EVENT: MN Rural Broadband Coalition Virtual Day on the Hill – Wednesday, March 24

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Register Today!
MRBC Virtual Day on the Hill
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Via Zoom
Agenda Coming Soon!
This event is free, but registration is required.  Details on how to join the Zoom meeting are included in the confirmation email you’ll receive following registration.
If you’re interested in scheduling meetings with your legislators, please see this one-page guide on how to schedule a legislative meeting.    Coalition staff is also available to help you set up these meetings.  Please indicate your preference on the registration form.  IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are scheduling your own meetings, make sure to do so at the time you register for the Day on the Hill. Legislators’ schedules fill up quickly. If you don’t schedule far enough in advance, it will be difficult to get a meeting.  If you have questions about scheduling legislator meetings, please contact Nathan Zacharias.

**All attendees are also invited to join Blandin’s Lunch Bunch immediately following the MRBC Virtual Day on the Hill, where the discussion topic will be “Smart Broadband Tactics for Cities, Suburbs and Towns” (March 24 noon to 1:00 p.m. CST) and attendees will get a sneak preview from local experts at Smart North. Please click here to learn more and register separately for this free Blandin event.
If you have general questions about the event, please contact Emily Murray.
We hope to see you there – click here to register today!

Almost 80 percent surveyed near Mankato support MN Legislative investment in broadband

Mankato Free Press reports…

A majority of area respondents support the Minnesota Legislature’s efforts to spend large amounts of money on broadband projects over the next two years.

Out of 255 total respondents, 202 voters — more than 79% — agree with lawmakers’ efforts to approve at least $120 million on broadband during this legislative session. Only 53 voters opposed the idea.

GOP and DFL senators presented largely similar proposals before a Senate agricultural policy committee last week that would call for $120 to $150 million spent over the next two years on broadband projects, with at least $30 million to $50 million going toward projects in unserved or underserved communities. That amount is largely in line with a House DFL broadband proposal made earlier this year.

The article goes on to mention RDOF and other factors, which have been discussed in the blog before, so I thought hearing from comments might be most interesting for readers here…

“Millions were spent a few years back and now they are asking again,” Jerry Groebner wrote. “I had signed up with one of the new systems a few years ago and after it was up and running, and the owner got his government money, he disappeared and so did the service. I went to a satellite service which costs more but it was great. It was offered by one of the same companies that offer TV satellite service so I believe the service is already available now. Why try to reinvent the wheel? Why do we have satellite service if we don’t use it?”

Sam Hovland said, “I feel like broadband companies were given a ton of money to do this years ago. That being said I am all for getting high speed internet to everyone who wants it.”

Paul Brandon wrote, “When it comes to broadband, we’re a third world country. Putting money into broadband is an investment into what should be a public service that will pay for itself in the long run with greater productivity.”

Barbara Keating wrote, “Adequate internet broadband service is a common good for all. Government assistance for broadband is similar to the ‘New Deal’ Rural Electrification Administration in1935 when 90% of farms lacked electric power. Private power companies declined to serve rural areas so the government helped the developing rural cooperatives.”

We’ve moved on from when most folks didn’t know what broadband was. People know. They see where investment is working and where it is not. They know what they don’t have.

Duluth & St. Louis County prioritize broadband expansion at the Capitol

WDIO (out of Duluth) reports

The 24th annual Duluth and St. Louis County at the Capitol Days kicked off Wednesday and ended Thursday with a legislative virtual gathering.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other local elected officials shared what are considered the priorities for the 2021 legislative session. They include improving and expanding broadband access across the state.

More on broadband…

Bakk also talked about another bill introduced to spend about $120 million to expand broadband across the state, which he said is crucial throughout this pandemic and is something others agreed with.

“As far as priorities on the board we are always looking forward to broadband,” said Mike Jugovich, the St.Louis County Board chair. “As we look forward to the current session, one of our top priorities is maintaining for county aid and state mandated services.”

Representative Backer introduces a bill for $120 million for broadband in MN (HF1885)

Representative Backer introduces HF1885, on March 4, 2021…

Description: Broadband grant program funding transferred.

