Blandin Broadband eNews June 2017: Digital Inclusion notes and upcoming broadband conference

A recap of news from May…

2017 Border to Border Broadband Conference
Mark your calendar for the fall broadband conference October 25-26 at Madden’s in Gull Lake. The theme this year is Bridging the Gaps – Expanding the Impact.

Rural Minnesota Needs Better Broadband
The Minneapolis Star Tribune highlights the need for rural broadband and the impact of federal and state funding. Federal funding is a possibility; communities are advised to be ready to apply if funding becomes available. Minnesota designates funding for broadband and $20 million in funding passed in the last legislature. The Minnesota grants are envied by other states.

Minnesota Broadband ranks 31, 27, 26, 28
The latest (Q1 2017) Akamai report is out on broadband speeds and adoption.

  • MN ranks 31 for percent of adoption at speeds above 10 Mbps
  • MN ranks 27 for percent of adoption at speeds above 15 Mbps
  • MN ranks 26 for percent of adoption at speeds above 25 Mbps
  • MN ranks 26 for average adoption speed at 17.6 Mbps
  • MN ranks 28 for peak adoption speed at 80.8 Mbps

Border to Border Broadband Grant opportunity opens July 3
Office of Broadband Development is soliciting proposals for Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grants. The grant application period opens on July 3, 2017. The application deadline is September 11, 2017.

Minnesota Hosts National Net Inclusion Conference
Practitioners and academics came from across the country to talk about ways to improve access to affordable broadband, computers and training. It was a chance for Minnesota to show off how well we do it. Getting ready for the event, many of the speakers presented at the May Broadband Task Force meeting.

Legislative/Policy/FCC updates:

  • MN Legislatures designates $20 million for broadband grants
  • After being discussed earlier in the month, small cell wireless equipment collocation agreement is created
  • Baller Stokes & Lide release a help sheet for communities that may have to deal with changes to how public rights-of-way are handled in the near future due to federal policy
  • FCC announces Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) working groups
  • Congressional Research Service provides a recap of Net Neutrality issues
  • Franken Slams FCC, calling vote to undo Net Neutrality “a major step toward destroying the Internet as we know it
  • The FCC has a list of counties where business data services are deemed competitive
  • Federal Court in MN calls Charter’s VoIP an information service exempt from state regulation

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County gets Blandin grants for wifi, community website and high tech conference center

Paul Bunyan Communications is named 2017 Complete Marketing Campaign Award Winner

Bemidji MN innovates and reinvents with focus on future and fiber

Insufficient Internet means no more therapy for autistic boy in Biwabik

Cook County
Student cheers broadband in Cook County and hopes the same for other MN kids

Koochiching County
Broadband is part of effort to bring Koochiching County “back from brink of demographic doom”

Moose Lake
Moose Lake School District deploys wifi on the buses – leaving bus drivers happy and students doing homework

Northern Minnesota
Mediacom upgrades to a Gig Northern Minnesota

Powderhorn Park (Mpls)
Much of Minneapolis is getting fiber to the home; Powderhorn Park isn’t.

Renville and Sibley Counties
RS Fiber Cooperative is recognized with Broadcast Communities Cornerstone Award

RS Fiber starts broadband construction on final four cities: Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax and Stewart

Southwest Minnesota
SW Minnesota is using fiber to attract people to their communities

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.)

Stirring the Pot

Perspective drives terminology!

If our broadband world were as simple as telephone services used to be, we would have broadband to all people and places.  It would be relatively affordable.  It would be world-class in capacity and reliability.  That world was a regulated monopoly where business subsidized residential and urban subsidized rural.

But we now have a complicated playing field with a mix of providers and technologies, including public sector entities.  Differing perspectives and values can drive very different decisions on broadband investment and deployment.  In addition, the same strategy may have different names depending on who does it.  Depending on where you sit, a strategy may be considered “smart” or “indefensible”.

Two examples:

  • When public sector entities collaborate for better Internet access and pricing, they call it “demand aggregation.” A competitive private sector provider would be accused of “cherry picking.”
  • When providers invest only in the areas that have the best potential returns, their “good business planning” is defined as “redlining.” Note that the redlined areas might be urban low-income neighborhoods or entire rural counties or regions.

Public officials expect that their public broadband investments will be well scrutinized.  They outline clear goals and publish their business plan.  Private sector providers would do well to make their network planning and business justification models more transparent.  Public input into those plans, either advice or resources, would add significant value for the providers while helping the public entities meet their important broadband goals.

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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