East Central MN Regional Broadband Conference: video and notes

Earlier this week broadband and community leaders from East Central MN met to talk about broadband. The event hosted by East Central Regional Development Commission in collaboration with regional County Economic Development Directors and the Initiative Foundation. Also supporting this conference is the Blandin Foundation and the MN Office of Broadband Development as part of the annual broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress.

The event was a great conversation from folks around the community. As I’m preparing for the statewide conference next week, and the 87 county broadband profiles, which will post on Monday, I’m going to share my notes differently by sharing the video from ECRDC and my tweets from the day.

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: are you in an RDOF area in limbo? Go ahead and apply for state/fed money – if RDOF comes thru, we can pull those communities out of the project. But if it doesn’t, we can’t add it after the fact. @mndeed

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: if your community is having trouble finding a provider partner, contact us at Office of Broadband Development. https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/… @mndeed

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: Kanabec County ranks last for #mnbroadband. But that is not for want of engagement, innovation, knowledge or will. Different counties have different barriers.

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: when it comes to communitywide Broadband access, it’s often better to be lucky than good. Lucky means having an engaged Broadband provider

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: as a student, it would be nice to do homework when I’m ready, not just when Broadband is up

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: through Accelerate, Blandin empowered us to learn more, make better decisions and act for better Broadband! @bcbroadband

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: Q: anyone still have dialup? A: yup

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: lots of people love remote healthcare. Much better than a 2-hour drive for 20 minutes with doctor. That’s a boon in summer and MN winter!

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: bad Broadband leads to hard choices. Do I stat at work and get my work done with Broadband? Or come home, have dinner with kids and sit in library parking lot after kid bedtime?

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: as we move forward with remote video for school and health care- we need better Broadband!! No more broken connections!

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: to keep employees communicating, happy and connected during the shut down, we did [zoom] happy hours

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: we had two weeks to move colleges classes online and graduate folks. Many teachers and students lacked adequate Broadband and/or a device #mnbroadband

Overheard in @BlandinFoundmeeting: remote healthcare relied on connectivity to homes of doctors and patients. We still do 1200 video visits a day

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: before pandemic our students thought GB ht Broadband was just mom’s phone … pivoting to schoolwork online was a tech and cultural shift

Overheard in @BlandinFound meeting: during the pandemic we focused on services we could provide remotely and that kept people in tribal community safe – esp elders who also needed company

Overheard in  @BlandinFound meeting: before the pandemic, we mostly went to the office, we dabbled in remote communication with partners and clients … but that all changed overnight

eNews: MN Monthly Recap Oct 2021: upcoming Broadband Conference

Save the Date (Oct 12-14)! Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress
The Blandin Foundation is looking forward to the virtual fall broadband conference of Oct 12-14. The draft agenda is available, sessions include a mix of inspirational presentations, and report-outs from the regional broadband gatherings that preceded the conference. You can help us by answering these three questions. Notes and videos of the regional gatherings are available:

MN Broadband Task Force Sep Meeting
The MN Broadband Task Force hears from folks who work to help families and children get and use the technology they need – especially in these times of distance and hybrid learning. They also heard from folks involved with Blandin Foundation Accelerate!, a program that supported and recharged some of the least served communities in Minnesota.

2021 MN Broadband County Ranking
The 2021 MN County broadband maps are up on the Office of Broadband Development websites, showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up and 25/3.

State Policy Issues

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

COVID/COVID-Funding News

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Baudette
New FirstNet Cell Site Launches Near Baudette to Support First Responders in Northern Minnesota

Chisago, Otter Tail and Le Sueur Counties
Catch up with Blandin Broadband Communities: Chisago, Otter Tail and Le Sueur Counties

Fillmore County
New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in Fillmore County to Support First Responders in Southeastern Minnesota

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County commits $330,000 ARP funding to broadband in Prinsburg

Otter Tail County
Otter Tail County welcomes broadband help with Lead Fellow Carter Grupp

Wabasha County
Wabasha County to invest $1 million American Rescue Plan funds on broadband

Webster, Welch, New Ulm and Hutchinson
Nuvera hosting fiber launches in Webster, Welch, New Ulm and Hutchinson (Brown, Goodhue, Rice and McLeod Counties)

Wright County
Wright County reveals Broadband Survey results: 86 percent want better broadband

Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

The availability of locally controlled federal funds and the opportunity for competitive state and federal funding has motivated multiple townships, cities and counties to move broadband funding up the priority list.  It’s kind of like a kid in a candy store after his after receiving cash gifts.  This kid is faced with so many choices – what kind of candy, how much candy, favorite candy only or mix-it-up?  How can/do they want to share their candy with others?  If not candy, what else could they buy?  One big difference…most kids have some good knowledge about candy and know exactly what they want to do and I expect that many elected officials would not have the same confidence in their decision making.

