Minnesota adoption rates by generation
Minnesota has one of the largest gaps in broadband adoption by age. Under 65, adoption rate in Minnesota is 76.6 percent; over 65 it’s 56.0 percent. That gap will impact telehealth adoption and policy decisions at the local level, especially when county commissioners and city council are over 65.
Land O’Lakes unveils American Connection Corps
Land O’Lakes created a new program for young leaders aimed at a boots-on-the-ground effort to boost local internet connectivity and the benefits it provides. The program, the American Connection Corps, will be led in conjunction with Lead for America (LFA) and funded through the support of Heartland Forward and 19 additional partner organizations. Applications are open now for a two-year, full-time paid fellowship.
Funding is greater but more confusing
The good news is that there is unprecedented funding focused or potentially focused on broadband from the federal level, and continued funding from the State. The bad news is that funding is becoming more complicated in terms of what they fund and how they make choices. There are some places to get more information. The Institute for Self Reliance has created a Community Guide to Current Broadband Funding. The National Association of Counties is keeping a list of American Rescue Plan Funds distributed in MN and by County (in MN).
Broadband maps are integral to funding
Current broadband maps indicate that there’s no broadband at Vikings Practice Facility. That’s why the FCC asks you to take their Speed Test and the Minnesota Broadband Coalition is asking you to take theirs. (A related topic, you can check out Digitunity’s map of computer ownership.)
Minnesota Women and Broadband
100 Rural Women hosted a conversation between Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Policy and Engagement at the Blandin Foundation and Tina May, Chief of Staff and Vice President at Land O’Lakes moderated by Benya Kraus from Lead for America.
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Minnesota Telehealth Act looks good in Legislature
- Minnesota House Ag bill invests $30 million in broadband
- MRBC Legislative Update: House Passes Agriculture Bill, Broadband Funding
- Senators Weber and Rosen support the Ag Bill with $40 million for broadband over two years
- MN Legislature can pass telehealth bills to make permanent telehealth expansion experienced during the pandemic
- Electric cooperatives want to use easements for broadband as well as electricity
- Senator Weber supports $40M for broadband in MN
- State Revenue by Source? MN tops list for taxes
- MRBC Update: Senate Passes Broadband Funding, Coalition Elects New Chair
- MN Senate passed comprehensive budget bills with $40 million for broadband
- Minneapolis Star Tribune promotes legislation to expand telehealth
- MN Border to Border grants do not require wired solutions – but do require 100/100 scalability
- MN House Ways and Means Committee moves broadband funding to register
- MN Senate SF958: $40 million in state funding for broadband
- Rural Minnesota lags behind the rest of the state, grants help close the gap
- MN Senate Ag Committee passes omnibus with $40 million for broadband
- MRBC Legislative Update: Senate Agriculture Committee Triples Broadband Funding to $120 Million
- MRBC Legislative Update: Omnibus Bill Week
Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- FCC reports: Emergency Broadband Benefit Program start date is May 12
- US Rep Angie Craig supports corporate taxes for broadband
- The White House grades Minnesota a C for infrastructure
- US legislators introduce bill to increase promotion of affordable broadband
- Rural Broadband Association asks policymakers to invest in symmetrical broadband for the future
- Congressman Stauber and Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach hear that broadband is a workforce need
- How the FCC wasted $45 billion on rural “broadband”
- US poised to award $100B to SpaceX Starlink – will it help rural residents?
- Rep Stauber supports broadband funding in infrastructure plan
- Rep Fischbach supports broadband funding in infrastructure plan
Impact of COVID-19
- COVID restrictions are pushing seniors online: aka ideas for Mother’s Day!
- Online school makes life easier for some students – MN schools seem especially interested
- Pushing 5G in while pushing 2G and 3G out is going to leave a gap!
- About StarLink: “I will keep Starlink as long as it’s the only broadband option available to me”
Local Broadband News
Increased access to telehealth is patient-centered care
Waiting for broadband in Alexandria MN
Roselynn Jones from Cass Lake took 1st place in the online cosplay contest with her “High Inquisitor of the Scarlet Crusade” costume.
Future leader in Autonomous Vehicles? Grand Rapids MN! (For more info, check out MN Report on Automated Vehicles that mentions 10 year investment in fiber.)
Koochiching joins MN Broadband Coalition
Free internet coming to Jasper’s campground
White Earth Reservation
White Earth Strut Your Stuff: plan in place, ready for action
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- May 5: Dakota Broadband Board Technical Advisory Committee Meeting
- May 8: Appapalooza 2021, a live-pitch event for girls ages 10-18
- May 12: Infrastructure Lunch Bunch Register now!
- May 26: Digital Use & Equity Lunch Bunch Register now!
- OPPORTUNITY: Small Cities Coronavirus CDBG-CV Program Call for Applications
- OPPORTUNITY: FCC reports: Emergency Broadband Benefit Program start date is May 12
- OPPORTUNITY: Community Broadband Outreach Organizer and Community Broadband Intern
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
Everyone is now certifiably bonkers for broadband. Prior to the pandemic, the need for broadband everywhere was increasingly evident and many communities were working on solutions. Even then, the “homework gap” was seen as an inconvenient symptom of a larger problem. It was not a big enough problem to actually spur action, but an easy to understand hindrance that typically spurred policy makers to say “we have to do something about that…sometime.” Through the pandemic, we’ve spent millions of emergency funding on cellular hot spots to connect kids and Internet Essentials-type subscriptions applying a very expensive and short-term band-aid to connectivity shortcomings. That money is now spent and we are right back to square one.
Long term solutions for your community may emerge from the flood of money from the FCC RDOF program, the American Rescue Plan via the US Treasury, MN DEED SCDG program, and possible MN DEED OBD appropriations and American Jobs Act. Each program has a unique set of rules, eligibility, non-duplication requirements, timeframes, etc. As someone who has been around the confluence of broadband and economic development for twenty years, I can safely say that the broadband world has never been more confusing. The community role in deploying these funds ranges from absolute control to zero. There is tremendous opportunity within this chaos.
Communities must rise to this opportunity in spite of all its challenges and be prepared to positively influence the broadband deployments from this funding blizzard. Dedicate staff resources to obtain knowledge, build desirable partnerships and pursue your broadband vision. Find and empower local broadband champions. Gather market data, build your local and expert broadband team, select preferred partners and be ready for opportunities. DEED’s SCDG program has a short 40-day application window and other emerging funding programs may be similar. Be ready!
One sure way to be ready is build the capacity of your team by taking advantage of the archived webinars on the Blandin site. Many past conference sessions are also available there.