Broadband is the means; innovation is the ends. Learn how communities in Minnesota and across the USA are leveraging fiber networks to create and support economic and community development.

Moderated by William Wallace, Executive Director, US Ignite

Mark Erickson, EDA Director, City of Winthrop / RS Fiber
Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director, Red Wing Ignite
Sheila Haverkamp, Executive Director, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp.



As the first digital generation, young people can be a resource for creativity, capable of helping all citizens connect with appropriate broadband empowerment tools and resources. Learn how anyone can easily create and share online videos to tell stories, preserve culture, and more. Learn how rural communities can work together to begin sharing new discoveries and innovations.
Presented by: Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting



Extending quality broadband to underserved and unserved communities often requires multiple partners to fill various roles in finance, operations, and ownership. Learn how your community can make smart decisions and create a successful partnership.
Moderated by Milda Hedblom, Consultant, Lawyer, Professor; Dain Consulting; Augsburg College

Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director, MN Office of Broadband Development
Dan Pecarina, President and CEO, Hiawatha Broadband
Shannon Sweeney, David Drown Associates, Inc.


Posted by: Ann Treacy | November 20, 2015

Remarks by Congressman Rick Nolan: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Representative Rick Nolan represents Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. He came to show his support for broadband recognizing that this is the opportunity to support future generations, the way our forefathers supported us – through investment.

He also recognized that broadband opens the door to allowing more people to live in rural areas. His passion for the topic was palpable.

Official word…

Minnesota Awards $11 Million for Broadband Projects
~Lt. Governor Smith, DEED announce funding for 15 projects in Greater Minnesota~

ST. PAUL – Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today announced that $11 million in grants have been awarded for projects to expand broadband access in 15 Greater Minnesota communities. Lt. Governor Smith made the announcement at the Blandin Foundation’s “Border to Border Broadband: Better Together” Conference.

“We need border-to-border broadband Internet access to build an economy that works for all Minnesotans,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Broadband Internet access isn’t just nice, it’s necessary for Minnesota businesses to grow and our students to thrive. While these grants are a good start, significant need remains.”

This broadband funding was awarded under DEED’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, which Governor Mark Dayton signed into law in May 2014. This year, DEED received 44 applications for funding, totaling more than $29 million in requests. Recipients were selected based on an internal review and scoring process.

The latest round of broadband grants will improve access to high-speed broadband for 3,222 households, 786 businesses and nearly 90 community institutions throughout the state.

“By gaining access to broadband, these rural communities will increase economic development, improve living standards and enhance education and public services,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “While we are pleased to assist in the development of these projects, there are many other communities waiting to receive access to high speed Internet and additional resources urgently needed.”

Now in its second year, the program’s first round of funding awarded $19.4 million to 17 Greater Minnesota communities in February of this year.

The following is a list of the 15 recipients awarded funding in 2015:

BEVCOMM Cannon Valley Telecom, Rural Freeborn Fiber-to-the-Premises Project, $149,625
The project will build out broadband infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet service to 43 households and one business in rural Freeborn in south-central Minnesota’s Freeborn County. Total project costs are $393,750. BEVCOMM will cover the remaining $244,125 (62 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact:  The project will support various home-based businesses, stimulate economic growth, and encourage innovation and investment. Education, health care, energy efficiency and public safety will improve with high-speed Internet access. The greatest economic development potential of the project will be in crop and livestock production, including advancement in bin monitoring systems, livestock feed and environment monitoring, security, video surveillance and energy management.

BEVCOMM Blue Earth Valley Telephone, Rural Winnebago Fiber-to-the-Premises Project, $142,690
The project will provide high-speed Internet service to 30 unserved households and farms in rural Winnebago in Faribault County in south-central Minnesota. Total project costs are $375,500. BEVCOMM will cover the remaining $232,810 (62 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will stimulate home-based businesses, economic growth, and innovation and investment. Education, health care, energy efficiency and public safety will improve with high-speed Internet access. The greatest economic development potential will be in local crop and livestock production. Broadband investments will enable area farmers to access applications and tools to make their operations more efficient and enhance their crop production. A second benefit will be better health care, especially in emergency situations. First responders, paramedics and rural doctors will be able to share medical information and start vital treatment to a patient while an ambulance is en route to the hospital.

