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.

Telepsychiatry project saves $2,500 per patient

I know a lot of us are talking to people (policymakers, providers, community leaders) about the importance of broadband. So I’m going to try to track some short, sharp benefits of broadband. For example, the University of South Carolina recently posted an article on the benefits of broadband and mental health…

Using telehealth technology, mental health professionals in larger metropolitan areas access patients in those rural or remote locations and make treatment recommendations to the local health provider. More than 30,000 patients in South Carolina have been evaluated through Narasimhan’s telepsychiatry projects with a calculated savings of $2,500 per patient compared with traditional face-to-face treatment.

Cost saving appeals to insurance companies and other payers whose buy-in is key to getting psychiatrist participation, Narasimhan says. That is especially important in a state like South Carolina, which has just 10 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.

Using telehealth technology, mental health professionals in larger metropolitan areas access patients in those rural or remote locations and make treatment recommendations to the local health provider. More than 30,000 patients in South Carolina have been evaluated through Narasimhan’s telepsychiatry projects with a calculated savings of $2,500 per patient compared with traditional face-to-face treatment.

Cost saving appeals to insurance companies and other payers whose buy-in is key to getting psychiatrist participation, Narasimhan says. That is especially important in a state like South Carolina, which has just 10 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.

Broadband competition is essential to better service and lower costs in rural areas

Brookings recently took a look at broadband in rural areas – postulating that competition is a key component to quality broadband in rural areas…

It can be tempting to accept the view that, in an environment of scarce government resources and competing interests, merely ensuring broadband access from a single provider is enough – especially as an improvement on a status quo with little or no access at all. History tells a cautionary tale, though. In 1913, the U.S. Department of Justice settled an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T by essentially accepting AT&T’s monopoly in exchange for the build-out of the nation’s telephone system. AT&T worked hard to uphold its end of the bargain, but it was decades before competitive markets were free to serve consumers, stimulate innovation, and avoid unnecessary regulation.

In other words, as a nation, we should embrace both expanded broadband deployment and expanded broadband competition. Without competition, the pressure from consumers for better and cheaper broadband will naturally ease, and rural America could fall even further behind.

They note that for the very first time, the Federal Communications Commission concluded in 2015 that the disparity between urban and rural access to broadband provided the basis for direct agency action.

the recent FCC study found that 58 percent of rural Census blocks did not have a “fixed” broadband service provider offering broadband speeds at speeds of 25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload or better as of December 31, 2015. 25/3 is scarcely the fastest residential broadband – the same study shows 15.1 percent of fixed broadband connections had downstream speeds of at least 100 Mbps – but it does represent the speeds most recently established by the FCC as the broadband benchmark.

And show the breakdown of competition in rural and urban areas…

And they tell a few stories of what happens when competition happens…

For example, when the FCC looked at the use of municipal broadband (in an order that has since been reversed by an appellate court on legal grounds), it set out evidence showing that the presence of an additional broadband provider pushes down the prices and increases the quality of both new and incumbent providers. In other words, such competition is “win-win.” It benefits those consumers who switch and even those that do not but who gain from faster download speeds resulting from the incumbent’s response to competitive pressures.

Akamai Q4 (2016) broadband report is out – MN ranks 25-29 depending on the category

The latest Akamai Report is out Q4 (2016). They measure worldwide broadband adoption and speeds. Turns out Minnesota is pretty middle of the pack. Really Minnesota doesn’t even rank well enough to make the report (they only list “top 10) but the folks at Akamai are kind enough to send me our stats.

I’ve included below charts from the report – followed by Minnesota stats…

Average connection speed:

We rank #26 with an average connection speed of 16.2 Mbps – that’s a slight increase over Q3 (1.5 percent) but a nice increase from 2015 (8.5 percent).

Average peak connection speed:

We rank #27 with an average peak connection speed of 76.3 Mbps – that’s an increase over Q3 (3.5 percent) but a very nice increase from 2015 (24 percent).

4 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 29 with 88 percent having access. That’s an increase of 1.1 percent from Q3 and 5.1 percent from 2015.

10 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 26 with 60 percent having access. That’s an increase of 6.5 percent from Q3 and 16 percent from 2015.

