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.

Pres Trump’s 2021 budget increases funds to rural broadband cuts farm subsidies

KTOE radio reports…

President Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget proposes increasing funds to boost rural broadband. It calls for 25-billion that would be part of a new Revitalizing Rural America grant program. Minnesota Pork Producers CEO David Preisler says internet connectivity is critical on modern hog farms:

“Records are being kept on tablets, and you’re not necessarily doing as much paper as we used to do. And the other thing is the alarm systems and so on that these farms have got. To be able to have really good broadband would be really useful.”

President Trump’s budget proposal does include cuts to farm subsidies, as well as a 26 percent reduction for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Minnesota Farmers Union Day on the Hill: broadband comes up

AgriNews report on Minnesota Farmers Union’s annual lobby day at the Minnesota Capitol. Their top concerns were Health care affordability, taxes and access to meat processing facilities but broadband was mentioned…

Linda Larson said she wants the Legislature to act to expand broadband in the state. She said she didn’t have coverage at her home in Rosemount, Minn., and had to install a landline to access the internet. Larson said she’d heard similar concerns from neighbors.

Blandin Foundation funds Iron Range Tourism Bureau projects

Hometown Focus reports on projects in the following communities Aurora, Biwabik, Chisholm, Embarrass, Eveleth, Gilbert, Hibbing, Hoyt Lakes, Mountain Iron, Virginia and surrounding townships…

With a portion of its Blandin Broadband Community grant, the Iron Range Tourism Bureau has awarded technology mini-grants of $1,500 each to regional nonprofits that serve visitors. Grants were given to:

  • Club Mesabi,
    • Embarrass Township/Finnish Homestead Tours,
    • Eveleth Heritage Society,
    • Hibbing Historical Society Museum,
    • Hibbing Tourist Center,
    • Iron Range Historical Society,
    • Camp Vermilion,
    • Lyric Center for the Arts,
    • Minnesota Museum of Mining,
    • Minnesota Discovery Center,
    • SISU Heritage/Nelimark Museum, and
    • Virginia Area Historical Society.

“Through the Blandin Broadband grant, we’ve been able to assist our valued partners in tourism, namely organizations that serve visitors and help preserve our area’s history,” said Beth Pierce, executive director of the Iron Range Tourism Bureau. “Ultimately, these grants will impact the visitor experience— whether tourists or locals—in a positive way, and help these nonprofits achieve their own goals.”

They also mention a few past projects…

Other Blandin Broadband Communities Program initiatives being undertaken by the Iron Range Tourism Bureau include the creation of a virtual reality mine tour, a talent attraction website, a digital map of arts and artists, and a local “good news” campaign. For more information, contact Pierce at beth@ironrange.org or 218-749-8161.

Broadband is transforming school thanks to groups like ECMECC that support the network

Ed Scoop reports on digital learning based on a recent webinar hosted by edWeb.net

Digital learning not only plays a crucial role in preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, it also has an important role in providing more equitable access to education, especially in smaller and remote school districts.

The webinar featured Minnesota’s own Marc Johnson who spoke about the role for an organization such as ECMECC

Marc Johnson, executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative, who joined Fox on the webinar, said Minnesota has 18 regional networks, most of which now use leased fiber-optic networks. This provides the state with a scalable infrastructure, he said, and by monitoring disruptions and usage levels, administrators can buy additional bandwidth to accommodate future growth.

The ECMECC staff provides instructional technology support for districts, which is especially important for smaller ones that may not have full-time tech support people of their own. The staff also manage the network’s shared firewall and other security features that help to prevent cyberattacks. A data center, meanwhile, provides off-site storage and backup.

Moving forward, Johnson and his team will be facilitating schools’ implementation of 1:1 device initiatives, and the introduction of more 21st century digital courses. Districts can make their own through a process he called “curriculum adaptation,” rather than curriculum adoption.

A key aspect of this type of teaching and learning is the increased use of interactive video for online field trips or other activities. Examples include the opportunity for high school students taking health classes to observe and interact with medical personnel as they perform procedures, or observe a musician in a distant city teaching classes and leading rehearsals.

This type of distance learning can be especially valuable for smaller rural districts, but also for underfunded districts in urban areas that may not have the resources to send students to other parts of the city.

