Strut Your Stuff Tour in Orr: Training, equipment, wifi for checkout

Yesterday I attended the Strut Stuff Tour in Orr to hear about our the local broadband adoption programs went through the IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities) program. We were in Orr but this project brings together Orr, Cook and Bois Forte. It is apparently the first time these three communities have worked on something together outside of the school.

It seems that everyone is working well together they are focused on training, equipment for community center (to accommodate training and other online interactions) and wifi in the area – both in terms of places to go for public wifi and mobile hotspots for community members to check out from the library.

It was interesting to hear about the training. They had just completed a survey of residents and businesses and had a good return. Training needs range from how to use a computer to online business marketing.

I have a video of the intro to the meeting and full notes below.

I’m going to keep my notes a little rough with the intention of leaving them more complete for any community looking at implementing similar projects. Continue reading

Nobles County broadband project breaks ground

Good news from The Globe

Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. on Wednesday officially broke ground on its ambitious project to deliver high-speed internet to much of Nobles County.

The project got legs when the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced in January that the co-op had received a $2.94 million grant to create a hybrid fiber and wireless network. The co-op matched the $2.94 million grant one-to-one.

Finley Engineering of Slayton will do the engineering and LaPointe Utilities of Forest Lake will serve as the contractor for the project, which looks to provide 500 square miles in new wireless coverage, distributed through five towers. The company will build a fiber ring around the county as well — fiber to the home will be installed to homes in Leota and Wilmont, as well as any homes that happen to be along the fiber route.

LaPointe will be building three new 200-foot towers, as well as a series of huts that will facilitate the fiber ring connections. It will need to lay around 135 miles of fiber to complete the route.

Congressman Emmer Supports Focus on Tech Apprenticeships

News from Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer on building tech skills…

Last week, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) cosponsored the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act.

“As I travel across Minnesota, employers often express their frustration with the current skills gap and worker shortage facing our state and the nation as a whole, especially as the tech sector expands in Minnesota,” said Emmer. “As of April, more than 15,000 jobs in Minnesota’s technology sector remained unfilled – jobs with average annual salaries of nearly $100,000. I have had the opportunity to tour some of the apprenticeship programs and private-public partnerships in the great state of Minnesota and it is clear these programs are going to be the key to solving the skills gap currently plaguing our nation. I am proud to cosponsor the CHANCE in Tech Act to foster the creation of these private-public partnerships and cultivate new apprenticeship programs so that the generation of tomorrow has access to education that will bring this nation fully into the 21st century and beyond.”

“The U.S. is expected to have 1.8 million unfilled tech jobs by 2024. The deficit is not because of a lack of desire by American workers, but a dearth of workers with the necessary IT skills,” said Elizabeth Hyman, CompTIA’s Executive Vice President of Public Advocacy. “If neglected, the IT skills gap will affect our country’s ability to protect national security interests and to compete economically on the global stage. The CHANCE in Tech Act introduced today will address the growing IT talent challenge by encouraging public-private funding for apprenticeship programs in the technology sector and providing students with the necessary skills to compete in the 21st Century workforce.”

The CHANCE in Tech Act will direct the Department of Labor to assist in the promotion and development of access to apprenticeships in the technology industry.

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Aitkin County: Community centers, wifi hotspots and community portal

This morning I was pleased head up to Aitkin to hear about our the local broadband adoption programs went through the IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities) program. It’s always inspiring to hear about what’s happening on the frontlines. As we often hear in these meetings – the technology is hugely beneficial but nothing compared to the opportunity to work together as a team. Broadband doesn’t have the same boundaries as cities, towns and counties have. Subsequently, cities, towns and counties are learning to works around boundaries.

As part of the IRBC experience, Aitkin County has been working with Bill Coleman on creating a broadband expansion strategy, focused on increasing use. Currently they are working on a few things: a community portal (with calendar), free community wifi spots and tech-equipped community centers.