Author: Backer
Companion bill: SF946
Introduction and first reading, referred to Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy

Here is the full description

BROADBAND GRANT PROGRAM; TRANSFER.

(a) $60,000,000 in fiscal year 2022 and $60,000,000 in fiscal year 2023 are transferred from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund account established in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396, subdivision 1, for the purposes specified in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396, subdivision 2.

(b) $15,000,000 in fiscal year 2022 and $15,000,000 in fiscal year 2023 are transferred from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund account established in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396, subdivision 1. This transfer must be used only to provide broadband service in unserved areas, except that money from the transfer may be used to place broadband infrastructure, as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.394, in underserved areas. Notwithstanding the limitation in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395, subdivision 7, paragraph (a), the grants are available for 55 percent of total project cost if the grant is matched by ten percent or more from a nonstate entity. The nonstate entity providing the match may include but is not limited to organized townships, cities, counties, foundations,
nonprofits, school districts, or higher education institutions.

EFFECTIVE DATE.

This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Can your Fitbit help with early detection of COVID19?

Internet Innovation Alliance reports

While Fitbit’s wearable devices started out tracking a user’s steps and movement, the company’s newest devices now include sensors that can track body temperature, oxygen levels, and heart rate fluctuations – data that can help detect signs of depression and a range of other diseases. Early studies of the wearable technology suggest that it can even be used to help detect COVID-19 one to two days before symptoms start.

US Senators ask Biden Administration to update broadband speed standards

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) reports on a letter that has gone to the Biden Administration, in short asking for a consistent definition of broadband and higher goals…

Today, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wrote to the Biden Administration urging it to update federal standards for high-speed broadband to reflect modern uses and align those standards across the government.

In a letter to the Biden Administration’s top officials for federal broadband policy — including Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Acting Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Jessica Rosenworcel, and Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese — the senators called on federal agencies to update broadband program speed requirements to reflect existing and anticipated uses, from two-way video conferencing to smart grids to artificial intelligence. The senators also urged the officials to work together to align the definition of what constitutes high-speed broadband across federal agencies to replace the patchwork of standards that exist today.

In the letter, the senators called on the administration to invest limited federal broadband dollars in faster and more reliable networks capable of supporting modern and future uses. Specifically, they urged the administration to set a goal of supporting networks wherever practicable and cost effective that provide, at a minimum, symmetrical speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) such that all members of a typical family can be online simultaneously without issue.

Here’s the full letter… Continue reading

University of Minnesota uses telehealth to treat heart attacks in the field

mHealth Intelligence reports…

Much like telestroke vehicles bring emergency treatment to stroke victims in the field, a new vehicle being developed by the University of Minnesota Department of Medicine aims to treat heart attack patients the same way.

The UM’s Minnesota Mobile Resuscitation Consortium (MMRC) is getting ready to roll out a mobile health van that can treat patients on the scene via extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The process uses a machine that oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to recover, then pumps that blood back into the body through cannula.

It’s great news…

MMRC officials note that the common procedure for treating patients in cardiac distress is CPR, but if a patient’s heart rhythm isn’t returned to a sustainable rate within 30 minutes, they’re in a refractory period and need an ECMO machine to revive them. Every 10 minutes after that point reduces the survival rate by 15 percent to 25 percent.

So instead of bringing patient to the ECMO machine at the university, the university is bringing the machine to the patients.

Communicating for America finds 21 percent of US adults don’t have broadband

Businesswire reports

Communicating for America (CA), a rural and Main Street advocacy organization, has released a new consumer survey to better understand how COVID-19 has affected individual communication and gauge attitudes on health coverage in the midst of a pandemic.

Here’s what they found related to broadband…

When it comes to high-speed broadband service, the survey found overall 21% of 18-65 year old Americans do not have access or are not sure if they have access. Of those who do not have access to high-speed internet, 73% report having their lives meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity in the last 12 months (compared to 54% who do have high-speed internet).

