Entenza mentions broadband on campaign trail

Matt Entenza announced his campaign for Governor last week. Since then he’s been on the road ever since. In Bemidji he mentioned broadband as an important tool in the schools but also elaborated on its importance to small businesses. I’m just going to quote what he said as posted in the Bemdji Pioneer:

Entenza said that 30 percent of Minnesota is still unserved by high-speed Internet, which is becoming an increasingly important tool for small-town businesses. “That means areas that can’t grow economically.”

Expanding broadband technology throughout Minnesota hasn’t been a high priority for the Pawlenty administration, the Democrat said.

“The Internet is the new Main Street,” Entenza said. “Unless you have Internet, your businesses aren’t going to survive. People want to live in rural areas but also want to get their goods and services to the market. Then you need the Internet.”

A small grant and loan program to bring Internet technology to small businesses isn’t an easy investment from the state, he said. “Corporations seeking a $25 million loan have an easier time than a small business seeking a $25,000 loan.”

I love that rural broadband is getting mention early – I hope it gets mentioned often too!

Online gambling verboten in Minnesota

gamblingYesterday the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) announced that it has served written notice to 11 national and regional telephone and Internet service providers  instructing them to prohibit access of all Minnesota-based computers to nearly 200 online gambling websites.

The provider list includes to AT&T Internet Services, San Antonio; Charter Communications, St. Louis; Comcast Cable, Moorestown, N.J.; Direct TV, Los Angeles; Dish Network, Englewood., Colo.; Embarq and Sprint/Nextel, both of Overland Park, Kan.; Frontier Communications, Stamford, Conn.; Qwest, Denver; Verizon Wireless, Bedminster, N.J.; and Wildblue Communications, Greenwood Village, Colo.

So if you have any accounts with any of the 200 sites – you might want to cash out soon.

What’s kind of funny is that they’re using a federal law that enables restrictions on phone calls used for wagering. (They are also calling for the 200 companies’ phone numbers to be blocked.) So some folks think this might not work. John Morris, general counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington notes that the courts will probably not uphold this rule because it originally targeted phone companies with relationship to the bet takers. (Most of the online gambling sites are offshore and have no relationships with US ISPs.)

John Palfrey, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, says it won’t work because filtering sites doesn’t work. (I have to ask if filtering sites doesn’t work – well then what’s all the hubbub on Net Neutrality. This might be an excuse to get filtering to work.)

Folks in the gambling industry press are wondering why this is happening now. Apparently legislation is in the works to overturn the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) and make online gambling legal.

I haven’t seen much from the Net Neutrality folks on this yet – but the gambling folks seem determined to draw in potential partners – such as Save the Internet. That being said, Kentucky tried a different approach to stopping online gambling from their citizens by trying to get 141 domain names moved to the State’s control as seized gambling property in an effort to get those sites to block Kentucky users. I haven’t seen much on Net Neutrality there either but again it’s a different situation.

I’ve seen where Net Neutrality folks recognize the potential hardship for gambling (and other) industries if the Internet goes non-Neutral. Then providers can charge fees to bring traffic to those sites, but I think policy-wise the Minnesota case is a little different. Technology-wise I suspect that whatever the providers learn here will be helpful to them in a non-Neutral world.

If the comments posted on an article on the Star Tribune (New tactic in war on online gambling) are any indication, this should be a good show.

A Blogger without Broadband

Yesterday I drove about an hour north of the Twin Cities to meet up with Jennifer Peterson of Duskwind Farms. Jennifer, her husband Chuck and daughter Ilana (age 1.5) moved to Pine City last June with a goal towards a sustainable lifestyle. (I know Jennifer because she is a Horizons blogger and we met at the Minnesota Voices Online Unconference.)

They have 5 cows, 2 huge rabbits, 7 sheep, 2 donkeys, 5 dogs and a cat. They are about to get 50 hens. They live off the meat, eggs, and produce from the farm. They live in a house that they built themselves; it’s about 300 square foot with some of the best looking hardwood floor I have ever seen. They don’t have indoor plumbing, electricity or consistent cell phone coverage.

