MN Broadband Community eNews July Update

This went out to the eNews list on Tuesday, sorry I’m a little slow archiving it on the blog. I’m nearly settled back in St Paul – but it hasn’t been the super smooth transition I expected…

Cook County
With funding from the Blandin Foundation, Cook County plans to look into what it would take to invest in broadband infrastructure in their area.

Eagan-based CaringBridge, the third largest nonprofit web site in the world, has expanded service to not only provide people who are ill with a free web site but now also connects families and friends to reputable healthcare information through a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control. (

Fergus Falls
A Japanese researcher visited 5 communities in Minnesota, including Fergus Falls, to look at how rural communities benefit from broadband.

Creatively using broadband in the schools, Little Crow Telemedia Network brought a local chaplain serving in Iraq into the school for Veterans Day. They also provided students with the opportunity to watch and interact with a surgical team as they performed a knee replacement. (

Minneapolis is ironing out some kinks in their wireless network. Built primarily in the winter, there are small issues with balancing foliage and wireless coverage. (

The Monticello Fiber Network moves ahead with fiber deployment despite a lawsuit filed by incumbent provider TDS. (  

New Ulm
Stained Glass and More, an online retailer experiences great increase in online sales after attending a Get Broadband sponsored training session on e-commerce and online marketing. (

St Cloud
The St Cloud Times now offers live streaming video, starting with their Granite Days weekend coverage. (

Swift County
Swift County, the latest community to take advantage of Community Broadband Resources available through the Blandin Foundation, invited Bill Coleman to present on “Leveraging Broadband for Community and Economic Development”. They plan to follow up with e-commerce training for the local business community. (

Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota recently released research that indicates that Midwest teens that use social networking sites are learning skills required for 21st century jobs. Benefits are seen across socioeconomic demographics. (

KFAI aired a show on broadband that included comments, questions and answers from three local broadband experts, Christopher Mitchell, Eric Lampland and Peter Fleck. (

The Waseca School Board recently approved a donation from the Waseca Federal Correctional Institution for 73 computers, two 17-inch monitors and a scanner, valued conservatively at $22,000. (

Equipment and software has been purchased for Windom’s “Video Production and Community Server” project. This summer the Mass Media teacher will be learning more about the system with an eye towards using it this fall. (

Home and Community Options (a Blandin Light Speed funded project) has had great success implementing eFile, a system that is being installed and enthusiastically adapted across the organization this year. (  

(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.)

Monticello works on Fiber Loop

Thanks a million for Lynne Dahl-Fleming for sending the latest on the Monticello situation. I want to give Monticello three cheers for driving ahead with their plan. It is great to see a community that is so focused on getting fiber that they refuse to be distracted or detained by adversity. Also, the article includes some nice, real numbers for communities who are interested in fiber themselves.

Monticello Times Newspaper – June 26, 2008

FiberNet Update

The fiber optics committee asked council to consider moving forward on the FiberNet project by constructing a subset of the larger project, called the Fiber Loop, which would include connecting important commercial, industrial and civic facilities in the Monticello area.

The service provided would include high-speed data only.

The estimated cost to construct and operate the system is estimated at $1.74 million, with projected revenue being sufficient to cover capital and operation expenses.

The project is fully separate form the legal challenge currently being presented by TDS Telecom.

In other FiberNet news, the council awarded Schulender Construction, Inc., the bid for the fiber optics head-end building site’s grading and utility improvements in the amount of $133,874.

The improvements include grading the site to allow for construction of the head-end building and garage as well as the proposed outside storage area where the antennae/satellite dishes will be located and a 6-foot black vinyl coated chain link fence surrounding the site.

Council also approved the bid for the construction of the fiber optics head-end building to KC Companies, Inc., in the amount of $555,000 for the base bid and $14,500 for the alternate bid; well below the engineer’s estimate for the bids.

Construction of the head-end building is planned for mid-August with final completion set for the end of November of this year.

The building will be located south of the city’s newest water tower, which is off of School Boulevard, near River City Extreme. Council determined the location of the building at a meeting earlier this spring.

IP VCR url

For anyone who would like to view some of the meetings we have recorded on our IP VCR please go to the following url:

Click on the pull down menu and select the speed, I would suggest 128kbps in either quicktime or WMV.

have fun,


light speed communityThe Blandin Foundation is supporting four standout broadband programs through the Light Speed program. The program’s purpose is to stimulate the deployment of bandwidth intensive applications that connect local institutions to area resident’s home. This post comes from a Light Speed community leader.

