Blandin in Grand Marais

Community impact from the work we do is sometimes hard to see, and often even harder to measure. That said, it was a special pleasure to find in my email inbox this morning a message from Mary Kosak, a member of Blandin Foundation’s grant’s team, describing how the Broadband work we’ve been doing in Grand Marais “showed up” for her in unexpected ways during a recent site visit there.

Here’s the scoop, in Mary’s own words:

I traveled to Grand Marais yesterday to do a site visit for a potential grantee – Cook County Higher Education. They are an innovative, unique non-profit organization created in 1996 to serve the higher education needs of a rural-remote community. As the Director and Board Member explained to me, “We tried for umpteen years to get a community college here but just didn’t have the resources to support it – Cook County Higher Education (CCHE) was the answer to the expressed need.” CCHE collaborates with area colleges and universities, using a blend of technology and area professionals, to bring high quality degree and certificate programs to this community. I could go on and on about this wonderful program, but my point in writing today was to share all the terrific things they had to say about Blandin’s broadband efforts and the positive difference it’s making for their community. Director Paula Sundet explained what a difference it made to the community to have the high speed internet capabilities. She went on to list all of the agencies, organizations and groups that have benefitted from being a broadband community. Plus, due to the beauty of the area they have attracted many professionals can do their jobs from a distance thanks to the community’s robust connectivity.

ICF Announces the Smart21 Communities of 2009

We’ve talked about the ICF Smart Community awards in the past. It’s an extremely prestigious award. I’m sure we will learn more about the awards and the recently announced Smart21 communities at the Blandin Broadband conference in December where Robert Bell, from the Intelligent Community Forum will be speaking.

Here’s more info on the recent award announcements:

The Smart21 of 2009

The Smart21 of 2009 includes communities from 12 nations on four continents with populations ranging from 17,000 to 2.5 million.
• Albany, New York, USA; population 94,000
• Ashland, Oregon, USA; population 22,000
• Bristol, Virginia, USA; population 17,500
• Dublin, Ohio, USA; population 40,000
• Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; population 1,035,000
• Eindhoven, Netherlands; population 297,000
• Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; population 50,535
• Gold Coast City, Queensland, Australia; population 509,000
• Issy-les-Moulineaux, France; population 61,000
• Kenora, Ontario, Canada; population 17,000
• Malta; population 405,000
• Manchester, England, UK; population 2,500,000
• Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; population 125,000
• Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; population 1,200,000
• Porto Alegre, Brazil; population 1,400,000
• Riverside, California, USA; population 291,000
• Stockholm, Sweden; population 795,000
• Tallinn, Estonia; population 400,000
• Taoyuan County, Taiwan; population 1,950,000
• Trikala, Greece; population 52,000
• Westchester County, New York, USA; population 950,000
Eight of the communities were on the 2008 Smart21 list and three were named to the 2008 Top Seven. Ten of the 2009 Smart21 are North American communities, seven are from Europe, two from Asia-Pacific, one from South America, and one from Africa. In addition to individual cities and towns, the 2009 Smart21 includes two counties and two multi-city metropolitan areas.

“Each of these communities has demonstrated a commitment to improving their communities through innovative broadband applications,” said Louis Zacharilla, ICF Co-founder. “The ingenuity of these communities is exemplified in their investments in the future of the young, the growth and progress of job-creating businesses, and economic security. An overarching theme of the 2009 honorees has been the dedication to putting people first and building a ‘talent inventory’ that will thrive with technology and innovation.”

More information on each community is available at ICF’s Web site ( The Smart21 were selected from hundreds of candidates and submissions from communities large and small with submissions received from every continent.

About ICF

The Intelligent Community Forum ( is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrial or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and progress increasingly depend on broadband communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive economies on the other. The Intelligent Community Forum seeks to share the secrets of success of the world’s Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy by conducting research, hosting events, publishing newsletters and producing an international awards program.

Broadband come up in State Representative Election in Eagan

Diane Anderson, of Eagan is running against incumbent State Representative Sandy Masin, DFL-Eagan. A recent article in the Pioneer Press outlines their stand on the issues and mentions Masin’s interest in broadband:

To help businesses, Masin has worked to establish the state’s Broadband Task Force, which is exploring how to deliver statewide high-speed Internet service by 2015.

