Blandin eNews December 2009

Here’s the news from our latest newsletter. It’s mostly a compilation of Minnesota-related stories from the blog in the last month – but sometimes it’s nice to have it compiled.

Blandin Broadband Conference
The Blandin Foundation broadband conference was a big hit in November. It started with Jim Baller http://tinyurl.com/yh76c3e promoting faster goal broadband speeds for Minnesota. The next day the Broadband Task Force spoke about their recommendations. http://tinyurl.com/ylj33pk They highlighted the goal of ubiquitous broadband in the state and the need for public-private partnerships. Students spoke about their vision for future http://tinyurl.com/yjgb5jl and ARRA grant applicants voiced some frustration with the slow process of federal funding http://tinyurl.com/yf5ajqg. Get reflections from the conference as well as videos and notes from conference sessions online. http://tinyurl.com/yjajyrf

Broadband Task Force Recommendations
In November, after more than a year of work and research, the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force unveiled their recommendations for broadband in Minnesota. Highlights include ubiquitous coverage to all parts of Minnesota, a goal to be top five for broadband speed and penetration in the US and the suggested formation of an ongoing entity to support and promote broadband in Minnesota through 2015. http://tinyurl.com/ybyl297 The report made a splash with local press http://tinyurl.com/yzakroo and that splash keeps rippling. http://tinyurl.com/yfzospd

ARRA Funding
The NTIA/RUS report that they plan to announce successful ARRA grants starting in December; the announcements may happen through February 2010 as decisions are made.http://tinyurl.com/yhs39ld

Broadband and Telehealth
At the Blandin Broadband conference the leaders of Eindhoven talked about broadband as a necessary tool to get services to all citizens and that one such application was telehealth. http://tinyurl.com/yc9cfbw New forms of telehealth are emerging each day, such as the Bluetooth wireless protocol that can provide faster and more reliable patient assessment data transfers between mobile devices, improvements to remote doctor visits for seniors http://tinyurl.com/ye4aut4 and a Minnesota-based medical lab portal where healthcare providers can use guides, worksheets and calculators as well as get remote support interpreting lab results. http://tinyurl.com/ye4aut4

Local Broadband News

Anoka County
Anoka County is pursing a public-private partnership to obtain funding for broadband services. http://tinyurl.com/yj6s9vu

Dakota County
Dakota County creates a video to promote broadband in the area. http://tinyurl.com/yb6p99v

Duluth
Duluth hosts a walking tour and conversation on local technology jobs at the Blandin broadband conference. http://tinyurl.com/yfvlzzk

Itasca County
Itasca County plans to leverage its 800 Mhz public safety network investment to improve local broadband services. http://tinyurl.com/ykxvb6n

Lake County
Lake County News-Chronicle champions Minnesota as a possible national leader in rural broadband. http://tinyurl.com/yjxtae3

Savage
Clear Wireless is expanding its wireless network to Savage. http://tinyurl.com/yhagtlu

St Louis & Lake County
Saint Louis County Board approved financial support for the Lake County Fiber Network to expand into the northeastern portions of Saint Louis County. http://tinyurl.com/ylxcqs4

Coleman’s Corner

Success comes easier with good partners. In my mind, good partners are committed to achieving shared goals and are willing to invest time and energy today for long term benefits. The state broadband task force emphasizes community-provider partnerships in market development strategies; this is an approach that the Blandin Foundation’s Get Broadband Program spurred in more than 25 rural communities with documented success.

Provider engagement in these initiatives was uneven. In some communities, providers were actively engaged as partners – serving on steering teams, sponsoring training programs and lending their technology expertise to teams of community leaders. Both community and provider benefitted from the partnership. In other places, despite active invitations from the community, providers were no-shows and the initiatives suffered as a result due to less knowledge of services, missed sales opportunities and fewer resources.

Use the state task force report as leverage to get your providers engaged in your community broadband initiatives. For best results, be specific in your requests to your providers. Ask them to attend a community meeting to discuss what current services are available and about future plans to upgrade services. Ask them to serve on a technology task force. Ask them to sponsor e-commerce training for small and medium size businesses, computer reuse programs for senior citizens or low-income families or an after school program for students interested in IT careers.

We would like to collect stories of the role that your providers play in your community. Which companies are active and helpful in your initiatives? Which companies are no-shows? Send your stories to broadband@blandinfoundation.org

Final Reflections from the Blandin Broadband Conference

I’m excited to be able to post final notes on the 2009 Blandin Broadband Conference, Realizing Our Broadband Future: Getting from Here to There from Bernadine Joselyn. We’ve got her immediate takeaway messages in video and written reflections from the car trip home. If you have reflections to add – please post them as comments below. We’d love to read them.

