Need help starting that business? Here are a few places to go

Launch Minnesota and tech.mn have partnered to publish The Ultimate Guide to MN Accelerators 2020.

Most organizations listed are in the Twin Cities with a few notable exceptions:

  • Red Wing Ignite
  • gBETA Greater MN St. Cloud
  • Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator (Andover)
  • Technology Village Business Accelerator (Prior Lake)

Several of the accelerators have an affiliation with a college. Some seem to focus on one industry or another. Some are more like a college program and others are more like a coworking space. Like looking for a new neighborhood, each has its own charm, you just have to find the one that suits you.

Land O’Lakes, Inc. and partners launch a growing coalition to close America’s digital divide

Land O’Lakes announces…

Today, 49 organizations spanning multiple industries announced they have joined forces as part of a new coalition dedicated to helping close America’s digital divide. Convened by farmer-owned cooperative Land O’Lakes, Inc., the newly formed American Connection Project Broadband Coalition (ACPBC or “Coalition”) will advocate for public and private sector investment to bring high-speed internet infrastructure to rural areas, in addition to advocating for policies and contributing their own resources to facilitate remote education, health and mental health  services, job opportunities and more, with the goal of connecting and lifting up all American communities through access to modern digital technology. The Coalition is continually adding members who share a desire to connect the country.
“All too often, farmers, business owners and even school children are disadvantaged by being on the wrong side of our country’s digital divide, a problem that has become more acute as we deal with the challenges of COVID-19,” said Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “But this isn’t just a rural issue. The American Connection Project Broadband Coalition represents a mix of companies from tech, health care, agriculture, and more who understand the ramifications of our country’s broken internet infrastructure and who have the willingness and expertise to help address this need. We are so grateful to our partners who recognize that connecting all Americans is possible and who are willing to work with us to close our country’s digital divide and invest in our collective future.”
Currently, the ACPBC is made up of 49 businesses, trade associations, non-profits, municipalities and academic institutions. In addition, the Coalition works with organizations like The Business Roundtable and individual political leaders to jointly advance their efforts in this area.
In conjunction with the launch of the Coalition, the companies today sent a letter to President Trump and congressional leadership urging them to “enact groundbreaking broadband connectivity legislation that includes the necessary resources to close the digital divide in this country.”
The Coalition recognizes that bridging America’s digital divide is a costly goal, but firmly believes it is worth the investment. The Federal Communications Commission estimated in 2017 that it would cost $80 billion to bring high-speed internet to remaining parts of the country that do not have access, while a more recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report estimated it would require “between $130 and $150 billion over the next five to seven years, to adequately support rural coverage and 5G wireless densification.” However, a study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center has found that “better adoption of online tools and digital services by businesses outside metropolitan areas could create 360,000 new full-time jobs in rural areas and add more than $140 billion to the U.S. economy over the next three years.”
In the letter, the Coalition added, “As we look to help our nation recover from this global pandemic, let’s make a smart investment in the future competitiveness of this country and ensure that all Americans, in both rural and urban areas, are able to access the internet.”
The member companies have also collaborated in a number of ways prior to launch. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Land O’Lakes, Inc. and other partners have established free, guest Wi-Fi access points outside Land O’Lakes’ business locations in more than 150 communities. For example, Microsoft donated hotspot boosters to further the reach of the guest Wi-Fi, so that area residents could safely conduct business, communicate with family and friends, and carry out other daily activities online while staying socially distanced in their cars.
In April, the Coalition sent a letter to all 50 U.S. governors, asking for their support of the initiative and inviting them to leverage their own resources to add more Wi-Fi hotspot locations around their states. In addition, the Coalition asked states to support policies that would make telemedicine more accessible and affordable and urged their support of robust state and federal infrastructure investments to solve rural internet connectivity challenges. Separately, the Coalition has worked closely with governors from 11 states who recently called on Congress to pass groundbreaking legislation to bridge the digital divide.
The Coalition plans to expand its membership and continue its advocacy work in the coming months. Many of the members have taken steps individually to help close the digital divide through donating funds and equipment, and part of the group’s activity will be to identify new ways to work together to maximize the reach of these actions and fill needs that have not previously been met.

