Fun to share a new report on Minnesota community broadband initiatives…

In 2010 the Minnesota legislature set a goal: universal access to high speed broadband throughout the state by 2015. As 2015 approaches we know that large parts of Greater Minnesota will not achieve that goal, even as technological advances make the original benchmarks increasingly obsolete.

But some Minnesota communities are significantly exceeding those goals. Why? The activism of local governments.

A new report by ILSR, widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable organizations on municipal broadband networks, details the many ways Minnesota’s local governments have stepped up. “All Hands On Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Expanding Fiber Internet Access” includes case studies of 12 Minnesota cities and counties striving to bring their citizens 21st century telecommunications.

“When national cable and telephone companies have refused to modernize their communications systems, local governments have stepped up. And in the process saved money, attracted new businesses, and made it more likely that their youth will stick around,” says Chris Mitchell, Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

  • Windom, which is one of the most advanced networks in the state, built their own network after their telephone company refused to invest in their community.
  • Dakota County showed how a coordinated excavation policy can reduce by more than 90 percent the cost of installing fiber.
  • Lac qui Parle County partnered with a telephone cooperative to bring high speed broadband to its most sparsely population communities.

ILSR’s report is particularly timely because this week, the governor’s office began accepting applications for the state’s new $20 million initiative Border-to-Border program.  “We hope that before communities submit their applications they read this report to learn what others have done,” says Mitchell.

GrandCare is a Minnesota company that develops telehealth systems that allow people to stay in their homes longer. The system lets the patient check in with family and health care professionals. GrandCare gave a presentation at the Minnesota State Fair this year. I think they do a nice job of explaining what they do to a wide audience. It’s really a great example of using technology to expand health care common sense and meeting the patient where they are at… Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 30, 2014

Broadband helps rural businesses promote products

A couple weeks ago I was in Lac qui Parle County working with the EDA to help promote local businesses online. I spoke with Jean Menden who uses her broadband connection to promote her beautifully hand-crafted jewelry and to take online classes to improve and increase her skills in various part of jewelry making and silver smithing…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 29, 2014

Broabdand helps small business do research in Dawson MN

A couple weeks ago I was in Lac qui Parle County working with the EDA to help promote local businesses online. I spoke with Sam’s Equipment about their use of technology. They sell reused and recycled equipment parts. Mostly they broadband for research but it was interesting to hear the impact and about plans for future use…

Big news from NECA Washington Watch

The Wireline Competition Bureau issued a Public Notice on September 26, 2014, releasing the Rural Broadband Experiments application Form 5610 and providing additional information on completing Form 5610. The Bureau also announced a delay in the opening of the filing window and the corresponding deadline for the submission of rural broadband experiment applications to complete testing of the electronic submission system. The Bureau anticipates testing will be completed in four to six weeks. The Bureau will release a public notice announcing the revised deadline for applications at a later date. The Bureau also postponed the webinar originally scheduled for September 29 until October 9.

An just in time, I wanted to share video taken by Ron Corriveau at COS Systems at FTTH Council conference earlier this month in Minneapolis. He was able to capture the session on Preparing to File for the FCC Rural Broadband Experiments. It was complicated and detailed but if you are thinking about applying, I think it would be extremely valuable. One hiccup – I’ve been trying to get the middle piece to upload to YouTube with less than stellar success. But I figured I’d post what I can and add the third later if I can iron out the wrinkles.

I think the info from the sessions would be extremely valuable if you’re looking to apply. Pretty dry if you aren’t.

Itasca County has been working with the Blandin Foundation and COS Systems to find broadband gaps and opportunities for partnership in the region through a tool developed by COS Systems. (I wrote more about the system in August when the project started.)

The Blandin Foundation recently posted an update on the project…

Connect Itasca is an initiative, facilitated by Itasca County, to gather quality information and facilitate partnerships to stimulate investment in broadband networks that reach throughout Itasca County.

Information is being collected through an online and print survey to identify specific areas where people lack the broadband service they desire.

