Report finds strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth

Deloitte released a report that looks at Return on Investment in broadband. They look at advantages of faster speeds and the need to focus on adoption and affordability…

Today, the digital divide still presents a significant gap after more than $100 billion of infrastructure investment has been allocated by the US government over the past decade to address this issue. The current debate regarding additional funds for broadband deployment implies that further examination is warranted regarding how to get to broadband for all and achieve the resulting economic prosperity.

Quantifying the economic impact of bridging the digital divide clearly shows the criticality of broadband infrastructure to the US economy. Deloitte developed economic models to evaluate the relationship between broadband and economic growth. Our models indicate that a 10-percentage-point increase of broadband penetration in 2016 would have resulted in more than 806,000 additional jobs in 2019, or an average annual increase of 269,000 jobs. Moreover, we found a strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth. A 10-percentage-point increase of broadband access in 2014 would have resulted in more than 875,000 additional US jobs and $186B more in economic output in 2019. The analysis also showed that higher broadband speeds drive noticeable improvements in job growth, albeit with diminishing returns. As an example, the gain in jobs from 50 to 100 Mbps is more than the gain in jobs from 100 to 150 Mbps.

The findings suggest further analysis is warranted before setting too high a threshold for broadband speeds (both uplink and downlink). Doing so could discourage investment in promising new technology that doesn’t yet meet predetermined thresholds but offers potential cost and rapid deployment advantages over today’s solutions. Furthermore, innovative solutions can help spawn a competitive broadband environment that improves affordability of broadband for all households. Overly stringent mandates on speed, on the other hand, run the risk of ruling out these innovations before they gain a market foothold.

Stakeholders should focus on several considerations as they move forward.

  • Place a renewed emphasis on adoption and affordability by ensuring consistent user experiences, analyzing trade-offs between delivering higher speeds and innovative new technologies, and seeking diverse solutions for unique, underserved geographies.
  • Segment underserved US geographies into more granular categories that recognize the vastly different coverage and affordability needs of underserved geographies.
  • Incorporate the expected growth in broadband consumption into future investments and programs by utilizing subscriber data (e.g., running an FCC speed test).

Bridging the digital divide will likely require public or private investment in the country’s communications infrastructure including both wireless and wireline. Regardless of the specifics of the investment, these guiding principles can help yield immediate gains in providing affordable access to underserved segments of the population and move the nation closer toward broadband for all and bridging the digital divide.

Rural areas need broadband to attract rural workers

New York Times reports

“How do you get young people to want to move back into these rural areas when they feel like they’re moving back into a time frame of 20 years ago?” asked Mr. Weiler, the company’s founder and chief executive.

Rural areas have complained for years that slow, unreliable or simply unavailable internet access is restricting their economic growth. But the pandemic has given new urgency to those concerns, at the same time that President Biden’s infrastructure plan — which includes $100 billion to improve broadband access — has raised hope that the problem might finally be addressed.

“It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed internet, including 35 percent of the rural America that still doesn’t have it,” Mr. Biden said of his plan in an address to Congress last month. “This is going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st-century economy.”

Mr. Biden has received both criticism and praise for pushing to expand the scope of infrastructure to include investments in child care, health care and other priorities beyond the concrete-and-steel projects that the word normally calls to mind. But ensuring internet access is broadly popular. In a recent survey conducted for The New York Times by the online research platform SurveyMonkey, 78 percent of adults said they supported broadband investment, including 62 percent of Republicans.

Businesses, too, have consistently supported broadband investment. Major industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers have all released policy recommendations in the last year calling for federal spending to help close the “digital divide.”

Defining broadband is an issue…

Quantifying that divide, and its economic cost, is difficult, in part because there is no agreed-upon definition of broadband. The Federal Communications Commission in 2015 updated its standards to a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second. The Department of Agriculture sets its standard lower, at 10 m.p.s. A bipartisan group of rural-state senators asked both agencies this year to raise their standards to 100 m.p.s. And speed-based definitions don’t take into account other issues, like reliability and latency, a measure of how long a signal takes to travel between a computer and a remote server.

The definition matters in terms of getting government support to improve access, but the definition doesn’t matter to the consumer. All that matters to the consumer is that it works…

According to the F.C.C.’s definition, most of Marion County has high-speed access to the internet. But residents report that service is slow and unreliable. And with only one provider serving much of the county, customers have little leverage to demand better service.

