OPPORTUNITY: Telecommunications Analyst job at MN Dep of Commerce

There is a job open at the MN Department of Commerce and it seems like it might be a good fit for someone – maybe a BoB reader…

Job Class: Public Utilities Rates Analyst 2, 3, or 4

Working Title: Telecommunications Analyst

  • Who May Apply: Open to all qualified job seekers
  • Date Posted: 10/19/2021
  • Closing Date: 11/01/2021
  • Hiring Agency/Seniority Unit: Commerce Dept
  • Division/Unit: Energy Resources / Telecom Regulation
  • Work Shift/Work Hours: Day Shift  (Hybrid work environment with potential for significant telework)
  • Days of Work: Monday – Friday
  • Travel Required: No
  • Salary Range: PURA 2: $24.88 – $36.53/hourly; $51,949 – $76,275/annually; PURA 3: $28.48 – $42.24/hourly; $59,466 – $88,197/annually; PURA 4: $30.59 – $45.36/hourly; $63,872 – $94,712/annually
  • Classified Status: Classified
  • Bargaining Unit/Union: MAPE
  • Connect 700 Program Eligible: Yes

Job Summary

This vacancy is being posted at 3 job classes: PURA 2 – PURA 3 – PURA 4. Final job class will be determined based on successful applicant’s qualifications.

This position performs a variety of tasks to fulfill the Department’s statutory responsibilities with respect to the telecommunications marketplace. The telecommunications unit seeks to protect consumers from abusive tactics and works to advance competition in a manner that is consistent with the public interest. The successful applicant will review new and existing telecommunications carrier petitions to determine compliance with statutory requirements and Minnesota rules. The position will investigate problems experienced by consumers, and competitors in the marketplace; draft reports for actions before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; and enforce statutes, rules and Commission orders.

EVENT Nov 1: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting

I will plan to attend and I will livestream. Everyone is welcome to attend the actual meeting and there’s always time for public comment – but sometimes it’s easier to view on Facebook.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 1, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Click here to join the meeting
Join with a video conferencing device mn@m.webex.com
Video Conference ID: 115 972 031 9
Alternate VTC instructions

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from October 5, 2021 Meeting
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Regional Gatherings Overview – Benya Kraus, Executive Director, Lead for America
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal
  • 11:10 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.  Break
  • 11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding
  • 12:10 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Next Steps for Subgroups and Draft Report
  • 12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, December Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

 

Lunch Bunch ADA and digital accessibility with Belo Cipriani: Notes and Video

Big thanks to Belo Cipriani, owner of Oleb Media for joining us today for the Lunch Bunch. We had a great conversation on the need to bring people and communities with disabilities into the wider community and into broadband and digital equity conversations. Belo comes to us as a noted disability advocate and someone who has overcome barriers of blindness – through technology and by improving technology.

Here is the original description of the event:

On October 27 we will have Belo Cipriani, owner of Oleb Media, a digital access firm that helps companies ensure their products and services meet ADA accessibility requirements. Belo is on the Minnesota Council on Disability and is an author of a blog on accessibility (recent post on How to Improve the Digital Accessibility of Your Business may be of interest) and several books. I’ve asked Belo to join us to chat about accessibility and hope he might tell us a little about his interesting life. I’m also hoping people will bring their questions and thoughts.

And a few notes – although I think it’s worth a listen because technology can be a tool to unite your community, or divide it. It can be an opportunity to draw new residents to your community or it can leave you on shelf. Belo talked about:

How he approaches an accessibility plan:

  • Testing
  • Connectivity
  • Training

How he approaches digital equity training:

  • Engage
  • Study
  • Activate

And types of tech users:

  • Novices
  • Specialized users
  • Power users

A lot of what people can do in their workplace or community to support people with disabilities starts with procurement. Choose tools that will accommodate differing abilities and then know how to use those tools and accommodations.

One lesson I walked away with is remembering while that I may be a specialized power user that doesn’t mean my way couldn’t be improved to make it more accessible to others. And I can probably re-learn to become a power user with a new special software or solution.

Even food needs better broadband – well farmers need to growing food efficiently and sustainably

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has just released an important look at The Future of American Farming Demands Broadband. They start by making the case that farmers need broadband is to be more efficient and the environment needs it to support sustainability. I suspect most readers here understand (or live) that, so I’ll cut to some of the answers they provide based on various facets of farming…

The Farm Office
How do we ensure that farmers get reliable, symmetrical broadband service?

