eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Federal, state local funding for broadband

GigaZone Gaming CosPlay Co-Winner

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)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Increased access to telehealth is patient-centered care

Blandin Foundation helps Aitkin County expand and use broadband

Waiting for broadband in Alexandria MN

Another reason for ubiquitous broadband: adherence to Open Meeting Laws

Hunter Branson Wins Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament for 2nd time in a row at GigaZone Gaming Championship 5

Team YES wins Overwatch 6v6 Tournament at GigaZone Gaming Championship 5

Roselynn Jones from Cass Lake took 1st place in the online cosplay contest with her “High Inquisitor of the Scarlet Crusade” costume.

Smart Rural Community: Paul Bunyan Communications Video

Comparing Duluth’s market-based broadband solution to Superior’s Municipal open access model

Doctor in Duluth asks policymakers to make COVID telehealth changes permanent

CTC brings FTTH to Ely MN

Broadband is happening around Ely with CTC, Midco and Treehouse Broadband expansions

Grand Rapids
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.)

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County is poising to use American Rescue Plan funding for broadband

Koochiching County
Koochiching joins MN Broadband Coalition

Le Sueur County
Le Sueur County Strut Your Stuff show great innovation to meet local access challenges

Nobles County
Libraries Without Borders US and Blandin are working to bring the library to patrons in rural MN

Northwest MN
The Health Variant gives an up close look at telehealth in NW MN

Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County Strut Your Stuff: zoom rooms, tech packs – getting people connecting during COVID

Rock County
Free internet coming to Jasper’s campground 

Southeast MN
Senator Klobuchar appreciates FTTH network in SE Minnesota built by Harmony and MiEnergy Coop

White Earth Reservation
White Earth Strut Your Stuff: plan in place, ready for action

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

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.

Good luck!

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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