The area needs more workers, but new workers, especially younger workers, will not move to an areas without broadband…

Local leaders have plans to attract new businesses and a younger generation of workers — but those plans won’t work without better internet service, said Mark Raymie, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

Future leader in Autonomous Vehicles? Grand Rapids MN!

Grand Rapids in on the cusp of being the first cold weather, rural community to deploy autonomous vehicles (AV) – maybe in the world! That’s pretty exciting but I feel like I’m burying the lead because there are so many good things included in this pilot project. Their focus is on access, especially for folks who cannot get driver’s licenses and becoming a hub for autonomous vehicles, starting with getting kids interested in trained in the schools.

I spoke with Myrna Peterson about the project. Originally from Iowa, Myrna moved to the area many years ago; she is a former teacher. She has been in a wheelchair since a serious car accident in the 1990s. She has unique experience understanding the need for accessibility and understanding the need (and how!) to get kids involved in educational opportunities that will lead to jobs. But of course she’s not doing the work alone. There are a host of project partners, including the Blandin Foundation, Mobility Mania, several economic development leaders, research and academic partners and private sector partners, such as May Mobility, the AV experts.

The plan is to create a 12-mile route to local hotspots, such as the grocery store, church, schools and communal living settings. The AV goes about 25 mph, so the path will stick to slower roads. (So smart to avoid annoying other vehicles driving on 169!) Broadband plays a role both in helping the AV’s with offloading (a lot) of data and connecting that data to the back office. It also allows riders to connect to the AV app to make reservations and otherwise communicate. The AV collects data in the environment and uses Multi-Policy Decision-Making system to as a brain to drive. (Learn more on the May Mobility site.)

The need for AV to collect data has opened a door to looking other use of sensors and spurred discussions with Smart North. Now the community is looking at smart street lights and tech hubs. The community is also making sure that the AV experience meets the needs of all riders, which means wheel-chair accessible, accommodating visual and hearing impairments and more. They are looking to not only be ADA compliant but to be comfort-forward and welcoming for everyone, which is how you get people to use the AV. There will be an attendant on the AV to make sure everything is going smoothly.

But as I mentioned, this goes beyond a ride. They are working with the schools to create programming and opportunities for students to learn more about AV, starting with a STEM camp this summer. They are working with the K12 schools, local colleges and are working to create apprenticeships. They are also planning to leverage the shuttle project to showcase the region’s innovative mobility program through Smart Rural Mobility seminars where the Grand Rapids community members will have an information sharing forum, and they will be empowered to share their mobility stories with other government leaders and technology companies.  So, not only will Grand Rapids be the first cold weather, rural AV community but the people in and from the area will be leading experts. It’s an opportunity for a whole new industry cluster.

EVENT May 8: Appapalooza 2021, a live-pitch event for girls ages 10-18

Technovation[MN] sends an invitation

We are back! Technovation[MN] is excited to host Appapalooza 2021, a celebration and live-pitch event for girls ages 10-18 who have worked hard to build mobile applications to make an impact on their communities. Appapalooza is Technovation[MN]’s largest event, bringing teams of girls, their mentors, judges, the Minnesota tech community, volunteers, friends, and family together to celebrate, support, and nurture a future diverse technology workforce pipeline. Come to have fun, celebrate and be inspired. Registration is now open!

Team YES wins Overwatch 6v6 Tournament at GigaZone Gaming Championship 5

Some fun news in a tough week from Paul Bunyan Communications

The first of three consecutive weekends of GigaZone Gaming Championship 5 was held Saturday, April 10 with the first tournament, Overwatch 6v6.

Team YES won the Overwatch 6v6 Tournament and the top prize of $1,800.  Team YES team members are Kelly Whipple, Kylie Elliott, Tien Nguyen, Connor Broderick, and Coby LaCroix from Bemidji and Isaak R Smith from Deer River.

Second place and $1,200 went to The Clean Up Crew with team members Thomas Berge of Bemidji, Ethan Hunt and Ewan Newbold of Pine River, Tristan Jourdain from Red Lake, Jacob Peterson from Red Lake Falls, and Kohl Belgrade-Gotchie from Akeley.

