Turns out broadband at speeds of 25/3 is too slow for business

Coming as a surprise to no one who uses the Internet, the US Government Accountability Office reports that broadband at 25 Mbps down and 3 up is likely too slow for business…

In a 2021 report, GAO found that some small businesses lack access to broadband, but may benefit from federal programs that fund deployment in rural areas. A nationally representative survey by Amazon and the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center found approximately 20 percent of rural small businesses were not using broadband, with about 5 percent using a dial up connection. Small businesses likely benefit from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) funding to expand broadband deployment. For example, at the time of the 2021 report, FCC had awarded $19.7 billion since 2014 through components of its high-cost programs, and estimated it had served 9.1 million business and residence locations. Both FCC and USDA have also helped increase broadband speeds in rural areas. For example, USDA’s rural broadband deployment program, ReConnect, is mostly funding projects that propose to build fiber, which is generally associated with the fastest speeds available.

Much of the literature GAO reviewed suggests that FCC’s current broadband minimum benchmark speeds—25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading and 3 Mbps for uploading—are likely too slow to meet many small business speed needs. For example, a 2019 USDA report stated that as technology advances and volumes of data needed to manage agriculture production grow, speeds above of 25/3 Mbps will likely be needed. In July 2022, the FCC Chairwoman announced a proposal to increase the benchmark to 100 Mbps for download and 20 Mbps for upload.

Small Business Administration (SBA) officials told GAO that their agency supports broadband access for small businesses, especially for those in rural areas, through partnerships with organizations and federal agencies. For example, SBA partners with national organizations that offer technical assistance and training to small businesses on a variety of topics, including how to use broadband to support their business.

I recognize that it’s important to do the research to provide a point, but it feels like they should be looking at 100/20 or 100/100 not 25/3. Often the research impacts funding and funding is more forward-looking than 25/3.

White House looks at Digital Asset and consumer protection

The White House releases the first-ever comprehensive framework for responsible development of digital assets. (Did you know 16 percent of adult Americans have purchased digital assets?) I’m going to borrow the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society recap…

Digital assets present potential opportunities to reinforce US leadership in the global financial system and remain at the technological frontier. President Biden’s March 9, 2022 Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets outlined the first whole-of-government approach to addressing the risks and harnessing the potential benefits of digital assets and their underlying technology. Agencies across the government have worked together to develop frameworks and policy recommendations that advance the six key priorities identified in the Order:

  1. Consumer and Investor Protection –  issuing guidance, increasing enforcement resources, and aggressively pursuing fraudulent actors.

  2. Promoting Financial Stability – collaborating with financial institutions to bolster their cybersecurity capabilities and neutralize emerging strategic risks.

  3. Countering Illicit Finance – monitoring the development of the digital assets sector and working to expose and disrupt illicit actors.

  4. US Leadership in the Digital Assets Sector – leveraging US positions in international organizations to set standards for the digital asset sectors.

  5. Financial Inclusion – exploring a US Central Bank Digital Currency that enables access to a broad swath of US consumers.

  6. Responsible Innovation – developing a Digital Assets Research and Development Agenda and encouraging innovation in US-based, digital assets firms.

Top tips for the housing crisis in NE Minnesota – get better broadband

The Minnesota Reformer has 11 tips to increase housing stock in Northeastern Minnesota. I’ll just jump to number 7…

7. Support broadband expansion as quickly as possible.

Access to broadband moves a house from “the middle of nowhere” to the “center of everywhere” especially with the growing reliance and acceptance of remote work.

US House Lawmakers Urge Biden Administration to Co-Locate Broadband and EV Charging Infrastructure

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society report..

Reps Anna G Eshoo (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) led a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information (NTIA) Alan Davidson, urging them to use funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to build out broadband and electric vehicle charging infrastructure simultaneously.

The letter beings

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) makes transformative investments in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and will help meet the Administration’s critical goal of 500,000 chargers by 2030 to ensure that EVs are accessible to all Americans. As federal agencies, states, and relevant stakeholders develop plans for a robust electric vehicle (EV) charging network across the country, we urge you to consider the connectivity requirements for EV supply equipment (EVSE) as well as the benefits of co-locating EVSE with infrastructure that can also be utilized to deploy broadband.

EV needs broadband and unserved areas are unable to adopt EV…

EV charging access has long been lacking in underserved communities. In 2019, the Department of Energy (DOE) found that 80 percent of EV owners charge in their own homes. Although home chargers are the most used type of chargers in EV adoption, apartment residents are less
likely to have access to at-home chargers. This disparity poses a particular challenge to lower income households and communities of color, who are more likely to live in multi-unit housing.
Similar challenges exist in rural areas, where limited electric distribution exacerbates range anxiety, the concern that vehicles will not be able to travel the distance needed. IIJA addresses these equity concerns by including $2.5 billion to support, among other things, rural charging
and increase EV charging access in disadvantaged communities. Additionally, IIJA directs $5 billion to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, resulting in $7.5 billion to build a national electric vehicle charging network.