EVENT July 15: Cyberinfrastructure: Moving Beyond Broadband at HBCUs and TCUs

From the folks at BroadbandUSA…

Topic: Cyberinfrastructure: Moving Beyond Broadband at HBCUs and TCUs

Date:   Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Time:  2:00 to 3:30 p.m. ET

Overview: Cyberinfrastructure differs from traditional web and broadband access in its focus and magnitude. The high-performance computing and networking resources of cyberinfrastructure enables educators, scientists and students opportunities to create and collaborate in entirely new ways—experiencing processes and results even if the technologies and data sets are thousands of miles away.  Many institutions of higher education are engaged in this new kind of scholarly inquiry and education, empowering their communities to innovate and to revolutionize what they do, how they do it, and who participates.   Broadband, though necessary, is not sufficient for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to be competitive in the 21st Century.   Please join BroadbandUSA’s webinar on July 15, 2020 to hear from panelists who will highlight the cyberinfrastructure at HBCUs and TCUs, as well as the importance of partnerships with national organizations such as Internet2 and EDUCAUSE in achieving the common goals of diversity and inclusion.

Please note: This webinar will run from 2:00 to 3:30 EDT.

Speakers:

  • Jason Arviso, Director of IT, Navajo Technical University
  • Curtis Bradlee, Interim Director of University Computing and Information Technology Systems (UCITS), South Carolina State University
  • Deborah F. Dent, CIO, Division of Information Technology, Jackson State University
  • Al Kuslikis, American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)

Moderators:

 

  • Dr. Francine Alkisswani, Broadband Communication Specialist, NTIA
  • Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, NC A&T


Please pre-register for the webinar using this registration link.   After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Want to access past Practical Broadband Conversations webinars? Visit our webinar archives for past presentations, transcripts and audio recordings.

______________________________________________________________________________

Who are we?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the principal advisor to the administration on telecommunications and information policy issues.  NTIA, through its BroadbandUSA program, works to further the deployment and use of broadband and other technologies across America.

What does BroadbandUSA do?

BroadbandUSA serves as a trusted and neutral strategic advisor, working with federal, state and local government, community, and industry leaders working to advance smart community and broadband public-private partnerships designed to attract new employers, create quality jobs, improve educational opportunities, increase health outcomes and advance public safety.  Check out the BroadbandUSA website for more information.

Irish Grocery Store app estimates level of interaction to help plan to social distance

Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) reports…

The Lidl supermarket chain in Ireland is offering its customers a new online chatbot tool that can help shoppers socially distance during the COVID-19 crisis. Customers send the chatbot a message through WhatsApp the time and date they plan to visit a specific store and it will let them know if that’s a quieter, average, or busier time to shop.

According to Lidl’s LinkedIn page, “This innovative approach uses real-time data and customer transaction numbers to determine which hours of the day are quietest to visit and which are busiest, allowing for customers to plan their shopping trips accordingly.”

Not a bad idea. I know I seem to choose the wrong time to visit my grocery store and end up waiting outside for 10 minutes before I get to go in. And as I recall Lidl can get pretty busy. (Lidl is very reminiscent of Aldi.)

MN allows telehealth consults for cannabis authorization

The [Washington] Spokesman Review reports…

Until recently, the term “telehealth” was known in the medical community, but not the cannabis community.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak sent the country into lockdown, medical marijuana users in many states can now check in with a health care provider by video for authorization, rather than an in-person meeting.

According to MPP.org, 31 states currently allow telemedicine for cannabis patients – 11 of which have temporarily altered their laws as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The following 11 states also allow patients to receive virtual advisement for medical marijuana prescriptions under the stay-at-home/safer-at-home orders put in place across the country: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio and Rhode Island.

