East Central MN Regional Broadband Conference: video and notes

Earlier this week broadband and community leaders from East Central MN met to talk about broadband. The event hosted by East Central Regional Development Commission in collaboration with regional County Economic Development Directors and the Initiative Foundation. Also supporting this conference is the Blandin Foundation and the MN Office of Broadband Development as part of the annual broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress.

The event was a great conversation from folks around the community. As I’m preparing for the statewide conference next week, and the 87 county broadband profiles, which will post on Monday, I’m going to share my notes differently by sharing the video from ECRDC and my tweets from the day.

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: are you in an RDOF area in limbo? Go ahead and apply for state/fed money – if RDOF comes thru, we can pull those communities out of the project. But if it doesn’t, we can’t add it after the fact. @mndeed

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: if your community is having trouble finding a provider partner, contact us at Office of Broadband Development. https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/… @mndeed

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: Kanabec County ranks last for #mnbroadband. But that is not for want of engagement, innovation, knowledge or will. Different counties have different barriers.

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: when it comes to communitywide Broadband access, it’s often better to be lucky than good. Lucky means having an engaged Broadband provider

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: as a student, it would be nice to do homework when I’m ready, not just when Broadband is up

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: through Accelerate, Blandin empowered us to learn more, make better decisions and act for better Broadband! @bcbroadband

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: Q: anyone still have dialup? A: yup

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: lots of people love remote healthcare. Much better than a 2-hour drive for 20 minutes with doctor. That’s a boon in summer and MN winter!

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: bad Broadband leads to hard choices. Do I stat at work and get my work done with Broadband? Or come home, have dinner with kids and sit in library parking lot after kid bedtime?

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: as we move forward with remote video for school and health care- we need better Broadband!! No more broken connections!

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: to keep employees communicating, happy and connected during the shut down, we did [zoom] happy hours

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: we had two weeks to move colleges classes online and graduate folks. Many teachers and students lacked adequate Broadband and/or a device #mnbroadband

Overheard in @BlandinFoundmeeting: remote healthcare relied on connectivity to homes of doctors and patients. We still do 1200 video visits a day

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: before pandemic our students thought GB ht Broadband was just mom’s phone … pivoting to schoolwork online was a tech and cultural shift

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: during the pandemic we focused on services we could provide remotely and that kept people in tribal community safe – esp elders who also needed company

Overheard in  @BlandinFound meeting: before the pandemic, we mostly went to the office, we dabbled in remote communication with partners and clients … but that all changed overnight

NW Regional Broadband Gathering Notes & Video

A couple dozen folks met last week to talk about broadband in Northwest Minnesota.

The session was half presentation and half discussion. We could hear the frustration of folks who needed better service. It made work and school more difficult. As someone pointed out, patchy broadband access determined business failures and successes, especially among resorts and other hospitality-related businesses.

Access wasn’t the only issue. Affordability was an issue and making sure that folks have the skills to use it. Growing digital skills with people looking for jobs in and out of the tribal community is essential to creating an even playing field.


Broadband and COVID-19 Presentation

Diane Wells, Office of Broadband Development, DEED


Discussion Questions

  1. Why is broadband important to you/your organization?
  2. What are some best practices for broadband adoption in use in your organization/industry?
  3. What work are you involved within our region to advance broadband access, adoption, affordability, and use?

Next Steps and Closing – Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation

  1. Annual Broadband Conference
  2. Announcements about an opportunity

Help us hone the Broadband Conference next week: Answer 3 questions

The 2021 Blandin broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress, is just one week away! 

We’ve been asking broadband regional gathering attendees what they think Minnesota’s greatest opportunities are for improving broadband are, and we’d like to hear from you, too! Learn more here, and take the short survey. (If you attended a regional gathering and took that survey, you need not take this one.)

Also we have an updated agenda for our our second virtual conference.

We’ve added “Coffee and Conversation” casual networking opportunities at 8:30am each conference day.

Not registered, please register today!

Seven of the eight regional meetings around the state have happened! Check out the conference webpage to check out meeting notes and video (or register for the east central region happening Oct 6.)

