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.

Northeast Minnesota Regional Broadband Summit Notes and Video

The Northeast Minnesota Regional Broadband Summit happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.) There was a huge crowd (100+) and lots of good information:

Agenda included:

Welcome from Duluth Mayor Emily Larson & IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips

Office of Broadband Development Update – an update from Diane Wells (similar to the one given at previous regional conferences)

ICF Framework and Community Projects with Bernadine Joselyn. Fun to hear about a wide range of projects happening in the area:

  • SBDC Tech Audits (Innovate)
  • Workforce Talent Attraction – Hello Iron Range
  • Koochiching County Coworking Space (Connect/Work/Include)
  • Hibbing HRA Housing Wifi Project (Connect/Include)
  • Local Libraries (Innovate/Include) East Range – STEM Rental

Successful Infrastructure Projects with Whitney Ridlon, at IRRR. Again fun to hear about the projects:

  • French Township
  • Cherry Township
  • Town of Morse
  • Boise Forte Tribal Government
  • Paul Bunyan Communications
  • CTC – Recent and Future Projects
  • Aaniin – Connect. Share. Grow. (Fond du Lac)
  • City of Duluth Update (CONFIRMED)

And then in small groups we got the opportunity to catch up with two Arrowhead projects out of the following

  • IRTB – Casual co-working and welcoming communities (Shawn Herhusky CONFIRMED)
  • IEDC – LaunchMN – Innovate 218 (Kirstie McPherson CONFIRMED)
  • MN Children’s Press – Mapping Litter and Publishing (Anne Braataas CONFIRMED)
  • Northspan – Welcoming Community programming (Amber Lewis CONFIRMED)
  • 100 Rural Women – Coop Publishing Model (Teresa Kittridge CONFIRMED)

New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in Fillmore County to Support First Responders in Southeastern Minnesota

Good news in Fillmore County from AT&T

What’s the news? First responders in southeastern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located in Fillmore County.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along State Highway 43 and Alpine Drive near Yucatan between Peterson and Spring Grove. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Other FirstNet sites already launched in Minnesota include Bagley, Baudette, Blackduck, Cloquet, Echo Trail (northwest of Ely), Finlayson, Graceville, Grygla, Hovland, Isabella, Kellogg (Hwy 42), Kjostad Lake, Lewiston and Williams.

What are the benefits to first responders? 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. 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. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 600 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help Minnesota residents? 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 capacity is available.

State speed goals and mapping are important – especially in Infrastructure Packages if states allocate funds

Fierce Telecom reports

Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler argued incumbent cable operators are in prime position to scoop up federal broadband funding and have little to fear from potential overbuild activity.

Speaking about the looming congressional infrastructure package during a New Street Research event, Wheeler acknowledged each state will have discretion over how to allocate the broadband funding allotted to them, leaving some uncertainty about what their priorities in terms of speeds and access technology will be. However, he asserted incumbent operators are best positioned to help close the digital divide.

Wheeler said the idea that there are “massive areas of virgin unserved territory” in the U.S. is a “myth” and instead the reality on the ground is that there are “pockets of served areas surrounded by unserved.”

The article goes on to focus on the advantage that incumbents (or at least existing) providers will have. I am interested in the emphasis on state discretion. To highlight the highest need in the short term, to find the pockets of unserved areas, we need continual and granular mapping. To make the best investment for the long term, we need state speed goals that meet the needs of the next generation as well as for today.