It was great seeing folks at the conference. On my drive home I did some thinking about what we’d heard:
Getting from Here to There turned out to be a powerful theme. Our student guests from Mankato and Morris made it clear that they expect the world they step into to be wired; I think that will happen only if we do the work ourselves. That’s the main message I got from listening to our friends from the “Intelligent Communities” of Eindhoven and Fredericton. And even though the task is daunting, our morning discussions suggested that we’re making some progress.

It was encouraging to hear – from Mike O’Connor and John Stanoch, among others – a new optimism about prospects for deepened cooperation and collaboration, including in places like Grand Rapids and Monticello where they have failed in the past. As a number of community champions pointed out, public-private partnerships are one of the key strategies identified by the Task Force to help Minnesota achieve it’s “among top five” goal. Now we need to turn our attention to creating the regulatory environment and designing the incentives needed to help make more of that happen more easily. The Blandin Community Leadership Program’s adage, that leadership is ‘something you have to do yourself but can’t do alone,’ is truer than ever.

One aspiration everyone seems to share is to be “good ancestors” as Jim Baller said.

John O’Brien’s eye-popping presentation of a future in which my umbrella will change colors with the weather was arresting. And hearing about software that can save me from sending embarrassing emails late at night and teach me typing with the help of vampires was only vaguely reassuring. John’s challenge to see the contradictions in work place policies that simultaneously tolerate personal phone calls but forbid visits to Facebook (especially in the light of one student’s confession that 8 hours without Facebook would be a demotivating hardship for her), made me look long and hard at the face of the woman in his C.A.V.E. slide (Colleagues Against Virtually Everything). Is that me? Is that our organization? Our employers?

In the coming days we’ll be loading up the conference website with as much content as we can harvest from all the presentations. The Blandin Foundation’s Broadband Strategy Board is serious about responding to Mike O’Connor’s exhortation to scour the Task Force recommendations and be alert to ways we can contribute to the work of getting them done. There are lots of possibilities.

Future Leaders on Broadband

The last session of the day at the Blandin Broadband Conference was a great look at the future. It started with a presentation from John O’Brien at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. He provided a fun survey of what the Internet is, was and is becoming as well as how folks, especially students interact with the Internet and assume adequate broadband.

We heard about umbrellas that will change colors based on the weather forecast and tools that will help your plants remind you to water them. He also discussed the legitimate role of gaming in education. The observation I loved – students tend not to like classes that are too hard or games that are too easy. It’s seems like an opportunity to mashup some teachable moments. The session ended with a panel of students talking about how they use technology and what are their expectations for the future use – in the workplace especially.

Broadband Stimulus in Minnesota

Panel: The Who, The What and The Hopes: Broadband Stimulus in Minnesota. Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation; Danna MacKenzie, Cook County; Jackie Vanasse, Leach Lake; John Schultz, Windom. Moderated by Jack Geller, U of M Crookston

I’m afraid I missed part of the session on the stimulus applications. I’ve read and heard about the various applications before – so what was interesting to me was to see how the initial drive to get broadband remains despite the mounting obstacles. Danna spoke about the referendum in Cook County. (There was a referendum to allow Cook County to provide phone service; it needed a super majority to pass; it got 56% and didn’t pass.) Yet they forge ahead. John Schultz sort of spoke for Windom and Leech Lake – to hear the need for broadband in Leech Lake, which is un/underserved by pretty much any definition was telling.

To hear about how Blandin worked so early on to get community participation across the state. Signs point to that sort of application being the focus of the next round of ARRA grants. Jack Geller pointed out that place and collaboration will mater in future rounds of funding.

Blandin Broadband Conference Breakout Sessions

I moderated one of the breakout sessions so unfortunately my notes for each session are pretty uneven – although I heard great things about each. If there are readers who attended a session, I invite/implore you to share some notes in the comments of this post.

What’s Here, What’s Coming? Bleeding Edge Video Technologies; Dustin Artwohl, Video Guidance

Tools, Policies and Practices: Twitter Here, LinkedIn There, Facebook Everywhere! Social Media Policies for Organizations. Steve Boland, Nonprofit Assistance Fund; Barry LaGrave, MN House Public Information Services; Richard Fong, MN Department of Health. Moderated by Ann Treacy, Treacy Information Services.

Better Together. Lessons from the Trenches on Finding the Right Partners and Creating Connections that Last; Pat Medure, Itasca County Sheriff; Matt Grose, Itasca Area Schools Collaborative, Maggie Montgomery, Northern Community Radio, KAXE; Kathy Dodge, Grand Rapids Area Nonprofit Directors Group. Moderated by Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation.