CNS acquires WCTG creating unified state-wide fiber network

Big news from CNS

– Cooperative Network Services, LLC (CNS), a Minnesota fiber-optic transport carrier announced today that it has purchased the assets of West Central Transport Group, LLC (WCTG), a major fiber network in west central and southern Minnesota.

The deal will increase the CNS backbone network to a total of 2,500 route miles of fiber, and including partner assets, brings the network total to 10,200 route miles of fiber and 40,000 on-net/lit buildings.

Combining the assets of these two networks will enable MN’s rural telecom and broadband providers to deliver increasingly advanced services faster.

“This acquisition fits perfectly with the CNS purpose of Bringing More Broadband to More Rural Places… it creates new opportunities for success for many rural MN independent telecom providers, ensuring they have access to essential network services, and that they have a stake in the transport business for the future,” said Jason Dale, CNS CEO. “As technology and rural transport economics have changed, it’s clear that a unified state-wide network is a key ingredient to remaining relevant in the transport world. By combining these two complimentary networks, we’ve taken a huge step forward. We are extremely excited for this new chapter.”

The decision for combining these networks was an obvious one since eight of the owners of WCTG are also CNS owners, and the two networks have a long history of partnering together. These relationships will lend themselves to a quick transition, and early growth opportunities. The WCTG network will operate under the CNS subsidiary Fiber Minnesota, LLC.

“WCTG felt the CNS team was the perfect choice to continue meeting the needs of customers and neighbors,” said Jake Anderson, President of WCTG. “We are excited for the opportunities and crucial connectivity our combined networks will bring to the state of Minnesota and beyond.”

Similar to surrounding states

Minnesota’s fiber transport landscape has long been made up of smaller regional networks, but as technology has progressed, so too is the need for a larger, unified network.

For years, Minnesota has differed from neighboring states, where the independent telephone/ broadband providers joined forces decades ago to create statewide networks – enjoying robust facilities and advanced centralized solutions.

“This is a big win for the independent telecom providers in MN,” said Dean Bahls, CNS’ Network Manager. “The increased footprint will provide direct connectivity to more CNS owner companies, as well as connectivity to many more on-net customers throughout large portions of the state.”

The CNS Network currently uses Cisco NCS2K/15454 ROADM and has a proven track record of uptime. The newly acquired network also uses the same platform and will mesh together seamlessly.

Streamlined quoting and turn-up

With the increase of on-net route miles, quoting circuits will be faster, and pricing will be more competitive. Customers will enjoy highly available services, with faster resolution times.

Network of Networks

As with the current CNS network, through partnership with 702 Communications, the newly combined network will be branded under the Aurora Fiber Optic Networks name and will continue to be a part of the INDATEL nationwide network of networks.

The CNS purpose is to Bring More Broadband to More Rural Places. With that goal in mind we provide a variety of services to the rural telecommunications industry.

Cooperative Network Services (CNS) is a key provider of high-capacity fiber-optic backhaul for much of Minnesota, providing IP/TDM Transport, Special Access Circuits, and Ethernet services to the carrier, enterprise, and SMB markets.

CNS’ ownership consists of 20 cooperative telephone and broadband providers operating in and around Minnesota.

In addition to the CNS transport network, we also provide professional services to rural providers throughout the country, including: Engineering, Consulting, Video Product Management, Human Resources, and Graphic Design services.

Our ownership consists exclusively of cooperative telecommunications providers, and CNS reflects the cooperative spirit and values of its owners in the services it provides. By working together as a group, CNS provides the benefits and efficiencies of consolidation that much of the rest of our industry has experienced in recent years, while at the same time offering services that no single member could offer alone. This is very much in keeping with the cooperative mission. Do More. Together.

Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on Minnesota’s Children Press archive

Anne Brataas, director of the Minnesota’s Children Press and other enterprises, was our guest presenter.  She described how she is active in the Grand Marais community empowering kids age 5-15 with technology and communications skills around community messaging.  There is a strong focus on entrepreneurship so that kids develop both skills and attitude to achieve economic self-sufficiency.  Most recently, the kids have been creating messaging around community health during the pandemic for residents and visitors to Grand Marais.  Using marketing strategies borrowed from Burma Shave, they find sign sponsors, create the verbiage, and make and install the signs.  Profits go to community projects like a new cover for the practice rolling log at the YMCA or a new sun shield at a local park.

The discussion included active conversation about the current pressures on local newspapers, many of which are cutting the number of papers published per week, including the Duluth paper.  Becky Lourie noted that many of the articles in her very local papers in northern Pine and Carlton County are written by citizen journalists.  We also talked about the ability of local media, especially with active youth involvement, to address the gaps of information around local history, including a focus on indigenous people and other people of color.  Anne calls this “whole history.”  Finally, we had an active social justice discussion on the uneven impact of the pandemic on people based on race and economic status.

Next Tuesday, July 14 at 9 am, we will talk about 5G.  Brian Pickering will be our guest expert.  Brian is Nokia’s Vice President of 5G Product Sales North America.  This is a great opportunity to learn about how 5G technologies and services might impact your community’s broadband services and the way that your residents, organizations and businesses use technology. (See slides.)

Webinar chat: Continue reading

Highlighting the benefits of telethealth in treating mental health in rural MN

MinnPost interviews Kristi K. Phillips, chair of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Committee on Rural Health, Phillips, who lives with her family in Litchfield, about the impact of telehealth in rural Minnestoa…

MP: I grew up in a small town. Back then nobody talked about their mental health. I’ve lived in the city for decades and many people here now seem pretty comfortable talking about mental illness. Are attitudes changing in rural communities?

KP: There is still a perceived and real stigma in rural communities about seeking mental health care. If you’ve ever been to a waiting room in a rural clinic, many times it’s like a social hour. It seems like everybody’s there. When you are wanting a zone of privacy around your mental health, this kind of thing makes people hesitant to go in.

One silver lining is telehealth. Since COVID hit, and I’ve been able to provide remote mental health services. Because of that, I’ve seen more famers and farm families than ever. More clients are willing to meet with me via telehealth because it offers more privacy. They don’t need to come into the clinic and risk seeing all their neighbors in the waiting room.

MP: Clearly the privacy that telehealth provides is a major plus. Do you see other benefits to remote therapy?

KP: Things are just so much more spread out in the country. I’ve had clients who’ve had to drive an hour each way to see me. At harvest time, that kind of time commitment is just not possible. Telehealth opens up new options. I can be working with patients wherever they are. They can have an appointment on their smartphones. My therapy appointments last 45 minutes to one hour. Telehealth makes that time commitment more obtainable for busy people. And we can schedule appointments at flexible times. I can work around their schedules.

MP: That flexibility is probably important, because people are juggling so much right now.

KP: Since I began offering telehealth, I’ve had almost a zero percentage of no shows. That’s completely the opposite of how it is for in-person appointments. If someone isn’t there at the scheduled time, I can almost always reach them: Most people carry their cellphones with them wherever they go. Maybe they’ve been distracted and forgotten their appointment. When I reach them on the phone, they’ll say, “I completely forgot the time. Let me pull over.” They can meet with me wherever they’re at.

MP: Is telehealth particularly helpful in Greater Minnesota, where mental health providers are few and far between?

KP: In Litchfield we are an underserved shortage area for mental health care. This is where I think telehealth can be especially helpful. If people don’t show for their in-person appointments, it is difficult to fill. We don’t have many of those kinds of issues with telehealth. People who are actually registered for appointments are getting seen. And we can see more patients in a day. People don’t feel like they have to take a half day off work just to travel to an appointment. They can say, “I’ll see you over my lunch hour,” and we can make that happen.