For those communities wanting to improve their confidence in their broadband decisions and strategies, I recommend that they participate in Blandin’s Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! Program.  Over 14 weeks, community teams of at least eight members meet weekly and  learn about broadband technologies, review their current situation, interview current and prospective ISP partners, set policies and priorities and create plans and partnerships .

Learn more at broadband.blandinfoundation.org and click on the Accelerate panel.  Or call me at 651-491-2551 or email to bill@communitytechnologyadvisors.com .

NW Regional Broadband Gathering Notes & Video

A couple dozen folks met last week to talk about broadband in Northwest Minnesota.

The session was half presentation and half discussion. We could hear the frustration of folks who needed better service. It made work and school more difficult. As someone pointed out, patchy broadband access determined business failures and successes, especially among resorts and other hospitality-related businesses.

Access wasn’t the only issue. Affordability was an issue and making sure that folks have the skills to use it. Growing digital skills with people looking for jobs in and out of the tribal community is essential to creating an even playing field.

Agenda:

Broadband and COVID-19 Presentation

Diane Wells, Office of Broadband Development, DEED

 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is broadband important to you/your organization?
  2. What are some best practices for broadband adoption in use in your organization/industry?
  3. What work are you involved within our region to advance broadband access, adoption, affordability, and use?

Next Steps and Closing – Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation

  1. Annual Broadband Conference
  2. Announcements about an opportunity

Catch up with Blandin Broadband Communities: Chisago, Otter Tail and Le Sueur Counties

The Blandin Foundation strives to check in with the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) members to see what’s happening with broadband on the ground. It’s a fun glimpse of broadband projects.

A big part of the conversation is funding and trying to figure out what funds can go to broadband, especially with the deluge of COVID-recovery-related funds. As someone noted, it’s been nice to see people who weren’t interested in broadband pre-2020 era. Otherwise this is just a nice survey of projects and things that are going well.

EVENT Sep 22: Lunch Bunch: bring a need, tool, topic or advice

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.

This Wednesday, September 22, the Digital Inclusion and Use folks will be meeting with a fairly free-form structure. I’m just asking folks to share a need, tool, topic or advice. Often it seems that happens anyways but I wanted to really give folks time to connect. We start at noon – hope to see you there!  Register here.

eNews: MN Monthly Recap Sep 2021: funding, definitions and updates

Virtual Conference! Oct 12-14
Registration is open for our annual broadband conference! We hope you can join us. The agenda will be released later this month.

Pre-Conference Regional Events
There will be a series of regional events happening leading up to and in conjunction with the Fall Broadband Conference on Oct 12-14. Some events are still being planned; here’s the information:

 

Federal Changes maybe be long lasting
In redefining the speed goals for funding, the US Senate may have effectively boosted broadband speeds to 100/20. But the timing is good as Studies show the need for upload speeds increased during pandemic – and it’s likely to continue. Also access to broadband is credited for drawing in new residents to help boost population.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

COVID/COVID-Funding News

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
MLEC is expanding FTTH in Aitkin County (MN)

Appleton, Benson, Madison and Redwood County
Appleton, Benson, Madison and Redwood County get grants from MN DEED

Duluth
Essentia Health in Duluth gets nearly $1 million from FCC for telehealth
Duluth City Council asks MN Congressional Delegation to support infrastructure

Greenwood Township
Greenwood Township looks at local, state and federal options for broadband funding

Grand Rapids
Paul Bunyan Communications Opens Apple Service Center in Grand Rapids

Kabetogama State Forest
New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in the Kabetogama State Forest to Support First Responders in Northern MN

Mahnomen County
Enbridge gives broadband grant to Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools (Mahomen County)

Park Rapids
DLF Chair talks about broadband and other topics in Park Rapids (Hubbard County)

Redwood County
Redwood County gets Lead for Minnesota Fellow to work on broadband

Walnut Grove and Redwood and Pine Counties
A look at broadband needs in rural MN: Walnut Grove, Redwood County and Pine County

Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Keeping up with broadband news and information can be a challenge.  Emerging state and federal funding programs, new technologies, and regulatory decisions are all in the news mix.  How can community leaders keep up?