Third place and $600 was won by ISSA Team with team members all from Bemidji including Tristan Lawrence, Naziah Matt, Devon Rainey, James Jones, Matoskah Veaux, and Dakota Veaux

In addition to the Overwatch tournament, there were door prize drawings throughout the day and the CosPlay Contest started accepting entries.  Madden 21 is the featured tournament this Saturday, April 17 and Super Smash Bros is the featured Tournament on Saturday, April 24. The tournaments are free to play and open to anyone who lives within the 218 area code but registration is required at www.gigazonegaming.com  Anyone interested in either tournament should register now before they are full.

“What an incredible job our team has done in pivoting to a virtual event his year!  I’m very proud of all the hard work and dedication put in to provide these three weekends of online gaming fun for the region.  I hope everyone gets the chance to check it out over the course of the next two Saturdays,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

This one-of-a-kind regional gaming event is free to play or watch and is being held virtually due to the pandemic.  It showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology to make the virtual event possible.  The event leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country and the entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.

“The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.

This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, as well support from several regional and national partners.

For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com

MN Report on Automated Vehicles mentioned 10 year investment in fiber

Transportation Today reports on the Minnesota Gov’s Advisory Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles 2020 annual report…

The Minnesota Governor’s Advisory Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles said in its annual report Monday that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the state was able to move forward toward readiness for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV).

Also…

The report noted that the state was able to test new cellular vehicle communications technologies that connect snowplows and avoid collisions by preventing red-light running. Additionally, the Advisory Council completed a 10-year investment plan for fiberoptic cable that will support CAVs and broadband and conducted the nation’s largest CAV survey to determine the attitudes Minnesotans’ have about CAVs.

I was interested in the 10-year investment in fiber so I checked out the report. Here’s what I was able to find…

  • Fiber and broadband: MnDOT, MnIT and Department of Employment and Economic Development are completing a 10-year investment plan for fiber optic that supports CAVs and broadband. The state also met with the private telecommunications industry to understand their broadband expansion goals and learn how to partner in future pilots.
  • Connectivity & Work Zone Safety: The FHWA granted Minnesota funding to test connected vehicle work zone safety applications. With the FCC ruling, the state is also looking into new cellular connected vehicle technologies, including those being piloted in Ramsey County in Roseville. DEED, MnIT and MnDOT are also partnering to deploy fiber and broadband in key areas of the state to advance CAV and rural connectivity goals.

I remember that MnDOT, MnIT and DEED had a broadband commission a few years ago that, as far as I knew, did not have public meetings. I don’t know if they are still around and I think it only included the commissions of each department. I also don’t know much about the 10 year investment in fiber and I wonder why the MN Broadband Task Force doesn’t factor that into the plans to get everyone connected.

St Cloud reader thinks broadband is for folks who can afford it – and a few counter points

St Cloud Times posts a letter from a reader…

I personally think it’s unnecessary to spend state tax money on the internet so everyone has a chance of using it. I disagree with [Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake] comment about how it’s important for every citizen to have good and reliable internet. I think that those that deserve it need to work for it, and should be able to pay for it themselves.

I understand rural areas have higher likeliness of poor broadband speeds but that’s partly due to the fact that people cannot afford to buy it themselves. Money for the broadband should be going towards other projects, so there can be better management around the home.

Once this COVID nonsense blows over, students will be back in schools and able to use the networks the districts provide. This can be looked at as motivation to get back in the classrooms and stop being so afraid of the “modern flu.”

I haven’t seen a response like this in a few years. I wanted to offer what I hope are constructive reply options:

There’s a hole in the bucket

Remember the song – There’s a hole in the bucket? I’ll recap: Henry finds a hole in the bucket. Liza says fix it. After much consternation, Henry say he can’t fix it because he can’t get the water he needs to do the job because he needs the bucket to get the water. Broadband isn’t a reward, it’s the means to become economically more solvent. Conservative report say households with broadband enjoy $1850/yr in economic benefit – but I’ve seen that number go as high as $10,500/yr. Broadband is a means to further education, provides access to more jobs and just access to learning about more jobs.

Only as strong as the weakest link

I spoke with communities last summer about how they were able to survive the pandemic shut down. Rock County has almost ubiquitous broadband. So when schools moved to distance education, they had minimal effort to ensure that all households had the connectivity and computers, which means teachers could teach online. Kanabec County, on the other hand has spotty coverage. There are areas where even the mobile hotspots were not reliable. The issue was not household affordability – it’s availability. School was different for them. Teachers had to teach online and prepare paper packets for kids without access. Whole communities were held back because some households  didn’t have access.

