Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Creative Partnerships in Cooperative Broadband

Thanks to folks who joined to learn all about partnerships!

What do a showcase data center, tax abatements, a water cooperative, and a back office service have in common? They’re all proof that when it comes to deploying broadband, you don’t have to go it alone. Each one is a piece of the creative partnerships popping up across the country to deploy broadband to Co-op members. In this session, you’ll learn about some of the more creative arrangements bringing broadband to rural America.

Kristy Szabo, Director of Consulting for VantagePoint, has more than 24 years of experience in business finance. Kristy has performed several valuations on ILEC and CLEC operations, wireless operations, and CATV systems. She also executes historical financial analysis, financial forecasting, budgets, and feasibility studies. Her work has included the RUS Broadband and Traditional Loan programs and the USDA ReConnect and Community Connect Grant program, in addition to assisting clients obtain financing through CoBank and RTFC.

Kristy worked directly with the FCC’s auction system during several spectrum auctions (AWS and AWS-3, 700 MHz, and 600Mhz) by being an active bidder for several clients, filing FCC Short Form Applications (Form 175), and filing both FCC Forms 601 and 602 for winning clients. Kristy continues to work with the FCC on the wireless side by filing regulatory filings and license applications. Kristy has also been involved in securing grant funds for clients to build broadband networks in unserved and underserved areas under several State Grant Programs, including MN, NY, WI, MI, SD, IN, and IA to name a few.

Prior to entering the telecommunications industry in 2006, Kristy spent 10 years in banking and financing. During her tenure, Kristy worked with budgeting, rate forecasting, accounts payable, expense control and financial reporting reviews. She analyzed both personal and commercial financial statements. In addition, she gained valuable knowledge of lending processes. The in-depth accounting and financial experience she gained while in banking and financing brings a unique set of skills that are beneficial to the wide array of financial consulting projects within the telecommunications industry.

Kristy received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting from Dakota Wesleyan University (1995).  Prior to joining Vantage Point Solutions, Kristy was employed at First National Bank South Dakota.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Partnership for a ConnectedMN

So much fun to hear about the opportunities made possible through ConnectedMN…

Partnership for a ConnectedMN

Partnership for a ConnectedMN is a brand new public-private partnership created in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and the civic rest following the murder of George Floyd to help bring tech devices and internet access to students across the state, especially communities most in need, including students who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color, students from low-income families, and students residing in rural Minnesota.  As an initial step, on September 23  the Partnership announced that it had awarded $2.1 million in grants to 23 nonprofits serving the connectivity needs of an estimated 68,000 Minnesota students and their families. During this Office Hours session representatives from the Partnership of ConnectedMN – Best Buy, Blandin Foundation, Comcast, St. Paul and Minnesota Community Foundation, the Minnesota Business Partnership, and Connectivity — will talk about the Partnership’s plans to redress Minnesota’s growing digital divide and solicit ideas and input from participants.

Partnership member representatives participating include:

  • Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation
  • Tiffany Kong, Program Officer, St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation
  • Jenny Kramm, Senior Consultant, Collectivity
  • Stacey Nelson-Kumar, Community Impact Director, Comcast
  • Andrea Riehl, Senior Manager, Best Buy Social Impact
  • Amy Walstien, Education Policy and Workforce Development Director, Minnesota Business Partnership

Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Conducting Feasibility Studies by Mark Mrla, Finley Engineering

Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation on feasibility studies. It was great to have a breadth of experience of people who have produced feasibility studies and those who have ordered them!

How do I get high speed broadband into my community? How can I get more reliable broadband? Do I get fiber or fixed wireless broadband? What will it cost for each option, and will it pay for itself if it gets built? Can someone bring high speed broadband into our community or do we need to build and operate it ourselves? These and many other questions get addressed by having someone do a thorough broadband feasibility study for your community. Finley Engineering has completed broadband feasibility studies for cities as well as over 14 counties in Minnesota alone, not to mention the many other cities and counties throughout the U.S. You will hear much more about feasibility studies and can ask all of your burning questions in this session.

