Making and Using Better Broadband Maps: Insights from NTIA #MNBroadband Conference

Mr. Spurgeon will present an update on the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s (NTIA) federal broadband technical assistance and mapping programs, as well as its partnership with the state of Minnesota on those efforts. He will also discuss opportunities to leverage improved broadband mapping for cooperative policy-making and investment decision-making across federal and state government.

Andy Spurgeon, Chief of Operations, Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications, National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA)

Get the presentation slides.

Tech-Transformed Agriculture #MNBroadband Conference

Faced with a growing global population, farmers are attempting to produce more food, fuel, and fiber more efficiently at reduced cost. This panel will explore the role of technology and internet connectivity in Minnesota’s Ag economy and discuss a range of practical applications of “tech-transformed” agriculture being adopted by Minnesota farmers, including as a strategy to diversify our agricultural landscapes.

Notes: Tech Transformed Agriculture

Keith Olander

–          Farm Business Management

o   Adaption of technology is slowed by the poor economy for farmers

o   76% drop in farm income since 2012

–          Broadband on the Farm

o   Automation of farming equipment such as tractors and irrigators

o   Microchips that can be put into the soil

o   Automated weather alerts to help determine irrigation patterns, types of crops planted, etc.

–          Drones in Ag can limit use of pesticides and herbicides by applying them only to the places that need them

Jim Chamberlin

–          Issues in Agriculture

o   Population decline of insects, birds, and pollinators

o   Dead Zones in the Gulf of Mexico

o   Climate Change

–          Agriculture as a solution to climate change by taking carbon out of the air and improving soil health

–          Soil health = the ability to retain nutrients and water

–          Healthy soils would reduce the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere and water

–          The microbiome of soil is disturbed by pesticides/herbicides, and tilling/plowing.

–          Keeping soil moist by using mulch, keeping living roots in the soil, and integrating livestock help to retain the microbiome.

–          Soil testing via the Solvita test and the Haney test

–          Technology

o   Facebook for networking

o   YouTube and podcasts for learning

o   Fitbit for cows

o   Increasing crop diversity through automated farm vehicles because they can be smaller

Sam Ziegler

–          People migrating from rural to urban areas

–          Central and Southern Minnesota have high land productivity

–          GreenSeam Mission: to be the premier ag business epicenter in the United States

o   through business retention and attraction, business attraction and creation, and talent development

–          28% of people in Southern MN are working in agriculture

–          Helping a start-up that is developing a software to identify turkeys and health markers

–          Smarter farming practices could generate 2.3 trillion dollars according to a study by Tuft’s University

–          40k for Sam to get fiber to his farm. He is currently using cell data to use farming technology.

From Feasibility Forward – Broadband Project Development #MNBroadband Conference

Moving from talk to action is challenging for rural broadband initiatives. The process can be chaotic as partnership and financial arrangements are negotiated between local governments and prospective providers, often up against grant requirements and deadlines. Learn from the experiences of three community leaders as the work to bring broadband to their rural communities.

  • Barbara Droher Kline, Le Sueur County
  • Nancy Hoffman, Chisago County
  • Betsy Olivanti, Western Iron Range

Conducting a Successful Broadband Feasibility Study #MNBroadband Conference

The goal of every feasibility study is to design and build broadband projects that meet community needs. The feasibility study design is critical to obtaining the desired outcomes that communities are seeking. A feasibility study should serve as a decision-making funnel so that that local leaders can make informed choices about technologies, provider partners and funding. Learn how other communities have moved from consultant selection to study design to project implementation.

Notes: Conducting A successful broadband study: Chris Konechne and Mark Mrla

-How to Conduct feasible study and what do you want from the study:

  • Market needs: The communities might already have fiber.
  • Audit/mapping existing networks: Seeing where within the community the fiber is.
  • Community Engagement: Allowing the community to participate and get involved in the process.
  • Cost: How much creating new networks will cost and how it will impact the clients.

RFP (Request for Proposal)

-Research is very important for clients to do before meeting with a consultant. To find out exactly what they will need within the community.

Once ready to create the RFP, it is good to assemble a team that is heavily trained in consulting clients. The team should be well versed with Broadband, fiber and networking.

Overall the primary goal is to get Fiber to the homes and then create a strong network for the communities.

