About Bernadine Joselyn

Bernadine Joselyn is Director of Public Policy & Engagement at the Blandin Foundation. Based in Grand Rapids, MN, Blandin Foundation is a private independent foundation whose mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially Grand Rapids.

Register Now: Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work

Register Now: Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work
October 8-10
Grand View Lodge – Nisswa MN

Please join us October 8-10, at the gorgeous Grand View Lodge in Nisswa for our annual broadband conference, Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work. Broadband access today is as varied as communities across Minnesota. Some enjoy a gig, others are working hard for any service, and the rest are somewhere in between. This conference is for all communities, regardless of where they are on the spectrum – because we’ve learned that having broadband isn’t enough. It takes inspiration, encouragement and guidance to reap the full benefits. We’ll be talking about how to make the most of what you’ve got and/or get more.

This year’s conference will shine a light on local broadband heroes as well as look at several aspects of broadband:

  • Getting Connected
  • Community Vitality
  • Economic Development
  • Digital Equity

Check out the conference website for more details, including the preliminary agenda. (Or learn about opportunities to sponsor or exhibit.)

Register Today!

Join policymakers, economic and community development professionals, and community broadband champions from across the state for this annual opportunity to learn, connect, and engage.

We hope to see you there!

Why is Blandin Foundation leading a Minnesota contingency to the Intelligent Community Forum Conference in NY?

The Blandin Foundation is leading a contingency of broadband-focused community leaders to the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Global Conference in NY in June. Why? To learn and to teach!

We will go to learn from some of the top smart cities (counties, counties and towns) in the world. The ICF awards the “Intelligent Community” each year. These are communities that are ahead of their peers when it comes to having and using broadband to the point of creating innovation in work, school and play!

ICF has a framework for communities that the Blandin Foundation has adopted with the Blandin Broadband Communities. It focuses on 6 facets (pictured at the right) that help communities recognize their strengths and challenges and create a plan to use broadband/smart technology to highlight strengths and address challenges.

We are also going to talk to communities around the world about our work in rural areas. We suspect that there will be projects that will excite us coming from larger communities but that our communities might also serve as a model to smaller communities. We have worked with the ICF model for almost a decade now and we feel that we have some lessons worth sharing!

We are bringing representatives from:

A look back (assessment) at Blandin Broadband Community work in 2015-2016

Sometimes it feels good to look back, see the road we’ve traveled and progress we’ve made. So while the task is arduous, we always enjoy the assessment of the Blandin Community Broadband Program, which includes work of the BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) cohort, annual conference and other meetings, webinars, the Blandin on Broadband blog and other broadband-focuses efforts supported by Blandin.

I’d like to thank and recognize our 2015-2016 BBC Partners:

  1. Carlton County
  2. Central Woodlands (east central Minnesota)
  3. Chisago County
  4. Martin County
  5. Nobles County
  6. Redwood County
  7. Red Wing
  8. RS Fiber (Renville & Sibley Counties)
  9. Resilient Region (Region 5 in north central Minnesota)
  10. Sherburne County

We’ll share their stories from the report on the blog in the next week or two. The stories have been told here but the recaps are valuable too. (I would like to point out the table of grants awarded that start on page 28. It’s an inspiring list of community projects that have helped spur local broadband adoption. If you have looking for activities to try in your own community – this is a good starter list.)

But the work doesn’t stop with the BBC partners. Blandin supported technical assistance with 11 communities, hosted or supported a number of events from local hackfest to the annual broadband conference, maintained the blog, which is read by practitioners, community leaders and policy makers in Minnesota and beyond and supported efforts to lift up broadband as a tool to expand opportunities in Minnesota and make it possible to commit (re-commit) to rural areas.

Broadband feasibility studies are a step toward grant applications, RFPs, getting networks built!

Last week, the MN Broadband Task Force heard from practitioners on the utility of feasibility studies. I’m on the Task Force and found the topic interesting and worth a deeper dive, especially given Blandin Foundation’s experience with and commitment to the feasibility study as a key step in moving a broadband project closer to reality.

