Duluth News Tribune endorses Sen Rarick – broadband is a factor

Duluth News Tribune reports on the race between Rep. Jason Rarick and DFL challenger is Michelle Lee of Moose Lake for Minnesota Senate District 11…

A high priority for Rarick — “since the day I was elected” — has been expanding high-speed internet access into rural Minnesota. He helped alter a state grant process to prioritize unserved and underserved areas and is working now with the city of North Branch on a pilot project to create a wireless service the city could then lease out.

“These last nine months have proven just how needed (broadband) is,” said Rarick, who lives in Brook Park, Minnesota, about nine miles southwest of Hinckley. “If our rural areas are going to stay vibrant, that’s something, going into the future, that we absolutely need.”

Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Rights of Way Management for Efficient Fiber Deployment by Ken Demlow, HR Green

Thanks to Ken for his expertise. He laid out a 7-step process for broadband deployment focusing on rights of way in a way that helps communities recognize the value of the rights or way.

Broadband 101: Rights of Way Management for Efficient Fiber Deployment by Ken Demlow, HR Green

Right of Way is one of the most important assets that every community has. It can be utilized to help attract fiber investment or manage fiber deployment when multiple carriers are deploying fiber, especially as 5G develops. There are several steps that communities can take to prepare them to manage their ROW to meet their broadband goals.

Ken Demlow serves as a Project Manager for HR Green Fiber and Broadband. He has over 20 years of experience in the industry, from working in field construction installing fiber, to Google and Verizon projects, and several FTTH projects.   He works directly with clients to assess their current fiber and broadband circumstances, develop a broadband vision and strategy, assess financial costs and feasibility, while driving approved projects through the Design and Build phases into operations mode, if feasible and determined to be the best strategy.

Ken is nationally recognized for his industry knowledge including Smart Meters and Smart Grid.  He is also currently a member of the Right of Way Sub Committee of the APWA.

New FirstNet Cell Site in Northern Minnesota to be Among the First Primarily Powered by Solar in Midwest Region (St Louis County)

Big news from AT&T…

First responders in Northern Minnesota will soon be getting a major boost in their wireless communications with construction underway of a new, purpose-built FirstNet cell site – one of the first primarily powered by solar in the Midwest.

The site – located on the Echo Trail north of Ely near Orr, Minnesota – is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety. The remote site was identified by state and public safety stakeholders as a priority location for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” said Paul, Weirtz, president, AT&T Minnesota. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need. Working with public safety, we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19.”

FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It’s built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government.

That’s why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Plus, it’s giving first responders unthrottled access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience.1

Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. Currently well ahead of schedule, the FirstNet build has already brought Minnesota first responders:

  • Purpose-built network enhancements New FirstNet cell sites in Minnesota – located in Zerkel and Graceville – have also launched. These sites were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations. With FirstNet, it’s about where first responders need connectivity. That’s what is driving our FirstNet build. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Band 14 has also been added on more than 300 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Baxter/Brainerd area.
  • Reaching Rural Minnesota – FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means every first responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. That’s why connecting remote parts of America is one of our top priorities. We’re collaborating with rural network providers to help build out additional LTE coverage and extend FirstNet’s reach in rural and tribal communities.
  • Public safety-specific advanced capabilities – FirstNet is the only nationwide platform that gives first responders entire communication ecosystem of unique benefits including mission-centric devices, certified applications and always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data. This is like giving public safety communications the “lights and sirens” treatment so that they stay connected, no matter the emergency.
  • Unparalleled emergency support – Minnesota agencies on FirstNet also have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can either be deployed for planned events or in emergencies at no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations – led by a group of former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.
  • Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies – We’ve also expanded the benefits of FirstNet for Minnesota agencies – spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations. Now, they can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for life at no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile—Unlimited plans.2 This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Where public safety goes, we go. We’ve answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it’s hitting the mark.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And these network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Minnesota first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.”

In addition to further elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, this new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Office of Broadband Development Overview of Interactive Map of Broadband Deployment with Diane Wells, Minnesota Office of Broadband

Thanks to everyone who attended. We got a helpful tour of the Office of Broadband Development interactive broadband map from the person who probably uses it most – Diane Wells. With the tour, we got a glimpse of the advice you might get if you call her directly, which was also super helpful.

Digital Office Hours: Office of Broadband Development Overview of Interactive Map of Broadband Deployment with Diane Wells, Minnesota Office of Broadband

Join Minnesota Office of Broadband Development staff and learn about the state’s broadband maps.

