Welcoming the latest cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities – a peek at how the sausage is made

Last week the Blandin Broadband Team met up with the newest BBC cohort – Swift County, Cannon Falls and Rock County. I don’t always share notes from these meetings – but the crowd was just the right size for capturing parts of the day and sharing a little bit about what it’s like to be part of the BBC.

Communities apply to the BBC program. Once in, they commit to work on broadband adoption for 18 months. Broadband coach (and economic developer) Bill Coleman walks them through visioning sessions, choosing priorities, building partnerships. They create a plan for the future and then are invited to submit proposals to the Blandin Foundation. As a BBC community, they will generally get $75,000 for these projects. What I think it awesome is that they get a ton done with many relatively small grants.

Last week we got started. Each member of the cohort talked about what success would look like to them…

Then they got a presentation from Bill (and me – on digital inclusion) …

The also heard from Bernadine Joselyn on the high level hopes and Mary Magnuson on the nitty gritty of expectations. We were also joined by Sam Drong of PCs for People. Each community gets 50 refurbished computers to distribute to the community. Some heartwarming stories come from those computer distribution parties!

Here’s a little clip of some of the group work Each community worked to consider their strengths and weakness in terms of the Intelligent Community Framework.

So now they are off. Next step – a series of meetings with Bill and the planning begins.

Border to Border Broadband: Transforming Minnesota – Oct 23-24 in Brainerd

I wanted to pass this on…

You’re Invited – Border to Border Broadband: Transforming Minnesota
October 23-24, 2018
Madden’s on Gull Lake – Brainerd, MN

We hope you will be joining us for Border to Border Broadband: Transforming Minnesota, our annual broadband conference, October 23-24 at Madden’s on Gull Lake in Brainerd. This year’s event will showcase and celebrate the transformative power of community passion fueled by high-speed broadband networks. But communities won’t be able to take advantage of all that broadband can offer if not everyone has access to it, and the skills to use it. That’s why you won’t want to miss, Climbing the Digital Use Ladder: Digital Inclusion, Adoption and Innovation.

Digital Inclusion is a ladder with steps that increase constantly. While some are inching to get on the ladder — others are beating the path to the top. You’ll hear from both ends of the spectrum during this half-day session on Tuesday, October 23 — and walk away with a few ideas you can implement tomorrow, and a few to work toward in the future.

Presenters include the ever-growing PCs for People on their refurbished computer distribution program, remote exercise programs for seniors from the Winona Friendship Center, precision agriculture from a Minnesota farmer, virtual reality projects that help with training, tourism and civic engagement as well as a few training programs.

Check out the conference webpage for more details, including the preliminary agenda, and register today!

Webinar Archive – Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community

Thanks to all who participated today:

And the description:

Bill Coleman will talk about all you need to know about CAF II and how it effects your community based on his recent report, Impact of CAF II-funded Networks: Lessons from Two Rural Minnesota Exchanges Left Unserved.

Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community
Thursday, July 19, 2018 03:00 PM

Continue reading

Catching up with broadband projects in Aitkin MN: Hotspots that have encouraged private investment in FTTH, landing page, training

Today we’re in Aitkin talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

We learned that when people don’t have broadband, that’s all they want to talk about. The broadband expansions in the area have made a huge difference. This was an area that lacked access so effort has been spent on increasing access with hotspots in the library, buses, for checkout and in community centers. It’s been nice to se private investment follow the interest in the hotspots. There have also been efforts, such as remote training and a landing page that encourage use.

Continue reading

Webinar July 19 – Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community

Bill Coleman will talk about all you need to know about CAF II and how it effects your community based on his recent report, Impact of CAF II-funded Networks: Lessons from Two Rural Minnesota Exchanges Left Unserved.

Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community
Thursday, July 19, 2018 03:00 PM
Register now!

The CAF II program is designed to spur broadband development in unserved, high-cost rural areas and will infuse $2 billion into broadband projects that make service of at least 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload available to more than 3.6 million homes and businesses across America by 2020. To date, four companies (CenturyLink, Consolidated Communications, Frontier Communications, and Windstream Communications) in rural Minnesota have received funding to bring Internet service to 170,355 rural homes and businesses.

Using GIS base maps and a GPS-enabled camera, lead researcher Bill Coleman of Mahtomedi-based Community Technology Advisors, conducted field research to identify CAF II-funded broadband equipment in two rural Minnesota communities, Lindstrom and Braham, MN.

After mapping available speeds to end customers based on their distance from the broadband-fed equipment, Coleman found that, even after CAF II investment, the majority of land within these two exchanges will have access to speeds less that Minnesota’s 2022 state broadband goal of 25/3 mbps. These improvements will fall severely short of Minnesota’s 2026 goal of 100/20 mbps.

So what does that mean for your community? Join the conversation to find out.

Institute for Local Self Reliance takes note of CAF 2 report

The Institute for Local Self Reliance takes note of the Blandin CAF 2 report

The Connect America Fund provides annual federal funding to some of the largest telecommunications providers, but it can be hard for local officials to know where these dollars go.

recent report digs deep into the federal subsidies for Internet service in Minnesota. Researcher Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors led a Blandin Foundation project that explored how federal Connect America Fund dollars have been used in two Minnesota telephone exchanges. In the end, researchers found that these networks would likely not meet Minnesota’s state connectivity goals.

Catching up with broadband projects in Hibbing MN: digital marketing, connectivity through the libraries and community center

Spent the morning in HIbbing talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

  • Working on fiber to community building
  • Digital marketing consulting with local businesses
  • Connectivity through the libraries
  • Tech fair for kids
  • PCS for people

Continue reading