Consolidated Telecommunications Co., Fort Ripley Phase II, $759,525
Broadband infrastructure will be built out in the Fort Ripley area to provide service to 272 households. Total project costs are $1.6 million. The remaining $839,475 (52 percent local match) will be provided by Consolidated Telecommunications and regional and local development agencies.

Community and Economic Development Impact:  A survey concluded that more than 83 percent of respondents in the area would benefit from telecommuting, an option currently unavailable. In addition, the project will enable home-based businesses to develop and expand.

Federated Telephone Cooperative, Swift County FTTP 2015, $4.95 million
The project will deliver high-speed Internet service to 600 households, 425 businesses and 75 community institutions. The project area includes De Graff, Swift Falls and rural parts of eastern Swift County. The project touches 13 of the county’s 21 townships. Total project costs are $12.5 million. The remaining $7.5 million (60 percent local match) will be covered by a loan from Swift County to Federated.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will help support job creation and economic prosperity throughout the county. More than 500 jobs are expected to be created over the next few years, related to farming, home-based startups, commercial expansions and more. Nearly half of the county’s 800 farms are in the project area.

Halstad Telephone Co., Gentilly Township, $424,460
Halstad Telephone Co. will build out infrastructure in Gentilly Township in Polk County to provide high-speed Internet to 114 households, 20 businesses and one community anchor institution. Total project costs are $931,000. The remaining $504,540 (54 percent local match) will be provided by Halstad Telephone Co.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will enable more effective agricultural management and teleworking opportunities.

Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Whitewater area in Winona County, $247,000
Hiawatha will partner with Winona County to build out broadband infrastructure in Elba and Norton townships, including Whitewater State Park. The project will provide improved Internet services to 418 customers, including 135 households, 70 businesses and five community anchor institutions. Total project costs are $773,320. The remaining $526,000 (68 percent local match) will be provided by Hiawatha and Winona County.

Community and Economic Development Impact:  This area contains Whitewater State Park (which attracts 300,000 visitors annually), Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, Crystal Springs Fish Hatchery, 75 farms, 32 businesses, a school and numerous public institutions. The project will improve business and economic opportunities, education, health care and public safety.

Midcontinent Little Fork Middle Mile, $277,448
Midcontinent will build out broadband middle-mile infrastructure between Little Fork and International Falls. The project will provide high-speed service to 258 Internet users. Total project costs are $584,100. The remaining $306,652 (52 percent local match) will be provided by Midcontinent.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The community will benefit from increased speed, capacity and reliability of Internet services.

MVTV Wireless Middle Mile, Southwestern Minnesota, $808,080
This project will improve services to 6,000 households and businesses that are MVTV customers in 20 southwestern Minnesota counties, with leverage possibilities for another 29,000 customers. The counties are Blue Earth, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Meeker, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Swift, Watonwan and Yellow Medicine. Total project costs are $1.85 million. MVTV will cover the remaining $1.04 million (56 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will improve broadband access and speeds for more than 3,000 farm-related businesses and 6,000 rural residents across nearly 30,000 square miles.

New Ulm Telecom, Goodhue Fiber Project, $115,934
New Ulm Telecom will build out middle- and last-mile infrastructure in Goodhue Township near the city of Goodhue to provide service to 24 households, businesses and community institutions. Total project costs are $244,073. New Ulm Telecom will cover the remaining $128,139 (53 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact:  Nearly all of the broadband service in this project area is for farms, home-based businesses or telecommuting. Without this investment, many residents might be forced to shut down businesses, move or find alternative educational opportunities.

