Blandin Broadband eNews: Feb 2015

BBC MapMonthly Recap of News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

Blandin Foundation awards $113,900 to support rural broadband Blandin Foundation awards six grants totaling $113,900 to support rural broadband. Long Prairie will develop a business plan to build a FTTH network, Project FINE in Winona County will support refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs looking to develop their online business presence and Red Wing Ignite is set to host their second-annual Red Hot Hack. They also awarded $47,500 to PCs for People as they distribute 500 refurbished computers in rural Minnesota communities.

Office of Broadband Development awards $19.4 million to support broadband The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today announced grants totaling $19.4 million to help 17 entities in Minnesota develop broadband infrastructure in their communities. The awards will help serve 6,095 households, 83 community institutions and 150 businesses in unserved or underserved regions of the state.

State funding for broadband In their recently released annual report, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force recommends the Legislature allocate $200 million for a broadband grant program. The Coalition for Greater Minnesota Cities supports funding broadband. Unfortunately, Governor Dayton is talking about $30 million.

Research shows broadband drive population growth A report by Broadband Communities shows that counties with better broadband are adding population at 10 times the rate of counties that lack good broadband connections.

Research also shows that Minnesota broadband doesn’t rank Akamai research indicates that Minnesota’s broadband ranking is not top ten. Here are current rankings:

  • for average speed: MN ranks #20
  • for average peak: MN ranks #20
  • for high broadband: MN ranks #28

Federal policy to promote community networks draws discussion President Obama announced his intention to ask the FCC to remove state level barriers to municipal and community networks. (He also announced plans for support for rural networks; that was less controversial.) The speech was followed up by proposed federal Community Broadband Act. Back in Minnesota, there are mixed views on the idea:

  • MPR talks to Office of Broadband Development and Institute for Local Self Reliance about the announcement
  • Minnesota Telecom Alliance voices their concerns for Obama’s plan.
  • The Minnesota Public Broadband Alliance supports a wide range of broadband solutions for a community.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force connects history with technology The Task Force met at the Minnesota History Center in St Paul, where they got a taste of their e-learning program History Live. They also heard updates from visiting Legislators on broadband-related bills.

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Paul Bunyan Communications activates the first section of their GigaZone around Bemidji.

Big Stone County
Big Stone is covered with broadband at 73 percent but efforts are being made to increase their coverage and they have long been working on broadband adoption.

Blue Earth County
Less than half of the county has access to wired broadband; although when you include mobile access, 90 percent of the county is covered.

Brown County
The county is well served near towns but the rest of the county is not well served.

Carlton County
Only 57 percent of Carlton County has access to broadband; looking at a coverage map you can see that based on geography, the coverage seems even worse.

Carver County
Carver County broadband coverage is good at more than 99 percent.

Chippewa County
Only 25 percent of Chippewa County has access to broadband; although they have joined with the rest of Region Five (the Resilient Region) to improve their situation.

Chisago County
Like many counties. Chisago’s broadband coverage is good near towns but shaky on the outskirts.

Clearwater County
With a population density of 3.4, Clearwater’s broadband coverage is impressive at 99 percent.

Cook County
Cook County realizes the value of wireless broadband; 99 percent of the county has access to broadband when you include wireless options but only 21 percent have access to wired broadband.

Cottonwood County
Cottonwood broadband coverage is about 60 percent; around Windom they are well served but the rest of the state needs help.

Crow Wing County
While the Brainerd area is well served, the overall broadband coverage for the county is 37 percent.

Dakota County
Dakota County’s anchor tenants are well served with broadband; residents are not as lucky with only 66 percent being served.

Dodge County
More than 99 percent of Dodge County has access to broadband.

Iron Range
Aaron Brown, a vocal supporter of broadband on the Iron Range, outlines the reason that policymakers in his area need to rethink broadband funding.

Twin Cities
CenturyLink’s plans for gigabit access in the Twin Cities is rolling out too slowly for many customers.


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.)

Stirring the PotBill_Coleman

So much going on with broadband these days. It is hard to keep up!

Ten new Blandin Broadband Communities have jumped in with enthusiasm and commitment over the past month of activities. Our kick-off meeting in Willmar opened the eyes of their coordinators and teams to the results that their community efforts might yield over the next two years in better broadband access and use. Several communities brought multiple steering team members and I think that this served as a multiplier effect on their thinking. With seven of ten initial steering team meetings held last week and three more upcoming, communities better understand that broadband is only the infrastructure that a more vital community will utilize rather than the end itself. Up next are our Community Vision Meetings. We are also lining up meetings in thirteen BBC Alumni communities to help them maintain their community broadband efforts.

As I write this, it is exciting to see the grant announcements for the DEED Office of Broadband Border to Border Grants. It is especially fun to see funding provided to communities that I have worked with over the years. Congratulations to all of those funded!

Finally, the policy discussion is fast and furious. The new MN Governor’s Broadband Task Force report, the call for new members of the task force, the new FCC definition of broadband of 25/3 Mbps, President Obama talking community broadband and net neutrality.   A key task of community broadband leaders is to become informed and pass on your thoughtful opinions to local, state and federal elected officials.

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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