Blandin on Broadband eNews March 2017: Legislative news and county broadband profiles

A recap of news from March…

Broadband Day on the Hill – March 15, 2017
Members of Minnesota Broadband Coalition are organizing Broadband Day on the Hill on March 15 to bring legislators the rural perspectives on the critical role that broadband plays in Minnesota rural communities’ economic vitality and quality of life. Show your support by telling policymakers you care about broadband through social media. Learn how to hone your message by checking out the archive of the latest Blandin webinar, How to be Effective at the Capitol.

Rural Broadband is Happening in Parts of MN
There’s a myth that it’s too expensive to bring high speed broadband to rural areas. There are several providers in Minnesota proving that isn’t the case. Two of them (Hiawatha Broadband and Paul Bunyan) share the secrets to their success bringing fiber to rural Minnesota. and

MN is number three Best State
Reporting by US News and World Reports has Minnesota ranking number three for best state and ranking tenth for Internet access.

Broadband Networks Conference Notes
At the Minnesota broadband provider associations’ conference, local legislators talked about the importance of broadband to rural communities. Several mentioned reticence to invest in technology because technology changes so quickly. National experts allowed that the federal landscape will have an impact on local politics. They also felt 5G (wireless broadband) would be good for downtown areas and campuses but not rural regions.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force
The Task Force learned about the Border to Border grant challenge process where an incumbent provider can challenge a grant proposal in their area. Communities are discouraged that the penalty for challenging is minimal – especially for projects that are modified due to challenge. The Office of Broadband Development will soon begin mapping broadband access through a contact with Connected Nation. The PUC explained the growing limitations of the Minnesota Telephone Assistance Program.

Notes from MN legislative session:

  • Broadband Introduction at Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy
  • MN Senate Committee meeting notes: Small wireless facilities collocation authorization discussion
  • MN Senate Committee meeting notes: Senator Westrom on S.F. 980 (border-to-border broadband grant program modification and appropriation) and Senator Simonson on S.F. 234 (broadband grant program appropriation)
  • K-12 Broadband Equity Aid (SF 936) is introduced

Media coverage of MN legislative session:

Federal Legislation/Policy Items

  • Mayors and elected officials from 60 cities and counties send a letter to President and Congress on the importance of broadband
  • Connected Nation releases a brief saying the following may be hot topics for federal broadband policymakers: New Direction at the FCC, Net Neutrality, AT&T and Time Warner Merger, interests on Capitol Hill such as wireless and infrastructure funding.
  • The new FCC Chair has already made changes; some were outlined in a plan for rural broadband he released last fall (2016)
  • FCC is planning a reverse auction to expand rural broadband access; includes parts of MN
  • Senators ask new FCC Chair to make rural broadband a priority
  • Klobuchar keeps an emphasis on improving broadband infrastructure

Local Broadband News

In February, we created county broadband profiles using data from the Office of Broadband Development and news stories from the past several years. It is beneficial to see what is working in different communities especially when trying to figure out what might lead to continual expansion.

Find links to each individual profile:

Upcoming 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.)


  • Broadband Innovation and Robust Network Feasibility Fund grant award amounts range from $1,000 to $25,000; matching funds are required. Grant application deadlines for 2017 are April 7, June 23 and September 22.
  • Grants are available to help digitize cultural documents through Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). Deadline is April 3.
  • RUS Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee announce two application periods in 2017 for its Broadband Loan program: the first application window March 1-31, 2017 and the second application window from September 1-30, 2017.
  • Google announces grants to promote professional development for Computer Science teachers. Deadline March 19.
  • The Blue Cross Foundation announces a funding opportunity of up to a total of $1M to further health equity in communities across Minnesota Applications are due March 30, 2017

Stirring the Pot

While on vacation and reading randomly on Facebook and Twitter, I read an excellent article about someone retiring from the US Department of State after a long career.  The article is long gone from my news feed.

His career distilled to its essence – “Never underestimate your ability to accomplish great things based on vision and values.”  As a specialist in European affairs, he marveled at the falling of the Berlin Wall and other eastern European government transformations in the 1980’s without a shot being fired.  He believed that the USA had significant and positive influence by leading with our long and widely held vision and values summarized by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Similarly, communities need to decide, “What are our broadband vision and values?”  Hard questions about ubiquity, affordability, capacity, ownership and management need to be asked, discussed and determined through engagement processes that include both leaders and citizens. Failure to do this hard work allows communities to pursue projects lead to dead-ends or off of a cliff, or to nowhere at all. Vision and values can remain consistent in a dynamic broadband environment of technologies, providers, government programs and community leadership. With shared broadband vision and values, it is far easier to set the course, know if you are making progress and when you have reached your destination.

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

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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