2021 MN Broadband Day Two: Broadband Project Development 101

A high level tech overview covering strengths/weaknesses of the various last mile technologies, both wired and wireless, followed by a panel discussion on broadband projects and partnerships. Moderated by Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

  • Joe Buttweiler, Director of Business Development, CTC
  • Mark Mrla, Director, Strategy Operations, Finley Engineering
  • Whitney Ridlon, Community Development Rep., MN Dept of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation
  • Barbara Dröher Kline, Le Sueur County Broadband
  • Justin Forde, Senior Director of Government Relations, Midco
  • Kyle Moorhead, Founder, Hometown Fiber

Chat from the session:

Broadband project development

11:53:57 From  Mike Wimmer  to  Everyone: One small thing that might be of significant help to smaller communities is to have some sort of spreadsheet or database available to local officials of recommended provider contacts. I don’t know if this is something the Blandin Foundation could do or if the Office of Broadband would be a better fit for it. With all of the public funds available I think many communities will be wanting to reach out to providers, but not knowing who the best person to reach out to is. This likely isn’t an issue for areas with small, local companies (or co-ops), but the larger companies are a bit of a maze to navigate on who to speak with. Just an idea.

11:54:41 From  Benya Kraus  to  Everyone: ^ I agree, Mike!

11:57:52 From  Scott Cole-Collectivity  to  Everyone: Trees (especially pine trees) are the enemy of radio waves 🙂

12:02:31 From  Brian Frederick  to  Everyone: Mike, here is a link to Deed’s data regarding available providers: https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/maps/data.jsp

12:03:11 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: Thanks for that suggestion, Mike. Some communities Blandin has worked with have indeed created local “guides” like this for residents.

12:06:34 From  Mary Magnuson (she/her)  to  Everyone: The Leadership webinar series is partway down the page https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/broadband/blandin-community-broadband-program-webinar-series/

12:07:10 From  Mary Magnuson (she/her)  to  Everyone: More like the bottom of the page!

12:07:22 From  Mike Wimmer  to  Everyone: Thank you Brian & Bernadine! I was thinking along the lines of providing a database available to local officials that lists “Mike’s Internet Service – email/phone”. It would host info for who a County, City, or Township should contact if they want to discuss partnering with them on a broadband project. Not an issue with small, local companies or co-ops where people generally know who to contact, but a provider like CenturyLink is more difficult to find.

12:12:56 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: Barbara Droher Kline is THE Barbara named in Benya’s “roll-up” slide deck summarizing regional input about what does MN need to get better broadband everywhere: “More Barbaras!”

12:19:50 From  Mary Magnuson (she/her)  to  Everyone: Read the panelists’ bios here https://blandinfoundation.org/articles/broadband-project-development/

12:19:53 From  Reno Wells  to  Everyone: Townships are required to comply with the Open Meeting Law.  Townships have a County Unit where they get together monthly, quarterly or annually where they gather as groups.

12:34:01 From  Jon Lubke Jenkins  to  Everyone:                Have to leave now. Thanks for all the info. Mayor Jenkins

12:34:06 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: Whitney – now you are singing Blandin’s tune! Yes! Access AND adoption!

12:35:07 From  Mary Magnuson (she/her)  to  Everyone: Before you go, complete the Day 2 Conference Evaluation: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C5MFJ8W

12:38:37 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: Everyone: Here again is the link to participant survey: We would love your feedback! Please take a moment to get this back to us: Before you go, complete the Day 2 Conference Evaluation: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C5MFJ8W

12:42:13 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: Librarians are always great community resources for this work

12:42:49 From  Mary Ann Van Cura  to  Everyone: school library media specialists can be a touch point for who is online

12:44:00 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: health care administrators, also – as they have an institutional interest in promoting tele-health, and they need broadband infrastructure for that.

12:44:40 From  Yvonne Cariveau  to  Everyone: Leaders in ag, like Sam Ziegler from Green Seam would be key to have involved.  So much is going on with tech for farmers – monitoring herds, equipment, etc all requires internet.

12:48:18 From  Bernadine Joselyn (she/her)  to  Everyone: We will begin the conference tomorrow at 8:30 AM with coffee and conversation: Program begins at 9 AM with a welcome from Mark Ritchie of Global MN, former MN Secretary of State.

13:00:48 From  Justin Forde  to  Everyone: Justin.Forde@midco.com

13:00:51 From  Justin Forde  to  Everyone: Thanks All!

13:01:08 From  Laura Kangas- Arvig  to  Everyone: laura.kangas@arvig.com

13:01:10 From  Yvonne Cariveau  to  Everyone: Thanks to all the organizers and presenters, another informative day!  See ya tomorrow.

