eNews: MN Monthly Recap: MN Legislature likes broadband, Feds like Broadband, all about coordination

MN Legislature looks at funds for Broadband Grants
The House has a bill to fund the Border to Border grants at $120 million for the biennium. The Senate has three bills related to broadband funding: one for $120 million for grants, one for $150 million ($30 million for unserved areas) for grants and options for lower match requirements and a bill for $50 million for  mapping. The Governor has mentioned $50 million in 2022 for broadband grants.

MN Broadband Task Force: Leg updated, Electric Coops and American Connection
The Task Force learned about recent broadband bills in Minnesota, electric cooperatives and American Connection, a collaboration that promotes broadband investment at the federal level. They also talked about subcommittees, which take responsibility for leading the effort to set recommendations in the annual report.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative gets state grant to serve Farm Island Lake (Aitkin County)

Alexandria Lakes Area
Congrats to Alexandria Lakes Area in MN – recently named to Smart21 Communities of 2021 from ICF

Baxter
Baxter City Council will look at broadband issues during future workshop session

Beltrami, Lake Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties
FirstNet Network Expands Across Minnesota to Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties

Bemidji
Bemidji Ranked 8th Best Work-From-Home City by PC Magazine

Chisago County
Senator Mark Koran Applauds Broadband Expansion in Chisago County

Cook (City)
A look at how RDOF impacts the State Grant-funded project in Cook MN

Cook County
Northeast MN is a recruitment hot spot with beauty and broadband

Fond du Lac
Recent report on history and status of broadband in tribal areas includes Fond du Lac

Hutchinson
Hutchinson to benefit from MN Broadband grant (McLeod County)

Le Sueur County
Hear the frustration when RDOF trumps MN Border to Border grants in Le Sueur County MN

Lynd
Lynd MN getting better broadband through Woodstock’s MN Broadband grant (Lyon County)

Rice County
Two projects in Rice County get MN State grants – RDOF impact in other areas may have helped them

Rochester
Google is opening an office in Rochester MN to be close to the Mayo Clinic

Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties
Scott County Project gets MN State grant to serve part of Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties

Thief River Falls
Rep Fischbach visits Thief River Falls – talks about importance of broadband (Pennington County)

Upper Minnesota Valley
UMVRDC members say broadband is Number two issue for the area

Wilkin County
Senator Klobuchar talks to schools near Wilkin County MN about the broadband issue, especially during pandemic

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Part One

For rural community broadband champions, pursuing better broadband has never been more complicated.  Factors that currently have me thinking, if not stumped include:

  • RDOF
    • Will the winning RDOF bidder be approved by the FCC?
    • If yes, what will their buildout schedule look like till 2027?
    • Will they build-out the adjacent non-RDOF areas?
  • Starlink
    • Will Starlink maintain the 100 Mb+ speeds once they move from beta to large customer numbers?
    • Will they be able to deliver, as promised, to 300 Mb and beyond?
    • How will low-income households afford $500 or more in upfront costs?
  • DSL
    • Will other DSL providers follow ATT’s lead and phase out DSL services?
    • Will the majority of rural DSL customers ever see widespread speeds that support multiple users?

We should know more about some of these questions soon; other will emerge more slowly.

Part Two

The 1996 Telecom Act was supposed to spur competition, but we are going backwards. In many communities, from affluent suburbs to small rural communities, residents are effectively subject to the services, pricing and responsiveness of an unregulated monopoly provider.  Community leaders need to decide whether this is that a good thing.

The costs to build a fiber infrastructure in a community are low for a 30-year asset.  Community broadband advocates should analyze the multiple options for creating community-owned networks and promote them to elected officials.  Locally-owned networks serve the community as their first priority.

We are going to talk public ownership models at our Blandin Lunch Bunch on March 10 at noon.  Sign up here: https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/broadband/blandin-community-broadband-program-webinar-series/ .  We will discuss at least a couple models.  Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance will join the conversation.

Ammon ID (https://www.ammonfiber.com) is building and maintaining its own fiber network where residents now have their choice of Gigabit providers for $49.50 per month.  Chattanooga TN (https://epb.com/home-store/internet) offers a Gb for $68 per month and solved its pandemic-magnified digital divide issue by simply providing free 100 Mb Internet to 28,000 students.  A new study documented a $2.69 billion long-term benefit from Chattanooga’s fiber network.