● Establish future-proof performance standards: To meet the growing demand among farmers for both upstream and downstream speeds, networks must be capable of 100/100 Mbps service.

● Clarify rules around easements and rights of way: State governments can address legal uncertainty around easements and rights of way, which can slow deployment and increase costs, particularly for electric cooperatives.

Incentivize build-out to the operations center: Broadband funding programs can reward applicants that deploy broadband to the operations center of the farm and other critical farm buildings.

● Support open-access, middle-mile networks: Middle-mile deployment can pack a powerful punch by bringing scalable, fiber-based connections deep into rural communities while also lowering the cost of last-mile deployment for private providers.

The Field
How can we address the special connectivity demands of farms?
● Adopt high-performance standards: Performance standards for upload speeds and latency should reflect the changing needs of farmers for precision agriculture.
● Encourage deep fiber build-out: Fiber build-out in rural America, even if not directly to the farm, will be needed to support capable wireless connections for higher-bandwidth applications in the field.
● Address gaps in mapping on farmland: Broadband maps should include mobile coverage on agricultural lands. The underlying data that informs these maps must be available to the public.
● Advocate for interoperability and privacy standards: Without better coordination about interoperability and privacy standards, farmers may be less willing to adopt precision agriculture technologies.
● Adjust spectrum award mechanisms to reward farmland coverage: Spectrum auctions can adopt geographic coverage requirements in some rural agricultural areas to encourage deployment on farmland.

The Community
How do we connect the communities that farms rely upon?
● Adopt comprehensive state broadband plans: State plans that encompass all aspects of a broadband strategy—including deployment, competition, and digital equity—are best suited to meeting states’ regional economic development and other goals.
● Support digital equity programs at the state and local levels: Digital equity programs led by state and local governments and backed by federal funding can work with communities to help people make full use of broadband connections.
● Encourage local planning and capacity building: Federal and state funding can encourage local planning and capacity building, which may include developing local or regional broadband strategies and applying for federal broadband grants.
● Implement accountability measures: Federal funding programs for broadband deployment that include strong accountability measures ensure that providers hit their deployment goals.
● Encourage local, community-oriented providers: Federal programs that support broadband can encourage entry from more broadband providers, including cooperative and community[1]based solutions.
● Facilitate federal, tribal, state, and local coordination: All levels of government should work together as partners to create opportunities for collaboration.
● Coordinate efforts of federal agencies: A coordinated effort between federal agencies will allow those agencies to synergize their respective expertise and meet the distinct needs of farmers.

I appreciate the collection of statistics and the frontline stories that give a clear picture of what life is like for farmers in rural America. Each town, farm and person’s perspective may be different based on where they are, what they are doing and even season or time of day but it’s very likely that whatever they are experiencing is different that what folks in urban areas experience. Through examples, theygive some quick lessons on fixed-wireless (pg 9), middle mile (pg 11), cooperatives (pg 12), Starlink (pg 14) and more.

They even give a nice nod to what’s happening in Minnesota and Blandin’s role in the success…

Public and private leadership working in tandem in Minnesota
One of the earliest state grant programs, Minnesota’s Border-to[1]Border Broadband Development Grant Program, was created in 2014 to assist localities, private providers, nonprofits, and cooperatives in building out broadband infrastructure in Greater Minnesota. The program funds up to 50 percent of the cost of a last-mile or middle[1]mile broadband project, including planning, permitting, construction, and installation costs. Since its inception, Border-to-Border has connected more than 56,000 homes, businesses, and anchor institutions to broadband. The eventual goal of the program is universal, “border-to[1]border” broadband coverage across Minnesota. The state plans to achieve universal 25/3 Mbps coverage by the end of 2022 and universal 100/20 Mbps coverage by the end of 2026.

Working in tandem with state broadband efforts, the Blandin Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to building healthy, inclusive rural communities in Minnesota, has partnered with dozens of rural communities to help them get and use better broadband. Participating communities work through a proven process to define their technology goals and measure current levels of broadband access and use. They receive technical assistance and grant funding to implement projects that help close the digital divide and take advantage of the extraordinary benefits of a broadband-enabled economy.