“Our hope is to identify the areas of need and to partner with existing providers to justify expanding existing service areas,” said Klein.

Expanded service equals expanded opportunity – for existing and new businesses, residents, students, etc. Research shows that 30- to 50-year-olds are choosing to move to rural, but they expect a solid broadband connection to be part of the relocation package.

And a reminder for folks in the area to submit their two cents…

Survey data is being collected through October 31, 2014. If you live in Itasca County, you can take the survey here. It will take about 5 minutes. For up-to-date information about Connect Itasca, follow their Facebook page.

Even if you’re not in Itasca County, it’s worth checking out the system because it is works in Itasca it just might work in your area too.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 29, 2014

All for one for broadband when providers focus on same goal

I am posting the following editorial from Gary Evan with permission. It was originally posted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One of the things that strikes me is the solidarity of two private broadband providers who are each striving to bring better broadband to Minnesota. It reminds me of the mid-1990s when we used to host IPS lunches, email lists and educational opportunities. A time when people recognized that the network worked better when everyone worked together. It worked for the community and the business…

Paul Bunyan Communications deserves praise for its serious investment in broadband infrastructure in northern Minnesota (‘“GigaZone’” comes Up North,” Sept. 19). As a cooperative, Paul Bunyan can expand world-class service because its customers are also its shareholders. Too often, larger providers’ out-of-state shareholders demand quick returns on investments, inhibiting costly broadband expansions. Partly as a result, a governor’s task force ranks Minnesota 23rd nationally in terms of broadband speed.

High-quality broadband means economic growth. For example, a Blandin Foundation-commissioned study found high-quality broadband in Kanabec County could spur $18.2 million in business revenue. Currently, 71 percent of households there — and 46 percent of Greater Minnesota households — don’t meet state speed goals.

Thankfully, the Legislature recently established a broadband fund to target areas with greatest need and economic return, while helping align a provider’s short-term need for a return on investment and a community’s long-term need for broadband infrastructure.

State leaders should follow the task force recommendation to devote $200 million to the fund so Greater Minnesota — and the state — can reap broadband’s benefits.

GARY EVANS, St. Paul

The writer is president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership and former CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications.

Gary wasn’t the only one who noted Paul Bunyan’s efforts, Lee Schafer also had an article in the paper putting Paul Bunyan’s investment n perspective.

The company, based in Bemidji, had about $54 million in 2013 revenue. That makes it an awfully small company to be installing miles and miles of fiber. Johnson said that he was even a bit surprised to learn, after tallying up all the capital investments made in its fiber-optic network, that the total thus far is about $150 million.

“It really wasn’t thrown out there like ‘Do you want to spend $150 million?’ ” said Johnson. “We are a cooperative. So it’s in our DNA to look through the lens of ‘what to our members need?’ Not ‘Is it going to be super-profitable,’ that kind of thing.”

The cooperative has borrowed money from a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But those were loans, not grants. Beyond that, he said “it’s just been our own investment. It’s been pay-as-you-go, for over a decade.”

Not only does Johnson explain that there was nothing easy about it, he’s nothing but a fan of public financing for broadband like Minnesota’s new $20 million broadband grant program. The company would take any help it could get to continue to expand Paul Bunyan’s network.

Paul Bunyan’s service territory extends east to Grand Rapids, with parts of it extending all the way to just east of International Falls. Johnson called the network “99 percent” ready for the first 1-gigabit customers to be turned on early next year, at a price of $100 per month for Internet access.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 28, 2014

Coding Bootcamps to start in the Twin Cities in 2015

Such a good idea! I wanted to share for folks who might be able to take advantage of the opportunity and for commutnies that might want to replicate the opportunity for their residents. There’s a great opportunity from the City of Minneapolis Employment and Training in partnership with Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA)…

Starting early next year, City of Minneapolis Employment and Training in partnership with Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) will kick-off an innovative new approach to training workers for in-demand jobs in the growing technology sector by launching a series of Minneapolis Coding Bootcamps. The initiative came at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology and the Wadhwani Foundation.

