Broadband Market Survey for Lake Shore Community – good model

Bill Coleman and I (mostly Bill) have been working with Lake Shore community to help get a picture of what better broadband would look like in their community. One of their first steps has been to create a broadband survey. I’m sharing it for three reasons. First – if you live in Lake Shore, please take the survey – it won’t take 10 minutes to complete.

Second – I thought it would be a good model for others interested in working on a plan. It’s a one-page survey so you don’t need to take it to read all of the questions. Here’s the introduction to give you a flavor of what you’ll find…

The City, working with a group of interested residents, recently formed a Committee to actively seek alternatives for expanding our Internet options.  One of our first steps is seek your input about current Internet services.   Additionally, the Broadband Committee is in discussions with Internet providers.
Please be assured that by completing this questionnaire you are not obligating yourself to purchase any services, either now or in the future.  Your response to this questionnaire will remain confidential; your response will help us find the best solution for improving Broadband Internet access in Lake Shore.

Third, it’s a good excuse to remind people that the Blandin Foundation offers help to communities looking to improve local broadband access through – Community Broadband Resources Program, which is technical assistance and general support to help you explores next steps toward better broadband.

Koochiching County considers becoming a Blandin Broadband Community

According to the International Falls Journal

Background: Koochiching County officials will consider taking part in the Blandin Broadband Communities, or BBC, Program. The Blandin Foundation seeks four rural Minnesota communities to participate in the program. Selected through an application process, BBCs will define the technology goal, receive planning and technical assistance. They will also have access to resources to implement projects designed to make progress on their broadband and community technology enhancement goals.

Once selected, there is the opportunity to apply for up to $75,000 in grants over a two-year period, including feasibility studies or implementation of additions desired by the community.

An orientation with presenter Bill Coleman was held Thursday to discuss what the program is and strategic goals for a realistic application to the BBC.

The application deadline is May 31, with the grant application deadline in August, said Jim Yount, co-owner of Small Town Tech.

“We still have un-served and under-served areas within the county,” said Nevanen. “Although some strides have been made, it is an ongoing issue.”

BorealCorps – a digital-savvy youth group in Grand Marais MN

Blandin just got the notes on this very fun project they funded in Grand Marais and I’m excited to share the details. The community has created a youth-driven, civic, digital news service called BorealCorps for elementary and middle school children throughout Cook County. The goal was to use immersive, hands-on learning in both in-school enrichment sessions and after-school club meetings to create a child-authored and maintained web site as a means of closing the rural opportunity gap in 21st century technology and its applications.

BorealCorps results have far-surpassed the initial proposal to Blandin, and can be seen on the website. Not only have they formed a sustainable, reliable and increasingly-recognized youth group of able civic connectors and communicators, the children have made BorealCorps self-supporting — in less than one year.

They have a steady enrollment of 12-15 child staff members (~10% of the county cohort) and parental support in grades 4-8 from all school communities throughout Cook County, and have taught as many as 30 in one day of serial classes.

BorealCorps youth have proven themselves to the community to be able, helpful communication collaborators. Here are some of their projects:

  • Sawtooth Clinic turned to BorealCorps for help with health reporting key messages on youth nutrition
  • The Lions Club has invited child representatives to present a proposal for the Fisherman’s Picnic event in August 2018
  • The YMCA engages BorealCorps reporters to help publicize events
  • Great Expectations Charter School worked with BorealCorps to develop a winter-long community reading advocacy program called “A Long Winter’s Read.”
  • Oshki Ogimaag Ojibway Charter School has invited BorealCorps to coach teachers how to work with its students to author an Ojibway-language children’s book in spring 2018.

And one surprise project: In December 2017 BorealCorps was hired by the American Lung Association in Minnesota to provide 15 weeks of social media health messaging on Facebook( @borealcorps ) as a demonstration curriculum for other schools on dangers of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction to youth, who are targeted by advertisers. BorealCorps did such an impressive job that 8 members and 4 parents were sponsored by the Lung Association on March 21-22, 2018 to present in St. Paul an artistic interpretation of lung cancer. They created it from primary source photographs of lung cancer victims, and through felt sculptures of lung sections, calling it “Beautiful Lungs.” It was displayed in the Minnesota History Center. At the Capitol, BorealCorps members also lobbied Sen. Tom Back and Rep. Ron Ecklund to pass Tobacco 21 legislation to protect youth health. They have recently been hired to do even more!

Mankato’s broadband event getting attention highlighting access and policy

The Mankato Free Press reports on Thursday’s broadband meeting in Mankato

The threat to rural Minnesota used to be measured mostly by the lack of good paying jobs needed to keep young people staying in or moving to small towns.

Bill Coleman says the presence or absence of dependable, speedy broadband service is now the key to rural Minnesota’s success or failure.

They highlight the connectivity in the area…

he state of area broadband service varies. The region in and around Blue Earth County is in relatively good shape compared to much of outstate and the country. But connectivity is still widely variable outside of larger cities in the area.

Some of the most dependable, fastest service delivered by underground fiber lines connected to homes and businesses is plentiful in Mankato, North Mankato, St. Peter and around New Ulm, due largely by investments from Consolidated Communications and New Ulm Telecom. Satellite services are readily available and used in many rural areas, but their dependability is affected by weather and the distance signals have to travel. Wireless service is also plentiful.