Communities that have participated in the Blandin Broadband Communities program have earned themselves a seat at the table of broadband planning. Having done the work of assessing what they have, what they want, and what they are willing to contribute to a possible project, they have a voice in what broadband solution is “good enough” for their communities.

Nearly half of the network feasibility studies commissioned by Blandin community partners and funded by the foundation have been either fully or partially built. Participating communities have dramatically increased the presence of free, publicly available internet access in libraries, public parks, downtown areas, and township halls, and have distributed more than 2,300 refurbished computers to income[1]qualifying residents in participating rural communities across Minnesota. Communities also have implemented a variety of digital literacy programs for local residents and businesses. They have spurred more sophisticated use of technology through education, training, community events, learning circles, and innovative partnerships—a total of 292 projects that address community technology goals.
Local governments and other entities across the state have endorsed and adopted Minnesota’s Broadband Vision, first articulated at a 2015 Blandin Broadband conference: “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable, world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.” This vision inspired the creation of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, which unites dozens of broadband champions from across the state to sustain broad, bipartisan support for Minnesota’s broadband grant program.
Blandin’s work in Minnesota illustrates the benefits of public and private leadership working in tandem. Investing in the capacity of communities to name and claim their own broadband vision helps to maximize public benefit from public investments such as state grant programs.

President Biden announces FCC and NTIA nominations

President Biden just announced his picks for the vacant FCC Commissioner seats and the position of Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

  • Jessica Rosenworcel, Nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission
  • Gigi Sohn, Nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission
  • Alan Davidson, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce
  • Kathi Vidal, Nominee for Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at the Department of Commerce
  • Laurel Blatchford, Nominee for Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget

President Biden has also designated Rosenworcel as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. She is the first woman in history to serve in this capacity.

You can find bios for each on the FCC site. Let’s hope confirmation is quick and the big Federal Infrastructure bill passes soon to make a difference to folks in Minnesota who need the help.

Which providers in MN can get voice-only lifeline service support? CNS has a map!

Back in June (2021), the FCC announced the census blocks where providers could still receive financial support for voice-only lifeline services…

Today, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces those Census blocks where Lifeline support for voice-only service will continue at $5.25 per month from December 1, 2021 through November 30, 2022. These Census blocks can be found on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website here: https://www.usac.org/wpcontent/uploads/lifeline/documents/Data/voice_CB_blocks.zip.

In the 2016 Lifeline Order, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) outlined a shift in the Lifeline program towards a greater focus on supporting broadband services for Lifeline eligible consumers.1 As part of that effort, the Commission adopted a transition period to phase down support for voice-only Lifeline services before reimbursement for such services would decrease to $0 on December 1, 2021.2 The Commission also adopted an exception to this complete phase-down in voice-only support and continued Lifeline support, in the amount of $5.25 per subscriber per month, for qualifying voice-only services provided to Lifeline eligible subscribers in Census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider.3 The Commission directed the Bureau to identify Census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider and to announce those Census blocks by June 1 of each year.

CNS has mapped out the areas, which is always a good way to take in this information, especially for policymakers. I have a screenshot here, the CNS map is interactive.

Arrowhead Intelligent Region shares Blandin-funded broadband projects

Grand Rapids Herald Review reports

People living in Northeast Minnesota will have new opportunities to connect and strengthen their communities with the help of eight Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) initiative grants. Nearly a half million dollars have been granted this year through the AIR program to propel community aspirations around digital access and use.

“Despite this stressful, uncertain year, rural leaders in the Arrowhead Region continue to roll up their sleeves, creating more opportunities for community connection and growth,” said Tuleah Palmer, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “Their tenacity and courage to forge new, digitally-connected paths for all people living in the region is inspiring.”

They offer a sampling of projects that have been funded…

Itasca Economic Development Corporation is creating a new space in Itasca County for job training, developing career pathways for youth and supporting budding entrepreneurs with the help of a $50,000 AIR grant. Working with regional partners, new programming in manufacturing, trades and engineering will be available to community members. Future training will be developed to build the skills of local people needed for digital-based careers.

With support from a $50,000 AIR grant, The Lighthouse Center for Vital Living will help alleviate loneliness and isolation among Arrowhead seniors by increasing access to, and use of, technology. Engagement groups will be created in collaboration with organizations regionwide to offer new ways for seniors to connect.

