Monticello’s update on Monticello: Moving forward

Yesterday we shared a press release from HBC on their decision to part ways with the City of Monticello. Today Monticello has a follow up…


Monticello, Minnesota – With the current management contract for FiberNet Monticello scheduled to expire at the end of the year, the City has held discussions with FiberNet Monticello manager HBC regarding operation of the system and renewal of the management contract. The City has also been exploring other operation and management options.

The City was recently informed by HBC that they do not wish to renew the management contract and prefer to end the agreement before the expiration date, as allowed under the current agreement.

The City of Monticello would like to express appreciation to HBC for the key role they played in successfully developing and delivering high quality and reliable video, voice and internet service to the community. The HBC legacy in Monticello includes the development of a well-trained FiberNet Monticello staff and the establishment of a strong and loyal customer base, which provides a great starting point for moving forward with new management.

It is anticipated that a draft agreement for interim management services by another qualified and capable telecommunications company will be presented to the City Council for consideration at the next Council meeting.

Update in Monticello – HBC is leaving

Here’s the latest news in Monticello from a media advisory from Hiawatha Broadband

HBC to end management of Monticello system

For Immediate Release (Wednesday, May 30, 2012)
Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) has provided the City of Monticello, Minnesota, notification of its intent to end its management of the FiberNet Monticello (FNM) telecommunications system. The decision was conveyed Friday, May 25, in a letter to Mayor Clint Herbst from Gary Evans, HBC President and CEO.

Many matters regarding FNM are in flux and in the midst of those changes HBC had concerns about being able to continue to manage the project in accordance with HBC principles. According to Evans, this seemed a prudent time to end the agree¬ment with FNM and free the city to negotiate with other prospective managers.

Evans said HBC is very proud to have participated in the launch of the system and to move it to a position where its subscrib¬er number forecasts have been met. Achieving that position, Evans indicates, is a significant accomplishment, considering the number of negative factors that affected the system in its early operations. Included were a crippling law suit and subse¬quent appeals brought by telephone provider TDS, the economic downturn that struck in 2008 slowing growth in the com¬munity, accumulation of interest debt due to law suit delays, inadequate recovery of legal damages, and a series of predatory pricing practices by cable and telephone incumbents.

HBC understands discussions about refinancing the system and discussions with other potential prospective managers are underway to help assure the continued growth of the network.

All the employees of FNM are City of Monticello employees except for the General Manager, Ben Ranft, who is employed by HBC. Ranft will be re-locating to the home office in Winona, Minnesota, when the details of the transition to new manage¬ment are complete.

Evans, in leaving the door open to future cooperation, emphasized that HBC believes that the City of Monticello is dedicated to making the network a success.

(For information, contact: Gary Evans: or 507-474-5800)

It will be interesting to see the impact of the change to the overall project, which was running into issues last week.

Recipe for Broadband Expansion in Benton County

The St Cloud Times ran an article over the weekend that highlighted efforts of the local Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) program. It reads like a recipe for successful change in the area.

They focus on training and introducing non-adopters to broadband through classes and easy public access to computers…

They [Independent Lifestyles] created classes as part of Project BRAVE: Broadband, Resources and Vocational Exploration. Hermanson and other teachers of the classes find that as people get more comfortable online, they begin to use digital resources more.

Most of the people coming into the open lab simply didn’t have access before.

She’s seen people who previously spent maybe a minute a month on a computer coming in and spending hours.

The Independent Lifestyles lab also has lots of adaptive equipment so people with disabilities can use the computers. Equipment includes everything from vision aids to equipment that helps with those who have low mobility.

They also have the local libraries working on efforts…

Digital literacy is one of the goals for programming for the Great River Regional Library system, said Beth Ringsmuth Stoltman, patron services specialist for the system. It’s up to branch managers to make decisions on programming, but they have in the past run classes on computer basics.

They focus on getting computers in homes…

Places in Benton County have benefited from a PCs for People program that travels around the state to provide computers. Fifteen went to Independent Lifestyles, eight to Heritage of Foley health care campus, two to the Good Shepherd Community and two to the city of Rice. PCs for People collected 30 computers from the area in the last year that will be refurbished and provided to others.

