Mobile computer lab in Lac qui Parle

Last week, I was fortunate to participate in the ribbon cutting for the Lac qui Parle Computer Commuter mobile computer lab. There was a great crowd to tour the bus and try the new laptops before listening to the presentations, highlighted by Congressman Collin Peterson, chair of the House Agriculture Committee.

Pam Lehmann, EDA Coordinator, thanked all of the project partners, including Blandin Foundation which provided financial support in addition to that provided by the TDF Foundation of Washington DC. The project leaders will establish a schedule for the mobile lab with regular stops in at least six communities around the county. Mary Quick, the Computer Community coordinator will provide computer classes and one to one assistance to anyone who wants help in learning how to use the computers.

MN ARRA broadband awards so far

There are two more rounds of ARRA broadband to be announced – one is scheduled for next week, the next the end of September. In the meantime I’ve gathered a list of the Minnesota-based and Minnesota-touched awards announced so far. I’ve included brief descriptions of each project. I thought I’d share it as a cheat sheet we could all use.

I’ll paste the table of info below – but I know tables and blogs don’t’ always mix – so there’s a prettier version in Word too.

Grantee Amount Description
Infrastructure Projects:
Arvig Telephone Company $5,048,168 Bring high speed DSL service to unserved establishments within its rural service territory in Crow Wing County, MN.
Carver County $6,000,000 Affordable middle-mile broadband service in south central Minnesota to connect schools, libraries, and community colleges.
City of Windom $12,800,000 SWMBG will build FTTP (Fiber to the Premise) infrastructure to eight rural communities in Southwestern Minnesota.
Enventis Telecom $16,800,000 Affordable middle-mile broadband service in Minnesota by connecting 70 community institutions to broadband, including connecting the Mayo Clinic to 12 rural health care facilities in southern Minnesota.
Farmers Mutual Telephone Company $9,652,956 Bring FTTP technology to Lac qui Parle County.
Federated Telephone Cooperative $1,300,000 Build a FTTP system to deploy voice, video, and data services to rural Appleton, Minnesota.
Federated Telephone Cooperative. $2,987,000 Bring a FTTP voice, video, and data network to the Rural Morris, Minnesota exchange.
Halstad Telephone Company $6,555,000 Install FTTP to 1,069 underserved locations in 5 towns and surrounding rural/farm areas in Norman and Polk Counties in Minnesota
Minnesota Valley Television Improvement Corporation $1,125,552 Continue building out its broadband internet network to unserved and underserved areas of west central and south central Minnesota.
Northeast Service Cooperative $43,498,220 The Northeast Service Cooperative, in partnership with state and local agencies, schools and health care organizations, will implement a middle mile project to make dark fiber, wavelength services available to private sector providers in rural areas of northeast Minnesota.
Sjoberg’s, Inc. $866,000 FTTP in Roseau, Thief River Falls, and the hamlet of Fox, serving approximately 656 people stand to benefit, as do roughly 15 businesses and 3 community institutions
Wikstrom Telephone Company, Incorporated $7,398,600 Deploy FTTP in 6 communities in Kittson, Marshall and Roseau Counties.
Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association $3,100,000

