Chattanooga sees $2.69 billion in community benefit over 10 years from Gig Network

EPB reports

Newly-released, independent research documents $2.69 billion in community benefit during the first ten years since EPB of Chattanooga built America’s first Gig-speed community-wide network and used it to establish the nation’s most advanced smart grid power distribution system.

Here’s how they come up with that number…

Key Community Benefits from Chattanooga’s Advanced Infrastructure:

  • Job creation and retention: The fiber optic infrastructure directly supported the creation and retention of 9,516 jobs which is about 40% of all jobs created in Hamilton County during the study period.
  • Lower unemployment rate: According to the study, since Chattanooga’s fiber optic network was deployed, it has helped keep the local unemployment rate lower. This effect has been magnified since the outset of the COVID crisis when fiber optics helped many businesses transition their employees to remote work very quickly. According to the latest available numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hamilton County’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in November which is significantly lower than Tennessee’s rate (5.3%) and two percentage points lower than the U.S. unemployment rate (6.7%) for the same period.
  • Bridging the digital divide for education: Having Chattanooga’s fiber optic network in place allowed EPB to join with Hamilton County Schools and other local and state partners in launching HCS EdConnect, a fiber optic broadband internet service provided at no charge to economically challenged families with K-12 students. Designed to continue providing the service for at least 10 years, HCS EdConnect represents a lasting solution for bridging the digital divide among students. Currently more than 12,000 students have internet access to continue their studies from home through HCS EdConnect.
  • Reduced power outages: Related to the smart grid’s ability to quickly re-route power around storm damage and other problems, the study documents a 40-55% annual decrease in outage minutes providing EPB customers with an average of $26.6 million in savings each year by helping them avoid spoilage, lost productivity, and other negative impacts.
  • Decreased environmental damage: The smart grid has helped EPB decrease carbon emissions by 7,900 tons through demand management and reduced truck-miles.
  • $110 million in Smart City research: In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy designated Chattanooga as a Smart Grid Living Laboratory. Since then, EPB has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a range of other national and local research partners, like the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Center for Urban Informatics and Progress, to play a significant role in more than $110 million in Smart City Research.

It’s hard to put your arms around the benefits of a broadband network. How much do I save doing my banking online rather than drive to the building? I save time and gas. My work is entirely online – how much do I get paid. Just two examples. Now multiply that by households throughout a community and think about every occasion during the day you save/make time and money by going online. Ironically, this is easier to do during a pandemic and never have we missed going to the bank more – but you get what I’m saying.

It’s helpful to see how Chattanooga has done this and it’s amazing to see the results. Ten years gives enough time for the statistics to catch up to the street value.

EVENT Feb 2: Women in Ag Network sixth annual conference

The Women in Ag Network conference is not a perfect fit for all readers, but a look at the agenda is a reminder of how important broadband is to all aspects of agriculture business…

“Building Bridges, Cultivating Connections” is the theme of the sixth annual Women in Ag Network Conference. The event will be a day of learning and networking for women involved in agriculture. The conference will be held virtually on February 3 from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.
Michele Payn, CSP, principal of Cause Matters Corp, will be the keynote speaker. There will be three tracks of breakout sessions to choose from: Bridging the Gap with Social Media, Cultivating Management Best Practices and Connecting Farmers and Consumers through Marketing. The day will end with a panel discussion, “Direct Marketing: Taking it to the Next Level,” which will feature women who have taken marketing of their agriculture ventures to a new level.
For more information and to register visit

EVENT Feb 17: 5 Tech4Good Trends for Nonprofits in 2021

Tech Soup is hosting an interesting online meeting for nonprofits. It’s at 9am PST (or 11am CST)…

What are the top emerging trends in digital and how will nonprofits be impacted?

Where should we focus our attention (and resources) in 2021?

Join us for a fast-paced one hour event of mini-presentations on the trends, tools, and techniques nonprofits should use to create more impact.

“How Nonprofits Can Take Advantage of the Internet of Things”, with Gena Dellett

Learn about creative ways nonprofits are incorporating the many “smart” tools that fill our lives into their missions. From using IoT data to share impact with donors to increasing the reach of emergency service programming, everyday objects are transforming how nonprofits deliver on their missions. Getting started is not as hard as you think.