Uneven playing field

In urban areas, the market takes care of the broadband expansion. Companies can make money building and serving broadband to customers because there are so many darned people in Minneapolis and St Paul. That’s how a company like US Internet can charge $50/month for 300Mbps connection! It is difficult to make as much money in a rural community because there are fewer people and the population density is much lower. (Population density in Ramsey county is 3,064.9/sq mi and it’s 1.6/sq mi in Cook County.) There are some rural counties with amazing broadband. It is usually because they have a cooperative broadband provider but when there’s a commercial provider the incentive is not there to upgrade. Cooperatives aim to meet the needs of their members; commercial providers aim to make money. (Even when profit isn’t the primary aim, providers still need help to deploy better broadband.)

We all pay when someone doesn’t have broadband

Finally, government services are often cheaper when people can access them online. One timely example is the COVID at-home tests; cheaper, safer and easier for everyone but you need broadband to do it. But it’s also true for healthcare, telehealth saves money. Reducing the cost of government services, reduces the needs for taxes. It’s a dated story now, but in 2012, Mayo announced expected savings of $172.8 million for taxpayers as a result of the $60 million investment. These economic benefits don’t stop with government. Businesses benefit when customers are online too – especially in the last year. Communities where customers could order online were in a better place to shift sales rather than lose them.

To think that broadband is only for those who can afford it is short sighted. Broadband is not a luxury, it is a necessity. In 2011, the UN declared it a human right and just a few weeks ago, a survey showed that 68 percent viewed broadband as a utility and 77 percent thought it was essential to achieving the American dream. By definition, the American dream is not just for those who can afford it.

OPPORTUNITY: 2021 MN Cup: Calling all entrepreneurs!

From the Carlson School…

Minnesota Cup (MN Cup) is kicking off our 17th season! Applications for the 2021 competition are open from March 15 – April 16. MN Cup is here to connect current and aspiring Minnesota entrepreneurs to education, mentorship, seed capital, and the broader community. You do not need to have an entity formed or be earning revenue to apply – all Minnesotans and Minnesota-based businesses earning less than $1M annual revenue are eligible. MN Cup has given away $4 Million in non-dilutive seed funding since 2005, and plans to award at least $400,000 this season. We hope you’ll share this free, accessible, supportive opportunity with founders and innovators in your network!

Click here to apply

Click here to register for office hours or an info session

Sign up for our newsletter for the most up to date information 

Precision Ag, not just for early adopters anymore – as heard on Community Networks podcast

I find precision ag intriguing. I love getting tours. (Hint, hint.) I think it’s amazing how math can help harness nature. So I was delighted to see that Chris Mitchell spoke with Julie Bushell, President of Paige Wireless and Co-chair of Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force on the Community Networks podcast.

One thing that struck me was when Julie was talking about livestream video drone footage, she noted that drone footage is not bleeding edge, it’s standard. It’s standard for those who have access anyway. In an industry where money is made by pennies in pounds, any slight advantage or disadvantage makes a world of difference.

They talk about farming but also about the impact of having better broadband in a community. It helps start businesses. It keeps kids in town for another generation.

Julie notes that for funding we’ve always looked at only home and business. There may be just one home in a 1,000 acre home but that may include a lot of devices. We need to consider the Internet of Things, the internet of precision ag when we’re looking at federal funding.

Also need someone working on connectivity from the device side – we need standards that make it easy to connect no matter what the mode.

Blandin Broadband Lunch Smart Cities & Broadband Day on the Hill video and notes

Oh what a day, MN Broadband Day on the Hill, Lunch Bunch and a Senate meeting starting in 15 minutes. So my notes are brief.

We celebrated the Day on the Hill with many of the participants who joined us immediately after. Folks in the lunch bunch who were not at the Day on the Hill has questions about policies (or grant stipulations) that might consider affordability and access (skills to use and get) to broadband as well as availability. The grants do consider access but it was fun to think about how that could happen more. We talked a bit about national activities. Then we heard from the folks at Smart North about what makes a smart city and how does one getting started.