There are so many benefits that have come from telehealth. It’s unfortunate it took a pandemic for us to finally get comfortable with using these tools to make our lives better.

MP: After hearing your enthusiasm, it almost seems silly to ask you this, but do you see any disadvantages to telehealth?

KP: You do miss some of the micro-expressions that you’d observe in person. Some clients say they find telehealth impersonal or uncomfortable. But the benefits exponentially outweigh those types of issues.

MP: Do you hope to continue offering telehealth as an option for patients into the future?

KP: Yes. The majority of my patients want to be seen by telehealth.

Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband, Policy, COVID-19 (July 2020)

Save the month of October: Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand
Interesting times require innovative solutions! So, the Blandin conference planning team has decided to lean in and move the annual conference online – and reformed it into a monthlong series of opportunities. Coming in October!

Blandin in part of State Plan to Close Digital Divide
Governor Walz announces Public-Private Partnership to support technology needs of Minnesota students. Partnership for a ConnectedMN is led by Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the State of Minnesota.

MN Broadband Task Force June 2020
The Task Force heard from Microsoft Airband about their offerings. They also heard from former FCC member, Jonathan Chambers who mentioned maps that showed public investment by county and talked about the need to focus on future proof network or prepare to pay for upgrades.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Chisago County
What to do with schools in the fall? Online, in-person, hybrid. Chisago asks an expert about online education

East Range Iron Range
Five public safety broadband projects led by East Range Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities program

Golden Valley, Minneapolis and Willmar
Three MN healthcare facilities get FCC funding

Grand Marais
Minnesota Children’s Press Story Scouts use Instagram to encourage COVID precautions in the community

Hubbard County
Hubbard County vets office provides telehealth option

Iron Range
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects with Iron Range Tourism Bureau

Jacobson
Jacobson Community Center get creative with WiFi

Little Falls
Little Falls MN bypasses maps that exaggerate broadband coverage to form partnership with CTC

Minneapolis
M Health Fairview expands telemedicine to homeless shelter

Nessel Township
CenturyLink to bring fiber to 1,000+ homes in Nessel Township, MN

Northern MN
Northern MN appreciates ConnectedMN state funds to get kids connected

Rice County
Views of broadband expansion in Rice County

Rochester and Onamia
FCC announces 77 More CARES Act telehealth awards: 2 are in MN

Two Harbors
Wilderness health gets $800,000 for telehealth in Two Harbors

Winona County
Winona County to votes on approval of a 300-foot telecommunications tower near Lewiston

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Broadband advocates in Saint Louis County have been engaged in a crowd-sourced broadband speed test that is yielding fascinating and useful results.  Approximately 7,000 completed tests have led to clear conclusions made visible through sophisticated GIS mapping tools. Several neighboring counties are now moving forward with a similar strategy and there is an emerging consensus that this should be a statewide initiative.

The GEO Partners mapping tool provides address-specific data about the actual speed a customer is receiving.  The biggest value will be for local areas that have low-speed connections. The most important data will be collected in places where the state and federal maps show broadband service in excess of 25 Mb/3 Mb and the actual service is less.

The benefits of this approach are many.  It offers clarity to local government leaders about what broadband services are actually available.  This statistically valid evidence helps build community consensus.   State officials could use this data in adjudicating grant challenges from competing ISPs.  Federal programs would consider this information as input when deciding which regions were eligible for federal programs based.  Importantly, prospective providers could use this information to determine the actual quality of existing networks where they are considering expansions.

The results show very clear differences among providers and among different technologies and are no surprise to anyone working on broadband issues in rural areas.  While some customers may buy low-speed services for affordability reasons, the lack of any high-speed connections in an area can be used as evidence that high-speed service is not widely available or simply too expensive.

At community meetings in rural areas, the display of broadband maps often brings reactions of disbelief and testimonials of poor service.  Today, the burden of proof to correct these maps is on local leaders who have only these individual stories to bring to state and federal elected officials and staff.  A crowd-sourced statewide broadband speed test would create a second source of reliable data that could be a strong counterweight to the existing over-optimistic maps submitted by providers.