Otter Tail Telcom Fergus Falls 864, Highway 59, $295,432
Otter Tail Telcom will extend its existing fiber cable at the north edge of Fergus Falls to serve 56 households, seven businesses and one cell tower. Total project costs are $621,962. Otter Tail Telcom will provide the remaining $326,530 (52 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact:  The project will improve broadband service for several existing businesses and work-from-home residents. In addition, it will add value and create potential shovel-ready status for a new industrial park.

Otter Tail Telcom, Highway 59/94, $164,207
Otter Tail Telcom will build out middle-mile broadband infrastructure north of Fergus Falls, near the Highway 59/94 intersection, to provide high-speed Internet service to 21 households and multiple community institutions. Areas north and south of Elizabeth are included. Total project costs are $345,699. The remaining $182,437 (53 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will provide increased connectivity to the Fargo/Moorhead area and redundancy for the Minneapolis middle-mile facilities. All customers served by Park Region Telephone Co., Otter Tail Telcom and other neighboring telecoms will benefit from the added connectivity. Remote clinics and hospitals associated with Sanford Health will have a seamless data flow of records, x-rays, scans and other medical information. Schools and libraries in the region also will benefit.

Paul Bunyan Central Itasca County Fiber, $1.98 million
Broadband infrastructure will be built out in Itasca County in portions of Balsam, Lawrence and Nashwauk townships and the former Iron Range Township that is now located within the city of Taconite. High-speed Internet service will be available to 1,193 households, 53 businesses and five community anchor institutions. Total project costs are $5.52 million. The remaining $3.54 million (64 percent local match) will be provided by Paul Bunyan Communications, Itasca County and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The area is home to an estimated 3,500 people and about 100 small businesses. The project will open up new markets, provide new options for training and education of employees, increase opportunities for sales and marketing, and deliver additional business-related resources. In addition, it will improve the region’s viability and attractiveness to telecommuters, freelancers and others who depend on technology and the Internet for work. Health care services also will improve.

Runestone Telephone Association, Holmes City, $189,990
The project will provide high-speed broadband service to 93 households, 14 businesses and one community anchor institution in Holmes City in Douglas County. Total project costs are $428,060. Runestone will provide the remaining $238,070 (56 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact: In addition to bricks and mortar businesses, numerous home-based businesses and telecommuters will have improved services. Thirty-two local children who are either home schooled or attend school in Alexandria also will benefit. Many of them cannot complete daily assignments, participate in team projects, or conduct research necessary for papers and reports.

West Central Telephone Association, Highway 71 Wadena North Expansion Project, $193,515
The project will provide high-speed broadband service to 162 households, 43 businesses and three community anchor institutions. Project costs are $2.12 million. The remaining $1.93 million (91 percent local match) will be provided by the West Central Telephone Association and by local and regional organizations.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will help struggling small businesses, provide tele-health services to assist seniors, address a shortage of mental health workers, and provide online education and other learning opportunities.

Winona County Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Cedar Valley Area, $314,450
Broadband infrastructure will be built in and around the Winona County communities of Witoka, and Wilson, affecting 256 households, 117 businesses and three community anchor institutions. Total project costs are $973,000. The remaining $658,550 (68 percent local match) will be provided by Winona County and Hiawatha Broadband Communications.

Community and Economic Development Impact: Entities that will benefit from local broadband access include trucking firms, 90 farms, nine commercial and industrial businesses, 18 home-based businesses, a school and numerous public institutions.

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and our services, visit us at the DEED website ( or go to our Twitter account (

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, along with DEED’s Office of Broadband Development announce the 2015 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant awards.

