seeks cable franchising in Eagan

Comcast is the current cable franchise holder in Eagan – CenturyLink is looking to have a franchise as well. This presentation to the Eagan City Council is from an attorney on the topic. The presentation is really a look at why the Council should consider a second franchise and under what context.

You can watch the video. Or see the PPT presentation. The attorney really sets out what needs to happen to smooth the path to providing a franchise agreement to CenturyLink – looking at potential local and federal policy issues.

It sounds like July 21 would be the time that CenturyLink would actually present their application. It will be interesting to watch the process – in part because some of the agreements made with Comcast are not recent and the policies surrounding the issues are not necessarily recent. Although it sounds like Eagan does have fairly updated information on what residents want from a cable franchiser holder.

BJ on stageIn March I mentioned President Obama’s plan to focus on broadband in the US, starting with the Broadband Opportunity Council. Bernadine Joselyn and Bill Coleman were just in Washington DC to speak with folks about the initiatives. The Blandin Foundation also submitted a formal response to the federal request for input…

Date:   June 8, 2015

To:       Broadband Opportunity Council

From:  C.K. Blandin Foundation, Grand Rapids, MN, on behalf of rural Minnesota communities

Re:       Response to Request for Input

Thank you for the invitation to provide input to the Broadband Opportunity Council.

We applaud your purpose and welcome your resolve to address the reality that Americans without broadband access and the ability to use it are denied equal opportunity to participate fully in American life. Broadband has become the indispensable infrastructure of our age.

As one of only a handful of philanthropies in the nation with a rural focus, for the past 13 years Blandin Foundation has dedicated millions of dollars in grants and programs, plus staff resources, to help rural communities get the broadband they need and acquire the skills to use it. We have focused on driving broadband access and adoption because we recognize that broadband is critical to everything we care about as a foundation.

In this work we have worked in dozens of rural communities with many partners in multiple sectors on broadband adoption programs that have touched thousands of Minnesotans.  Our experience includes the implementation of a $4.8 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), now recognized by NTIA for numerous best practices.

Today Blandin Foundation remains focused on community broadband access and adoption: our Trustees have committed an addition $1.5 million in grant dollars – plus staff time and attention – for this work in 2015-2016.  We will continue to apply learning and experience gained from the BTOP-funded work to these ongoing investments.

Our response to the Council’s Request for Comment is informed by this experience and aspires to represent the voices of the rural communities we serve.  Our comments have been reviewed and endorsed by the foundation’s Broadband Strategy Board, a 15-member advisory council that brings a wide range of perspectives and experience to the foundation’s work.

Blandin Foundation’s key observations and recommendations in response to the Council’s Request for Input overall include:

  • Eliminating the digital divide that threatens the promise of equal opportunity at the heart of our democratic society is an urgent challenge that must be part of our national agenda. States and communities need the federal government and its resources as a partner in this work.
  • Federal policies and programs can and do play an important role in bringing broadband to hard-to-serve communities, and in reversing the growing digital divide. For example, federal investment in broadband access and adoption made available to Minnesota through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has made a significant positive difference to rural Minnesota communities’ ability to be globally competitive and ensure a high quality of life for their residents.  According to the Governor’s Broadband Task Force, federal broadband investments in Minnesota through ARRA led to:
  • 61,139 businesses, residences and critical community facilities passed
  • 1,751 miles of middle mile fiber network
  • 1,105 critical community facilities connected
  • 8 new computer centers created
  • 20 computer centers upgraded
  • 60 public access computer sites created*
  • 56,663 new subscribers tied to broadband adoption programs*

*these numbers come from the Blandin Foundation’s final MIRC report

  • Partnerships are key to success. The federal government can spur creative partnering by requiring and/or rewarding cross-sector and cross-agency collaboration.
  • Broadband access alone is not enough! Investments in people, education and training are essential to achieve meaningful use of the Internet. Community-based broadband literacy and market development efforts can and do help ensure that all Americans can participate fully in our nation’s economy and civic and cultural life.