We will also talk about the mixed experience of Minnesota’s publicly owned broadband networks (wonders and warts!), including Southwest MN Broadband, the Cities of Windom and Monticello and Scott and Lake Counties.  And, maybe a bit on how new and expanded cooperatives might accomplish the same goals.  Join us!

EVENTS: March Lunch Bunch: Benefits of publicly-owned broadband networks (Mar 10) Smart Cities (March 24)

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions; on the second Wednesday of the month the focus is Infrastructure and on the fourth the focus is Digital Inclusion and Use. Here are the topics for March:

  • Benefits of publicly-owned broadband networks (March 10 noon to 1pm CST)
    Join to talk public ownership models discuss. The group will discuss at least a couple models.  Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance will join the conversation. Register here 
  • Smart tactics for cities, suburbs and town (March 24 noon to 1pm CST)
    Join to talk about smart tactics for cities, suburbs and town (Get a sneak preview from local experts at Smart North.) Register here.

Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Digital Navigators: Archive

Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation on Digital Navigators today. We had a lot of expertise in the Zoom room; that led to some really good questions.

Thanks especially to Marc Johnson, Executive Director of (ECMECC) and Paolo Balboa, Programs and Data Manager for the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for getting us started. On a high level here are some of the topics that came up:

  • Description of Digital Navigators in a wide range of situations – from school to seniors
  • What we’re learned and shared based on escalated need in the pandemic
  • Who are the digital navigators? Are they certified?
  • How do we encourage BIPOC and people in communities that are not traditionally going for tech careers to get into digital navigation – especially if that’s a stepping stone to better jobs
  • How do digital navigators work with folks with limited English skills

I’m going to paste the “chat” from the meeting below. I was going to clean up or organize the various links but I think people get a flavor of the meetings if I leave it asis. Remember we do lunch bunch meetings twice a month. Here are details on the next meetings:

 From the chat Continue reading

OPPORTUNITY: Regional leaders gather to imagine a broadband-fueled economy

Happy to share the following invitation from IRRRB. The meetings have been going well and they are opening up attendance…

More than 100 economic and community developers from across the region gathered earlier this month for the Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) kickoff event. Together, participants began imagining what a regional broadband-fueled economy might look like and how to get there.

The AIR initiative, a partnership between Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and Blandin Foundation, is building on the momentum, and bringing to regional scale, the work and vision of 10 Iron Range Broadband Communities (IRBC) that have implemented nearly 125 projects in the past four years. IRBC broadband champions and regional developers are joining forces to think bigger about the role of broadband access and use in local economies.

To inspire and guide project development, Robert Bell of Intelligent Community Forum is hosting twice-weekly webinars through March 9 to introduce global best practices that can inform and be applied to regional broadband efforts. Last week, webinar participants discussed technology as a driver of change in local economies and how to engage community as part of that change.

Upcoming webinars include:

  • Feb. 24: Connectivity: The Foundation of Digital Opportunity.
  • Feb. 25: Knowledge Work: Creating a Ladder of Opportunity.
  • March 2: Innovation: Building the Ecosystem from Growth.
  • March 4: Inclusion: Overcoming the Digital Divide.
  • March 9: Sustainability for Quality of Life, Engagement and Economic Growth.

Community members who are passionate about broadband connectivity and its role in a strong regional economy are welcome to attend all webinars.

Register for the webinars.

On March 12, participants will gather for a project development meeting to learn about the grant process, brainstorm project ideas and begin forming small groups to lay out project implementation.

Learn more about the Arrowhead Intelligent Region initiative.

EVENT Feb 24: Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Digital Navigators

Just a reminder for folks that this conversation is happening on Wednesday…

Digital Navigators What, how & why (Feb 24 noon to 1pm CST)
Digital Navigators are individuals who help people (or organizations) through the process of finding the best digital solutions to meet their needs. It scored highly on our interest survey last month and we have (at least) two Lunch Bunchers who are willing to share their expertise with the group – one national and one focused on Minnesota schools. So please come with questions, ideas and solutions. Register here.