Region 5 Broadband Event Notes and Audio

The Region 5 Broadband Event turned into a great conversation with lots of questions and ideas from attendees and speakers. Interesting to hear the perspective of policymakers and how they focus on to best work with providers.

listen to the session – or half the session due to a tiny glitch:



  • Cheryal Hills, Executive Director, Region Five Development Commission
  • Current Broadband Climate (Data from Dept of Broadband)
  • Diane Wells, MN Dept of Education and Economic Development
  • Bill Coleman, Broadband Coalition

Panel of Storytellers

  • Josh Netland, Emily Telephnoe Co-op
  • Mark Diehl, Little Falls School District
  • Jim Roeder, Lakewood Health

Facilitated by Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation

  • Update from Elected Official (Kresha/Poston)
  • Introduced by Paul Drange, Sourcewell

Small group discussions

  • Are there individual, group or legislator action steps to be taken that
    help communities meet goals/needs over the next 3-5 years?
  • How can local units of government support broadband efforts?
  • What are YOU willing to do? What steps can YOU take?

Recap from small groups and Elected Official (Kresha/Poston) Facilitated by Dawn Espe, R5DC
Next Steps- State Broadband Conference by Bill Coleman, Broadband Coalition

Notes from the Zoom Chat Continue reading

Enhancing Our Regional Broadband Capacity: 7W MN Regional broadband (Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties)

The Enhancing Our Regional Broadband Capacity had 40+ people in attendance. The presenters included several elected officials, community leaders, business owners and providers. We heard about the importance of surveys and mapping that paints a real picture of the frontlines and advantage of thinking regionally to get everyone online.

Welcome/Introduction by Raeanne Danielowski, (Chair, Sherburne County Board)
Presentation on true speed for Region 7W (Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties) as a baseline for where we are today.
Speaker: Diane Wells, Office of Broadband Development, (see PPT)
10:50 to 11:10 a.m. Panel: What activities are currently in the works to enhance broadband capacity
Jolene Foss, facilitator: Panel features in-progress projects in Region 7W. Panelists include:

  • Darek Vetsch, Wright County Commissioner
  • Tarryl Clark, Stearns County Commissioner
  • Jared Gapinski, Benton County Commissioner
  • Raeanne Danielowski, Sherburne County Commissioner

11:15 to 11:35 a.m. Panel: Economic opportunities associated with enhanced broadband
Don Hickman, facilitator: Private sector and education leaders will explore the potential for enhanced broadband. Panelists include:

  • Alise Sjostrom, Red Head Creamery in Brooten
  • Dr. Annesa Cheek, President, St. Cloud Technical and Community College
  • Angie Brick, Rotochopper, Inc., St. Martin
  • Amanda Othoudt, Benton Economic Development Partnership

11:35 to 11:50 a.m. Panel: Moving to action
Patti Gartland, facilitator: Panel will explore key next in expanding the region’s broadband capacity. Panelists include:

  • Laura Kangas, Arvig
  • Nathan Zacharias, Rural Broadband Coalition
  • Melissa Wolf, Mid-Continent TeleCo

Closing comments: Nancy Hoffman, Chisago County Economic Development, will share insights into a successful project in Chisago County

Added handout: NACO Broadband Task Force report

EVENT Oct 12-14: Join us! Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress

For folks who don’t get the emails…

Join us! October 12-14, 2021

#mnbroadband Agenda Available!

Check out the newly released draft agenda for our our second virtual conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring ProgressThis year’s event will feature a series of fast-moving panels on digital innovations, advocacy and actions, and inspired stories from around the state. You’ll have a chance to hear from a lot of smart people, ask your questions, and be inspired by broadband champions and practitioners from around the state!

Register Today:

Here is your own personal registration link – using this link to register will be easier for both you and for conference organizers! http://blandinfoundation.tfaforms.net/104?id=003A000000vl2cJIAQ

If you’d like to share this message with colleagues new to our conference, the open link to register is https://blandinfoundation.tfaforms.net/104.

Regional Gatherings:

The eight regional meetings around the state have begun! Check out the conference webpage for a list of gatherings. You can still register to attend some of them – and for the rest you can review the notes and video.

EVENT Oct 6: East Central Minnesota Regional Broadband Conference

Mille Lacs Messenger reports…

A Regional Broadband Conference is being hosted for the East Central Minnesota community on October 6 from 3-4:30pm at the Braham Event Center in Braham Minnesota to address our regional broadband challenges.

As it becomes increasingly necessary to rely on the internet to work from home, attend school, make telehealth appointments, keep ourselves entertained and visit with family, access to affordable, reliable internet service is imperative.

Who should attend? You, your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors! Please join us for this important event as we showcase where the region stands today in regard to high-speed internet, where it can be tomorrow and what we can do to get there.

