Moose Lake: All broadband is not created equal

Moose Lake was one of Blandin Foundation’s 29 Minnesota Get Broadband communities, which means they received financial support and expertise from the Blandin Foundation to help promote broadband locally. Each Get Broadband project had a unique vision and goal to address local strengths and challenges.

Moose Lake’s goals were twofold. They wanted to bring broadband to local businesses, residents and government. (The local school, library, hospital and state facilities already had it.) The also had a strong focus on public safety – in part I’m sure because of MCF-Willow River/Moose Lake, the Level 3 Correctional Facility in town. In 2009, local broadband leader, Bill Carlson provided Blandin on Broadband with a thorough update on broadband progress in Moose Lake. In short the local utilities provider took on the job of providing broadband. They set up wireless access to area businesss and began providing access to community residents. Here’s a snippet of Bill’s report

The current demand on the capacity and speed of the community network has prompted the Water & Light Commission to build a fiber optic backbone which extends the length of the city. Public Safety has always been a priority of the community and this added bandwidth will allow the monitoring of the electrical distribution system, the back-up electrical generators, the community surveillance cameras and emergency management and notification communications system. Community server/software and GIS mapping projects are also in the development stages. The fiber optic cable also passes by an area that is slated for economic development.

I had an opportunity to speak with Bill about the latest news in Moose Lake last week. Bill is frustrated because while they have broadband, it seems that as soon as they get close to achieving or goals, the emerging technologies forces them to redirect our focus. There are plans to move their network forward. Apparently the service to residents and local businesses is thriving – but upgrades aren’t necessarily improving public safety. They are looking at Video over IP Community Access/Public Safety (CAPS) Network utilizing digital security cameras to connect key community critical facilities and for local broadcast of community events. (You can get more details on the plans in the PPT below or the script from a recent City Council meeting.)

Recently it seems like I’ve been able to post so many positive stories of groundbreaking and construction on ARRA funded projects. And the ARRA funds (and maps) have stimulated discussion in other towns. But I think it’s instructive to look at what’s happening in Moose Lake.

They are a community that has been paying attention to broadband for years. They have a local broadband champion – although I suspect after 30 years he may be thinking about retiring at some point. So they are a town in a precarious position. And I think it’s one concrete example where the tiered definition of broadband raised by the National Broadband Plan (At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second. And 4 Mbps download speed for the rest.) will be a serious disadvantage to rural communities.

The major employers in town are tax exempt institutions. It means unemployment is generally low – but Bill mentioned that it has been difficult to recruit qualified employees who have spouses would also want to work. Improved broadband might help rectify that problem. One possible solution is to develop a program that would make broadband available for telework and home type businesses. It would also allow spouses to maintain cultural and family connections with their hometowns. Also the presence of many commuters working in the community might draw more interest in terms of improving local public safety. The question is whether the town’s slow progress will be enough to support their future. And are there other towns in similar positions.

MN Broadband Story of Success: Brouwer Berries

Often I am asked for local broadband adoption stories. I thought I’d start to track some here with (hopefully) weekly articles or videos. Today, I start with Brouwer Berries in Raymond, Minnesota. I heard about them through Jean Spaulding with the Kandiyohi County & Willmar Economic Development Commission. I feel like I should add a disclaimer like ‘results may vary’. Today’s example is of someone (Sarah Brouwer) who used technology to tell her story – but she has a great story, and as you’ll see below, a great voice. I’ve pieced together parts of our e-mail conversation for you.

Brouwer Berries: You-pick and pre-picked strawberries

How have you used technology?

I’ve had a web-site for our little hobby farm for 3 years, and people can sign up for my e-mail alerts. I actually had the web-site created after attending web-site workshops in Willmar sponsored by the Blandin Foundation, and half the site was paid for by a Blandin grant. The web-site is great as a way for people to get directions or info about our farm. People prefer looking the information up to telephoning us. The e-mail alerts are great. People really appreciate hearing about the field conditions, and optimum picking times. I tend to be hesitant about sending out too many e-mails, though, because I don’t want to overwhelm people. This year, however, we started a Facebook Fan page.