Sen Klobuchar on rural broadband mentions Blandin Foundation

Campaigning in Las Vegas, Senator Amy Klobuchar discusses how she would fight to expand broadband internet access. She speaks about the need of partnerships and flexibility in planning ubiquitous broadband and reminds the crowd that she used to be a telecom lawyer. She talks about how to insure that big telecom doesn’t come in to prevent local government from building or running public networks. And she gives a nice nod to the work of the Blandin Foundation

It is a combination responsibility. In another life, I did Telcom law in the. Private sector for years I represented MCI when they were trying to bust into the local and long-distance markets and create more competition which helped to bring those rates down. That experience helps me to get this. I also serve on the commerce committee. I plan is to get this done by 2022.

There is every reason to think we can do that, connect every area of the country, not to dial up slow speed, but actual high-speed internet. The way you pay for it is the combination of things. Part of the infrastructure plan I just mentioned, but two, some of the money can come from the universal service fund which is traditionally used for underserved areas. Whether it be impoverished areas, rural areas, and you want to pay for local service. Some of that money can go to broadband as well.

One of the problems that i have identified spending a lot of time in rural areas and meeting with people in small telephone companies is sometimes that money is going to carriers that are not using it. Particularly some of the bigger carriers or midsize ones that are not using it to build out. You have this crazy patchwork situation where one town in one area will have high-speed internet, and the other wand.

I remember being in a tribal area in Minnesota where one of the houses had decided to pay for high-speed internet, which was very expensive because they did not have it on the reservation. And all of these kids every day would go to the guys yard to do their homework. Or the doctor who would — who could get internet in the hospital, but he can’t get it at home and you have emergency calls. He would have to, if he wanted to bring up an x-ray or look at other things, he had to go to the McDonald’s parking lot or the farmer, and farming has become increasingly high-tech with the machinery and the like, who wants to contact customers has to go to — drive miles to go to a target. That is what is happening.

I think the answer is a combination of things like everything else if you are realistic. It is getting the direct funding through this infrastructure package. The funding for internet goes through the USDA, as well as the commerce to mark — commerce department. . There are local government owned situations in the rural areas.

One of them, the Blandin foundation in Minnesota has spent a lot of time working on this. I don’t think it is one-size-fits-all. The key is to make sure the money is not going to phone companies that are not using it. A senator and i, the republican from South Dakota, had done work on this to try to get people with standalone internet — cell phone service to get better internet service. A bunch of things we could do.

You have to have a president step back, look at these programs, and figure out that it is literally mapping exactly so that we have accurate data about where it is and where it isn’t. And then we get the resources to where they are supposed to go.

EVENT Feb 27 #DLDay Webinar: Innovate! Every Classroom, Every Day with Digital Learning

A fun, free event for educators to celebrate Digital Learning Day

Innovate! Every Classroom, Every Day with Digital Learning

February 27, 2020
12 pm EST

Panelists

  • Evan Marwell, Founder & CEO, Education SuperHighway
  • Matthew Mayo, Director of Technology, Edgecombe County School District (NC)
  • Erin Swanson, Director of Innovation,  Edgecombe County School District (NC)
  • Jake Ragusa, Director of IS and Technology, Ascension Public Schools (LA)
  • Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Moderators

  • Brianna Hodges, Future Ready Instructional Coaches Advisor,Future Ready Schools®@bhodgesEDU
  • Thomas C. Murray, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools®, Alliance for Excellent Education, @thomascmurray
  • Dr. Adam Phyall, III, EdD,  Future Ready Advisor and Director of Technology and Media Services, Newton Public Schools (GA), @AskAdam3

*Additional panelists will be announced as soon as they are confirmed.

On Digital Learning Day 2020, states, districts, and schools will show how innovation occurs in every classroom, every day, through the effective use of technology. To kick off this year’s celebration, we will take a behind the scenes look inside schools from around the county to show how educators are shifting their mindsets, leveraging technology as a tool for learning, and being empowered to reframe learning experiences each day.

Our hosts, Brianna Hodges, Adam Phyall, and Tom Murray will share and discuss the success stories from schools and districts across the country. They will highlight innovative programs such as a statewide network that provides internet access for each student, effective one-to-one implementation, and examples of how schools break down barriers to ensure that each student has access to opportunities.