“Amplifying Human Relationships Using Tech” with Ruoyun Xu Killian

Digital has become our primary form of connection in our post-pandemic world. We are being met with a constant array of new technologies to build a bridge between the digital and physical. In this talk, Ruoyun Xu Killian, Digital Marketing Strategist, will teach you how to navigate these new trends and continue to amplify the human relationship that you have built with your audience online. She’ll showcase how new trends like short-form video, Usergenerated content (UGC), and social commerce can help your organization continue to create the impact that you seek.

“Beyond Virtual Volunteer Management: Tech & Trends in the Age of COVID” with James McGirr

GivePulse CTO James McGirr shares how technology has allowed for-impact organizations to pivot opportunities during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Innovations include technical solutions and trends that make staff, centers and activities safe, capabilities to simplify coordination of virtual and remote volunteers, and mechanisms to increase engagement when everyone is just zoom’d out.

“Why Should Nonprofits Embrace AI?” with Aysha Samrin

AI is no longer a complicated tool built exclusively for large tech companies, data scientists, and engineers. Organizations in every industry, from healthcare to finance to nonprofits, now have access to AI-based tools at affordable prices.

In this session, you will earn how Artificial Intelligence can elevate your nonprofit.

Pine and Carlton County residents run into troubles trying to stay connected

Moose Lake Star Gazette reports

Ryan Stewart’s, Moose Lake High School Principal, image froze on the screens of the Moose Lake School Board. He was making a presentation of a new grading option designed to help students recover their Grade Point Averages after struggling in Distance Learning. His daughter was home from college and also online.

To fix his internet connection problems Stewart needed to pause his presentation and ask his daughter to disconnect from the internet. Internet connection problems are a common one to have in areas around our community, but they make working and learning from home even more difficult.

Willow River Schools have provided mobile internet hotspots to students who are struggling to connect. At their most recent school board meeting school administrators were happy to report that with the recent purchase and set up of 25 additional hotspots all families who requested help connecting were able to receive a device.

The article goes on to provide several helpful tips to improve access by monitoring use and rebooting, helpful but the answer should be at a higher level. And they get to that too with an update of where state and federal funding from broadband stand today…

Rural areas have struggled to gain access to reliable internet connections for years. Legislative projects at both the state and federal level have been working to create a reliable source of internet connection for all. Broadband is simply a way of identifying internet connection to a router or wired connection. Connection to broadband creates the wireless connections within a home or area.

Federal funds going to telehealth tools to help at-risk native elders

WCCO News reports that more than $500,000 from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund will be used to provide equipment and technology to at-risk native elders…

The Minnesota Department of Human Services announced that home health care tools are being sent to Native American elders to help keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the DHS said blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and other technology that supports telehealth and behavioral health visits are currently on their way to native elders in communities around Minnesota.

Following a grant contract with the DHS, the Native American Community Clinic in south Minneapolis and the Northwest Indian Community Development Center in Bemidji are distributing the infection prevention tools.

OPPORTUNITY (to take a survey!): Community broadband, COVID-19, and economic development

Craig Settles, broadband researcher and advocate, and the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) are looking for economic development professionals to take a survey on broadband, COVID and the economy. Can you help? DO you want to give your two cents worth? The survey closes January 28. Here’s more info…

Please tell us about the state of local broadband after COVID-19 hit?  National policymakers – and IEDC – want to know about initiatives, policies, or programs in your community that possibly influence broadband’s impact on local economies during this pandemic.

When COVID-19 forced everyone home, was broadband ready? Telehealth took center stage, but did supporting technologies and local healthcare keep up? How did distance learning affect the digital divide in education?
We know your time is valuable and thank you in advance for sharing your insight and knowledge. This survey takes just a few to complete. To make things easy, the survey resumes right where you stop if you are interrupted.

This survey’s deadline is 11:59 PM (PST) January 28. Shortly afterwards, IEDC will share the final survey results and analysis report with you. Your input helps guide broadband policy as well as drive broadband access nationwide.
International Economic Development Council greatly appreciates you taking time to give us your feedback!

EVENTS Jan 13 & 21 : Blandin Broadband “Lunch Bunch” online discussion sessions

An invitation from the Blandin Broadband Team…

The Blandin Community Broadband Program announces a new virtual series for 2021 – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch. Sessions will take place the second and third Wednesdays of the month from noon-1:00 pm.

