Blandin Community Broadband Program Update
While Minnesota plans for federal investments in digital equity and adoption, Blandin Foundation will be exploring the ways they can adapt to make sure rural community interests are centered and supported. As they grow into a new chapter of their work, they will be phasing out existing broadband programming and grantmaking.
Save the Date! 2022 Blandin Broadband Conference
Join the Blandin Foundation for the final Blandin broadband conference at Grand Casino Mille Lacs on October 11-13 to explore how to maximize public and private broadband investments in your community.
Call for MN Border-to-Border Broadband Applications
Applications are open for Border to Border Grants. The funding available is $95 million. As designated in the 2022 legislative session, $25 million has been appropriated from state general revenue funds as available funding for the next round of the Minnesota broadband grant program.
MTA and MREA ask PUC to relook at LTD’s status as ETC
Minnesota Telephone Alliance (MTA) and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, asking them to revoke the ETC status for LTD Broadband. LTD has qualified to apply for federal (RDOF) money. For more than a year, communities who might be served by LTD have been waiting to hear on their status. Many have concerns about LTD’s ability. LTD needs the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify for the funds. The PUC asked for community comments on the petition to look again at LTD; those comments have been filed and currently there is an opportunity for others to reply to the comments. Then the PUC will decide if they will look into the revoking the ETC designation.
MN Broadband Task Force Meeting May 2022: Cybersecurity
The Task Force heard from several experts from the field of cybersecurity. They talked about the Legislature including a letter the Task Force had sent to the policymakers asking them to consider a greater investment in broadband grants than had been on the table.
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Only 13 percent of eligible households in Minnesota take advantage of Lifeline subsidy program
- Gov Walz signs agriculture funding bill – including funding for broadband
- Broadband funding results from MN Legislative Session 2022
- MRBC Legislative Update: Money for broadband through Drought Relief, Agriculture, and Broadband Omnibus Bill (HF3420)
- Minnesota Legislature approves bill to fund broadband infrastructure
- MN Conference Committee comes up with $25M in state and $60M in federal request for broadband
- MN Legislators still working on broadband but feel it’s a point of agreement
- TC Business looks at MN digital divide and support to close it – including the Blandin Foundation
- House and Senate working to reconcile broadband issues as part of larger Omnibus bill
- MN Omnibus that includes Broadband comparison is in Conference Committee – now each side deliberates
- MN Senator Goggin gives a legislative update on broadband
- The FCC looks at increasing broadband speed goals for rural fund areas
- FCC decides not to cut USF support
- The FCC Commits $50 million in Emergency Connectivity Funding to Schools and Libraries – none in Minnesota
- Recommendations for digital equity planning from EveryoneOn
- Doug Dawson’s tips for BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment) applicants
- Biden-Harris Administration Launches $45 Billion “Internet for All” Initiative
- Wi-Fi On School Buses Eligible For E-Rate Funding
- GOP Minnesota CD 1 Candidates on broadband funding and expansion
- FCC announces latest RDOF winners including Cable One and Gardonville in MN
- Cooperative recipe for building a private wireless network for precision ag costs $50,000 per farm and $6,000 annually
- 20 Broadband companies poised to offer effectively free access
- Aurora Fiber Optic Networks Celebrates 20 years with expanded network partnership and new LLC
- RDOF Contender LTD Broadband Fined for Communicating with Cable MSO
Local Broadband News
Crosby & Ironton MN
CTC and Crow Wing County pursue CARES funds for Crosby and Ironton MN
St Louis County
St. Louis County says yes to Rice Lake broadband project
Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources
- EVENT Jun 10: AT&T Policy Forum Connecting Communities to Internet for All
- EVENT July 26: Midwest Peering Summit
- OPPORTUNITY: 2022 Digital Inclusion Trailblazers Applications Open!
- OPPORTUNITY: Job opening Office of Broadband Dev – Digital Equity Program Lead (deadline extended)
- OPPORTUNITY: NOFOs are out for NTIA Broadband programs
- OPPORTUNITY: Job opening Research Officer at the Blandin Foundation
- RESOURCE: Updated Matrix of Blandin Broadband Community Projects
- RESOURCE: The online Digital Skills Library is now open
- RESOURCE: Stronger Together: Federal funding and planning strategies
- RESOURCE: NEW Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit Now Available
- RESOURCE: US Ignite shares Federal Funding Opportunity Tool for Communities
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
As my work with Blandin Foundation comes to a close, I want to pay tribute to all of the community leaders with whom I have worked with over the past 15 years. Broadband development in rural places is never easy. Community broadband initiatives can require hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer time with no guarantee of success. Community leaders never asked for this role; they generally have their hands full with traditional community infrastructure like sewer, water and roads. Insightful leaders recognized, some sooner than others, that the community needed to get engaged with energy and persistence to stimulate investment. Minnesota is lucky to have leaders like those who have participated in the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. If not for those volunteers, the legislature might have never continued to fund the broadband program.
It has been very gratifying and lots of fun to work on broadband with all of you. Thank you!