I’m excited to have two experts on deck to share their wisdom:

  • Marc Johnson, Executive Director of (ECMECC), a telecommunications & technology cooperative of school in East Central MN. You can catch him talking about digital navigators with North Branch Area Public Schools, if you want a sneak preview.
  • Paolo Balboa is the Programs and Data Manager for the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, where he applies his background in adult literacy and data management to developing digital equity programs.

 

Recent report on history and status of broadband in tribal areas (including Fond du Lac in MN)

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently released a report by H. Trostle on the history and status of broadband in tribal areas: Building Indigenous Future Zones: Four Tribal Broadband Case Studies. They look at four networks built in tribal areas including:

  • Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Red Spectrum Communications in Idaho
  • Nez Perce Tribe Department of Technology Services (wireless and fiber) in Idaho
  • Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe’s Aaniin Fiber Services in Minnesota
  • St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Mohawk Network in New York

They found five key lessons:

  1. Improve Access to Capital
  2. Avoid Single-Purpose Funding
  3. Recognize the Preparation Needed to Take Advantage of Opportunities
  4. Tribal Employment Rights Offices Are a Value-Add
  5. Respect Native Nations’ Right to Spectrum

Here’s the portion on Minnesota’s Fond du Lac project, including partnership prjects with the Blandin Foundation…

Aaniin was built through years of careful research and feasibility studies. Jason Hollinday, the Director of Planning at Fond du Lac Planning Division, explained how the Fond du Lac Band approached the problem of getting high-speed Internet service throughout their communities.

In 2006, they started to compare wireless and hardwired network types, such as cable and fiber. The original plan called for ten wireless towers throughout the reservation to deliver Internet service to people’s homes. There were a number of issues with this plan, however, one of which was geography. Northern Minnesota has many hills and forests, and the wireless technology at the time was not going to be able to penetrate to many remote areas. It was, however, fairly inexpensive, and Fond du Lac moved forward with seeking grants for the project. They weren’t funded and Hollinday says they were told that the project was “economically infeasible.”

Undaunted, they changed tactics and considered alternatives, allowing them to be prepared when the market changed drastically in 2010. The price of fiber and equipment for a Fiberto-the-Home network fell enough to make a network feasible on paper. They worked with the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota and pursued grants through the USDA.

Community members, however, needed Internet service faster than the fiber network was likely to be built. The Fond du Lac Band already had an institutional network between government buildings. They added 13 wireless hotspots to several of these buildings in 2013. The hotspots have a range of about ¼ mile, and still serve as a stop-gap measure for community members without reliable Internet service at home.

In 2015, they were finally awarded a USDA Community Connect Grant. Two Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grants were later approved as well and one Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Indian Community Development Block Grant. In total, it was about $9 million in grants, and the Fond du Lac Band matched half that amount with $4.5 million in cash on hand. They had secured all the funding needed to build out a next-generation network.

Starting out, some of the grants required them to build to areas without Internet service of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload. Unserved areas were prioritized. Later grants supported building the network to areas without 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. This enabled the Fond du Lac band to reach the rest of the reservation. The Blandin Foundation had assisted with community outreach about the project. In a series of public meetings, community members talked about what they would like to do with the Internet service. Hollinday described a little bit of doubt from some members, such as “Well we’d never get that here, but if we did have it…,” because the project sometimes seemed too good to be true.

The network went live in Fall 2019. The network, however, continues to expand across the reservation, connecting more people. People are still learning all the capabilities of the Internet service. Since 2014, Fond du Lac has offered a summer camp for teens to create smartphone and iPad apps. Each student creates an app and is given an iPad to take home. The program also supports cultural knowledge. For instance, some of the apps from 2014 went into detail about beading, plants, and the Ojibwe language.15 The possibility of expanding outside of the reservation boundaries has been considered, but the focus right now is on making sure all community members have access to a reliable connection. Using gaming money and possibly further grants to build a fiber network in nearby areas could create a long-term diversified revenue stream for the community.

EVENT Feb 10: Talking with Legislators about Broadband

A quick reminder – it’s a timely and valuable topic up for discussion on this month’s Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch!

