Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Digital Ready Communities Notes and Video

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the Lunch Bunch today and especially to Annie Cruz-Porter, Calla Jarvie and Emily Del Real for coming to talk about the Digital Ready Communities program. One fun offshoot of the Fall Broadband conference was that three Minnesota communities were able to work as pilots with the program at Purdue University. Today we got to loop back with the program and partners.

This is a fascinating program that helps communities focus on how folks in a community are connecting with each other and the outside world, especially online. It includes a assessment, a survey and creating a team to be more purposeful about building local, trusted channels for communication as well as creating a message that promotes the community to the outside world.

Register for future Lunches: Upcoming May 12 and May 26

And here’s the chat Continue reading

Broadband 2020: Reflections and ready links to each session

I’m not sure what we had in mind when we first talked about moving the annual broadband conference online. It was April or March. We had no idea what would happen in the world between now and then – pandemic, civil unrest, snow in mid-October. But we knew as broadband proponents, we were in a unique position to practice what we preach – to level the playing field with technology. I hope, and I think, we did it.

Thanks to Bernadine Joselyn for her annual astute recap of the event at hand:

Here are links to each session, in reverse chronological order:

Oct 29

Oct 28

Oct 27

Oct 19-23

Oct 12-16

Oct 8

Oct 6

Broadband 2020; 2020 MN County Broadband Reports: Measured Progress, Accelerated Need, by Ann Treacy

What can I say about my own presentation? You can access the County Profiles on the blog and/or on the Blandin Foundation site. Please email me if you have any questions.

2020 MN County Broadband Reports: Measured Progress, Accelerated Need

Ann will present on the annual county broadband reports, which includes focus group discussions with some counties on whether broadband was a help or hindrance in dealing with COVID.

Ann Treacy authors and manages the Blandin on Broadband blog. She has worked on broadband issues since 1994 – both supporting deployment of broadband and helping people and businesses better use broadband through digital inclusion training and online marketing consulting. Ann has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science as well as a Master’s in Literature. You can learn more at

Broadband 2020: How I Think About the Importance of Communities in the 21st Century by Thomas L. Friedman

Thank you to everyone who joined today. It was an honor to hear from Mr. Tom Friedman with an introduction by Senator Al Franken and moderated questions Mark Ritchie. I won’t try to summarize but just offer a few phrases Tom used that caught my attention:

  • We need just in time education, not just in case
  • Changes are faster and noisier than they were. More complex. It’s leading to Quantum Politics – we need to be in multiple states at one time!
  • Trust is the only essential ingredient in the room when trying to bring about change.

Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and, columnist. He is the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes – two for international reporting from the Middle East and a third for his columns written about 9/11. He is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers — From Beirut to JerusalemThe Lexus and the Olive Tree, Longitudes and Attitudes, The World Is Flat, Hot Flat and Crowded, That Used To Be Us (with Michael Mandelbaum) and, most recently, Thank You For Being Late. Friedman was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 20, 1953, and grew up in the middle-class Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park.

It was a visit to Israel with his parents during Christmas vacation in 1968–69 that stirred his interest in the Middle East, and it was his high school journalism teacher, Hattie Steinberg, who inspired in him a love of reporting and newspapers.  Fun fact: St. Louis Park was immortalized in the 2009 Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man. Friedman, Ethan and Joel Coen, Senator Al Franken, political scientist Norman J. Ornstein, former NFL football coach Marc Trestman, Harvard University philosopher Michael J. Sandel and author Peggy Orenstein all grew up around St. Louis Park in the 1960s and early 70s — and most of them went to St. Louis Park High School and the local Hebrew school. The Coen brothers once compared St. Louis Park to the small region in Hungary that had produced numerous nuclear physicists and Draculas.

Friedman earned his B.A. from Brandeis in 1975 and was awarded a Marshall Scholarship by the British government and earned an M.Phil in Modern Middle East Studies from St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He started his journalism career with UPI on London’s legendary Fleet Street in 1978. After serving as a Beirut reporter for UPI for two years he was hired by the New York Times in 1981, where he served as the Beirut bureau chief, Jerusalem bureau chief, chief diplomatic correspondent, international economics correspondent and, since 1995, its foreign affairs columnist.

Friedman is the son of Harold and Margaret Friedman. He has two older sisters, Shelley and Jane. His wife, Ann, is the founder of the word-language-literacy museum — Planet Word — in Washington DC. Friedman is the museum’s Vice Chairman. He and is wife have two daughters, Orly and Natalie.

