Bernadine Joselyn speaks to Democratic Senate Outreach Committee

Earlier this week, Bernadine Joselyn was asked to speak to the Democratic Senate Outreach Committee on broadband as infrastructure need in rural America. Excited to have them discussing the issue – great to have Bernadine be part of the dialogue.

Here’s more on the meeting…


Washington, DC – Senate Democrats hosted a roundtable discussion on building a sustainable middle-class economy in rural America – emphasizing infrastructure needs like transportation, water and wastewater, and broadband Internet and looking for entrepreneurial opportunities in the energy economy and regional food systems.

“By fostering public-private partnerships that increase the flow of capital to rural America, we are helping to create economic opportunities that otherwise would not exist.  We must invest in the future of rural America by building its transportation and communications infrastructure — connecting urban and rural communities with regional economic hubs and improving the quality of life for families through increased access to well-paying jobs and affordable health care, education, and housing,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.

Here are Bernadine’s remarks…Bernadine Joselyn

Remarks to Democratic Senate Outreach Committee
September 30, 2015
Washington, DC

Blandin Foundation’s goal is the same as yours – to promote vibrant, prosperous rural communities.

That’s why our foundation dedicates a significant part of our resources to helping communities get and use broadband.

We make this investment because we understand that everything else we care about depends on world class broadband –

  • equal opportunity, education, health care, accountable and effective government, business growth, engaged citizens and vibrant communities.

“Rural people can disagree about a lot, but if you want consensus in a room full of rural advocates, ask about broadband. That’s our experience, anyway.”

~ Tim Maremo, Editor, The Daily Yonder

Blue or Red or Purple, Urban or Rural, everyone loves and needs broadband the same.

But rural people and people living on tribal lands have lots less of it.  Figuring out how to fund broadband is still a major challenge for many communities.

  • Just think: while 92% of urban households can get broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps (download) and 3 Mbps (upload), only 47% of rural households and 37% of people living on Tribal Lands can get that same level of access.

This is America’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ –  and rural places are being left behind.

I’ve got a sachel full of stories that illustrate the difference that broadband – or its absence – makes in the lives of rural people:

  • A mom crying when she gets her first subsidized internet hook up because now she can job hunt or take courses on line without paying for a sitter while she drives to a public internet access site;
  • families sitting in cars outside of McDonald’s at night to catch a wifi signal their kids need to do their homework;
  • entrepreneurs without an internet connection at home sitting in a parking lot to access public library wi-fi,
  • homebound grandmas reading to kids at Headstart via Skype,
  • snowbirds from Lake Superior’s North Shore, who have moved to Hawaii, stay connected to their hometown by watching their high school team’s football games livestreamed over the internet.

Bigger picture, here’s what we are seeing as the gap between urban and rural connectivity and affordability continues to grow:

  • large publicly traded companies have great difficulty bringing the necessary investment to rural areas
  • communities setting their own standard for what level of broadband is ”good enough” are unable to find a provider partner willing to invest with them in their future…
  • the Connect America Fund (CAF2) standard of 10/1 (compared to FCC broadband definition of 25/3) threatens to build in permanent second-class status for rural America.

Ensuring that all Americans – even rural Americans and Americans living on tribal lands — have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it requires that we all work together.  Not-for-profits, business and government all must do their part.

So what should the federal government do?

Last week the Obama administration’s cabinet-level Broadband Opportunity Council released a report on the steps the administration can take on its own to improve programs that support broadband access for poor and geographically remote communities.

The report estimates that changes in existing funding programs could open up $10 billion in federal grants and loans for “broadband-related activities.” Net government spending would not be affected, meaning that in some cases grantees would have to make the same amount of money go further if they were going to include broadband projects.

When implemented, the report’s recommendations will help America head in the right direction.  But it’s not enough.

Because there are real limits on what the Administration can do on its own, Congress must act.  The kind and amount of funding needed has to come from Congress.

Congress has made a positive difference in the past.

For example, ARRA investments in Minnesota deployed miles of network that wouldn’t otherwise be built yet and trained many people.  It was a game changer for hard-to-serve parts of Minnesota.

On behalf of the rural communities I represent, I urge you to consider the following ideas about what you can do to help rural America:

  • A number of bipartisan bills currently under consideration deserve your support:
  • The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act supports the critical care that skilled nursing facilities provide, often using telehealth services, thus helping to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality health care no matter where they live.
  • The Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities by providing incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers.
  • Senator Klobuchar is preparing a bill that builds on the idea of “dig once,” streamlining permitting for broadband deployment on federal lands, and improved cooperation with states.
  • Beyond that, here are other areas in which America needs your leadership.
  • Incent the States.  A very effective way for the federal government to partner with states is to provide incentives for States to come in with some match to federal resources. The E-rate 10% match is a good example. State legislators are motivated to engage on an issue when they can leverage additional investment from the federal government.  Adding a state coordinating role for federal broadband funding would give states the authority to enhance or incent collaboration.  States with coordinated approaches get more money.
  • More funding – preferably in the form of loans – for municipalities and co-op networks
  • Blandin Foundation believes that the best chance for broadband investment and deployment in rural is significant expansion of rural broadband cooperatives, especially in partnership with local units of government. . Co-ops and government/co-op partnerships are the right emerging partnership model for rural America.