13:01:58 From  Mary Magnuson (she/her)  to  Everyone: Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C5MFJ8W

13:02:03 From  Marc Johnson  to  Everyone: Thanks everyone! Great Day!!

13:02:21 From  Benya Kraus  to  Everyone: Thanks all!

Info on Speakers:

Joe Buttweiler, Director of Business Development, CTC
Joe uses his 17 years of experience working for electric utilities deploying technology systems and infrastructure to assist public sector organizations, utilities and telecommunications companies to provide or partner to provide broadband solutions. Having established two of the most well-known and successful electric-telco partnerships right here in Minnesota, CTC is considered a premier resource for utilities and public-sector organizations interested in deploying Broadband. CTC now works with companies across the United States to help them deploy or structure partnerships to deploy broadband networks. Joe studied GIS at Bemidji State University and holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University.

Mark Mrla, Director, Strategy Operations, Finley Engineering
Mark joined Finley Engineering Company in 2008 and works out of the Slayton, MN office. He currently serves as Director of Strategic Operations and is responsible for business development as well as some project management, engineering, budgeting, scheduling and client relations. Mark also coordinates teams and processes for loan and grant applications for various federal and state government programs. Prior to joining Finley, Mark served in various management and technical positions at MidAmerican Energy Company, Gateway, Inc., and owned and operated a private technology consulting company. Mark holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Iowa, is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in 13 states.

Whitney Ridlon, Community Development Rep., MN Dept of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation
Whitney Ridlon has worked in community development for over 15 years in both rural and urban communities. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Metropolitan State University. Passionate for her home communities on the Iron Range, she moved back home from St Paul in 2014 to work in community development for the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. She has been working to expand broadband into rural areas of NE MN, connect local communities to financial and technical resources, and also administers a variety of community grant programs that encourage community planning, partnerships, and downtown/business revitalization. In her free time she enjoys teaching figure skating, participating in grassroots community initiatives, and spending time with daughter Della, son Wyatt, and husband Josh. Most of all she is grateful to be back home on the Iron Range raising her family and making a positive difference in the communities she grew up in and loves.

Barbara Dröher Kline, Le Sueur County Broadband
Barbara Dröher Kline is a financial advisor, with experience as a county consultant, human services department head, non-profit director, county coroner, farmer and community organizer. She grew up in Minnesota and lived in Northern California on and off over 30 years, returning to Le Sueur County four -years ago. With her husband, they renovated a 125-year-old farmhouse with horses and standard poodles. They lived in a canyon in the Bay area in a redwood cabin, 3 miles down a 4-mile dead end road into the East Bay Park system with no fire roads in the event of a fire. She led the community effort for fire mitigation partnering with Cal Fire. Her current office is at the farm which initially had frontier dial up, then fixed wireless and a year ago purchased access to broadband fiber. Since March 2018, she has been leading with her county commissioner and support from Blandin, the Le Sueur County Broadband Coalition to extend access to broadband to the rest of our rural county.

Justin Forde, Senior Director of Government Relations, Midco
As Senior Director of Government Relations for Midco, Justin Forde oversees the company’s government affairs team in Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as at the federal level. Forde has testified before Congress and speaks frequently about rural broadband and Midco’s role in connecting the digital divide. Before joining Midco, Forde worked as regional director for Senator John Hoeven’s office, development manager for Bismarck State College and assistant director of marketing for North Dakota State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Northern State University and his master’s degree from Florida State University.

Kyle Moorhead, Founder, Hometown Fiber
Kyle Moorhead’s consulting experience blends technical expertise with a community-driven focus. For 30 years the founder of Hometown Fiber worked closely with municipalities, courts, K-12 schools, universities and businesses to solve technology challenges—including the design, construction and maintenance of fiber optic networks. Kyle also worked with broadcasters and ISPs to build, troubleshoot, repair and maintain hundreds of miles of privately owned fiber optic, twisted pair, coaxial and wireless networks.

This work-boots-on-the-ground view provided Kyle and his team direct experience with the multiple technical and financial reasons communities don’t often get the internet service they need to thrive.

While a new company, Hometown Fiber is filled with telecommunications industry veterans who tackle broadband challenges from a community’s perspective to ensure investments made today give residents and businesses reliable, affordable and fast internet service for years to come.


Bill Coleman, Principal, Community Technology Advisors
Bill Coleman supports community economic development and broadband initiatives through innovative training, planning and implementation programs. He was a lead staff with the innovative Minnesota Star City Program before shifting his focus to technology-based economic development. Bill’s current clients include community broadband leaders Blandin Foundation and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. In community and professional service, he is on the board of PCs for People, an analyst and juror for the Intelligent Community Forum and chair of TEDxMahtomedi.

This entry was posted in Blandin Broadband Summit 2021 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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