Talking with Legislators about Broadband (Feb 10 noon to 1pm CST)
Last fall, we heard a lot about the importance of broadband from legislative candidates across the state and across the aisle.  The commitment will now be illustrated by votes soon to be taken on appropriations bills in St. Paul.  Legislators tell us that they need to hear from constituents to keep an issue at the top of the priority pile.  What are the best ways to do this?  What is your experience with talking with legislators?  What can we learn from other issue advocates?  Be ready to share your success stories, failures and lessons learned.  Register here 

eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband Grants & Legislation (Feb 2021)

MN DEED announces 2020 broadband grant recipients – RDOF impacts awards
The Office of Broadband announces the recipients of latest round of broadband grants. Awards of $20 million in state funding led to $45 million total investment for projects. They received 64 applications and funded 39 projects. The announcement is controversial because 10 applications were taken out of the mix because those projects are located in areas that are now potentially eligible for federal funding (RDOF).

2020 Minnesota Broadband Task Force report is out!
Here are the recommendations:

  • Continue to fund the Broadband Grant Program at a biennial amount of $120 million from the base budget each year.
  • Give the Office of Broadband Development an appropriation of $700,000 per biennium from the base budget.
  • Create an Office of Broadband operating annual fund of $1.5 million to promote broadband adoption and use and redress digital inequity.
  • Convene a working group comprised of all state agencies relating to broadband construction permitting to streamline the process, both in time to issue the permits as well as the permit application process.
  • Investigate greater oversight of railroad facilities by the Office of Pipeline Safety.

Also the Task Force met to talk about their plans for 2021.

Gov budgets $50M for broadband House & Senate look at $120M
Governor Walz released his budget for the next biennium. It includes $50 million for the MN broadband grants – for the first year of the biennium (2022). The MN House introduced a bill for $120 million over the biennium; as did the Senate.

Frontier and CenturyLink “may not” meet CAF II deployment deadlines
The CAF II program awarded funding to the nation’s larger carriers to bring broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. Frontier accepted $283 million in funding annually and CenturyLink accepted $514 million annually. Both have reported that they “may not” have made deployment deadlines for 2020.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News 

Burnsville
Burnsville not interested in sharing public fiber with private parties

Duluth
Duluth News Tribune applauds big State broadband investment

Congrats to Duluth – a newly named top ten remote-ready city

Iron Range
New projects on the Iron Range help increase broadband use

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County (MN) is looking for more fiber in 2021

Le Sueur County
The Institute for Local Self Reliance highlights the work of Le Sueur County

Northern Minnesota
Senator Klobuchar talks to Northern MN – broadband comes up

Pine and Carlton Counties
Pine and Carlton County residents run into troubles trying to stay connected

Red Wing
Internet outage in Red Wing brings us a new form of “snow day”

St Cloud
Arvig extends FTTH to 10,000 households in St Cloud, Rochester and Twin Cities

Southern Minnesota
Broadband outages in Southern Minnesota yesterday (Jan 6, 2021) make the case for redundancy

Southwest Minnesota
Sen Klobuchar talks with Southwest MN leaders about COVID leaders, such as better broadband

Swift County
Swift County Monitor looks at broadband recommendations for Biden Administration

Tower
Feasibility study near Tower MN show some areas broadband ready – but will federal RDOF funding for LTD change the equation?

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Broadband funding is already included and will be expanded in future pandemic and economic stimulus packages. I expect that there will be significant funding linked to both telehealth and distance learning programs.  Minnesotans should be getting ready now to win these funds for infrastructure and adoption projects, but I don’t see anyone leading an effort!

For middle mile infrastructure, the Northeast Service Cooperative serves as a model.  Schools are linked via a multi-Gigabit network as are local units of government and health care providers.  As an open access fiber network, NESC eases competitive entry for small and large broadband providers to deliver Gigabit services anywhere in the region.  Thanks to the vision of NESC’s leadership, the project was funded through Obama stimulus programs. The benefits of the network are adding up with untapped exponential potential in future years.  Minnesota needs more of this.