Sessions will alternate between Broadband Infrastructure (2nd Weds) and Digital Use and Equity (3rd Weds). The idea is to get colleagues in a shared space, introduce a topic, and talk. We learned during the 2020 virtual broadband conference that people really enjoy the opportunity to talk to one another, and we often found that the wisdom is often in the room – even in a Zoom room. Topics will be announced monthly and may include some experts to get the ball rolling.

Here’s what we have for January:

January 13 – Broadband Infrastructure: Everything You Want to Discuss about RDOF

The FCC’s Rural Development Opportunity Fund is a game changer for rural broadband development. Are the pending results of the reverse auction a win, loss or is the game still in play. Come bring your questions, share what you know  and tell the group how the RDOF auction is changing your local broadband strategies.

(Register here – for the first, all, or several of the upcoming Infrastructure sessions.)

January 21 – Digital Use and Equity: Share a success story

Note – this session was originally scheduled for January 20, which is also Inauguration Day. We decided to reschedule to Thursday.

The inaugural Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity is an opportunity to talk turkey with colleagues and cohorts around Minnesota and beyond! Normally there will be a specific (but loose) topic but to get the ball rolling – but for January, planners invite folks from the front lines to share their best stories of success. Please come and brag!

It will give us some good ideas to replicate. It will give us stories to share with legislators. Most of all, it will help set the stage of success for 2021!

(Register here – for the first, all, or several of the upcoming Digital Use & Equity sessions.)

We’re planning on holding Lunch Bunch sessions through June – at least! The monthly topics will be shared on the Blandin on Broadband blog, and in our monthly Broadband e-Newsletter. Links are also available on the Webinars page on our website.

Questions? Contact Mary Magnuson at

Social media being used to identify individuals at US Capitol on Jan 6

Input Magazine reports on an innovative use of social media…

An Instagram account entitled @homegrownterrorists has been set up to identify and track those involved in yesterday’s armed riot that escalated into an attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC. The account has amassed more than 8,000 followers by the time of writing and has created more than 100 posts.

It’s unclear who, exactly, is running the account, which appears to have been created not long after yesterday’s riots began. Most of the page’s posts follow a simple formula: a few photographs of someone present at yesterday’s activities along with a caption pleading for any information at all about the person’s identity. There is also a Cash App link in the account’s bio section, though it includes no identifying information or instructions.

The account has, in its brief existence, already managed to identify a number of those present at the riots. But it’s unclear whether this crowdsourced sleuthing has the potential to provide actual accountability for the crimes committed on January 6 at the Capitol.

Also on Twitter.

OPPORTUNITY: Free classes for Minnesotans through DEED and Coursera from now to March 31

Update: sorry – I just learned the deadline to sign up was Dec 31. 

GCN reports

To help Minnesota’s 130,000 unemployed workers, the state’s  Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is providing on-demand access to online classes for training, reskilling and upskilling.

The department contracted with Coursera, an online learning provider, to offer 3,800 classes for free to Minnesotans, particularly those affected by job losses related to the coronavirus pandemic. Residents request access to the course catalog through the DEED website and have until March 31, 2021, to complete their courses, which typically cost individuals $400 annually.

Here’s a taste of what they have and a reminder that they have more…

Courses related to technology, health care, retail and manufacturing have drawn the most attention, but so have COVID-specific ones, too, such as contact tracing classes, Warfa said. Because this effort targets out-of-work residents, state government employees are not required to take courses, but they are eligible.

What’s more, the offering complements the state’s CareerForce platform for connecting employers and job seekers. It has a tool that residents can use to see what skills they need to work in a particular industry.

“This is by no means a replacement for the workforce-training programs that exist. This is just another tool in the toolbox that I think is responsive and timely to COVID impact,” Warfa said. “Our goal is really just economic prosperity for everyone, especially those living on the margins of our economy.”

MN HF31: $300,000 for telework is introduced

MN House of Representatives Daily Intro to Bills (Jan 7) reports

Elkins introduced:

  1. F. 31,A bill for an act relating to transportation; appropriating money for telework activities.

The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Transportation Finance and Policy.

And more details

A bill for an act
relating to transportation; appropriating money for telework activities.



