About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

MN Broadband Task Force meeting June 28 (tomorrow) in Luverne

I’m on the road to Luverne now. If you get in the car you can join the meeting too. Or I’ll take notes and post.

Here’s the agenda…

Governor’s Broadband Task Force
June 28, 2017
Herreid Board Meeting Room – Rock County Courthouse
204 East Brown Street
Luverne, MN 56156

10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. –10:15 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Alliance Communications – Rock County Broadband Alliance Grant Project Overview
  • 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Project Impact Statements:
    • Dr. Richard Morgan (medical)
    • Eric Sandbulte, John Deere Implement (farm/ag)
    • Bill Rolfs, Network Administrator Pipestone Veterinarian Systems
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Working Lunch – Report Outs by Subcommittee
  • 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Project Impact Statements – Site Tours
    • KQAD Radio Station – Steve Graphenteen, General Mgr.
    • Skattum Confinement Systems – Brad Bergman, General Mgr.
    • Hills-Beaver Creek Schools – Todd Holthaus, Superintendent
    • Jim Veldkamp, Farm/Livestock Operation
  • 3:00 p.m. Adjourn

As with sports, it’s good to have stretch broadband goals if you want to win

My friend was an amazing athlete in grade school. To start – he was 6 feet tall by seventh grade and had been playing ball since he could walk. He was the home-run king!

Then a funny thing happened summer before high school, lots of kids grew to 6 feet and beyond. And those kids who started playing ball in third grade had eventually put in their 10,000 hours. It was such a shame – suddenly he wasn’t so amazing. If only things could have stayed the way they were. But they can’t and if you want a winning team you can’t want that.

You know what else can’t stay the same? Broadband speeds!

Minnesota WatchDog recently ran an article disparaging the state speed goals. Here’s a quick reminder of speed goals:

  • Old goal by 2015: 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. This goal was established in 2010. I remember those conversations; it was considered a stretch goal at the time.
  • New goal by 2022: 25 down and 3 up
  • New goal by 2026: 100 down and 20 up

WatchDog spoke to “a member of that task force who wished to speak only on background” and said…

But the wrinkle is the task force’s stretch goal of 100 mbps download and 20 mbps upload by 2026 has become the de facto standard when it comes to state broadband funding. In fact, a member of that task force who wished to speak only on background said there likely would have been more pushback on that stretch goal if committee members had realized lawmakers would tie grant funds to that number.

I remember those conversations too. The new 2022 goals are in line with FCC standards. It was a minimal increase in download speeds and a significant decrease in upload speeds from the previous Minnesota goals. (The FCC broadband definition was 4/1 in 2010, then 25/3 in 2015. Before 2010 it was 768 kbps. That trajectory seems unlikely to slow down.)

The 2022 goals are like trying to be an amazing 8th grade athlete. It’s better than not making the team but it’s not going to help much in high school unless you’re working on that too. In the broadband world that means building a system that will upgrade with the needs, which means future-focused goals.

The 2026 goals are more forward focused. Spending grant money on projects that focus on these goals means we’re preparing for the future. You can contrast that with CAF 2 funding, which is federal funding that only requires 10/1 speeds. To be competitive (to make the high school team) those areas will need to readdress broadband again, very soon – except in places where the provider chooses to go above and beyond what is required. (Sunrise Township is one area where state funds have leveraged CAF money and pushed the required speeds.)

I also sat in on many conversations on broadband with legislators. One recurring theme – how much would it take to fix this problem for good? To fix the problem for good we need to set future focused goals.

Earlier this year I looked at each county and their broadband situation. They are some amazing athletes in that bunch – like Clearwater who went from least served list of 2010 to more than 99 percent coverage today (25/3) and 73 percent with access to 100/20. But some folks are going backwards – folks who thought they were covered in 2010 but the rest of the team is passing them by.

Want to know how your county is doing? Check out the table of goals met by county. Counties with a wide difference between their percentage coverage of 25/3 versus 100/20 may be in a precarious position because that can be an indicator of infrastructure that is not scalable – in other words it won’t support 100/20 access. You may be that amazing grade school athlete – you want to find out how to make the team next year.

Hibbing broadband expansion plan: hotspots, social media and tech fair

According to the Hibbing Daily Tribune

The local Blandin Broadband Cohort tasked with developing ways to improve and advance high-speed internet access and the skills to use it has identified its top three priorities, and Blandin Foundation has stepped in to help make it happen.

Blandin Foundation announced Monday that it has awarded 11 grants totaling $483,090 to assist rural Minnesota communities.

Hibbing — which is largely unserved by broadband access of 25 megabits per second upload and 3 megabits per second download — is a recipient of these grant funds.

Grant funding from this round will drive three specific projects forward. They include:

  • Public hot spots: wi-fi hotspots will be placed in public locations and available for checkout through the public library.

  • Website and social media consulting: small businesses will be invited to compete for training to grow their revenues and brand awareness through online strategies.

  • IT knowledge and career fair: Hibbing Community College will host an IT Fair that will focus on the many ways IT interfaces with everyday life, what career options exist, and the education pathways to get to those careers.

How do you start a community conversation on broadband? A sneak peek into Chisago County

Today I was an interloper in Chisago County as the local EDA (Nancy Hoffman) held meetings (I attended one at noon; the other is at 5:00) to get community members to talk about what to do to improve broadband for everyone and could they do anything fast enough to apply for state grants. (Deadline to let the Office of Broadband know if you’re planning to apply is the end of July!) There were about 40 people – including two legislators – both with dire home broadband access.