The need for and benefits of last mile high-speed connections are now obvious. What was innovative ten months ago is now commonplace, but only for the well-connected.  The 25/3 federal standard and 2022 Minnesota goal have been overtaken by the need for multiple video conference feeds.  Internet-based health, education, work and social interaction will continue in a post-COVID 19 world.  Minnesota broadband providers should be working with social service agencies and health care providers to substitute patient transport costs for fiber networks and broadband subscriptions.   Just one quick Google search found evidence that documented a savings of $3823 from one avoided ambulance transfer (Natafgi, Shane, etal. 2018).

We now have multiple regions with nearly 100% FTTH networks from providers like Paul Bunyan, CTC, WCTA, Acira and other cooperatives.  There are growing pockets of FTTH from HBC, Arvig, BEVComm, Metronet and other providers. Are schools and health care providers making full use of these network assets, thus making themselves more attractive to new residents and businesses? Cross-sector, public-private regional teams need to create projects that could be funded by the whole alphabet soup of federal agencies for health care, education, workforce development, economic development, and public safety.

The time to do that is now!  Anyone going to lead on this?

New projects on the Iron Range help increase broadband use

Hometown Focus reports

New broadband initiatives were launched in the Chisholm-Balkan area through the Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program. A collaboration of community partners included: Balkan Township, City of Chisholm, Chisholm Economic Development Authority (CEDA), Chisholm Chamber of Commerce and Chisholm Independent School District #695. Each organization led one or more of the following projects: [list is abbreviated]

  • A new website for Balkan Township that includes a community calendar, recycling and municipal services, township government news and automated reservations for the community center.
  • Marketing videos to promote life in Chisholm.
  • A new website for the city of Chisholm
  • Public Wifi improvements at the Chisholm Public Library.
  • 10 mobile internet hotspots available to check out
  • A scavenger hunt app for Chisholm’s community events.
  • Free digital marketing assistance to 10 Chisholm small businesses
  • Public Wifi access on Chisholm ISD school buses.
  • 100 mobile internet hotspots
  • Improved public wifi at Minnesota Discovery Center
  • A distance learning project by Minnesota Discovery Center

EVENTS: Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Feb Topics: Talking with MN Leg (Feb 10) & Digital Navigators (Feb 24)

Well, the first month went so well we are continuing the Broadband Lunch Bunch sessions – alternating between Broadband Infrastructure and Digital Use and Equity. The idea is to get colleagues in a shared space, introduce a topic and talk. Infrastructure will happen on the second Wednesday of the month and Digital Use and Equity on the fourth. Please note! The Digital Use were originally scheduled for the third Wednesday but we realized that conflicted with the NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) monthly 101 webinars.

(Side note: If you previously registered for the Digital Use and Equity events before – please re-register. The registration were unfortunately lost in the date transition – but we learned something new!)

Talking with Legislators about Broadband (Feb 10 noon to 1pm CST)
Last fall, we heard a lot about the importance of broadband from legislative candidates across the state and across the aisle.  The commitment will now be illustrated by votes soon to be taken on appropriations bills in St. Paul.  Legislators tell us that they need to hear from constituents to keep an issue at the top of the priority pile.  What are the best ways to do this?  What is your experience with talking with legislators?  What can we learn from other issue advocates?  Be ready to share your success stories, failures and lessons learned.  Register here 

Digital Navigators What, how & why (Feb 24 noon to 1pm CST)
Digital Navigators are individuals who help people (or organizations) through the process of finding the best digital solutions to meet their needs. It scored highly on our interest survey last month and we have (at least) two Lunch Bunchers who are willing to share their expertise with the group – one national and one focused on Minnesota schools. So please come with questions, ideas and solutions. Register here.

Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Archive: Share a success story

This big week of inaugural events includes the inaugural meeting of the Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity. We had a 20-25 people attend – perfect for chat and connecting with each other. We spent a lot of time on the introductions – in part because the attendance grew as we spoke but it was worth it to learn more about each other. For example, I now know at least two people who could help me fill out the forms to get an FCC radio license.

It was also nice to have a mix of rural and Twin Cities folks; I hope that will help facilitate more working together. A silver lining of all of the pandemic restriction is that because everything is online these days, it’s easier to work with people in all locations without traveling. Of course the flip side is that it deepens the digital divide for those without access.

