Blandin Broadband eNews February 2012

News  from the Blandin on Broadband Blog (A recap of January 2012)

MN Broadband Task Roadmap Unfolds
In December the Minnesota Broadband Task Force released their first report, a state of the state of broadband in Minnesota. In January they released an outline or roadmap that will be filled in throughout the year, much like the National Broadband Plan was fleshed out. The plan builds on recommendations from the original Minnesota Broadband Task Force in 2009.

The next Task Force meeting is scheduled for February 14, 2012.

Updates on ARRA in Minnesota
The MN Broadband Task Force report published in December included a comprehensive list of ARRA-funded projects in Minnesota and updates on their progress. Deployment projects are receiving attention as customers in some areas SW Minnesota get connected, while others continue to wait.

For communities that did not receive funding, the MN Task Force report indicates that working with (or maybe even forming?) a Cooperative could help expedite better broadband in your community.

Policy Discussions
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) garnered national attention with an online boycott spearheaded by some big Internet players. While at a more local level providers presented to the Minnesota PUC (Public Utilities Commission) their concerns regarding changes to funding for rural broadband deployment and maintenance as USF (Universal Service Funds) and ICC (Intercarrier Compensation) transition to CAF (Connect for American Fund). Telecom policy went mainstream when Thomas Friedman offered a controversial policy recommendation to focus broadband attention improving broadband in university towns, rather than rural areas.

LightSquared vs GPS
LightSquared has been touted as an affordable option to bring affordable wireless broadband to rural America. Unfortunately there have been concerns about how LightSquared’s technology will work with existing GPS systems. The issue came to a head in January.

Digital Inclusion Events around Minnesota
The following MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) project partners are offering unique opportunities to close the digital divide in communities around Minnesota. PCs for People refurbishes computers to give to families who would not otherwise be able to afford a computer. They are planning to visit 10 cities in Minnesota with their mobile refurbishing unit to bring computers to a wider audience. Contact them for more details The University of Minnesota Extension is looking for opportunities to offer training to local business on how to take advantage of broadband technologies. If you have interested in hosting an event, please contact them.

Local Broadband News

Benton County
Independent Lifestyles of Sauk Rapids is helping enable the disabled and others with the use of technology and the Internet.

Golden Valley
General Mills is toying with digital cereal prizes and QR Codes to be unveiled later this year.

About 300 Lakefield residents now enjoy FTTH.

Research developed at the University of Minnesota is being used in a new mobile app intended to help teens become better drivers.

Rochester Police will use advanced analytics software from IBM to identify local “hot spots,” and allocate resources in advance.

St Paul
The Minnesota Wild App enhances the fan experience during games at Xcel Energy Center.

Sibley & Renville Counties
RS Fiber holds a public meeting with the Joint Powers Board in Sibley & Renville Counties to discuss the future of their FTTH plans.

Stillwater uses flipped math curriculum; students learn material via videos at home and use class time for practicing lessons

A new outlet store in Winnebago combines traditional second-hand and warehouse liquidation offerings with an array of Internet-based services for customers.

Thanks to a grant from MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities), WGTN-TV 3 programming, formerly only accessible for cable subscribers in Worthington, can now be accessed through the Internet.


February 24 – MACTA (Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators) Day at the Capitol – (Sorry that event is not happening this year.)

February 28 – MTA (Minnesota Telecom Alliance) Day on the Hill

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Looking for local MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) events? Check the MIRC Google calendar: or University of Minnesota Extension MIRC calendar

Stirring the Pot

It seems that the communities with little or no broadband are increasingly feeling the pain of this shortcoming. It is no longer theoretical that they will be left behind sometime in the future. Community leaders recognize that they have been left behind and that the tail lights of their well-connected community neighbors are disappearing into the future.

The definition of community is also expanding to include rural residents. Township and county officials are recognizing that operators of farms and home businesses, school children, doctors and older adults need and want broadband. Leaders of town-centered enterprises like banks, hospitals and schools recognize that their on-line presence is underutilized because 40-60 percent of their customers cannot access broadband.

These last-to-be-served areas are not the easiest places to provide robust broadband services. Low density population patterns and significant number of the people least likely to subscribe – older, lower income – are not enticing investment drivers. Yet they need to get connected.

Communities struggle to find solutions from the bottom up. We are seeing some incumbent providers sitting at the table to try and solve these puzzles. It would be helpful to learn from incumbent providers to what investment incentives will be necessary to make rural broadband investment possible. I encourage them to sharpen their pencils and to let us in on a formula that works for them and benefits rural communities.

Bill Coleman helps communities make the  connection between telecommunications and economic development.  As  principal in Community Technology Advisors for ten years, he assists community, foundation and corporate clients develop  and implement programs of broadband infrastructure investment and technology  promotion and training. Bill is working with the Blandin Foundation on the  MIRC Initiative,  Community Broadband Resource Program and other broadband projects.

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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