How is Facebook working for you?

Unbelievable-that’s all I can say about Facebook! I detest Facebook personally, and am leery of posting anything on my own status since I don’t like the way a comment can be read by so many people, but at an MFVGA (Minnesota Fruits and Vegetable Grower’s Ass’n) convention last January every single marketing workshop I went to said “Your business has to have a Facebook page”. So, I did.

The results were incredible. I’d post that I’d be in a certain town at the side of the road at 3:00 later that day, and the first TEN of my customers would tell me they read it on Facebook. One lady even took me to the side and said “I flew in from Chicago today, and noticed on my laptop that you’d be here, so I haven’t even gone home yet but I’m stopping for your berries, and thank-you for letting me know!”

Other people told me “Sure, post pictures of us on your Page — anything to help your business”.

The crazy part was all the people thanking me. I kid you not– they were thanking me for what I considered advertisement! They had signed up to be notified, and they were happy to have my posts! These are people of all ages — in fact, every week Facebook sends me an “insights” page that breaks down my fans by age and gender. It is so simple, and I haven’t bothered posting anything since the end of the strawberry harvest, but you can bet that next spring I’ll start raving about the coming crop in order to gain more “likes” to my site.

How has having broadband helped?

I access the internet at home on a traditional (but new) computer — I’m a home schooling mom. We got broadband less than a year ago, which really facilitated the Facebook and website management. Before we had it, I didn’t change my strawberry website home page more than once or twice a strawberry season, and I only checked my personal Facebook page once a month because it took so long for pictures to download.

This past strawberry season, with broadband, I was able to update my strawberry website and Facebook nearly daily without a huge time commitment. This was extremely helpful, because it was a very wet spring, which adversely affected our crop. Many people were checking our website and Facebook status to see how wet the field was, and if there were berries available to pick when they had time to come. With all the standing water in our fields, I’m certain that an even larger portion of our crop would have spoiled without the use of technology to draw pickers and purchasers to our field in between rainstorms.

If you have or know if a broadband story of success to share, please send it my way. I will also archive the stories on the Blandin Applications in Action site.

Foley school promotes broadband

benton_schoolThanks to Nancy Hoffman, the Benton County Economic Development Director for the heads up on a great program in the local school. The Benton Broadband committee felt in order to get broadband to areas that do not have it, they should create demand. The Foley Superintendent and the Benton Telephone Cooperative decided to offer families a rebate if they would use their services. Below is a excerpt from the letter that went out to students’ families:

Learning has never stopped at the schoolhouse door at 3 pm and that is truer now than ever before with the on-line resources for your children and family available at your fingertips through Foley’s web page at http://www.foley.k12.mn.us.

But with dial up, you can be drumming your fingers waiting for these resources to appear on your computer screen. That is why Benton Cooperative Telephone has teamed up with Foley Schools to help your family enter the on-line world of broadband access. Benton Cooperative Telephone will rebate you up to $25 if you sign up for broadband access and your student(s) participate in an activity at Foley Public Schools including our Food Service Program. To claim the rebate, submit the coupon on page 8 with your receipt from Foley Public Schools which indicates you have paid an activity or food service fee.

I love this idea. It will be interesting to see how successful the plan is – but I know in our house a good way to effect change is with a letter from the school. Also, it’s a plan that would be easy to replicate in other areas – in case there are readers out there who are interested in boosting broadband demand in their areas.

Minnesota Broadband Videos

Long before Blandin Foundation had a blog, we had a video contest for Get Broadband communities. To make a medium story short – several rural communities in Minnesota got digital video cameras; Blandin got great videos that highlighted how each community was promoting or using broadband.

Some were pretty specific to the project; some are more general broadband stories. I thought I’d share a few:

Sleepy Eye
Tells the story of a high school student who is able to attend classes online and take care of her brother with muscular dystrophy and the owner of a small business

Continue reading

Cambridge looking at Wifi

According to Isanti County News, Cambridge City Council recently heard from Genesis Wireless about a city-wide wireless broadband network and municipal WiFi Hotspots. Genesis would provide broadband for the city and remote locations and three hotspots in strategic areas in exchange for antenna space.