$300,000 in fiscal year 2021 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner
of transportation for a grant to transportation management organizations that provide services
exclusively or primarily in the city located along the marked Interstate Highway 494 corridor
having the highest population as of the effective date of this section. The commissioner
must not retain any portion of the funds appropriated under this section. The commissioner
must make grant payments in full by June 30, 2021. Funds under this grant are for
programming and service expansion to assist companies and commuters in telecommuting
efforts and promotion of best practices. A grant recipient must provide telework resources,
assistance, information, and related activities on a statewide basis. This is a onetime


This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Rep Deb Kiel (Crookston) will be looking to extend telehealth support beyond COVID

The Grand Forks Herald provides details on the areas’ legislators and their plans for the 2021 session…

Along with the budget, District 1 lawmakers say their priorities include reopening the economy while limiting the use of peacetime emergency powers by Gov. Tim Walz. They also mention health care needs, including expanding access to providers through telehealth. Minnesota’s legislative session began on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Rep. Deb Kiel is looking to make permanent telehealth changes made in deference to COVID…

Longtime District 1B Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, also said her priorities include reopening the economy, which she called one of the most pressing issues for her district. The tax dollars generated by businesses are necessary for future budget allocations, she said.

Kiel’s priorities also include health care proposals, an area on which she has focused in her 10 years in the Legislature. Telehealth expands access to residents in greater Minnesota and should not be seen as a reaction to COVID-19, according to Kiel, who is calling for advances made in telehealth to be made permanent. She says the pandemic may have opened the eyes of other lawmakers.

“I couldn’t get anybody to hardly hear the (telehealth) bill four years ago,” she told the Herald.

Kiel said she will prioritize legislation allowing for medical advocates – a family member or trusted adviser who can accompany a patient and speak to their interests. The coronavirus has tightened who can enter health care facilities, out of concern for spreading the virus, but Kiel expressed confidence in allowing an advocate to safely enter the premises with a patient.

“I have found in dealing with health care issues, and pretty serious ones, a loved one, or somebody that you have prepared, would know your health issues and also what you want,” Kiel said.

EVENT Feb 3: Public Good App House: Apps that Address Food Insecurity

I thought this event might be of interest to readers. Even if you can’t attend the online event, TechSoup shares a nice list of resources to research in your own time…

Food insecurity affects about a quarter of the world’s population and more than 80 percent of US food banks are serving more people now than they did a year ago.

How can we apply technology towards these challenges? Join our next Public Good App House demo event and discover four apps that address food insecurity.



United Nations World Food Programme

ShareTheMeal is the mobile fundraising app from the United Nations World Food Programme. The app allows users to ‘share their meal’ with a hungry child with just a tap and $0.80, feeding 1 child for a day.


Reduce food waste and feed people affordably using Flashfood. Users get massive savings on fresh food items like meat and produce that are nearing their best before date at grocery stores across Canada and the U.S.

MealConnect 2.0

Feeding America

Since 2014, MealConnect has been facilitating local food donations for community hunger relief organizations. In just a few months, Feeding America will launch functions allowing produce growers to donate crops anywhere in the country and enable Feeding America food banks to more easily share bounty with their lower-resourced peer food banks.


Code for America

Code for America built GetCalFresh to be the most human-centered, mobile-friendly, and efficient way to apply for the SNAP (also known as “food stamps”) program. Code for America will share lessons learned while building the app, and what’s coming next for helping Californians get the money for food that they’re entitled to.

Internet outage in Red Wing brings us a new form of “snow day”

RiverTowns.Net reports…

Call it a cable day instead of a snow day late start. Shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, [Red Wings School]Superintendent Karsten Anderson called for classes to start at least two hours late because one of the community’s two internet companies suffered a line break.

Hiawatha Broadband’s outage reportedly involves a portion of southeastern Minnesota.

“As a result of that outage, many students and staff members do not have access to the internet or to the school learning platform,” Anderson said.

The disruption affects classes for all K-12 students, who are in full distance learning, regardless of whether they still have internet access.

At 9:45 a.m., he issued a second stating that the internet had been restored. K-6 students could log in at 9:50 a.m. High School students were notified how their four-block schedule was revised.

On the one hand this is a fun story on how “snow days” may not be entirely gone. And if you’ve grown up in a cold climate, you probably have a place in your heart for snow days. One the other hand, this is a reminder of how important secure, reliable broadband is at every level. If you’re Internet went out today – what could your family do and not do. The list is different since the pandemic and I think that list is changed permanently.