Diane Wells has over 34 years of experience working with telecommunications and broadband issues for the State of Minnesota. She joined the Office of Broadband Development at the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development at its inception in 2013. Prior to joining the Office, Ms. Wells managed the telecommunications division at the MN Department of Commerce for eight years and served on the telecommunications staff of the MN Public Utilities Commission for 17 years. Ms. Wells received her undergraduate degree from St. Cloud State University and her M.P.A. from the University of Texas in Austin.

Vast Broadband to be acquired by GI Partners

GI Partners announces…

Vast Broadband (“Vast”), a leading provider of gigabit-speed broadband, video, and phone in South Dakota and Minnesota, today announced it has signed an agreement to be acquired by GI Partners, a leading US-based investor in data infrastructure businesses, in partnership with industry veteran Rich Fish.  GI Partners will support the company and its employees to continue providing world-class service to communities throughout the region.

“Vast is committed to providing its customers with access to the most reliable, high-speed broadband connectivity available,” said Rich Fish, incoming CEO of Vast Broadband.  “As a native of the Great Plains, I am thrilled to partner with the local employees at Vast to bring high quality internet connectivity to my home region.”

EVENT Nov 20: Minnesota Broadband Coalition Strategy Session

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Save the Date!
Minnesota Broadband Coalition Strategy Session

Friday, November 20, 2020
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Via Zoom
This meeting will  include a professional facilitator to help us develop a cohesive strategy for the organization moving forward.  Agenda coming soon!
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 974 7436 8831
Passcode: 564934
Join by phone:
Meeting ID: 974 7436 8831
Passcode: 564934
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/abeMvqZnAp

Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.

Broadband 2020: What You Should Expect From Your Broadband Provider by Kristi Westbrock, CTC

Great to hear from Kristi Westbrock at CTC, always a good partner and right before their big celebration for their recent ReConnect award.

What You Should Expect From Your Broadband Provider by Kristi Westbrock, CTC

Kristi Westbrock is the Chief Executive Officer/General Manager at Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) and has been with the Cooperative since 2007. She has over 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and has a strong background in Human Resources, Sales and Marketing and Business Operations, Strategic Planning and Product Development. Kristi has a passion for organizational management, effective communication and creating unique work environments/experiences while driving business revenues.

Kristi is mother to 10-year old Emily and spouse to Mike for 15 years. In her free time she loves to adventure to new locations, volunteer for the Smiles for Jake Movement and have cooking parties with friends.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Creative Connections via Interactive Zoom Programming with Maria Genné, Parker Genné, and Lynnea Doublette, Kairos Alive!

Thanks to all who joined us. It was fun to get in a little movement – but also to hear about techniques for getting everyone involved, including the 55+ white males.

Creative Connections via Interactive Zoom Programming with Maria Genné, Parker Genné, and Lynnea Doublette, Kairos Alive!

Kairos Alive! has been developing exciting interactive 2-way webcast creativity and health engagement programs based in dance, music, story and research learning for older adults in intergenerational communities via Zoom for 3 years. Our current webcast, Creativity Together™, is reaching audiences in the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota and NE Wisconsin, and is attracting participants from around the country.

Maria Genné, founder/director is a dancer, choreographer and educator, recognized as a pioneering leader in the intergenerational interactive participatory performing arts, and arts and health fields. Her national award-winning work is designed to tap into the artistry and creativity of older adults and invite them to be central collaborators in the artistic process of dance, music and storytelling. It models a new and vital role in society for the community based professional performing artist, and new possibilities of intergenerational community enjoyment and understanding. In 2001, Maria developed The Dancing Heart™, a nationally recognized, evidence-based program which engages older adults of all abilities in weekly, intergenerational, interactive arts participation and health education. Kairos was featured in the 2012 PBS documentary, Arts & the Mind, and is recognized as a model arts involvement program by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), and winner of awards for program innovation by the American Public Health Association, American Society on Aging, and others. maria@kairosalive.org

Parker Genné is a singer-actor-teacher, who serves as a lead Teaching Artist for Kairos Alive! She has been teaching and performing with Kairos Alive! since 2011 and was the dance mentor for ArtSage MN Artists Training. As a performer, Parker has been bringing her hit cabaret comedy show Ms. Luisa Eats to stages in Minneapolis, San Francisco, New York and Scotland since 2008. With co-collaborator Emilia Allen, Parker founded and was a featured performer in the theater company, Impossible Salt, 2014-2019. The Star Tribune said of their premier production, Tatterhood, “Genné is feral in the title role…in this wildly imaginative production.” Other productions featuring Parker included Heartless (2015 MN Fringe Festival), The Stranger (American Swedish Institute), and The Wishing Skin (McPhail). Her theater Folktopia, founded in 2019, is currently in rehearsal for an original production in collaboration with Nor Hall of The Handless Maiden. Parker received a Bachelor of Music in voice performance from Lawrence University and has been teaching music, theater and dance to all ages since 2002.