With this experience and context in mind, the Blandin Foundation recommends the following for your consideration:

Enable, Encourage and Engage in Collaboration

As a major funder of broadband networks through USDA and the FCC, and of technology usage by schools, health care, public safety, natural resources, transportation and other agencies, often in partnership with states and local governments, the federal government should remove barriers and reward collaborative practices.  In addition, the federal government should examine how it can be an active participant in collaborative efforts to extend broadband to rural areas by using its own significant purchasing power to spur broadband network deployment.  Consideration should be given to both last mile and middle mile projects.

Examples of how this might occur include:

  • Enable education networks using Universal Service Funds to collaborate with public and private sector community partners to leverage public sector broadband purchasing for community-wide benefits
  • Encourage collaboration through clear rules and project criteria such as those just announced by Secretary Vilsack (Regional Development Priority).
  • Engage as a collaborating partner using the federal government’s own purchasing power, joining with local and regional initiatives to spur broadband investment and competition.
  • Require and/or incentivize federal funding recipients to work collaboratively across sectors and agencies. Continue to support and promote the NTIA-led BroadbandUSA program.
  • Promote the use of “dig once” state programs that provide a platform for collaborative investment – now and into the future.

Support and Spur Rural Broadband Cooperatives

The federal broadband stimulus funding, State of Minnesota broadband funding and CAF programs are all based on a key finding – there is a market failure for broadband development in rural areas.  There is insufficient ROI to attract investor-driven private sector investment in rural broadband.

Blandin Foundation has funded numerous broadband feasibility studies that document the gap between the costs of network deployment and the expected cash flows from network operations.  Several of these projects have moved forward with ARRA funding; others are now moving forward with State of Minnesota broadband funds.  Communities are prepared to participate in these broadband deployment efforts, but need quality partners.  Most communities have found that finding willing investor-owned broadband provider partners is a very difficult task.

Broadband cooperatives provide the best broadband services in Minnesota.  Started years ago by local community leaders to provide needed rural telephone services, telephone cooperatives have now transformed their copper networks to virtually 100% fiber-to-the-home broadband networks.  Starting this investment in their home telephone exchange areas, they have moved into adjacent communities and rural areas due to demand by bandwidth-hungry residents and businesses.  Consolidated, Farmers Mutual, Federated, Park Region, Paul Bunyan and West Central are just some of these broadband cooperatives.

Electric cooperatives also provide broadband Internet. Minnesota examples include Arrowhead Electric (FTTH), Mille Lacs Energy and Cooperative Light and Power (fixed wireless) and the Wild Blue satellite consortium.  MVTV Cooperative delivers fixed wireless services in Southwest Minnesota, transitioning from their tradition of wireless cable television services.  It is interesting to note that Arrowhead Electric follows in the steps of Boreal Access, a cooperative started in Cook County at the dawn of the Internet age to provide dial-up and DSL Internet, thus continuing a tradition of cooperatively provided Internet.

 

Why cooperatives?

  • Building a business case for broadband investment in unserved or underserved areas of Minnesota is very challenging for investor-owned providers.
  • Cooperatives are member-owned and can be more patient investors with delayed or minimal ROI requirements.
  • Community and economic development benefits derived from broadband investments, both the intrinsic values and the increased community sustainability, are highly valued by locally owned cooperatives.
  • Establishment of cooperatives may be less objectionable to those who oppose government broadband networks.
  • There is an established history of public-private partnerships between government units and cooperatives, such as Arrowhead, CTC, Farmers Mutual, and Federated. Returns from successful partnerships remain in the community.

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.

As CAF2 funding processes are determined, cooperatives should receive special consideration due to the multitude of additional benefits that local ownership brings to a rural area – wealth creation, local control, long term investment perspective, etc.

Use the power of the president’s bully pulpit.  President Obama’s 1/14/15 Cedar Rapids speech in support of local choice in broadband, formally opposing measures that limit the range of options available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks.

Continue Efforts to Spur Adoption and Increase Sophistication of Use

The Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects funded through BTOP provided strong evidence of the positive impact on individuals and communities from these efforts.

The program the foundation administered with the help of federal ARRA funds has been the subject of numerous evaluations and assessments.  In addition to project-affiliated evaluators, our project was one of 27 case study analyses conducted on behalf of NTIA by ASR Analytics, as part of a broader effort to understand the impact of BTOP and BIA projects. One example of the program’s impact, as described in the report: “Networks of businesses have formed to share resources and best practices, supporting innovation in the use of digital tools into the future.”