In closing, here are some key ideas I want to leave you with:

  • Rural is rich.  It is a place of resources and talent, where resourceful and self-reliant people can make small investments go a long way.
  • Broadband connectivity is key to innovation.  For example, precision agriculture – which significantly increases land productivity  – requires broadband-to-the-farm.
  • We need federal investment in both deployment AND adoption strategies for rural broadband.
  • Each rural community is unique and rural funding streams need maximum flexibility (not AS much true in urban spaces where you can count on a suite of institutions being in place)
  • Investment in rural America is an investment in national security: “a strong America relies on a strong rural America.”  And a strong rural American relies on broadband.
  • In sum, everything is better with broadband.

Most of all, I hope that you catch broadband fever.

Helping rural places get the broadband they need to remain vital will win you votes on both sides of the aisle.  Because a future-proof broadband network is now the essential infrastructure for rural.

And a little bit about the Senate Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee…

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and leaders from across the nation. Each year, the Steering Committee hosts numerous meetings with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities and enlist their help in the development of the Senate Democratic agenda. The Committee serves as a liaison between Senate Democratic offices, advocacy groups, and intergovernmental organizations.  It is one of two Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate and is chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) and vice chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH).

Minnesota Community Broadband Awards announced

Blandin FoundationHere’s the official word on the community broadband awards. I posted videos with the winner last week. It was a nice night.

For Immediate Release…

Minnesota Community Broadband Awards announced

Communities recognized for robust broadband use

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (December 10, 2008) –Blandin Foundation and ADC Foundation, the charitable arm of ADC Telecommunications, have named recipients of the Minnesota Community Broadband Awards, which recognize communities at the forefront of broadband technology use.

The awards acknowledge communities, companies and community institutions that are successfully implementing strategies to improve deployment and use of broadband. Each will receive $2,000 to support additional technology promotion and development within their community. They were made during the “Connected Communities: Making the Net Work for Minnesota,” conference, co-sponsored by the two foundations and held Dec 3-4 at ADC Telecommunications in Eden Prairie, Minn.

“ADC Foundation is delighted to partner with Blandin Foundation in sponsorship of the Minnesota Community Broadband Awards,” said Bill Linder-Scholer, executive director of ADC Foundation. “We recognize that broadband is becoming the essential new infrastructure for communities in the new economy.”

“The Minnesota Community Broadband Awards recognize the efforts of communities large and small to harness the opportunities of high-speed broadband connections, to bring the full benefits of connectivity to their neighborhoods, towns and regions,” said Jim Hoolihan, president and CEO of Blandin Foundation, award co-sponsor. “We hope that by celebrating these visionary communities we also inspire even more efforts and more success in more communities. These awards recognize the importance of partnerships between public, private and non-profit organizations in launching and managing these new technologies.”

Awards were made in two categories.

Broadband infrastructure and services recognizes the provision of high-speed broadband capacity and services to a community, area or region. Recipients are:

• Federated Telephone Cooperative, Chokio, Minn.
By the end of 2008, Federated Telephone Cooperative will be the first rural telephone cooperative in the nation to provide fiber to the premise (FTTP) to all its members – more than 2,450 residents of south-central Minnesota. The co-op has been a leader in fiber-optic installation since the mid-1990s, when it was one of two field-trial sites in the nation for rural fiber-optic cable installation.

• Sjoberg’s Inc., Thief River Falls, Minn.
Sjoberg’s has provided high-speed internet to small rural communities in northwestern Minnesota since 1998, and is currently deploying FTTP in areas surrounding Thief River Falls; with 87 percent of potential customers signing up for high-speed internet service.

• Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Winona, Minn.
Hiawatha Broadband got its start in 1992, with the installation of a fiber-optic network to connect educational institutions within the city of Winona. Today, the company delivers voice, video and data services at competitive prices in the communities of Winona, St. Charles and Wabasha – an area of 41,000 residents. Impacts include addition of four new industries, one of the first “laptop” universities, and increased use of videoconferencing and telecommuting.

Broadband market and application development recognize efforts to stimulate community demand for broadband services and/or to deploy advanced broadband applications in business, education, government and health care.

