Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband, Policy, COVID-19 (July 2020)

Save the month of October: Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand
Interesting times require innovative solutions! So, the Blandin conference planning team has decided to lean in and move the annual conference online – and reformed it into a monthlong series of opportunities. Coming in October!

Blandin in part of State Plan to Close Digital Divide
Governor Walz announces Public-Private Partnership to support technology needs of Minnesota students. Partnership for a ConnectedMN is led by Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the State of Minnesota.

MN Broadband Task Force June 2020
The Task Force heard from Microsoft Airband about their offerings. They also heard from former FCC member, Jonathan Chambers who mentioned maps that showed public investment by county and talked about the need to focus on future proof network or prepare to pay for upgrades.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Chisago County
What to do with schools in the fall? Online, in-person, hybrid. Chisago asks an expert about online education

East Range Iron Range
Five public safety broadband projects led by East Range Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities program

Golden Valley, Minneapolis and Willmar
Three MN healthcare facilities get FCC funding

Grand Marais
Minnesota Children’s Press Story Scouts use Instagram to encourage COVID precautions in the community

Hubbard County
Hubbard County vets office provides telehealth option

Iron Range
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects with Iron Range Tourism Bureau

Jacobson
Jacobson Community Center get creative with WiFi

Little Falls
Little Falls MN bypasses maps that exaggerate broadband coverage to form partnership with CTC

Minneapolis
M Health Fairview expands telemedicine to homeless shelter

Nessel Township
CenturyLink to bring fiber to 1,000+ homes in Nessel Township, MN

Northern MN
Northern MN appreciates ConnectedMN state funds to get kids connected

Rice County
Views of broadband expansion in Rice County

Rochester and Onamia
FCC announces 77 More CARES Act telehealth awards: 2 are in MN

Two Harbors
Wilderness health gets $800,000 for telehealth in Two Harbors

Winona County
Winona County to votes on approval of a 300-foot telecommunications tower near Lewiston

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Broadband advocates in Saint Louis County have been engaged in a crowd-sourced broadband speed test that is yielding fascinating and useful results.  Approximately 7,000 completed tests have led to clear conclusions made visible through sophisticated GIS mapping tools. Several neighboring counties are now moving forward with a similar strategy and there is an emerging consensus that this should be a statewide initiative.

The GEO Partners mapping tool provides address-specific data about the actual speed a customer is receiving.  The biggest value will be for local areas that have low-speed connections. The most important data will be collected in places where the state and federal maps show broadband service in excess of 25 Mb/3 Mb and the actual service is less.

The benefits of this approach are many.  It offers clarity to local government leaders about what broadband services are actually available.  This statistically valid evidence helps build community consensus.   State officials could use this data in adjudicating grant challenges from competing ISPs.  Federal programs would consider this information as input when deciding which regions were eligible for federal programs based.  Importantly, prospective providers could use this information to determine the actual quality of existing networks where they are considering expansions.

The results show very clear differences among providers and among different technologies and are no surprise to anyone working on broadband issues in rural areas.  While some customers may buy low-speed services for affordability reasons, the lack of any high-speed connections in an area can be used as evidence that high-speed service is not widely available or simply too expensive.

At community meetings in rural areas, the display of broadband maps often brings reactions of disbelief and testimonials of poor service.  Today, the burden of proof to correct these maps is on local leaders who have only these individual stories to bring to state and federal elected officials and staff.  A crowd-sourced statewide broadband speed test would create a second source of reliable data that could be a strong counterweight to the existing over-optimistic maps submitted by providers.

Stay tuned for more information on this emerging statewide initiative.  Large numbers of tests are required to be statistically valid.  Getting too a statistically valid sample in your area will be a local responsibility and require participation of a wide variety of promoters – local units of governments, chambers of commerce, school districts, lake associations, churches and other community organizations.

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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