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 http://wp.me/p3if7-4c0 and learn about his recent research that found that broadband can mean $1850 increase to a household annually. http://wp.me/p3if7-4d2

Minnesota Broadband Ranking
Akamai Q1 2017 reports Minnesota broadband speeds ranks 26 or 28 depending on the measure. http://wp.me/p3if7-4eY

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. http://wp.me/p3if7-4dl There are concerns about rural and urban perceptions. http://wp.me/p3if7-4f6 And ideas on how broadband and training can bring more and better jobs to rural areas. http://wp.me/p3if7-4f0 There are questions about the role of government http://wp.me/p3if7-4f2, asking can we follow the REA (rural electrification administration) model from the 1930s. http://wp.me/p3if7-4dN Even in the national eye, Minnesota gets a nod for their broadband grants. http://wp.me/p3if7-4du

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. http://wp.me/p3if7-4dy

Local Broadband News

Aitkin, Mille Lacs, Kanabec and Pine Counties
A look back at Central Woodlands’ time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4e0

Carlton County
A look back at Carlton County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4dX

Chisago County
A look back at Chisago County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4e3

Hibbing
PCs for People distribute 50 computers in Hibbing http://wp.me/p3if7-4dG

Iron Range
The Iron Range Broadband Communities are surveying residents about access and use of broadband http://wp.me/p3if7-4dL

Martin County
A look back at Martin County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4e6

Mountain Iron
Mountain Iron broadband committee meets to talk about their local digital inclusion projects http://wp.me/p3if7-4dr

New Trier
HBC Services are now available in New Trier http://wp.me/p3if7-4d6

Nobles County
A look back at Nobles County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4e9

Nobles County broadband grant plan seeks alternate match due to state statute on county borrowing and ownership http://wp.me/p3if7-4ex

Nobles County board approves $1 million gift for broadband http://wp.me/p3if7-4dg

Pipestone County
Pipestone County surveys users about broadband speed for possible grant application http://wp.me/p3if7-4ev

Randolph and Wanamingo
MidCo is applying for MN broadband grants for fiber from Randolph to Wanamingo http://wp.me/p3if7-4dB

Rice County
Rice County is applying for MN Broadband grants http://wp.me/p3if7-4et

Red Wing
A look back at Red Wing’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4ef

Redwood County
A look back at Redwood County’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4ec

Renville and Sibley Counties
A look back at RS Fiber’s time as a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) http://wp.me/p3if7-4ei

RS Fiber announces faster wireless broadband speeds and expanded coverage http://wp.me/p3if7-4dw

Southwest Minnesota
SMBS is offering Lifeline discounts http://wp.me/p3if7-4eU

Twin Cities
Tech-focused AmeriCorps workers (from CTEP) highlight their community digital inclusion projects http://wp.me/p3if7-4cV

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.)

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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