*Winnebago received $19.6 million but only 16% will go MN

Expand the existing portions of its fiber network by providing FTTP to rural portions of about 21 communities in Iowa and Minnesota.
Woodstock Telephone Co Inc $15,184,424 Expand its fiber network into neighboring rural communities by providing FTTP in 15 communities located within 3 counties in Southwest Minnesota.
Zayo Bandwidth, LLC $13,382,593 The Connect Anoka County Community Broadband Network will make high-speed broadband services available to governments, businesses, community anchor institutions, and local Internet service providers in Anoka County and parts of Isanti and Ramsey Counties
15 Projects $145,698,513
Public Computer Center Projects:
Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee $1,722,371 Create seven new public computer centers and upgrade 10 existing facilities on three Ojibwe and Chippewa Indian reservations in Minnesota. They will provide training and support to youth, parents and small businesses.
Regents of the University of Minnesota $2,862,333 Establish one new public computer center and improve 10 existing computer centers in Minneapolis and St Paul. They will offer computer and workforce training to vulnerable populations, including African-Americans and Hmong and Somali immigrants.
Broadband Adoption Programs:
C.K. Blandin Foundation $4,858,219 Blandin Foundation and partners will bring a network of resources and support to rural Minnesota individuals and communities – especially those unemployed and seeking employment, small businesses, coalitions of government entities, and local leaders.
3 Projects $9,442,923 .
Multi-State Projects with a presence in Minnesota
Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. $14,988,657 Discounted broadband services and specialized computers, online technology training, public access to videophones at anchor institutions for the deaf and hearing impaired community. The project is primary based in South Dakota.
Connected Nation, Inc. $1,700,000 Expand existing broadband maps to reach more providers, give information at a more detailed level, and investigate broadband adoption in Minnesota
Merit Network $69,639,291 Develop 1172 miles of middle mile fiber to serve anchors, public safety, homes and businesses in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula. Paths out of the region will reach the Duluth area
Mission Economic Development Agency $3,724,128 The Latino Microenterprise Tech Net will create a public computer center in Minneapolis, where they will offer computer training and adult basic education in English and Spanish.
One Economy Corporation $28,519,482 Publishes a portal of Twin Cities and national resources focusing on jobs, school, housing, money and health. Their Digital Connectors program will bring a mentor/community service project to the Twin Cities where youth will learn about broadband and pass on their knowledge to the community
University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development* $62,540,162 Create an ultra-fast national network to colleges, universities, libraries, health care facilities and public safety entities, including some based in Minnesota
6 Projects $181,111,720
23 Projects $336,253,156

Social Media, not just for kids anymore

According to Pew Internet & American Life

Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled—from 22% to 42% over the past year.

Consistently reports are showing that age is a factor in broadband adoption – so it’s exciting to see any increase in use in that demographic. Although just as the definition of broadband is important – so is the definition of age. Lots of readers might not think of 50 as a cut off for old, older or elderly. Still it’s nice to see the increase. Here’s Pew’s take on it…

However, even though older adults may be among the most resistant to broadband, there is evidence that once these users get a taste of high-speed access, they often come to rely on the internet as an everyday utility in their lives. While the rates of broadband adoption among the oldest users are low, the frequency of use among those who do have high-speed access is relatively close to the usage levels of younger users.

And here are some of the other quick numbers from the report that were interesting…

  • Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older now use social networking sites.
  • One in ten (11%) online adults ages 50-64 and one in twenty (5%) online adults ages 65 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.
  • Email and online news are still more appealing to older users, but social media sites attract many repeat visitors.

Or in the spirit of promoting social media, here’s the latest version of Social Media Revolution 2. Thanks to John Shepard for the heads up on the latest iteration. I posted the original clip last winter; it was fun to see the updates and advanced adoption since then.

Lake County update on network plans

There’s good news and bad news is Lake County. The bad news is that they still haven’t received ARRA broadband funding. The good news is that they’re still in the hopper.

According to the Lake County News-Chronicle, they remain optimistic…

“I don’t look at it as a rejection,” said Paul Bergman, Lake County commissioner. “There’s still money left. Somebody has to be the last project funded.”

The quick description of their project is…

The county broadband project is expected to cost $70 million and would bring service to every home in Lake and parts of St. Louis County currently served with electric service. The “last-mile” project, meaning service to homes from a central system, is what much of the federal money is tied to.

If the ARRA funding doesn’t work out, municipal financing through revenue bonds may be an option. As the article points out, there will be some improvements in the areas through another ARRA-funded project…

The Northeast Service Cooperative is in the engineering phase of the project to bring broadband to agencies such as medical facilities, counties and schools throughout northeastern Minnesota.

But we keep our fingers crossed for Lake County and the other Minnesota projects waiting to hear the good word.