Based on our experience, key elements of successful broadband adoption efforts include:

  1. Communities know best.

Involve citizens directly in articulating their community’s broadband adoption and utilization goals to catalyze long-term engagement needed to increase adoption.

  1. Local Leadership matters.

Help local broadband champions obtain and use skills to frame issues, build and sustain relationships and mobilize people to build a community’s capacity to achieve its broadband goals.

  • Broadband is not an end in itself.

It is a means to the higher ends of increased economic vitality and improved quality of life. Framing it this way helps.

  1. High touch outreach works.

Effective recruitment strategies are intra-community, hyper-local, and personalized.

Change follows relationship lines.

  1. Peers make great teachers.

Peer-based learning formats are popular, low cost and easily sustainable tools to build a community’s technological savvy.

  1. Cross-community communication is key.

Signage, local media support, and aligned social media are effective low-cost ways to spur and sustain energy and excitement for community projects.

We recommend the following:

  • NTIA continue in its convening role and continue to create and maintain aggregated on-line “best practice” resources.
  • Provide funding for competitive, community-based broadband adoption efforts, ala more BIA/BTOP. Recognize and resource public libraries to offer public access and training.
  • Show thought leadership on the importance of affordable access and digital literacy for all. Call on Americans and the industry to make addressing the digital divide a national imperative.
  • Recognize that equipping digitally excluded people requires computers, connectivity and training. Our strategic partner – PCs for People – finds that more than 80% of new computer users will keep their broadband subscription after a discounted trial period.
  1. Overarching Questions
  2. How can the federal government promote best practices in broadband deployment and adoption?

Blandin Foundation’s ability to work with rural communities on both deployment and adoption was greatly enhanced via the BTOP grant received via ARRA funding.  This funding encouraged the foundation to engage in productive and innovative partnerships in a new ways.  Our collaborative efforts were extremely productive; many of these partnerships continue today in our ongoing work.

It is clear that deployment in high cost areas cannot rely on market mechanisms alone.  No matter how high the expected take rates, the nature of the geography and demographics will stymie investment.  NTIA and USDA should develop funding mechanisms that include the possibility of funding for new and existing broadband providers, especially those with local ownership structures, whether investor, cooperative or local units of government, or some combination thereof.  Minnesota has many communities/counties/partnerships that have done their homework, have been stimulating market demand and simply cannot make the business case to obtain financing for broadband deployment.  We know that this investment still needs to occur; we need to create and fund mechanisms to make it happen and the federal government is best positioned to do so.

NTIA should continue its expanding role in creating, collecting and maintaining aggregated on-line best practices resources.  With this centralized data and resource base, organizations like Blandin Foundation can direct community stakeholders to these resources and free us and others like us from the significant burden of doing this work ourselves.

President Obama’s January 14, 2015 presentation in Cedar Falls was a call to action that would put us on the right path.  Continued advocacy from the Office of the President and the federal government will help to educate state and local leaders on this critical topic.  Broadband deployment and digital literacy are national issues critical to our future competitiveness.

  1. How can the federal government best promote the coordination and use of federally-funded broadband assets?

In our work at the Blandin Foundation, we see that the nature of federal funding often requires network segregation rather than cooperation and collaboration.  Federal resources that fund broadband networks should require or, at a minimum, incentivize federal funding recipients to work collaboratively across sectors and agencies.

Consider a block grant approach engaging state governments to enable them to plan multi-year collaborative efforts across health, education and government network investments, with or without private sector partners.

Continue to support and promote the NTIA-led BroadbandUSA program.

  1. What federal resolutions and/or statutes can be modernized or adapted to promote broadband deployment and adoption?

Blandin Foundation believes that broadband is now essential to everything in which the Foundation is engaged – community leadership, economic vitality, social inclusion; the federal government should recognize this as well with its leadership role in housing, education, infrastructure development and health care.  Federal agencies should review all of their funding programs to incorporate considerations of broadband deployment and use.

  1. As the federal government transitions to providing more services on line, what should the government do to provide information and training to those who have not adopted broadband? What should the federal government do to make reasonable accommodation for those without access to broadband?

