Blandin Broadband e-News December 2016: Community broadband moves forward

A recap of posts from November…BBC Map

Broadband 101: Bits vs Byte and A-CAM

With new communities and new policymakers, BoB will be focusing on some expository pieces, such as the difference between bits and bytes and A-CAM, the smaller providers’ CAF (Connection America Fund) options.

Broadband saves $11,000 a year

The Internet Innovation Alliance releases annual research indicating that households with broadband can save $11,219 annually; that includes the average cost of broadband.

Telecom Industry in MN has $900 million impact

The Hudson Report looks at economic impact of the rural broadband industry. They found the impact in Minnesota was $911.3 million; of that $279.1 million went to rural areas and $632.2 million to urban.

MN Border to Border Grants

Communities sent in their applications for broadband funds. The Office of Broadband Development received $70 million in requests, which is twice the allocated $35 million. Incumbent providers had until November 7 to lodge any challenges to the requests in their area (or nearby area).

Minnesota is Number One for Internet Usage

According the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 83.1 percent of Minnesotans, or 4,307,850 households, used the internet. That makes us number one.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force to recommend $100 million

The Task Force met to comb through the latest iteration of their annual report. After a heated debate they agreed to recommend $10 million for the OBD and $100 million ($50 million per year) for grants.

Local Broadband News

Carlton County
Carlton County recognizes Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion.

Central Woodlands
Central Woodlands (a self-defined community that spans portions of Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Pine and Aitkin counties) recognize Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion.

Chisago County
Chisago County recognizes Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion.

Local news covers Blandin Foundation’s recent trip to Chisago County to learn more about broadband projects.

Dakota County
Whitetail Woods Park in Dakota County has wifi at speeds of 40-60Mbps – for many good reasons.

Iron Range
The IRRRB and Blandin Foundation work together to support six Iron Range communities expand broadband. The new communities met at the end of November. Local news sources covered the good news.

Laporte, Becida and Solway
Fiber comes to Laporte, Becida, and Solway through Paul Bunyan Communications.

Lake County
CTC to manage Lake Connections Broadband

Martin County celebrates BBC participation
Martin County recognizes $86,600 of Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion

The University of Minnesota is home to a nonprofit that helps gamers get into the business of gaming.

AT&T deploys mmWave to Uptown apartment buildings, bringing fast connections via fixed wireless from building to building.

Nobles County
Nobles County recognizes Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion

Red Lake Nation
Red Lake Nation one of the first reservations to get a Gig; thanks to Paul Bunyan

Redwood County
Redwood County recognizes $90,848 of Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion

Sibley County
Sibley County’s Mark Erickson talks about how to promote community broadband in a Trump Era.

Southern Minnesota
Hurricane Electric and Neutral Path Communications are collaborating to bring dark fiber to light in Rochester, Minneapolis, Mankato Belle Plaine, LaSalle and Windom.

Southwestern Minnesota
Lincoln, Murray and Pipestone Counties are working together to improve broadband. Broadband coach Bill Coleman spoke to each community in November.

Spring Grove
Spring Grove gets a nod for their work in telemedicine in a report from Foundation for Rural Service and the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative

Upcoming Events

  • Nov 10 –Webinar Archive: Census 2020: The Count Starts Now
  • Dec 13- Webinar on how to Nominate a Digital Inclusion Leader for Next Century Cities and Google Fiber Award
  • Dec 15 – Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting
  • March 6, 2017 – deadline for Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project grants applications due

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Stirring the Potbill right

Recently I read Doug Dawson’s blog post ( on the branding efforts of rural broadband providers. At the same time,  I was doing presentations on the Intelligent Community framework which includes Advocacy as one of six elements. In this framework, Advocacy deals with a community’s messaging to its own residents and to the outside world – in essence, a community brand.

What is your community’s brand?  Is it tied to the past or the future?  What assets are you promoting? How do you differentiate your community from other Minnesota communities or the countless other communities around our country and the world.  After all, all communities are competing for talent and investment. Why stay?  Why choose to come?

Dawson makes a very important point in his blog…a brand must be true or it will ring hollow.  It seems to me that as communities pursue new brands based on broadband, technology and innovation, these brands must have a future orientation that emphasizes the pursuit of progress with ready examples of strategies and projects.

So, my advice… if your community is in the midst or considering a branding initiative, consider an emphasis on people power, rather than the more standard geographic feature or heritage.

Hibbing and Chisholm are new Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities

I’ve written about the Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities a few times – especially since we all met up last week. It’s nice to see the Hibbing Daily Tribune pick up the good news too…

Hibbing and Chisholm were among the six selected for an intensive, two-year partnership with the foundation to advance local broadband initiatives.

Aitkin County, Bois Forte Reservation/Orr/Cook, Ely and the Mountain Iron-Buhl area also became Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC).

“We are excited about this partnership and the chance to help both businesses and residents with their technology and broadband needs,” said Lory Fedo, president/CEO of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber made the application to Blandin and will lead the effort in Hibbing.

They note challenges in the area and ways that broadband might help in HIbbing…

In the application, the chamber identifies three main challenges, with the first being leveraging broadband to improve the business community. …

A second challenge is education. A number of small business owners are not utilizing basic and accessible tools, which could enhance customer experience, assist them in gaining new customers and increase customer retention. …

And like most rural areas, broadband access in underserved areas and underrepresented populations continues to be a major challenge.

And Chisholm…

Each of the partners identified a struggle with communicating to larger segments of the population, at times, needing to reach the entire community and surrounding area.