Stay tuned for more information on this emerging statewide initiative.  Large numbers of tests are required to be statistically valid.  Getting too a statistically valid sample in your area will be a local responsibility and require participation of a wide variety of promoters – local units of governments, chambers of commerce, school districts, lake associations, churches and other community organizations.

EVENT July 7: Broadband Roundtable on innovative options for local media

An invitation from the Blandin Foundation…

Join Blandin Foundation on Zoom Tuesday morning at 9:00 am for our weekly Broadband Roundtable conversation. This week, Anne Brataas of Grand Marais will share her passion for local media, especially that which is created by young people. Anne is active in The Story Laboratory and the Minnesota Children’s Press. With the current challenges faced by traditional local press, this session will be incredibly interesting. Bring your thoughts and ideas.

You can register for this and future Roundtables here

For more information, or to share ideas for future Roundtable starter topics, contact Mary Magnuson at memagnuson@blandinfoundation.org.

Save the month of October: Fall Broadband Conference is morphing into Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand

Interesting times require innovative solutions! And that’s why I’m genuinely excited to tell folks about the First Ever Blandin Broadband Virtual Dispersed Conference. I’m on the planning team; and while I love the annual get-togethers, it might be fair to say I was most enthusiastic about creating somethign new this year. I am so excited!!

The world is in flux and broadband seems to be at the center of it. The COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines on social distancing are creating the need and opportunity to do things differently, often with an online element. Meanwhile, the internet and social media are allowing people from all over the world in real time to witness and participate first-hand in the movement to end racial inequities in Minnesota and nationwide.

From telework to distance learning to keeping in touch with family and friends; from citizen journalism to starting a movement online; one thing is certain – access to broadband and the skills to use it is more important than ever.

So the conference planning team has decided to lean in, to take advantage of the technology we’ve been promoting for so long to meet the educational, professional, and civic needs of the attendees and hopefully demonstrate new ways to work and meet that you can bring back to your community.

What does this mean? Picture a month of broadband Sundays. (Not really, but sort of!)

The conference will be entirely virtual – but that doesn’t mean just a series of online lectures. We have created different opportunities for discussion, interaction and collaboration and a few traditional presentations to happen over the course of four weeks. Here’s a rough outline: (More to share later!)

  • Week 1 (Oct 5-8): three mornings of “in real time” online events including speakers and small group discussion
  • Weeks 2 and 3 (Oct 9-26): customized programming based on your level of involvement and interest with special sessions, a chance to pilot future programming, a book club, regular online space just to chat, mentor match-making with host of local and national experts arranged by the planning team, a virtual happy hour. You choose your level of involvement. No expectations – only opportunities.
  • Week 4 (Oct 27-29): mirroring the first with three mornings of “in real time” online events including speakers and small group discussion.

We’ll group folks in cohorts so you won’t need to feel like you’re traversing the terrain alone. And we’re lining up speakers to include experts, practitioners and researchers who know broadband infrastructure, policy and digital equity. I am so excited about the speakers we have – but I’ll build up some suspense now. Just let you know what’s coming.

Please let me know if you have any questions. This is the 16th conference.  We’re all pretty used to the “regular way” and this year will be different in the same way kindergarten roundup is different from college drop off. Still very cool – but new.

CenturyLink to bring fiber to 1,000+ homes in Nessel Township, MN (Chisago County)

Yahoo! Finance reports…

CenturyLink, Inc. CTL announced its plans to bring fiber to more than 1,000 homes and enterprises in Nessel Township, MN. Residents of this rural area will have access to reliable and high-speed Internet. The Monroe, LA-based communications company’s fiber and IP-based network capacity combined with its financial strength positions it well to support customers and boost shareholders’ value in the long term.