15 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 25 with 39 percent having access. That’s an increase of 5.2 percent from Q3 and 20 percent from 2015.

25 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 26 with 14 percent having access. That’s an decrease of .1 percent from Q3 and an increase of 17 percent from 2015.

There’s a slight dip in growth in the 25 Mbps category. We weren’t the only state to see a decrease there and the decrease is slight (.1 percent) so that isn’t too concerning. What is concerning is the stronghold we have on middle of the pack standing!

It is disheartening to rank #27 for peak connection speed with 76.3 Mbps. It’s not great to be #27 – but again more concerning is that while the average peak for the state is 76.3 Mbps 12 percent of the state doesn’t have access to 4 Mbps. That’s quite a digital divide.

Paul Bunyan GigaZone Comes to Hines and areas of Blackduck

Happy to share the big news!

The GigaZone Comes to Hines and areas of Blackduck
One of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the United States continues to grow;
Now available to more than 33,400 locations in northern Minnesota

(Bemidji, MN) (March 20, 2017) – Paul Bunyan Communications has announced that the GigaZone has come to Hines and areas of Blackduck. As a result of continued upgrades to the Cooperative’s all-fiber optic communications network over 700 more locations now have access to GigaZone services including Internet speeds up to a Gigabit per second.

“We’ve made great progress on upgrading our network to incorporate even more members into the GigaZone over the past several months.  I’m very proud of all the hard work our cooperative has put in so far as we put our membership and region at the forefront of the very latest in communication networks.  We will continue to do as much as we can to bring the GigaZone to all our members and the communities we serve as fast as we can.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

The GigaZone is currently available to over 33,400 locations, making it one of the largest rural all-fiber optic networks in the United States!  Check out our online map http://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/map/ showing the current areas of the GigaZone as well as those that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.

Paul Bunyan Communications recently mailed out information to the new locations that are now in the GigaZone and the cooperative has an online map available at http://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/map/ showing the active areas of the GigaZone as well as those areas that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.

“If you are wondering when the GigaZone will reach you, the online map of the active areas and plans for the next two years is a great resource.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

GigaZone service options include unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit.  Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited long distance service.  All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.

Most current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds.  To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.  The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Service up to a Gigabit per second, digital and high definition television services, Smart Home services, digital voice services, and more.   Service availability depends upon location, some restrictions may apply.

Boreal Corps Goes to the Minnesota State Capitol! A guest post from sixth grader Sammie Garrity

I am pleased to share Sammie Garrity’s notes from last week’s Broadband Day on the Hill. I met Sammie briefly at the event. She’s very bright and did a great job speaking at the press conference at the event. That’s all I’ll say as she tells the story herself below – and does a great job!

Boreal Corps At the Capitol’s Broadband Day On The Hill

By Sammie Garrity, Boreal Corps Editor
Grade 6, Great Expectations School, Grand Marais
Last updated: Saturday March 18, 6:59 a.m.

ST. PAUL, March 15, 2017 – Fast wireless connections and highspeed internet are modern services many people take for granted—we do in Cook County because we have broadband installed. But we’re unusual. Actually, most people in Minnesota do not have broadband (see slide show map above) or internet service they consider fast or reliable.

That was the point made over and over Wednesday at the Minnesota State Capitol during the state’s first-ever workshop focused on finding solutions to providing world-class internet service to everyone in Minnesota, no matter where they live, big city or “middle of nowhere,” as several panelists gave as an address. It was called “Broadband Day on the Hill,” sponsored by the Minnesota Broadband Coalition. ​

At right: Cook County residents at the Capitol in St. Paul. Danna McKenzie of Grand Marais, executive director of the Office of Broadband Development, walks through the Senate tunnels to the March 15 broadband hearing room with Boreal Corps Editor Sammie Garrity of Lutsen.


Minnesotans are divided on the answer. But some at the March 15 workshop thought a simple 50-50-50 formula is best:

·50mb download

·50mb upload

·For $50 a month

·​No data caps

Not Just Nice, Necessary
The problem of access to good internet service is especially bad in rural Minnesota. As  State Senator Thomas Bakk (DFL-Cook) put it: “These metro kids have such an advantage over rural kids with the internet resources they have.” Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith agreed. In the opening meeting she said, “It’s a matter of fundamental fairness. Highspeed, reliable internet is not just nice to have, it’s necessary.”