Sixty to eighty small businesses in the Arrowhead Region will work with the Small Business Development Center to find ways to better use technology to increase revenue or simplify processes. A $50,000 grant will give participating businesses access to funds to make changes that grow their business.

A full list of AIR funded projects can be found at https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/broadband/arrowhead-intelligent-region/.

EVENT Oct 27: Lunch Bunch ADA and digital accessibility with Belo Cirpriani

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions; on the second Wednesday of the month the focus is Infrastructure and on the fourth the focus is Digital Inclusion and Use.

I’m especially excited to have a special guest come in on Wednesday to talk about online accessibility issues. So much of my time is spent trying to get broadband to everyone – it’s important to remember to  maximize use for everyone too.

On October 27 we will have Belo Cipriani, owner of Oleb Media, a digital access firm that helps companies ensure their products and services meet ADA accessibility requirements. Belo is on the Minnesota Council on Disability and is an author of a blog on accessibility (recent post on How to Improve the Digital Accessibility of Your Business may be of interest) and several books. I’ve asked Belo to join us to chat about accessibility and hope he might tell us a little about his interesting life. I’m also hoping people will bring their questions and thoughts.

Remember, this is always a conversation, please come with questions and/or ideas. Register here!

OPPORTUNITIES: Two jobs open at MN Office of Broadband Development

There are two positions open at the Office of Broadband Development:

Grants Specialist Coordinator – Broadband Grants Administrator

The Broadband Grants Administrator position exists as part of the Office of Broadband Development. The Office develops and administers programs designed to achieve high quality broadband access for all Minnesotans and to support and promote the skills necessary to adopt and use broadband tools for economic, educational, health, and institutional benefits. The incumbent will develop, promote, implement, and provide technical assistance for state and federally funded financing programs for the Office of Broadband Development. This position will support and maximize Minnesota entities’ participation in federally funded broadband infrastructure programs. This position also conducts program evaluation, reporting and administers programs including:
• Border-to-Border Infrastructure Grant Program: which provides state and federal financing for DEED approved broadband infrastructure expansion projects
• Digital literacy, broadband adoption and use programs DEED is committed to radically increasing economic impacts for individuals and businesses that face systematic barriers to growth.
This position will contribute to efforts to build a positive internal culture that makes DEED an extraordinary place to work! If you want to make an impact and help people create possibilities, come and be a part of our amazing team!

State Program Administrator – Broadband Program Assistant

The Broadband Program Assistant position exists to assist in the administration of projects and programs for the Office of Broadband Development. This includes preliminary review and evaluation of grant applications, contract processing and grant bookkeeping and reporting. The incumbent will also provide technical and organizational support of projects and task forces, as well as coordinate and manage marketing materials, communication announcements and inquiries. The position is responsible for examining, processing, and tracking invoices, expenses, and acquisitions to ensure accuracy and prompt payment using electronic and paper filing and database systems. The Broadband Program Assistant also provides technical assistance to clients and responds to client inquiries with program information.

The jobs are open until November 4. You would be working with good people and hopefully soon in a position to helping Minnesota communities get better broadband.

Should public funding consider track records of potential fund recipients?

Karl Bode, at Tech Dirt, takes a stand on national providers continuing to take public funding despite a record of disgruntled customers and communities. Minnesota’s Chris Mitchell asks policy makers to consider a provider’s record before investing…

So for years I’ve noted if you really want to understand why U.S. broadband is so crappy, you should take a long, close look at Frontier Communications in states like West Virginia. For decades the ISP has provided slow and expensive service, routinely failed to upgrade or repair its network, and generally personified the typical bumbling, apathetic, regional monopoly. And its punishment, year after year, has generally been a parade of regulatory favors, tax breaks, and millions in subsidies. At no point do “telecom policy leaders” or politicians ever try to do much differently.

Case in point: Frontier, fresh off of an ugly bankruptcynumerous AG and FTC lawsuits over repair delays, and repeated subsidy scandals, is positioning itself to nab yet more subsidies from the state of Wisconsin. Frontier is asking the state of for $35 million in additional grants, despite the fact Wisconsin was just one of several states whose AGs recently sued the company for being generally terrible. Folks familiar with the company argue it shouldn’t be seeing a single, additional dime in taxpayer resources given fifteen years of scandal

“I hope the state will seriously consider the track record of companies to understand which ones have a long record of meeting the needs of residents and businesses,” Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, a Minnesota-based think tank supporting communities’ telecommunications efforts, said in an interview with The Badger Project.

