Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch twice-monthly online discussion series
Blandin Foundation is kicking off a virtual series for 2021 – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch. The second and third Wednesdays of the month from noon to 1pm, you are invited to a shared space to talk on a given topic. Here’s what we have for January:
- Lunch Bunch on Broadband Infrastructure Jan 13: Everything You Want to Discuss about RDOF
- Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 20: Share a success story
Governor’s Broadband Task Force Approves Report, Funding Recommendations
The Broadband Task Force met three times during December with a goal to finish and approve the annual report. (They also heard about easement issues.) You can find the penultimate version of the report online. Here are their final recommendations:
- $120 million per biennium for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program in DEED’s base budget.
- $700,000 for the Office of Broadband Development per biennium for staffing and program oversight.
- Operating annual fund of $1.5 million to the Office of Broadband to address challenges to broadband access.
Federal broadband funding may upset state grants
The results of the RDOF federal broadband funding awards are creating concern for rural communities – especially in Minnesota. The concern is that the provider who is in line to receive most of the funding in Minnesota is better known for fixed wireless but the funding is to deploy fiber.
An immediate concern is that communities submitted proposals to the Office of Broadband Development before the RDOF announcement was made and are worried that the RDOF award will impact their chances at state funding and/or require changes to their proposals to qualify for state funding. Learn more:
- MinnPost asks questions about federal broadband grants impact on MN grants
- Minnesota communities have questions and concerns on RDOF results
- “RDOF was a major fail” says MN Task Force member … we need to alert MN legislators
- LTD Broadband is big winner in MN – that’s different
- CNS has a map of RDOF winners
- FCC announces 22 RODF winners in Minnesota – LTD Broadband is big winner
Updated matrix of broadband adoption projects
The matrix of Blandin Broadband Communities has just been updated! It’s a brief description of broadband adoption projects that have received Blandin Foundation support. It’s a great list if you are looking for help or inspiration for your community.
Who is using CARES Act funding for broadband?
Pew looks at what states are doing to apply CARES Act funding to expand broadband and we track what’s happening with counties and cities in Minnesota. (The State of Minnesota decided to not spend CARES funding on broadband at the state level.)
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Senator Bakk will push for $120 million for broadband
- The Minnesota Broadband Coalition meeting notes: great concern on RDOF, plans for 2021
- Update from MN Broadband Coalition: Rep. Ecklund and Sen. Westrom Introduce Broadband Funding in Special Session 7
- Rep Ecklund introduces HF13 – for broadband grant funding
- Sen Bakk gives Walz some advice – including make broadband universal and affordable
- MN Legislators look at ways to ease telehealth extensions
- MN Broadband Task Force meeting: penultimate meeting on the 2020 annual report
- MN Legislators look at extending insurance to cover telehealth services
- MN Rural Broadband Coalition Asks Legislative Leaders for Additional Broadband Funding
- MN Farm Bureau wants MN Legislature to focus on better broadband
- MN Broadband Task Force Dec 1 2002 – draft annual report and easements for rural electric coops
Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Sen Klobuchar looks at 2021, including broadband
- NTCA and the Fiber Broadband Association ask FCC to look at 100 Mbps speed goal
- Klobuchar Broadband Provisions Included in Year-End Package Passed by Senate, Expected to be Signed Into Law
- Thomas Friedman recommends building up rural America with broadband via VP Harris
- Potential Federal Emergency Assistance for Education Institutions and Connectivity
- NTCA report surveys rural broadband providers: aiming for fiber
- USTelecom industry giants outline their hopes for Biden’s broadband policies
- FCC looks at Controversial Spectrum/Education Decision in Pai’s Final Days
- National Skills Coalition recommends 10 state policies to boost digital literacy
- $10 billion of proposed Federal Emergency Relief Package for broadband
Impact of COVID-19
- A practical look at what telehealth is and needs to be to meet patients’ expectations
- Technology is a helper in getting access to mental health support during the holidays
- Klobuchar Broadband Provisions Signed Into Law as Part of Year-End Package
- PBS Voices looks at Life without the Internet – especially during a pandemic
- Pew looks at opinions of Americans on COVID and Technology
- Congress agrees on pandemic stimulus deal – including $7 billion for broadband
- COVID is good excuse for farmers to go online to access mental health assistance – but not always the best reason
- COVID push to get kids online for school worked for computers but not broadband
- More than half of households used telehealth in 2019
Local Broadband News
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Cook and Orr (Grizzlies Community)
Assessment of Blandin Community Broadband Program: Grizzlies (Bois Forte, Cook, Orr)
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Lower Sioux Indian Community and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
FCC Grants Additional 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window Licenses – including three in MN
AT&T to build FirstNet tower in Cook County
Le Sueur, Steele and Waseca Counties
Southern Minnesota looks at impact of RDOF funding to LTD in rural Le Sueur, Steele and Waseca counties
Mountain Iron Buhl
Assessment of Blandin Community Broadband Program: Mt. Iron-Buhl
Renville and Sibley Counties
Catch up with RS Fiber on latest Muninetworks’ Community Broadband Bits podcast
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- OPPORTUNITY: Take a Local Priorities for a National Broadband Stimulus Survey (by Jan 8, 2021)
- OPPORTUNITY: ConnectedMN opens it’s second round of tech funding today!(by Jan 26, 2021)
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
In any other time, I would be starting this column with a breezy Happy New Year and offering platitudes for sunny skies ahead. Instead, uncertainty tending towards gloom fills the air in my office and over Zoom.
My hope for clear broadband skies has been crushed by the unexpected results of the FCC’s RDOF auction. Like many, I expected that many, locally-oriented ISPs would win the majority of eligible areas adjacent to their existing fiber-served areas, thus guaranteeing a timely and smooth deployment of affordable and reliable service for a generation. Non-RDOF eligible areas would be reached through provider investment supplemented by the state’s Border to Border grant program and local public dollars. We would achieve the Minnesota Broadband Vision – rural areas having the broadband infrastructure necessary to attract people and investment. Communities could then focus on broadband utilization for economic competitiveness and quality of life.
Instead of this expected certainty, we must all now wait for clarity to emerge from the next steps of the FCC process. Unfortunately, there are many questions, but few answers:
- Will the FCC approve the engineering and financial plans of winning bidders?
- What technology will be deployed to achieve the promised Gigabit service?
- What is the build-out timeline?
- What about adjacent underserved areas?
- How will incumbent providers respond?
- How will state and federal funders adapt their broadband programs?
- Has the community role changed?
What are your thoughts on the implications of RDOF? Maybe we can shred some clouds and see some sunshine. No presentations, just shared conversation. All are welcome!
Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch
January 13 ~ Noon to 1:00pm
Register Here (for 2nd Wednesdays on infrastructure)
Register for 3rd Wednesdays Lunch Bunch on digital use and equity here