Blandin on Broadband eNews April 2017: Broadband at the legislature

A recap of news from March…heat-map

Broadband Day on the Hill – March 15, 2017
More than 80 participants spoke with more than 40 legislators about the need for continued funding for the Office of Broadband Development and Border to Border Grants. They also heard from Lt Governor Tina Smith, a panel of legislators and a panel of broadband users from rural areas. (Get a view of the day from 6th grader Sammie Garrity, who was on a panel.

Digital Divide Index – MN is slipping
The Digital Divide Index measures access to broadband and propensity of a community (County-level info available) to use that broadband. Minnesota’s measure went from 38.09 to 41.92 (lower score is better).

Akamai Report – MN broadband ranks #25-29
The latest Akamai Report is out Q4 (2016). This is how Minnesota ranks compared to other states:

  • Average connection speed – #26
  • Average peak connection speed – #27
  • Percentage of population adopting 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up – #26

MN communities focusing on broadband
There are at least 10 communities (several multi-county communities) that are actively looking at efforts to improve broadband. State broadband funding makes it easier for them to create a business case and attract provider interest in upgrades and/or expansion.

Rural counties with the highest levels of broadband have the highest levels of income
A study conducted by Cornell University found that rural counties with the highest levels of broadband have the highest levels of income and education and lower levels of unemployment and poverty.

Mediacom announces communities upgrading to Gig in 2017
Mediacom announced their plan to upgrade Minnesota customers last December. Recently they released their schedule for upgrades – by county and community.

How do we measure economic impact of broadband?
The Internet sector is currently credited with 6 percent of the national GDP, but is that accurate? The Internet Association white paper, Refreshing Our Understanding of the Internet Economy, outlines the deficiencies in the way economic impact of broadband is currently measured.

Broadband competition is essential to better service and lower costs in rural areas
Brookings recently looked at broadband in rural areas, postulating that competition is a key component to quality broadband in rural areas.

Notes from MN legislative session:

Federal Legislation/Policy Items

Local Broadband News

Blackduck and Hines
Paul Bunyan upgrade broadband access in Backduck and Hines.

Rise in tech companies in Brainerd Area are due to Broadband access

Kandiyohi County
CTC hosts a meeting to discuss their Border to Border project in Spicer MN

Kandiyohi County to sell bonds next month to finance broadband project

Lac qui Parle County
The Computer Commuter is a revamped mini-bus bringing broadband and computers to communities around Lac qui Parle county.

Details on Mantorville Border to Border grant

Twin Cities
National Digital Inclusion Conference unveils wealth of resources in the Twin Cities

An app developed at the Hack2O last fall is still in development thanks to funds from the Blandin Foundation, staff time from Ridgewater College and the RITA program.

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.
  • Broadband Installer Specialists Needed

Stirring the Pot

This month I offer congratulations to Chisago Lakes Minnesota.  Two years ago, five small towns decided to identify and work together as one community in the America’s Best Communities competition sponsored by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, The Weather Channel and Co-Bank. Chisago Lakes includes Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer and Taylors Falls and several townships, a total population of about 20,000.  Leadership for this initiative has come from all sectors – business, health care, local units of government, community volunteers, the school district, Chisago County EDA/HRA, community foundation and chamber of commerce.  I am honored to have worked with Chisago Lakes throughout this planning and implementation process.  They have proven that both vision and leadership matters.

Chisago Lakes was one of more than 400 communities that submitted initial applications to ABC in pursuit of the top prizes of $3 million, $2 million and $1 million dollars.  Clearly, the prospective rewards were a huge motivation for the Chisago Lakes community to enter this competition, especially in the first several meetings.  After that, the positive rewards of working together towards a clearly defined mission on community-established priorities overwhelmed the focus on the awards.  Of course, the idea of winning $3 million dollars is always a pretty good motivator when momentum slowed!

As one of 50 quarter-finalists, Chisago Lakes was awarded $50,000 to create their economic revitalization plan.  They used these funds for project management outside consulting, feasibility studies and community engagement.  The plan has six elements: Marketing and Branding; Broadband and Technology; Energy; Healthy Community; Trails; and Workforce.  Based on this written plan, Chisago Lakes was selected as one of 15 communities to share their plans via a ten-minute presentation in Durham North Carolina.  So much to say, so little time.  Many hours went into creating and practicing that ten-minutes so that every word mattered.   Chisago Lakes’ pitch moved us forward as one of eight finalists.

Even before being named a finalist, we had begun implementing our plan.  With the $100,000 finalist prize in hand, Chisago Lakes continued to implement its plan using mostly volunteers on self-directed work teams.  They used the plan to guide their work, pivoting as necessary and as opportunities arose.  Late in the year, a housing team formed and began work on a key community issue that had been identified as a priority in our planning process, but had been set aside due to the long timelines on housing development. Success on the other projects encouraged housing leaders to initiate their efforts.

ABC Judges are now at work reviewing Chisago Lakes’ work on the 19 specific projects documented in more than 70 pages of reports. Well over 100 community volunteers worked to implement the plan. Multiple hundreds participated in ABC – related events.  Several million dollars were invested in these projects – by telecommunications providers, electric utilities, local businesses, and government. Needless to say, the excitement is building in Chisago Lakes.  The announcement is April 19th in Denver.  Such amazing results! Good luck Chisago Lakes!!

This entry was posted in MN, Policy 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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