All sorts of people are affected by slow data speeds and limited bandwidth, according to panelists. There is a:

·graphic designer in Ely whose job suffered because she couldn’t upload large design files to clients

· a resident of Chisholm who considered moving because it was too frustrating to do her hobby of online gaming with slow internet connections

· a doctor who had to sit in his car outside of a McDonald’s to connect to the restaurant’s internet to read medical journals

·kids near Warroad who Lt. Gov. Smith said stayed on the school bus even after it reached their bus stop because it had wireless, which they needed to finish their homework because their homes didn’t have internet. “Imagine if kids in Edina or Eden Prairie had to stay on a bus to finish their homework…It’s just not fair,” she said.
Why Boreal Corps?
As editor of Boreal Corps, (the new kids’ digital media team of Boreal.org), I was invited to talk on a panel to explain how Cook County kids in grades 4-12 are using a new Blandin Broadband Innovation Grant that Boreal.org just received to actually create a newspaper: we use broadband to be creative and to connect our community.

​This is a new message for legislators to hear – how kids really can do important work with the internet. We’re not just all about social media, playing games or listening to music. In the language of Wednesday’s Broadband on the Hill, we’re about “uploads.” Boreal Corps kids make stories and art that we upload to the internet. The internet serves our stories and art back in “downloads” to readers. We do this by using our imaginations, education, curiosity and digital media skills we are learning at Boreal.org. We are not just “downloaders” playing games or watching videos and Snapchats that other people make.

When I visited The Capitol, mostly everybody had the same thing to say: “We need internet and broadband for our work, and ourselves and for our kids’ education.”  Some noticed a regular dip in service at around 3 p.m. when kids got home from school and everyone jumped on the internet and there wasn’t enough bandwidth to support all that use.

Fixing the Problem
Legislators in Minnesota are trying to fix this problem. One bill was introduced asking for $100 MILLION to make sure every community has the fiber optic cable and other systems needed to support highspeed internet connections like ours in Cook County. But legislators said it’s a hard problem because there are so many competing needs in the state for money. Sen. Bakk put it this way: “There is not a very good solution to the problem— there is a huge fight about how to meet the needs of the un-served and the underserved.” Rep. Rob Ecklund agreed, and said many people are working on a solution.

“No Bar” Lake
The realistic dollar amount of what broadband projects are probably going to get is, $30 MILLION in each of two years, 2018 and 2019 (total of $60 MILLION). That’s what Danna Mackenzie wanted, so a total of $60 MILLION in two years. To that, I say, “YOU GO GIRL!!!” And same to everyone else helping. All of them want “border to border” broadband internet in Minnesota as a way of giving everyone a fair chance to be connected.

At the meetings, wireless and fiber optics and copper cable were all debatable subjects. Some people said wireless won’t ever work well in northern Minnesota communities like Cook County where all the things we love are in the way of reliable wireless signals– hills, trees, lakes, rivers, rock cliffs, snow.

One woman who lives on Bar Lake said they call it “No Bar Lake” because their internet service is so weak. “Clear line of sight is everything,” she said.

One question came up that really struck me as interesting: “How can we encourage private investment in rural communities?” A panelist answered this question with a statement he had made before in the conference:  “In 30 days something incredible in going to be available with Minnesota internet.” He also said lawmakers should give higher priority to businesses that use broadband to demonstrate and promote economic development.

Kids Should Visit the Capitol
​When I met with Sen. Bakk (District 03) and Rep. Ecklund (District 3A), Mr. Bakk told a story of the time when 125 sixth graders came to the Capitol and sat in on some sessions. At the time, lawmakers were passing a bill to make fourth of July sparklers legal. Mr. Bakk was standing in the middle of the Rotunda when he asked the kids, “How many of you have held a sparkler before?”

​He said that every hand went up.

He then proceeded to tell them, “Then you all broke the law! Until now, lighting sparklers were illegal in Minnesota.”