“Minneapolis, like many cities, is ideal for the coding bootcamp initiative because of its size, growing demand for tech workers, willing employers, and innovative workforce development efforts,” said Lynn Overmann Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Best practices from national training models are currently being explored by the City and MHTA to be used in Minneapolis. Input from tech employers will also be incorporated to ensure that the training meets current and future industry needs. The coding bootcamps will be marketed towards a variety of populations including women, vets, and minorities who may or may not have formal training in the IT industry, but are willing to learn and are eager to adapt current skills and learn new skills.

The first Minneapolis Coding Bootcamp is expected to take place in early 2015 with a class size of about 20-25 students. Employers interested in helping to develop the program and/or connecting with graduates of the coding bootcamps can contact Andrew Wittenborg at 952.230.4551.

The program is being funded by a blend of state and local funding together with a $100,000 commitment from the CompTIA Foundation, to provide a total of $400,000.

For more information please visit the City of Minneapolis website.

I am pleased to report that this meeting will be made available online as well as for an on site meeting…

Please join us on Oct. 10th for our next TLC Meet-Up where we plan to demonstrate what happens when people get together online to work on things they find interesting!  We’ll encourage participation in some ongoing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) that bring communities of co-learners together to share and practice new ideas, tools, and techniques.   Throughout this session, you’ll learn the history of MOOC’s, how to get involved, receive resources to explore, and have the opportunity to ask questions and share your ideas.

Where: PPL Service Center, 1035 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis

When: 11:00am – 1:00pm*

Lunch will be provided onsite!

There are two ways to register and join this event:

  1. You’ll be joining us in-person at the PPL Service Center! Seating is limited so please register and you will receive a confirmation from Eventbrite.  This option starts at 11:00am to allow time for lunch and announcements. Register to attend in-person.
  1. You’ll be joining us online!  Click here https://new-webex.webex.com/new-webex/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=209232466 and you will receive a confirmation from WebEx to join the web seminar.  This option starts online at 11:30am.

A big Thank You to both Comcast for providing lunch and Cisco for providing their WebEx online conferencing tool.

*Lunch and announcements start at 11am. The online session begins at 11:30am.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 27, 2014

Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind

Is your community tech savvy or tech sorry? 

Join community broadband champions, thought leaders and policy makers from across the state to recharge and celebrate our shared efforts to make border to border broadband come true for Minnesota. Our kids think there is a “webtone” out there – but only if we build it and use it for more connected, better lives.  Come be part of the solution. 

Sponsored by Blandin Foundation and Connect Minnesota, the Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind conference is being held November 18-19 at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd.

Consider attending the optional Preconference Session on Broadband Networks: Community Considerations, facilitated by Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors:

Depending on who you ask, “adequate” broadband ranges from 4 Mbps to 1 Gbps.  Now that most community leaders know that, in general, they need broadband, they need to understand the ramifications of alternative network scenarios and decisions and the prospective impact on their community. This session will focus on network infrastructures, capabilities and trends in usage by organizations and users.

Bill Coleman and guest experts will illustrate the tech and policy choices facing communities.  Without getting too bogged down in tech terms and jargon, this presentation will help community leaders to better understand their current situations, prospective choices and the impact of those decisions on the future economic vitality of the community or region.
Visit the conference webpage for more information and registration. Registration is Open!!!

 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 27, 2014

Can’t cook? Betty Crocker’s got an app for you!

OK it’s going to take a whole lot more than technology to make a chef, but with a little technology I might be able to cook. I love the use of technology by this Minnesota company; AdWeek reports…

Betty Crocker wants to capture the loyalty of a new generation of home cooks, who have grown up using technology in every aspect of their lives, with a free app for iOS.

The Betty Crocker Cookbook app has been updated to include more than 15,000 recipes in a searchable database. The app lets you check off steps or ingredients as you add them, and it also keeps the screen unlocked so you don’t have to keep logging in with messy fingers.