Lynnea Doublette, MSc, Teaching Artist/Admin, is both an accomplished Artist and Healthcare Administrator. She has performed with Children’s Theater Company, Old Globe Theater and others and holds a Masters in Healthcare Communications from St. Thomas University, with undergraduate studies in psychology. Lynnea brings her many skills as an Artist and Healthcare professional to further the mission of Kairos Alive – both locally and nationally.

Cristopher Anderson received national awards for his PBS documentary with John de Graaf and KCTS/Seattle, Visible Target, and is associated with documentaries, Building a Dream (scriptwriter) and the award-winning Journeyman (story consultant). His forthcoming, Dwight in Denmark, is in post-production. His poems and essays have been published regionally; including in the anthology, Between the Lakes: The Poets of Linden Hills by Trolley Car Press. He plays folk fiddle on the American Swedish Institute Spelmanslag CD, Love is Hard to Hide, and at local dances. He founded and is a 20-year director of an interactive, participatory, audience-as-artist theater based in folk tales, Big Woods Theater of Involvement. He serves as a Teaching Artist with the national award-winning Arts and Health/Arts and Aging pioneer, Kairos Alive!, whose work was featured in the PBS documentary, Arts and the Mind. https://www.goodstory.us/

Candidate/Rep Ecklund promotes broadband as a state priority for House District 3A.

WDIO reports

Republican Thomas Manninen — a law student is challenging Democratic incumbent Representative Rob Ecklund — a labor union leader and for his spot in House District 3A.

District 3A includes Cook, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis Counties. It is one of the largest districts in the state.

Ecklund said one of his main priorities heading into the election is advocating for broadband internet access.

“I view broadband as probably the next economic engine of Northeast Minnesota. We have everything it takes that people want to live here. Taxes are low, we have the waters, we have the lakes, we have the trails. We have everything in terms of assets, so I’m going to continue—if I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected—continue being an advocate for greater broadband internet in the state of Minnesota. It should be like rural electrification back in the 1950’s,” Ecklund said.

Manninen, on the other hand, said one of his main priorities heading into the election is ending Governor Walz’s shutdown.

Lies, damned lies and mapping? Not quite but Senators are putting FCC on alert

That might be a slight exaggeration, but people have been questioning the maps for years and few on the ground have doubts about the exaggeration of the maps themselves. It matters because the maps often define who qualifies for government funding – state and federal. Today, Senator Manchin reports

Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he has submitted over 2,000 broadband speed tests to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proving the FCC’s broadband coverage maps are wrong and must be fixed before the $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is distributed incorrectly. In June, Senator Manchin challenged West Virginians to submit 2,000 speed tests to the FCC by the end of the year. …

“With more than two months left in 2020, West Virginians have met and exceeded the goal I set earlier this year to submit 2,000 speed tests to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. I am impressed by their dedication and persistence in proving the FCC’s maps wrong and it is a testament to their efforts to improve broadband coverage for their families, friends, and neighbors in West Virginia. Last week, Chairman Pai agreed to update the maps before the $9 billion 5G Fund for Rural America is distributed, but that’s only one piece of the pie. The FCC is planning to finalize $16 billion in RDOF funding at the end of this month using their incorrect maps, shutting much of West Virginia out of the competition for this funding. It’s just plain wrong, and over 2,000 West Virginians have proven it. I won’t stop submitting West Virginians’ tests until the FCC agrees to use the updated maps to distribute RDOF and commits to creating a user-friendly public feedback system just like they are required to do under law. This fight is far from over, and I need West Virginians to please help me fight for better broadband for the Mountain State by submitting a speed test at https://www.manchin.senate.gov/speedtest.”

Wonder what you can do in Minnesota to combat the FCC maps? Take a Minnesota statewide broadband speed test!

Fastest and slowest rural broadband? MN not on either list

Good news or bad news? I’m not sure but SatelliteInternet recently posted the fastest and slowest broadband connections in rural America and Minnesota doesn’t make either list.

This site looks a lot like a commercial so I take much of what it says with a grain of salt but there are a number of provider options, including speeds and pridces in detail, which is nice for comparison to what you’re being offered in your community by these and other providers. They even outline the pros and cons of different services.