He recalled that a little girl raised her hand and asked, “Have you ever broken the law?”

Learn more! More to come soon at http://www.borealcorps.org!  Also, we just got a shout out from an organization called Growth & Justice. Thanks G&J! They are working on fairness in internet access at the legislature by urging improving broadband service for all Minnesotans–you can read download their priorities at the Capitol below.

Better broadband helps Minnesota continue to be a state that works

The Grand Forks Herald recently ran an Op Ed from former Senator Matt Schmit on legislative priorities (infrastructure) that would lift of rural Minnesota. Legislators need to work together regardless of party or location and here’s what he said about broadband…

For many communities throughout Greater Minnesota and families living outside city limits, reliable connectivity to the information superhighway is just as important as paved highways. But more than 20 percent of rural Minnesota homes and businesses lack access to broadband and thus, the global economy.

This challenge is analogous to the need for rural electrification throughout the American heartland a century ago. Imagine life today without electricity. Broadband and its many applications for economic competitiveness and quality of life are no different.

Broadband is essential for home-based business and teleworking, distance learning, telemedicine and precision agriculture, not to mention an ever-increasing number of applications in everyday life.

Minnesota’s nation-leading Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program addresses a market failure—in this case, a situation where private investment capital is limited while consumer demand is strong, though not geographically concentrated.

In its first three years, the matching grant has funded 10 projects in northwestern Minnesota and has helped extend connectivity throughout the state to an estimated 25,000 homes and businesses and hundreds of community anchor institutions, including libraries, schools and hospitals.

It’s a great example of how smart public investment partnered with private sector or service cooperative know-how can make a real difference.

Broadband is the great equalizer for economic competitiveness and quality of life in Greater Minnesota. The 2016 Legislature recognized this fact and doubled its prior investment in the grant fund.

Now, the 2017 Legislature has a chance to build momentum around Minnesota’s proven approach to extending the reach of broadband.

Wired vs wireless home connections – 20 percent use wireless

Telecompetitor recently ran an article on home broadband access and wireless…

Although the majority of households still access the Internet via fixed connections (cable, telco, fiber, etc.), nearly 4 in 10 said they usually use mobile for home Internet access, according to new research from ReportLinker.

ReportLinker points to Census Bureau data as further evidence of broadband cord cutting. According to the Dept. of Commerce agency’s report, the number of U.S. households that rely solely on mobile devices and wireless network connectivity for Internet access doubled to 20 percent between 2013 and 2015.

The shift is particularly strong among young adults. Thirty-nine percent of Americans ReportLinker surveyed said they “usually use” mobile devices to connect to the Internet at home. That rose to 55 percent among Millennials and 60 percent of respondents aged 18-24. But an important and interesting observation regarding these findings – how many of those millennials are actually connected via a home fixed broadband connection using Wi-Fi on that mobile device, and don’t even make or understand the distinction?

Their last line gets to an essential point. The world of “wireless” is confusing. When we talk about wireless are we talking about cellular, fixed wireless, wifi. If you asked my kids how they connected to the internet they would say wireless – despite the fact that at home and at school they are actually on wifi that connects to a wireline connection. It’s all the same to them – unless or until a password gets changed. Maybe they’ll know the difference when they are paying the bill – and going on a limb here I think most millennials and a good chunk of 18-24 year-olds are still not paying the bill.

BUT I think that gets at a larger view – it’s not an either/or solution. Most folks want the speed, reliability and limitless use of a wired solution. Most folks want the mobility of a wired (cellular) connection. The following are reasons that customers went one choice over another – most of the reasons come down to bad experience with the choice they didn’t make…

Those who rely on mobile broadband offered various reasons why they don’t have a home broadband connection:

  • 27 percent said they could do everything they want with a smartphone
  • 15 percent said it’s cheaper to have just one connection
  • 15 percent said wireless network access is faster than a home broadband connection
  • 8 percent said home broadband connections aren’t reliable

On the flip side:

  • 22 percent said they use fixed broadband at home because it came as part of a package deal

  • 21 percent said cable broadband is much faster

  • 17 percent said their home broadband data limit is much higher than their mobile data plan limit

  • 5 percent said that not everyone in their household has a good mobile data plan