Healthcare: The Importance of the “Last Mile” #MNBroadband Conference

Expectations around healthcare are changing. The ability to access, or provide, the services patients need, at the exact point they need them, are shifting to a more consumer-like model. If I am sick at home, why do I need to always come in to the clinic? Can’t I just see you, using the technology with which we are almost all familiar, to connect and have my appointment? This also means that the provider may need to do the same…be accessible from anywhere. This is not something that is important only to urban locations and it is something that we are struggling with in today’s experiences. This panel will discuss the challenges they are working to manage because of inconsistent bandwidth.

Blandin Broadband Awards Presentation Pt 2 #MNBroadband Conference

Congrats and thank you to the many who have helped make Minnesota stronger with broadband!

Cook County and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to Cook County and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative in recognition of their visionary early work on community access to dial-up Internet which led years later to their innovative partnership that enabled deployment of over 800 miles of fiber-to-the-home network stretching from Lake Superior to the end of the Gunflint Trail and the Canadian border.

  • In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture awarded Arrowhead Electric over $16 million in grants and low interest loans to build a fiber-to-the-home broadband network throughout Cook County. This USDA funding was provided through the Broadband Initiatives Program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Cook County awarded Arrowhead Electric Cooperative a $4 million grant from its 1% local economic development sales tax fund to build a fiber optic network in Grand Marais.
  • As an early and consistent Blandin Foundation partner in the Get Broadband and the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community programs, Cook County implemented sophisticated and innovative broadband adoption initiatives, including increasing the capacity of local community-owned ISP Boreal Access, creating a public-access distance education hub, tele-health applications, and streaming local sports on local public TV.

Gary Evans

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to Gary Evans for his pioneering work to put community vision and benefit at the center of rural broadband deployment efforts and his strategic and supportive contributions to the Blandin Broadband Strategy Board and the Governor’s Broadband Task Force.

  • President and CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications from 1998-2013.
  • Helped launch Luminet, a nonprofit group established by Hiawatha Education Foundation, to manage a public internet network connecting schools. In 1997, Luminet transformed into HBC so as to bring broadband to the greater Winona community.
  • Taught communities that broadband is a tool to achieve the community’s future vision rather than an end in itself. HBC only expanded into communities where leaders understood this paradigm.
  • Inducted into the Winona County Fair “Hall of Fame” for his decades of community service in 2017.

Nancy Hoffman

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to Nancy Hoffman for her consistent and positive work in promoting broadband access and use as a Blandin partner in Benton and Chisago Counties and for her generous leadership of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition working to ensure broadband access for all Minnesotans.

  • Executive Director at Chisago County HRA-EDA since 2012.
  • Led the Broadband Team in the Chisago Lakes Area’s efforts in the America’s Best Communities program, contributing to their finalist status in the nationwide competition.
  • Key facilitator of successful Chisago County township broadband projects by providing critical logistical and financial support.
  • Founding chair of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition.

PCs for People

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to PCs for People for becoming a national leader in digital inclusion efforts, both by growing its own effort and by supporting like-minded non-profits around the country, ensuring that tens of thousands of low-income families and individuals have the computers and Internet access they need to fully participate in society.

  • Founded in 1998, PCs for People is a recognized national leader in digital inclusion.
  • PCs for People has distributed more than 80,000 computers, subscribed thousands of families to low-cost internet, and recycled millions of pounds of electronics, transforming itself from a small Minnesota non-profit into a national force for good.
  • PCs for People model contributes to environmental sustainability by intercepting usable computers before they reach landfills and refurbishing them for reuse.
  • CEO Casey Sorensen recently received the Charles Benton Foundation Digital Equity Champion award for 2019 for the work of PCs for People.

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to the governing board of Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services for their vision and multi-community collaboration in creating a public regional fiber network that serves residential and business customers in eight rural communities ranging from 59 to just over 3,200 people.

  • In 2011, the communities of Jackson, Brewster, Bingham Lake, Heron Lake, Lakefield, Wilder, Okabena, and Round Lake began exploring a broadband solution.
  • Community leaders were prepared for and successful in getting a $12.8 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to build a world-class fiber-to-the-home service.
  • The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services network passes 3,500 residences, 292 businesses and 50 anchor institutions.

In addition to providing the region with access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband, the network has helped local governments be more efficient. Telephone calls from one town to another are now toll free rather than long distance.

Tech-Transformed Education #MNBroadband Conference

Regional education technology cooperatives serving schools and libraries will share how recent broadband upgrades have opened doors to digital learning, network efficiencies, and other benefits. The audience will be encouraged to participate as we discuss the struggles, successes and continuing challenges of these projects.

Tech-Transformed Education – David Paschke, Marc Johnson, Josh Sumption

– Networks that are primarily delivering information to Minnesota regional school districts.

