Telehealth helps better serve rural Veterans

The US Department for Veteran Affairs reports…

Approximately a quarter of all Veterans in the United States live in rural areas. Air Force Veteran Bill Nelson is one of them. As the survivor of three heart attacks, he’s a big fan of one particular VA office and their telehealth program.

The job of VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH) is to increase access to care for the nearly three million Veterans living in rural communities who rely on VA for health care. As VA’s lead advocate for rural Veterans, ORH works to see that America’s Veterans thrive in rural communities.

Nelson benefits from ORH’s remote home-based delivery of cardiac rehabilitation which uses telehealth to eliminate the need for rural Veterans to travel multiple times a week to a rehabilitation facility. It lets Veterans tailor the location and schedule of their rehab session from their home.

Nelson lives in Maple Grove, which may not be the most rural town I mention this week, but it would be a long drive to the VA hospital in the Cities. It would easily save him an hour drive each remote visit…

In addition to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, he had a separated shoulder surgically repaired in Okinawa. He is 100 percent disabled due to his service-connected injuries.

Nelson suffered his first heart attack in 1999 which required having stents implanted. He joined VA for healthcare after retirement in 2014. His second heart attack occurred in 2008 which required having more stints implanted. His had his third heart attack in 2018 and had even more stints implanted.

Today, ORH enables Veteran patients like Nelson to first meet in-person with a specialist to safely learn rehabilitation exercises, with subsequent sessions conducted at home.

Regularly scheduled phone calls with the rehabilitation specialist are used to review risk factors, such as smoking cessation and proper nutrition. Other discussions include exercise, medication adherence, and stress management


Aitkin County finds better broadband would boost economic growth

The Aitkin Age reports…

Many organizations are working together to find solutions to support economic growth county-wide. These collaborative efforts were highlighted at Aitkin County Growth’s “Connecting the dots and the business resources” event on April 30.

And here’s what they found with broadband…

Access to broadband is another challenge hindering the economic growth of the area. Carr noted Aitkin County Economic Developer Ross Wagner has been instrumental in the county’s efforts to increase access to broadband through grants to companies like Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative and SCI.

For those who continue to be unserved or underserved, or for professionals who wish to work remotely, there are several locations where broadband can be accessed publicly:

  • The Office Shop located at 211 Minnesota Ave. N., Aitkin has a shared office space available
  • Aitkin County CareerForce (formerly known as the Aitkin County Workforce Center) located at 20 3rd St. NE, Aitkin has available office and meeting space
  • Shared office space set to open soon at the Butler Building located at 301 Minnesota Ave. N., Aitkin, will accommodate 24/7 access to high-speed broadband, computers and monitors, a meeting space, video screen with webinar capability and printers
  • The Aitkin County Growth building located at 316 1st Ave. NW. in Aitkin offers meeting and training space

Check out a hotspot from the Rock County library

Fun news for Rock County Library patrons (as found on their Facebook Page)…

The Rock County Library now has wifi hotspots to check out! We have five Verizon hotspots available for Rock County library card holders 18 years or older with cards in good standing (fees at $5 or below) to check out.

The hotspots check out for two weeks, can connect up to 15 devices per hotspot, and will work anywhere in the United States with Verizon coverage.

Our partnership with the Blandin Foundation and Rock County’s involvement as a Blandin Broadband Community has made this possible.

TelecommuterForward! Legislation signed into Law May 3

Oh it’s a busy time of year! But it was great to see the TelecommuterForward! Legislation passed last Friday. Here are the details from the Revisor’s Office

An act

relating to economic development; creating a Telecommuter Forward! certification;

proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116J.


Section 1.


Subdivision 1.


In this section, “political subdivision” means a city, township, or county.

Subd. 2.


A political subdivision may apply to the commissioner of employment and economic development for certification as a Telecommuter Forward! Community. The commissioner of employment and economic development shall prescribe the form and manner for making an application. Before approving an application, the commissioner shall consider the application and the information in subdivision 3.

Subd. 3.


In addition to the application in subdivision 2, a political subdivision must adopt a resolution that does both of the following:

(1) states the political subdivision’s support and commitment to promote the availability of telecommuting options; and

(2) provides for a single point of contact for coordinating telecommuting opportunities that has all of the following responsibilities:

(i) coordination and partnership with broadband providers, realtors, economic development professionals, employers, employees, and other telecommuting stakeholders;

(ii) collaboration with broadband providers and employers to identify, develop, and market telecommuter-capable broadband packages;

(iii) communication and partnership with broadband providers and economic development professionals to develop common goals;

(iv) promotion of telecommuter-friendly work spaces, such as business incubators with telecommuting spaces, if such a work space has been established in the political subdivision at the time the political subdivision adopts the resolution;

(v) familiarity with broadband mapping tools and other state-level resources;

(vi) maintaining regular communication with the state broadband office; and

(vii) making regular reports to the governing body of the political subdivision.