Jennifer maintains a blog about their farm to help inform others who might be interested in living a self-sustained life. She has a community of other modern homesteaders that she knows online. As she points out, they have chosen this lifestyle. The lack of plumbing and electricity do not seem to be hardships for them – but the lack of broadband is because it is shutting them out of the information and community that they need.

As it stands now they get online at the local library. It’s a lifeline – but it’s not enough. I’ll let her speak for herself on the video below.

Red Wing approves HBC plan

Hiawatha Broadband Communication (HBC) has been talking to various communtiies about their plan to pursue stilumus funding to expand fiber to those communities with help from federal funds. Last night they spoke with the Red Wing city council who approved a resolution (7-0) to support HBC when it applies to the federal agencies that will distribute stimulus dollars allocated for fiber-optic projects.

Red Wing is excited at the prospect of having fiber – especially as a tool to encourage businesses to move to the area.

Lake City also approved the plan. HBC also plans to talk to Cannon Falls.

BPL in Wisconsin

Last week at the Blandin Pre-Planning Stimulus Funding meeting someone mentioned BPL – broadband over power lines. The community was interested in BPL as a cost-effective way to get broadband to their area without needing to dig up a lot of ground.

Several people in the meeting immediately dismissed BPL as a legitimate solution. The quality would never be good enough. Now I’m not mentioning the next article to dispute them – but to learn more myself.

Apparently Washington Island, Wisconsin is one of the most recent BPL addition to the IBM plan with local partner, Washington Island Electric Co-op. They have 238 customers connected via BPL.

Raymond Blair, IBM’s director of advanced networks, said “broadband-over-power-line technology makes the most economic sense in the least populated places, where there might be a dozen or so customers per mile of line. The service is slower than what’s available through cable and phone, but it’s 10 times faster than dial-up service.”

So I’m wondering if there might be a future for BPL. Also I think this opens a larger discussion of which is more important – getting everyone an option for broadband or upgrading the broadband that folks can access.

FCC approves Rural Health Care Pilot Program

Here’s the news from April 16 – The Federal Communications Commission today announced the approval of funding under its Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP) for the build-out of five broadband telehealth networks that will link hundreds of hospitals regionally in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. There’s also a program in Alaska. Collectively, these projects are eligible to receive $46 million in reimbursement for the engineering and construction of their regional telehealth networks.

Here’s a description of the project that includes Minnesota:

Heartland Unified Broadband Network ($4.7 million) – This project is expanding and enhancing an existing network to increase the use and quality of teleradiology and increase distance education activities throughout Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Jobs and Broadband

There was a recent article in The Washington Post that took a look at whether broadband brought jobs. They looked at 2 communities: Lebanon and Rose Hill, Virginia. Both got broadband – and the article goes on to say that Lebanon flourished while in Rose Hill the change was not as pronounced.

First for folks who are not on the Baller Herbst list I’ll post Jim Baller’s comments:

This article overlooks the role of Bristol Virginia Utilities in bringing hundreds of high-paying jobs to the Lebanon, VA, the successful one of the two town mentioned in the article. For its involvement in this and many other job-creating projects, Bristol has been named one the seven finalists for recognition as the world’s Intelligent Community of the Year – the only American finalist this year.

I wanted to draw out two points that I saw in the article, First the recognition that broadband alone isn’t going to do it: “You can’t just drop an Internet line and expect jobs growth. Getting broadband access is only the first part,” said Larry Irving, former head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The second point builds on the first – people notice that broadband is not enough: “CGI said it was attracted by Lebanon’s willingness to train workers and by higher levels of education than in other parts of the region. About 71 percent of Lebanon’s residents have a high school diploma, compared with Rose Hill, where only 29 percent do, according to the census.

An undercurrent that I’ve heard mentioned by economic developers is that broadband may not be enough but it is necessary.