Blandin Broadband eNews August 2014


Minnesota Broadband Development Fund

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature approved $20 million for broadband expansion. They are looking for projects that might encourage further legislative investment in the future, that can match requested funds, that serve un- and underserved areas, can scale to 100 Mbps, have community support and include a digital inclusion component. The funds are being administered by the Office of Broadband Development. They have been talking to communities around the state to provide more info – including a webinar, which is available online. Get details from the meetings in Baxter and Montevideo or the schedule of future meetings in Crookston and Owatonna.

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force Discusses Budget

The Task Force met in July to discuss budget recommendations. They agreed on two budget recommendations:

  • $200 million over two years for Broadband Deployment Fund
  • $2.9 million over two years for the Office of Broadband Development; that includes $1.4 million for continued mapping (with no reference to a specific vendor) and the remaining for operating funds (including staff) and program delivery

Broadband at the Blandin Foundation

  • The Blandin Foundation’s MIRC initiative is recognized by the NTIA as a broadband stimulus project that supported workforce preparation. Bernadine Joselyn says, “We are proud of the work we created collectively – the increase in adoption, increase in job, increase in skills – but we’re most proud of the connections that have been made in the local communities.”
  • The Blandin Broadband Communities (BBCs) celebrate their success this summer with a series of local meetings featuring successful broadband expansion projects. Leading the way, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe hosted their celebration in July.
  • On August 14, Blandin plans to talk about future broadband opportunities for communities via webinar.

Broadband Funding Opportunities:

  • The White House Rural Council announces a $10 billion dollar investment fund to promote rural economic development. This fund will continue to grow the rural economy by increasing access to capital for rural infrastructure projects and speeding up the process of rural infrastructure improvements.
  • The FCC approved a plan to spend $2 billion to boost wireless Internet connectivity in US schools and libraries during the next two years.
  • The FCC voted to approve a budget and open an application window for Rural Broadband Experiments through the Connect America Fund program.

Broadband News Around Minnesota


Annandale is looking for a partner to help develop a fiber optic network in their City.


Austin recently released a vision for the community and the results of a broadband feasibility study.


Duluth Police officers are able to record interactions they have with the public because each one of them has been assigned a body camera.

Fond du Lac

The Fond du Lac broadband team celebrates the work that had been done in the area through the BBC including an App Camp for kids, wireless hotspots around the reservation, end user training and iPads in the schools.

Grand Rapids

Businesses in and around Grand Rapids learned all about YouTube and other online video opportunities at the July Social Media Breakfast.


Tony and Tanner Kramer, from rural Hayfield, Minnesota are leading the social media campaign to get Jimmy Fallon to attend their brother Tyler’s wedding. Great use of social media.

Kanabec County

Mora hosts an interactive forum from the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown New York focusing on “Civil Rights: Before You Could Say Jackie Robinson.”

Kanabec County rallies for better broadband and prepares for MN broadband fund opportunity.

Lake County

The Lake County BBC team met to talk about their latest broadband expansion projects, including their brand new YouTube channel and community radio efforts.

Lake County hosts successful Senior Health and Technology Conference.

Being online keeps seniors in homes longer in Lake County.

Lake County signs up first FTTH customers.

Twin Cities

A new website is coming to the Twin Cities that will allow patients to find a doctor in their network; they will be able to see if the doctor has time available and find reviews.

Comcast Digital Connectors is a technology internship program open to young adults ages 13-21 to learn about technology, work to promote it and earn a free laptop.

The Line recently reviewed 10 Twin Cities-specific apps.


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_Coleman

Stirring the Pot

To quote Mary Poppins, “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down!” That promise of that sugar, soon to be available from the Office of Broadband and from the FCC, is providing motivation for public and private sectors to talk about partnering. What is amazing to me is the relatively small amounts of sugar necessary to stir these discussions after a decade of talk of public private partnerships. Remember, Minnesota’s “share” of the $100 million FCC fund is $2 million dollars and even if we doubled our take, that will be less than $5 million. Our state broadband fund is $20 million, an impressive down payment on what many hope will become a long-term funding program, but is currently far short of what is required to meet the broadband goal statewide.

One consideration that must be driving city and county officials crazy is the lack of clarity around the public sector role in partnerships. There is little definition around what sources of public funds might be used to defray deployment costs – general revenue, excess TIF, tax abatements, revolving loan funds, CVB lodging taxes? Equity, loans or grants – what would be the impact of those choices? Public hearings or closed-door negotiations? Competitive bidding or reverse auctions, incumbents or competitive providers? Against the framework of short timelines, there is potential for public controversy and/or lawsuits (see Lake County, Monticello and the Vikings stadium!) For the public sector, even offering the incentives listed on Google Community Checklist brings policy considerations that could have far-reaching and long-term impacts regarding the use of public Rights of Way and waived permitting fees.

The Office of Broadband should work with the State Auditor, Attorney General, LMC and AMC and others to provide some guidance to local officials in advance of the Border to Border Broadband Fund application process. I fear that communities will feel a bit whipsawed by providers seeking the best community deal, similar to what happens when Walmart starts shopping a regional distribution center opportunity, all under the veil of non-disclosure agreements. At least in the bricks and mortar economic development world, the rules are pretty clear. Quite different than these new broadband attraction battles. To be fair, these prospective partnerships are new to the broadband providers! And to the Office of Broadband!!

Coming back to Mary Poppins…remember that the sugar available from the state and the FCC is like a tablespoon or two in a gallon of lemonade. Make sure that you measure your own sugar carefully to come up with a sweet project!

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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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