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)
- So what does the end of MN special session mean for broadband funding?
- Update from MN Broadband Coalition: Special Session Ends Without Deal on Broadband, Again
- MN Senate passes a broadband bill on June 19
- A look at rural counties broadband and unemployment
- Gretchen Piper running for MN Senate District 33 talk about broadband
- Rep Davnie introduces bill for $8 million for temporary broadband to students
- Incorrect MN broadband maps are making some areas ineligible for broadband grants
- Cyberattacks are hitting Minnesota and local governments
Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- US Senators introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to accelerate broadband access nationwide
- Broadband funding passing in US House – now to the Senate
- Senators Klobuchar and Clyburn introduce comprehensive broadband legislation to expand access to affordable Internet
- Is it time to change the definition of broadband? Currently it’s 25Mbps down and 3 up
- Does federal broadband funding discriminate against black Americans and people of color?
- US Chamber Recommendations for closing the digital divide in rural America – are they long term?
- Senator Tina Smith leads push on USDA to accelerate COVID-19 relief funds to bolster rural broadband
- Will SpaceX low-orbit satellite broadband meet required latency to be eligible for RDOF money?
- The 411 on RDOF for potential broadband bidders
- Senator Klobuchar on added need and efforts for broadband during pandemic
- Broadband not a utility? Not necessary or essential? Who says?
- Sen Klobuchar et al urge Congressional leaders to ensure broadband for college students
Impact of COVID-19
- Stats on telehealth – big on virtual visits, less so on EHR
- 40 percent of dentists are using telehealth/teledentistry
- Can we change habits with a hashtag? #MaskUpMN
- Telehealth more important during pandemic as facilities close – increasing need for adequate/affordable broadband across MN
- Closing the digital divide for distance education estimated cost: $6-12 billion
- What happens when the COVID-inspired free broadband expires?
- Access to computers, devices and broadband is barrier to some in tribal areas – so phone use is taking over
- Is telehealth here to stay? Depends on policy
- Six objectives to reduce the healthcare gap with telehealth
- Minnesota insurers cut fees for 70,000 in Medicare health plans
- Minnesota companies rally to provide more extensive telehealth services to oncology patients
- Rural hospitals are struggling financially – telehealth may help
- Telehealth upgrades unrelated to COVID-19 – weird and wonderful innovations
- 40+ telehealth bills introduced by state legislatures since April – including MN
- MetroNet acquires Minnesota’s Jaguar Communications
- HBC extends of the Keep Americans Connected Pledge
- Frontier customers may be due rebates or bill credits
- T-Mobile has IP traffic issues that slowed service on June 15
- Paul Bunyan Communications returns capital credits early; Over $4.1 million are distributed, largest in Cooperative History
Local Broadband News
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
Minnesota Children’s Press Story Scouts use Instagram to encourage COVID precautions in the community
Hubbard County vets office provides telehealth option
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects with Iron Range Tourism Bureau
Jacobson Community Center get creative with WiFi
Little Falls MN bypasses maps that exaggerate broadband coverage to form partnership with CTC
M Health Fairview expands telemedicine to homeless shelter
CenturyLink to bring fiber to 1,000+ homes in Nessel Township, MN
Northern MN appreciates ConnectedMN state funds to get kids connected
Views of broadband expansion in Rice County
Rochester and Onamia
FCC announces 77 More CARES Act telehealth awards: 2 are in MN
Wilderness health gets $800,000 for telehealth in Two Harbors
Winona County to votes on approval of a 300-foot telecommunications tower near Lewiston
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- Tuesdays at 9am: Blandin Broadband Roundtables
- July 9: Webinar Deployment Construction
- July 16: Connecting Customers and Service & Maintenance of the Fiber Plant
- OPPORTUNITY: Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Auction short-form application Open yesterday (July 1) closes July 15
- OPPORTUNITY: Rural Tech Project $600,000 in grants for educators
- OPPORTUNITY: Small Business Relief Grants Program to Open for Applications on June 23
- OPPORTUNITY: NDIA is Hiring – Research and Policy Director
- OPPORTUNITY: Partners are talking about possibly creating a statewide MN Broadband Speed Test
- OPPORTUNITY: Broadband Construction Supervisor in MN
- OPPORTUNITY: Support the Black Lives Matter movement with open source tech and open data
- OPPORTUNITY: Government Experience Awards Call for Entries deadline July 31, 2020
Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables
- Broadband Roundtable on small-scale economic development strategies Archive
- Broadband Roundtable on telehealth response to the Covid-19 Archive
- Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable: Social Media for Community Broadband
- Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable: Polco’s civic engagement platform notes
- Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable Discussion Notes June 2, 2020
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.