Here are the winnersawaard

  • BEVCOMM $292,315
  • Consolidated Telecom Company (CTC) $759,525
  • Federated Telephone $4,950,000
  • Halstad Telephone Company $424,460
  • Hiawatha Broadband (HBC) $247,000
  • Midcontinent Communications $277,448
  • MVTV $808,080
  • New Ulm Telecom $115,934
  • Otter Tail Telecom (2 projects) $459,639
  • Paul Bunyan $1,980,000
  • Runestone Telecom $189,990
  • West Central Telephone $189,525
  • Winona County $314,450
  • Total $11,008,366

Later I may get a press release or have time to cross reference later – but for now here’s a list of the applicants for more info:

A lifelong resident of rural Minnesota and president and CEO of Blandin Foundation for the past four years, Dr. Kathleen Annette is a recognized leader at local, regional and national levels. Here is her welcome…

Thank you, Bernadine. I’m really glad to be here today to be part of this Broadband Builders Breakfast. Welcome everyone!

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the contributions of those of you who are actually doing the work of building our state’s broadband infrastructure. A special nod of recognition and appreciation to all of the providers who are in the room with us this morning.

I want also to acknowledge and thank DEED Commissioner Katie Sieben Clark, and Office of Broadband Development Director Danna MacKenzie and their colleagues for partnering with us to put on this conference. You helped the conference offerings grow from good to great.

In particular, I want to thank Lt. Governor Tina Smith and Governor Mark Dayton, for recognizing the significance of this gathering by choosing it as a venue for announcing the recipients of the state’s 2015 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant awardees.

It is in vogue to call for “public-private collaboration” – and appropriately so, I think, for in this increasingly interdependent world no one sector or group alone can solve the complex problems that threaten a prosperous and healthy planet.

It is our shared responsibility and opportunity to partner better together for a better Minnesota. What’s more – it’s our “Minnesota way” to recognize that we all do better when we all do better.

But collaboration often is not easy. It takes trust and will and most of all – common commitment to creating public value.

In their new book, Public Value and Public Administration, Humphrey School professors John Bryson and Barbara Crosby and Carlson School of Management’s Laura Bloomberg conclude that strengthening public “deliberative capacity” helps communities address complex challenges in an inclusive way.

“Deliberative capacity” – that is, the ability for people of differing opinions to be curious, respectful and open in a shared exploration of effective approaches to public problems.

This conference has been designed:

  • to build a sense of collective efficacy and hopefulness,
  • to welcome all of your perspectives,
  • to spotlight new ideas and promising practices,
  • to draw out your wisdom and passion ….. – ultimately,
  • to contribute to the “deliberative capacity” so key to the quality of our shared public life.

At Blandin Foundation we believe that local leadership matters, and that communities do best when they name and claim their own future.

We are in the hope business – helping communities feel hopeful and leadership-full.

It is my personal hope that you will bring the important work you are doing together here back to your organizations, businesses and communities.

That you will continue to stoke the momentum building here today to name and claim a broadband future worthy of our best hopes for our children and their children’s children.

Again, thank you for being here this morning for this Broadband Builders Breakfast, and congratulations and thanks to each of you who are doing the actual work of building networks.

We’re doing something a little different at the conference this year. And I think it’s something that Blandin does best – they’ve convened this great group of folks who are working for better broadband and they put them to work to think (and act!) about what would be a good broadband vision statement for Minnesota. We started by looking at the vision statement the Blandin Broadband Strategy wrote in 2004…

To ensure a high quality of life and a globally competitive future for its citizens, businesses and communities, Minnesota is committed to making the necessary investment to become a world leader in the universal deployment and use of ultra, high-speed next generation broadband.

Then everyone broke up into groups and we hashed out a new version…

All Minnesotans will use world class universal broadband networks that enable us to thrive in our communities and across the globe now and into the future.

Then we hashed out the process for making the vision happening by answer in the following questions in small groups:

  • What do we need for networks?
  • What tools do we need? (ex: state funding, legislative actions, policies, forums to promote/facilitate collaboration)
  • What do we need to do to incent the investment we need?
  • What key questions or principles should decision-makers keep in mind?

You can see the high level answers to the questions in the PPT

Or you can see everyone’s compiled answers in this document – which reads a little backwards as we create the document on the fly. (Like reading an email discussion you might want to start from the bottom.)