More on Monticello

Thanks to Christopher Mitchell for sending me his editorial on the recent lawsuit in Monticello. (I posted an article on the story a week or so ago.)

I couldn’t agree more with Christopher’s comments. In short, the lawsuit brought about by TDS is unfounded and a waste of time and money.

The more I think about the situation the more annoyed I become because the money they’re wasting is taxpayer money. We all have those friends (well I do anyways) who seem to work so hard at not working. And you wonder why they don’t just spend ten percent of that energy on getting or keeping a job – so that maybe they could buy a round for once. Well, that’s how I’m starting to feel about some incumbents. Instead of coming up with every plan under the sun for not providing ultra fast broadband – why in the heck don’t they just consider providing it?

The other annoying aspect is that these unfounded lawsuits take the focus away from the real goal – getting better connections to recover our position in the global economy. It feels like fighting over the last chair on the Titanic. While in America we’re fighting turf wars over who if anyone is going to provide world class broadband, other countries are coming up with broadband strategies that will leave us in the dust.

So there’s my two cents to go along with Christopher’s two cents. I think my passion for the topic comes at the end of my long stay in Dublin. I have been here since August and we’re going home in a few weeks. It’s been interesting to see how differently things are done here. The focus for the future seems to be more focused on how Ireland can be better and less on maintaining the market status quo.

(That being said, some incumbents are great and I’d be happy to hear from those who are building a successful business by providing ultra fast services and/or are working towards that goal.)

Moose Lake and New Ulm Get Broadband Updates

Moose Lake and New Ulm both participated in the Blandin Foundation Get Broadband program. Moose Lake used funding to create a public safety portal. New Ulm offered a series of e-commerce classes to local businesses and upgraded their Visitor Bureau web site. The goal of each program was to boost interest in and access to broadband in the community.

Well, we just got follow up data from the communities based on surveys administered by the Center for Rural Policy and Development. Here are the highlights from the reports comparing the baseline surveys administered at the onset of the program and the recent surveys:

New Ulm Reports
Computer Ownership went from 71.3% to 79.1%
Internet Connectivity went from 67% to 76.6%
Broadband Subscription went from 56.6% to 71.3%
About 38% of businesses connected to the Internet said they are using the Internet more now than a year ago, while about 43% said they are using it the same amount.

Moose Lake Reports
Computer Ownership went from 64.6% to 70.9%
Internet Connectivity went from 57.7% to 66.8%
Broadband Subscription went from 26.8% to 48.8 %

Broadband Update for Wadena

Thanks to Dean Uselman for sending me an update for Wadena’s Get Broadband project:

Wadena has partnered with Minnesota State Community & Technical College, Wadena Campus to offer a series of Internet training classes, “Internet 101 Being a Better Internet User”. The first two classes have focused on a curriculum for the general public and beginners and have been a great success serving more than 50 new and learning Internet users.

A business-focused class was on May 21st called “Open for Business, Internet marketing 101”. The class targeted business owners and focused on marketing their business and online sales through high speed Internet. The class was well attended and several new websites for local businesses will come from it.

Tri-County Hospital in Wadena has completed the installation of a fiber optic line to their satellite clinic in Henning as a match of $7,500.00 of the Blandin Foundation Get Broadband Grant. According to Dennis Miley, Hospital Administrator and Cindy Uselman, Grants and Programs Manager, Tri-County Hospital has become the industry leader in providing telemedicine services and educating staff and physicians at hospitals throughout greater Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota on the implementation of telemedicine using broadband.

Dean also sent me a great take off on Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First with a techie spin… Continue reading

Wired in the West (of Ireland)

Most of the time, I have access to broadband; so most of the time, my interest is more academic than practical. This week my parents are visiting Ireland and we are in Lehinch, a golfing/surfing town on West Coast of Clare, near the Cliffs of Moher.

We are renting a house with WiFi – but I didn’t get the network key for the first 24 hours. I got dizzy and kind of shaky – but I survived. I did contact the keep of the net key twice and visited the library in that first day.

At the library I learned that public access to broadband is tough to come by here. There was no WiFi access in the library but I could use their computers to check email. (No help when/if I needed to update a web site.) The librarian thought that there might be a coffee shop in Lisdoonvarna with WiFi. That’s about 30 minutes away.

I was kind of surprised. There are plenty of signs for residential broadband here –so it is available, but not for visitors. I don’t know the numbers but I have to think that tourism is a huge chunk of the economy here – and I have to think that both golfers and surfers are a pretty wired group.

