MN Rural Broadband Coalition Virtual Day on the Hill: March 30
The Minnesota Legislature began yesterday. The Governor’s budget includes $170 million for broadband. In their 2021 Annual Report, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force recommended allocating $180 million Capital Projects Fund to Minnesota from the federal ARPA fund for Border-to-Border Broadband program over the next 2-3 years. The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition supports the $170 million request in the governor’s supplemental budget proposal as well as pursue $110 million in unallocated funds from the Capital Projects Fund.
I’m thankful for broadband for…
Yesterday, the Blandin on Broadband blog started a new series (#MNthanks2broadband) of videos of Minnesota residents talking about broadband on the frontlines. It’s a tool to remind policymakers of the importance of broadband for those with and without it. Please help by liking and sharing from Blandin on Broadband Blog and Blandin Foundation’s website, Twitter and Instagram.
What’s happening with broadband in Minnesota
Blandin Foundation hosted a conversation of Minnesota community champions; seasoned folks gave advice to the newbies, especially in how to make broadband planning possible in the pandemic world.
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- What MN needs to do to achieve the infrastructure bill’s broadband goals
- MRBC Update: Governor Announces Broadband Funding
- Ookla speed ranks MN mobile speeds 6 and MN fixed broadband speeds 39
- MN & WI farm credit groups supports rural entrepreneurship – including broadband
- Rep Fishbach lists policy highlights from 2021 – broadband makes the list
Federal Policy Issues & Funding (in reverse chronological order)
- FCC Commits Another $240M in Emergency Connectivity Funding – including MN locations
- Benton Institute offers concise info on the Affordable Connectivity Program
- Succinct notes on Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities from Common Sense
- FCC announce latest RDOF winners including Midcontinent and Windstream in Minnesota
- ILSR combs through Treasury Department’s assessment of ARPA funding for broadband
- New rules mean broadband providers can’t upsell customers using government subsidies
- FCC Draft of Broadband Subsidy Rules – doesn’t include subsidies for smart phones
- FCC Releases Draft Program Rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program
- Fiber Broadband Enters Largest Investment Cycle Ever
- Flights in and around the US are disrupted due to 5G roll out and concerns over adjacent spectrum
- AT&T’s Paul Weirtz named state president of AT&T Wisconsin (as well as MN)
Local Broadband News
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) partners with Aitkin County to expand better broadband
Cloquet (MN) is asking residents to take broadband survey and speed test (Carlton County)
Carlton & St Louis Counties
CTC to Expand Fiber Footprint in Northeast Minnesota (Carlton and St Louis Counties)
Carver County Commissioner asks – What if county had 100% fiber broadband?
Dakota County libraries check out Chromebooks and Hotspots
Itasca County looks at the local digital divide before and after/during COVID pandemic
Kandiyohi County and Willmar Economic Development Commission continues with broadband advocate Connie Schmoll
Kandiyohi County and Res Baker and Lang make broadband a hot topic
Le Sueur County
Le Sueur talks to State Reps and Senator about frustration with RDOF and State grants creating blockage for better broadband
Senator Klobuchar talks to mayors around Marshall MN about federal funding, including broadband (Lyon County)
Sytek deploys 100 miles of fiber to server Morrison County and looks at the ReConnect Broadband grant to continue
Nobles County et al
Sen Klobuchar talks broadband with Reps from Nobles, Cottonwood, Watonwan, and Brown Counties
MN hospital reduces postpartum hemorrhages 40% after retooling EHR
Crystal Valley Partners, Land O’ Lakes and Midco expand broadband to Trimont, MN
USI plans expansion to Minneapolis, St Louis park, Edina, Village of St. Anthony and St. Paul
Rep Stauber talks about broadband funding and local control of solutions
HBC Bringing 10 Gigabit Residential Fiber Service to Winona
Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources
- EVENTS Feb 3-Mar 31: Can broadband help beat the winter blues? Maybe with Kairos Clubhouse!
- EVENT Mar 30: MN Rural Broadband Coalition Virtual Day on the Hill
- OPPORTUNITY: ILSR is Looking for a Communications Director
- OPPORTUNITY: Department of Commerce Seeks Internet of Things Experts for New Advisory Board
- OPPORTUNITY: MN Broadband Task Force looking for one member
- OPPORTUNITY: In Cloquet MN, please take the broadband survey to help plan for better broadband (Carlton County)
- OPPORTUNITY: NTIA Requests Public Comment on Broadband Programs in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
- OPPORTUNITY: White House Requests Input on Developing Digital, Community-Oriented Health Care Services
- OPPORTUNITY: FCC Commits Over $361M in Additional Emergency Connectivity Funding
- Broadband Technology Options: Mini video lessons for communities
- Mobile apps help community with annual homeless count
- Got an issue with your broadband service? File a Complaint with the FCC
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
I want to take this opportunity to recognize the tremendous leadership that benefits rural Minnesota communities every day. Over the last several months, our Blandin team has completed work with one set of four Blandin Broadband Communities (BBCs) and launched initiatives with a new cohort of six BBCs to develop and implement community technology projects using the Intelligent Community model as a framework to improve broadband, address digital inclusion, develop workforce, spur innovation and support community engagement. The BBC program is all about “What is going to be different with broadband?” At the same time, we are midway through the Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! program that focuses intensely on how our four participating communities can get better broadband. Both programs have proven effective over the years – the BBC program (originally MIRC Demonstration Communities) was recognized by both the MN High Tech Association and the Economic Development Association of Minnesota for excellence. The Accelerate! program helped two of the original four participating communities receive almost $6 million in grants before the 14 week program was even completed!
Our Blandin team provides some pretty good assistance, but nothing would be possible without the community leaders – elected, staff, and volunteers that devote countless hours to these initiatives. Few of these leaders know much about broadband when they begin this journey, but they excel in learning, teaching, motivating, encouraging, tracking, reporting, and doing – creating opportunities and positive results for their community. I have a memory bank full of these leaders and I think of them often, stirred by a trip through their town, a similar personality or incident.
For those of you long in the trenches, I want to thank you for your efforts and commitment. For those of you new in community initiatives, know that you can make a tremendous difference, both in the short and long term success of your community. I have forgotten who first told a crowd of leaders, “In rural areas, you do not need a title, just start doing things!” And as Bernadine often says “Bring a friend.” That is true now more than ever. Keep up the good work!