While the app is available now on iOS, an Android version is expected to launch in October. The updated experience overhauls the original app launched in 2009.

The General Mills-owned brand will update the app with seasonal recipes automatically, without requiring users to upgrade. Other features include the ability to adjust recipes or make substitutions on the fly, in the app itself. There is also a custom “chapter” section that gathers favorited recipes together.

I know, if I was dedicated to the cause I’d try it out and report back, but really my best kitchen app is still the one that makes reservations!

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 27, 2014

NATOA 2014 Annual Conference in St Paul Sep 29 to Oct 2

This looks like a great conference. I am hoping to attend a few sessions – but am not sure I’ll be able to make it. I wanted folks to at least know it was happing and so I’m including the full agenda for the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Annual Conference

09/29/2014 – Monday, September 29, 2014

8:00 am – 4:00 pm – Registration Open
8:45 am – 4:00 pm – Broadband Pre-Conference Seminar

Broadband Pre-Conference Seminar
It’s all about broadband. And today’s mantra? “More capacity! Faster speeds!” But once a community has access to better services, what can it do with it? How does it make local governments more responsive and efficient? How does it help local businesses compete? What effects is it having on education and healthcare? And is it helping to bridge the digital divide, or are some people being left behind.

Join us for a one-day, pre-conference workshop that will answer these and other questions. Learn how high-capacity, high-speed broadband services can revolutionize the way governments works, how our kids learn, how we heal our sick, and become more civically engaged communities. Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 26, 2014

Tekne Finalists Announced: Includes two rural companies

The Tekne finalist were announced last week. It’s always fun to see what smart folks are doing, especially when those smart folks are our neighbors. I was a little dismayed to see that only two obviously rural companies made the list. I think that’s on the rural companies – next year we should give the committees of bigger taste of what’s happening outside of the metro area.

In the meantime a special congrats to Feedlogic out of Willmar for their place on the Ag and Wood Award list and Awear Technologies from Pine City for their place on the Education Technology Award. And really congrats to the whole list

Categories and finalists for the 2014 Tekne Awards are:

ADVANCED MANUFACTURING AWARD

The Advanced Manufacturing Award honors technological innovation in the manufacturing process to increase speed and accuracy and reduce costs while minimizing environmental impact. Finalists are: 3M (St. Paul), H.B. Fuller (St. Paul) and T3 Scientific LLC (Blaine).

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD AWARD

The Agriculture and Food Award honors technological advances in agriculture operations that enhance productivity and efficiency, improve environmental sustainability or contribute to food safety. The finalists are: Ecolab (St. Paul), Garden Fresh Farms (Maplewood) and Feedlogic (Willmar).

COLLABORATION FOR COMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD

The Collaboration for Community Impact Award recognizes a collaboration or partnership that demonstrates leadership, dedication and excellence in delivering an innovation to Minnesota while meeting an unmet community need. This product, service or innovative technology could assist an underserved population or community, enhance the quality of life, health or safety for the community at large, or promote an innovative job creation strategy. Finalists are: Clockwork Active Media and Code Savvy (Minneapolis), The Works Museum and The Minnesota Department of Education (Bloomington and Roseville) and Bankcard Services, TIES and Arux Software (St. Paul, Falcon Heights and Woodbury).

CYBER SECURITY AWARD

The Cyber Security Award recognizes innovative products or services that secure networks, computers or systems from unintended or unauthorized access. These include, but are not limited to; identity management products or services, trusted authentication and verification processes. Finalists are: Adventium Labs (Minneapolis), Code42 (Minneapolis) and TransAuth (New Brighton).

EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY AWARD

The Education Technology Award honors innovations that measurably improve student learning and academic performance in the classroom. This includes the development of educational games, learning apps for mobile devices, innovative approaches to distance learning or student project assignments that engage students with core curriculum via technology. Finalists are: Adventium Labs (Minneapolis), Awear Technologies (Pine City) and Convent of the Visitation School (Mendota).