The council will hear more at a later meeting.

Red Wing approves HBC plan

Hiawatha Broadband Communication (HBC) has been talking to various communtiies about their plan to pursue stilumus funding to expand fiber to those communities with help from federal funds. Last night they spoke with the Red Wing city council who approved a resolution (7-0) to support HBC when it applies to the federal agencies that will distribute stimulus dollars allocated for fiber-optic projects.

Red Wing is excited at the prospect of having fiber – especially as a tool to encourage businesses to move to the area.

Lake City also approved the plan. HBC also plans to talk to Cannon Falls.

Moose Lake Community Broadband Network

I asked some of the graduated Broadband Get Broadband communities for broadband success stories. Bill Carlson was good enough to send me an update and history of broadband in Moose Lake

In the year 2000, Moose Lake was experiencing a local digital divide. There was high-speed broadband connectivity in the public library, the school, the hospital and in the Minnesota state facilities, but only dial-up was available to the local government and the local residents. The community made a concerted effort to explore the option of building a locally owned Community Broadband Network, which would allow the flexibility of providing Internet services tailored to the changing needs of Moose Lake. A resolution was passed by the Moose Lake City Council to allow the Moose Lake Water & Light Commission to enter into the broadband business. They were directed to use the same model that was so successful with the electrical utility – provide the City of Moose Lake with an affordable and reliable service.

A T1 line with Internet service was brought into the City Hall and a fiber optic line was installed by the linemen to connect the city hall with the water& light building. The city administration and utilities business office now had high-speed broadband services. A small fiber loop was constructed at the same time to bring high-speed broadband services to the downtown business. The local businesses that required large data transfer joined the network but the high installation costs prohibited the small business to join. The partnership between the public and private sectors made the monthly T1 charges affordable.

The city realized that a fixed wireless system was the best option to meet the needs of the rest of the community. The completion of this portion of the network allowed all the local government buildings, including the Emergency Response Center to have broadband Internet connections. The rates and the installs costs were affordable to small businesses. Before a marketing plan and customer services could be implemented, Mediacom begin offering Internet services to their customers and Quest was offering DSL services to the community.

The only hope for the community broadband network was to find a niche service that only they could provide. The one possibility was to add Wi-Fi radios to the city campground and the highway corridor which transverse the community. The network was part of a “Linking-Up North” project that was to promote Moose Lake as a place for travelers to stop and check their e-mails and hopefully do some shopping. The Wi-Fi portion was designed to allow for 15 minutes of free use and username/password for extended use. Many of the users felt they were entitled to extended free service, so it became somewhat of a public relations nightmare. Free extended service is currently offered to .patrons of the public library, a local coffee shop and guests at the motels. No plans are in the works to expand the Wi-Fi system at this time.

The areas surrounding the City of Moose Lake begin showing the most interest in signing up for broadband services. Tower and install agreements have been made with Moose Lake Township, Minnesota State Park and the Mercy Hospital and Health Care Center to bring public broadband services to their locations.

The current demand on the capacity and speed of the community network has prompted the Water & Light Commission to build a fiber optic backbone which extends the length of the city. Public Safety has always been a priority of the community and this added bandwidth will allow the monitoring of the electrical distribution system, the back-up electrical generators, the community surveillance cameras and emergency management and notification communications system. Community server/software and GIS mapping projects are also in the development stages. The fiber optic cable also passes by an area that is slated for economic development.

The neighboring communities of Barnum, Kettle River, Sturgeon Lake and Willow River have contracted on a trial basis with the Water & Light Commission to receive wireless broadband services. The links are currently being made and customers are being hook-up.

The major problem from the beginning continues today, the communities inability to hire a person to provide technical and customer services. The community network has to rely on individual’s willingness to help out with the everyday problems and to outsource contract with companies for technical support. The effort today is focused on seeking funds from the Recovery Act Broadband Initiatives to make the Community Broadband Network sustainable and continue to grow in unserved and underserved areas without becoming a financial burden on the local taxpayers and Water & Light Customers.

