Blandin Broadband eNews July 2017: Task force in Luverne, new state maps, people still want more broadband

A recap of news from June…      

MN Broadband Task Force visits Rock County
In June the Task Force heard from Border to Border grant recipients and beneficiaries in Rock County. Alliance Communication has an 80 percent take rate for service in the area and in the end, paid $11,417 per passing to install fiber. One customer commented that his monthly bills went from $2000 to $85 once fiber was available. http://wp.me/p3if7-49S

New Minnesota Broadband Maps are out
The Office of Broadband Development has posted new maps and statistics on broadband access. Goods news, almost 70 percent of the state meets the 2026 goals. http://wp.me/p3if7-49l Check it out to see how your county ranks based on speeds of 25 Mbps down 3 Mbps up (25/3) or 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up (100/20). http://wp.me/p3if7-49p (Speaking of maps, the FCC has also released fixed broadband deployment and CAF eligible areas maps. http://wp.me/p3if7-499)

Is 100/20 goal over-reaching?
WatchDog ran an article saying that Minnesota speed goals of 100/20 were too much of a stretch. To aim lower, however, would leave rural Minnesota playing on different field that global competitors. http://wp.me/p3if7-49O

Blandin Digital Inclusion Summer Webinar Series
To combat the fact that 52% of Americans are digitally hesitant http://wp.me/p3if7-496, this summer the Blandin Foundation is focusing monthly webinars on Digital Inclusion, highlighting some of the great speakers and content from the National Net Inclusion conference in May. Webinar dates: http://wp.me/p3if7-49g

  • July 11 – Digital Inclusion Basics
  • August 10 – Low Income Devices and Connectivity
  • September 14 – Assessment tools and training

Industry Upgrades and Mergers
CenturyLink offers gigabit service to 32,827 Minnesota businesses http://wp.me/p3if7-49j Consolidated and FairPoint plan to merge, making them one the of top ten fiber network operators in the US. http://wp.me/p3if7-49U

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Rep. Lueck urged local folks interested in applying for state broadband grant funding to attend upcoming informational webinars to learn more. http://wp.me/p3if7-49H

Brainerd
Brainerd celebrates the “Good of Technology” with a video http://wp.me/p3if7-49u

Chisago County
Chisago County EDA holds a community meeting to pique and explore community interest in pursuing state grant funding for broadband http://wp.me/p3if7-49J

Chisholm and Balkan Townships
Chisholm and Balkan Townships get Blandin grants for wifi on buses, a community portal and community hotspots http://wp.me/p3if7-48O

Ely
MPR will be hosting a live show from Ely on July 13. Broadband is on the short list of topics to be discussed. http://wp.me/p3if7-49X

Fairmont
Community calendar catches on in Fairmont and provides a model for other communities looking to deploy a centralized online calendar. http://wp.me/p3if7-491

Hibbing
Hibbing broadband expansion plan includes hotspots, social media and a tech fair http://wp.me/p3if7-49M

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County residents need to sign up to get broadband project going http://wp.me/p3if7-48M

Lac qui Parle County
LqP County creates a video that highlights broadband access to recruit business and residents http://wp.me/p3if7-48Q

Lake County
Lake Connections of Lake County is looking to sell their community FTTH network http://wp.me/p3if7-4a2, http://wp.me/p3if7-49d

Madelia
FCC Chairman Pai visits Madelia to talk to local telecommunications companies. http://wp.me/p3if7-494

Mankato
Mankato Free Press asks legislators to invest in rural broadband http://wp.me/p3if7-4a8

Renville & Sibley Counties
RS Fiber celebrates its second anniversary. Currently six towns and more than 2,500 homes and businesses have access to Gigabit services from RS Fiber http://wp.me/p3if7-49D

Southwest Minnesota
Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC), in partnership with Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine counties, will benefit from grant funding to map existing Internet technologies and explore possibilities for increasing Internet access http://wp.me/p3if7-4a6

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Opportunities

  • Charter Communications is launching a Spectrum Digital Education Grant Program,  a $1 million commitment from Charter Communications to improve digital education http://wp.me/p3if7-49y
  • ICANN New Global Indigenous Ambassador Program is looking for candidates, who will get all expenses paid to meeting in United Arab Emirates http://wp.me/p3if7-49s
  • Tekne Award applications and nominations are open; application deadline is July 28. http://wp.me/p3if7-48Z

Stirring the Pot

Years ago, after an evening of minor teen misbehavior, I was advised by an older, wiser college student – “Deny everything!”  That strategy did not work out so well in the face of overwhelming evidence gathered by my parents.  Today, however, that strategy seems to have taken over by more skilled storytellers than me. Sometimes, it even seems to apply to our Minnesota broadband policy discussions.

Broadband is a complicated subject pairing dynamic technology with unsettled multi-level government policy.  I have learned much by listening to techies and wonks dispute present and future tech capabilities and government policies. No doubt, smart people can disagree on any and all facets of this discussion, but there are some things, driven by physics and business finance 101, that should be accepted as facts.

In spite of the complexity underlying these discussions, residents attend community broadband meetings knowing that they and their neighbors need better broadband.  They know it because they experience service shortfalls every day.  They know that they are paying far more for far less, or have no service at all.  Via the state broadband maps and reports, they learn that 70 percent of Minnesotans already have broadband that meets the 2026 state goal and that a growing number of rural Minnesotans are served by fiber to the home networks.

It is disappointing to me when demonstrably incorrect “facts” gain a life of their own, especially when policy makers repeat them to groups of citizens.  In the past 24 hours, I have heard the following statements expressed either directly or via second-hand accounts at community meetings:

  • CAF2 will solve the rural broadband problem so the state does not need to be involved.
  • Telephone companies cannot cross their existing exchange boundaries to compete.
  • If telephone companies invest in new infrastructure, they have to share it with competitors.
  • All CAF2 improvements must immediately meet the 25/3 FCC broadband standard.
  • Incumbent telephone companies are committed to further upgrade CAF2 networks in the near future.

I often wonder where statements like this begin, especially when they emerge simultaneously from all corners of the state.  I wonder if I am on the wrong mailing lists, watching the wrong channels or visiting the wrong web sites.  I would argue that all of the “facts” above are false, or at best, highly unlikely.

I encourage you to keep your guard up, do some fact-checking and base your local broadband policy and technology decisions on information that holds up to tough scrutiny.  Seeking the quality criticism can help you make your project stronger.  And if someone questions your choices based only on their “facts,” be confident that you have done your homework.

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.

2 thoughts on “Blandin Broadband eNews July 2017: Task force in Luverne, new state maps, people still want more broadband

  1. Can wireless nodes be placed along fiber paths to deliver cost effective last mile service in the more remote areas? I don’t think it’s feasible to take fiber to every home.

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