ENERGY AWARD

The Energy Award honors innovations that enhance efficiency of energy usage or delivery, reduce environmental impact and encourage energy conservation. Finalists are: Ecolab (St. Paul), Minnesota Community Solar (Minneapolis) and RA Knowledge (Minneapolis).

HEALTHCAREAWARD

The Healthcare Award honors innovative development or deployment of medical devices, diagnostics or equipment, disease treatment or pharmaceuticals that measurably improve patient care delivery, reduce recovery times or improve patient health. Finalists are: Monteris Medical Corporation (Plymouth), Starkey Hearing Technologies (Eden Prairie) and Zimmer Spine (Minneapolis).

IT SERVICES AWARD

The IT Services Award recognizes the contributions of technology service providers whose creative approaches to business solutions streamline client processes, reduce customer costs, shorten time to marketing and/or increase service capacity or customer access through technology. Finalists are: Delta Air Lines (Eagan), FieldSolutions (Minnetonka) and Thomson Reuters (Eagan).

SOFTWARE AWARD

The Software Award honors innovation in software development or applications for business or consumer use. Established company finalists are: Help Systems (Eden Prairie), Honeywell (Golden Valley) and SPS Commerce (Minneapolis). Small and growing company finalists are: Avionte (Eagan), Barometer (Minneapolis) and Calabrio (Minneapolis).

STARTUP AWARD

The Startup Award recognizes an early-stage Minnesota technology company with commercialized products that demonstrates significant potential, creativity and a promising future. The company must be less than three years old, have one to 30 employees and generate revenue. The finalists are: Gravie (Minneapolis), NimbeLink (Plymouth) and NxThera (Maple Grove).

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AWARD

The Workforce Development Award honors innovative approaches to training workers in transition or youth with technology skills and successfully matching them to jobs that meet the needs of Minnesota companies. Finalists are: Creating IT Futures Foundation(Downers, IL), Genesis 10(St. Paul) and the Biotechnology Program of Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Minneapolis).

The 2014 Tekne Awards program will begin with VIP registration and a reception at 4:30 p.m., followed by general registration and cocktails at 5 p.m. Dinner will be served at 5:45 p.m., with the awards ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. Paul Douglas, meteorologist, author and entrepreneur, will emcee the event.

To register for the 2014 Tekne Awards program, visit http://www.tekneawards.org or contact Angela McLaughlin at 952-230-4552 or angelam@mhta.org.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 26, 2014

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting September 2014: Full Notes

There was a huge crowd for the Task Force this week – maybe 30 people attending outside of the Task Force members. At least 20 of those people were from Arvig. But it also included some from the local press.

We heard from Arvig, the local provider. Got a remote presentation from John Deere on precision agriculture and the Task Force talked about their 2014-2015 Annual report and presented recommendations from the sub-groups.

And they got an update from the Office of Broadband Development:

Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 25, 2014

Dig Once: A view from Minnesota’s Dakota County

I am a fan of Dakota County’s David Asp. He has been instrumental in getting Dakota County as wired as it is – including getting the anchor institutions the broadband they need, expanding the network to extend reach and redundancy and making sure that local business are able to get the broadband they need. One of the strategies that has worked well has been Dig Once – and other tactics that use communication and planning to help everyone take advantage of situations like an open street.

So I was delighted to see that the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Chris Mitchell hosted David and . Net Systems Analyst Rosalee McCready for a podcast conversation on Dig Once. Here’s the intro to the show…

This week, Network Collaboration Engineer David Asp and .Net Systems Analyst Rosalee McCready join us to discuss their approach to maximizing all opportunities to get fiber and conduit in the ground. They work in a county that ranges from rural farms in the south to urban cities in the north, offering lessons for any local government.

We discuss the award-winning software they developed to coordinate projects and the many benefits of the network that have already produced millions of dollars in savings. And now the county is examining how it can use its fiber to spur economic development and investment in better Internet access for area residents.

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