March Blandin eNews

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

Minnesota News from the Blandin on Broadband Blog

Minnesota Broadband Coalition
The Minnesota Broadband Coalition is a new ad hoc group of citizens, businesses and organizations that believe that more, bigger, better broadband is needed to ensure Minnesota’s future. Interested parties are welcome to join. http://mnbroadbandcoalition.com

Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force
The Broadband Task Force met twice in February – the first was a special meeting to see preliminary broadband maps of Minnesota created by Connect Minnesota http://tinyurl.com/c9kf64 and their regular monthly meeting, where they heard from city and county representatives about their local broadband needs and some innovative ways they have addressed broadband demand locally. The Task Force also discussed shovel-ready projects for federal stimulus funding; that discussion remains open. http://tinyurl.com/bv97yy

Minnesota Broadband Scenarios
The Minnesota broadband maps unveiled in February have led to discussion on the level of detail provided and the reputation and of those doing the mapping, Connected Nation. To offer an alternative to mapping, Bill Coleman has created a matrix that categorized Minnesota broadband availability into a handful of likely scenarios based on location and incumbent providers. http://tinyurl.com/bv4wvl

Broadband and Stimulus Money
Congress finally approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with $7.2 billion going to broadband. Funding is pegged for un-served and under-served as well as advanced services. http://tinyurl.com/aoskyf

Free Press vs Tech Policy Institute  on Broadband in Minnesota
Last fall, Scott Wallsten spoke to the Minnesota Broadband Task Force indicating that there was no real broadband crisis in the US. Recently S. Derek Turner from Free Press refuted Wallsten’s remarks with a point-counterpoint document. http://tinyurl.com/c26dgh

Dakota County
Dakota Future plans to be one of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities as judged by the Intelligent Community Forum within the next three years. http://tinyurl.com/aqvv9n

Monticello
While legal battles wage on, Monticello is moving forward with both FTTH construction and plans to begin marketing FTTH services. http://tinyurl.com/aj842n

Moose Lake
Moose Lake, a Blandin Get Broadband community, has expanded their wireless network to neighboring communities of Barnum, Kettle River, Sturgeon Lake and Willow river areas. The service is provided by Moose Lake Water and Light Commission. http://tinyurl.com/bgbh65

North St Paul
North St Paul held a referendum to authorize the City to construct a telephone exchange as part of a municipal fiber optic network. The referendum did not pass. http://tinyurl.com/dk8maj

Pine City
Senator Amy Klobuchar visited Pine Technical College to discuss broadband accessibility and how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will jumpstart our economy in the near term while also building the foundation for longer-term prosperity. http://tinyurl.com/b8lswu

Coleman’s Corner

With $7.2 billion in approved funding for broadband, the next step to getting that money to the people who need it is a plan for distribution. Jim Baller has a great summary (noted in the Blandin on Broadband blog http://tinyurl.com/atk5jf).  

Funding will come through the USDA and NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration). It sounds as if USDA will distribute the funds as it usually does, through loans and grants to telecom providers. The NTIA funds are more of a mystery. Prior to 2000, NTIA had a set of robust programs to spread broadband infrastructure and applications. It went into hibernation through the Bush years, but now has $4 billion to distribute.

Hallmarks of NTIA include innovation and collaboration, so if I were seeking funds for my community or region, going it alone would be the wrong approach. Get your area’s technology wish lists from providers, educators and health providers and see where the mutual interests intersect.

Blandin has special funding available for Minnesota’s southwest region (regions 8, 9, 6E and parts of 6W). We would be particularly interested in participating in discussions in that region. Keep us informed about your initiatives; we may be able to highlight some partners or strategies that could strengthen your efforts. Don’t delay as others around the country are working aggressively at project development!

February Blandin eNews

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

Broadband News from around Minnesota

Carver County
The Carver County board approved a fiber optic project linking the county’s cities, schools and libraries, and ultimately businesses and homeowners. http://tinyurl.com/d4lxs2

Duluth
Verizon Wireless launched its high-speed wireless broadband Internet service in northern Minnesota. http://tinyurl.com/apt83p

Grand Rapids
Bill Coleman and Ann Treacy on behalf of the Blandin Foundation have been working with nonprofit executive directors in Grand Rapids to assess shared technology needs and collaborate on solutions. They are also working specifically with arts organizations in Grand Rapids to create a community arts blog, which should be unveiled later this month.