Many respondents to the survey shared ways they have been meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity issues in the past 12 months. Twenty-eight percent said communication with others is a problem, whether they had high-speed internet or not. In addition, 26% said they have connectivity issues when it came to school/education. In addition, the respondents said that internet connectivity meaningfully impacted them in the following ways:

  • 25% work.
  • 18% medical care.
  • 16% when retail shopping.
  • 15% when grocery shopping.

The disparity was especially reflected by race, education and income levels. Whites and Blacks were equally likely to have been impacted by internet connectivity within the past 12 months (51% each), but 59% of Hispanics and 67% of other non-White identifying races reported meaningful connectivity impact in the last 12-months. The survey found that 69% of those with a high school education or lower had high-speed internet, compared to 90% of those with a four-year college degree. Similarly, 70% of those making under $40,000 a year had access to high-speed broadband compared to 91% making $80,000 or more in household income.

ConnectedMN awards $2.35 million in grants to get kids online

From the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity

Community-led digital equity solutions reach more Minnesota students
$2.35 million in grants awarded through a joint effort of Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity and Partnership for a ConnectedMN will advance work of 29 community organizations
MINNEAPOLIS – For students to succeed in school today, access to digital tools, reliable internet and support services is crucial. Almost a year after the COVID-19 pandemic made glaringly obvious the long-standing digital inequities that affect many Minnesota students, community-led solutions continue to be most successful in addressing these disparities. Today, 29 Minnesota non-profits’ digital equity work will advance as a result of $2.35 million in grants
delivered from a partnership between the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) and Partnership for a ConnectedMN (ConnectedMN).
30,000 Feet, an organization that empowers Black students in St. Paul through culture, art, technology and social justice, will use their grant to expand their distance learning support program. The program ensures that at least 100 students will have access to a laptop computer, small group tutoring sessions and holistic services that support mental and physical well-being.
“We’re fortunate to have deep connections on the East side of St. Paul. We’ve been around a long time, with a rich reserve of families that we’ve been successful with — and those families trust us,” said Kevin Robinson, Executive Director of 30,000 Feet. “This pandemic has shown we
need to move with urgency to deal with the digital divide, and the easiest way to do so is with organizations like ours that can deepen existing relationships. Relationship-focused solutions will have the best long-term ramifications for our community’s growth.”
The grants awarded support a variety of strategies to enhance digital learning for Minnesota students, focusing on organizations serving students who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color in kindergarten through grade 12. These strategies include:
• Technology tools, internet infrastructure and connectivity: Examples include the distribution of laptops, tech licenses and creation of comprehensive device solutions for students by Change Inc and Breakthrough Twin Cities, fiber internet installation for student computer labs in the Lower Sioux Indian Community in the State of Minnesota
and the dissemination of reliable internet hotspots in the Twin Cities metro area by PCs for People.

•  Culturally responsive and wrap-around support approaches: Organizations are responding to the unique learning needs of their community, like the Centro Tyrone
Guzman, CLUES, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Hmong American Partnership, South Sudanese Foundation and Project Nandi, fiscally sponsored by WoMN Act.
• Safe spaces for learning, tutoring and mentoring: Organizations including Boise Forte Tribal Government will provide computer labs for students without adequate home access to school and tech support. Positive Image that will create virtual tutoring initiatives to provide Black and other underrepresented mentors and tutors to students.
• Unique financial solutions: A partnership between Venn Foundation and Youthprise will provide loans to families for devices and/or digital support that will be reimbursable
from the family’s K-12 Education Tax Credit.
Grants were awarded based on expert insights identifying key priorities for allocating funding, and a review committee comprised of community members with a broad range of experience and geographic representation chose the recipients. Funding will be provided to programs
throughout Minnesota, in a mix of urban, rural and Indigenous settings. A full list of grant recipients and the grant award process can be found here.
“These partnerships are evidence philanthropy can come together in Minnesota and make an impact even in isolated, remote parts of the state that are often forgotten. This pandemic created a different landscape of understanding what access means in Minnesota’s rural, isolated and sparse populations, from the inability to connect to reliable and affordable internet to the immense toxic stress added by the financial crisis of lay-offs and the State shutdown,”
said Tuleah Palmer, CEO of Blandin Foundation, which serves as one of the founding partners of ConnectedMN. “This effort to collectively advance issues that improve the quality of life for folks shows we don’t have to breakdown — we can breakthrough. We are not going back to normal; we are going to bounce forward into a whole new level of well-being and I am excited to see what we get done next.”
A Collective Approach
Grants were supported by 36 local companies and foundations through MCBRE and/or through ConnectedMN. These organizations include, Best Buy, Bush Foundation, Cargill Foundation, Target and The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.
A full list of funders to both organizations be found here.
Says Dave MacLennan, chairman and CEO at Cargill, “As a global company based in Minnesota, we know that a strong K-12 education system is how we prepare a strong future workforce and keep our headquarters’ community competitive. Systemic inequality persists in education and
digital access is one of the greatest divides. Minnesota deserves more. The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity connects Cargill with other Twin Cities companies, allowing us to combine our resources and deliver much-needed impact.”
More Help is Needed
To reach more students, companies and organizations are encouraged to contribute financially to the Digital Learning Fund or provide in-kind gifts (like devices and connectivity services).
Learn more about these opportunities here. Educators, local governments and prospective grant applicants are also encouraged to reach out.

MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update:  Letter to Governor and Legislative Leaders re: Budget Surplus and Broadband

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

The Coalition recently sent this letter to legislative leaders and the Governor’s Office regarding the projected $1.6 billion budget surplus the state will have in the next two years. We will make a strong push for full funding for the broadband grant program in the final three months of the legislative session.

Here’s the letter…

To: The Honorable Governor Tim Walz
The Honorable Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt
From: Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition
2401 Broadway Ave #1
Slayton, MN 56172
March 1, 2021
Dear Leaders,
On behalf of our more than 90 coalition members, the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition urges you to include $120 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program in the 2022-2023 biennial budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it crystal clear that every Minnesotan needs access to broadband internet. Yet, we know that up to 20% of rural Minnesotans still don’t have access to even the bare minimum speeds necessary to work or learn from home.
The Coalition is pleased to see that the state will have a $1.6 billion budget surplus over the next two years. There may also be additional federal resources coming to the state should a coronavirus relief package pass through Congress. We can make a historic investment in broadband infrastructure with these resources and begin to finally close the digital divide in our state.
Communities with access to high-quality, affordable broadband have done better during the pandemic than those without access. Many things like working from home, virtual learning, or telehealth will not be going away, and they all require a broadband connection. The Coalition thanks you for your leadership on this issue and once again urges you to fully fund our state broadband grant program.
Respectfully yours,
Vince Robinson
Chair, Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition
CC: Sen. Torrey Westrom, Sen. Julie Rosen, Rep. Rob Ecklund, Rep. Rena Moran, Rep. Gene Pelowski, Commissioner Steve Grove, Angie Dickison, Jon Kelly

More than 12 million US households cancel home broadband service

Park Associates reports

New research from Parks Associates reports more than 12 million US households have cancelled their home broadband service and use only mobile broadband for their internet needs. Adoption and Perception of Broadband finds there are more than 15 million households in the US that have only a mobile broadband service, which includes more than three million households that have never had a home internet subscription.

“High cost is the most prominent issue driving households to cut the cord and go mobile only, although service-related issues, from slow speeds to poor customer experience, also contribute,” said Kristen Hanich, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates. “Service providers can deploy a number of strategies, including increasing speed and delivering a device that improves Wi-Fi coverage, in order to protect their customer base.”

The report was released Q1 2021, which means they are looking at Survey results during the pandemic. It is shocking to me that so many people would cancel home service at a time when so much of life (school, work, healthcare, entertainment) has moved online.

Mankato Free Press promote broadband as a good economic strategy

Mankato Free Press posts in an editorial…

Agreement between Republicans and Democrats at the Minnesota Legislature for robust investment in broadband is win-win for rural and outstate Minnesota.