Mark Mrla – Director, Strategic Operations
Mark joined Finley Engineering Company in 2008 and works out of the Slayton, MN office. He currently serves as Director of Strategic Operations and is responsible for business development as well as some project management, engineering, budgeting, scheduling and client relations. Mark also coordinates teams and processes for loan and grant applications for various federal and state government programs. Prior to joining Finley, Mark served in various management and technical positions at MidAmerican Energy Company, Gateway, Inc., and owned and operated a private technology consulting company. Mark holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Iowa, is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in 13 states.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Telehealth: The Pandemic Shift

Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation on rural telehealth – from users, to loved one of users, hospital board members and folks working in the industry!

Telehealth: The Pandemic Shift

During this pandemic, the ability for patients to access their healthcare services shifted significantly. The need to reduce contact and interactions between patients and providers was recognized and telehealth was one of the ways many organizations responded to those challenges. Telehealth has allowed both patients and providers to safely interact. Come to this session to discuss your own experience(s) and to learn more about how telehealth has been used in our region during this challenging time. We will also discuss why services to the home are only expected to grow and will require even more bandwidth to support their delivery to both urban and rural communities.

Mary DeVany is the Associate Director for the Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center (GPTRAC), within the Institute of Health Informatics at the University of Minnesota. She has been involved with telemedicine activities since 1993 when she served as the state-wide telemedicine activities coordinator for the State of South Dakota.  Since then, she has served as the Director of Telehealth at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, Director of Avera Telehealth and before that as the Telemedicine Coordinator for Sanford Health. “Every time I visit with someone just beginning to think about telehealth, I get excited and re-energized about the many possibilities and for what the future

Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Rights of Way Management for Efficient Fiber Deployment by Ken Demlow, HR Green

Thanks to Ken for his expertise. He laid out a 7-step process for broadband deployment focusing on rights of way in a way that helps communities recognize the value of the rights or way.

Broadband 101: Rights of Way Management for Efficient Fiber Deployment by Ken Demlow, HR Green

Right of Way is one of the most important assets that every community has. It can be utilized to help attract fiber investment or manage fiber deployment when multiple carriers are deploying fiber, especially as 5G develops. There are several steps that communities can take to prepare them to manage their ROW to meet their broadband goals.

Ken Demlow serves as a Project Manager for HR Green Fiber and Broadband. He has over 20 years of experience in the industry, from working in field construction installing fiber, to Google and Verizon projects, and several FTTH projects.   He works directly with clients to assess their current fiber and broadband circumstances, develop a broadband vision and strategy, assess financial costs and feasibility, while driving approved projects through the Design and Build phases into operations mode, if feasible and determined to be the best strategy.

Ken is nationally recognized for his industry knowledge including Smart Meters and Smart Grid.  He is also currently a member of the Right of Way Sub Committee of the APWA.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Office of Broadband Development Overview of Interactive Map of Broadband Deployment with Diane Wells, Minnesota Office of Broadband

Thanks to everyone who attended. We got a helpful tour of the Office of Broadband Development interactive broadband map from the person who probably uses it most – Diane Wells. With the tour, we got a glimpse of the advice you might get if you call her directly, which was also super helpful.

Digital Office Hours: Office of Broadband Development Overview of Interactive Map of Broadband Deployment with Diane Wells, Minnesota Office of Broadband

Join Minnesota Office of Broadband Development staff and learn about the state’s broadband maps.

Diane Wells has over 34 years of experience working with telecommunications and broadband issues for the State of Minnesota. She joined the Office of Broadband Development at the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development at its inception in 2013. Prior to joining the Office, Ms. Wells managed the telecommunications division at the MN Department of Commerce for eight years and served on the telecommunications staff of the MN Public Utilities Commission for 17 years. Ms. Wells received her undergraduate degree from St. Cloud State University and her M.P.A. from the University of Texas in Austin.

Broadband 2020: What You Should Expect From Your Broadband Provider by Kristi Westbrock, CTC

Great to hear from Kristi Westbrock at CTC, always a good partner and right before their big celebration for their recent ReConnect award.