More info on ARRA awardee Woodstock Telephone

I have a few local Minnesota broadband stories to share this afternoon. I thought about grouping them – but I know it’s easier for folks to find them later if I keep it to one topic per post. I hope folks won’t mind the overload on a Friday afternoon.

First – thanks to Ann Higgins for the heads up on a recent article about Woodstock Telephone. I didn’t know much about them except that they were awarded $15 million in ARRA funding earlier this month and I welcomed the opportunity to learn more.

The article is really more of a case study written by Tellabs, which provides the Multiservice Access Platform (MSAP) that allows Woodstock to take fiber all the way to customers’ desktops. If you are interested in technical details – this case study is for you. But even if you aren’t interested in the nitty gritty the study paints of picture of what it’s like to be or have a small independent broadband provider…

Woodstock Telephone Co., where Knuth is owner and president, decided that FTTH was essential for staying ahead of both his customers’ bandwidth needs and the competition. With 1,300 access lines serving an operating territory of 450 square miles in southwestern Minnesota, the independent operating company provides Internet and voice services to subscribers in 5 neighboring communities and the surrounding rural areas.

Knuth said many of his customers are farmers who use the Internet for applications such as checking commodity prices, buying equipment, plowing their fields along GPSdefined grids and using software to measure crop yields in real time.

So it sounds as if the upgrade has been done like patchwork over the last few years. They upgrade when replacements are required. They upgrade equipment on a more planned basis – but as they could, including a few miles of fiber with each upgrade.

They ARRA grant will help them be more organized, systematic and obviously quicker with their upgrade. Their plan (taken from the ARRA award announcement) is…

Woodstock Telephone Company will use this more than $15.1 million award to expand its fiber network into neighboring rural communities by providing Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) for over 3600 premises in 15 communities located within 3 counties in Southwest Minnesota. This expanded fiber network will provide bandwidth of over 20megabytes per second for advanced voice and data services. More than 8,000 people stand to benefit, as do approximately 180 businesses and nearly 50 community institutions. In addition to the jobs this project will create upfront, it will help drive economic development and create jobs for decades to come.

Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force Meeting August 26 – full notes

It felt like the first day or school today for the Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force at their first meeting since being appointed a week ago. There were a couple of sophomores who were there to help lead the pack – but otherwise it was freshman orientation. Introductions went well, there was some discussion of rules (open meeting et al), the outgoing class president had some suggestions, they worked our some logistics (next meeting is September 23) and then they talked about what they needed to do to get a passing grade (meet the Legislative objections for an annual report) and what they could do for an A.

I tried to take full notes and have posted them pretty mush asis below.

Commissioner Glenn Wilson started –
We are hoping that you will help meet the goals of the legislature, which is fairly general, please also will focus on ways to help meet those goals. How can we have an impact on how we can improve? And remember the goals are minimums.

Help us draw consensus – help think more broadly so that we have good coverage. Continue reading

Senator Klobuchar Broadband Summit – full notes

Senator Klobuchar’s Broadband Summit was a far cry from the Public FCC Hearing last week. There were a lot more suits today, although about 250 people as opposed to 700 last week. There were a number of the same people – but certainly not a complete overlap by any means. I recognized more faces today, which means these were people who have been involved with and/or have been following broadband for a while.

The focus today was more on how the government can and is supporting broadband expansion through adoption and deployment programs. We heard from some folks who have received ARRA funding and some folks who are hoping to get the call in the next couple of weeks.

Some definite themes emerged, such as the importance of broadband in terms all aspects of life, the need for public-private partnership the advantage of focusing on win-win strategies such as supporting broadband adoption and the importance of setting broadband goals to make broadband a priority.

Chairman Genachowski ended by reminding attendees that while broadband seems like a burning issue at a broadband summit that it’s not necessarily a top priority for most people or most politicians. We need to continue to talk about it to raise awareness.

Ironically my post is slow to come today because it has taken almost 10 hours for my 40 minutes or so of video to upload to YouTube. So I’m feeling the pain of inadequate broadband. But it does allow me to link to folks who have already written about today’s event:

Read on for more notes on the event or check out video clips online.

Continue reading