Minnesota News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog
Minnesota Voices Online Unconference
Last weekend Blandin Foundation sponsored a successful unconference focusing on Minnesota Voices Online: Connecting rural Minnesotans with new media so every place can share its voice in the Internet age. Materials and video are available on the MVO web site (http://mnvoicesonline.org/). The conversations and connections continue online on the MVO email list. http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mnvoices
Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force
The Broadband Task Force meeting in March featured representatives from the healthcare industry. The mood with the Task Force members was more collegial than past meetings and there seemed to be a drive to start actively creating the recommendations for the legislature. (http://tinyurl.com/cr68ju) They started by compiling members’ broadband value statements (http://tinyurl.com/d9phop); many statements seemed to mirror Blandin Foundation’s principles from the vision created a couple years ago. (http://tinyurl.com/d2j4y2) For April’s meeting each member is assigned to write five paragraphs to potentially fit into the final recommendations.
Minnesota Broadband Coalition
Some members of the MN Broadband Coalition met to talk about how to work together to get stimulus funding in Minnesota and how to support the work of the Ultra High-Speed Task Force (http://tinyurl.com/crog2w). The conversation continues online. http://tinyurl.com/5mdwh7
The Blandin Foundation has compiled a list of “Online Tools to Save Money” http://tinyurl.com/c9ded5
Local Broadband News
Chaska posts security camera video on their blog and invites citizens to help catch criminals. http://tinyurl.com/df7yxd
Frontier helps a family in rural Chisago County by bringing broadband to their home. Good news but is case by case expansion scalable? http://tinyurl.com/dje9ag
Cook County is preparing to be a potential recipient of broadband stimulus funding. They have created a web site to promote broadband to the community and update residents on their fiber feasibility study. http://tinyurl.com/d3pm7b
Eveleth makes their plans for the future but some eagle-eyed citizens realize that broadband is in the backseat. http://tinyurl.com/d4nwsd
Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), Goodhue County and the Southeast Minnesota Network are pursuing funding have expressed an interest in pursuing funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. http://tinyurl.com/dybtj8
A grandma in Hoffman uses her broadband connection maintain a blog and make Skype calls that help her stay in contact with a grandson in the army. http://tinyurl.com/d46dsh
Jackson turns down Windom’s offer to expand fiber to their area. Cost seems to be the major factor. http://tinyurl.com/crbwfg
Moose Lake plans to apply for broadband stimulus funding to sustain and expand their wireless service through the Water & Light Commission. http://tinyurl.com/d997te
Red River Valley
Residents of the Red River Valley and potential volunteers around the state turn to the Internet to connect need with support. http://tinyurl.com/cafx39
Located in Sebeka, CrossUSA started a business in 1997 that employs IT experts to work remotely with larger business across the US. CrossUSA is changing lives because they have the broadband they need to support their business. http://tinyurl.com/dnkete
The local library is a place to get online in Winona, especially as people are cutting costs. http://tinyurl.com/cdqz93
I am just completing a regional telecommunications inventory and assessment study for the Upper MN Valley Regional Development Commission. (http://umvrdc.org) This work is being completed through a technical assistance grant from Blandin Foundation through the Community Broadband Resources Program. http://tinyurl.com/cseu7e
The region is unique in several ways. First, it has significant FTTP networks deployed by Federated Telephone and Farmers Mutual Telephone that enable big bandwidth to be delivered to any customer – in town or to the barn – in their exchanges. Second, the region has large areas covered with fixed wireless; this service provides users with an option for broadband, but it is one that is generally limited to lower speeds. This technology generally works well on the western MN prairie. Third, the area has many communities, including their county seats, where DSL service and cable modems services are generally limited to the city limits or not far afield. Fourth, the region suffers from middle mile scarcity; that is, there are very high costs for providers to connect to the Internet hub in the Twin Cities as connections have to be routed through multiple providers.
Our report did not deal much with public sector networks, but the topic was brought up by a committee member. We heard about the growing use of state online applications and databases driving the need for bandwidth. We learned about the significant costs facing county governments and school districts as they seek to increase their bandwidth through their existing providers. In one case, an additional T1 was an unaffordable $900 per month through the regional government network contracted to a regional telecom provider. The local cable provider has offered a 10Mb connection for around $100 per month. This confusing situation calls for some more investigation!
The regional committee is setting priorities for future action. Those won’t be announced until the report is final, but the group will be working on several fronts to increase the technological vitality of the region.