-With the growth of school districts and changing in schools, soon networks will also have to enhance services  as well as fit to the size and need of each school.

-Work on cyber security and firewalls that beneficial for the school districts.

-Focusing on what they have created in the last 20 years in the school systems to be able to reach the students when they go home, so they can continue their education at home.

Providers Panel – Trends in Deployment; Advice to Communities #MNBroadband Conference

Cooperatives are often the first choice of communities as they seek ISP partners since cooperatives tend to me more patient with their need for ROI on their capital and member benefit is a core co-op principle. Hear from three cooperative providers about how they are meeting the need for high quality broadband in greater Minnesota.

All Things Fiber and Wireless #MNBroadband Conference

Learn how fiber and wireless technologies can play complementary roles in delivering broadband services to meet the needs of rural residents and business customers. The capabilities of both infrastructures are increasing rapidly. Increase your understanding of what will work, technically and financially, in your area.

Notes: All Things Fiber and Wireless – Carl Meyerhoefer, Mitch Koep, Mark Erickson

– Our world is changing. We will soon be moving from having many wireless devices in our homes to smart homes. Calix’s device offers customers the choice between an Amazon home and a Google home.

– “The wifi experience determines customer satisfaction.” If customers are having an issue, they will look to the service provider for answers, even when the problem is with their third party device.

– To combat customer dissatisfaction, service providers will build fiber out further, which is very costly.

– Wireless connection costs less than fiber, can be built faster, and is evolving quickly. However, the speeds are often much slower.

– To have the strongest wireless connection, an external antenna on customer homes is required.

Intelligent Community Benchmarking #MNBroadband Conference

Bill Coleman and John Jung will lead participants through a hands-on work session that will provide participants with a better understanding of how well their community is addressing critical community and economic development elements. Participants will be well on their way to completing the benchmarking tool for submittal to ICF. Once participants return home and complete the benchmarking tool, they can submit the information to ICF to receive their benchmarking report comparing your efforts to those of more than 400 global communities and will be entered in the Intelligent Community awards process.

(Get the handouts from the session.)


Before and After the Internet: What’s everyday joy got to do with it? #MNBroadband Conference

Welcome from Bernadine Joselyn and MN County broadband profile highlights from Ann Treacy and special guests Kairos Alive! Spreading Joy Over the Internet!

And the welcome from Blandin Foundation’s Bernadine Joselyn in the program…

Thank you for joining us at Grand View Lodge in beautiful Nisswa for three days of engagement, learning and fun. The theme of this year’s fifteenth annual conference is Innovation, with a focus on what it means to put broadband to work for healthy, vibrant communities. Along the way we will celebrate the courage and vision of some early pioneers who have led the way in the Minnesota’s Journey to Border-to-Border Broadband.


When Blandin Foundation launched our broadband initiative in 2003, dial-up access to the Internet was the norm; 77 percent of rural Minnesotans had dial-up, while only 21 percent had broadband.

Our goals back then were to:

  1. Generate awareness among local, state and federal leaders about the need for action.
  2. Increase rural business and residential utilization of broadband capacity.
  3. Increase public and private investment in and utilization of rural broadband capacity.

Today, Minnesota can be proud of the progress we have made, but the digital divide still threatens equal opportunity for all, especially in rural.


At this conference, we will celebrate our shared broadband vision for Minnesota that has helped guide our work, and learn from some of the people and efforts helping make it a reality:

Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.



~Bernadine Joselyn
Director of Public Policy & Engagement, Blandin Foundation
On behalf of the conference planning team


Digitally-Native Generations: A Panel with Young Leaders #MNBroadband Confernece

A panel featuring young leaders who are modeling the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) framework of Broadband, Knowledge Workforce, Innovation, Digital Equality, Sustainability, and Advocacy. Hear perspectives from young people who are: utilizing a digital workforce, working to increase the adoption and adaption of technology in business and community, promoting broadband as an essential piece to any economic development strategy, and learn the trends that tell us we are headed in the right direction.



The Intelligent Community Approach: Is it right for Minnesota? #MNBroadband Conference

Intelligent Community co-founder John Jung will provide an overview of the Intelligent Community framework and discuss examples of communities in states and provinces that have adopted the model to energize technology-based community and economic development. John will then facilitate a discussion of how Minnesota might begin to make effective use of this framework to synergize our disparate broadband, workforce, innovation, equity, sustainability and marketing efforts. •

Presenter: John Jung, Intelligent Community Forum