Now we just have to agree how big we should go. Democrats, independents and Republicans favor at least a $120 million investment in broadband projects in Minnesota for the next two years. That is double the $20 million to $30 million annual investments made in the past.

Gov. Tim Walz initially proposed $50 million for one year, but earlier this month, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said the investment would be upped should the state’s financial picture improve. That happened Friday with a new forecast showing the state would have a $1.6 billion surplus for the next two years instead of a $1.3 billion deficit.

That’s good news, and Walz and his team should immediately up their broadband investment to at least the $120 million proposed by Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Tom Bakk, who was once Senate DFL Majority leader and who now is an independent, co-sponsored a bill with the Republican majority in the Senate to fund broadband at $120 million. That was the figure recommended by the Governor’s Broadband Task Force and that’s the reason they proposed that figure, Bakk told MinnPost.

Minnesota also will receive $408 million over six years in federal funding for broadband.

Ending with…

Rural areas have been left behind, and the state now has the funds and political will to greatly expand broadband. It’s not only good political strategy, it’s a good economic strategy.

What can US learn from MN Broadband Model? Ask Bernadine Joselyn

This week Pew asks Blandin Foundation’s Bernadine Joselyn – What Policymakers Can Learn From the ‘Minnesota Model’ of Broadband Expansion? In the answers Bernadine does a nice job outlining the components of the Minnesota Model, why they work and how others can learn from them. I’m just going to pull out two of the questions and answers from the more complete interview…

Q: Minnesota is often held up as a leader in state efforts to expand broadband deployment. What do you see as the state’s main accomplishments?

A: There are several key elements of what we call the “Minnesota Model.” First are the legislatively mandated state broadband speed goals. The state also has an Office of Broadband Development (OBD), charged with managing the state’s Border to Border grant-matching program, which provides funding to connect homes in unserved or underserved communities, as well as the state’s broadband mapping program. The OBD is also responsible for coordinating with tribal, state, and federal agencies to help align resources and efforts toward achieving our state’s broadband goals.

The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is another key element.

And

Q: What’s next for the task force? What are its priorities?

A: The goals in the year ahead include reviewing the state’s internet speed targets—with an eye toward emphasizing improvements of upload speeds—and continuing to help advocates, community leaders, and elected officials build the case for ongoing public investment in broadband infrastructure and adoption.

GigaZone Gaming Championship Returns Virtually in April

Big news from Paul Bunyan Communications for gamers in the 218…

GigaZone™ Gaming Championship 5 will be held online three consecutive weekends in April starting April 10. The event will feature a different gaming tournament each weekend, Cosplay contest, and door prizes with over $5,000 in cash and prizes to be given away. It is free to play or watch.
This one of a kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone™ one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone™ Internet connection.
This year’s main tournaments are Overwatch April 10-11, Madden 21 April 17, and Super Smash Brothers April 24.
Registration for all tournaments can be done online at http://www.gigazonegaming.com It is free to enter and main tournaments are open to anyone living within the 218 area code, but space is limited. The gaming will start each Saturday at 10 a.m.
It’s free to watch and will be live streamed on www.gigazonegaming.com.
“There is a large gaming community in our area and it’s been so cool to see the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship take off. While we can’t get all together in person this time around, it will be a fun three weekends of fun online! said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members. The GigaZone™ provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.
“There is no other gaming event like it anywhere I’ve seen. I’m very proud of our team for embracing the challenges in
going to an all virtual platform. We invite everyone to hop online to watch or play!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.
For more information on the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com.

eNews: MN Monthly Recap: MN Legislature likes broadband, Feds like Broadband, all about coordination

MN Legislature looks at funds for Broadband Grants
The House has a bill to fund the Border to Border grants at $120 million for the biennium. The Senate has three bills related to broadband funding: one for $120 million for grants, one for $150 million ($30 million for unserved areas) for grants and options for lower match requirements and a bill for $50 million for  mapping. The Governor has mentioned $50 million in 2022 for broadband grants.

