eNews: MN Monthly Recap: MN Legislature $40, $50 $60 or $120 Million for broadband

MN Broadband Task Force April Mtg archive & video: Angie Craig, LTD Broadband & NCTA
The MN Broadband Task Force heard from US Rep Angie Craig, LTD Broadband and NCTA in April. Task force members had questions about mapping, speed goals and how to best work with providers to get better broadband.
The Task Force met in mid-March too. They learned about new COVID-inspired broadband grants that will be made available through the State’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Is MN a broadband winner or loser? A look at Federal Funding RDOF and CAF
Telecompetitor reports on the RDOF ranking by state; Minnesota ranks highly for funding per rural resident. The question is whether that funding will help or hinder the best broadband possible.

Blandin Foundation introduces CBR: Accelerate!
Blandin Foundation is offering intensive Community Broadband Resources (CBR) assistance with a new initiative: CBR: Accelerate! They will be working with Kanabec, Pine and Aitkin Counties and Mille Lacs Tribal Economy.

 Bernadine Joselyn talks about MN Broadband Model
Pew asks Blandin Foundation’s Bernadine Joselyn, “What Policymakers Can Learn From the ‘Minnesota Model’ of Broadband Expansion?” Bernadine outlines the components of the Minnesota Model, why they work and how others can learn from them.

MN Broadband Day on the Hill March 2021: Video and Notes
MN Broadband Coalition hosted their Day on the Hill. The Coalition promotes $120 Million for broadband grants – over two years.
Both the Senate and the House have bills that target $120 million. The Governor budgeted $50 million for one year and none for the second year of the biennium. Since creating the budget targets, the GOP (Senate) have changed their target to $40 million for broadband; we heard (unconfirmed) that the DFL (House) are looking at $30 million.

Emergency Broadband Benefit
The FCC is working on the process for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. This is funding that will help make broadband more affordable for households through a subsidy. Updates include:


State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Aitkin County interested in extending waivers that support telehealth

Bemidji
GigaZone Gaming Championship Returns Virtually in April

Brainerd
Broadband is the hot topic at Brainerd annual Economic Development meeting

Chisago Lakes Area, Le Sueur County, Otter Tail County, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation
The latest Blandin Broadband Communities cohort shares descriptions and stories of their latest broadband projects – pre and post-COVID

City of Cook
Paul Bunyan Communications gets MN Border to Border Broadband Grant for portions of the City of Cook

Duluth
Duluth Digital Inclusion Initiative and Partnership Summary of Accomplishments January 2021
Duluth & St. Louis County prioritize broadband expansion at the Capitol

Ely & International Falls
Ely and International Falls part of new Midco fiber ring (St Louis & Koochiching Counties)

Iona
100 Households in Iona MN getting broadband (Murray County)

Mankato
Almost 80 percent surveyed near Mankato support MN Legislative investment in broadband
Mankato Free Press promote broadband as a good economic strategy

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
Blandin Foundation selects Mille Lacs Tribal Economy for broadband program

Minneapolis
ConnectedMN awards $2.35 million in grants to get kids online

Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County hires broadband advocate

Ramsey County
Ramsey County TechPak initiative: Tech for folks who needed it see $2.40 return for every $1 spent

St Cloud
St Cloud reader thinks broadband is for folks who can afford it – and a few counter points

St Louis County
St. Louis County is not waiting around for federal or state support – they are moving on broadband now

St Louis Park (Twin Cities)
St Louis Park (MN) invests ahead to build better broadband for the community

Todd, Cass and Wadena Counties
Minnesota cooperatives West Central and CTC on steady path of expansion (Todd, Cass and Wadena Counties)

University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota uses telehealth to treat heart attacks in the field

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Today, the first post on my Twitter feed was a quote attributed to Mark Twain – “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”  He likely heard those words first from his mother, or a 4th grade teacher!  It certainly applies to just about anything from spring cleaning to a post-pandemic diet.  And just as well to community broadband planning.  Those communities/counties that tackled broadband early faced a daunting, but simple broadband landscape…broadband lacking everywhere, a clear choice for fiber optics, and just a few broadband financing programs to pay for it.  Today, the map and technology choices are more complicated with an emerging array of federal dollars to attract and invest.

For many unserved places, “getting started” actually means getting “re-started.”  That can be a more difficult challenge.  These places have had task forces, completed feasibility studies, submitted grant applications and still have poor broadband.  Federal agencies may have made poor choices on behalf of the community by funding outdated or inappropriate technologies or, maybe worse, disinterested or incapable providers. In spite of these obstacles, communities need to become engaged to ensure, to the extent possible, that broadband investments are made and that they are the right investments.

As you look at the Minnesota broadband maps, you can see two things – that broadband issues are regional in scale and that broadband solutions are hyper-local.  Working regionally, communities can work at scale on data gathering and building political will.  Working locally, communities can design specific solutions with provider partners to deploy broadband down a country road or across a township.  Leadership teams from Pine, Kanabec and Aitkin Counties, in partnership with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, are working together on a regional initiative, engaging local government, health care providers, schools, businesses and community-oriented broadband providers.  They are “getting started” in a big, well-organized process.  I applaud these community teams for their dedication and enthusiastic leadership.  Minnesota will be better off as a result!

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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