Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap (Nov 2019): Notes from Fall Broadband Conference and more

MN Fall BB Conference – Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work
The Fall Broadband was a success. Attendees came to learn about economic development strategies, digital inclusion, local broadband leaders and more. Below are links to specific sessions:

ILSR Muninetworks’ Video Broadband Primer
Muninetworks is creating a multi-part series of videos to help community leaders and policymakers better understand broadband.

State Policy Issues

Federal Policy Issues


Local Broadband News

Broadband struggles in Greater Minnesota featured on TPT’s Almanac

Aitkin County
Aitkin Age recommends funding broadband to support seniors

Info on Aitkin County’s $1.9 million in USDA funding for broadband

Broadband a hot topic at Aitkin County Legislative Lunch

Over 4,000 attend 2019 GigaZone Gaming Championship in Bemidji

Chisago County
Chisago County broadband advocate Nancy Hoffman receives Courageous Leadership Award

Granite Falls
Senator Smith talks about broadband in Granite Falls and Montevideo

Greenwood Township
Feasibility study is first step to better broadband in Greenwood MN (St Louis County)

Lincoln County
Lincoln County Board renews their membership in the MN Broadband Coalition

Meeker County (and others)
Meeker Coop deploys Vibrant Broadband Meeker and parts of McLeod, Kandiyohi, Stearns, Wright and Renville counties

Senator Smith talks about broadband in Granite Falls and Montevideo

Monticello receives prestigious award for broadband leadership from Blandin Foundation

Morcom Township
Morcom Township (St Louis County) hopes for a MN broadband grant

New Ulm
New Ulm Medical Center’s birth center is simulating telehealth procedures

Prairie Island Indian Community
Prairie Island Indian Community now enjoys Gig access through HBC

MiEnergy Cooperative hosts legislative discuss in Rushford on topics including broadband

St Cloud
Google brings workshops for entrepreneurs to St. Cloud

St Joseph
Gigabit service now offered in St. Joseph (Stearns County)

Windomnet gets Courageous Broadband Leadership Award from Blandin Foundation

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Maine and Minnesota share many characteristics, including water and ice and rocks and trees.  While attending the Maine Broadband Summit, I learned that Maine also has a unique organization leading on rural broadband promotion.  The Island Institute has been active in helping rural Maine communities implement broadband solutions.  They have created some nice materials that can be found at The primary constituency of the Institute are island-based communities of which Maine has many.

I also learned about Maine’s rather unique form of local government.  Towns include both urbanized and the surrounding rural areas while county government is limited.  Most local government decisions, including the annual budget, are made at annual town meetings through direct democracy similar to Minnesota’s townships.  The State of Maine has only a small broadband funding program that can only close small funding gaps. Because Maine looks a lot like northeastern Minnesota, last mile wireless is not an effective solution in most towns, so aerial FTTH is the primary infrastructure of choice.  For Maine’s islands, wireless is often used as the middle mile backbone solution as an affordable option to undersea cable.

The lack of state funding puts the onus on Maine’s towns to be more self-reliant and be the primary source of rural broadband government funding.  Because the towns include both urbanized and rural geography, most projects cover the entire town, including overbuilding any existing ISPs that may just be serving the urbanized area.  Most projects involve a private sector partner that operates the network with network ownership varying by community.  Most communities were just folding the bond payments into their existing property tax levy though the examples ran the gamut of possibilities, including funding raised by a small group of private citizens. The general result is ubiquitous quality broadband with some enhanced competition.  Community broadband partners include both privately-held independent telephone companies and entrepreneurial small ISPs.  The projects that I heard about had been approved overwhelmingly at the annual town meetings.

I think that Minnesota communities could learn from these Mainers that broadband is something that local communities can accomplish using local resources.  We know that most Border to Border applications will be rejected since there is only $20 million available for projects totaling $70 million.  Knowing that there is another $20 million in 2020 is not reassuring as even more projects emerge.

Time is now the enemy for unconnected places. They are already paying a harsh penalty measured in jobs, education, health care and quality of life.  Like interest on unpaid debts, this penalty will continue to compound.  Don’t wait!

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