Blandin Broadband eNews March 2015: County profiles & MN fund updates

BBC MapNews from the Blandin on Broadband Blog – a compilation of February articles

Net Neutrality Become a Reality

In February the FCC voted 3 to 2 to reclassify high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The result wasn’t unexpected but to understand the implications, it’s valuable to look at the pros, cons and basics of Net Neutrality.

How much broadband does a business need?

Kevin Walk of RITALKA shares a letter he wrote to the Mayor of New Ulm, detailing his need for greater broadband for his company to compete in the global marketplace. His views are passionate are informative.

Minnesota Technology-Related Bills

The Legislature is in session. There are dozens of bills that somehow to technology; at least two that are of great interest to broadband pundits. Both the House and Senate are looking at another round of Minnesota Broadband Funds and at continued support for the Office of Broadband Development. And people are talking about what should or could happen, such as the Greater Minnesota Partnership and national broadband consultant Craig Settles

Minnesota Broadband Task Force: Role of Government

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force heard from several folks in government this month – from MNIT, County IT, libraries, schools and healthcare. A couple of themes emerged: Minnesota likes to leave decisions up to the most local authority. Public and private partnerships will be necessary to meet continually expanding broadband needs – even if that partnership is really local government serving as anchor tenant to entice a private provider to come into an area.

Broadband Industry Conference

Broadband industry folks held a conference that included telecom companies, cable companies and wireless companies. There were speakers from industry and policymakers, such as Senator Klobuchar. They talked a lot about FirstNet, spectrum and wireless options.

Government Apps Developed through Access to Open Data

Better technology and access to open data have made it possible for citizens to create tools that make government more accessible and civic engagement easier. Many apps can be deployed in rural and urban areas.

Tracking Minnesota Counties Broadband Progress

The Blandin on Broadband blog is currently working on two series of posts. The first looks at the state of broadband in each county; we strive feature a county a day. The second series highlights communities that received funding from the Office of Broadband Development to deploy broadband. Individual posts from each series are listed below.

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Aitkin County
Aitkin County is last in state for access to broadband.

Big Stone County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look at Big Stone County.

Benton County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look at Foley, Benton County–Balkan Township

Chisholm holds a roundtable with Lt. Governor Tina Smith to discuss the Minnesota Broadband Funds.

Dakota County
Dakota County moves forward with plans to expand broadband to reach local businesses and residents.

Douglas County
Douglas County Broadband 2014 Update: 16 percent broadband coverage

AT&T is looking to bring fast wireless to the Ely area.

Faribault County
Faribault County Broadband 2014 Update: issues with maps leave cloudy view of broadband coverage.

Fillmore County
Fillmore County Broadband 2014 Update: a look at the middle of the pack.

Freeborn County
Freeborn County Broadband 2014 Update: close to state goals.

Goodhue County
Goodhue County Broadband 2014 Update: anchor tenants’ stronger connection than residential services.

Grant County
Grant County Broadband 2014 Update: currently at about a B grade level.

Hennepin County
Hennepin County Broadband 2014 Update: almost (but not quite!) ubiquitous coverage.

Houston County
Houston County Broadband 2014 Update: strong educators but limited broadband

Hubbard County
Hubbard County Broadband 2014 Update: numbers should improve with GigaZone service deployment.

Isanti County
Isanti County Broadband 2014 Update: about half the households have access.

Itasca County
Itasca County Broadband 2014 Update: poised to dramatically improve access soon

Paul Bunyan Communications has activated its Gigabit network in the Trout Lake Township making it the first area of the GigaZone in Itasca County.

Jackson County
Jackson County Broadband 2014 Update: FTTH in some areas but not ubiquitous.

Kanabec County
Kanabec County Broadband 2014 Update: less than 30 percent broadband coverage.

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County Broadband 2014 Update: 14 percent broadband coverage – but plenty of interest.

Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission are working on a survey for residents asking about their broadband use, cost and interest.

Lac qui Parle County
LqP County is featured in an article on “brain gain”, the idea that while rural communities may lose younger people to higher education and travel, they often gain people starting a family (ages 30-49); broadband is touted as a must-have amenity for brain gainers.

Lincoln County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look around Hendricks in Lincoln County.

Martin County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look at Martin County.

Mille Lacs County
Milaca Public Schools realizes many benefits after putting Wi-Fi on buses.

Northwest Minnesota
Over 120 schools and libraries in northwestern Minnesota have access to up to 10 Gigabit fiber-optic connections through partnership with 18 telecom companies.

Otter Tail County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look around Otter Tail County.

Polk County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look around Halstad in Polk County.

Region Five (aka Resilient Region)
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: Region 5 Virtual Highway Project includes Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties.

Renville & Sibley Counties
Member communities are starting to vote on continued participation in RS Fiber, a cooperative effort to bring broadband to the area.

Alcatel-Lucent is preparing a broadband feasibility study for Rochester.

St Louis County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look around Northeast Service Cooperative around St Louis County.

MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look around Hibbing in St Louis County.

Stevens County
MN Broadband Fund Award Update: A closer look around Stevens County.

Todd County
MN Broadband Fund Award: A closer look at Sauk Lake Area in Todd County.

Upper Minnesota Valley
The Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission promotes economic development in Big Stone, Lac qui Parle, Chippewa, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties. They have and continue to assist their counties with getting broadband funding.

Blandin Foundation supported Project Fine provides digital inclusion classes to 40 participants attending in-depth computer training.

Events & Opportunities:

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

Since the New Year, Community Technology Advisors has been working with the ten new Blandin Broadband Communities. We are helping them move from Steering Team formation to Vision creation and the resulting project development.   Participation has been fantastic with strong cross-sector attendance and leadership. Mayors, school superintendents, librarians, community education, chambers of commerce, citizen activists have brought their enthusiasm to the table. There is no shortage of project ideas. While some groan at the idea of a three-hour meeting, we have found the “after-meeting meetings” to be robust. We have already seen promise of problem solving, new resources and collaboration.


This is our third round of MIRC/BBC communities. More than ever, the gap between those who are connected at speeds that meet the state broadband goal or higher and those who lack anything but slow DSL (1 – 3 Mb), cellular or satellite is growing larger – in both absolute bandwidth speeds and in perception of capability. The un-connected struggle to do homework, work from home and all of the other common practice applications that the connected think are so easy. As most of our “communities” are counties or even larger, large areas of rural countryside fit into the unserved and underserved broadband category.   Local leaders are fierce in their determination to solve this puzzle, but are challenged to see the path forward. The recent DEED grant awards are encouraging, but sobering. The path towards a positive partnership and affordable finance alternative seems steep and rocky.

One of the strengths of the Blandin Broadband Communities program is that it provides a platform for communities to build knowledge and momentum on the infrastructure challenge while still driving adoption and use as the program’s main goal. This dual path requires strong understanding within community leadership that infrastructure initiatives may take considerable time to come to fruition. In the meantime, they need to continue to build on their existing infrastructure, institutional and people assets to improve their tech vitality. These ten communities have started down this path. It is our privilege to guide them as they make connections, learn new things, set priorities, create teams and make good things happen in the places that they call home.

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