Recipients are:
• Menagha and Sebeka, Minn.
These two communities – with a combined population of 1,930 – are raising awareness of the area’s fiber to the premise (FTTP) network. Efforts include creation of an internship opportunity for a high school senior to provide tech support to other community members, installation of high-speed internet in an assisted living facility, and identifying best locations for public internet access.

• New Ulm Retail Development Corporation, New Ulm, Minn.
A broad coalition of community partners helped local retailers boost their online presence with web sites and online sales to better compete with big box stores. Training sessions, a new community-wide retail portal, and targeted communications in the newspaper and on the radio were key strategies.

• Home and Community Options, Winona, Minn.
With more than 20 sites in Winona County that provide support and residential services for people with developmental disabilities, Home and Community Options sought to leverage the FTTP infrastructure available in their area. The company is currently implementing a plan to use video and data-transfer to enhance program support, client supervision, recordkeeping and business efficiencies. Key elements include an updated email system and video conferencing to connect to human services and medical facilities.

For further information
Background on “Connected Communities: Making the Net Work for Minnesota” conference

Video of winners available at the Blandin on Broadband blog:

Allison Rajala Ahcan, Director of Communications
Blandin Foundation
Phone  218-326-0523 
Cell  218-259-2893

Blandin Foundation
Blandin Foundation, Minnesota’s largest rural-based private foundation, is located in Grand Rapids, Minn. Its mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, through grants, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives.

ADC Foundation
ADC Foundation, the charitable arm of ADC Telecommunications, focuses its grantmaking on solutions to the digital divide and particularly on activities aimed at addressing broadband policy issues and building nonprofit capacity for using information and telecom technologies to more effectively meet community needs.

2008 Blandin Broadband Conference Wrap up from Bernadine Joselyn

Thank you to those who joined us this week for the Blandin Broadband conference in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and thanks to those who are taking the time to read about it. I enjoyed hearing from communities who have been very successful because of broadband, I appreciated hearing from communities with ideas on how policy can help them succeed and most of all I enjoyed meeting up with old friends and new.

Thanks also to Bernadine Joselyn sharing her final remarks. Hearing her impressions from the conference helped me frame my own impressions.

2008 Blandin Broadband Conference: Breakout Session Two

We had 3 options for the first breakout session. I have included links to presentations when I had them:

Feasibility Applications
Melissa Reeder, IT Director, City of Northfield
Myron White, Executive Director, Red Wing Port Authority

Government Applications
Merton Auger, City Administrator, City of Buffalo,
Gary Shelton, County Administrator, Scott County

Education Applications
Joe Shultheis, E-Learning Services Coordinator, Century College
Warren Schaeffer, St. Paul College

Video demonstration of Second Life.

I went to this session. This is the second tour I have had of Second Life. I am going to look more into it. What I found interesting was the statistics on how many people participate in virtual worlds. My kids are big Club Penguin fans; and I think that’s where they are starting to catch people. I think they started using CP in first grade. Second Life looks like the most grown up version of the online worlds. The biggest demographic there apparently is single women over 35.

The presenters talked about virtual worlds in higher education. I asked if teachers were trained to teach in a virtual world. They answer was an emphatic no – why would they be? My husband’s a teacher at a community college. He has no idea what Second Life is – so I found that answer surprising. I suspect that either certain teachers gravitate to the option of suing virtual tools and/or most spend a lot of their free time learning it.

2008 Blandin Broadband Conference: Breakout Session One

We had 3 options for the first breakout session. I have included links to presentations when I had them:

Financing Options for Municipality Networks
Milda Hedblom, Dain International & HBC, Inc.
Brenda Krueger, Springsted

Community Broadband Resources
Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors
Pam Lehman, Lac qui Parle ED
Heidi Peper, SHE

Health Care Applications
Peter Walsh, Home and Community Options
Jessica Martensen, Lakewood Healthcare
Michael Hawton, MN Health

2008 Blandin Broadband Conference: Whiz Bang Applications

The following presentation was given by Patrick Sims, a Subject Matter Expert for Fiber-to-the-Home Infrastructures, Systems, and Networks at ADC. In his current assignment as Principal Engineer for ADC, he is responsible for project management and operations of network design and systems integration for ADC’s OmniReachTM fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) solutions.

2008 Blandin Broadband Conference: Listening Session

This is the continuation of the previous blog post on the Blandin Broadband Conference Intro to the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force. This post covers the listening portion of the meeting.

The video isn’t the highest quality; you’ll want to be in a quiet room to hear everything. (Loads of people asked about my video camera though so I wanted to add that I use a Flip Video. Mine is old – but it’s $130, it fits in my pocket and it is super easy to shoot and upload video.)

In the spirit of a listening session I’m going to post the video asis with few notes:

First is Christopher Mitchell of Institute for Local Self Reliance:

Mike O’Connor asks Chris a question and he answers:

Dawn Hegland from Upper MN Valley Regional Commission

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