Gaining access to EV, is one more reason to invest in broadband for all…

Digital equity disparities exist in areas where access to broadband is non-existent or unaffordable and disproportionately affects rural areas and communities of color. A Pew Research Center report showed that 34 percent of Black households and 39 percent of Latino households do not have wired broadband connection. In addition to this, the Census Bureau found that 33 percent of
Native Americans lack a broadband subscription, and 47 percent of those living on tribal lands lack broadband availability altogether. The IIJA acknowledged these disparities and provided $65 billion for broadband expansion, including grants for internet service expansion in unserved and underserved areas.
In light of the national electric vehicle charging network’s connectivity requirements, the persistent digital divide, and EV charging infrastructure disparities across the nation, we encourage you to coordinate IIJA broadband and EV charging infrastructure efforts to encourage co-location of EVSE with telecommunications infrastructure when and where appropriate. The IIJA also included strong prevailing wage protections and preferences to ensure federal funding supports high-skilled, well-paying jobs. We urge you to include and build upon these bedrock protections during deployment to maximize meaningful opportunities for American workers.
This approach can address multiple national priorities simultaneously and avoid duplicative efforts, maximizing IIJA’s wide-reaching equity mission.

Governor Walz’s 10-year Economic Expansion Plan includes broadband

Yesterday Governor Walz reported

Governor Tim Walz today announced a ten-year economic expansion plan at Wyoming Machine in Stacy, Minnesota. The Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion today released the 28-page report, titled “Minnesota’s Moment: A Roadmap for Economic Expansion,” which offers long-term steps to continue improving Minnesota’s economy.

One of the Actionable strategies is broadband…

Achieve equitable access to affordable broadband Internet

Here’s more info…

Achieve equitable access to affordable broadband Internet
Ensure every child has access to the Internet, appropriate hardware, training and online learning.
Provide affordable access to broadband Internet, appropriate hardware, and training for every person in Minnesota to expand digital equity and access to government services, health care, jobs, community resources, and social connection.
Drive economic competitiveness for Minnesota and enable communities throughout the State to attract and retain residents and businesses by providing affordable broadband access.


All Minnesota businesses and households have access to high-speed broadband Internet
Increased home ownership, particularly by those who have historically faced disparity gaps
Decrease the percentage of Minnesotans who are cost-burdened with their housing
Minnesota nationally recognized as a transportation leader that supports the workforce


Paul Bunyan partners with Fiber Homes to track addresses with FTTH

Paul Bunyan Communications reports…

Paul Bunyan Communications has partnered with Fiber Homes, the nation’s first fiber internet search service that provides home buyers, renters and realtors with access to fiber internet availability information down to the address level.

Fiber Homes’ free portal through www.fiberhomes.com makes it easy to find homes that meet their internet needs and allows sellers to market their listings as “certified fiber homes,” which can increase the property’s value.

“Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.  People should know if a home they are purchasing has reliable internet. We’re excited to deliver this critical information through Fiber Homes.  Through their easy to use, free portal at fiberhomes.com anyone can now find out instantly if a home or business is connected to our all-fiber optic gigabit network the GigaZone,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

Digital Economy was 10 percent of GDP in 2020

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports

This report provides an overview of updated and revised digital economy statistics for 2005–2020 as released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). These statistics build on the 2005–2019 estimates released in June 2021 by incorporating new data for 2020 and revised source data for 2005–2019. The new data show in 2020, the U.S. digital economy accounted for $3.31 trillion of gross output, $2.14 trillion of value added (translating to 10.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)), $1.09 trillion of compensation, and 7.8 million jobs.1 Growth in price-adjusted GDP (also referred to as “chained-dollar” or “real” GDP) was 4.0 percent in 2020, greatly outpacing growth in the overall economy, which contracted –3.4 percent.2 Hardware, software, and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce were the main drivers of growth in the digital economy for 2020. These new digital economy statistics suggest this area of the economy was mostly insulated from the declines seen in other areas of the economy caused by the pandemic. See BEA’s digital economy website for the detailed data tables, plus other research and papers related to this subject.

It will be interesting to compare before/after height of pandemic statistics.

Study estimates better broadband in 2020 meant $4000 more per year per American

Telecompetitor reports

Fixed broadband adoption drove 10.9% of the accumulated growth in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) between 2010 and 2020, according to a new economic study from Telecom Advisory Services published on the Network:On website.

More detail…

According to the analysis made by Katz and his research team, capital accumulation is the biggest contributor to GDP growth, accounting for more than half of total GDP growth between 2010 and 2020. Human capital and labor growth also were substantial contributors, accounting for a combined 21.3% of growth. But growth in broadband adoption, combined with broadband speed growth, had about the same impact as human capital and labor growth, accounting for a combined 22.4% of GDP growth.