OPPORTUNITY: MuniNetworks is hiring GIS and Data Visualization Researcher

From the Institute for Local Self Reliance

ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks program seeks a GIS and Data Visualization Specialist. We are looking for candidates that have a passion for using their skills as part of a team focused on justice and equity for all. Our mission is focused on a range of digital equity challenges but this position will also offer opportunities to work on larger ILSR projects and goals.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Create informative broadband coverage maps using public and internal databases, including the infamous FCC Form 477
  • Compile statistics related to Internet access across datasets
  • Creatively develop visual resources to educate policymakers and activists on issues around Internet access
  • Support ongoing research for longer reports and projects
  • Support research for our allies and partners, often working with BIPOC communities

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Strong writing, research, and communications skills
  • Graduate-level coursework in or professional experience working with spatial datasets or mapping efforts
  • Ability to combine both spatial datasets and nonspatial datasets to create user-facing products or as intermediary steps in research projects
  • Proficiency with statistics and GIS applications, experience cleaning data
  • Background knowledge of public policy and/or economics (preferred, but not required)
  • Creative thinking – graphics, videos, audio, maps, etc.
  • Ability to work independently and juggle multiple tasks
  • Enthusiasm for policy work to improve Internet access for everyone, but an appreciation of how uneven broadband access disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities

You do not need to know much about broadband policy or telecommunications when you start. Our team is well-versed in helping colleagues rapidly learn the intricacies around broadband policy. This is not a new position – our team has had a GIS specialist for several years, and we look forward to continuing this work. Though many on the team are in Minnesota, our team is geographically diverse. This position may support other ILSR programs with data analysis and mapping and, as is common with smaller organizations, may require some time to help with administrative tasks from time to time.

People are ready for Starlink to be great but they don’t really know

PCMag interviewed 1,041 adults about Starlink and found that people liked more than they knew…

Regardless, among the survey respondents who said they were familiar with Starlink, the obsession remains. When we asked that group whether they’d switch to the satellite ISP if or when it was available in their area, 76% said they were likely to; 40% said very likely.

That sentiment is probably informed not so much by the quality of Starlink’s service but more by how deeply people hate their current fixed-wired ISPs. Our follow-up questions showed that the majority of people agree with statements that Starlink is faster and more reliable (meaning fewer interruptions) than nationwide ISPs such as Comcast Xfinity, Verizon Fios, and Charter’s Spectrum. Sure, Starlink is faster than any satellite competitor, but it’s nowhere near faster than a cable or fiber connection today. Starlink does have the lofty goal of 10-gigabits-per-second downloads. Along with the service’s reliability, that remain to be seen.

For remote locations that are essentially disenfranchised by the major ISPs, though, any decent speed is transformative. One thing at least some of the survey respondents got right is agreeing with the statement that Starlink internet is more for rural users than city users. In fact, Starlink’s getting millions from the FCC to improve broadband in rural areas. We researched which US counties need it the most.

I’ve seen this in other places too. Especially for a report I’m hoping to share at the Blandin Broadband Conference. Rural residents are very frustrated with their existing options and they are primed to love something new. We just need to keep a balance on whether the shiny new solution meets the needs of today and tomorrow before we invest too much hope in it.

EVENT Sep 22: Lunch Bunch: bring a need, tool, topic or advice

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions; on the second Wednesday of the month the focus is Infrastructure and on the fourth the focus is Digital Inclusion and Use.

This Wednesday, September 22, the Digital Inclusion and Use folks will be meeting with a fairly free-form structure. I’m just asking folks to share a need, tool, topic or advice. Often it seems that happens anyways but I wanted to really give folks time to connect. We start at noon – hope to see you there!  Register here.

Broadening Our Broadband West Central Initiative Conference and Notes

It’s been a great day of broadband conversations around the state. Three regional broadband conferences happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.)

see video https://vimeo.com/607375381/247c948a57

Run of day:

  • State of the state –  Diane Wells, from Office of Broadband Development gave a high level look at the funding processes in development and a quick mapping demo and resources, especially look at access in the area
  • Three presenters (Todd Johnson, Traverse County, Amy Baldwin, Otter Tail County and Ann Treacy of Blandin on Broadband) will talk about broadband projects on the ground.
  • Lead For Minnesota fellow, Carter Grupp, will introduce himself.
  • Discussion of regional work and issues

Presentations:

Wabasha County to invest $1 million American Rescue Plan funds on broadband

Post Bulletin reports

Wabasha County Administrator Michael Plante said the county board voted to commit $1 million of its $4.2 million American Rescue Plan money to expanding rural broadband access. While counties across the country still have questions on the federal guidelines for spending those funds – Plante said the county will hire a consultant to ensure it follows those guidelines to the letter once their hammered out – he envisions a grant program where internet providers can apply through a request for proposals, letting the county know what projects they prioritize in rural areas for their clients.