We had folks on the frontlines of teaching, librarians, policy folks, smart city folks and engineers. If this were my Destination Imagination team, I’d feel pretty good about our ability to problem solve. And there are open seats at the table next month if you want to join us.

A quick reminder – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch series includes 2 monthly sessions. Sessions will alternate between Broadband Infrastructure (2nd Weds) and  Digital Use and Equity (3rd Weds).

Feb 10, Broadband Infrastructure session will focus on how to work with legislators – more on that soon! Feb 17, Digital Use and Equity is still open. We surveyed folks about future topics today and will report back.

The Institute for Local Self Reliance highlights the work of Le Sueur County

The Institute for Local Self Reliance highlights the work of Le Sueur County on their road to getting better broadband…

Over the last three years, Le Sueur County, Minnesota has assembled a task force of citizens, local officials, and business leaders which have succeeded in dramatically improving broadband for thousands of residents who previously had poor or no connectivity. In doing so, they’ve also forged relationships, inventoried local resources, and created a model which is likely to see the landscape go from one where nearly all residents in the county were under- or unserved by basic broadband at the beginning of 2018 to one where the vast majority of the community will have access at 100/20 Mbps in the next couple years. And if efforts continue to succeed, it’s possible we might see full fiber coverage in Le Sueur by the end of the decade, making it one of the most connected counties in the state.

They follow the story from start…

Until the middle of the last decade, residents were largely on their own to find solutions. Starting about five years ago, however, things began to change. One Le Sueur resident who had paid individually to bring better Internet access to her home so she could run her small business took the initiative to bring up issue to the county board. Shortly thereafter, a diverse and energetic group came together to form the local broadband task force, including community residents, the IT director for a collection of the town school districts, IT Manager for Le Sueur County Jeff Niesen, local business leaders, the county board, and the county administrator. All agreed that there was a case for better broadband for homes as to drive economic development.

Le Sueur worked on a feasibility study…

Work to improve local connectivity began in 2017, when the county helped secure a $50,000 from the Blandin Foundation to do a feasibility study and look for solutions. At the same time, in 2018 the county put out a broadband survey to get a handle on where service was and wasn’t (for reasons we’ll reiterate until we’re blue in the face or it’s fixed), illustrated in the map to the left where red areas of the county are unserved, purple areas underserved with connections between 25/3 Mbps and 100/20 Mbps, and green areas served by wireline broadband of at least 100/20 Mbps. By 2019 these preliminary endeavors were done, but the county — realizing that tackling the entirety of the $14 million project consisting of 800 miles of fiber in one attempt was unrealistic — approached expanding broadband in a targeted and incremental fashion instead.

That led to a successful MN Border to Border broadband grant…

The first move was to use the feasibility study as the basis for issuing an RFP to partner with local ISPs to apply for a Border to Border Broadband grant operated under the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) program, which in 2019 led to a successful partnership with a local telephone company for a project covering 225-250 homes using 100 miles of fiber in Derrynane (pop. 525) and Lanesburg (pop. 2,100) Townships on the northern end of the county, along with a handful of homes in nearby Montgomery and Lexington townships.

Then reaction to the pandemic…

Le Sueur had no more warning than did any other community in forecasting the current pandemic, but when it hit the local broadband task force kicked into high gear. Three projects were realized to bring better connectivity to the region.

  • The first of these is a partnership with ISP MetroNet using CARES Act funds for a fiber network expansion which has connected about 420 homes (including 59 completely unserved) using 49 miles of fiber in Waterville, Kilkenny, Montgomery, Cordova, Sharon, Lexington, and Kasota.

  • The second project is a partnership with NetWave Broadband to add wireless hardware to seven towers throughout the county in Cleveland, Cordova Township, Kasota Township, Le Center, Montgomery, Tyrone Township, and Waterbill with a rough range of seven to ten miles each to bring service up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds out to the remaining 80% of the unconnected.

  • Third and finally, the county has installed free public Wi-Fi access to seven areas around the county, including boat landings, community parks, and campgrounds.

