CentraCare Health Awarded $324-K Grant For Rural Telehealth Services In Minnesota

According to KXRA...

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding a 324-thousand-dollar grant to CentraCare Health in Saint Cloud to provide telehealth services in rural areas.

Congressman Tom Emmer says the grant will help make behavioral health care services more available for Minnesotans living in the Sixth District. CentraCare Senior Director Rachel Lesch called it “a great opportunity to deliver innovative mental health services in areas not possible before.” The funding will support telehealth networks to deliver 24-hour emergency department consultation services to rural providers.

The game is only as good as the broadband that fuels it

Here’s a fun story from the Herald Journal Blog (Delano MN) about a teen who turned into helper of the world when his parents offered an Xbox as a prize for helpfulness. Turns out Xbox was only part of the recipe. They also needed to upgrade from satellite to CenturyLink…

However, the gamechanger came shortly thereafter, when we got CenturyLink.

For the first four years of living in our house in the country, we had been stuck with satellite Internet.

We had a 60 gigabyte monthly limit, after which Internet speeds were throttled to a crawl.

Since I work from home during the day, it had been a constant source of frustration, and even anger. The quickest way to tick off Dad was by watching a video without telling him, and sucking up his precious gigabytes.

Then, in late May, CenturyLink finally reached our house, with faster speeds, cheaper pricing, and, most gloriously, unlimited Internet.

If I sound like a shill, I don’t care. It felt like Christmas. I told the installer I wanted to give him a hug.

That’s also when the real fun, and the real fights, began with the Xbox.

The first thing the boys did after the new Internet was installed was download Fortnite. If it was Christmas for me, downloading Fortnite was Christmas, Easter, their birthdays, and winning the lottery all at once for the boys.

I imagine they’ll notice this even more as school begins and suddenly everyone is able to to work from home without slowing down the connection or reaching data caps!

Expanding Rural Electric Member Coop broadband coverage in Indiana could mean benefits of $12 billion

Purdue University just released a report that looks at the quantitative benefits of investing in broadband – they look specifically at extending/expanding networks deployed by Indiana’s Rural Electric Member Cooperatives (REMCs) – but expanding the network ubiquitously across the state. Here’s what they found…

We estimate the net benefits of broadband investment for the whole state of Indiana is about $12 billion, which is about $1 billion per year annuitized over 20 years at six percent interest rate. Year after year, added government revenues and cost savings would amount to about 27 percent of net benefits in the seven REMCs each year. If the rest of rural Indiana is like these seven Cooperative service areas, then 27 percent of the $1 billion per year would be government revenue and health care cost savings, or $270 million per year. In terms of total net present value of benefits, 27 percent of $12 billion is $3.24 billion in added government revenue and health care cost savings.

It’s interesting to see that 27 percent of the net benefits would be government revenue and health care cost savings. That’s a number taxpayers can use to determine the return of public investment in broadband. Last fall, I looked at community return on public investment in broadband – which came to about $1,850 per household. Taking it a step farther, figuring out how much benefit is there in government revenue and health care savings make it even easier to balance cost with benefit.

The Rural Broadband Association surveys anchor institutions in member areas to determine levels of service

The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) surveyed anchor institutions in their members’ service areas about their connectivity. Here are some of the things they learned:

  • Fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) was the most prevalent connection mode for all anchor institution types.
  • The maximum connection speed of broadband available to anchor institutions in the ILECs’ service areas averaged around 1 Gig (1 Gig = 1,000 Mbps/1 Gbps), except for public libraries where the average maximum connection speed available was less than 500 Mbps.
  • The average connection speed of broadband purchased by anchor institutions in the responding companies’ ILEC service areas was the highest for K–12 schools (238.7 Mbps) and the lowest for public libraries (43.3 Mbps).
  • For anchor institutions that are not connected via fiber, the average distance of those institutions from fiber facilities was 4.1 miles and the median distance was 0.6 miles. Approximately six in 10 of those institutions (59.4%) are less than a mile away from fiber facilities, while just over one-third (34.4%) are located between one and 20 miles from fiber facilities.
  • More than four in 10 respondents (41.3%) indicated that public libraries in their ILEC service areas had access to a maximum broadband speed of 1 Gig or more. For approximately one-half of the respondents (48.9%), public libraries had maximum broadband speed available ranging from 25.0 Mbps to less than 1 Gig. A very small percentage (2.2%) reported that connected public libraries in their service areas had access to a maximum speed of less than 10.0 Mbps
  • More than half of the responding companies (55.6%) had hospitals and medical clinics in their ILEC service areas with access to a maximum broadband speed of 1 Gig or more, and about one-fifth (22.2%) reported that hospitals and medical clinics in their ILEC service areas had access to a maximum speed greater than/equal to 100 Mbps but less than 1 Gig. The slowest maximum broadband speed available to connected health care providers, as reported by 6.3% of respondents, was greater than/equal to 10.0 Mbps but less than 25.0 Mbps.

NTCA represents nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America

Fire damages high school so kids will be going online for some classes

Bring me the News reports on the results of fire damage in a school in St Cloud…

Apollo High School in St. Cloud is facing an unusual set of challenges due to a fire that damaged parts of the school in July.

The July 11 fire started in a classroom and caused significant smoke damage throughout the school. Last week, health inspectors informed school officials that parts of the school will not be ready for the start of the upcoming school year.

But they have a plan to go online…

“We will begin the school year on an alternate day schedule,” said District 742 Superintendent Willie Jet on Monday. “This means that students will rotate the days they will physically attend Apollo. Students not at Apollo will engage in on-line learning directed by their classroom teachers. Fortunately, every high school student is provided with a one-to-one device which makes this opportunity possible.”!

Jett said they worked with the Minnesota Department of Education and schools around the state that have experienced “similar catastrophic situations” to come up with the plan.

I was worried that plan was going to be a hardship for families that didn’t have broadband access at home, but it turns out they have a plan…

Students that don’t have access to Wi-Fi outside of school will be provided with hotspot devices, according to Apollo Principal Al Johnson.

Wouldn’t it be nice if those families got to keep the hotspots even once the school is ready for a full schedule of students? Imagine how nice it owudl be for them to do homework from home.

 

Weave Got Maille in Ada credited in Inc Mag for better broadband a jobs!

Just what kind of impact can one super niche internet business have in a community? Well ask Ada. Inc. Magazine just credited Ada’s own Weave Got Maille for better broadband and more jobs. (We wrote about them in 2015 too.)

Weave Got Maille manufactures chain mail supplies – tiny rings. Founder Edie Ramstad thought she’d be making 1,000 a day – turns out she does 2-3 million a day! But it was the business that almost wasn’t or at least almost wasn’t in Ada. Inc reports on some issues…

Lack of machinery was just one problem facing Ramstad, who at one point almost gave up, thwarted by Ada’s sparse infrastructure. Founded in 2012, Weave Got Maille was the first nonagricultural manufacturer in this farm town of around 1,600 people, 45 miles northeast of Fargo. “You can’t be an internet business with a post office that closes at 2 o’clock and puts a limit on how much you send because the mail carrier doesn’t have a very big car,” Ramstad says.

And unfortunately success only magnified the issues…

But the demand strained a business that, back then, operated out of a building in the middle of a wheat field. Ada is a county seat; but a few years ago it had only dial-up internet. The local post office turned away Ramstad’s business because it couldn’t handle the volume. As she struggled alone with infrastructure constraints and new challenges, like managing a scaling workforce, she grew increasingly frustrated.

But it turned around after Ramstad attended 1 Million Cups event in Fargo. They she got inspired and networked in with people who were also inspired and inspiring. Some of those stepped in to help her get the better broadband she needed…

Someone from Kauffman reached out to North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp on Ramstad’s behalf; Heitkamp asked the U.S. postmaster general to intercede with the Ada branch to increase its hours. After hearing Ramstad address a later 1 Million Cups event, the mayor of Fargo advised the governor of Minnesota to bring fiber to Ada. “Three years ago, the kids here could not even do their homework online,” Ramstad says. “Now we have good internet.”