Wireless from someone who knows

Thanks to Steve Borsch for sending me a podcast – Brett Glass on Lessons from Laramie: Broadband Innovation on the Wireless Frontier. You can also see a video on the talk and/or his PPT presentation online.

The conversation reminded me of so many people I knew back in the day who started ISPs. Brett Glass has a wireless and talks about how wireless works and how policy works and doesn’t work with wireless. He is clearly very smart both in terms of the practical aspects of the technology and the policy. If you have the time and want to learn more about wireless, this is worth a listen.

Policies to help MN schools connect

Thanks to Ann Higgins for passing on news from the Daily Session. Apparently, Rep. Denise Dittrich out of Champlin requested funds from House K-12 Education Finance Division to fiber optic infrastructure to all schools in the state “to give students a global education.”

Rep Dittrich said about half the schools in the state do not have a high-speed Internet connection. According to the Session Daily, policy may be standing in the way of her request…

However, a 1994 legal opinion may stand in the way of the project moving forward. At that time it was determined that this type of project does not fall under the criteria for state bonding. Dittrich said her request is a bold step in a new direction and called the legal opinion outdated.

This may be an opportunity to test the waters for changing policy to promote broadband deployment – as suggested in the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force Recommendations. I don’t think they addressed this policy specifically in the recommendations – but the report does call for greater collaboration and I think/hope ithe recommendations will get policy makers to rethink old policies. I don’t know much about Rep Dittrich’s plan – but it sounds as if it would promote better collaboration among schools. I would be interested in knowing more about the doors those connections to the schools could open in the various communities served by the schools.

Need for redundancy seen in Northern MN

I got the following email from Chris Swanson, CEO of PureDriven. With his permission I am posting here. I wanted to help him spread the word and get feedback – but I also thought it might serve as a lesson or reminder to us all about the importance of redundancy…

Telecommunications Crisis

On January 26, 2010 we faced a crisis that opened the eyes of businesses, government agencies, citizens, and visitors to our area. Around 11:00AM on Tuesday morning a broken steam pipe in East Duluth caused a fiber optic cable to melt. This resulted in loss of service for phone lines, wireless communications, and internet service to approximately 25,000 people. The outage spanned a distance of 150 miles from East Duluth north to the Canadian Border and occurred in St. Louis, Lake and Cook Counties.

Not only were phone calls unable to be placed for any long distance calling, but 911 service was down for a time, internet communications were down through the telecommunication companies, security monitoring systems were down and many other important and critical services down as well.

Negative Impact

I have spoken with many of you about how this negatively impacted your business, employee productivity, and created a situation in which people did not have access to 911 service for some time. I have also heard from government officials that not only did this create a major inconvenience for getting very specific required task completed, but pointed out something that was not realized before; our telecommunications system proved to be extremely vulnerable. It should be pointed out that because Lake and Cook Counties are border counties with Canada this outage had national defense implications.

Emergency Response

We are thankful that our trained emergency personnel were able to act quickly and assisted by taking turns at the fire stations and throughout the communities until service was restored almost 12 hours later.

Lake County Fiber Network

I have had many ask if the proposed Lake County Fiber Project would have experienced this type of outage and the simple answer is that the Lake County Fiber Network has been designed so that in the event a fiber gets cut, the traffic automatically reroutes itself. This outage is a clear example of why the Lake County Board of commissioners has been working on trying to strengthen the wireless and fiber communications in Lake County over the past year.

Next Steps

Because this had such a negative impact on our communities, I contacted Paul Bergman who is the vice-chair of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, and asked him what we could do to make sure this does not happen again. Paul has informed me he will be meeting with Congressman Oberstar within the next week to address this significant concern about the lack of redundancy built into our communications for our area, and what Congressman Oberstar can do to help solve this issue.

How you can help!

Commissioner Bergman has requested that you send him an email that explains how this financially or negatively impacted your business, and also to share and specific stories about the situation to make sure that Congressman Oberstar understands the grave situation that our area faced without the telecommunications.

Paul would like all community members to share their story so please feel free to forward this email to your business acquaintances, friends and neighbors. I know we are all very busy, but we cannot afford to let this happen again if we can avoid it so please send in your response to Paul as soon as possible.