What You Should Expect From Your Broadband Provider by Kristi Westbrock, CTC

Kristi Westbrock is the Chief Executive Officer/General Manager at Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) and has been with the Cooperative since 2007. She has over 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and has a strong background in Human Resources, Sales and Marketing and Business Operations, Strategic Planning and Product Development. Kristi has a passion for organizational management, effective communication and creating unique work environments/experiences while driving business revenues.

Kristi is mother to 10-year old Emily and spouse to Mike for 15 years. In her free time she loves to adventure to new locations, volunteer for the Smiles for Jake Movement and have cooking parties with friends.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Creative Connections via Interactive Zoom Programming with Maria Genné, Parker Genné, and Lynnea Doublette, Kairos Alive!

Thanks to all who joined us. It was fun to get in a little movement – but also to hear about techniques for getting everyone involved, including the 55+ white males.

Creative Connections via Interactive Zoom Programming with Maria Genné, Parker Genné, and Lynnea Doublette, Kairos Alive!

Kairos Alive! has been developing exciting interactive 2-way webcast creativity and health engagement programs based in dance, music, story and research learning for older adults in intergenerational communities via Zoom for 3 years. Our current webcast, Creativity Together™, is reaching audiences in the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota and NE Wisconsin, and is attracting participants from around the country.

Maria Genné, founder/director is a dancer, choreographer and educator, recognized as a pioneering leader in the intergenerational interactive participatory performing arts, and arts and health fields. Her national award-winning work is designed to tap into the artistry and creativity of older adults and invite them to be central collaborators in the artistic process of dance, music and storytelling. It models a new and vital role in society for the community based professional performing artist, and new possibilities of intergenerational community enjoyment and understanding. In 2001, Maria developed The Dancing Heart™, a nationally recognized, evidence-based program which engages older adults of all abilities in weekly, intergenerational, interactive arts participation and health education. Kairos was featured in the 2012 PBS documentary, Arts & the Mind, and is recognized as a model arts involvement program by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), and winner of awards for program innovation by the American Public Health Association, American Society on Aging, and others.

Parker Genné is a singer-actor-teacher, who serves as a lead Teaching Artist for Kairos Alive! She has been teaching and performing with Kairos Alive! since 2011 and was the dance mentor for ArtSage MN Artists Training. As a performer, Parker has been bringing her hit cabaret comedy show Ms. Luisa Eats to stages in Minneapolis, San Francisco, New York and Scotland since 2008. With co-collaborator Emilia Allen, Parker founded and was a featured performer in the theater company, Impossible Salt, 2014-2019. The Star Tribune said of their premier production, Tatterhood, “Genné is feral in the title role…in this wildly imaginative production.” Other productions featuring Parker included Heartless (2015 MN Fringe Festival), The Stranger (American Swedish Institute), and The Wishing Skin (McPhail). Her theater Folktopia, founded in 2019, is currently in rehearsal for an original production in collaboration with Nor Hall of The Handless Maiden. Parker received a Bachelor of Music in voice performance from Lawrence University and has been teaching music, theater and dance to all ages since 2002.

Lynnea Doublette, MSc, Teaching Artist/Admin, is both an accomplished Artist and Healthcare Administrator. She has performed with Children’s Theater Company, Old Globe Theater and others and holds a Masters in Healthcare Communications from St. Thomas University, with undergraduate studies in psychology. Lynnea brings her many skills as an Artist and Healthcare professional to further the mission of Kairos Alive – both locally and nationally.

Cristopher Anderson received national awards for his PBS documentary with John de Graaf and KCTS/Seattle, Visible Target, and is associated with documentaries, Building a Dream (scriptwriter) and the award-winning Journeyman (story consultant). His forthcoming, Dwight in Denmark, is in post-production. His poems and essays have been published regionally; including in the anthology, Between the Lakes: The Poets of Linden Hills by Trolley Car Press. He plays folk fiddle on the American Swedish Institute Spelmanslag CD, Love is Hard to Hide, and at local dances. He founded and is a 20-year director of an interactive, participatory, audience-as-artist theater based in folk tales, Big Woods Theater of Involvement. He serves as a Teaching Artist with the national award-winning Arts and Health/Arts and Aging pioneer, Kairos Alive!, whose work was featured in the PBS documentary, Arts and the Mind.

