OPPORTUNITY! Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand
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! Here are some of the highlights announced so far:
- Keynote Speaker Announcement: Tom Friedman joins the MN Fall Broadband Conference
- MN Broadband Conference Special Session Announcement: Tom Friedman Book Club – Thank you for being late
- Keynote Speaker Announcement: Deb Socia joins the MN Fall Broadband Conference
- Keynote Speaker Announcement: Roberto Gallardo joins us online for the Fall Broadband Conference
- OPPORTUNITY: Create a Digital Ready Community – pilot opportunity for 3 MN communities
- Keynote Speaker Announcement: Shirley Bloomfield joins the MN Fall Broadband Conference
- MN Broadband Conference Special Session Announcement: NTCA on federal policy updates
What are Digital Navigators?
Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — with community members through repeated interactions.
MN Broadband Task Force August Meeting notes
Newest Task Force member, Jason Hollinday from Fond du Lac, joins the group to hear from Minnesota Department of Education Overview on CARES Act Funding for Distance Learning and from a few experts from the Department. Bernadine Joselyn spoke talk about the ConnectedMN program that augments the federal funding. They talked about the 2020 Task Force report.
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Governor Walz Names Angie Dickison Executive Director of Broadband Development
- Notes from the Coalition meeting: visit from Sen Smith, Speed test and Legislative Update
- DEED Commissioner says “high-speed internet access isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity”
- The status of broadband in Minnesota in rural and urban areas
- A quick look at CARES tech spending in MN
- MPR asks: Will telemedicine be the new norm in Minnesota?
- Happy Telecommuter Forward Day in MN – esp to 23 participating cities
- State policy recommendations for better broadband – MN gets a nice nod
Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- What’s the difference between unserved and underserved? Not much when the definitions are low
- For people considering a move to a rural area … Broadband is even more important than politics.
- Trump Administration Seeks Applications for Capacity Building and Planning Grants in Rural Communities
- 2020 version of ILSR’s Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom
- Providers not thrilled with changes to FCC maps that could more accurately portray coverage
- Looks like the FCC is sticking with 25/3 as definition of broadband
- Senator Klobuchar recognizes need for ubiquitous broadband
- Kentucky Judge offers tips for getting folks to take a Broadband Speed Test – after seeing amazing results in his county
- On Senate Floor, Klobuchar Highlights Need to Keep Families Connected During the Pandemic and Invest in Broadband
- How do you find yourself living a life without broadband? How does half a country get left behind?
Impact of COVID-19
- Don’t despair, look at what we are learning through COVID, like the importance of broadband
- Telehealth can curb STIs in MN
- Distance learning highlights inequities – like lack of broadband
- Allina Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Commit to Landmark Value-Based Contract in Minnesota
- Telehealth great for people with broadband – reimbursement a factor of cost or value?
- Project Nandi In MN Preps for national Day of Action Demanding Free Internet For All
- Senators Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar push bipartisan effort to improve financial stability of Electric Coops, Small Rural Broadband Providers in Next COVID Relief Package
- MN broadband access has increased 4.4 percent since COVID
Local Broadband News
Beltrami County certified as telecommuter-friendly community
Chisago County chat: broadband has been a help and hindrance in pandemic planning
Bevcomm gets $5,000 grant, $15,000 loan to improve broadband in Faribault County
Harmony MN is working on short and long term broadband improvements (Fillmore County)
Iron Range Schools and families are focusing on broadband
Kanabec County chat: spotty broadband means different COVID experience across the county
Lake Crystal and Madelia
Lake Crystal and Madelia are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities
Le Sueur County
Le Sueur County chat: broadband reliability is a hindrance but also spurring optimism
North Branch and Chisago County
North Branch And Chisago County are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities
Tele-Mental Health Portal helping reach folks in Region 9
Rock County chat: broadband made work, school and healthcare seamless during COVID
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation ask people in South MN to take the MN Broadband speed test
St Louis County
Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) Working on better broadband in St Louis County
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- EVENT Sep 10: UMN Extension’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference
- EVENTS: Net Inclusion Webinar Series: Wednesdays Sep 16 thru November 4
- EVENT Sep 23: MHTA Tech Connect
- OPPORTUNITY Sep 30 MN Border to Border Broadband Grant Applications Available
- OPPORTUNITY: Statewide Speed Test Initiative
- OPPORTUNITY: MN Broadband County Profile Focus Groups
- OPPORTUNITY: Barbers and beauty shops with broadband poise to offer telehealth services
- OPPORTUNITY: What Should We Ask in our Next Internet Use Survey?
Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables
- Broadband Roundtable on CARES funding to further broadband access notes
- Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable with Christopher Mitchell of MuniNets (ILSR)
- Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on MN Broadband Coalition and speed test notes
- Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on Partnership for a Connected MN
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
Access. adoption and use are the three legs of broadband promotion. Access is the network. Adoption is affordability and basic training. Use is increased sophistication of technology by individuals, but also entire economic sectors, like retailing, education, health care and manufacturing. I have observed the inconsistent pace at which these three factors move forward. Broadband network deployment is heavily influenced by federal, state and even local government finance programs. Federally, we saw the underwhelming impact of poorly designed and executed CAF II program and more positive continuing results of the ACAM funds. The next big this is the RDOF reverse auction that will heat up in October and November. We have seen the overwhelmingly positive results of the MN Border to Border Broadband Fund. In rural, if the government is not funding it, wired broadband investment just is not happening.
Adoption is driven by availability and affordability, especially the latter. Affordability took a big leap forward with the Comcast Digital Essentials Program. Originally designed as some eye candy to allow regulators to approve Comcast’s purchase of competitors, the company continues to implement the program and has increased the speeds provided during the pandemic. Some other providers have followed suit and have started their own programs, some of which have since abandoned their low-cost programs. The new Connected MN program will be a helpful addition, at least short-term, to the adoption toolbox. Prior to the pandemic, the digital “homework gap” was highly noted, but not cause for significant policy response. With kids attending school from home, the gap became a chasm.
Sophistication of use was mostly held back by fear, regulations, inflexible management and other non-technical factors. The pandemic busted through all of those barriers around tele-health (payments, privacy), tele-work (management oversight and e-security issues), e-commerce offerings and purchases (fear and lack of investment by businesses and fear and tradition by consumers). “Necessity as the mother of invention” swept away many of these artificial barriers.
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens as we move forward post-pandemic. Will federal and state governments decide to limit funds for broadband projects or will broadband deployment be a centerpiece of economic stimulus packages? Will downtowns and suburban office buildings need to be converted to housing as people continue to work from home? Will education be transformed with more choices for either at-home or at-school offerings? Which direction will the health care industry go with tele-health? Affordability is certain to be front and center on the adoption front. Today, school districts are providing devices and connectivity for students. Will this continue or will we be content to again worry about the homework gap for a significant portion of the student population.
Seems like some good questions for our candidates!