I have some trusted sources; I do consulting work for two of them.  Here is a summary of what I read:

  • Blandin on Broadband (of course!) Subscribe at www.blandinonbroadband.org.  A great summary of everything Minnesota broadband.  This blog is a great resource for daily news and also a great searchable archive for policy and strategy ideas.
  • Pots and Pans by CCG.  Subscribe at https://potsandpansbyccg.com.  Doug Dawson, one of my favorite broadband consultants,  provides daily, thoughtful essays on technology, telecom industry news, community broadband and consumer trends.  This is a must-read for all community broadband advocates.
  • Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Daily Digest.  Subscribe at https://www.benton.org/headlines.  I work on the Benton team for the Illinois Connected Communities Program.  Benton provides a wide ranging broadband policy news digest on both broadband infrastructure and digital equity issues.  They produce their own, high quality original research and spread the word on other policy papers and news.
  • Telecompetitor.  https://www.telecompetitor.com.  This newsletter is tech and industry news heavy and has a bounty of advertising links.
  • One final source that I look to is the NTCA.  Here is a link to CEO Shirley Bloomfield’s blog – https://www.ntca.org/ruraliscool/newsroom/ceo-blog

This should keep everyone busy and informed.  If you have other sources that you would like to share, let us know!

EVENTS: Sept Lunch Bunch: Infrastructure (Sep 8) & Digital Use (Sep 22)

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.

  • Join us on Sep 8 for our lunch bunch update on Infrastructure – Bill Coleman will lead a discussion on community broadband planning and development in an era of sophisticated mapping, complex program rules and free money.  Join us with your questions and share your expertise and best thinking.  Let’s hear what people are thinking and doing.  Bring your questions and maybe we will find some answers!  We might discover some innovative ways to ensure that we end up with the networks that we want and need. Register here 
  • Join us Sep 22 for our lunch bunch on Digital Use and Equity. More details closer to the date. Register here.

Redwood County gets Lead for Minnesota Fellow to work on broadband

Redwood Falls Gazette reports

Lead For America, Land O’Lakes, Inc., the Mayo Clinic, Midwest Dairy and Scoular recently announced the placement of six American Connection Corps (ACC) Fellows in Minnesota, part of a group of 50 individuals placed in communities across the country. These Fellows will work to increase broadband access and digital literacy as well as contribute to critical community development initiatives in communities across Minnesota. Lead for Minnesota Fellow Patrick Garry was chosen for placement in Redwood County to work with the county EDA on broadband access throughout the county.

Garry arrived in Redwood Falls on Aug. 9 to begin his work as Redwood County EDA Broadband Coordinator. He is not a county employee, rather his position is a contract for service, with Redwood County Economic Development Coordinator Briana Mumme as his host.

Blandin plays a role…

The Fellow position in Redwood County is also funded through the Lead for America program, Americorps, the Blandin Foundation and the Southwest Initiative Foundation.

He’s hitting the ground running…

Garry said his first initiative is a “listening tour” of the county’s communities, businesses, farmers, healthcare providers, schools and any residents interested in access to broadband, to learn more about the needs and impact in the area.

Mumme and Garry agreed that recent federal legislation to fund broadband access throughout the United States will be a valuable tool for the goals of their program. They will be working with the Redwood area internet providers to learn their vision and goals for how best to fill the gaps in broadband access.

“What motivates our group is a shared vision for what rural America can be,” said Garry. “We hope to curate collaborative environments that foster innovation and build upon our past. We realize we can only complete this goal with community support and advocacy.”

Lunch Bunch conversation: What is basic broadband and should we be aiming for it? (Video from session)

Thanks to everyone who joined the Lunch Bunch today, especially Micah Beck, Associate Professor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville on universal basic broadband. We had all of the right people in the room, some serious engineers, policy wonks, academics and folks on the frontline of unserved communities. It was nice to spend time thinking about thoughtful ways to build networks to everyone.

Micah recognizes that broadband is expensive – especially when we are talking about high speed symmetrical service to all corners of the state, country or world. He has said that, “the Internet was never designed for “universal service” reaching every mobile device in the world at a personally affordable cost. Instead he proposes a type of broadband where information and transactions don’t happen necessarily in real time but where there’s a modern distributed storage & processing techniques to overcome delays due to distance, interruption, disaster, oversubscription. This would be a service that could support all Internet services other than “synchronous telepresence”.