Broadband 2020: Week 3 dispersed conference: jump in to talk broadband when you can!

We had no idea what we were doing back in March when we reimagined the annual broadband conference. We are at the halfway point in the conference and I have to say – so far so good thanks to the many people who are showing up – some every day and some popping in or a session or two. Lots of learning, sharing and partnerships forming.

Please join us when you. This week’s schedule is similar to last week – most programming between 11am and 2pm – with one exception: the Tom Friedman Book Club on Friday from 10-11am. Also we are all invited to view Bill Coleman’s presentation as part of the ICF Summit on Wednesday morning.

Here’s the full schedule:

Monday, October 19

Tuesday, October 20

Wednesday, October 21

  • 9:15 – 10:00 am     Smaller Places, Bigger Opportunities presentation from the ICF Virtual Summit | Register here
    Registration is required. Blandin Conference participants are invited to join the ICF Summit at 9:00 am and stay through the morning.
  • 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
    Digital Office Hours: Telehealth by Mary DeVany, Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center
  • 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm
    Broadband 101: Conducting Feasibility Studies by Mark Mrla, Finley Engineering

Thursday, October 22

Friday, October 23

Broadband 2020: Engaging with ISPs and Utility Companies, Establishing Public- Private Partnerships by Diane Kruse

Broadband 101: Engaging with ISPs and Utility Companies, Establishing Public-Private Partnerships by Diane Kruse, NEO Connect

Diane Kruse is a thought-leader in the ever-changing broadband industry. As the CEO of NEO Connect, she consults with electric companies and local governments on feasibility, strategy, design and financial impacts of Gigabit broadband networks. She has founded four successful telecommunication companies and has 35 years of telecommunications and energy industry experience, the last 25 years as an entrepreneur starting and managing several telecommunication companies. Prior to NEO, she was the CEO of Zoomy, a leading firm in the FTTH industry that specialized in FTTH design/engineering and construction for municipalities, rural telecom companies, and real estate developers. Kruse has served as Chairman of the Board for the FTTH Council and currently serves as one of the Chairmen of the Broadband Communities’ Summit.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Intelligent Communities in Minnesota

Thanks to the folks who came to join the conversation on ICF…

Intelligent Communities in Minnesota

Last summer a contingency from Minnesota went to NY to the Intelligent Community Forum to learn more about small communities around the world. We’re going to meet up to talk remember the trip, share stories of smart communities and what we have done with our smart ideas since last year.

Please join us whether you were part of the trip or are simply interested in smart communities.

Broadband 2020: Bill Coleman’s Happy Hour

Thanks to everyone who showed up for Bill’s Happy Hour. We saw a few faces we haven’t seen for a while, including past Task Force members, providers, community leaders and more. Lots of folks had limericks to explain broadband in their community. Lots of people won prizes – for best limerick, best background, best complaint about Minnesota broadband.

And it was just fun to reminisce and how far we had come. It helped motivate us to keep moving forward to get better broadband to everyone.

Broadband 2020: Building Critical Connections: Partnership with Minnesota’s Small Business and Cooperative Broadband Providers by Molly O’Leary, Director of Government Affairs, NTCA

Thanks to Molly O’Leary from NTCA  for sharing her expertise with us! It’s always great to hear about what’s happening nationally, especially with someone with MN roots who understands our perspective.

Building Critical Connections: Partnership with Minnesota’s Small Business and Cooperative Broadband Providers by Molly O’Leary, Director of Government Affairs, NTCA

Join NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association to discuss upcoming federal investments in broadband deployment and the importance of federal coordination and future proof networks. Learn about NTCA’s small, community-based broadband operators in Minnesota and how those providers can be a resource and partner with municipalities and counties looking to expand or build networks. This session will also cover recent federal broadband regulatory and legislative updates, including the Federal Communications Commission Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program.