Friedman’s remark will be followed by discussion and Q&A moderated by Mark Ritchie, President of Global Minnesota, the World Affairs Council based in Minneapolis.

Mark was Minnesota’s elected Secretary of State from 2007 until retirement in 2015. In this role, Mark was the champion for making Minnesota the #1 place for employment growth by encouraging small and medium-sized companies, public benefit corporations, and non-profits. Minnesota’s high ranking for business climate is one of the many outcomes of supporting startups and entrepreneurs here in Minnesota. Mark is a co-founders of the Singularity University chapter in the Twin Cities and serves as Minnesota’s Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the United States Army.

Since 2014 Mark has led the public-private partnership working to bring the 2027 World’s Fair to Minnesota with a focus on health and wellness. This World Expo will be organized to help achieve the United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development in Health, under the theme “Healthy People, Healthy Planet.”

Broadband 2020: Closing Reception

Thanks to everyone who attended the closing reception. We had folks from Florida, Iowa and the four corners of Minnesota. It was a great chance to catch up with people and hear what they thought about the conference. Some were wise to the world of Zoom and for a few this was the first whole hog jump into a month-long Zoom event.

There were a few shout-outs given to attendees, including David Asp, Perry Mulcrone and Jim Yount. There was appreciation for the time to meet people and talk, to hear national speakers and vendors and for the seamless technology and immediate archive.

We have one day left. We are all looking forward to …

How I Think About the Importance of Communities in the 21st Century by Thomas L. Friedman, Author, Reporter, Columnist, New York Times
Introduction by Former Senator Al Franken. Moderated by Mark Ritchie, President, Global Minnesota

Broadband 2020: Digital Ready Communities Report Back

It was great to hear from the three communities (Rock, Koochiching & Le Sueur Counties) that participated in the rare opportunity offered by Purdue University Center for Regional Development’s Digital Ready Community program. Each community has been working on creating a Digital Access Agreements to move forward with a community-wide digital plan.

Throughout the month of October, three Minnesota communities (Koochiching Technology Initiative, Le Sueur County, and Rock County) have been participating in a condensed version of Purdue University Center for Regional Development’s Digital Ready Community program. Hear about what they’ve learned so far!

Broadband 2020: Open Space meeting: 10 broadband conversations at once!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for a range of conversations on broadband. Yesterday, we came up with a short list of topics – suggested and chosen by conference attendees. Today we met in small groups to discuss this topics.

The video above includes report outs from the individual conversations. Below is a list of the topics with the highest level comment on their session. (OK, I’ve included a tweet on each breakout.)

  1. How do we get to symmetrical service?
    who can pay for symmetrical service – for communities that don’t qualify for MN border to border grants? And what technology really work for symmetrical? Can we get at least that to the community?
  2. How to remove the barrier of affordability?
    making Broadband affordable is something providers can/do help with -some on the DL. CARES funding is helping too but that’s temporary
  3. What are the implications for MN on the abandonment of copper networks?
    copper has been saying good to users via cell phones, providers has not been investing. We need a short game and long game plan
  4. What is the role of broadband in mental health/healthcare delivery?
    great ideas for mental health and broadband – such as using voter registration info to call people up and just ask how they are.
  5. What are our ideas for more effective legislative engagement and rural advocacy?
    in terms of legislative advocacy, we need to look at rural/urban divide, education (vocabulary) and industry lobbyists. The MN Broadband Coalition is a tool. We need sustainable funding.
  6. Should we treat broadband as a public and/or private utility?
    in thinking of Broadband as an utility we would go so far as to call it digital water. We need it to live.
  7. How do we find common ground to move the state forward on broadband?
    how to find legislative common ground to move Broadband forward – convene a group, create a story around issues that are important to people
  8. What are “Digital Navigators” and how can I get one?
    Digital Navigators were created by @netinclusion – schools have been using them – it helps student families get over one of many barriers that they often experience
  9. What should MN’s speed goals be?
    we need to look at Broadband speed goals and symmetrical speeds because upload is productivity

Broadband 2020: Deb Socia on Essential Services and Idea Generation for Open Space

Thank you Deb Socia for a great conversation. It’s so inspiring to hear how Chattanooga has been able to pull together so many resources to make broadband an asset for the community.

