Blandin Broadband eNews Sep 2017: Rural Broadband hot topic nationally and locally

2017 Border to Border Broadband Conference
Mark your calendar for the fall broadband conference October 25-26 at Madden’s in Gull Lake. Get a sneak peek from a keynote speaker and learn about his recent research that found that broadband can mean $1850 increase to a household annually.

Minnesota Broadband Ranking
Akamai Q1 2017 reports Minnesota broadband speeds ranks 26 or 28 depending on the measure.

Rural Broadband
Rural broadband was a hot topic in August – especially as the FCC looks as reducing speed standards to including mobile access in goals to get broadband to everyone. There are concerns about rural and urban perceptions. And ideas on how broadband and training can bring more and better jobs to rural areas. There are questions about the role of government, asking can we follow the REA (rural electrification administration) model from the 1930s. Even in the national eye, Minnesota gets a nod for their broadband grants.

MN Broadband Task Force: Wireless broadband
The Task Force gets update on what’s going on with fixed wireless and then a demo of satellite. Wireless vendors are frank about their dismay at how CAF money is being spent on expanding slower connections – rather than upgrading services. Residents talk about their dubious experiences satellite.

Local Broadband News

Aitkin, Mille Lacs, Kanabec and Pine Counties
A look back at Central Woodlands’ time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

Carlton County
A look back at Carlton County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

Chisago County
A look back at Chisago County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

PCs for People distribute 50 computers in Hibbing

Iron Range
The Iron Range Broadband Communities are surveying residents about access and use of broadband

Martin County
A look back at Martin County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

Mountain Iron
Mountain Iron broadband committee meets to talk about their local digital inclusion projects

New Trier
HBC Services are now available in New Trier

Nobles County
A look back at Nobles County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

Nobles County broadband grant plan seeks alternate match due to state statute on county borrowing and ownership

Nobles County board approves $1 million gift for broadband

Pipestone County
Pipestone County surveys users about broadband speed for possible grant application

Randolph and Wanamingo
MidCo is applying for MN broadband grants for fiber from Randolph to Wanamingo

Rice County
Rice County is applying for MN Broadband grants

Red Wing
A look back at Red Wing’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

Redwood County
A look back at Redwood County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

Renville and Sibley Counties
A look back at RS Fiber’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)

RS Fiber announces faster wireless broadband speeds and expanded coverage

Southwest Minnesota
SMBS is offering Lifeline discounts

Twin Cities
Tech-focused AmeriCorps workers (from CTEP) highlight their community digital inclusion projects

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

It’s now September and I want to wish “good luck!” to our MN Twins, Vikings and Gophers as they seek this fall, in the words of Gopher coach PJ Fleck, to be “elite!”

Much more importantly, I want to wish good luck to the many communities that are putting the final touches on their Border to Border Broadband grants.  I have been keeping close watch on more than a few of these efforts as communities work in different ways with broadband providers to submit winning applications.  These community efforts prove the wisdom of two famous quotes.  The first is Seneca’s “Good luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”  The other is Edison’s “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration!”  I know that most every grant applications will have had both plenty of preparation and perspiration motivated by both inspired leaders and a necessary grant program.

In fact, many communities know that just finding a quality broadband provider partner requires some luck, especially those on the short end of the stick!   With decisions about match levels, grants versus loans, market development efforts and subscription drives, everyone is trying to thread the needle to put forth the required public support to satisfy providers’ ROI requirements and to protect the public interest.  For those working to support a competitive provider, we are seeing sophisticated use of GIS mapping as they attempt to thread an even smaller needle on unserved and underserved considerations and CAF2/ACAM funded areas, plus anticipate prospective incumbent provider challenges.

I am counting on the staff at DEED OBD to rely not on luck, but instead on their good judgment (which I know they have in abundance).  I offer them my best wishes as they dig through what is sure to be far more funding requests than funds available.  They will need to sort through legislated criteria, program rules and technical and financial considerations.  That would be a tough job.  As I write this, I realize that maybe they could use some luck to add to their judgment and likely perspiration!

And when grant announcements are made, I will appreciate the joy that select Minnesotans will feel when they learn that their road, neighborhood, township or county has been funded for broadband improvements.  Personally, I prefer the projects that cover large geographic areas like counties or, at a minimum, multiple townships.  I fear when I see haphazard, incomplete infrastructure deployment – down one road, but not the next, maybe next year, maybe not.  While one area wins with unlimited FTTH, while across the road they may have “scalable” 25/3 or quite possibly less or nothing.  This is not really statewide broadband infrastructure planning and deployment; it’s more like a broadband lottery.  I think that we can do better.

Finally, rather than hoping for luck, I have high hopes that early next year, state policy makers will see that Minnesota’s efforts on rural broadband are incomplete.  The emerging regional broadband coalitions and the anticipated large number of 2017 unfunded grant applications make this fact self-evident.  Further state resources will be required to create the ubiquitous, world-class broadband networks that are the necessary platform for rural economic vitality and quality of life.

This entry was posted in 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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