And highlight what’s happening at the legislature with the broadband grant appropriation…

Gov. Mark Dayton this session is proposing $30 million be approved by the Legislature for broadband expansion. Dayton said it would help 11,000 households, businesses and organizations get better service.

A few years ago, the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband called for more than $200 million to ensure every Minnesotan can access the internet with speeds of at least 25 mega bits per second download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

About 88 percent of Minnesotans have that kind of access now, an improvement from the 56 percent of the state with broadband internet in 2011.

The GOP is looking at a broadband bill this year that would provide $20 million in grants instead of the governor’s $30 million proposal. Lawmakers passed a $35 million grant bill last year.

Lake Shore MN will look at better broadband with help from Blandin Foundation

The Pine and Lakes Echo Journal reports…

Lake Shore is working to get broadband service to all parts of the city.

Mayor Kevin Egan reported at the Monday, March 26, city council meeting that a newly established city broadband committee has met twice. He said the Blandin Foundation will pay for a consultant who represents small communities trying to get broadband.

After further talks, the city will invite area internet providers to talk about their plans for the area.

Egan said the discussion was interesting and useful, and there is a lot to learn about an evolving strategy to get broadband service to all Lake Shore neighborhoods.

If your community is interested in getting help to look at better broadband options, consider looking at Blandin’s Community Broadband Resources Program.

Local libraries “check out” broadband in Cook and Chisholm

Reposted with permission from the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation‘s newsletter The Ranger…

The Cook and Chisholm public libraries are offering personal portable hotspot devices that may be checked out just like a book thanks to the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program. These hotspots can connect up to 10 devices to the internet at 4G speed enabling homes and people in rural areas to have high speed internet access where it is not yet available.

The Cook Library launched the hotspot program in December and its five devices have been checked out 39 times in three months. Each hotspot may be checked out for seven days at a time.

“Cook and the surrounding area do not yet have expansive broadband capability so these devices are very helpful to our local citizens and families,” said Crystal Phillips, Cook Library Director. “The device has a touch screen, is very user friendly and connects to the library’s Wi-Fi network so data usage is not limited.”

The Chisholm Library acquired 10 hotspots that have been checked out 58 times combined since December. “They are in such high demand that we are considering adding 10 to 20 more hotspots to our inventory,” said Katie Christenson, Chisholm Library supervisor. “The broadband

grant has made a big impact in our community.”

In addition, WiFi capacity at the Chisholm Library was upgraded to make the library itself a hotspot that is open to the public with four access points within a specific physical range. An average of 65 devices per day (or 2,000 devices per month) are connecting to the WiFi when the user is physically inside the library or parked nearby within range.

The BBC program was supported in part by a grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and involves an intensive two-year partnership between Blandin and area communities to advance broadband initiatives. This ongoing effort helps northeastern Minnesota rural communities develop high speed internet that is critical to economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life.


Blandin Broadband eNews: Federal and MN policymakers on broadband

Map of MN broadband grant projects

Definition of Broadband Matters

The FCC releases a report that shows access to broadband increases from 89.4 percent in 2014 to 95 percent in 2016. The increase is in part result of the satellite coverage being counted as broadband for the first time with the 2016 report.

Minnesotans Need Broadband for Healthcare and Insurance
A White Paper done by FAIR Health reports that Minnesota has one of the greatest number of claims with telehealth usage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Medicaid applicants report needing better broadband to access tools to continue their health coverage if Medicaid laws change.

Minnesota Rural Equity Project
The Minnesota Rural Equity Project identifies legislative priorities for revitalizing local economies and reducing disparities in Greater Minnesota. According to their research, 47.12 percent of households in rural Minnesota lack access to broadband. They are pushing the state to extend its grant program for broadband and make it more accessible.

Reports on Impact of Broadband and Economic Development
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that in 10 years the digital economy grew 5.6 percent compared to overall economic growth of 1.5 percent. The National League of Cities releases a report that calls out broadband as a tool to bridge the rural-urban economic divide. The Foundation for Rural Service reports that transactional value of the Internet in rural American is nearly $1.4 trillion.

Blandin Foundation News

Minnesota Legislature – actions and reactions

Federal Legislature and Funding Notes

Provider News

Local Broadband News

Fiber brings Delta Dental and 150 new jobs to Bemidji×0

New London Spicer
Seniors get tech training from high school kids in New London Spicer

Wilkin County
Wilkin County policymakers are interested in broadband funding

Gary Evans, former CEO of HBC, talks about getting broadband to Winona and beyond×6

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

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 Pot – by Bill Coleman

Earlier in this E-news blast, you should have seen some details about applying to become a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC).  I would like to fill in more details about why you should consider this intensive initiative for your community.

  • If you have connectivity challenges, becoming a BBC can help align your community leadership to pursue better broadband infrastructure and services while implementing short-term connectivity projects.
  • If you have good broadband in place, but not seeing much change in community tech vitality, the BBC program can spur more sophisticated technology use through shared learning and collaboration experiences.
  • If no organization is working to address digital equity so that all residents have a device, a connection and computer skills, then the BBC program will shine a spotlight on and provide resources to address this critical issue.

In rural communities, great broadband infrastructure is an essential element of community competitiveness, but building infrastructure is not enough.  Becoming a BBC will create a lasting platform for ongoing community innovation and investment.

I highly recommend it!