Blandin Foundation has seen and documented the benefits of organizations increasing their use of technologies to improve services and cut costs.  As the opportunity to get more value from a broadband connection increases, more people will obtain the skills and prioritize their resources to get online.  We have seen the value of digital inclusion and adoption efforts being led and implemented at the community level.  The federal government should provide funding for competitive, community-based broadband adoption efforts, ala more BIA/BTOP.  For those without broadband access the federal government should expand the resources available to public libraries and other public entities to offer public access and training.

  1. How can the federal government best collaborate with stakeholders (state, local, and tribal governments, philanthropic entities, industry, trade associations, consumer organizations, etc.) to promote broadband adoption and deployment?

Blandin Foundation recommends that there be a cross-sector effort to promote BTOP and other federal broadband program best practices using these various agencies’ communication tools.

Blandin Foundation also recommends that the federal government sponsor research into broadband deployment and adoption, such as:

  1. Gain a better understanding the relationship between the broadband business/delivery model and adoption rates.  Some communities are served by municipal providers; others by cooperatives; others by commercial vendors.  Assuming prices are equalized, are there any systematic relationships between these models and adoption rates in rural areas?
  2. Are there studies to identify rural communities where adoption of high-speed Internet is well-above the statistically-expected levels to better understand why?  In other words, what additional community factors have a large impact on community adoption rates?
  3. Better understand the relationship between adoption of broadband, business development, business growth and community development in rural communities.  Some rural areas seem to capitalize well on their local broadband investments and others, less so.  Are there studies that help us better understand this relationship; and if not, can they be initiated?
  4. We know that price is a big factor in adoption decisions, but are there pricing models (not just lower prices) that support higher adoption rates?
  1. Addressing Regulatory Barriers to Broadband Deployment, Competition and Adoption
  2. What regulatory barriers exist within the agencies of the Executive Branch to the deployment of broadband infrastructure?

USDA broadband finance programs are structured to avoid risk; they require three years of financials.  In some rural communities, the financing of start-up broadband providers, especially with local ownership through a cooperative model, should be allowed.

Blandin Foundation has heard from many providers that federal environmental review and permitting is costly both in finance and time, especially in terms of streams and wetlands, and especially on federal lands.

Federal wage standards have also been identified as an issue where federal job classifications to do not match the reality of telecommunications infrastructure construction.  Workers are placed in job classifications of much higher skill and pay more applicable to electricity, thus adding significantly to wage costs.

  1. What federal programs should allow the use of funding for the deployment of broadband infrastructure or promotion of broadband adoption but do not do so now?

USDA RD and EDA project dollars should be made more explicitly available for economic development projects.  Open access broadband facilities should be encouraged or required wherever sewer, water and other utility projects are financed.

  1. What inconsistences exist in federal interpretation and application of procedures, requirements, and policies by Executive Branch agencies related to broadband deployment and/or adoption, and how could these be reconciled? One example is the variance in broadband speed definitions.

One year ago, Blandin Foundation applied for USDA funding to create a Cooperative Development Center focused on broadband.  The agency reviewer scored the project quite low based on their perception that “broad band [sic] is interesting, but is not tied to business development.” This indicates a significant lack of knowledge of the critical nature of broadband and the way that broadband cooperatives could play a significant and positive role in the economic development of a community or region. As USDA currently funds millions of dollars annually to rural broadband providers, clearly the overall agency believes in the economic development value of broadband; the reviewer was not on the same page.

  1. Are there specific regulations within the agencies of the Executive Branch that impede or restrict competition for broadband service, where residents have either no option or just one option? If so, what modifications could agencies make to promote competition in the broadband marketplace?
  2. Are there federal policies or regulations within the Executive Branch that create barriers for communities or entities to share federally-funded broadband assets or networks with other non-federally funded networks?

School districts are fiercely afraid to enter into collaborative network arrangements due to fears of violating Universal Service Fund regulations.  As a result, they avoid becoming engaged in community broadband initiatives.  As connectivity to students’ homes is a driving force behind community broadband initiatives, especially with connectivity-based education trends, the absence of the school district is a major barrier.