Molly O’Leary serves as director of government affairs at NTCA, and advocates in Congress and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to influence legislative and regulatory policy on behalf of NTCA members.

Prior to joining NTCA, O’Leary worked in the U.S. Senate as a policy advisor to Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn) on telecommunications, appropriations and native affairs. She previously served as a legislative aide to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) for his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

O’Leary grew up in St. Joseph, Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2013.

MN Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Let’s talk 5G Technology, Use Cases, Market Overview by Brian Pickering, Nokia

Dakota County materials (David Asp)

Thanks to folks who attended to learn about 5G. Interesting to hear what’s happening in the industry. And thanks to Dakota County’s David Asp for sending (AN ORDINANCE AMENDING TITLE 10, ZONING, CHAPTER 7, GENERAL PROVISIONS, SUBSECTION 7, ESSENTIAL SERVICES, OF THE CITY CODE), a model of how to deal with changing regulation around 5G.

Let’s talk 5G Technology, Use Cases, Market Overview by Brian Pickering, Nokia

In this session we will cover three aspects of 5G. First, looking at an overview of 5G technology and the spectrum to be used. Then we will discuss the technology behind 5G and what makes it different than LTE. The third aspect will cover new use cases that will be driven by the 5G technology. Wrapping it up with a market overview of the leading 5G countries.

Brian Pickering is Nokia’s Vice President of 5G Product Sales North America. This is a great opportunity to learn about how 5G technologies and services might impact your community’s broadband services and the way that your residents, organizations and businesses use technology.

Broadband 2020: Digital Office Hours: Novel Coronavirus: Libraries Responding Beyond Books

Thanks to everyone who joined the the conversation on libraries based on the fun quiz that the librarians created for us. We learned that there 356 libraries in Minnesota. You can check out almost anything, including hula hoops, prom dresses, hotspots and snowshoes – but not animal skulls.

Forgot to add – Drew won a fabulous spot prize during the session. There are more of those coming up at future sessions!

Novel Coronavirus: Libraries Responding Beyond Books

There was a lot of side chat on the conference today too. I have cleaned up a version to share only that which makes sense out of context:

Digital Office Hours: Novel Coronavirus: Libraries Responding Beyond Books with Hannah Buckland, MDE; Jen Nelson, Minnesota State Librarian; and Maggie Snow, Minitex

Join a lively conversation about libraries, broadband access and digital equity in Minnesota. What do you know that we need to know? How are public libraries helping you through the pandemic? We may even play a round or two of library trivia!

As a State Library Program Specialist with the Minnesota Department of Education, Hannah Buckland administers state aid to Minnesota’s public libraries and supports statewide library initiatives related to digital inclusion, civic engagement, and workforce development. She previously worked as the Director of Library Services at Leech Lake Tribal College in Leech Lake Nation. She is a member of the American Library Association’s Policy Corps, where she works on federal broadband issues affecting libraries, and also serves on the Minnesota Library Association Board of Directors.

Since 2013, Jennifer R. Nelson has served as the director of State Library Services, a division of the Minnesota Department of Education. As the state librarian, she and her team provide leadership, consultation and support to the Minnesota library community in planning, developing and implementing high quality library services statewide.

Jen has more than 30 years of experience in libraries, working in a number of different capacities at the Minneapolis Public and Hennepin County libraries. She takes an innovative approach to helping libraries serve their communities that resonates with changing environments. In addition to a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, she holds a master’s degree in library and information studies, and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2008, she is also the author of “Technology and Literacy: 21st Century Library Programming for Children and Teens” (ALA Editions, 2012).

Maggie Snow began working in her school library as a teenager and never stopped. Currently, she is the Director of Minitex,a publicly supported network of academic, public, state government, and special libraries working cooperatively to improve library service for their users in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. She holds a BA from Briar Cliff University and an MSLS from Catholic University.