The committee also pointed out the connection between broadband infrastructure and creating, attracting and support of “knowledge workers.” At present, the community relies on the school district, HCC and its larger businesses for workforce training.

Minnesota Iron Range Communities gear up for better broadband adoption

Yesterday six new Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) – all from the Iron Range (so now they are IRBCs) – met to get started on their path to greater community broadband engagement.

The project born is of a partnership between Blandin, IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and St. Louis County). Yesterday they met to learn more about the IRBC program, the process and each other.

It’s a great group with a healthy competitive collaboration among them. Several communities have joined together as teams for the first time. It will be exciting to see what gets done in the area.

Below are videos from each community on their hopes and expectations for their projects.

Broadband hot topic at MN Association of Townships

bill rightIn the midst of rain and snow and wind, township officials met in St. Cloud last week for their annual conference.  Broadband was the topic of choice.  I stared with the following introductory presentation…

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Danna MacKenzie and two panels of presenters talked about rural broadband challenges and solutions.  Blandin Foundation community partners Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Chisago County and Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative were all featured as was the USDA and Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative.  It was great to hear of the winning solutions that will result in Fiber to the Home networks at Fond du Lac and north central Minnesota.  The value of partial solutions was also highlighted recognizing that more work and some luck will be required to reach a full solution.  The Minnesota Association of Townships has been a strong partner in an alliance of rural stakeholder groups, all of which recognize the foundational necessity of rural broadband services.

Southwestern Minnesota Counties Working Together on Broadband

bill rightLincoln, Murray and Pipestone Counties are three rural counties that have decided to work together on better broadband.  The counties share a similar mix of small communities and big farms on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.  They also see a growing number of neighboring counties getting fiber to their homes and farms, including Lac qui Parle, Swift, Big Stone and Rock Counties.

The leadership of these counties, staff and elected leaders alike, are worried that current broadband is hindering economic growth and detracting from their ability to attract manufacturing firms, other businesses and, most importantly, people due to the lack of broadband services.  More than 60 people attended one or more of three meetings held in Ivanhoe, Pipestone and Slayton, including a variety of broadband providers.

Attendees learned about the financial and technical challenges of providing high speed broadband in areas with such low population densities.  Those who live behind trees or in low valleys talked about their discussions with providers and challenges of even receiving wireless services.  They learned about the promise of the Connect America Fund 2 and when improvements might be coming.  In the future days, leadership teams from the three counties will meet to discuss the meetings, the input from residents and businesses and next steps.  Each county had 15 or more volunteers ready to team with county staff and elected officials on prospective solutions, including investing their own dollars to make expanded broadband possible.

Blandin thanks champions of broadband efforts in Chisago County

Pleased to share a letter to the editor of Isanti-Chisago County Star from Blandin President and CEO Kathy Annette…

Recently a team from Blandin Foundation was in North Branch to celebrate the wrap-up of our partnership with Chisago County in the Blandin Broadband Communities program. What we saw was impressive: a diverse group of dedicated broadband champions working together to make their communities better.

In the past 18 months, the Chisago County Broadband Steering Committee has been focused on enhancing broadband access and use, and promoting the county’s communities as “tech savvy.”

One of the committee’s top goals was to survey county residents to better understand broadband needs and priorities. The “Got Internet” survey garnered 879 responses, and the results were compelling: 35 percent of respondents said that with better broadband they would telecommute, 45 percent would use it for accessing educational opportunities, 31 percent would use it to operate a business, and 86 percent would use it for quality of life improvement. All in all, 94 percent of respondents said they would subscribe to better service if it was available.

In addition to the survey, the Chisago County Broadband Steering Committee implemented a wide variety of projects, including: business training events (which were attended by 300 people), tourism websites, including one for Chisago Lakes and for Old Highway 61, Wi-Fi on long-route school buses, improving connectivity for businesses and providing teleconference equipment, distributing refurbished computers to people in need, and a huge push to local businesses on Google Places, with 250-plus businesses and organizations verified on Google.

Local leadership matters. Blandin Foundation would like to give special congratulations to Nancy Hoffman of Chisago County HRA-EDA for her leadership and vision on the BBC efforts. We also commend all of the community champions and volunteers for their dedication to a more connected community.

Local leadership matters with Broadband in the Central Woodlands

Pleased to share a letter to the editor of Kanabec County Times from Blandin President and CEO Kathy Annette…

Recently a team from Blandin Foundation visited Isle to celebrate the wrap up of our 18-month partnership with Central Woodlands (a self-defined community that spans portions of Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Pine and Aitkin counties) through the Blandin Broadband Communities program. We were deeply impressed by what we saw: a diverse group of dedicated broadband champions working together to make their community better.

The Central Woodlands Broadband Steering Committee focused on projects that enhanced online opportunities for local businesses and seniors. For example, Someday Isle, a nonprofit shop on Isle’s main street, benefited from new computers and training to help achieve their mission of providing space – physical and digital — for artists and craftspeople to sell their wares. One local artist was able to increase sales by 400 percent when he established an online presence.

Central Woodlands also improved broadband access at five township halls in the region. Wilma Township is setting up a wireless network and is looking into expanding into neighboring areas.

By working together, community volunteers from across the region have unleashed tremendous energy that will help carry out the projects beyond the life of the grants.

Local leadership matters. Blandin Foundation commends our partners on the Central Woodlands broadband team for their vision and dedication to all local residents experiencing the power of a connected community.