Here are the presentations, videos and notes: Continue reading

Morris students talk about Willmar

The Morris students did a great job. I caught some of their comments on video. I also have their presentation below. They had a lot of good insights but one comment really caught my attention: “Students want to stay in their rural area – why are we pushing them out with poor technology and broadband?”

Video on how the students use broadband today:

Task Force comments on report

The Task Force graciously spoke about their report. The Blandin Strategy board chimed (here’s their written comments)  in and folks had questions.

Here is the introduction from moderator/task force member/former Blandin strategy board member, Mike O’Connor. In it he addresses Jim Baller’s critique of the Task Force report expressed the previous evening.

Here are comments from the Task Force members:

Chris Swanson – represented rural, small city, small business and started with goal of ubiquitous FTTH. Still stands behind importance of ubiquity. We often looked at Minnesota as a whole, which is different from sum of the parts. Private investment has done a good job but public-private partnerships are needed to reach far corners.

Mary Ellen Wells – represents rural healthcare as CEO of hospitals. Hope that by 2015 we can take broadband for granted. Access and quality are very important, especially in healthcare.

Craig Taylor – IT Director at HealthPartners – as a large business we have the technology/broadband we need but we need more across the state for smaller businesses. The speeds we chose were based on applications that are being used today.

Dan McElroy – Commissioner of DEED to represent economic development issues. Economic development issues have changed; access to the Internet is a utility today. We need reliable access to attract/retain businesses. Need to be specific about where access is in community – even outside a town; those folks 5-10 miles outside town need to know about access. Quality of Place is a big seller for Minnesota – broadband helps to weigh the quality of place more heavily. Check out MNPro,

John Stanoch – President of Qwest in MN & ND. The process of convening and the task force was very valuable – both meeting, and research done by members. Speed factors included need for speed. We need an ongoing dialog to keep this in the mind of Minnesota. We need an ongoing entity. Technology changes and to be successful need to plan too. Universal consensus on universal access was vital. Also we made some good plans for demand too. The equity of supply and demand will carry of forward.

Glenn Wilson – Commissioner from Department of Commerce – around the state we’ve found that manufacturers, doctors, others are using broadband and need broadband. The task force report will help focus the legislature.

From Blandin Broadband Strategy Team

John Linnell – Healthcare background – a big concern in healthcare is that healthcare is driven by connectivity; interoperability is essential with transient patents (including snow birds); we need symmetry; but they are all expensive drive. Healthcare is a cost sharing process and the patient is the one who pays. Sometimes the $2 aspirin is paying for more than the aspirin – sometimes it subsidizes connectivity. We address metro and small community needs – but not necessarily rural needs. We can keep people in their homes with telepresence – we catch things faster with home care. We need high speed, we need symmetric, we need affordable.

Nancy Hoffman – from Benton County, half of the county is well served. Unserved area heard complaints from businesses and schools. Ubiquity is very important. Speed is important too – Jim Baller’s presentation reinforced that. Changes come so quickly with broadband we need to keep up. We always ask businesses about broadband need; we are losing businesses to broadband-rich areas. We need local champions for broadband; we need users in government.

Questions:

What would it take to be 5th or 15th in the world?

Well documented in Task Force report (pg 56).

Did the Task Force deal with cutbacks?

We recognized that in areas that are expensive to serve the government provided incentives. There are some federal incentives too. One problem is the current definition of rural are (more than 50 miles from city).

The stimulus funding is a drop in the bucket; we should look at USF and think about transitioning voice subsidies to filling broadband need.

How do we encourage public-private partnership?

There’s going to have to be more p/p partnership. It’s not necessarily popular, but will be important. Local officials need to understand importance of broadband.

There are some examples of efforts (Monticello, North St Paul…) but it depends on what the local government and the incumbents can do together.

We’re hoping that as the Task Force has agreed maybe we can start a new trend where there’s more consensus, more collaboration. In the short term, we need a better discussion about where the need is – and what are the resources. The incumbents are other providers need to work more closely with economic developers – we can provide service to businesses that want/need it. Minnesota should not lose businesses or jobs due to lack of broadband.

An ongoing entity might help that communication.

Where do you think money will be spent in the future?

Look to page (80), we have a sources of funds list. These will/should serve (in this order) unserved, underserved – the rest. The RUS is a good place to go. It has been and it should be even better as the ARRA funding thins the herd.

I highlighted one statement above because – and this is just my opinion – I think that consensus and collaboration are two important things addressed/demonstrated by the Task Force. They modeled it in their recommendations; they model it in their public appearances.