“Land-wise, a significant portion of the county is either unserved or underserved,” Plante said. “Primarily, we’re good in the cities. Population-wise, a substantial portion does have those internet capabilities. But businesses and families in the more rural areas need access to that.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, underserved areas are places with wireline broadband of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, but less than 100/20 Mbps. Unserved areas are places with no wireline broadband of at least 25/3 Mbps.

Not everyone pushed for broadband…

Not everyone was supportive of the plan to spent $1 million on rural broadband. Wabasha County Commissioner Brian Goihl said that between the lack of guidance from the federal government, the fact that the county has until Dec. 31, 2023, to put plans in place and another three years for project completion, and other pressing spending needs in the county, he’d prefer to spend the $1 million on other projects.

It’s time for the MN Broadband Model to bring broadband to communities without ability to ask

The Duluth News Tribune posts a letter to the editor from David Beard, who teaches writing and communication at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He outlines some projects that have done a great job bringing broadband to some parts of the northland but the letter is a reminder that we are not all there and until we are, we need to keep working…

Imagine if you had to drive to your local library to virtually visit with a therapist about your increasing anxiety during the pandemic. Or imagine if you had to drive to the community center to ask your doctor to take a look at the mole that appeared on your forearm. It sounds inconvenient, invasive, and awkward.

And yet, for as long as one in 10 Minnesotans lacks access to broadband internet, we are telling our (mostly rural) neighbors that we don’t care how inconvenient, invasive, and awkward it can be for them to see their doctor.

Broadband internet access is a health care equity issue, and we need to do more.

FCC announces some RDOF winners – in MN that’s Farmers Mutual Telephone Company

FCC announced 466 RDOF winning bids. The only winner announced in Minnesota was Farmers Mutual Telephone Company. Here’s the announcement

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids identified in Attachment A of this Public Notice.

For each of the winning bids identified in Attachment A, we have reviewed the long-form application information, including the letter(s) of credit and Bankruptcy Code opinion letter(s) from the long-form applicant’s legal counsel.  Based on the representations and certifications in the relevant long-form application, we authorize support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

We will also soon post a state-level summary under the “Results” tab on the Auction 904 webpage at https://www.fcc.gov/auction/904/round-results.  The summary will provide for each long-form applicant included in this Public Notice:  1) the total support amount over 10 years and total number of locations that the long-form applicant is being authorized for in each state, 2) the total number of locations to which the authorized support recipient must offer the required voice and broadband services for each performance tier and latency in each state, and 3) the eligible census blocks included in the winning bids that are being authorized in each state.

Here are some of the details for the Farmers Mutual bids:

Winning bid MN-073-1801002

  • 26 locations
  • $21,054.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801001

  • 2 locations
  • $ 7,626.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801003

  • 6 locations
  • $ 2,294.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802001

  • 119 locations
  • $ 216,152.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802002

  • 37 locations
  • $ 166,258.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803001

  • 39 locations
  • $ 152,096.00

Winning bid MN-073-1803002

  • 78 locations
  • $ 177,172.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803003

  • 25 locations
  • $ 17,170.00 over 10 years

No word on LTD.

South Central & Southeast Regional Broadband Conference Notes & Video

It’s been a great day of broadband conversations around the state. Three regional broadband conferences happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.)