And we’re thankful for the links you shared with us today:

Connecting Residents to Essential Services: Solutions for Local Communities by Deb Socia, President and CEO, The Enterprise Center, Chattanooga, TN

During the presentation, Deb will share creative problem-solving strategies for connecting residents to essential services. She will review The Enterprise Center’s digital inclusion program and the unique interventions her organization was able to help put in place to help connect residents to tele-health, education, work from home, recovery services, faith based supports, and mental health care.

Deb Socia is President and CEO of The Enterprise Center, a nonprofit that pushes innovation forward in Chattanooga and aims to ensure that all residents have access to the tools they need to thrive in the digital world. Growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the Innovation District, building digital equity, and supporting research and implementation of smart city applications are all a part of the organization’s focus.

Prior to her current role, Deb was the Executive Director of Next Century Cities, a nonprofit that supports community leaders as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. Previously, Deb was the Executive Director of the Tech Goes Home program in Boston whose mission is to ensure digital equity.

Deb’s early career included 32 years as an educator and administrator.  She was the founding principal of the award winning Lilla G. Frederick Middle School, a Boston Public School where she led the one-to-one laptop initiative.

Deb has been the recipient of many awards for her work, including the NATOA Community Broadband Hero, the Pathfinder Award from MassCUE, the CRSTE Leadership and Vision Award, the Google Digital Inclusion Award, Motherboard Human of the Year, an NTENny Award, and the Charles Benton Digital Equity Award.


  • 10:35 Open Space Idea Generation
    What do YOU want to learn more about and discuss? Bring your ideas and generate new ideas in small groups – the discussions will take place Wednesday.

Broadband 2020: Open Space Ideation – queues up a cool session for tomorrow (Oct 28)

Planning the 2020 broadband conference was a challenge because COVID has made everything a challenge. But a challenge isn’t always bad and we’re learning that there are some advantages to moving online. (For example we have Tom Friedman keynoting on Thursday!)

Another advantage? We get to remodel Open Space in the online world. In the real world structure, people in the room decide what they want to talk about in small groups based on ideation and democracy. Over simplified – I suggest a topic and you can join me if it sounds interesting or join another table. And you might join me for a minute and move on. The interest and wisdom are in the room. Makes for great conversations.

Well with this online platform we have been able to modify that structure a bit. Today we met and brainstormed ideas. Tomorrow, we’ll re-present the topics and invite people to decide which sessions happen and which they will attend. But with advance warning, the planners have been able to look at the topics and reach out to people to join us based on their expertise or interest in these topics. It’s meta- approach to helping get the wisdom in the rooms when location is no longer a barrier.

Below are the proposed topics. There will be two rounds of sessions/conversations. Again people will democratically (via poll) decide which sessions happen. There will likely be room for new topics in the second round. Please join us – it’s free, it’s easy and there’s room for your voice at the virtual table! (Register/join here!)

  1. How do we get to symmetrical service?
  2. How to remove the barrier of affordability?
  3. What are the implications for MN on the abandonment of copper networks?
  4. What is the role of broadband in mental health/healthcare delivery?
  5. What are our ideas for more effective legislative engagement and rural advocacy?
  6. Should we treat broadband as a public and/or private utility?
  7. How do we find common ground to move the state forward on broadband?
  8. What are “Digital Navigators” and how can I get one?
  9. What should MN’s speed goals be?
  10. What is the definition of a good broadband map? How do we go about creating them?

From today:

Broadband 2020: Week 4 dispersed conference: final week with Tom Friedman, Deb Socia and more!

It’s been a very broadband month – even for those of us who usually live in this world. Thanks to the many presenters and attendees for making it so great to far. The wisdom really does seem to be in the room and we’ve had some great conversations. Below is a high level look at what’s happening this week. Please pop in when you can – I’ll be posting videos of each session once they happen.

Please note two opportunities for special interaction:

  • Got a conversation you want to happen? Bring it to the Open Space Idea Generation on Tuesday for inclusion on Wednesday
  • Want to recognize someone with a good idea, a tip or someone you know you’ll be partnering with after the conference? Let us know and we’ll give them a shout out at the reception on Wednesday. Also – if you have someone you’d like to see get an all-star shout out, please let us know.