Register to attend in-person or virtually

The East Central Regional Broadband Conference is open to the public and available in-person or virtually through video conferencing (via Zoom) on October 6 at 3pm. The event is free, but registration is requested at https://bit.ly/3gFi9RY.

• If you are interested in attending in-person, join us at the Braham Event Center at 655 8th St. SW, Braham. Fall desserts, ice cream and beverages will be served.

• If selecting the option to participate virtually, registered guests will receive the Zoom link for the event by 10 am on the day of the event (Wed., Oct 6).

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Forum Notes & Video

It’s been a great day of broadband conversations around the state. Three regional broadband conferences happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.)

The conference set up presentations and conversation related to the following questions:

  • Where do broadband service gaps exist in Southwest Minnesota?
  • What finance tools do local governments have to support broadband infrastructure?
  • What state and federal grant programs are out there and how do we access them?

There was a tremendous amount of info shared on funding availability.

Here are the harvest notes from the session.


Northeast Minnesota Regional Broadband Summit Notes and Video

The Northeast Minnesota Regional Broadband Summit happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.) There was a huge crowd (100+) and lots of good information:

Agenda included (see PPTs):

Welcome from Duluth Mayor Emily Larson & IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips

Office of Broadband Development Update – an update from Diane Wells (similar to the one given at previous regional conferences)

ICF Framework and Community Projects with Bernadine Joselyn. Fun to hear about a wide range of projects happening in the area:

  • SBDC Tech Audits (Innovate)
  • Workforce Talent Attraction – Hello Iron Range
  • Koochiching County Coworking Space (Connect/Work/Include)
  • Hibbing HRA Housing Wifi Project (Connect/Include)
  • Local Libraries (Innovate/Include) East Range – STEM Rental

Successful Infrastructure Projects with Whitney Ridlon, at IRRR. Again fun to hear about the projects:

  • French Township
  • Cherry Township
  • Town of Morse
  • Boise Forte Tribal Government
  • Paul Bunyan Communications
  • CTC – Recent and Future Projects
  • Aaniin – Connect. Share. Grow. (Fond du Lac)
  • City of Duluth Update (CONFIRMED)

And then in small groups we got the opportunity to catch up with two Arrowhead projects out of the following

  • IRTB – Casual co-working and welcoming communities (Shawn Herhusky CONFIRMED)
  • IEDC – LaunchMN – Innovate 218 (Kirstie McPherson CONFIRMED)
  • MN Children’s Press – Mapping Litter and Publishing (Anne Braataas CONFIRMED)
  • Northspan – Welcoming Community programming (Amber Lewis CONFIRMED)
  • 100 Rural Women – Coop Publishing Model (Teresa Kittridge CONFIRMED)

Broadening Our Broadband West Central Initiative Conference and Notes

It’s been a great day of broadband conversations around the state. Three regional broadband conferences happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.)

see video https://vimeo.com/607375381/247c948a57

Run of day:

  • State of the state –  Diane Wells, from Office of Broadband Development gave a high level look at the funding processes in development and a quick mapping demo and resources, especially look at access in the area
  • Three presenters (Todd Johnson, Traverse County, Amy Baldwin, Otter Tail County and Ann Treacy of Blandin on Broadband) will talk about broadband projects on the ground.
  • Lead For Minnesota fellow, Carter Grupp, will introduce himself.
  • Discussion of regional work and issues


South Central & Southeast Regional Broadband Conference Notes & Video

It’s been a great day of broadband conversations around the state. Three regional broadband conferences happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.)

There were 40-50 people in attendance. The run of the day:

  • A panel on Mapping the Broadband Challenge looked at broadband maps and data collected by DEED’s Office of Broadband Development, the South East Minnesota League of Municipalities and the Minnesota Broadband Coalition.
  • Two regional initiatives talked about how to advance broadband-fueled economic and community development in the region: Red Wing Ignite and the Le Sueur County Broadband Initiative.
  • Ended with an exercise to prioritize broadband opportunities in this region, and talk about next steps.

Here are the presentations:

And chat from the day. The chat includes attendee introductions but also any resources share or questions… Continue reading

EVENT Sep 16: Regional Broadband Summit

From the Land

A regional broadband summit will be offered as a virtual event 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Conference speakers include representatives from Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, Red Wing Ignite and Le Sueur County’s Broadband Initiative. Participants will discuss access and adoption, regional prioritization and how to use American Recovery Act funds for broadband investments.

Register at: https://bit.ly/3AgekKI.

This is a regional event, leading up to the Fall Broadband Conference.