They focus on helping new adopters use technology to solve some of their most stressful issues…

One person Sorenson met said getting online changed his life. He told Sorenson that before, it took him three days to apply for a job using the limited time he had access to a library computer. After he got a computer, he was able to spend hours applying for jobs, landing one in two months.

Broadband access gap in Minnesota shrinking

Here’s the latest from Connect Minnesota

Analysis shows that broadband access gap in Minnesota shrinking; More households have access at State and FCC Speed Goal Tiers

Explore New Access Tables
View the Maps

St Paul, MN – New research unveiled today by Connect Minnesota shows that the broadband availability gap in Minnesota is shrinking, with 85.09% of Minnesota residents now having access to broadband speeds of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload, compared to 81.20% last October. In addition, 59.92% of Minnesota households can access broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/6 Mbps upload – the minimum speed threshold for Minnesota’s goal of ubiquitous broadband availability – a nearly 3% increase from October 2011.

“It is encouraging to see that the efforts of providers and all state stakeholders to increase broadband access are showing clear results,” said Connect Minnesota Program Manager Bill Hoffman. “These efforts, however, must continue in order to bring the empowering technology of broadband to the roughly 2 percent of Minnesota residents who remain unserved. And while the majority of the state can access basic broadband speeds, our 2011 survey results show 28% of the population still does not use broadband at home.”

Nonprofit Connect Minnesota has been working since 2009 to ensure that Minnesota residents have access to the economic, educational, and quality of life benefits derived from increased broadband access, adoption, and use. Part of that work includes mapping Minnesota’s broadband availability and providing analysis to the Broadband Taskforce, broadband providers, policymakers, and community planners.

Among the findings of the new broadband availability research are:

  • 85.09% of Minnesota households can access broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload, meaning that 311,000 households are in areas that may be eligible for Universal Service Fund broadband deployment subsidies.
  • 59.92% of Minnesota households can access broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/6 Mbps upload – the minimum speed threshold for Minnesota’s goal of ubiquitous broadband availability*.
  • 94.83% of rural households in Minnesota have access to broadband.
  • 67.66% of Minnesota households have access to broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload. In October 2011 only 45.30% of households in Minnesota had access to these broadband speeds.
  • Broadband at the basic 768 Kbps/200 Kbps tier is available to 97.77% of Minnesota households, up from 97.08% last October.
  • 88.1% ofMinnesota households have the ability to choose broadband service from two or more non-mobile broadband providers

Note: The data in this report are subject to data validation.

*Minnesota Statute 237.012 indicates upload goal of 5 Mbps. Data collection only conforms with speed tiers as represented in the SBI NOFA where 6 Mbps is the most comparable upload speed tier. This means that across the state, approximately 837,000 households are not connected to services that meet the state’s target.

Last month, Connect Minnesota released an innovative new broadband mapping tool called My ConnectView offering unmatched views of Minnesota’s technology landscape. Residents and businesses are encouraged to use the interactive map to find area providers and help validate the data.

Connect Minnesota’s research was conducted as part of the State Broadband Initiative (SBI) grant program, funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The data were gathered in accordance with the requirements of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and subsequent clarifications set forth by NTIA. The process begins by contacting all known providers in the state and providing information about the broadband mapping project. Information on broadband service areas is collected from each willing provider through voluntary participation. A nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is offered to all providers prior to the submission of data; the data protected through the NDA is limited to highly sensitive network infrastructure information, including middle-mile locations. Connected Nation strives to maintain a flexible mapping process in order to be able to collect data from providers in a variety of formats based on providers’ technical capabilities and resources.

Technology and the Design of Personalized Learning: Conference on June 20

Thanks to Ann Higgins for the heads up on this event. Sadly I will be out of town but it looks like a great opportunity to learn about how to make the most of technology in the classroom. I just happened to see the US Rankings of top high schools in the US News. Minnesota did not have one school in the top 100. Maybe learning how to best use technology in the classroom can help us change that! (See the Minnesota-specific stats.)

June 20th, from 1:00 – 4:30
University of Minnesota, Science Teaching & Student Services (STSS) Building
Room 412
Register now!

This event will look at re-engineering the classroom to harness the power of digital technologies. How can we customize learning to meet the needs of each student? Technology tools, teaching innovation, and new ways of organizing learning may provide the answer. Join us to hear from national experts on technology-enhanced customized learning.