I don’t want to give away any major community secrets here – but they were kind enough to let me take notes, a video and share the PPT. They are working with Bill Coleman from Community Technology Advisors (whose name may also be familiar from Blandin projects).

First everyone introduced themselves. Many were happy with their broadband service; many were not. Turns out if you’re in town, the odds are better that you’re happy. Several people worked in town where the access was good but went home to bad service. One name mentioned often – and with representation at the meeting was MidCo. People were happy but even the guy from MidCo was quick to say they provided good service in town but haven’t found a way to enter the rural market.

A couple attendees admitted using a combination of satellite and mobile (hotspot) service based on their absolute needs for speed, kids’ needs, data caps and costs. Some didn’t even have mobile and had only satellite, which was not reliable – on windy, rainy or snowy days.

Then they got an introduction from Bill and a PPT presentation.

The goal was to gauge interest – and attendees were invited to sign up if they wanted to peruse a grant application. As Nancy said, it’s a lot of hard work but she was willing to help. To put context to the opportunity – Sunrise Township is in Chisago County. They received funding in the last grant award round and are working with CenturyLink on a FTTH solutions. They learned a ton in the process but a lot of folks are watching – because it’s a great example of using local state funding to leverage federal CAF funding. The inherent issue with CAF is that (as the PPT shows) the required upgrade there is only 10 Mbps down and 1 up.

Here are some loose notes on the conversation and questions.

To meet the 2026 speed goals (100/20) we need fiber. It’s important to focus on that speed goal. Already 70 percent of MN has 100/20. Continue reading

Communities are getting ready for MN state broadband grant applications

Good grant applications don’t just happen – no matter how good the grant writer is. Good grant applications come from good ideas fleshed out with good partners.

I’m see some communities get started in different ways. In Aitkin, the local legislator is reminding people (via Brainerd Dispatch) to attend upcoming webinars on the Border to Border Broadband grants…

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, urged local organizations and individuals interested in applying for Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant funding to attend upcoming informational webinars to learn more.

In Chisago County, they are having a planning session on Monday to talk about how to move forward.

One good step would be to attend one of the upcoming grant webinars with the Office of Broadband Development. (First one in Monday June 26.)

RS Fiber Cooperative Celebrates Two Year Anniversary

Congrats to RS Fiber!!

RS Fiber Cooperative Celebrates Two Year Anniversary
Winthrop, MN – RS Fiber Cooperative will celebrate its second anniversary next month.
Nearly a decade’s worth of planning became reality on July 8, 2015 when the first few feet of fiber-optic cable was plowed into the ground giving birth to a state-of-the-art communications network. The RS Fiber network now consists of nearly 200 miles of backbone fiber throughout Renville and Sibley counties connecting six member communities.

The all fiber-optic, active Ethernet Gigabit network is being constructed by Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc. (HBC) based in Winona, MN. HBC CEO Dan Pecarina said the project’s success is due in part to the enthusiasm for the venture.

“There were a few naysayers at the beginning who said it would be impossible to build this project, but there was also large group of people who really championed the cause and believed that it could happen. The RS Fiber Cooperative Board of Directors should be very proud of what they have achieved.” RS Fiber General Manager Toby Brummer said the final stage of Phase One construction is underway.

“This summer we will be finishing the Phase One construction. By the end of the year we will be able to offer services to the communities of Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax, and Stewart.”

Currently six towns and more than 2,500 homes and businesses have access to Gigabit services from RS Fiber. A total of 4,500 homes and businesses will have Gigabit broadband access once the remaining four communities are connected this fall.

Rural areas are receiving broadband service through RS Fiber Air which delivers high-speed broadband to more than 2,000 customers over a network of towers throughout Renville and Sibley counties.

RS Fiber has local offices in Winthrop and Gaylord.

2nd Annual GigaZone Gaming Championship Set for Sept. 29-30 in Bemidji

I’m not even a gamer and I have to say – what’s not to like here?!

2nd Annual GigaZone Gaming Championship Set for Sept. 29-30 in Bemidji

The region’s stadium style e-Sporting event returns with over $4,500 in cash and prizes

 

(Bemidji, MN) (June 22, 2017) – The first stadium style eSports event in the region, the GigaZone Gaming Championship returns to the Sanford Center Ballroom in Bemidji on Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30.

 

Northern Minnesota’s best League of Legends teams will compete for more than $4,500 in cash and prizes and teams interested need to register by July 1st at www.gigazonegaming.com  The League of Legends tournament is free and open to anyone 13 years of age or older that resides in the 218 area code.

 

In addition to the League of Legends Tournament, the public is invited to participate in open console and arcade gaming along with tournaments of Street Fighter 5, Mario Kart 8, Madden 18, Overwatch, Super Smash Brothers, Magic the Gathering, and more.  Pre-registration for the Overwatch and Madden 18 tournaments will begin on Tuesday, September 5 at 4 p.m. until full.  All other tournaments will be open registration at the door the day of the tournament.  Admission is free for both tournaments and the event plus there will be a chance at great door prizes throughout.

 

“eSports has explored across the country and coming off the success of the first GigaZone Gaming Championship last November we are making this year’s event even bigger and better.  There is a large gaming community in our area and this will showcase not only some of the region’s best but give everyone a chance to get in on the action!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

 

“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members.  The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience which the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Digital Services Supervisor.

 

For more information on the 2017 GigaZone Gaming Championships visit www.gigazonegaming.com

 

“We’re excited to bring this back to our region!  Whether someone is a big time gamer or not the GigaZone Gaming Championship is a great chance for people to come together, have fun, try out a wide variety of video games, and experience the growing eSports phenomenon.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.