Please email your responses to Paul Bergman at pbergman@frontiernet.net

Thank you all for your time,

Chris Swanson
Driving Web Traffic to Boost Business

Christopher M. Swanson
Chief Executive Officer
Office: 218.834.3170 x122
Mobile: 218.590.9500

Gearing up for Round 2 in Red Wing?

The Red Wing Republican Eagle just reported that Hiawatha Broadband Communications learned Monday it didn’t receive stimulus dollars it hoped would help pay for a high-speed fiber optic network in Minnesota spanning from Lake City to Red Wing to Cannon Falls and the surrounding townships.

The good news is that they received notice in time to try again for Round Two funding. The bad news is that they weren’t given any feedback on their proposal. It must be frustrating – and unfortunately more people will be getting the same news in the next week.

Connection made between broadband and economic growth

Thanks to Bernadine Joselyn for sending me a recent report out of the Public Policy for California (Does Broadband Boost Local Economic Development?). Here’s a quick excerpt:

Our analysis indicates a positive relationship between broadband expansion and economic growth. The relationship is stronger in industries that rely more on information technology and in areas with lower population densities. Although the evidence leans in the direction of a causal relationship, the data and methods do not definitively indicate that broadband caused this economic growth.

They looked at the impact of broadband on residents too. Apparently broadband is associated with population growth, but that employment rate and average wage were unchanged. I was surprised to hear that access to broadband does not change the prevalence of telecommuting or other home-based work. I wonder if that would be different now, with the economy where it is now. I think lost jobs and broadband could be a recipe for increased home-based businesses, but of course I’m speculating.

The research is out of California. They use data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data on broadband beginning in 1999, and our source for detailed employment data ends in 2006. The research does a good job of outlining the California policies and making the connection between them and the opportunities for growth. California has some policies that would be worth duplicating on a national level!

Any broadband advice for the legislators?

The Minnesota Legislature will be back to session in a matter of weeks. According to Politics in Minnesota, broadband will be a hot topic this year.

Much of the conversation will revolve around the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force Recommendations. The Task Force heard from many people in preparing the report – from broadband experts to users in the field. We wanted to open up the public discussion again. So we are asking folks, “What would you like your legislators to know about the importance of broadband access for you and your community?”

We are planning to post responses on the Blandin on Broadband blog http://blandinonbroadband.org on February 5. If you want to share your two cents please send it to broadband@blandinfoundation.org, with a subject line: BB Leg comments. We ask that you keep it to 100 words or so – however if you want to say more, feel free to post your response online and send us a link. Same applies to videos or podcasts, simply send us a brief synopsis and link.

While our intention is to include all responses, we reserve the right to filter responses, especially if they include inappropriate language or veer from the topic of broadband.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Minnesotan wins top Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award

It’s nice to see a Minnesotan get some recognition; it’s even nicer to see someone who is tech-savvy running a rural school district in Minnesota. Kim Ross, Superintendent for ISD 294 Houston Public Schools, has been selected as one of the Top Ten Tech Savvy Superintendents in the Nation by eSchool News.

Here’s what they said about Kim:

Kim Ross
ISD 294 Houston Public Schools
Kim Ross is a pioneer for virtual learning in his state. Using a non-traditional approach to solving a traditional problem (declining student enrollment), he has taken a small, rural district of about 450 K-12 students tucked away in the southeastern corner of Minnesota and transformed it into a vibrant, financially sound school system now serving nearly 2,500 pupils from around the state, thanks to his creation of the Minnesota Virtual Academy.

The academy itself enrolls more than 2,000 students, with one program serving students in grades K-8 and another serving those in grades 9-12. Students attending traditional schools in Houston also can take online courses through the academy, supplementing the instruction they receive in the classroom with Advanced Placement offerings and other online courses. This ability is a key factor in the success of Houston High, which was featured in U.S. News and World Report as one of “America’s Best High Schools.”

Ross is also a founding team member of the Minnesota Center of Online Learning, and in 2008 he received an appointment to the Minnesota Broadband Task Force. He was elected chair of the South East Minnesota Network in 2007 and is a legislative committee member of the Minnesota Online Learning Alliance.