How do you start a community conversation on broadband? A sneak peek into Chisago County

Today I was an interloper in Chisago County as the local EDA (Nancy Hoffman) held meetings (I attended one at noon; the other is at 5:00) to get community members to talk about what to do to improve broadband for everyone and could they do anything fast enough to apply for state grants. (Deadline to let the Office of Broadband know if you’re planning to apply is the end of July!) There were about 40 people – including two legislators – both with dire home broadband access.

I don’t want to give away any major community secrets here – but they were kind enough to let me take notes, a video and share the PPT. They are working with Bill Coleman from Community Technology Advisors (whose name may also be familiar from Blandin projects).

First everyone introduced themselves. Many were happy with their broadband service; many were not. Turns out if you’re in town, the odds are better that you’re happy. Several people worked in town where the access was good but went home to bad service. One name mentioned often – and with representation at the meeting was MidCo. People were happy but even the guy from MidCo was quick to say they provided good service in town but haven’t found a way to enter the rural market.

A couple attendees admitted using a combination of satellite and mobile (hotspot) service based on their absolute needs for speed, kids’ needs, data caps and costs. Some didn’t even have mobile and had only satellite, which was not reliable – on windy, rainy or snowy days.

Then they got an introduction from Bill and a PPT presentation.

The goal was to gauge interest – and attendees were invited to sign up if they wanted to peruse a grant application. As Nancy said, it’s a lot of hard work but she was willing to help. To put context to the opportunity – Sunrise Township is in Chisago County. They received funding in the last grant award round and are working with CenturyLink on a FTTH solutions. They learned a ton in the process but a lot of folks are watching – because it’s a great example of using local state funding to leverage federal CAF funding. The inherent issue with CAF is that (as the PPT shows) the required upgrade there is only 10 Mbps down and 1 up.

Here are some loose notes on the conversation and questions.

To meet the 2026 speed goals (100/20) we need fiber. It’s important to focus on that speed goal. Already 70 percent of MN has 100/20. Continue reading

Communities are getting ready for MN state broadband grant applications

Good grant applications don’t just happen – no matter how good the grant writer is. Good grant applications come from good ideas fleshed out with good partners.

I’m see some communities get started in different ways. In Aitkin, the local legislator is reminding people (via Brainerd Dispatch) to attend upcoming webinars on the Border to Border Broadband grants…

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, urged local organizations and individuals interested in applying for Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant funding to attend upcoming informational webinars to learn more.

In Chisago County, they are having a planning session on Monday to talk about how to move forward.

One good step would be to attend one of the upcoming grant webinars with the Office of Broadband Development. (First one in Monday June 26.)

RS Fiber Cooperative Celebrates Two Year Anniversary

Congrats to RS Fiber!!

RS Fiber Cooperative Celebrates Two Year Anniversary
Winthrop, MN – RS Fiber Cooperative will celebrate its second anniversary next month.
Nearly a decade’s worth of planning became reality on July 8, 2015 when the first few feet of fiber-optic cable was plowed into the ground giving birth to a state-of-the-art communications network. The RS Fiber network now consists of nearly 200 miles of backbone fiber throughout Renville and Sibley counties connecting six member communities.

The all fiber-optic, active Ethernet Gigabit network is being constructed by Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc. (HBC) based in Winona, MN. HBC CEO Dan Pecarina said the project’s success is due in part to the enthusiasm for the venture.

“There were a few naysayers at the beginning who said it would be impossible to build this project, but there was also large group of people who really championed the cause and believed that it could happen. The RS Fiber Cooperative Board of Directors should be very proud of what they have achieved.” RS Fiber General Manager Toby Brummer said the final stage of Phase One construction is underway.

“This summer we will be finishing the Phase One construction. By the end of the year we will be able to offer services to the communities of Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax, and Stewart.”

Currently six towns and more than 2,500 homes and businesses have access to Gigabit services from RS Fiber. A total of 4,500 homes and businesses will have Gigabit broadband access once the remaining four communities are connected this fall.

Rural areas are receiving broadband service through RS Fiber Air which delivers high-speed broadband to more than 2,000 customers over a network of towers throughout Renville and Sibley counties.

RS Fiber has local offices in Winthrop and Gaylord.

2nd Annual GigaZone Gaming Championship Set for Sept. 29-30 in Bemidji

I’m not even a gamer and I have to say – what’s not to like here?!

2nd Annual GigaZone Gaming Championship Set for Sept. 29-30 in Bemidji

The region’s stadium style e-Sporting event returns with over $4,500 in cash and prizes


(Bemidji, MN) (June 22, 2017) – The first stadium style eSports event in the region, the GigaZone Gaming Championship returns to the Sanford Center Ballroom in Bemidji on Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30.


Northern Minnesota’s best League of Legends teams will compete for more than $4,500 in cash and prizes and teams interested need to register by July 1st at  The League of Legends tournament is free and open to anyone 13 years of age or older that resides in the 218 area code.


In addition to the League of Legends Tournament, the public is invited to participate in open console and arcade gaming along with tournaments of Street Fighter 5, Mario Kart 8, Madden 18, Overwatch, Super Smash Brothers, Magic the Gathering, and more.  Pre-registration for the Overwatch and Madden 18 tournaments will begin on Tuesday, September 5 at 4 p.m. until full.  All other tournaments will be open registration at the door the day of the tournament.  Admission is free for both tournaments and the event plus there will be a chance at great door prizes throughout.


“eSports has explored across the country and coming off the success of the first GigaZone Gaming Championship last November we are making this year’s event even bigger and better.  There is a large gaming community in our area and this will showcase not only some of the region’s best but give everyone a chance to get in on the action!” 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 which the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Digital Services Supervisor.


For more information on the 2017 GigaZone Gaming Championships visit


“We’re excited to bring this back to our region!  Whether someone is a big time gamer or not the GigaZone Gaming Championship is a great chance for people to come together, have fun, try out a wide variety of video games, and experience the growing eSports phenomenon.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

Trump pre-announces $1 trillion proposal for rural broadband

According to Bloomberg, President Trump is touting a plan to come out soon for rural infrastructure and will include $1 trillion for broadband…

“I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal — $1 trillion proposal, you’ll be seeing it very shortly — to promote and foster, enhance broadband access for rural America also,” Trump said in remarks Wednesday evening at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after touring agricultural facilities on campus, the first of two speeches planned that evening. “We will rebuild rural America.”

Access to high-speed internet has become a concern of farm lobbies worried that lower adoption rates in rural areas is slowing economic development. Only 55 percent of rural residents have access to downloads faster than 25 megabits per second, compared to 94 percent in urban areas, according to a 2016 Federal Communications Commission report.

Spectrum Digital Education Grant Program from Charter

Charter Communications is launching a Spectrum Digital Education Grant Program.  It will be supported by a $1 million commitment from Charter Communications to improve digital education.  The program will provide funding to local non-profit organizations within Charter’s 41 state footprint (includes some MN communities) for educational programs, public service announcements to educate and raise awareness about digital literacy, and educational webinars and workshops.

Details as well as criteria for funding are available on their website.   Applications will be available for download and accepted June 30, 2017 – August 11, 2017