“Frankly, Frontier’s record suggests it should not receive a single additional dollar from any government,” he added. “Local companies, communities, and cooperatives have proven to be much better at turning public subsidies into needed networks.”

Keep in mind Frontier has been accused of taking state and federal subsidies on several occasions, misleadingly billing the government extra, then basically just shrugging when asked for the money back. To date nobody has done much about any of it. Also keep in mind Frontier routinely lobbies for (and often ghost writes) state laws banning towns and cities from building their own broadband networks. They’re also directly responsible for the gutting of state and federal regulatory and consumer protection authority. Facing little real competition and feckless oversight in most states, nothing much changes. By design.

Senator Smith’s broadband roundtable in Kandiyohi County

I posted notes and video from the broadband meeting in Willmar yesterday. Fun to see so much location media cover the story…

West Central Tribute reports

“It represents a very big commitment for the township board. It will take two-thirds of our useable cash to do this project,” said Joel Johnson, Mamre Township supervisor. “Without this help, it would not be attainable at all.”

A major concern for all who plan to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for state grant matches is whether it will be allowed since the state plans to fund those broadband grants with its own American Rescue Plan Act allocation. Right now there are worries that current statutes — specifically the Stafford Act, which covers how the federal government assists state and local governments after a disaster or emergency — would not allow that.

“If there is not a waiver of that somehow, projects across the country are going to fall apart,” said Michelle Marotzke, economic development professional with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission. “This should be a federal concern.”

Willmar Radio reports with direct audio quotes and…

Other issues brought up at the meeting included frustration at the right of first refusal that existing providers have that have hindered finding customers for new high speed internet fibre-optic cable installation projects. While there appears to be a lot of government money available for projects, the blizzard of paperwork, restrictions and regulations are a dis-incentive to try and move forward with projects. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need for high speed internet, as students have been forced to distance-learn and many workers are working from home.

Roundtable Broadband Conversation With U.S. Senator Tina Smith in Kandiyohi County

Approximately 30 people showed up today for the roundtable discussion with Senator Smith hosted by Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar EDC. The crowd included elected officials, policy makers, providers and broadband leaders. It was a nice balance of questions and answers from everyone in the room. Top concern was making it easier and quicker to get enough funding into the hands of those who could and would build long lasting broadband to the area.

Here are scattered notes (asis) from the session…

Senator Smith has been coming to talk about broadband in Kandiyohi County since she was Lt Governor.

Some CARES funding wen to broadband. The American Rescue Plan brough $2.8 billion in Minnesota; $70 million went into the MN.

Infrastructure bill $65 billion for broadband – including a minimum of $100 million for broadband.

USDA ReConnect has $1.5 billion in broadband grants and loans; they are trying to simplify the process.

$8.3 million in ARPA; committed to spending money on broadband for unserved and underserved. We want to use ARPA funding for match with the Border to Border grants. We applied for NTIA grant – but competition is tight.

We are trying to figure out if we can use wireless to get state funding because it doesn’t scale to 100/100. We are also concerned about the supply and demand issue even if we do get funding. If we are all trying to build out at the time, will we run out of supplies?

It would ne nice to have funding come through the OBD; they do a good job and we know their process as opposed to trying to complete so many applications and audits from different entities.

We are concerned with Stafford Act – we want to use various grants to match with other grants.

We are very frustrated with RDOF process. It would be nice to get the FCC to decide quickly. And/or it would be nice to have a first-served process – the first provider to actually get funding and start building gets permission in stead of thise process where people can in effect “call dibs” on certain areas.

Another concern is that LTD is in line to get funding for FTTH but they only promote satellite in our area. Satellite does not work in our areas – especially when it rains.

A few years ago, CTC tried to build FTTH with a border to border grant in county – but they need to get customer buy in and TDS campaigned their customers not to sign up. Unfortunately that meant no upgrades for the area.

We need policies that help providers work together.

The trouble with making rules that make it difficult to qualify or apply for federal funding is that means people don’t apply and then the policymakers think there is no need.

Why should we be OK with good enough broadband in rural areas?

The FCC needs be reviewed and updated to meet needs of new technology.

