Blandin eNews February

Here’s the news from our latest newsletter. It’s mostly a compilation of Minnesota-related stories from the blog in the last month – but sometimes it’s nice to have it compiled.

News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

Minnesota Makes Akamai Rankings
Minnesota gets closer to the Minnesota Broadband Bill broadband speed goals by getting to the top 10 rankings of Akamai speed tests. St Paul was listed in the top cities and Minnesota made the top 10 states for the average measured connection speeds.

Upcoming Policy Issues

  • Senators Al Franken and Maria Cantwell introduced the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011 bill to address deficiencies they found in the Net Neutrality bill.
  • AT&T is pushing for changes in the Universal Service Funds and local access charges. They question the need for subsidies for rural telecommunications providers.
  • Minnesota League of Cities offers views on statewide cable franchising.
  • Broadband providers are in the news as mergers more forward. As part of the Comcast/NBC approval, Comcast will be required to provide stand-alone Internet access for $50/month for 6 Mpbs for three years. At a Qwest industry event, they predicted that the Qwest-Century Link merger will happen in the first half of 2011.

MIRC Updates, Video, Recognition
Finishing out 2010, the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative partners met to talk about how the project is going. Some local projects are already in the works; many more are primed to start early in 2011. Excitement is starting to spread beyond the MIRC partnership. Speaking at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at a session on telecommunications, Bernadine Joselyn presented a video of MIRC partners. The MIRC communities were recognized by Intelligent Community Forum’s Robert Bell in a recent column.

Local Broadband News

Anoka County
Anoka County’s ARRA-funded project is working on connecting 145 anchor locations, such as schools, cities, fire stations, hospitals and more in 35 agencies.

Granite Falls
MVTV Wireless talks about how they have grown with support from local and national funding.

Lake County
The Lake County ARRA-funded fiber network plans hit a few bumps along the way.

Redwood County
Redwood County will be working with Bill Coleman through the Blandin Foundation’s Community Broadband Resources program to look at broadband options in their area.

Sibley County
Sibley County moves forward with their plan to investigate a fiber optic network, but they run into obstacles highlighted by a local provider.

The Blandin Foundation is helping Staples look at FTTH by providing $25,000 for a $50,000 feasibility study.

Windom partners with the University of Minnesota to offer remote access to Interpreting coursework to new Americans in the area who are interested in using language skills for entrepreneurship.

(Many stories are gathered from local online newspaper. Unfortunately each newspaper has a different policy in regards to archive news and therefore we cannot guarantee access to all articles cited.)

Coleman’s Corner

With a new Governor and a new majority party controlling the legislature, changes in telecom and broadband policy may occur in St. Paul. But what policies and regulations are really critical to the future of telecommunications, including broadband, in Minnesota? The Minnesota Ultra High Speed Task Force touched on many topics, but was silent on one critical issue.

Access fees are the monies paid by long distance companies to local telephone companies to connect calls across networks. For some small rural telephone companies, access fees represent a significant source of revenue and have been used to build and maintain some of the most advanced networks in Minnesota.

The access fee structure is pretty complicated and I am no expert. There are different fee structures for landlines, cell phones and VOIP calls, ranging from more than ten cents per minute to zero, depending on whether the call stay within Minnesota or crosses state lines.

Last week, access fees came to the forefront with a forum at the Humphrey School and a big article in the Star Tribune. These fees total millions of dollars, much of which comes from national telecom companies and flows to smaller companies serving rural Minnesota. AT&T is pressing to get these access fees reduced. Seems like a topic to keep an eye on!

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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