  • Jennie Magiera, a 4th-5th grade math teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. Jennie began implementing a 1:1 iPad technology grant. She was also named a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction in 2008, Apple Distinguished Educator and this January she was named the Chicago Public School’s Tech Innovator of the Year.
  • Dominick D’Angelo, Principal of I.S. 228 in New York, has a strong focus on mathematics and technology. In 2010 the school began the School of One program for mathematics. The School of One seeks to customize learning to each child and is housed in its own dedicated section of the school, where instruction takes place in large, interconnected classrooms.

Don’t wait until the event to get the conversation going.  Join the virtual Education Innovation Gathering on InCommons to discuss and share information on the topic, access relevant videos, documents, links to related organizations and resources. Create a profile or log in through Facebook.

Duluth capitalizes on clients, community and climate

A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to learn a little bit more about Involta from Lisa Bodine. Lisa is the Regional Sales Director for Involta. I happened to meet her at the MHTA Annual Conference and we subsequently met up in St Paul so that I could hear a little bit more about their progress. Involta made a splash in Duluth last summer when they announced that they would be opening a data center in the area.

What I didn’t realize was that Lisa, while now working at Involta, used to work at APEX, a Duluth-based organization that was instrumental in attracting Involta to the area. So I got to hear about attracting high tech businesses to Minnesota from both sides – something I thought might interest readers.

In terms of an update, Involta is looking at opening their second location in Duluth in September. They are on the look for more places as they grow and as they strive to create a robust and redundant network.

In terms of why Duluth? Duluth was very thoughtful in their approach. APEX did a market survey and realized there was pent up demand. They had a natural advantage over warmer climates. They had the workforce and a public and private sectors that were willing to work together. That culture was key to getting on track and attracting likely candidates. As Lisa said – they had clients, community and climate – a perfect recipe for data center success.

MHealth Applications

I’m researching remote telehealth applications – and by remote I’m thinking an island in the middle of the ocean.  It’s been interesting because as one article points out innovation isn’t coming from developed countires, it’s coming from places where the need is great (necessity, I guess being the mother of invention)…

Much of the innovative thinking in mHealth is coming from programs that target populations outside the United States, often in developing countries. Now in a twist of fate, the innovations emerging from the developing world could prove to be a significant springboard for innovation in the developed world.

Here’s a short list of some of the applications folks are using. They are not intended to run on smartphones; they are generally developed to run on low-end cell phones. It’s amazing – for patients and public health initiatives…

TRACNet (in Rwanda) a dynamic information technology system designed to collect, store, retrieve, display and disseminate critical program information, as well as to manage drug distribution and patient information related to the care and treatment of HIV/AIDS. This system enables practitioners involved in anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment programs to submit reports electronically and have timely access to vital information. By dialing 3456, a toll free number, or logging onto a bilingual website (English and French), health center staffers can submit or receive program results on HIV/AIDS patients as soon as they are processed. TRACnet uses solar energy chargeable mobile phones, which can be used in the most remote parts of the country.

PatientView is a simple and easy-to-use electronic medical record system (EMR) targeting small clinics or single departments that have little support from professional IT staff. Many of these clinics are currently using paper medical records and would benefit from the improved efficiency and reliability of an EMR, but do not have the technical staff to maintain a large, complex EMR. To address this problem, PatientView was designed to be easy to set up, easy to maintain, and easy to use. Beyond simplicity and usability, PatientView has many mobile features that are useful when working with health workers in the field, like the ability to coordinate SMS to and from the workers, accept forms submitted on mobile phones, and more.

CelloPhone is a revolutionary diagnostic tool that will be able to perform basic diagnostics such as Complete Blood Count, diagnosis of Malaria and TB, and CD4 T Lymphocyte count on the back of a camera phone. The device utilizes a new imaging technique called LUCAS that can take cellular-level images of blood or other liquids without complex lens systems or microscope hardware. An algorithm then analyzes cell morphology to automatically produce a diagnostic result. The diagnostic results will be communicated from the device to a central location using FrontlineSMS, and viewed with our Patient View module and/or sent to OpenMRS with our medical records module. The Ozcan lab at UCLA is developing this device, and we aim to pioneer its use in the developing world.

For a long weekend bonus, I thought I’d include a TED Talk too that take a look at what a difference technology (mobile and other) is making in health and the health care industry…