A practical look at what telehealth is and needs to be to meet patients’ expectations

The St Paul Pioneer Press recently posted an interesting article on the future of telehealth. It’s a fun look at the practical and a look at the difference between online and in person service and expectations…

In a sterile hospital environment with little more than a magazine to keep them company, most patients are fairly forgiving, and can chalk up a 20- or even 30-minute delay to the demands of the profession.

But online? If virtual care is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., it had darn well better start at 3:30 p.m.

“That took me by surprise,” said Ingham, vice president of Health Information for Allina Health. “We’ve struggled a bit to deal with that. … They could literally be on their couch waiting, and they still get kind of perturbed if you’re running more than a couple minutes late.”

While waits were verboten, suddenly interpreters were easy (easier)…

Since the outset of the pandemic, linguistic interpreters — who once might have taken hours to be tracked down when needed — are entering clinical settings via video screen in a fraction of the time. Family members of immigrants are suddenly able to assist nurses and physicians bridge cultural and language barriers through three-way calling. Doctors are beaming into the living areas of their patients like an old-fashioned home visit or consulting with medical teams to provide in-patient care from across the state.

The COVID19 has been the impetus, but telehealth will outlast the pandemic…

The M Health Fairview system logged some 3,500 virtual care visits last January. That was before the pandemic. By April, with hospitals and clinics scrambling to find safe alternatives to in-person care, that number had grown to 120,000 virtual visits.

For M Health Fairview, which has completed more than 1 million virtual care encounters since March, telehealth in some months has accounted for 80 percent of outpatient service.

Health systems say it’s unlikely they’ll put the genie back into the bottle, even though there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Here are some of the advances and hurdles that will lead us forward….

  • In October, Minnesota-based 3M introduced the new Littmann CORE Digital Stethoscope — a device that makes it possible to listen to a patient’s heart sounds from anywhere, wirelessly, by recording or livestreaming data to a remote provider.
  • Hospitals and community health centers have rolled out team-based meetings by iPad and remote monitoring equipment that allows them to check on patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, to examine their blood levels and to adjust medication from afar.
    Nicholson said that’s an especially important innovation given that dexamethasone — a core treatment for COVID-19 — can raise blood sugar levels precipitously, and there’s not enough endocrinologists available to send to every hospital.
  • There are still plenty of hurdles to come. Using everyday communications technology like FaceTime, Skype and Zoom for patient visits requires a state and federal regulatory framework that allows Medicare reimbursement and other licensing, approvals that had to get rushed into place on a temporary basis in the early days of the pandemic.
    Those rules are still evolving, and in some cases being rolled back. Allina’s Ingham noted that many states require medical practitioners to be licensed in-state. Rules around in-state licensing that were relaxed for virtual care in the early days of the pandemic have since been widely reinstated.
  • “Historically, no one really wanted to pay for virtual visits,” Ingham said. “They would reimburse much much less, if they would reimburse at all. … We can’t work for free.”
    Given the experience of the pandemic, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services appear willing to continue to reimburse providers for virtual care, but it’s unclear the degree to which the private market will do the same once the COVID crisis has passed.
  • Online care also requires that all parties have access to broadband internet, which can be challenging for rural and low-income residents.

Technology is a helper in getting access to mental health support during the holidays

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on the impact the pandemic is having on our mental health and offers some tips to help improve your mental health. Two of the three suggested actions include technology – the other two are recognize when you are feeling down and get some exercise. Here are the tech steps…

  • Telehealth appointments are available: Talk therapy can be well-suited to video or audio-only sessions, and a smartphone may allow more privacy than a home computer. An initial appointment will likely be a screening, potentially followed by a recommendation to start a course of therapy.
    “Telehealth is available. Would I say it’s pervasive? I think it’s working to become pervasive,” said Daniel H. Gillison Jr., CEO of NAMI.
  •  Connect with others: “Connection is a kind of antidepressant,” Duckworth said. Phone calls and video chats are good, but it doesn’t have to be with family — book clubs, Alcoholics Anonymous and grief support groups are all active online now. Don’t be afraid to break the ice for someone else who might benefit from more connection.
  • Use a helpline: Phone-based helplines include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Minnesota Warmline (651-288-0400) and the state Crisis Text Line (Text MN to 741741). The Minnesota Farmer and Rural Helpline is available at 1-833-600-2670 or by texting FARMSTRESS to 898211.