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

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Catching up with broadband projects in Ely MN: Feasibility study, digital marketing, coworking and Elyite website

Spent yesterday afternoon in Ely talking with people about their broadband projects. (It is actually cool up  here – so very nice!) 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…

  • The have made a big push with digital marketing – classes and consulting
  • Their feasibility study has raised some opportunities and options for partnership
  • They have a new website to recruit new Elyites – filled with fun videos.
  • They have a new coworking space – open only a month and they have 12 members!

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Catching up with broadband projects in Cook MN: classes, hotspot checkout and library programming

There were 15 people in the room this morning in Cook where it seems like building an ark would make as much sense as talking about broadband. 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…

  • The library has a point system for teens that engage in the library (volunteer, check out books…). If you get enough points you get to an overnight at the library – taking advantage of broadband there.
  • The town halls are connected and offer wifi. People take advantage of it.
  • They are looking at classes on broadband as a home security tool.

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Broadband isn’t just about doing things faster – it’s about things like driverless cars but only where there is broadband

Broadband used to just help us do things faster. We could send files faster. Maybe it saved us a trip to Target when we could order online. But now, broadband lets us do different things – like work from home, take classes online or remotely check in on health issues. But the differences are about to take an even greater leap forward.

Smart Cities Dive reccently wrote about the potentnial (and different) impact of driverless cars in urban and rural areas…

But unless things change dramatically, this polarization is not at its zenith; it’s just beginning. The next step in this digital and economic evolution is the coming autonomous vehicle (AV) economy, where in the coming decades the combination of sharing, electrification and autonomous driving technologies will be genuinely transformational, affecting all aspects of the economy from transportation to real estate prices, taxation, education and future employment.

For cities, the business case and transformation path for the AV economy is easy enough to see. Driving and parking is expensive and difficult. Commuting from the suburbs is time-consuming and often dangerous. High density urban areas have a growing number of young and elderly happy to ride share and forgo having cars altogether.

Supported by powerful and reliable gigabyte-level broadband services and a plethora of high-quality fixed wireless and mobile phone providers, cities are scrambling to embrace the AV movement, with more than 50 metropolitan areas already hosting AV pilot programs.

The business and use case for small town and rural communities is obviously different, but in many ways stronger. After all, one major advantage of autonomous vehicles is that they are safer.

Rural drivers struggle with high speeds, longer distances and poorer roads and signage — with a crash fatality rate nearly three times as high as that in cities. And as rural populations continue to age, many of the critical services – shopping, visiting the doctor, or simply getting out of the house to visit friends and family — can all be enhanced with shared use and self-driving vehicles.

Possibly the most important benefit of AV technologies in rural areas is that they maintain a connection — an economic lifeline — through extended corridors of AV service to large cities and enterprise zones and transportation hubs. And it works both ways. Consumers will want their autonomous cars to travel beyond the city borders, and the idea of AVs being limited exclusively to our cities and suburbs only increases the urban vs. rural economic and political divide.

In short, smart towns are just as important as smart cities, and the transitional nature of the AV economy could go a long way to including “flyover” America in the growing economic prosperity of our booming cities and enterprise zones.

With broadband seniors remain connected to their communities

Here’s a fun reminder of what broadband can really do – make lives better.

The video is from Community O2, an online utility that provides an easy, single sign on, integrated and consistent user interface for a wide range of capabilities which would normally require a user to load and use many individual apps. It is akin to a portal or on-ramp to compile and simply access to favorite online applications.

Toolkit to help Close the Homework Gaps for kids without broadband

Consortium for School Networking has a great toolkit for residents, schools and communities who live outside the reach of broadband. I’ll borrow from the Benton Foundation’s description…

This toolkit provides background context for the Homework Gap, addresses broader implications of household connectivity, suggests resources for scoping the problem, and details five strategies districts are currently using to address these challenges: 1) Partner with Community Organizations to Create “Homework Hotspots”, 2) Promote Low-Cost Broadband Offerings, 3) Deploy Mobile Hotspot Programs, 4) Install Wifi on School Buses and 5) Build Private LTE Networks. In addition, it outlines four steps school leaders can take to collaborate with local governments and their community to take a broader, more holistic approach to digital access and inclusion: 1) Assemble a Team and Develop a Shared Vision, 2) Assess Existing Community Resources, Gaps and Needs, 3) Engage Stakeholders and Partners and 4) Develop and Execute a Project Plan.

Supreme Court says States can tax online purchases

USA Today  reports…

A closely divided Supreme Court upended the  nation’s Internet marketplace Thursday, ruling that states can collect sales taxes from online retailers.

The decision, which overturns an Supreme Court precedent, will boost state revenues at the expense of consumers and sellers who have avoided sales taxes in the past. But the justices did not specify what types of exceptions states may impose to limit the burden on small businesses.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 5-4 decision, jettisoning the court’s longstanding rule that states cannot require companies without a physical presence to collect sales taxes. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

Reactions were mixed…

Reaction to the high court’s ruling was mixed. State government groups hailed it as a boon for their revenue base, as well as a playing-field equalizer. But some lawmakers in Congress vowed revenge.

“The Supreme Court has given the green light for states to establish an underground, nationwide, privatized tax-collecting bureaucracy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat whose state of Oregon has no sales tax.

Although it seems small businesses may feel it most…

“The burden will fall disproportionately on small businesses,” Roberts said. “The court’s decision today will surely have the effect of dampening opportunities for commerce in a broad range of new markets.”