  1. Should the federal government promote the implementation of federally-funded broadband projects to coincide with other federally-funded infrastructure projects? For example, coordinating a broadband construction project funded by USDA with a road excavation funded by DOT?

Encouraging “dig once” makes sense in selected areas, especially when railroad crossings, bridge crossings and environmentally sensitive areas are involved.  A federal mechanism to fund conduit installation with long-term and patient cost-recovery mechanisms could be especially positive.

  1. Promoting Public and Private Investment in Broadband
  2. How can communities / regions incentivize service providers to offer broadband services, either wired or wireless, in rural and remote areas? What can the federal government do to help encourage provides to serve rural areas?
  3. What change in Executive and agency regulations or program requirements could incentivize last mile investments in rural areas and sparsely populated, remote parts of the country?

Enable public sector health care dollars to be used for rural telemedicine thus spurring an increase in the value of the rural telecommunications network.  Provide distance education dollars so that students in remote areas can get home broadband access.

  1. What changes in executive brand agency regulations or program requirements would improve coordination of federal programs that help communities leverage the economic benefits offered by broadband?

Support the creation of a broadband-focused Cooperative Development Center.

  1. How can Executive Branch agencies incentivize new entrants into the market by lowering regulatory or policy barriers?

Blandin Foundation believes that the cooperative model offers the best, most sustainable model of broadband deployment in rural, underserved areas.  USDA requires three years of financial data before a provider can obtain a loan.  This barrier is a huge barrier to the formation of new broadband cooperatives.

  1. Promoting Broadband Adoption
  2. What federal programs within the Executive Branch should allow the use of funding for broadband adoption, but do not do so now?
  3. Typical barriers to broadband adoption include cost, relevance, and training. How can these be addressed by regulatory changes by Executive Branch agencies?
  4. Issues Related to State, Local, and Tribal Governments
  5. What barriers exist at the state, local, and/or tribal level to broadband deployment and adoption? How can the federal government work with and incentivize state, local, and tribal governments to remove these barriers?
  6. What federal barriers do state, local, and tribal governments confront as they seek to promote broadband deployment and adoption in their communities?
  7. What can the federal government do to make it easier for state, local, and tribal governments or organizations to access funding for broadband?
  8. How can the federal government support state, local, and tribal efforts to promote and/or invest in broadband networks and promote broadband adoption? For example, what type of capacity-building or technical assistance is needed?

Support the creation of a broadband-focused Cooperative Development Center.

  1. Issues Related to Vulnerable Communities and Communities with Limited or No Broadband
  2. How can specific regulatory policies within the Executive Branch agencies be altered to remove or reduce barriers that prevent vulnerable populations from accessing and using broadband technologies? Vulnerable populations might include, but are not limited to, veterans, seniors, minorities, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, low-income individuals and families, and the unemployed?

Use NAID certified, computer recycling/refurbishing non-profits like PCs for People (www.pcsforpeople.com) to distribute computers to vulnerable communities as a first step to digital inclusion.  Partner with job training/social service agencies/schools and broadband providers to provide training and low-cost connectivity to low-income families.

  1. How can the federal government make broadband technologies more available and relevant for vulnerable populations?

Create client service processes that are online based, but relatively uncomplicated as a gateway to the broader use of technology by vulnerable populations.  They will quickly understand the value of avoiding long bus rides, lines and other challenges that they face in receiving government services now.

Expand lifeline for broadband.

  1. Issues Specific to Rural Areas
  2. What federal regulatory barriers can Executive Branch agencies alter to improve broadband access and adoption in rural areas?

Timely and costly environmental review of relatively simple telecommunications infrastructure improvements on federal lands.

Create appropriate job classifications to have them more closely reflect the reality of the jobs performed in terms of skill required and hazardous duty.

  1. Would spurring competition to offer broadband service in rural areas expand availability and, if so, what specific actions could Executive Branch agencies take in furtherance of this goal?

Most rural areas would prefer one quality, reasonably priced, sustainable network, to multiple, competing mediocre networks that will not deliver the bandwidth necessary in today and tomorrow’s economy.  If existing incumbent providers will not/cannot provide service, an orderly succession plan to enable a new provider to provide modern services should be put in place.  Many communities beg for better services from their incumbent but get little response until a new provider (public, private or public-private partnership) begins to deploy.  Then the incumbent invests to make the new entrant unsuccessful.  This is the worst possible model.

