Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap/Coronavirus Updates (April 2020)

Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar Series
The Blandin Foundation is hosting a webinar series – Broadband Leadership Webinar Series: Creating Successful Broadband Projects on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 am until April 30. Here are the sessions:

  • March 31 Series Overview (archive
  • April 2 Setting the Vision (archive
  • April 7 Broadband 101
  • April 9 Community Broadband Surveys
  • April 14 Broadband Mapping
  • April 16 Ownership Models and Provider Partnerships
  • April 21 Feasibility Studies
  • April 23 Federal and State Broadband Finance Programs
  • April 28 Local Broadband Finance Options
  • April 30 Making it Happen: Determining your Community’s Best Option

Blandin will also be hosting a webinar on Tips and Tricks of online meetings on April 8.

MN Broadband Day on the Hill
The Day on the Hill happened just as policy decisions were being made about coronavirus changes. Many legislators showed great enthusiasm for increased broadband funding, but broadband funding did not make the special coronavirus funding package. However, policymakers encouraged attendees to continue to advocate for funding. Minnesota Broadband Coalition shared their notes on the day.

State Policy Issues

  • Broadband related MN bills introduced: easements, social media, data and telecom definitions

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order of post date)

Impact of Coronavirus Policies
Mid-March, we saw a dramatic change in our world with the growing danger of coronavirus in the US and increasing policies and procedures to combat the spread – most notably the recommendation to stay at home. Broadband plans a big part in allowing people to learn, earn and keep healthy at home. Subsequently there are a lot of posts this month. I’ve tried to organize them to make them most accessible:

COVID-19 Resources Available

COVID-19 Policy/Preparedness

COVID-19 Education

COVID-19 Healthcare

COVID-19 Government

COVID-19 Affordable Broadband/Digital Divide

COVID-19 Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

Anoka County
Anoka County is working with Blandin on broadband improvement projects

Bois Forte, Cook and Orr
Grizzlies’ (Bois Forte, Cook, Orr) Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Cannon Falls
Cannon Falls’ Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (Goodhue County)

Center City
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is bringing addiction and mental health services online

Chisholm’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

RiverView Health in Crookston implements telehealth

Dakota County
Dakota County outlines broadband by the numbers

Ely’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Franklin Township
Tiger 4G and AT&T work together to get Franklin Township online

Hibbing’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Iron Range
A glimpse at fiber-haves and fiber-have-nots from Aaron Brown on MN’s Iron Range

Iron Range Tourism Bureau’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Koochiching County
Koochiching Technology Initiative’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

Koochiching County approves Koochiching Technology Initiative

Le Sueur
Le Sueur County selected for Blandin Community Broadband Program

Mankato Clinic to Offer Telehealth Visits

Mille Lacs
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative State Grant Details (Aitkin County)

Washburn Center for Children Adopting telehealth with help from Medica

Pandemic preparation for a local urban broadband provider: Community Networks with US Internet

Mountain Iron Buhl
Mountain Iron-Buhl teachers share their plans for online teaching but not everyone has access

Mt. Iron-Buhl’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County selected for Blandin Community Broadband Program

Broadband coming to Pennington and Strawberry Areas of Leech Lake Indian Reservation & SE Beltrami County

Quad Cities (Eveleth, Gilbert, Mountain Iron, and Virginia)
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Family Service Rochester opens telehealth door for therapy

Rock County
Rock County’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

Sherburne County
Sherburne County is installing conduit and becoming Telecommuter Forward community

St Louis County
East Range Joint Powers’ Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

St Paul
Kindergarteners meet on Fridays for Zoom lunch at this St Paul School

Swift County
Swift County’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

Tower Economic Development Authority’s Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

Winona Engage creates online space for local community and info

Yellow Medicine
Midco’s plan for fixed wireless in Yellow Medicine County

Upcoming Events

  • Thursdays in April and May: Dancing Heart Live – online morning stretch with Kairos Live


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

Community broadband advocates need to take a look at the Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding that will be made available via the latest FCC’s funding program for rural broadband.  Communities should engage with their preferred provider partners now to encourage them to bid for this available funding.  A preferred partner is one whose deployment plans line up with your community’s vision for future broadband service rather than a provider using these funds to meet today’s minimum broadband standards similar to the CAF II 10 Mb/1 Mb debacle.

Over $20 billion is available and only areas that lack 25 Mb/3 Mb funding, using the current FCC maps, are eligible.   Eligible areas can be found here: along with GIS data tables.  There are large blocks of eligible areas in northeast, east central, southeast and southcentral Minnesota.  One interesting aspect of the reverse auction process will be to reward providers who commit to providing higher speeds and lower latencies.  Frankly, this whole process is very complicated.

A significant barrier to effectively using these funds is the patchwork of eligibility.  The funds would be a great building block in a collaborative funding plan, combining provider, local and state funds with federal funding to cover a wide geographic area.  County and regional broadband planners would do well to commit local funding to their preferred provide partner which would increase their ability to bid confidently on these federal funds.

Smart legislators would empower the DEED Office of Broadband to reserve some of their funds supporting providers chasing RDOF funds.  I hope that they are talking about this.  With a prospective DEED application window in September and the October FCC auction, the timing seems compatible.  Combined, these funds could be used to ensure widespread deployment of fiber to the home networks, especially since so many of the eligible areas are not idea for wireless deployment.  This would be a great opportunity to push the “Minnesota Model” to a new level of innovation.


This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN, Policy and tagged 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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