Kandiyohi
The Willmar Economic Development Commission is extending their Blandin-sponsored Get Broadband grant by offering a second ground of grants and more classes to local business working on their web sites. http://tinyurl.com/borafd

Minneapolis
Forbes names Minneapolis number 7 of their top 30 Most Wired Cities. http://tinyurl.com/btfsqn

Monticello
The NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) recently filed an Amicus brief in support of the City of Monticello and their quest for FTTH. http://tinyurl.com/d3r46f

North St Paul
On February 24, North St Paul will hold a special election on an $18.5 million bond to build a fiber-optic network to provide high-speed Internet, telephone and cable services. http://tinyurl.com/c5cure

Olmsted County
Olmsted County supports 140 telecommuters. http://tinyurl.com/d43ehh

St Cloud
A St Cloud man has come up with a better wireless solution based on light, not radio waves. http://tinyurl.com/dbmwrr

Windom
The Windom Schools have benefitted greatly from broadband technology enhanced by funding from the Blandin Foundation’s Light Speed program. http://tinyurl.com/dak23k

(Many stories are gathered from local online newspaper. Unfortunately each newspaper has a different policy in regards to archive news and therefore we cannot guarantee access to all articles cited.)

Coleman’s Corner

As a big Bruce Springsteen fan, last night’s Super Bowl halftime show was a bonus for me. I am now watching the clock so I can go online and purchase tickets for his upcoming St. Paul show. I have seen Springsteen shows many times over the years and through the usual three hour shows, Bruce orchestrates the band and the crowd through a well choreographed outpouring of energy and emotion. Watching him play a 12 minute set was fun, but a bit unreal. When his set was over, I wondered how many attendees would have voted to skip the second half just to have the E Street Band keep playing. Luckily for the NFL, the game turned into a thriller.

In a pre-game interview, Bob Costas asked Bruce why, after all these years of being asked, the band agreed to play at the Super Bowl. Springsteen laughed and said “’Cause I have a record to promote!” The title song of the album is “Working on a Dream.”

Communities pursuing a better future through broadband might well adopt “Working on a Dream” as their theme song. The opening lyrics, “Out here the nights are long, the days are lonely” and later, “I am working on a dream, though sometimes it feels so far away” and finally “My hands are rough from working on a dream” capture the challenge of community transformation whether pursuing a fiber to the home network or stimulating technology adoption by hesitant or budget stretched community organizations. As with many Springsteen songs that speak to challenge, “Working on a Dream” has a hopeful conclusion that is the outcome of hard work and perseverance. So keep up the good work and the benefits of technology transformation will emerge!

Featured Article – Minnesota broadband mapping unveiled

This is a big week for Minnesota broadband for two reasons. First, Connected Nation will be unveiling a preview of their maps this week. Second, the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force is holding a special meeting to look at the mapping and shovel-ready broadband projects around the state.

Over the past few months, Connected Nation (http://tinyurl.com/d92x93) has been working with broadband providers across the state to create a map of broadband availability and speed. They primarily use the information supplied by the providers to create the maps.

To double check the speeds supplied by providers, Connected Nation has created a speed test and they are asking everyone in Minnesota to test and record their speeds by visiting the site.

Unfortunately, one of our local ISPs (ipHouse) found a hiccup in the Speed Test (http://tinyurl.com/c6cs37).  Apparently the test is skewed for any connections other than DSL or cable, it’s limited to 10mpbs connection and the tests are run out of Texas. Connected Nation has been criticized for their strong relationship to providers in the past (http://tinyurl.com/dkqhh7). The speed tests are a way to balance provider-supplied data so I look forward to hearing how this can be rectified and/or how this affects the results.