If I knew that Lisdoonvarna was the “most wired city” in the area – I would have focused my attention on accommodations there. It got me thinking of the Get Broadband communities back home and the number of resorts I work with in the area and how much broadband is a selling point for a visitor like me. And I like to think I’m a desirable visitor. My kids are too young to be too much trouble; I have too many kids for me to be too much trouble; and cost isn’t my first question – access to broadband is.

FiberNet Monticello April 2008 Update

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall as a town funded, designed and implemented fiber into their community? Well thanks to Lynne Dahl-Flemming we got something even better – we’ve got the notes from the fly on the wall.

Monticello received funding from Blandin Foundation as part of the Get Broadband program. After an amazing referendum vote for fiber last fall, they are moving ahead in all direction. Read on to hear how it’s going. I think this account will be particularly interesting to anyone who is in a position to consider fiber in their area… Continue reading

April eNews is on the Streets

We posted the April eNews yesterday. I wanted to share the parts of the eNews that aren’t on the blog already with the blgo readers…

Community News

All State Wireless a subsidiary of All State Satellite Depot Inc. opened a new Sprint store March 1 in Alexandria.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie visited Crookston, mentioning the possibility of allowing absentee votes via the Internet. It was a suggestion that Governor Pawlenty voted down last year, but will probably resurface. (

Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire, reflecting on the last year, mentions efforts to bring broadband to the community. “Broadband is as vital to our wellbeing as good roads, electrical power and safe water,” he said. (  

Iron Range
The Iron Range Network Joint Powers Board is committed to a high speed network but they are at a crossroads and are considering their options for building and deploying the network. (  

A conference for parents entitled, Youngsters and the Internet, draws 150 attendees in Isanti. Parents learn how to teach their children about the Internet and how to keep safe online. (  

Insight School of Minnesota, an online high school will open next fall. The school expects 200 students. Insight School opened in Washington in 2006 and has been popular and well regarded. (  

Minneapolis Wireless network is set to be completed by the end of March, 2008. (  

A columnist for the Monticello Times provides a rave review of YouTube and its religious brother God Tube. (  

Red Wing
Senator Amy Klobuchar visited in March to discuss broadband in Red Wing, among other things. (

CrossUSA recruits technology workers to rural areas to remotely manage networks and mainframes in such a way that keeps the jobs in the country rather than offshore. (  

St Cloud
St. Cloud Recreation Department will no longer be printing catalogs; program information will now be posted online only. Community members have concerns but the impact will be closely monitored. (  

Thief River Falls
Police offer the old mantra – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is – as sage advice on the Internet. (  

Todd County
Todd County started an FTTP program with a meeting with committee members, key stakeholders and Bill Coleman representing Blandin Foundation. They discussed the need for the community to invest in telecommunications to get the network they want and need for their future.

Twin Cities
The Twin Cities are beefing up their communications networks to support the GOP National Convention this September. Verizon Wireless expects a 150 percent rise in data transmissions on its broadband network. Qwest Communications International will add more than 100 miles of fiber-optic and copper lines in and around the Xcel Energy Center. (  

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Waseca County Sheriff’s Office are working out a new system that will allow residents to activate burning permits online. Online permits will be $5 but can be reactivated throughout the year. (  

Home and Community Options Inc is in the midst of wiring one of their residences. Once it is installed, the home will not need night staff on premises; it will be monitored remotely. (  

Bill Coleman

Coleman’s Corner

Blandin Foundation’s broadband programs enable me to work with many communities throughout the state. My work this week was especially interesting. On one day, I met with leaders in a community that is just embarking on the journey to better understanding of their telecommunications services. They are asking the right questions – “What do we have? …What do we need? …. How do we get there?

Through the Community Broadband Resources program (, I will be helping them understand the current offerings from incumbent providers and the telecom needs of their business community and residents. While I work on getting information from the providers, the community leaders will be out visiting with the businesses. We will be able to pull this information together, have some informed meetings with the providers then talk about next steps.

The following day, I was able to participate in a consultant selection process for a community FTTP feasibility study. This community has been working for some time to get to this point. They have talked extensively with their incumbent providers and potential competitive providers. They have worked through the Blandin Foundation Get Broadband program ( to inform community members and businesses about the importance of broadband for economic development and quality of life. They have their local governments, school district and municipal utilities working together to identify future needs for bandwidth and technology applications. This community is seeking the definitive information necessary to make informed decisions about their next steps.