I know the Office of Broadband Development is excited to talk with communities about how to leverage the broadband they have to attract and retain telecommuters and other work-from-home careers.

They see this as one of many steps communities can take to signal they welcome and support solopreneurs and telecommuting jobs.

They are working on our implementation plan and will have more information for you in the next month, but since it is a broadband application I thought it might be appropriate to cover along with the other legislation.

A Case for Rural Broadband: $47–$65 billion annually in additional gross benefit

The Benton Foundation does a nice summary of a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies).

The give a high level Return on Investment…

This latest chapter in the Trump Administration’s American Broadband Initiative finds that the deployment of broadband networks and adoption of new agricultural technologies could result in approximately $47–$65 billion annually in additional gross benefit for the U.S. economy.

They also noted…

If broadband infrastructure and digital technologies at scale were available at a level that meets estimated producer demand, the U.S. economy could realize benefits equivalent to nearly 18 percent of total agriculture production. Of that 18 percent, more than one-third is dependent on broadband, equivalent to at least $18 billion in annual economic benefits that only high-speed, reliable Internet can provide.

They talk about farms without…

The report details how unreliable broadband service undermines scaling adoption of precision agriculture:

  • Some farmers dedicate significant time and effort to find workarounds to insufficient Internet service, which takes time away from managing their businesses and serving their customers.
  • Some precision agriculture technologies function with basic Internet connections, so even slow speeds are better than no connections at all. But many require a more reliable and high-speed Internet connection as a minimum requirement.
  • Without access to online learning and peer sharing platforms, farmers are less likely to succeed with technology implementation, having wasted money, time, and effort without realizing complete benefits.

And note next steps for the USDA…

This “coordinated action” must focus on six key priorities:

  1. Tailor deployment of Internet infrastructure to communities.
  2. Incentivize development of innovative technologies and solutions, both for scaling connectivity and improving agricultural production.
  3. Create the conditions that allow, encourage, and reward innovation, including identifying the statutory or regulatory obstacles that hinder new, innovative providers.
  4. Coordinate across public programs to effectively use taxpayer funds and develop new partnerships.
  5. Build capability to scale adoption and realize value.
  6. Clarify and emphasize the importance of rural connectivity to all consumers of agriculture commodities.

Telecommuter Forward! Program in Minnesota passes in Senate

The MN Senate Republican Caucus reports…

Legislation promotes telecommuting options in Minnesota communities

Chief-authored by Senator Andrew Mathews, legislation creating the Telecommuter Forward! Program in Minnesota unanimously passed the State Senate. The program allows Minnesota cities, townships, and counties to voluntarily apply for certification as a telecommuter friendly community, promoting business development and growth, especially in Greater Minnesota. The program contains no mandate, is voluntary, and makes no appropriation.

“Greater Minnesota communities are looking for ways to expand their workforce and grow business development,” said Senator Mathews. “This innovative approach allows communities to voluntarily register as a “Telecommuter Forward! Community”, allowing them to promote themselves as target destinations for Minnesotans interested in telecommuting. This will serve to grow our rural communities, expand local investment, and allow our Greater Minnesota economy to flourish.”

“This session, the Senate passed a significant $30 million investment in the border-to-border rural broadband grant program,” added Senator Mathews. “The Telecommuter Forward! initiative perfectly complements that investment by promoting Greater Minnesota broadband access and the opportunity for individuals to bring their jobs with them to our communities.”

After passing the Senate and House of Representatives, the bill now heads to Governor Walz for his signature.

10 Jobs that are Going Away

Governing recently post their list of the 10 jobs that are disappearing most quickly. Here’s the list:

  1. Telemarketers
  2. File Clerks
  3. Postal Service Mail Sorters, Processors and Machine Operators
  4. Bill and Account Collectors
  5. Data Entry Keyers
  6. Order Clerks
  7. Chief Executives
  8. Production Worker Helpers
  9. Installation, Maintenance and Repair Worker Helpers
  10. Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers

It’s an interesting list. There are some that appear to be victims of automation – the production workers, order clerks and repair workers. There are some that are victims of the Internet – telemarketers anything related to the postal service. There is one that surprised me – telecom line installers. Governing points to cord-cutting as a factor.

I mention this because I think it’s valuable to think about the role broadband, not only as the cause of some job changes, but as the solution. If I were talking to kids about jobs (and I have teenagers, so I do), I would encourage them consider the new skills they need and new jobs that will be born of new opportunity.