Blandin eNews Monthly Recap December 2012

mirc mapNews from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

2012 Minnesota Broadband Conference A record-breaking 200 people attended the broadband conference in Duluth in November. Many commented on the elevated level of discussion. Communities no longer ask what broadband is; they ask how to get it. Attendees learned about business applications, healthcare applications, funding, new tools, the new Digital Divide, Â Minnesota’s progress towards ubiquitous broadband coverage by 2015 and through a brainstorming session, attendees learned what was most important to their colleagues in the room. The new Blandin Broadband Communities were also announced.

Meet the Blandin Broadband Communities Blandin Foundation selected nine rural Minnesota communities for intensive, two-year partnerships with the Foundation to advance local broadband initiatives. New BBC partnership communities include: Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa, Itasca County, Kanabec County, Lake County, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services, Lake of the Woods County Economic Development Agency, Lac qui Parle Valley School District, Mille Lacs County and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Final Touches on Minnesota Broadband Task Force Report The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met twice in November. Their regularly scheduled meeting coincided with the Minnesota Broadband conference in Duluth. Several members of the public spoke and they heard from an entrepreneur focused on mobile technology. They met again last week to select the policy recommendations to include in the Task Force report, which should be posted in early December.

Policy Issues A number of policy issues and policy-related research seemed to come up in November. Here’s a brief glimpse:

  • Roadmap to Healthier Minnesota – The Governor’s Health Care Reform Task Force includes “invest in high-need infrastructure for telehealth and workforce services” as part of their Roadmap to Healthier Minnesota.
  • Marketplace Fairness Act – An effort to tax online purchases resurfaced on Cyber Monday. Those opposed wonder if consumers will buy online without tax break. With their recent move to online taxing, many are watching to see what happens in California.
  • Unlimited means Unlimited – One avid broadband user with a grandfathered “unlimited use” plan from AT&T wins lawsuit against their limiting his download speeds.
  • Effect of FCC Order on Fiber Deployment – The Minnesota Telecom Alliance asks its membership “Has your company delayed any fiber projects because of the FCC’s Transformation Order? Has your company cancelled any fiber projects because of the FCC’s Transformation Order?” They report that 37 percent of active members answered yes to the first question and 21% answered yes to the second question.
  • Parents, Teens and Online Piracy – Pew reports that 72 percent of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know.
  • The Price of Patient Privacy – As businesses gain access to medical data (via implants and apps) society looks at the cost and value of such personal data.
  • Wired vs Wireless – Why choose between wired and wireless connectivity? Wired has quality and speed. Wireless has mobility. Like any good network, the capabilities of wired and wireless technologies overlap; this makes for nice redundancy. Yet their unique qualities indicate that neither could adequately replace the other without giving up some benefit.

Local Broadband News

Anoka County About 88 percent of construction is complete for the ARRA-funded fiber connecting anchor institutions in Anoka County.

Dakota and Washington Counties After several years of planning, a fiber-optic network connection between Washington and Dakota counties is set to be installed.

Duluth Paul Bunyan Communications announces the creation of the Twin Ports Internet Exchange, a free local connection point for Internet related organizations and an opportunity to keep Minnesota Internet traffic local and create redundancies.

Eden Prairie Eden Prairie was the only Minnesota city to make The Center for Digital Government’s Top Digital Cities list.

Lac qui Parle County  LqP reports that they were 69 percent done with plowing ARRA-funded fiber through the county.

Northeast Minnesota Work has begun on the final few miles of construction needed to link Arrowhead’s fiber network with the Northeast Service Cooperative. To date 75% of Arrowhead members have given permission for construction for fiber optic service.

Sibley County Winthrop city administrator Mark Erickson provides insights on Sibley’s road to broadband, and how to keep stakeholders focused so they can quickly transform challenges into new and better opportunities on Craig Settles’ Gigabit Nation Broadband Talk Radio, broadcast live from the MN broadband conference.

Twin Cities To ease the hassle of holiday shopping, the Mall of America adds a service that sends you a text reminder of your parking location.

A technical problem at Best Buy’s website made for checkout problems for some of the retailer’s best customers on a pre-Cyber Monday special offer.

The University of Minnesota is one of seven regional digital libraries selected to contribute to the Digital Public Library of America, an initiative to make information for the study of American life available and searchable online.

CenturyLink completes an upgrade of its network and now delivers speeds of 100 Gbps across its backbone and in more than 50 metro locations across the US.


December 6: 100G & Beyond (webinar) 11 am

December 12: MHTA Annual CIO Panel: St Paul

Looking for more events? Check out Tech.MN’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.)

Bill_ColemanStirring the Pot

Public – private partnerships are noted in almost every broadband strategy as an alternative to strictly private or public sector network deployment. While some disagree, the consensus of policymakers is that combining private sector technical and marketing expertise with public sector patient capital is a smart way to improve odds of a successful venture. Those who disagree are in one of two camps – strictly private or strictly public.

Some months ago, I wrote about the characteristics of a good private sector partner. Today, I will focus on the characteristics of a good public sector partner.

  1. Know what your community’s primary goals are before you select a partner. Is it to get better services for your own organization and other public sector entities or is your vision to stimulate community-wide benefits for better services, lower prices, economic competitiveness or quality of life?
  2. Recognize that the terms of the deal are important to the private sector partnership. Length of the contract/partnership term, decisions on who owns what equipment, who will maintain the network and other operating decisions affect a private partners’ ability to attract equity, obtain debt financing and lock down their business plan. What seems like a small change for the public sector can have a significant impact on the private sector. Too many changes, especially close to the decision-making deadlines, can make a private sector partner lose credibility with their prospective financial partners, especially if your private sector is a smaller, entrepreneurial firm.
  3. Recognize the impact of press releases on your private sector partners. Know that press releases motivate incumbent telecom firms to lobby even more aggressively against your project. Know that every question about the emerging deal is magnified in the press and that the press is likely to get key details wrong.

Attracting a private sector partner is a real challenge. The ARRA funding helped many partnerships form and deliver on the promise of advanced fiber network deployment. With the stimulus funding done and the pending changes in rural broadband funding from the FCC, understanding what it takes to be a good partner in advance will help you attract and work with a quality private sector provider.

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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