Also I’m anxious to see the maps. I suspect we’ll see holes up North and I wonder if we’ll see patchy areas closer to the Twin Cities. I’m curious to see how areas where the large businesses can pay top dollar for broadband but homes and small businesses cannot get access are represented on the map.

Even in their preliminary state, I suspect these maps will be put to work immediately to gauge which areas in Minnesota might be most in need of shovel-ready projects. The Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force will be discussing shovel-ready projects and the mapping on February 6, 2009.

There are three ways to add your two cents to the mapping project and the economic stimulus proposals:

  1. Visit the Connected Minnesota site to test and record the speed of your connection. (http://www.connectmn.org/)
  2. Submit a shovel-ready project idea to the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force. (http://www.ultra-high-speed-mn.org/)
  3. Come to view the meeting on February 6, 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/d953zk)

The broadband maps will also be unveiled to Senate on February 5 at 3:00 (http://tinyurl.com/blftea) and the House at 8:30 am on February 6 (http://tinyurl.com/d2kevk).

More web sites going up in Kandiyohi County

Blandin FoundationKandiyohi County was a recipient of Get Broadband funding through Blandin Foundation. The funds were intended to bolster broadband use in the community. As part of the program, small businesses were invited to classes on online marketing and web site development and were eligible for up to $500 in matching grant funds to create or improve their web sites.

Well Becky LaPlant at Blandin passed on some terrific news from Kandiyohi County – the program was so successful that the Willmar Economic Development Commission is offering a second ground of grants and more classes.

It’s great when a grant-funded program is so successful that it carries on even after the original funding is gone. It’s also an indication of the importance of an online presence. Steve Renquist, the EDC executive director was quoted, “The mission of the Economic Development Commission is to be a catalyst for economic growth of the greater Kandiyohi County area. This program supports that mission by offering businesses another tool to grow their business and expand into new markets with their goods and services, thereby increasing their business success.”

You don’t need to have broadband to have a web site. But it is a sign of the times when a web site is so important to a business. It wasn’t that long ago when I was kind of impressed when a small, local business had a web site – now I’m surprised (sometimes annoyed) when a shop doesn’t have some kind of presence.

Senator Klobuchar Broadband Roundtable Notes Dec 29

klobucharHere are notes from the Broadband Roundtable meeting. Here’s the stated purpose of the meeting:

Roundtable participants will discuss the need for rural communities to have greater investment in and access to high speed broadband internet. Attendees will provide real world examples of the challenges rural communities face as well as success stories. Senator Klobuchar will discuss her priorities around “Information Infrastructure” and the Obama administrations emphasis on funding this effort.

Here are the speakers:

Here are my notes… Continue reading

More on Monticello…

Many Minnesotans engaged in promoting broadband as an essential infrastructure for economic vitality have been watching the Monticello community and their progress towards construction of a city-owned fiber optic network for the past two years or more. Regular readers of this blog would have seen many postings about Monticello about its community process, referendum and lawsuits.

This week, a letter from TDS, Monticello’s incumbent telephone company, was printed in the local paper providing their perspective in response to a letter submitted recently by the Monticello mayor.  A small part of this letter refers to the Blandin Foundation’s involvement in Monticello through the Get Broadband grant program and that certainly caught our attention. Monticello did receive funding approval for this program and then subsequently withdrew their application.

Get Broadband was one of the first programs to be launched through the Blandin Broadband Initiative and its purpose was to boost demand for broadband services in rural communities across Minnesota. It was an early consensus of the Blandin Broadband Strategy Board that residents and businesses needed an education about the uses of broadband and that people who saw value in the service would be more willing to subscribe, thus improving the business case for whatever current or prospective providers were in the local marketplace. More than 25 communities actively participated in this program and the results, as measured by an independent evaluation, were very positive.

Blandin Foundation and its Strategy Board insisted that communities receiving these grants include all Internet providers in these market development efforts. Large or small, local or international, wired or wireless – we knew that different providers have certain advantages and disadvantages, whether that is based on technology, network coverage, pricing and/or customer service. In many of our participating communities, providers who were at first hesitant to sit at the same table with their competitors soon found that it was more profitable to compete over a larger pie as the community’s market development efforts paid off. The “meetings after the meeting” and the exchange of business cards hints that they may have also found opportunities to collaborate both within the community and in efforts to link customers across a broader region.

