MiEnergy Cooperative hosts legislative discuss in Rushford on topics including broadband

Bluff Country News reports…

MiEnergy Cooperative hosted two field hearings in Rushford on Oct. 3 as part of the Minnesota House of Representatives three-day mini session in southeastern Minnesota.

The cooperative provided testimony on disaster relief and broadband funding for the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Hearing. The group of nine representatives also heard testimony from the co-op on energy policy and initiatives for the Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Hearing.

Here’s what they discussed in regard to broadband…

Legislators also heard testimony on what led to the creation of MiBroadband, which was formed by three cooperatives (Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company, MiEnergy and Spring Grove Communications) looking to serve high-speed internet needs of those living in unserved and underserved areas of southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa. Vassil Vutov, MiEnergy’s vice president of information technology, explained how the co-op built a network backbone with a combination of fiber and wireless technology to connect its Rushford and Cresco offices. As the electric industry evolves, communicating via broadband to its 43 substations in Iowa and Minnesota is a necessity for MiEnergy, he said. This combination of fiber and wireless technology, known as fixed wireless broadband, is the solution for the electric co-op’s needs and the ample amount of expandability is how the joint effort with MiBroadband can help make reliable, high-speed internet service a reality for residents living in rural areas.

MiEnergy has wireless towers currently in Cresco, Rushford, Peterson and Fountain. As MiEnergy expands its communications technology to all substations, MiBroadband service can be offered in those areas. MiBroadband CEO Jill Fishbaugher noted its Minnesota Border-to-Border grant application request of $2.2 million of a $5 million project that would bring broadband to 12 townships in Fillmore County and three townships in Mower County. It would add 417 fiber passings and over 1,000 wireless passings.

Announcing 100,000 Udacity Scholarships for America’s Workers

Udacity offers a wide range of online classes to educate and train American Workers. They are looking to make classes available via scholarship for low income workers. Their website announces

Udacity is awarding 100,000 need-based scholarships for America’s workers. Win a scholarship to ignite your career in tech. Applications open in early 2020.

Sign up today to be among the first to know when applications open!

Senator Smith talks about broadband in Granite Falls and Montevideo

Montevideo American News reports on recent meetings in Granite Falls and Montevideo (Chippewa, Renville, and Yellow Medicine Counties)…

On Wednesday October 9, Senator Tina Smith hosted a roundtable discussion in Granite Falls with local leaders and rural community advocates in an attempt to get to the root of rural needs in the broadband game.

The Senator opened the meeting ” I am so thankful you ALL are here this morning, I am here to check in with you”. Smith, who introduced the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands Act (RURAL Act) aiding cooperatives impacted by new tax codes in keeping their ability to get broadband implementation grants without affecting their tax-exempt status said, “I want to understand better how I and the federal government can be a good partner with you as we work to expand broadband in small towns and rural areas”.

Smith detailed her understanding of the negative impacts of insufficient or nonexistent broadband access “If you don’t have access to broadband you can’t get your homework done, you can’t work remotely for your job, your healthcare systems don’t work, you have trouble recruiting people into your community.” Her focus as of late is combating and correcting false data on where broadband actually exists. “We have a federal government pushing out a significant amount of money but sometimes it’s pushing out that money based on maps that are not at all accurate about where there is coverage, or there is coverage but it’s pitiful. It’s a few drops of water coming out of a pipe. It doesn’t begin to meet the needs of the community” . The Senator was quick to point out that even though Minnesota broadband coverage maps makes it appear most households are serviced “there are still 145,000 households that don’t have it, that doesn’t even count the households sitting at the end of the pipe with a few drops, not able to do what they need to do.” Participants went around the table, taking two minutes each to detail there broadband access concerns and interests.

Broadband Struggles in Greater Minnesota featured on Almanac

Last Friday TPT’s Almanac did a nice feature on rural broadband. It’s a nice piece on a range of issues. And it’s only a 5-minute video.

The spoke to some folks who have trouble running credit card, and therefore a business, because of slow connections. The spoke to folks at Frontier, Brent Christensen at MN Telecom Alliance and Gary Johnson at Paul Bunyan Telephone (Cooperative). So they really got a wide range of views from providers.

Monticello receives prestigious award for broadband leadership from Blandin Foundation

I suspect I’ll see a few more of the Blandin Broadband award announcements. I shared the live unveiling last week during the broadband conference but each of the winners has worked hard and I didn’t do individual posts about each one so I’ll post these local announcements as I see them. This one comes from the Monticello Times

 A state leader in broadband initiatives has recognized the City of Monticello for its support of FiberNet.

The Blandin Foundation recognized the City of Monticello with its Courageous Leadership Award. Monticello was recognized for its early recognition of the importance of telecommunications to its economic future and for its perseverance in deploying a fiber-optic network, FiberNet, that has transformed the city’s technology capabilities, Blandin officials stated.

The recgonition was made in Nisswa at the 15th annual Blandin Foundation broadband conference.

“Thanks to this municipally-owned fiber-to-the-home network, the City of Monticello has transitioned from a poorly connected community to one of the top connected communities in the nation,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation.

“Monticello leaders never wavered in their belief that access to broadband is essential to everything from economic vitality to quality of life,” Joselyn said.

Monticello City Administrator Jeff O’Neill accepted the award on behalf of the City of Monticello.

“Vitality can’t be divided between urban and rural; all communities deserve the tools necessary to thrive in the modern world,” O’Neill said.


Lincoln County Board renews their membership in the MN Broadband Coalition

The Marshall Independent reports on a recent Lincoln County Board meeting…

In other business, the board agreed to renew Lincoln County’s membership in the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. The group asked for $1,000 in funds, but agreed to allow member counties to remain part of the organization for any contribution of $500 or more.

Commissioner Joe Drietz said he favors keeping the county’s share at $500, with the possibility of giving more in future years if rural broadband proposals continue to move forward.

“The $500 is what we’ve been paying each year to get things started,” Drietz said. “We still haven’t gotten to the point of having an implementation phase.”

The Coalition is always looking for new members. They recently presented an update and plans for 2020 at the MN Broadband Conference. You can see the presentation in the video below:

New Video: From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!

The Community Network folks from the Institute of Local Self Reliance have gone into animation…

In rural communities, large companies often won’t invest in high-quality Internet network infrastructure due to the lack of population density. Increasingly, rural electric and communications cooperatives are filling the void and providing the Internet access small towns and surrounding areas need. In order to illustrate the challenges facing these small rural towns, we’ve developed a series of videos titled, “From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!”

The video certainly has a point of view – but I have to admit that I’ve had people email me with similar stories and complaints from communities without an invested provider.