East Central MN Broadband Conference: Full Notes and Video

Yesterday, despite April snow showers, a good crowd gathered in Hinckley to talk about broadband. It was the second annual East Central Broadband conference – and for the second time I was very impressed. I think the idea of a regional broadband conference is very smart. It’s an opportunity for regional neighbors to learn from each other, to applaud one another and to find ways to collaborate. They talk about how to work with providers to get unserved areas covered. The message was clear – these folks want to work with providers, they don’t want to become providers.

It was interesting to learn from Kevin Larson, a local broadband provider. He explained his $49 million investment in telecommunications in the area, his desire to do more and the roadblocks. The Behemoth is funding. If funding was available, he could deploy. He explained that they have access to spectrum for wireless, but right now the equipment to manage it is too expensive to make a business case to purchase. So they are testing new, lower cost equipment. Once it’s tested and true, they can deploy – and it’s a good sign that equipment is coming down in price – but it takes time to test.

They also talk about how to boost adoption. In this pretty rural part of the state, kids can spend hours on school buses so the wifi on the bus (aka rolling classroom) is a big hit. It’s an even bigger hit for students without access to broadband at home. Businesses are learning to take advantage of broadband too. There are local community portals and business training to help boost use. One line I loved came from Cloquet Valley, where they are adopting as fast as they can deploy.

I was able to capture much of the day in video – presentations and report outs from peer discussions on topics of interest.

Welcome and introductions from Bernadine Joselyn from Blandin Foundation


Stacey Stockdil, Resilient Region

Roxy Traxler, East Central Regional Broadband

Marc Johnson – KBI

Roxy Traxler – Connect Mille Lacs County


Janet Keogh -Cloquet Valley

Tom Ardolf – Cybermation

Diane Wells, Office of Broadband Technology

Report-out from small group discussions

Success Stories continued  – Tim Brinkman – Fergus Falls

Broadband in Education  –  Marc Johnson, ECMECC and Steve Bistrup, Milaca Schools

Funding Opportunities – Kevin Larson

Report back on next steps – what can I do and how?

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

About Ann Treacy

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

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