There were 40-50 people in attendance. The run of the day:

  • A panel on Mapping the Broadband Challenge looked at broadband maps and data collected by DEED’s Office of Broadband Development, the South East Minnesota League of Municipalities and the Minnesota Broadband Coalition.
  • Two regional initiatives talked about how to advance broadband-fueled economic and community development in the region: Red Wing Ignite and the Le Sueur County Broadband Initiative.
  • Ended with an exercise to prioritize broadband opportunities in this region, and talk about next steps.

Here are the presentations:

And chat from the day. The chat includes attendee introductions but also any resources share or questions… Continue reading

US Senator introduce Legislation for device vouchers program to close the digital divide

An interesting proposal to help get devices into the hands that need them; Sen McEachin reports

Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced the Device Access for Every American Act to ensure more Americans can afford connected devices. The bicameral legislation would authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a program to administer up to $400 vouchers for low-income Americans to purchase laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.

Millions of households across the nation lack access to connected devices. While computer access is nearly ubiquitous amongst high-income households, 40% of low-income adults lack a desktop or laptop computer. Additionally, 4.4 million households with students lack consistent access to a computer.

“Laptops, tablets, and other connected devices are indispensable in our increasingly digital world. Many students’ homework assignments now require laptops, more employers are exploring telework models, and more doctors’ offices are migrating toward telehealth services as the new standard of care,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated this need and underscored the stark disparities that currently exist in our country. For too many low-income Americans, prohibitive costs pose unnecessary challenges and hardships for them and their families. I am proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, along with my colleague, Senator Warnock, to improve access to these vital devices, connect millions of American households, and help close the digital divide once and for all.”

“It is nearly impossible to get by without access to a laptop or tablet—especially after a year of adjusting to virtual learning, working, and more,” said Sen. Warnock (D-GA). “For that, I am incredibly proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, which ensures that every American – regardless of income or zip code – has the ability to participate and thrive in our increasingly digital economy. This legislation also ensures students stay on track, especially following a year of learning loss, with the necessary devices at their disposal.”

Tool Template: Finding the Broadband Internet Service That Works for Your Family

There is a great template for schools (or others) to help you help your students or other folks get the broadband they need. It’s called Finding the Broadband Internet Service That Works for Your Family. My colleague Bill Coleman created it with feedback from Marc Johnson at ECMECC walks folks through better understanding the technology and who to call to get better service or help. You can customize it based on what is available in your community or through your school. So it’ll take a little time to make it most useful but it seems like that there’s someone at your school or office already answering these questions on a regular basis so it might be an easy way to quit reinventing the wheel!

EVENT Sep 16: Regional Broadband Summit

From the Land

A regional broadband summit will be offered as a virtual event 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Conference speakers include representatives from Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, Red Wing Ignite and Le Sueur County’s Broadband Initiative. Participants will discuss access and adoption, regional prioritization and how to use American Recovery Act funds for broadband investments.

Register at: https://bit.ly/3AgekKI.

This is a regional event, leading up to the Fall Broadband Conference.

EVENT Sep 22: Broadband Informational Meeting Coming In Wright County

From Wright County

Wright County is in the process of gathering information and public input on improving the county’s broadband capability and part of that process will include a public informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 in the Wright County Board Room at the Government Center in downtown Buffalo (10 Second St. NW).

The county has contracted with the firm Design Nine out of Blacksburg, Virginia to complete a broadband study which included a public survey that was mailed out to all county residents in August. Jack Maytum, a senior broadband analyst with Design Nine, will be making a presentation of the results and will answer questions residents might have concerning the project.

The goal is to connect the underserved areas of Wright County with high-speed internet. The study will serve as a guide for the implementation of an expanded and improved broadband network and provide strategies to address rural high-speed internet deficiencies. The study will also provide the standards required for the county to seek out funding for state and federal grant programs designed to improve broadband connectivity.

For more information or for those with questions about the process or the informational meeting, contact Wright County Project Administrator Elizabeth Karels at elizabeth.karels@co.wright.mn.us or by calling (763) 684-8604.