We talked about the costs, local ownership, the temporal windfall of investment that’s currently happening (or about to happen). We also talked about universal broadband as a redundant tool for served and unserved areas. It came back to a familiar balance – do we want high quality or ubiquitous access? Would basic broadband be an opportunity for local communities to focus on high quality last mile networks?

EVENT: Aug 25 Lunch Bunch conversation: What is basic broadband and should we be aiming for it?

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.

On August 25, I propose a conversation with Micah Beck, Associate Professor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville on basic broadband. I think it will be an interesting discussion I hope you will join with all of your experience trying to get usable broadband for your community or in your house.

Micah recognizes that broadband is expensive – especially when we are talking about high speed symmetrical service to all corners of the state, country or world. He has said that, “the Internet was never designed for “universal service” reaching every mobile device in the world at a personally affordable cost. Instead he proposes a type of broadband where information and transactions don’t happen necessarily in real time but where there’s a modern distributed storage & processing techniques to overcome delays due to distance, interruption, disaster, oversubscription. This would be a service that could support all Internet services other than “synchronous telepresence”.

Micah has a few articles that might help make his case. First is a school girl in Northern India who was sent home during the pandemic. She didn’t have access to broadband. (This may sound familiar.) A delayed internet access might have better served her than nothing. The other article aligns – Inclusive Broadband Connectivity Is Within Our Reach with that ethos.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea but my high schooler (in St Paul) was able to access broadband during the pandemic. And her sisters are coming home from Winnipeg to finish their degrees remotely this semester. We’d love to have some folks who were left in the cold or using paper packets or parking outside the McDonald’s to get their own work done chime in on the topic.

Register here.

EVENT Sep 22: Northeast Minnesota Regional Broadband Summit

Another invitation to a regional broadband meeting, which is being held as a precursor to the MN Broadband Conference in October…

The Blandin Foundation, Dept. of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, Northland Foundation, and Northspan are set to co-host a virtual summit highlighting the challenges and opportunities related to broadband.

The summit, scheduled for Wednesday, September 22nd will be held on Zoom from 9:00-11:00 AM. It is free for all attendees, and participants will learn how other communities across the region are responding to this challenge and how an innovative, connected economy can create a dynamic future.

REGISTER HERE

The summit includes information about:

  • Community broadband and innovative economy projects
  • Successful regional infrastructure projects
  • Arrowhead Intelligent Region grant recipients and their plans

Agenda includes:

  • Welcome & Introductions
  • State of Minnesota Office of Broadband Development
  • Intelligent Communities Framework and Community Projects and Project Panel Speed Round
  • Providers and Communities on Successful and Planned Infrastructure Projects
  • Arrowhead Intelligent Region Grant Recipients

Attendees can register for the Northeast Regional Broadband Summit HERE.

The regional summit is a part of Blandin’s annual statewide broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress. This year’s statewide conference is virtual and will take place October 12-14. Visit the conference webpage for more information.

EVENT Sep 16: South Central & Southeast Regional Broadband Conference

An invitation to a regional broadband meeting, which is being held as a precursor to the MN Broadband Conference in October…

South Central & Southeast Regional Broadband Conference is being hosted by Region Nine Development CommissionSouthern Minnesota Initiative FoundationSE MN TogetherSoutheastern Minnesota League of Municipalitieswith support from Blandin Foundation and the MN Office of Broadband Development as part of the annual broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress. This year’s statewide conference is virtual, and will take place October 12-14, with the 12th being dedicated to regional updates. You’re invited! Visit the conference webpage for more information.

Join us Thursday, September 16, for a regional broadband conference at the Owatonna Arts Center. This will be a hybrid conference allowing for in-person and virtual attendance. Hosts are actively monitoring the COVID-19 infectious rates and will notify attendees if a virtual only format is necessary. See the draft agenda .

As counties and statewide Regional Development Commissions (RDCs) consider how to use American Recovery Act funds for broadband investments, now is a good time to ask:

  • Who is being served?
  • Who is being left behind?
  • What are our opportunities to collaborate or stretch dollars?
  • How will we maximize these investments to spur equitable economic recovery?
  • What action steps are needed at the local level to support successful implementation?

Feedback gathered during the conference will be compiled with other RDC findings and rolled up to the Blandin Foundation’s statewide conference (virtual), and taking place October 12-14, with the 12th being dedicated to regional updates. You’re invited! Visit the conference webpage for more information.