In its broadband principles, Blandin Broadband Strategy Board believes that competition, collaboration, public-private partnerships and a variety of technologies will be necessary to achieve our vision. Blandin Foundation Initiative supports private sector, public sector and joint venture investments in broadband infrastructure and services as we encourage creation of a world class environment for community and economic development in rural Minnesota.

Observers, especially the citizens of Monticello, will have to make their own judgments about the perspectives expressed in these articles by the incumbent provider and the Mayor. It is ironic that while many communities struggle to obtain FTTP-based advanced services, Monticello residents may have their choice of two fiber-based providers.

2008 Minnesota Community Broadband Awards

Last night the Blandin Foundation award six communities and business with the Minnesota Community Broadband Awards. It was a really nice ceremony. The honorees each received beautiful awards created by a local artist (Craig Campbell) and $2,000 towards a technology project.

Here are the winners:

Broadband infrastructure and services for communities under 2,500 … the winner is Federated Telephone Cooperative of Chokio. General Manager Kevin Beyer accepted the award.

Broadband infrastructure and services for communities between 2,500 and 10,000 .. the winner is Sjoberg’s Inc of Their River Falls. Dick Sjoberg accepted the award.

Broadband infrastructure and services for communities above 10,000 … the winner is Hiawatha Broadband Communications of Winona. Gary Evans accepted the award.

Broadband market and application development communities under 2,500 – … the winner is Menahga Area Historical Society& Museum. Linda Karjala accepted the award.

Broadband market and application development communities between 2,500 and 10,000 . .. the winner is New Ulm Economic Development Cooperation. Brian Tohal accepted the award.

Broadband market and application development communities above 10,000 . .. the winner is Home and Community Options of Winona. Peter Walsh accepted the award.

We were lucky enough to get brief interviews with each winner. Bill Coleman is seen talking with each:

Continue reading

Hot Sites article on Election Resources

I think I’ve mentioned the Blandin Hot Sites article series before. They feature web sites and online tools that address a specific topic or issue. The primary purpose is to introduce rural citizens to online tools that can help them save time, save money, learn about a topic or have fun. We write them to be redistributed. (So, feel free to check it out and/or pass onto others.)

Well I think we have a particularly timely article this month – Election Resources. I’m partial to the Fact Checkers we lsited. I used them after last week’s debate and I suspect I’ll be using them tomorrow after the VP debate tonight.

Speaking of debates … I hope folks noticed that broadband was mentioned at least once in last week’s debate. I haven’t brought it before because the mention wasn’t detailed enough to merit a whole post but as I recall Obama mentioned the need for broadband in rural areas when talking about the economy.

Monticello FiberNet update with Christopher Mitchell

One of the nicest things about being home is getting to actually see folks like Christopher Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance to talk about how things are going with municipal networks. Both of us have been following the progress in Monticello; he visited Monticello a couple of times in the last week to see firsthand how things are going and was gracious enough to meet with me to discuss what he learned on video. (The super quick version – Monticello passed a referendum last year (74% approval) to build a fiber network. Things were going great – I mean they were really rocking. About 6 weeks ago the incumbent ISP (TDS) dropped a lawsuit into the soup. Many think the lawsuit is unfounded but will give TDS time to build their own flavor of fiber.)

I realize now how busy Christopher was the day we met (Wednesday) when I saw his name all over the news yesterday; so I really appreciate his time. I saw him mentioned on Ars Technica, Third Pipe and MinneaPolitics.

We spoke before either of us coudl have seen an article posted today in the Monticello Times on the lawsuit. The article is very interesting and seems to strongly portray TDS’ perspective on the network.

What really struck me about our conversation was how much Christopher wanted to provide information to other communities on how to avoid or prepare for obstacles in planning for and deployment municipal fiber networks.

The video is not professional quality – but we did get youth involved in the form of my 9 year old daughter/camera person. (And 10 minutes after we finished the jackhammers arrived to tear up our street so it could have been worse!)