Since 2007, Blandin Foundation had provided matching grants totaling $718,321 to 24 rural Minnesota communities to support the cost of a broadband feasibility study through its Robust Network Feasibility Fund. This grant program requires communities to produce a one-to-one cash match for awarded grants.

In 2013, Blandin Foundation published Lessons from Rural Minnesota Broadband Feasibility Studies: What can rural communities learn about broadband expansion, based on feasibility studies completed to date?” It looks at grants made between 2007 and 2012 to 11 communities to fund broadband feasibility studies, and identifies some best practices and recommendations for maximizing the effectiveness of such studies.

Five of these funded communities have gone on to deploy broadband networks; six have not.

The difference: access to capital.

Four of the five communities were able to build networks based on their completed studies due to ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funding. (Actually four networks were deployed, as two communities with feasibility studies became one ARRA project.) Having feasibility study results in hand played a key role in positioning the awarded communities to be competitive for federal funding.  The studies provided the communities with the data required in the application process and demonstrated that they were shovel-ready projects, which was a major requirement of projects seeking ARRA funding.

One community, Red Wing, successfully deployed a fiber optic network without ARRA funding, through partnership with Hiawatha Broadband Communications. HBC applied for ARRA funding, but was not awarded funds. Despite this setback, HBC moved ahead with the Red Wing project using their own source of funds.

State broadband funds were not available at this time, so that was not an option for communities.

In 2013, Blandin Foundation made three more broadband feasibility study grants:

As communities and counties increasingly feel the pain of being left behind, Blandin Foundation is experiencing increased demand for feasibility study grants.

In 2015-16, Blandin Foundation funded broadband feasibility studies in 10 communities.

The grant applications for this round of feasibility studies all emerged from an inclusive community engagement process.  Community members identified the need to conduct a study in order to move ahead on their technology goals and then shaped the study’s purpose, goals, and scope, and selected a consultant.

Broadband networks are now being built in six of the 10 communities that conducted feasibility studies in 2015-2016; four with state grant dollars, and two without.

Some conclusions I draw from this experience:  

  • Feasibility studies can be an effective tool in helping communities advance their broadband goals.
  • Feasibility studies inform both sides of prospective partnerships: public sector leadership and private sector providers.
  • Feasibility studies should be designed to drive decision-making throughout an interactive and iterative process defining public sector role, technology choices and partnership options.

Minnesota Broadband’s $35 million budget: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The dust is settling at the Capitol, and it’s time to assess chisago BB 1. The Good news is the Legislature has carved out $35 million for broadband, a significant increase over last year’s appropriation.  The Bad news is that this amount falls far short of the need. And the (potentially) ugly lives with the devil in the details.

But before turning to the details I’d like to express my admiration for the many  broadband proponents who made their voices heard during the session.  Local media ran stories and editorials; citizens shared stories on social media; constituents contacted their representatives. A coalition of rural advocacy organizations aligned their broadband platforms and messages. Together, you kept community broadband off the chopping block and in the budget.  Showing up and speaking up does make a difference.

Here are the facts of the legislation being sent to the Governor:

  • Broadband budget is $35 million in Fiscal Year 2017
    • No more than $5 million carved out to go to underserved areas
    • Up to $1 million may be used for administrative costs
    • $500,000 for low-income households
  • Broadband speed goals are changed to align with recommendations from the Governor’s Broadband Task Force: 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up by 2022
    • Speed goal for 2026 is 100/20
    • Unserved is redefined to speeds below 25/3
    • Underserved is redefined to be speeds below 100/20
  • Some details around grant application have changed
    • The Office of Broadband Development is expected to announce application criteria 30 days in advance (to that end they are working on a tentative meeting on June 23)
    • Incumbents and providers adjacent to a community have more a formal process to challenge grant applications from competitors looking to enter their markets
    • Prevailing wage requirements have been softened in the last mile deployment

So the work continues! We are already thinking about how we can work together better next year on behalf of rural community broadband needs. Here are some next steps:

  • Grant details should be available in late June, we’ll watch for that
  • Partners are working on webinars to discuss the details
  • The Blandin Foundation is working on a meeting in the Fall to regroup, retrench and refresh for the next big push for better broadband.