What’s up with the white spaces? We need to know by Nov 4

Have you ever watched a preschool kid carry a goldfish in a bowl? It’s not quite like watching a slow train wreck – but you know it’s not going to be good. Maybe it won’t be good for the goldfish, maybe it won’t be good for the kid, or maybe you’ll end up picking up the pieces and you wonder why you let it go on so long.

I’m starting to feel that way about the white spaces issue at the FCC. (I want to thank Christopher Mitchell for calling me today to remind me about it.) There is a sense of urgency as the FCC is going to endorse use of white space on November 4, 2008. (Since nothing else is going on that day!)

There’s been a lot of flip flopping about the use of the white spaces. The Digital Expansion Initiative posted a good video that explains how white spaces can be used. It definitely leans in one direction – but it’s so simple that I think my preschooler (who I don’t trust with fish) might understand the explanation.

The big hubbub is whether white spaces should be opened up to a wider broadcasting audience (such as wifi devices). The folks who promote wider use say yes. The traditional broadcasters say no. The FCC is about to say yes. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have been saying no – loudly and clearly, especially to members of Congress – including Senator Amy Klobuchar.

So there’s been a counter push to contact the Senators to let them know what you think. So if you are so inclined – now is a good time to contact your Senator.

To go back to my original analogy – white space has been an issue that I have been trying to ignore, not actively ignore but ignore as I might ignore a preschooler who is heading for a minor collision yet is entertained for the time being. The problem is that something is going to happen soon.

Google Policy Fellowships for Summer 2009

If you are a student or know a student who would be interesting in technology policy, well then I have the opportunity for you…

Google just announced their second summer for the Google Policy Fellowship Program—to support students and organizations working on policy issues fundamental to the future of the Internet and its users. It’s a paid position ($7,000 for 10 weeks). Here’s the program overview from their web site:

Fellows will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on broadband and access policy, content regulation, copyright and trademark reform, consumer privacy, open government, and more. Participating organizations are based in either Washington, DC, San Francisco, CA , Ottawa or Toronto, Canada and include: American Library Association, Cato Institute, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Center for Democracy and Technology, Citizen Lab, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Future of Music Coalition, Internet Education Foundation, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Public Knowledge, and Technology Policy Institute. More information about the host organizations and the areas of focus for the fellows are outlined here.

Fellows will be assigned a lead mentor at their host organizations, but will have the opportunity to work with several senior staff members over the course of the summer. Fellows will be expected to make substantive contributions to the work of their organization, including conducting policy research and analysis; drafting reports and analyses; attending government and industry meetings and conferences; and participating in other advocacy activities.

I hope that they get some applications from rural areas because I think the perspective is a little different in rural areas and having fellows with a rural background might inform policy. Also I think training some policy experts and bringing them back home to rural areas would be a big boon for the areas.

The deadline to apply is December 12, 2008. Good luck! I’d nearly consider another graduate degree if being a student would get me in the door there.

The Sputnik Moment

I read a lot of broadband reports – a lot. I generally find them kind of interesting. But occasionally you run into a report – or even just a report description that captures your imagination.

Sputnik Moment: The Call for a National Broadband Policy is such a report. It costs about $3,000 so I won’t be reading anytime soon but I read the description last Friday and then over the weekend I bored several family members with the idea.

The gist is simple – when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957 is lit a fire under the US. I wasn’t around then but I suspect it kind of scared folks into budgeting money for NASA and getting things going. Well, the report authors suggest that we might be there again.

I hope they’re right. Well, I think they’re right and I hope that folks can be spurred into action.

Obviously I’d like to see a big boost in broadband. I think it would help keep us green and bolster economic development in all areas. But also I’d like to see the US do something really well. It just seems like it would spur more success.

Oct 24, Broadband Task Force Notes

I attended the Minnesota Broadband Task Force on Friday October 24. It included a few presentations, as you’ll see below. Most of the presenters were kind enough to allow me to post their PowerPoint slides here. I can’t thank them enough as that allowed me to focus on their presentations rather than to take feverish notes. I did try to track questions.

Here are my notes. I have tried to put some organization around it – but at times it reads a little like a later James Joyce novel. Sorry! Continue reading