Each community is unique and has their own set of decision making factors and priorities. What is not unique is the need to bring community leaders together around the issue of broadband and technology. It is clear that communities that work aggressively on both sides of the equation – ensuring high quality services and building demand and technology sophistication – will emerge on the positive side of the digital divide and new economy. Community Broadband Resources (CBR) is designed to provide communities with the assistance they need when they need it. Go online to the Blandin website (, find out the details and apply for the type of assistance that would move your community forward. While making progress is sometimes hard, the CBR online application process is quick and simple! I look forward to working with you!

Get Broadband in Kandiyohi

I’m working on the Blandin eNews for tomorrow, where we try to gather Minnesota broadband news. Thanks to Nicole Franzwa for sending me an update on Get Broadband in Kandiyohi. I thought I’d post it in its entirety today in preparation for tomorrow.

For the month of February, we held 3 Business Website Development Seminars. The purpose of the website seminars was to teach small business owners the value and benefits of having a functional website. We taught them the different speeds of internet available and how making the right choice could affect their overall business. We encouraged them to choose a service provider that could offer them the highest speed of internet available. We requested that the attendees fill out a survey at the conclusion of each session so that we could determine the value of the seminars. The response that we got back was great; they enjoyed hearing the success stories of other small business. They appreciated hearing from the service providers and website designers that shared information, tips and advice.

We will be offering grant dollars to 20 businesses that meet criteria and would like to design or redesign a website for their businesses. We will offer them a list of names for qualified web designers/developers in the local area.

To meet the second objective of our program, we are offering Residential Training Classes, which are open to the public. These classes were scheduled to take place in February, March and April at 5 different locations throughout Kandiyohi County. The first session of classes went well and we have 19 more people within our community that are learning to enjoy the computer and the value of the internet. They are pleased with what they have learned and many are eager to get connected form home. They like the idea of having “fast mail” not “snail mail”. I heard one person say that life happens too quickly for snail mail and she doesn’t want to miss a thing! The additional classes scheduled for March and April are almost completely full.

In addition to the 3 Business Seminars and the 12 Residential Training Sessions, we are working closely with a mapping company to create a county wide service map. This map will be found through a direct link off of the home page found at

The public will be able to access this map to find out if service is available in a specific area, who the service providers are and what type of service they offer. This will be a great resource for many people, it will serve as a guide for area residents and business owners who are trying to expand or relocate within the county. It will also be a valuable tool for people that are considering relocating to our area, or purchasing a lake home from which they might need to stay connected to their business. Broadband is an important feature in the success of a community and Kandiyohi wants to be a part of that success!

Engineering Contract Awarded for FiberNet Monticello

 Thanks to Lynne Dahl-Fleming for passing on the latest press release from Monticello…


At the February 11 City Council meeting the City Council approved an engineering contract for the design of the city-owned fiber optics system. The contract was awarded to Spectrum Engineering Corporation of Auburn, Indiana. The firm was chosen using a Request for Proposal (RFP) and the City received bids from eight different firms.

Spectrum Engineering is in its 28th year of providing professional engineering services for municipal electric companies, universities, large industrials and Telcos. They are an engineering firm that has historically worked primarily with municipalities and has been very successful. The Spectrum staff includes a number of professional engineers with specific experience in municipal network design of optical fiber infrastructure.

The contract specifically covers the design of the city-owned fiber-to-the-premise project which will run up every street and past every home and business in the City limits of Monticello. The contract also provides for Spectrum to assist the City in choosing a construction company and then for Spectrum to inspect the fiber network as it is built.

This is an important step forward for the city-wide fiber project. This network will be operated as a separate business entity under the name of FiberNet Monticello and will be bringing high speed Internet access along with cable TV including HDTV and telephone services to the City.

This city-owned fiber project was approved by referendum last fall and continues to move forward. In mid-November, the City Council authorized a contract with Michels Communications for the installation of a fiber connection between Monticello City Hall and the outside world. Next steps include securing revenue bonds and awarding construction contracts for the project. It is estimated the fiber network will take approximately 18 months to complete. First customers could take service in spring or early summer 2009.

For more information visit the website:

Get Broadband Community Succeeds with Help from MTI

Michael Haynes, economic developer in Stevens County in western Minnesota, and I were talking about the success of their Get Broadband program in and around Morris. Michael noted the positive impact of the program on the business community. Of special note is the work of Minnesota Technology Inc. and their training and advice for some of the larger area businesses.

MTI was able to help these companies improve their strategies for being found by search engines so that they are receiving many more hits than previously. That gives them an opportunity to win business that they would not have even known about previously.