MN Broadband Task Force: Leg updated, Electric Coops and American Connection
The Task Force learned about recent broadband bills in Minnesota, electric cooperatives and American Connection, a collaboration that promotes broadband investment at the federal level. They also talked about subcommittees, which take responsibility for leading the effort to set recommendations in the annual report.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative gets state grant to serve Farm Island Lake (Aitkin County)

Alexandria Lakes Area
Congrats to Alexandria Lakes Area in MN – recently named to Smart21 Communities of 2021 from ICF

Baxter
Baxter City Council will look at broadband issues during future workshop session

Beltrami, Lake Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties
FirstNet Network Expands Across Minnesota to Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties

Bemidji
Bemidji Ranked 8th Best Work-From-Home City by PC Magazine

Chisago County
Senator Mark Koran Applauds Broadband Expansion in Chisago County

Cook (City)
A look at how RDOF impacts the State Grant-funded project in Cook MN

Cook County
Northeast MN is a recruitment hot spot with beauty and broadband

Fond du Lac
Recent report on history and status of broadband in tribal areas includes Fond du Lac

Hutchinson
Hutchinson to benefit from MN Broadband grant (McLeod County)

Le Sueur County
Hear the frustration when RDOF trumps MN Border to Border grants in Le Sueur County MN

Lynd
Lynd MN getting better broadband through Woodstock’s MN Broadband grant (Lyon County)

Rice County
Two projects in Rice County get MN State grants – RDOF impact in other areas may have helped them

Rochester
Google is opening an office in Rochester MN to be close to the Mayo Clinic

Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties
Scott County Project gets MN State grant to serve part of Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties

Thief River Falls
Rep Fischbach visits Thief River Falls – talks about importance of broadband (Pennington County)

Upper Minnesota Valley
UMVRDC members say broadband is Number two issue for the area

Wilkin County
Senator Klobuchar talks to schools near Wilkin County MN about the broadband issue, especially during pandemic

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Part One

For rural community broadband champions, pursuing better broadband has never been more complicated.  Factors that currently have me thinking, if not stumped include:

  • RDOF
    • Will the winning RDOF bidder be approved by the FCC?
    • If yes, what will their buildout schedule look like till 2027?
    • Will they build-out the adjacent non-RDOF areas?
  • Starlink
    • Will Starlink maintain the 100 Mb+ speeds once they move from beta to large customer numbers?
    • Will they be able to deliver, as promised, to 300 Mb and beyond?
    • How will low-income households afford $500 or more in upfront costs?
  • DSL
    • Will other DSL providers follow ATT’s lead and phase out DSL services?
    • Will the majority of rural DSL customers ever see widespread speeds that support multiple users?

We should know more about some of these questions soon; other will emerge more slowly.

Part Two

The 1996 Telecom Act was supposed to spur competition, but we are going backwards. In many communities, from affluent suburbs to small rural communities, residents are effectively subject to the services, pricing and responsiveness of an unregulated monopoly provider.  Community leaders need to decide whether this is that a good thing.

The costs to build a fiber infrastructure in a community are low for a 30-year asset.  Community broadband advocates should analyze the multiple options for creating community-owned networks and promote them to elected officials.  Locally-owned networks serve the community as their first priority.

We are going to talk public ownership models at our Blandin Lunch Bunch on March 10 at noon.  Sign up here: https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/broadband/blandin-community-broadband-program-webinar-series/ .  We will discuss at least a couple models.  Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance will join the conversation.

Ammon ID (https://www.ammonfiber.com) is building and maintaining its own fiber network where residents now have their choice of Gigabit providers for $49.50 per month.  Chattanooga TN (https://epb.com/home-store/internet) offers a Gb for $68 per month and solved its pandemic-magnified digital divide issue by simply providing free 100 Mb Internet to 28,000 students.  A new study documented a $2.69 billion long-term benefit from Chattanooga’s fiber network.

We will also talk about the mixed experience of Minnesota’s publicly owned broadband networks (wonders and warts!), including Southwest MN Broadband, the Cities of Windom and Monticello and Scott and Lake Counties.  And, maybe a bit on how new and expanded cooperatives might accomplish the same goals.  Join us!