And they outline the issue…

According to the FCC’s 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, 22.3% of rural Americans don’t have access to internet download speeds of at least 25 Mbps (which is the recommended speed for working from home and online schooling).4,5 And the numbers are even worse on Tribal lands, where 32.1% of Americans don’t have access to internet speeds of 25 Mbps.5

Yet in metropolitan areas, only 1.5% of Americans lack access to these same speeds.5 Rural America’s lackluster internet speeds contribute to the homework gap and a lower percentage of college graduates when compared to Americans living in metropolitan areas.

They outline their methodology, which I think it interesting as we look at statewide speed testing in Minnesota…

Our data comes from speed tests taken on HighSpeedInternet.com. We examined results from more than one million US speed tests to find the fastest and slowest average rural internet speeds.

We defined a “rural” city as a community with a population of less than 10,000 people that is geographically removed from an urban city, which we qualified as meaning it’s at least an hour drive away from the nearest major city. We also filtered out locations with fewer than 50 speed test results to ensure accurate representation of the city’s average speed. In all, we ranked and researched nearly 600 rural cities in the US.

EVENT Oct 21: Digital Inclusion and K-12 Education: The Impact of COVID-19 on Students and Educators

From BroadbandUSA…

You are invited to join NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations Webinar 


Topic: Digital Inclusion and K-12 Education: The Impact of COVID-19 on Students and Educators

Date:   Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Time:  2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET

Overview: The rapid shift to online learning can be a challenge for students, families, and educators – particularly in low-income, rural, and tribal communities. As the new school year begins, the longstanding issue of digital inclusion stands in sharp relief. Join BroadbandUSA on October 21st to learn how communities are helping students get connected, assisting parents and caregivers gain the skills to help their children navigate online learning environments, and transitioning educators to online teaching. This panel will explore the challenges that communities and schools are facing, their innovative solutions to keep students connected, and their plans to transition from short-term solutions to long-term sustainable programs.


  • Dr. Christine Diggs, Chief Technology Officer, Albemarle County Public Schools, VA
  • Michael Culp, Director of Information Technology Department, Albemarle County, VA
  • Kimball Sekaquaptewa, Chief Technology Director, Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, NM
  • Joshua Edmonds, Director of Digital Inclusion, City of Detroit, MI


  • Emy Tseng, Senior Program Specialist, BroadbandUSA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Please pre-register for the webinar using this registration link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Want to access past Practical Broadband Conversations webinars? Visit our webinar archives for past presentations, transcripts and audio recordings.

Broadband 2020: Week 3 dispersed conference: jump in to talk broadband when you can!

We had no idea what we were doing back in March when we reimagined the annual broadband conference. We are at the halfway point in the conference and I have to say – so far so good thanks to the many people who are showing up – some every day and some popping in or a session or two. Lots of learning, sharing and partnerships forming.

Please join us when you. This week’s schedule is similar to last week – most programming between 11am and 2pm – with one exception: the Tom Friedman Book Club on Friday from 10-11am. Also we are all invited to view Bill Coleman’s presentation as part of the ICF Summit on Wednesday morning.

Here’s the full schedule:

Monday, October 19

Tuesday, October 20

Wednesday, October 21

  • 9:15 – 10:00 am     Smaller Places, Bigger Opportunities presentation from the ICF Virtual Summit | Register here
    Registration is required. Blandin Conference participants are invited to join the ICF Summit at 9:00 am and stay through the morning.
  • 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
    Digital Office Hours: Telehealth by Mary DeVany, Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center
  • 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm
    Broadband 101: Conducting Feasibility Studies by Mark Mrla, Finley Engineering

Thursday, October 22

Friday, October 23

Benefits of telehealth likely to continue post pandemic

Always looking for a COVID silver lining, here’s a hopeful story from KARE 11 about how telehealth is helping a young girl…

From her home in Hancock, Minnesota, four-year-old Freya is learning to walk with the help of a physical therapist at Children’s Minnesota.

The family lives nearly three hours away from the Twin Cities but Freya is still able to receive weekly physical therapy sessions thanks to virtual care.

“Since doing telehealth, she’s made so much progress… I’m still in awe about how good she’s doing right now,” said Jessica Bossuot, Freya’s mother.

And how telehealth is likely to continue even after the pandemic…

While the future of telehealth is uncertain, Tanner is hopeful those services have a place in our future.

“I think there are some kids out there right now that are getting rehab services because they can do it virtually that wouldn’t be doing it at all if it wasn’t available,” Tanner said.

Freya fits into that category. Prior to the virtual physical therapy sessions, Freya would scoot everywhere. Now she’s standing up and walking on her own.

Bossuot said, “The fact that she’s trying to do this and she’s taking the initiative to do it on her own is amazing.”