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).


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

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 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
“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

MN legislature introduces bill that allows developers to bypass App Store billing

Apple Insider reports…

Following on the heels of failed legislation in North Dakota and a similar bill in Arizona, Minnesota has joined the ranks of states trying to force Apple to allow apps to bypass App Store billing.

The proposal would reportedly make Apple and Google allow Minnesota developers to bypass App Store restrictions and commissions on their devices. Even if developers sell their apps directly or through other channels, the tech giants would be forced to allow them in their digital storefronts.

“A lot of people are concerned about the increased influence and power that Big Tech has, and I think there’s a lot of interest in trying to make sure that we have a fair and open digital economy,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the bill’s sponsor in the House.

The proposed legislation appears to be part of a broader and coordinated effort across U.S. states. A similar bill failed in North Dakota earlier in February, and the Arizona state House of Representatives is set to vote on another piece of legislation targeting app-store fees.

The Arizona and Minnesota bills stop short of requiring third-party app stores, focusing instead on requiring specific in-app payment systems as the sole way to accept payments. Both proposals also seek to prevent tech companies from retaliating against developers who bypass their payment systems.

OPPORTUNITY: Red Wing Ignite E1 Ignite Cup 2021

Red Wing Ignite is partnering with the E1 Collaborative to host E1 Ignite Cup 2021. Here’s more info from a recent email

E1 Ignite Cup 2021

Pitch Night April 6, 2021

We’re doing it again. Red Wing Ignite, in partnership with the E1 Collaborative is hosting E1 Ignite Cup 2021.

Last year’s Ignite Cup winner won $50,000 in the 2020 MN Cup. Maybe you can be next?!?

What is E1 Ignite Cup?

A Virtual “Shark Tank”. Emerging Startups present their idea/business (in a virtual format) to a panel of judges made up of entrepreneurs, investors, business/regional leaders, and MN Cup representatives.

All applicants receive feedback on their idea/business and application, and exposure to a diverse group of people in the MN Startup community.

E1 Ignite Cup Awards

1st Place

  • Automatic Semi-Finalist in MN Cup
  • 30-minute mentoring session from each judge

2nd Place

  • 30-minute mentoring session from each judge

People’s Choice Award

  • Gifts bundle provided by our E1 Collaborative partners

How the competition works

  • Each Startup completes an online application.
  • An evaluation panel reviews applications and choses 5 Finalists.
  • Finalists prepare a pitch deck and short video.
  • Finalists present to a panel of judges.
  • Judges award 1st and 2nd place based on MN Cup judging criteria.

Who Qualifies

You’re an emerging entrepreneur and you, your business, or your customers have ties to one of the following SE MN counties: Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Steele, Dodge, Olmsted, Winona, Freeborn, Mower, Fillmore, Houston.

Important Dates

Application Deadline March 17, 2021

Finalists Notified March 24,2021

Finalist’s pitch deck/video deadline March 31,2021

Pitch Night April 6, 2021



Application Deadline is March 17, 2021

Apply now!

Google is opening an office in Rochester MN to be close to the Mayo Clinic

Healthcare IT News reports

Google announced Thursday that it would open first office in Minnesota – a new Rochester-based space that will enable employees to work more closely with the Mayo Clinic on an array of ongoing cloud and artificial intelligence projects.

They have been working for a while…

Since launching their 10-year partnership in September 2019 Mayo Clinic and Google have worked closely on a wide array of clinical and operational use cases – pushing troves of data to the cloud, harnessing artificial intelligence for imaging and decision support and exploring novel approaches to COVID-19 treatment and public health.

Even before the collaboration was launched, Mayo Clinic was already a major machine learning innovator. James D. Buntrock, the health system’s vice chair of IT enterprise technology services, noted this past year that Mayo launched an internal workgroup to find new AI opportunities – but “to our surprise, we identified more than 200 activities that were using some sort of AI or machine learning methodology.”

It’s good news to have collaboration between Mayo and Google. It’s good for Rochester to attract a success, innovative and well known company like Google. With any luck that will promote and facilitate more partnerships in the area. It is interesting, at a time when so many people are working entirely online and thinking about making that permanent, that a move like this was made.

OPPORTUNITY: gBETA Medtech, as free 7-week accelerator program for medical startups

gBETA Medtech is a free, seven-week accelerator that works with medical device, healthcare related software, biotech and diagnostics startups. Applications are due February 21, 2021. The program runs from April 8 to May 28.

Here’s a quick look at what it could mean to a company…

Participating Companies Receive:

  • Individualized coaching and mentorship from the gBETA team during weekly, one-on-one meetings.
  • One-on-one meetings with 25+ mentors including serial entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and investors.
  • Weekly Lunch & Learn series featuring topics relevant to startups including understanding market size, choosing a revenue model, and how to pitch investors. Lunch & Learn events are free and open to the public.
  • Exclusive Pitch Night reception during which participating companies have the opportunity to pitch to an audience of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and community members.
  • Opportunity to build relationships within each cohort of five companies, and the community of gener8tor and gBETA alumni.
  • $1M + in deals and perks from vendors like IBM Cloud, Rackspace, Amazon, PayPal, Zendesk and Microsoft.

Bemidji Ranked 8th Best Work-From-Home City by PC Magazine

Fun news and congrats to Bemidji and Paul Bunyan…

Paul Bunyan Communications™ has built one of the largest all-fiber optic rural gigabit networks in the country, the GigaZone™ and Beltrami County is ranked #1 in the state of Minnesota for gigabit broadband access.  Now, PC Magazine™ has ranked Bemidji the 8th Best Work-From-Home City in the country.

“It is fantastic for Bemidji to be recognized as one of the best work from home cities in the nation! The all-fiber optic network we’ve built throughout the region with gigabit upload and download speeds makes it possible to effectively and efficiently work from home. Combined with our vibrant community’s many amenities, and our wonderful businesses, organizations, and people, it’s no wonder Bemidji caught the eye of PC Magazine™! said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications™ CEO/General Manager.

According to their article, the list contains the top 50 U.S. and 10 Canadian cities with the best combination of gigabit fiber broadband (cost and performance), affordable housing, and “remote-work-friendly” lifestyles.

“It is rewarding to see our region be recognized nationally. The investments we have made in building out an all-fiber optic communications network will serve this region for decades to come. In turn, this supports successful economic development and growth. Our team continues to do phenomenal work in keeping our members connected with the latest in technology” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications™ Information Technology and Development Manager.

“It’s great timing for this recognition!  Greater Bemidji has just launched the innovative 218 Relocate program to recruit telecommuters to the Bemidji area.  We are a supporter of the program and are pleased our fiber network helps in creating economic development opportunities for our region” said Johnson.

For more information the 218Relocate program, visit