You can read on for more of the details of each project. I’m going to leave the notes a little loose – because there might be something in there that helps another community deploy similar projects. Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force July 2017 – telehealth saves money and lives

Yesterday the MN Broadband Task Force met at the new Essentia Hospital in Sandstone. It’s a beautiful location with a fiber connection symmetrical 100 Mbps connection. And they’re making good use of that connection saving money and making lives better.

I have video of most of the meeting. We learned a lot about telehealth – but there were a few details that stuck out for me.

  • More people in rural areas come to health care facilities with a stroke. Treatment has traditionally been slower for them. Every 15 minutes a patient with a stroke goes untreated the situation becomes more dire. Telestroke technology (and promotion of it) cuts that time and helps people get better.
  • Hospitals don’t just share images faster with faster broadband – they share more, giving a fuller view of any problem.
  • There aren’t enough healthcare professionals – especially specialists – to go around in rural areas. Telehealth provides an opportunity for one specialist to serve many facilities.
  • Communities in rural areas without broadband are envious of communities with cooperatives because they feel they would get better service. Communities are worried that broadband expansions paid for with CAF 2 (federal) funding will leave some communities with worse infrastructure for longer periods. They are especially worried about upload speeds. (CAF 2 funding only requires a provide to expand/upgrade to 10/1 service. And really 4/1 service is some areas.)
  • Minnesota does not allow for bonding for technology (software or hardware) but perhaps there’s an opening to discuss bonding for broadband.


Continue reading

Friday is the deadline for Kandiyohi County community network resident buy-in

I’ve written about this a few times in the last month, so I’ll just give the alert from the West Central Tribune

Kandiyohi County officials issued an 11th-hour appeal Tuesday to potential broadband customers in the rural northern portion of the county: If you want the service, sign up and pay your deposit now, otherwise Consolidated Telecommunication Company will be forced to scrap the project.

The deadline is Friday for homeowners and businesses in the proposed service area.

As of Tuesday, customer commitments were just under the goal, said Connie Schmoll, business development specialist for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

“We only need another 70 or so to sign up,” she said.

Rebuild Rural Coalition testifies at House hearing – broadband as important as other infrastructure

The Farm Credit reports on Witnesses representing the Rebuild Rural Coalition (RRC) testimony today before the House Agriculture Committee at the hearing on rural infrastructure. Broadband and cooperatives feature highly…

“Over the last decade, I have witnessed an alarming decline in historical competitive advantage that our transportation infrastructure has provided U.S. agriculture, and the corresponding increase in investment in critical infrastructure being made by our foreign competitors,” said Rick Calhoun, immediate past chairman of the National Grain and Feed Association’s Waterborne Commerce Committee. “We welcome the critically needed renewed sense of urgency by this Congress and the Trump administration to enact an infrastructure package that includes a reliable funding mechanism to renovate our dilapidated inland waterways system, as well as to restore our rural roads and bridges. Both are essential to the future vibrancy of rural communities and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.”

“A robust communications infrastructure is just as important to our business as our traditional assets like poles, wires and power plants,” said Curtis Wynn, President and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative. “My co-op is investing $4 million to lay a fiber communications “backbone” in our service territory. Once this foundation is in place, there are many things we can do with it. One option could be providing broadband internet to our consumers’ homes. Many people in our region don’t have access to reliable internet. That puts our consumers, schools, hospitals and employers at a disadvantage. Addressing the infrastructure challenges facing rural America requires many different types of technologies, partnerships and engagement from all stakeholders. A separate infrastructure package will give co-ops a great opportunity to make investments to ensure the success and stability of rural America.”

“Robust broadband infrastructure is critical to the current and future success of rural America,” said Jennifer Otwell, General Manager of Totelcom Communications, LLC. “But the very characteristics that enable the unique beauty and enterprise of rural America also make it very expensive to deploy and sustain advanced communications services there. Our industry is excited to participate in this conversation regarding infrastructure initiatives, and we look forward to working with policymakers and other stakeholders on a comprehensive infrastructure strategy to ensure that all Americans will experience the numerous benefits of broadband.”