The process was very collaborative: everyone talk, everyone make it better, a core team compiles and brings it back to the group to make sure we’re still speaking as one voice. The work will continue – and one reaon I’m working hard to get this message out tonight – I invite folks to tweet suggestions (#MNBroadband) – or post them as comments below.


Moderated by Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy & Engagement, Blandin Foundation
Nancy Hoffman, Executive Director, Chisago County HRA / EDA
Kay Wruke, County Recorder, Martin County
Tom Johnson, County Administrator, Nobles County
Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director, Red Wing Ignite
Amanda Outhoudt, Economic Dev. Director, City of Elk River (Sherburne County)
Dan Weber, Assistant County Administrator, Sherburne County

Sadly there was a technical glitch so I didn’t capture Dana nd SHerburne County but I do have a video they created earlier…

I am posting video although the audio is not great:

I am going to try to post the talk in its entirety after the conference – ironically I don’t have the bandwidth at the conference to do it but I want to share what I can in a timely fashion.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | November 19, 2015

Digital Storytelling Show and Tell: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

We were pleased to see youth share their experience and learning from Wednesday’s Digital Storytelling Workshop. Moderated by Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting

  • Fond du Lac Ojibwe School: Jacob Ammesmaki, Mary Ammesmaki, Dakota Barney, Brea Hoagland, Michael Sayers, Quintana White
  • Leech Lake Boys and Girls Club: Steven Bruce, Alivia Christopherson, Amber Headbird, Keith Howard, Dedrick LaDuke, Dacia Staples, Ramona White, Donavin Wittner
  • Nay-Ah-Shing High School
  • Onamia School: Deilyah Dexter, KC Merrill, Aiyanna Mitchell, Bella Nayquonabe, Megan Saboo, Madison Sam

Their teacher describes the motivation:

You can see the results of their efforts online.

Here are some videos from the session: 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | November 19, 2015

Bernadine Joselyn Opens the #MNBroadband Conference

And abridged  script:

Good Morning everybody! My name is Bernadine Joselyn. On behalf of the Blandin Foundation and our co-sponsor, DEED’s Office of Broadband Development, it is my pleasure and honor to welcome you to the Border to Border Broadband: Better Together conference.
Thank you for being here this morning.
At Blandin Foundation, we have come to understand that broadband access – and the skills to use it – are fundamental to everything we care about as a foundation:
equal opportunity, education, health care, accountable and effective government, business growth, engaged citizens and – ultimately — vibrant communities – all depend on world class broadband.
I bet that many of you here today get this too.
But ensuring that all people – especially people living in rural places and on tribal lands — have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it is hard. It’s going to take all sectors of society working together. Not-for-profits, business and government all must do their part.
That’s what this conference is about – being better together.
We have gathered to address the reality that Minnesotans without access to high speed broadband and the ability to use it are denied equal opportunity to participate fully in community life.
These are high stakes. Getting this right for Minnesota matters. Broadband has become the indispensable infrastructure of our age.
As Luis Ubinas, former Ford Foundation President, famously said:
As the Internet becomes a gateway to democratic participation, economic opportunity, and human expression, it is critical to the future of our country to ensure that everyone has high-speed, or “broadband,” access to an open Internet.
In sessions over the next two days, you will hear about many of the efforts underway across our state to move the needle on meeting the challenge President Ubinas describes.
Efforts in Minnesota classrooms, clinics, on school buses, in community centers, libraries and city halls, at the state house, at DEED, in tribal government facilities, and in people’s understanding and awareness.
We also will be working together to articulate a shared Broadband vision for Minnesota. And to talk about what we can do together to move that vision forward.
All of this together offers each of you multiple opportunities to Connect, Learn, and Recharge.
There’s lots going on – some of it simultaneously – so check your program for details.
Our parents and grandparents invested in the infrastructure upon which rural America was built – electricity, roads, bridges, telephones. Now it is our turn.
When the federal government wanted to reduce deaths by improving air quality – they did not ask the auto industry to create a goal.
Rather the Feds said – here are the emission standards we expect you to meet, and they gave the auto industry a deadline. So why are we looking to the providers to set our broadband goals?
Understandably, the goals of for-profit companies are influenced first-and-foremost by what is good for their business, not necessarily what is good for Minnesotans. Not-for-profit co-ops – with member services as their business model — are able to do what for-profit providers often can’t. It’s time for families and schools and communities to set the goals and leave the tactics to the providers. They will rise to the occasion, just as the auto industry did.
And now it is my pleasure to pass the mic to my friend and colleague and conference co-sponors, and the Director of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development, Danna MacKenzie, to add her words of welcome.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | November 19, 2015