Blandin gets a nod…

You can see the gains made in te last two years in the map to the left, where red areas (unserved) turned purple and purple areas (underserved at <100/20 Mbps) turned green. Le Sueur is a Blandin Broadband Community for 2020-2021, and the county attributes its success over the last three years to the energy brought by local residents and county officials. It seems from the outside that part of their success, also, has been in finding and forging relationships with local and regional ISPs to the benefit of both residents and those companies.

EVENT Jan 21: Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity: Share a success story

Just letting folks know that this session has moved to Jan 21, to not conflict with the inauguration on Jan 20. We have more than 30 people signed up. Please join us!

Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 21: Share a success story

Pleasure join us for the inaugural Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 21 from noon to 1pm. It’s an opportunity to talk turkey with colleagues and cohorts around Minnesota and beyond! Normally they will be on a specific (but loose) topic but to get the ball rolling, I wanted to invite planner and folks from the front lines to share their best stories of success. Please come and brag!

It will give us some good ideas to replicate. It will give us stories to share with legislators. Most of all, it will help set the stage of success for 2021!

(Register now – for the first, all or several of the upcoming sessions.)

EVENT: Jan 14 (6 pm): Lack of Broadband in Suburban and Rural Areas: A Community Conversation

An invitation to a NineNorth event…

January 14, 2021, 6 p.m.
Lack of Broadband in Suburban and Rural Areas: A Community Conversation

In March of 2020, many of us migrated into our homes, turned on our laptop and began working remotely. Schooling migrated online, business meetings online, our social lives online. What about people who don’t have access to internet, specifically broadband access? How has the pandemic effected their ability to work and connect?  What can our communities and agencies do to include our distant neighbors into the social circles of an online community?
This program will be speaking to a panel of policy and broadband professional to provide us insight to broadband build outs in rural areas, or lack of, and why.

TO ATTEND THIS FREE ZOOM WEBINAR, REGISTER HERE:   NINENORTH COMPASS

PANELISTS

ANNA BOROFF – Executive Director, Minnesota Cable Communications Association

BERNADINE JOSELYN – Director of Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation

NATHAN ZACHARIAS – President, Zacharias Government Relations

DANA HEALY – Moderator  (Executive Director, NineNorth)

EVENTS Jan 13 & 21 : Blandin Broadband “Lunch Bunch” online discussion sessions

An invitation from the Blandin Broadband Team…

The Blandin Community Broadband Program announces a new virtual series for 2021 – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch. Sessions will take place the second and third Wednesdays of the month from noon-1:00 pm.

Sessions will alternate between Broadband Infrastructure (2nd Weds) and Digital Use and Equity (3rd Weds). The idea is to get colleagues in a shared space, introduce a topic, and talk. We learned during the 2020 virtual broadband conference that people really enjoy the opportunity to talk to one another, and we often found that the wisdom is often in the room – even in a Zoom room. Topics will be announced monthly and may include some experts to get the ball rolling.

Here’s what we have for January:

January 13 – Broadband Infrastructure: Everything You Want to Discuss about RDOF

The FCC’s Rural Development Opportunity Fund is a game changer for rural broadband development. Are the pending results of the reverse auction a win, loss or is the game still in play. Come bring your questions, share what you know  and tell the group how the RDOF auction is changing your local broadband strategies.

(Register here – for the first, all, or several of the upcoming Infrastructure sessions.)

January 21 – Digital Use and Equity: Share a success story

Note – this session was originally scheduled for January 20, which is also Inauguration Day. We decided to reschedule to Thursday.

The inaugural Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity is an opportunity to talk turkey with colleagues and cohorts around Minnesota and beyond! Normally there will be a specific (but loose) topic but to get the ball rolling – but for January, planners invite folks from the front lines to share their best stories of success. Please come and brag!

It will give us some good ideas to replicate. It will give us stories to share with legislators. Most of all, it will help set the stage of success for 2021!

(Register here – for the first, all, or several of the upcoming Digital Use & Equity sessions.)

We’re planning on holding Lunch Bunch sessions through June – at least! The monthly topics will be shared on the Blandin on Broadband blog, and in our monthly Broadband e-Newsletter. Links are also available on the Webinars page on our website.

Questions? Contact Mary Magnuson at memagnuson@blandinfoundation.org.