Blandin Broadband e-News April 2014

News from the Blandin on Broadband BlogBBC Map

Blandin Foundation Extends Rural Broadband Commitment
Blandin Foundation commits to extend work in rural broadband another two years (through 2016) and allocates $1.5 million more for community broadband grants. Since making rural broadband use and access a focus in 2003, Blandin Foundation has invested $9.8 million and partnered with leaders in more than 60 communities and 80 organizations across rural Minnesota on various projects.

Broadband Deployment Fund
The Legislature is looking at funding for broadband deployment. (The House is saying $25 million.  The Senate says $100 million. The details of the fund indicate that some communities will be better poised to take advantage of the opportunity. For example, priority will go to communities with current speeds slower than 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps up. How will your community compete? The Blandin Foundation is hosting a webinar this Friday to discuss the bill further.

Many organizations and individuals have chimed in with their view on the Broadband Development bill, especially after the Governor stepped away from the bill Minneapolis Star Tribune, Senator Schmit and letters to the editor from the general public. Research has shown that broadband supports rural development.

Blandin Foundation is Looking for Your Story
The Blandin Foundation is collecting stories of broadband use and need. If you have a story please share a short (1 minute) “selfie-type” video that finishes the statement, “I value broadband most when….”

Other Broadband and Related Legislation
The Legislature has reinstated the tax exemption for telecommunications equipment. There is a bill to provide funding to promote civic technology in Minnesota. Open Meeting procedures are being discussed; as more agencies use websites to communicate, the Legislature considers allowing agencies to announce meetings on their own sites rather than newspapers. On the federal front, Senator Franken recently asked the Department of Justice to look into the Comcast Time Warner merger.

Broadband Project Funding
The Minnesota Cup is looking for ideas; good ideas will compete for $300,000 in prizes. Comcast is also looking to reward innovation from local businesses (that are customers of Comcast).

Report on Minnesota Community Networks
Chris Mitchell and Institute for Local Self Reliance have recently released a report: Minnesota Local Governments Advance Super Fast Internet Networks. It highlights a handful of community networks in Minnesota; places where the local government spearheaded or at least played a leading role in getting broadband to the community.

Local Broadband News

Paul Bunyan Communication Broadband High Speed Internet is now optimized for Netflix.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa plans on a five-year, multi-million dollar economic development strategy that covers everything from education to infrastructure, including an $8 million dollar broadband development project.

Cook County
The Northeast Service Cooperative has received the Brian L. Talbott Award for its Northeast Minnesota Middle Mile Fiber Project, which provides broadband through a 915–mile fiber optic network throughout northeastern Minnesota.

The Jackson Public Library System received $11,000 to purchase a range of computers. The grant comes from the Blandin Foundation via Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services, a Blandin Broadband Community.

Minnesota River Valley
The Minnesota River Valley expresses a need for better broadband, pointing out that in places such as rural Le Sueur County, high-speed Internet is still not an option for many residents.

Thief River Falls
Just months after the launch of Arctic Cat’s official eBay store, they are seeing approximately 10 percent of their Shopatron powered U.S. sales coming from the new online sales channel.

Rural Minnesota
Developed by three brothers from Minnesota, the RowBot travels farm fields between rows to cover the ground with fertilizer. GPS and obstacle-prevention software keep the robot from trampling the crop.

Saint Paul
Comcast plans to continue their Internet Essentials programs to provide low cost broadband services to low income households. They also announced more than $1 million in grants to dozens of non-profit organizations across the country to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones.

With support from the Blandin Foundation, Scandia is surveying local residents about their broadband needs.

Trout Lake Township
Paul Bunyan has announced plans to bring super-fast Internet services to every household in Trout Lake Township.

Two Harbors
Students at Two Harbors’ High School are volunteering to assist seniors in the community with their technology questions. It’s a project sponsored through the Blandin Broadband Communities program.

EduTech Showcase and Forum (St Paul, MN)

East Central Minnesota Regional Broadband Conference (Hinckley, MN)

Deadline for Blandin Broadband Grants Watch this informational webinar or visit the Foundation’s website

Webinar: Minnesota Legislation to Fund Broadband Development (1:30-2:30pm)

Webinar: Making 700 MHz Wireless Work in Rural Minnesota (3-4:00pm)

Spring GIS Users Group Meeting (Apple Valley MN)

APRIL 24-26
Red Hot Hack (Red Wing, MN)

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.)

Bill_ColemanStirring the Pot

By Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

The current debate at the legislature on the broadband fund follows the narrowness of the discussion of the state broadband task force over the past couple years. That discussion has focused on two topics… 1) how does Minnesota reach its state broadband goal? And 2) how do we increase adoption?

Both are important topics, but miss important and critical issues. For example, cable companies, in particular, have done a pretty good job in providing residential services in communities that do meet the state goals, yet these companies’ networks may not reach businesses in the industrial zones. If those businesses request network extensions, they get a price estimate that may be discouraging. The distance from the telco central office to the industrial park may limit availability of DSL as well. In the past several months, I have heard of these broadband barriers to economic development in both rural and suburban communities. So a community can be “served,” but not really have the services they need to grow and attract businesses.

Another example is the whole national discussion over Gigabit networks. As more communities get these networks, we will soon find out “what you can do with a gig.” The exciting paradigm shift in these communities will be the dynamic that bandwidth availability shifts from scarcity to abundance. The other part of this Gigabit transformation is about economic development marketing. Try googling “Austin, TX fiber”, then try “Twin Cities fiber” or substitute Minneapolis. One community will have three widespread Gigabit networks; Minneapolis has one neighborhood. On Google, one community has hundreds of links regarding fiber, the latter not so many.

Served, under-served, unserved. An assessment of a community’s broadband status is not summed up in a word or number. I hope that the legislature lets DEED use professional judgment to determine how best to invest appropriated broadband dollars.

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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