Webinar cancelation notice: No June Blandin Webinar on CAF 2

chisago BB 1We are sorry to announce that we have had to cancel the upcoming Blandin Broadband Webinar on the Connect America Fund (CAF2) scheduled for June 9. Neither CenturyLink or Frontier Communications, the primary recipients of the approximately $500 million dollars of FCC funding, will provide a representative for our webinar. In addition to CenturyLink and Frontier, Windstream and Consolidated Communications have also accepted this funding.

Through CAF2, providers have six years to install broadband service in unserved rural areas. The improved network must be able to deliver a minimum of 10 Mb download and 1 Mb upload, which is less than one-half of our new Minnesota speed goal and the FCC’s own minimum broadband definition. Customers located closer to the fiber-connected electronics would receive higher speeds.

The goal of the webinar was to help unserved communities clearly understand provider plans, the “when” and “if” of when these network improvements will occur. Communities would also benefit from knowing how they might partner with these large providers to upgrade the planned network to meet the 2026 Minnesota broadband goal of 100 Mb/20 Mb or at least the 25 Mb/3 Mb 2022 goal. As we all know, the difficult economics of rural broadband deployment means and past history demonstrates that the CAF2 funded investments may be the last significant investment in these unserved areas for a generation.

You can find a map of the CAF2 eligible areas at https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf-2-accepted-map. Areas that are either extremely high cost or served with broadband at 3 Mb or more are ineligible for this funding.

If you are served by either of these four companies, you should contact them directly to learn more about their plans for your area. If you need help identifying the right contact for your provider, email broadband@blandinfoundation.org and we will provide that information to you.

Broadband Communities Conference: Community Fiber Networks Economic Development October 18 – 20 in Minneapolis

Bernadine_InCommonsBlandin Foundation is pleased that Broadband Communities is bringing their regional conference to Minneapolis this Fall. I have had the pleasure of attending previous conferences in Austin (TX) and Chicago. I have learned a lot a made some great connections.

We are honored to be working with Broadband Communities on some of the content and conference planning. We’re excited to show off some of our Minnesota success to a wider audience. (Not to mention showing off the beauty of a Minnesota autumn.) In some ways, the Broadband Communities conference will act as our usual Fall Broadband Conference – we will have a much smaller event because we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to partner and go bigger when we heard from the folks at Broadband Communities.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Here’s the word from Broadband Communities…

Why Minneapolis, MN?
Border-to-border high-speed Internet access is the goal throughout Minnesota. That’s a goal we all share.

Call For Papers And Speakers
Why Minneapolis, MN
Conference Hotel: Radisson Blu Downtown- $199 Per Night Register Now – Low Rates Expire Soon Public Officials: $175

5th Annual Conference
Enhance your community with advanced fiber networks Drawing Leaders From a 7-State Region, Spilling Over the Canadian Border

North Dakota
South Dakota
Ontario, Canada
Manitoba, Canada

What You Will Learn:

  • How to successfully plan for, monetize, and manage an all fiber-based broadband investment.
  • Explore best practices for developing broadband strategies for the knowledge economy.
  • Learn the strategies necessary to foster collaboration with economic development agencies.
  • Differentiate your community with advanced broadband connectivity.
  • Discover how your community can become a magnet for the tech industry.

Who You Will Meet:

  • Local, State & Federal Officials
    Economic Development Professionals
    Public and Private Network Operators
    Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs
    Financial Institutions
    Community Anchor Institutions – Education, Medical, Public Safety & Security Electrical Cooperatives Broadband Champions

Learn more!