Lot of questions on starting with street lights. For example, in a rural are where moving to smart street lights won’t save a huge amount of money – does it still make sense? It does because with smart lights you can “value stack” other features like the ability to adjust the light or use the light pole as a wifi (or even 5G) hub. We even touched upon these being the building blocks to get to autonomous vehicles. A few of us kept on the call and one attendee (David Asp) that we might start calling smart technology “how to use technology to make life easier” maybe to make it sounds easier.

Here’s the original description of the sessions:

Join to talk about smart tactics for cities, suburbs and town. I’m excited to have a few experts from Smart North join us.  Smart North is a coalition of public, private, civic, education, and entrepreneurial individuals and organizations looking to drive Smart City initiatives throughout Minnesota. (They are looking for partners, especially in rural areas!)

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to talk to founders Sabina Saksena (CytiLife), Ben Wallace (Minify Energy) and Thomas Fisher (U of M School of Architecture College of Design). You can watch the video for a quick take on what they do – from autonomous cars, big data and energy!

Also Wednesday is Broadband Day on the Hill, which ends just as we start. I’m hoping/expecting a few of folks to hop on over to let us how it went and maybe we can celebrate lifting broadband in the eyes of the legislature.

And you can view the chat: Continue reading

EVENT Mar 23: MN House Transportation Finance and Policy hears HF31 on Telework

HF31: Telework activity funding provided, and money appropriated is on the schedule for March 23…

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 , 1:00 PM
Transportation Finance and Policy
Chair: Rep. Frank Hornstein
Location: Remote Hearing
Agenda:

Bills may be added or removed.
HF1637 (Hausman) – Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago (TCMC) passenger rail funding provided; bonds issued; and money appropriated.
HF1109 (Murphy) – Minneapolis and Duluth; high-speed passenger rail funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated. *Informational only*
HF31 (Elkins) – Telework activity funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF272 (Elkins) – Motor vehicle registration self-service kiosk pilot program authorized, report required, and money appropriated.
HF1713 (West) – Motor vehicle rental fee revenue allocation modified.
HF2295 (Bernardy) – Work zone safety pilot program established, report required, and money appropriated.

Broadband is the hot topic at Brainerd annual Economic Development meeting

Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp (BLAEDC) held their annual meeting yesterday online. Turns out the hot topic of the day was also the price of admission – broadband. Keynote speaker was Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the National Telephone Cooperative Association – the Rural Broadband Association.

The Brainerd Dispatch reports on the day…

Bloomfield pointed to the rural electrification of the 1930s that focused on bringing electricity to rural areas where companies hadn’t reached because fewer people made the cost of the service so high. Serving the high density urban areas was relatively easy. That meant rural America was left behind. Cooperatives like CTC filled the gap.

Fast forward to the present where being able to connect to the internet with a reliable service comes with opportunities for education, telemedicine, commerce, business growth and quality of life. Bloomfield said the beauty of the cooperative model is one that is built not on profit but on service. Minnesota, she said, is a stronghold for cooperatives. In rural America, those cooperative members see their customers at schools, in churches and at local stores.

“That makes a really big difference,” Bloomfield said.

They spoke about the need for better mapping and future-focused investment…

Having fiber-optic cable for broadband provides an ability to send data faster and with greater bandwidth, which comes into play for video, internet and voice services. That value is visible when it comes to reselling homes, growing businesses and bringing in new companies. Bloomberg pointed to the need for data and speed when students are home distance learning while parents are trying to work from home. In addition, she said they’ve learned people need to be able to upload as fast as they download, which wasn’t previously the case when it was about downloading an article or email.

“Well now we need to be able to transmit both ways just as fast, that’s a symmetrical network. And that is what fiber can provide,” Bloomfield said, noting as Congress looks at infrastructure, it’s broadband connectivity that is the 21st century superhighway.

To really understand what areas are underserved or not served at all, Bloomfield said mapping is needed. “Congress finally appropriated some money to actually start mapping, that’s going to be a really important first step,” she said. Bloomfield said looking at programs the FCC is considering, it’s going to take about a decade to get the country to 90-95% coverage.

Another important step is to look at what is the best use of federal programs and to avoid overbuilding what has already been put in the ground with programs such as the ones CTC has already utilized to extend service to rural communities. State partnerships need to be incentivized. Bloomfield said she met with 35 states recently and their state broadband offices and she told them the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, funding expansion of broadband to the unserved or underserved, was the best run program she’s seen out there.