CenturyLink has a significant presence in Minnesota, with more than 17,000 miles of fiber and one million connections. The company’s investments and Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program will help meet the state’s goal of extensive broadband service. This public-private partnership project is aimed at providing the fiber and electronics needed for high-speed connections of up to 940 Mbps. It complements other similar projects in Minnesota’s underserved areas, providing more than 3,300 connections since 2014.

Stats on telehealth – big on virtual visits, less so on EHR

Becker’s Hospital Review reports…

Only 31 percent of hospitals and health systems are using capabilities within their EHR systems to conduct telehealth visits, according to a recent Sage Growth Partners report.

Sage Growth Partners during the week of May 25 surveyed 150 respondents representing various executive roles at hospitals and health systems across the U.S. Respondents were asked to describe their virtual care operations and strategies.

Three report insights:

  1. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they are using third-party software such as Zoom and Skype for telehealth visits.

  2. When asked what key tech solutions are critical to their organizations, 85 percent of execs said virtual care, 52 percent said hospital communication and 43 percent said supply chain automation.

  3. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 80 percent of hospitals provided less than 10 percent of their care virtually. However, only 11 percent of hospital leaders predict that in 24 months they will go back to their pre-pandemic rates of virtual care.

MetroNet Announces Acquisition of Minnesota’s Jaguar Communications

From Business Wire…

MetroNet, a provider of fiber-optic internet, TV and phone service, today announced the acquisition of Owatonna, MN-based Jaguar Communications, a fiber optic internet company serving Owatonna, Mankato, Rochester, and several other Minnesota communities. The combination of the two companies allows MetroNet to expand its ultra-high-speed fiber optic footprint to residential and business customers across the Midwest. MetroNet is expecting to invest an additional $150 million or more in growing the Minnesota market to expand services to additional communities and neighborhoods.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The transaction was officially completed yesterday.

“Jaguar Communications shares our vision of providing customer-focused, fiber optic telecommunication services to homes and businesses,” said MetroNet President John Cinelli. “As we grow our fiber optic network in Minnesota, Jaguar Communications is a perfect fit. We look forward to fully integrating as a company, and we welcome them into the MetroNet family.”

Jaguar Communications currently serves Carver, Scott, Dakota, Nicollett, Le Sueur, Rice, Blue Earth, Waseca, Steele, Dodge, Olmstead, Freeborn and Mower counties in Minnesota with Gigabit speed internet. This acquisition will allow MetroNet to leverage Jaguar’s fiber optic infrastructure to provide these markets with MetroNet’s products. Jaguar customers will continue to benefit from gigabit internet speeds options with no data caps, full-featured fiber phone service, and fiber IPTV.

“Over the years, Jaguar Communications has proudly served Southern Minnesota and an agreement with MetroNet just made sense. This merger is the right next step to better serve our customers and provide further opportunities for our employees,” stated Jim Ward, Owner of Jaguar Communications. “This acquisition means accelerated expansion in Minnesota, reaching more residents and businesses that are eager for ultra-high-speed fiber optic services.”

The two companies are expected to fully integrate under the MetroNet brand in the months to come, and plan to integrate all MetroNet product line features in early 2021.

US Senators introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Accelerate Broadband Access Nationwide

According to a press release from US Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)

Today [July 2, 2020], U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Braun (R-IN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act, bipartisan legislation that will bolster efforts to expand access to rural broadband nationwide and speed up the distribution of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The RDOF will allocate $20.4 billion to building rural broadband in two phases and this legislation will ensure that some of that money is distributed to communities much faster than the original deadline. The Rural Broadband Acceleration Act also directs the FCC to adhere to the Universal Service requirement in federal law, which is a joint responsibility for the federal and state governments. The Universal Service requirement states that all people in rural areas must have access to telecommunications and information services that are reasonably comparable, in both speed and price, to the services in urban areas. Thus, this legislation will allow rural America to have the same level of broadband service enjoyed by cities and suburbs across the country. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.