The program also will include Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who will share an update on work being done to close access gaps in connectivity.

Our hosts will discuss

  • how a robust infrastructure provides a conduit for shifting teaching and learning practices;
  • ways in which professional learning supports teachers to shift their practice;
  • how communities are working together to make experiences more learner-centered; and
  • ways in which districts are keeping equity in the forefront of their decision making.

You won’t want to miss the opportunity to be inspired by the amazing success stories we will share this Digital Learning Day!

Update from MN Broadband Coalition on MN Broadband Bills – next meeting Feb 25

From the MN Broadband Coalition Newsletter…

Legislature Convenes 2020 Session; House Bill Hearing; Senate Broadband Bill Introduced
Saint Paul—The 2020 legislative session is finally underway here in Minnesota’s capital city. Legislators returned to the capitol for a day of smiles and handshakes after spending the last 8 months away from the Legislature. The atmosphere, as always, was quite similar to the first day of school. The House officially gaveled into session at 11:00am and the Senate shortly after at 12:00pm. Committees in both chambers will have their first hearings as soon as the end of this week, though most will wait until next week to start tackling issues of importance. But they will have to begin work quickly since they have just a little over 3 months before they must adjourn on May 18, 2020.
Two new representatives will join the House this year, one Republican and one Democrat. Rep. Paul Novotny (R-Elk River) and Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-Minneapolis) won special elections earlier this month. The outcomes of the special elections do not alter the balance of power in the House, where the DFL retains its 75-59 majority. The Senate remains in Republicans hands with a 35-32 majority. Both chambers are up for reelection in November.
Most of the work in the 2020 legislative session will be crafting the state’s infrastructure bill commonly referred to as the bonding bill. This bill is different from the regular biennial budget (passed during last year’s session) because the state borrows money rather than using tax revenue to pay for projects. And because the bonding bill comes with a super majority threshold for passage, it means Republicans and Democrats need to work together to get the bill across the finish line.
Gov. Tim Walz rolled out his proposal over the past few weeks, focusing on housing, clean water, education, and roads and bridges. His proposal clocks in at over $2 billion, making it the largest bonding bill in the state’s history if it’s passed. Republicans immediately balked at the Governor’s bill, saying that borrowing that much is risky and fiscally imprudent. They favor a more modest bill, most likely around $1 billion. Democrats have not released their bonding proposal, but House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said she’ll support as large of a bill as possible without jeopardizing the state’s credit rating.  Expect to see competing Senate and House bonding proposals in the first two months of session.
The other big item on the agenda for this session will be a supplemental budget bill. The picture for what will be in the bill and how big it will be remains murky. The state has had a good string of monthly reports that indicate a budget surplus may be coming, but we will not know until the first week of March. That’s when the Minnesota Management and Budget releases its February Budget and Economic Forecast. This report tells us whether legislators will have funding to spend on additional items, including things like the broadband grant program. We have strong support in the House with the bipartisan HF 3029 and Governor Walz has already publicly declared support for an addition $30 million in surplus funding. The November report indicated a budget surplus of $1 billion, but that figure is likely to change when the February report is released.
Senate Introduces Broadband Funding Bill
The $30 million broadband funding bill SF 3049 has been introduced in the Senate. Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) agreed to be the chief author on the bill and we couldn’t be more grateful for his leadership. He represents a district that has many rural communities and understands firsthand the need for broadband access. The following is a list of co-authors on the bill:

  • Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth)
  • Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake)
  • Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch)
  • Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids)

The Coalition has received considerable interest from Republican and Democrat senators. We are currently working on a second identical funding bill—known as a “clone bill”—so that more members can show their support. The Senate limits coauthors to 5 per bill, unlike the House which allows up to 40. The next step for this bill is a hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Housing, and Rural Development Finance committee.
ICYMI: Next Coalition Meeting – February 25, 2020
The Coalition will hold a full members’ meeting on Tuesday, February 25th at 3:00pm. The meeting will take place at the League of Minnesota Cities offices (145 University Ave West, St Paul, MN 55103). Call-in information and an agenda will be sent out. Please join us if you are able!