Broadband, Local Economies and the Age of COVID: A Report

Craig Settles has released a new report (Broadband, Local Economies and the Age of COVID) based on a survey of 200 economic developers…

In this year’s survey, 200 recipients weighed in on the state of broadband, starting with an assessment of ISP competition as well as broadband alternative to the giant ISPs for communities. This report concludes with some insights and advice for how we can continue to leverage community broadband.

This year, economic development professionals participated from across the U.S. to provide insights and observations.

  • Has COVID-19 set back broadband advance as well as hopes of closing the digital divide?
  • Respondents have a markedly increased interest in telehealth as a local economic tool this year than they had 18 months ago.
  • Some survey participants have witnessed the influence broadband had on low-income and unemployed workers becoming entrepreneurs before and after COVID-19 struck.
  • Respondent weighed in on the impacts of COVID-19 on the determinants of economic development.
  • Federal and state broadband policies and funding rules work to the detriment of local communities.
  • Ultimately, what are the roles of broadband and digital technologies when COVID-19 is done with us?

Here are some of the observations, they made…

  • “There’s a reason ‘broadband is a super-determinant of public health,” says Dr. Bento Lobo, an economist who has researched extensively broadband’s, telehealth’s, and public health’s economic impact. “By having a 10 GB fiber network in his home office, Dr. Jim Busch and the other radiologists together at Diagnostic Radiology Consultants (DRC) save $18.2 million a year in time,” says Dr. Lobo. ”The typical radiologist saves a thousand hours a year.”
  • Pay attention to where cities and towns deploy limited-reach public networks because these locations drive broadband deployment throughout communities. While we see COVID-19 turning healthcare and education delivery on its head, these networks can be foundations on which the two industries establish new delivery points. Limited-reach networks can transform anchor institutions such as libraries and schools into new telehealth delivery points. Telehealth and education nonprofits can consider “adopting” public housing facilities and deliver network services to the underserved. Community centers and abandoned office buildings can have these networks create worker spaces, temporary hospitals and after-school study halls.
  • The promised economic impact of telehealth will not be fully achieved until communities address digital literacy among both doctors and patients. In my first telehealth visit my iPhone showed a “mic” icon, which is how the doc and I know we have an audio connection. But the connection didn’t work, neither of us had time, so we talked on the phone, defeating the purpose of the app.

Minnesota Farm Bureau makes broadband a priority – hear from the fields

Brownfield Ag News for America reports

Broadband access remains insufficient for many in rural America.

And northern Minnesota cow/calf rancher Miles Kuschel tells Brownfield the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the issue.

“If it’s given us an insight into one thing, it’s the absolute need for high-speed broadband across all of Rural America. Whether it’s distance learning, telemedicine, Zoom conferences or annual meetings.”

Kuschel is a district director for Minnesota Farm Bureau and says at the state and national level, Farm Bureau has made rural broadband a priority.

“Definitely a big help because the legislators are hearing it loud and clear, and (they) are also experiencing the frustrations when it comes to rural broadband. Especially when you have a remote legislative session like they’re participating in right now.”

American Farm Bureau supports using the Universal Service Fund as well as a combination of tax incentives and grants to expand broadband deployment to rural areas.

GigaZone Gaming Championship Returns Virtually in April

Big news from Paul Bunyan Communications for gamers in the 218…

GigaZone™ Gaming Championship 5 will be held online three consecutive weekends in April starting April 10. The event will feature a different gaming tournament each weekend, Cosplay contest, and door prizes with over $5,000 in cash and prizes to be given away. It is free to play or watch.
This one of a kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone™ one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone™ Internet connection.
This year’s main tournaments are Overwatch April 10-11, Madden 21 April 17, and Super Smash Brothers April 24.
Registration for all tournaments can be done online at http://www.gigazonegaming.com It is free to enter and main tournaments are open to anyone living within the 218 area code, but space is limited. The gaming will start each Saturday at 10 a.m.
It’s free to watch and will be live streamed on www.gigazonegaming.com.
“There is a large gaming community in our area and it’s been so cool to see the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship take off. While we can’t get all together in person this time around, it will be a fun three weekends of fun online! said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members. The GigaZone™ provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.
“There is no other gaming event like it anywhere I’ve seen. I’m very proud of our team for embracing the challenges in
going to an all virtual platform. We invite everyone to hop online to watch or play!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.
For more information on the GigaZone™ Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com.