Be Prepared for Opportunity!

Blandin Foundation is seeking communities/counties to participate in their Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! program beginning in September.  Blandin decided to launch a 2nd cohort of communities due to the enthusiastic response from our first cohort that completed the program in June.  We hope to have a group of 3 – 5 communities participating as a cohort and would like to start in late September as soon as we have our community cohort on board.

In essence, we ask that each community form a steering team with at least 8 people.  In our first cohort, teams ranged from 8 – 16 members that committed to participating in weekly meetings, each Friday morning from 9 – 11 am.  We do not keep attendance and ask only that people make a good faith commitment.

Each week has a theme.    From 9-10, all of the communities meet together to: 1) learn from experts; 2) hear from Blandin members; 3) learn from each other.  The second hour is devoted to each community’s steering team meeting where the teams plan their upcoming work.  We also ask that members watch an archived video webinar some time during the week on that week’s topic.

Through the process, each community will conduct a community survey using a standardized survey.  MN Extension will assist on data reporting.  In our last cohort, communities combined online and paper surveys.  Local communities are responsible for doing any data entry with the paper surveys and for any mailing or publicity costs.  In the first cohort, we used the statewide speed test web site to gather that data.  I am uncertain as to the availability of that site for our purposes.

Provider interviews are also a part of the process.  Several community-friendly providers participated on community teams in the first cohort.

We spend quite a bit of time on mapping, public private partnerships, public finance, etc.

The last two weeks of the program are devoted to the creation of a community broadband plan where Blandin staff works with each community to finalize their plan and a presentation that they can bring back to local elected officials, community groups and members, and broadband providers.

The application process is quite easy and informal.  The list of steering team members is the key element.

If you would like to know more, contact Bill Coleman at 651-491-2551 or bill@communitytechnologyadvisors.com.  He would be happy to do a quick webinar to ensure there is clear understanding of the process.

EVENT Sep 23: Enhancing Our Regional Broadband

From the Greater St Cloud Development Corporation

Enhancing Our Regional Broadband

Join the Initiative Foundation on Thursday, Sept. 23, for a Region 7W broadband conference at the St. Cloud State University Welcome Center. There is also an option to attend virtually.

As counties and statewide Regional Development Commissions (RDCs) consider how to use American Recovery Act funds for broadband investments, now is a good time to ask:

  • Who is being served?
  • Who is being left behind?
  • What are our opportunities to collaborate or stretch dollars?
  • How will we maximize these investments to spur equitable economic recovery?
  • What action steps are needed at the local level to support successful implementation?

Feedback gathered during the conference will be compiled with other RDC findings and rolled up to the Blandin Foundation for presentation at its Oct. 12-14 annual broadband conference.

“We don’t want to get together and simply admire the problem,” said Don Hickman, vice president for community and workforce development at the Initiative Foundation. “We want to identify the challenges, look for opportunities to work together and take action.”

OPPORTUNITY: Submit Your Video for Digital Inclusion Week 2021!

I have a double ask here for folks in Minnesota. First – it would be amazing to see a lot of Minnesota folks submit items to NDIA for Digital Inclusion Week. If you do submit, please consider sharing it with Blandin Foundation too and we’ll work to find a way to fit it into the Fall Conference

Digital Inclusion Week 2021 (Oct 4-8) is getting closer and we’re ready to feature YOU in our new video. See instructions below and submit by August 24.

  1. Prepare to shoot your video or take a selfie
  • Find a friend to help record
  • Hold your phone in landscape mode
  • Don’t stand too far from the camera because it will affect the sound quality (6 feet or closer)
  • Think about your background — Is there somewhere that represents your city, town, or organization? We’d love to see your setting!
  • Print and hold up a sign and take a selfie OR a video: Create a 10-15 second video
  1. Use the prompts to shoot your video – Introduce yourself and say one of the phrases below or make your own 10-15 second video

Digital empowerment means ______.

Digital empowerment means internet for all

Digital empowerment means access to tech training

Digital empowerments means access to devices

Digital empowerment is inclusive

We need digital equity NOW

I’m with ______ and we’re creating pathways to digital empowerment.

  1. Share the video (or selfie) with me by Aug. 24 – drop it in our Google Drive folder here and we’ll include it in our official Digital Inclusion Week 2021 video and share and tag you/your org on social media

Please name the file with your org name so we can tag you!