EVENT Sep 16: West Central Initiative’s Broadening Our Broadband

More info from the Perham Focus on West Central Initiative’s Broadening Our Broadband Regional event, which is part of a series of regional events happening before the Fall (online) Broadband Conference…

West Central Initiative will host Broadening Our Broadband, a discussion featuring a panel of rural broadband industry professionals and policy experts, on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 11 a.m. via Zoom.

The panel will focus on imagining new possibilities that come with enhanced broadband access, learning how communities can prepare for potential future funding opportunities and hearing how the region can leverage broadband access to better support students, businesses and communities. You can register for the event at wcif.org/events.

“High-speed internet access is fundamental to vibrant rural communities,” said Anna Wasescha, West Central Initiative president. “It supports economic development, high-quality health care, equitable education, and more. Broadband discussions … are particularly important in helping to form our region’s long-term, comprehensive broadband implementation strategy. Broadband is no longer a want—it’s a need.”

The panel will feature:

  • Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation;
  • Greg Wagner, director of business and economic development at West Central Initiative;
  • Diane Wells, deputy director of the Office of Broadband Development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development;
  • Amy Baldwin, community development director for Otter Tail County;
  • Todd Johnson, Traverse County Commissioner;
  • Ann Treacy, owner and founder of Treacy Information Services and researcher and contributor to the Blandin on Broadband blog

EVENTS MN Broadband Pre-Conference Regional Events

I’ve been posting about the Fall Broadband Conference (Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress) for a while. It’ll be a virtual event Oct 12-14 and we’re hoping it will be very interactive. If you have a conversion you’d like to have us host, a story of success to share or a cool tool to demonstration – please let us know.

Leading up to the conference there will be a series of regional events, supported by the Blandin Foundation but hosted by local organizations. I’ve started to post some invitations and some invitations are upcoming but I figured I’d do one framing post – that’s I’ll try to keep updated as the local invitations role in. (I’ll also post those invitations separately.)

Each event will be unique, as each region is unique, but we’re looking for commonalities among the group and areas where we can learn, borrow or build from each other. One day of the Statewide Fall conference, we’ll try to pull those themes out together. So to get in on the conversation early, please consider attending both your regional and then state event.

Here are the specifics:

  • September 16, 10-noon, virtual with viewing at Owatonna Arts Center – Southeast & South Central Regions 9, 10 (More Information and Registration)
  • September 16, 11am-noon, virtual – West Central Region 4 (more info soon)
  • September 16, afternoon – specific time TBD, – Southwest, Southwest Central, & Upper MN Valley Regions 6E, 6W, 8 virtual (more info soon)
  • September 22, 9-11am, virtual – Arrowhead Region 3 (More Information and Registration – Email Karl Schuettler with questions)
  • September 23, 10:30-noon, virtual –  Central Region 7W (More Information and Registration – Email Don Hickman with questions)
  • September 30, 7-8:30pm, virtual – North Central Region 5 – (more info soon)
  • October 6, 3-4:30pm, virtual – East Central Region 7E + Aitkin County – (more info soon)
  • TBD – Northwest & Headwaters Regions 1, 2 – (more info soon)

Not sure which region is yours? Click here for a map and list of MN’s economic development regions.

EVENT Sep 22: Northeast Minnesota Regional Broadband Summit

Another invitation to a regional broadband meeting, which is being held as a precursor to the MN Broadband Conference in October…

The Blandin Foundation, Dept. of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, Northland Foundation, and Northspan are set to co-host a virtual summit highlighting the challenges and opportunities related to broadband.

The summit, scheduled for Wednesday, September 22nd will be held on Zoom from 9:00-11:00 AM. It is free for all attendees, and participants will learn how other communities across the region are responding to this challenge and how an innovative, connected economy can create a dynamic future.


The summit includes information about:

  • Community broadband and innovative economy projects
  • Successful regional infrastructure projects
  • Arrowhead Intelligent Region grant recipients and their plans

Agenda includes:

  • Welcome & Introductions
  • State of Minnesota Office of Broadband Development
  • Intelligent Communities Framework and Community Projects and Project Panel Speed Round
  • Providers and Communities on Successful and Planned Infrastructure Projects
  • Arrowhead Intelligent Region Grant Recipients

Attendees can register for the Northeast Regional Broadband Summit HERE.

The regional summit is a part of Blandin’s annual statewide broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress. This year’s statewide conference is virtual and will take place October 12-14. Visit the conference webpage for more information.