Tuesday, October 27

  • 9:00 am Welcome
  • 9:30 am  Connecting Residents to Essential Services: Solutions for Local Communities by Deb Socia, President and CEO, The Enterprise Center, Chattanooga, TN
  • 10:35 Open Space Idea Generation
    What do YOU want to learn more about and discuss? Bring your ideas and generate new ideas in small groups – the discussions will take place Wednesday.
  • 11:45  Wrap-Up
  • 12:00 pm  Adjourn

Wednesday, October 28

  • 9:00 am     Welcome
  • 9:20     Open Space Discussions I
  • 9:50     Report Back to Group
  • 10:05   Open Space Discussions II
  • 10:35   Report Back to Group
  • 10:45    Digital Ready Communities Report Back
    Throughout the month of October, three Minnesota communities (Koochiching Technology Initiative, Le Sueur County, and Rock County) have been participating in a condensed version of Purdue University Center for Regional Development’s Digital Ready Community program. Hear about what they’ve learned so far!
  • 11:45 Wrap-Up
  • 12:00 pm  Adjourn
  • 4:30 – 6:00 pm
    Closing Reception
    It’s been a busy month of broadband! Please join us for one more opportunity to network, reflect, and share feedback and learning. We plan to recognize all-star participants, play a little trivia, and give everyone a chance to share an idea. Register here

Thursday, October 29

Broadband 2020: Broadband 101: Federal Broadband Funding Overview by Jessica Zufolo, Magellan

Thanks to Jessica Zufolo for sharing her expertise…

Broadband 101: Federal Broadband Funding Overview by Jessica Zufolo, Magellan

Jessica Zufolo, Vice President, Rural Broadband Strategy
Jessica joins Magellan after serving in various senior leadership roles throughout federal government and non-profit sectors for over 20 years. Prior to joining Magellan, Jessica served for over five years as the Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships for the Lifeline Division at the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) where she managed all state, federal and tribal engagement that led to the establishment of the Lifeline National Eligibility Verifier. Prior to her tenure at USAC, Jessica was appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve as the Deputy Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) where she helped oversee a $65 billion federal loan and grant portfolio that finances water systems telecommunications and broadband networks, precision agriculture, electric utility, smart grid and renewable energy projects in rural and tribal communities.

Jessica also served as the Legislative Director for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) where she was responsible for developing legislative strategy for all 50 state public service commissions involving telecommunications, technology, consumer protection and water. Early in her distinguished career, Jessica worked on Capitol Hill for eight years overseeing telecommunications and energy policy for the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York and Representative Peter A. Defazio of Oregon. Jessica earned her MBA with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BA in military history and political science from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Broadband 2020: Office Hours: CTEP AmeriCorps program, Joel Krogstad

Thanks to folks who spent their Friday lunch with us learning about AmeriCorps and digital literacy!

CTEP AmeriCorps program with Joel Krogstad

The St. Paul Neighborhood Network’s (SPNN) Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) has 35 AmeriCorps Members provide assessment and instruction that improves the technology literacy and employability of low-skilled adults and employment-aged youth in the Twin Cities metro area. Each year, the CTEP AmeriCorps Members will help 1,500 individuals become certified in basic computer skills and 650 to obtain jobs. In addition, the AmeriCorps members will leverage 475 volunteers who will provide additional technology literacy instruction.

Joel Krogstad, Program Director since 2006, has a Master’s degree in Work, Community and Family Education, and has served in this position since 2006. LinkedIn

Broadband 2020: Book Club: Thank You for Being Late by Tom Friedman

The Blandin Foundation partnered with Global Minnesota to host a book club to discuss Thank You for Being Late by Tom Friedman to prepare for his keynote next week. (Not too late to sign up for the Friedman keynote – it’s free!) You can hear the conversation…

More info from Global Minnesota...

Global Minnesota is partnering with the Blandin Foundation and DEED’s Office of Broadband Development to host an exclusive book club discussion of author Thomas Friedman’s latest book “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.”

The Financial Times has described “Thank You for Being Late” as a “field guide to the twenty-first century.” In this book, Minnesota’s native son makes the argument that “decency,” “community,” and the “topsoil of trust” can be cultivated anywhere to anchor increasingly diverse and digital populations. Chock full of references to his childhood in St. Louis Park and Willmar, MN, “Thank You for Being Late” is Friedman’s most ambitious book – and an essential guide to the present and the future.

Join Global Minnesota President Mark Ritchie for a virtual book club discussion on “Thank You for Being Late” and about what it takes to survive and thrive through accelerating change.

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