Starlink doesn’t work in our area – especially in the rain.

Providers would like to see federal funding get funneled through the Office of Broadband Development. That would mean an application and process that has become standard for many providers.

Providers would like to see streamlined permits especially for things like environmental studies. If another providers has recently done a study, it doesn’t make sense to do another.

USDA’s ReConnect program to offer $1.15B in funding

AgriPulse reports

The Department of Agriculture is making available $1.15 billion through USDA’s ReConnect program to provide rural areas with high-speed internet. The department will start taking applications for grants and loans Nov. 24.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is scheduled to visit Hammond Henry Hospital in Geneseo, Illinois, Friday afternoon. The hospital was renovated through a USDA loan.

“Rural people, businesses and communities must have affordable, reliable, high-speed internet so they can fully participate in modern society and the modern economy,” Vilsack said in a statement.

To qualify for funding, applicants must commit to providing download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second to all locations in its suggested service area, according to USDA. Projects that currently serve areas with 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload speeds or less will be given priority.

Other considerations will involve the community’s economic needs, affordability of service offered, labor standards, and if tribal lands are served.

About $200 million will be offered for loans with another $250 million earmarked for loan/grant combinations. There’s also a $350 million fund that will be distributed with a 25% matching requirement and another $350 million in grants with “no matching requirement for projects in tribal and socially vulnerable communities,” USDA noted.

Rural communities attract teleworkers with good broadband and programs – like in Bemidji

The Daily Yonder reports on a growing migration to well wired rural communities…

Priscilla Bergstrom and her husband decided to leave Denver, Colorado, after 30 years and move to a rural community with a slower pace of life, a lot of outdoor activities, and a fast internet connection. They settled on Bemidji, Minnesota, one of many smaller towns and rural communities that are beginning to employ incentives designed to lure remote workers just like the Bergstrom family to make them their new home.

The found Bemidji through 218 Relocate…

While perusing the local newspaper, Bergstrom came across information about 218 Relocate, a recently launched program to attract remote workers to Bemidji, Minnesota, population 15,000. The program attracts remote workers through various incentives, including up to $2,500 in reimbursed expenses for moving; free co-working space; and access to a program connecting newcomers to established residents. …

In the case of 218 Relocate, it wasn’t an attempt to replicate another community’s success, but instead capitalize on the connectivity that Bemidji has, Erin Echternach, assistant director of Greater Bemidji Economic Development, which runs the program, told The Daily Yonder.

“We were trying to come up with a program that really capitalizes on that fiber-optic Internet,” she said.

Since its launch at the beginning of February of 2021, 18 people have taken advantage of the program so far, with three more scheduled to receive the relocation grant by the end of October, Echternach said.

“We’re really a regional hub for Northern Minnesota and people are just finding out about us,” she said. “And when they get here, they’re surprised at what’s here. But there are some that literally have thrown a dart at the map and they’re like, oh, Bemidji, let’s try it. They love it.”

For Bergstrom and her husband, who was able to relocate his job to Minnesota because he works for a global company, the opportunity for outdoor activities attracted them to the area. They also considered an incentive program in Northwest Arkansas, she said.

Greater Bemidji is piloting the program for two years, Echternach said. And so far they have been pleased. Program participants must physically move to Bemidji, she noted, but they are able to live within a 60-mile radius of Bemidji proper.

More RDOF grants made: Windstream only MN winner with 2,830 locations

From the FCC

The FCC today announced that it is ready to authorize $554,150,641 million in its third round of funding for new broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.  Together with two prior funding wave announcements, the Commission has now announced over $1 billion in funding to winning bidders for new deployments.  In this funding wave, 11 broadband providers will bring fiber-to-the-home gigabit broadband service to over 180,000 locations in 19 states.  The Commission also denied several waiver petitions by companies that did not diligently pursue their applications.

You can get the details on winners; I’ve pulled out the Windstream totals:

Windstream:

  • Census blocks 20
  • Locations 2,830
  • Total Award $6,548,963.30

The was some news about LTD broadband. Although not in Minnesota…

The FCC also continued to work to ensure that funding only supports providers that comply with program requirements.  The FCC denied LTD Broadband’s petition seeking waiver of the deadline to be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier in Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota, and denied NW Fiber’s petition seeking waiver of the deadline for submitting a post-auction long form application.