Smaller businesses, like the local florist and one of the area restaurants, took advantage of the grants offered through the Get Broadband program so that they now have web sites that offer looks at their offerings, including flower arrangements and lunch menus. The Stevens County effort also assisted government and non-profits improve their technology. The Morris HRA now has housing information online, the fitness center displays their class schedule so that community members can plan their exercise routine (another excuse to go exercise disappears!) and the chamber of commerce can easily update their own web site and keep it current.

Comparing before and after benchmarking surveys, residential broadband use went from 29% to 50%! Among dial-up users, the percentage that had not tried broadband went down from 44% to 18%. These are great results that demonstrate the value of community-driven broadband market development activities.

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Earlier today we published the Blandin Broadband eNews. Many of the stories are quick summaries of blog posts from the last month. We also compile new regarding broadband and community use of the Internet from Get Broadband communities and local newspapers around Minnesota.

I thought I’d post the news from MN in the blog too:

In May, Governor Pawlenty signed a law that requires all school districts to address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including electronic forms and forms involving the Internet; the Bemidji School Board is considering changes now. (

Faribault & Marin Counties
Suspected vandals were arrested in Faribault for causing more than $100,000 in damage to telecommunications sites and equipment owned by five local companies. (

Iron Range
The Iron Range’s FiberNet project has halved their estimated startup costs for developing a fiber network. Meetings will be happening throughout the month to promote communities’ support of the project. (

Kandiyohi is offering a series of classes to teach basic skills ranging from email and Internet browsing for individuals to online marketing for small-business. For those who participate, grants will be available to help underwrite 50 percent of the cost of creating or upgrading business web sites. (

Monticello is moving forward with a city-wide fiber optic network. The fiber network will be financed with revenue bonds, not a tax levy. The cost for the entire project is estimated at $20 to $25 million and completion of the fiber network will take approximately 18 months. (

David Warlick of the Landmark Project ( visited with Owatonna educators to talk about teaching information literacy to students to prepare them for their information-rich future. (

The Mayo Clinic and IBM are building a Medical Imaging Informatics Innovation Center (MI3C) in Rochester Minnesota. (

Since the flood in August, Rushford has been scrambling with other projects but Yaggy, Colby Associates are helping them move forward with broadband. Rushford will use a blog to inform the public about the planning process. They continue to work on website development for area businesses and organizations and will be marketing the opportunity through the internet and other media outlets.

Thief River Falls
Thief River Falls Times reminds readers that, “Congress has mandated that Feb. 17, 2009, will be the last day for full-power TV stations to broadcast in both analog and digital. After that date, those TV stations will only broadcast in digital. The switchover affects TVs that receive free over-the-air programming (those that are used with rooftop antennas or with “rabbit ears” connected to the TV sets). Analog TVs hooked up to cable or satellite services won’t be affected by the switchover.” (

Home and Community Options, which provides support and residential services to people with developmental disabilities, was featured the Winona Daily News. ( Blandin is pleased to have a representative from HCO posting updates on the Blandin on Broadband blog. (  

Kandiyohi Provides Residential and Business Internet Training

Another great story from another Get Broadband community comes from the West Central Tribune (Training program aims to boost countywide use of high-speed Internet).

Kandiyohi is offering a series of classes, starting in February, to teach basic skills ranging from e-mail and Internet browsing for the general public. For business they are running classes that will show small-business owners how to set up a basic Web site, optimize the use of their Web site and venture into e-commerce to increase sales.

For those who participate, grants will be available to help underwrite 50 percent of the cost of creating or upgrading their business Web site.

The goal is to stimulate 20 new Web sites and 20 new ventures into e-commerce by local small-business owners.

Kandiyohi was gracious enough to share electronic versions of the fliers and ads for the Blandin Foundation web site.

Renville County Get Broadband Update

Thanks to Annie Tepfer for sending an update on the Renville County Get Broadband project…

In a cooperative effort to promote new economic development, Get Broadband coordinator, Annie Tepfer, worked with Agriculture writer, Richard Hagen, to interview all the grape produces in Renville County. Annie documented the interviews with videocasts while Richard wrote articles for the Renville HRA/EDA and local newspapers. The videocasts will air on the local access channel for people to learn more about this new venture in county.

A $500 Wireless Internet Café Grant was approved to “Yesteryears”, a privately owned Coffee Shop located in downtown Fairfax. The owner is going to purchase a computer, wireless router and establish connectivity to high speed internet for her customers. This should create new interest in her coffee shop and offer customers another reason to stop by her business.

Working with the GFW Community Education, an eCommerce class was held at the Fairfax campus computer room. David Nelson, an Extension Educator from the University of Minnesota, instructed a class on using the internet as a new tool for business development whether they were a storefront or home business.

Renville interviews