  1. Because the predominant areas with limited or no broadband service tend to be rural, what specific provisions should Executive Branch agencies consider to facilitate broadband deployment and adoption in such rural areas?

Support the creation of flexible, “patient” financial tools for deployment.  Facilitate active community-based adoption strategies.

  1. Measuring Broadband Availability, Adoption, and Speeds
  2. What information about existing broadband services should the Executive Branch collect to inform decisions about broadband investment, deployment, and adoption? How often should this information be updated?

Make much more effective use of FCC Form 477 to understand and publicize existing broadband services.

  1. Are there gaps in the level or reliability of broadband-related information gathered by other entities that need to be filled by Executive Branch data collection efforts?
  2. What additional research should the government conduct to promote broadband deployment, adoption, and competition?

Blandin Foundation recommends that the federal government sponsor research into broadband deployment and adoption, such as:

  1. Gain a better understanding of the relationship between the broadband business/delivery model and adoption rates.  Some communities are served by municipal providers; others by cooperatives; others by commercial vendors.  Assuming prices are equalized, are there any systematic relationships between these models and adoption rates in rural areas?

  2. Are there studies to identify rural communities where adoption of high-speed Internet is well above the statistically-expected levels to better understand why?  In other words, what additional community factors have a large impact on community adoption rates?

  3. Better understand the relationship between adoption of broadband, business development, business growth and community development in rural communities.  Some rural areas seem to capitalize well on their local broadband investments and others, less so.  Are there studies that help us better understand this relationship; and if not, can they be initiated?

  4. We know that price is a big factor in adoption decisions, but are there pricing models (not just lower prices) that support higher adoption rates?

  5. How might the federal government encourage innovation in broadband deployment, adoption, and competition?

otter tailI’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Otter Tail County stacked up:

  • Household Density: 10.8
  • Number of Households: 24,055
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 57.69%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 64.33%

Otter Tail County sort of sits with a C- grade for broadband coverage but they received two Minnesota Broadband Funds last year so there are high hopes that their coverage will improve. Here’s a quick description of those awards…

Otter Tail Telcom, Stuart Lake.Awarded $105,364 to expand existing infrastructure to bring fiber-to-the-home service to 47 unserved locations, including 46 homes and one business near Stuart Lake, just north of State Highway 210 and east of Fergus Falls (between Clitherall and Vining). Total project costs are $210,729; the remaining $105,365 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.

Community and Economic Development Impact:Fergus Falls calls itself the “telework capital of Minnesota.” This project will continue the build-out in and around Fergus Falls to make that goal a reality for a growing number of people living, working, and operating and/or starting businesses in the Fergus Falls region.

Otter Tail Telcom, 245th. Awarded $108,553 to serve the northeastern outskirts of Fergus Falls near 245th Street. The project will expand existing infrastructure to bring fiber-to-the-home service to 39 unserved locations, including permanent residences and work-from-home employees. The total project costs are $217,105; the remaining $108,553 (50 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.

Community and Economic Development Impact:Fergus Falls calls itself the “telework capital of Minnesota.” This project will continue the build-out in and around Fergus Falls to make that goal a reality for a growing number of people living, working, and operating and/or starting businesses in the Fergus Falls region.

They are also part of an award in Stevens county. As the description states, Fergus Falls and the surrounding area have been focusing on becoming the Telework Capital of Minnesota. They received national recognition for their efforts in 2013 when they were named a smart community. (The have a great telework handbook if you’re looking at telework in your community!) Extending the reach of FTTH home will help extend the telework opportunities to a wider audience. But Otter Tail is more than telework. In 2014, received almost $500,000 for Otter Tail County Public Health to implement e-health programs.

Otter Tail Telcom has been looking for support to extend their network. They sent in rural experiment ideas to the FCC in 2014. Back in 2013, CenturyLink opted to received Connect America Funds (CAF) to serve parts of Otter Tail County. It will be fun to see what funding does for the area.

My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage… Read More…

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