Digital Inclusion Strategies: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Digital Inclusion Strategies featuring show and tell sessions on a range of digital literacy projects and a discussion of how to better run programs.


No matter how great (or poor) your network is, if community members are being left behind without access, skills and devices, then your network is not being used to its full capacity. Learn best practices in a range of digital inclusion strategies including computer refurbishment, community technology centers, computer training programs, and low-cost Internet connectivity.

Welcome by Ann Treacy

Tech Literacy Collaborative (Elise Ebhardt and Angie Willardson) – A centralized resource for tools and calendar and directory of projects in the Twin Cities

Show & Tell Stations (1 hour – 4 rounds of 10 minutes)

  1. PCs for People (Sam Drong) – refurbishing donated PCs to distribute to low income households. They have a system that works for everyone.
  2. Hack 2.o (Larry Handlin) – recently hosted their first Hackfest at their coworking space in Willmar.
  3. Kids Summer App Camp (Charles Hilliard) – getting teenagers to develop apps in the summer.
  4. Winona Friendship Center (Malia Fox) – a one-of-a-kind approach to getting elders online – interactive online workout classes.
  5. Open TC (Bill Bushey) – hosting regular meetings of civic coders to develop projects, solve problems and make connections
  6. Visual (Chuck Olsen) – “Virtual Reality is Here.” Learn how this new medium opens up a world of new experiences with your smartphone.
  7. Project FINE (Fatima Said) – teaching computer classes to new Americans from the basics to online publishing. Students learn and make friendships.
  8. Reduced Rates for Low Income HHs MVTV (Julie Foote) – offering reduced rates can make good business sense and community development.
  9. Winger Kid Coder Dojo (Neela Mollgaard) helping kids to develop computer programming and coding skills with space, mentors and opportunities.
  10. Community Technology Empowerment Project (Lisa Peterson de la Cueva) – AmeriCorps members dream up and deploy digital literacy projects

Show & Tell Materials & Videos

And an example of the videoconferencing:


Posted by: Ann Treacy | November 18, 2015

Intro to Community Broadband Notes: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Intro to Community Broadband with Dave Russell, Calix; Albert Kangas, Palmer Wireless; Paul Solsrud, Cooperative Network Services; moderated by Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors


Are you still working after years of trying to get better broadband within your city or across your county? Or are you just getting started? This session will provide basics about community organizing, wired and wireless technology options, and business and partnership models.




The FCC reports that they have awarded more than $16 million to four providers for their rural broadband experiments. Telecompetitor elaborates…

In its latest release of funding for rural broadband experiments, the FCC awarded $16 million to four carriers for rural broadband deployments in territories previously served by price cap carriers. The $16 million will bring broadband service to 2,451 census blocks across five states, reports the FCC.

A total of $16,138,691.71 was awarded to Skybeam, LLC; Daktel Communications, LLC; Federated Telephone Cooperative; and Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative. These winners were provisionally selected previously, but were required to provide at least one acceptable irrevocable stand-by letter of credit and a bankruptcy code opinion letter from legal counsel. Having met these requirements, the FCC released the funding through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

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