As Katz explained at the Network:On event yesterday, the researchers used four different economic models to measure GDP growth and “we proved the point on all four models.”

The researchers also estimated that if broadband adoption and speeds had remained at the 2010 level, the 2020 U.S. GDP would have been $1.3 trillion lower, which is equivalent almost $4,000 less per year for the average American.

What broadband brings to New Ulm MN – and other rural areas

In Newsweek, Minnesota native and Clearfield CEO, Cheri Beranek, talks about what a difference broadband makes to towns, like her hometown of New Ulm…

As I watched New Ulm Telephone become Nuvera, it grew bigger and provided additional services, and the surrounding areas benefited from that growth because high-speed access in rural communities can attract new businesses. When large facilities in these areas are already equipped with broadband, satellite offices or satellite manufacturing centers can move in more effectively. In the past, manufacturers would only go into rural markets for lower-cost labor, but now, they need labor anywhere they can find it. With broadband, companies can bring these well-paying jobs to rural environments where people need work and draw in even more types of businesses to support that growth.

When broadband brings opportunities into a rural community, it brings them to everyone, including children. Just north of New Ulm are several little towns where kids have to take an hour-long bus ride to get to the nearest school. With broadband in these areas, children could access quality educational services, tools, classes and support from anywhere, and a rural education could provide the same opportunities as one in a city….

The pandemic has shown us how hard life can be without access to quality health care and how much better broadband can make it, but people in rural communities have long understood these disadvantages. From economic and transportation concerns to workforce shortages and insurance coverage, barriers to health care in rural communities lead to less healthy people. When COVID-19 started to spread, the lack of broadband compounded all these barriers. As broadband expands into these areas to provide easier access to health care and telemedicine, a healthier population can drive a healthier economy.

Cooperative recipe for building a private wireless network for precision ag costs $50,000 per farm and $6,000 annually

Telecompetitor reports

A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division estimates the upfront cost of deploying a private wireless network to support precision agriculture at $50,000 per farm if deployed through one of the nation’s farm supply cooperatives. The annual recurring cost per farm would be about $6,000, according to CoBank.

“Agricultural cooperatives are in an ideal position to build and deliver carrier-grade, high-speed private wireless networks to their farmer members,” the report observes.

The cooperatives exist to serve the needs of their farmer members and have “institutionalized knowledge of farming operations,” according to the report authors, who see private wireless networks as an opportunity for the cooperatives to develop “new and diverse revenue sources that depend less on turbulent ag commodity and fuel prices.”

The CoBank report cites two key enablers of the private wireless precision agriculture opportunity. One is the availability of a large swath of CBRS spectrum, some of which is unlicensed. The other is the availability of carrier-grade equipment that can be deployed for use by a single entity.

The CoBank estimate of the per-farm cost of private wireless for precision agriculture assumes that 50 farms share network core costs of about $225,000. Considering that the average agricultural cooperative has about 1,000 members, this would mean that about 5% of the farmers in the cooperative would need to participate.

After two days traveling in rural Western MN, I can appreciate the need for investment. Cell coverage is better than is used to be out there, but it’s not consistently great. But listening to the local radio, I hear the stories and concerns about food safety and technology will definitely play a role in keeping food safe!

Madison Mercantile: When broadband makes community easier (LqP County)

On our trip to Western Minnesota, Mary Magnuson and I stopped in to visit the Madison Mercantile. The folks at the UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota River Valley Regional Development Commission) had clued us into the interesting things they were doing. And while this isn’t a broadband-forward project, it’s an example of what folks can do when broadband is ample and the community is engaged – in part because they have been connected, even during the pandemic, via broadband.

The Madison Mercantile is a coffee shop, art gallery innovation center built in a rehabbed hardware store. The footprint is huge. We walked in and saw tables people chatting, art and the coffee shop. The proprietor/creator Kris Shelstad immediately apologized for the mess. (She was working on replacing part of a carpet.)  Then she quit what she was doing and gave us the whole tour, with backstory, despite the fact that she had no idea of who we were.

As briefly as possible, Kris is originally from the area. She moved away to Austin TX, joined the army, got married and a couple years ago lost her spouse. That led her back home, but she missed the scene in Austin. So, she decided to create the same opportunities for art and beer and music and community by buying out the old hardware store. She started to rehab it based on the needs of the community, ways to minimize heat bills and her vision. Her vision included creating a space to showcase art left to her from her friend Janice Anderson. Janice’s art is mixed media collage with an eye for color nuances, clever messaging and inherently rural appeal. It feels like through Kris, Janice is helping boost and nurture a local art scene.

Along with a couple of art galleries, the space hosts local musicians and serves as a “third space” community center. You can pop in for coffee or you can host your birthday party. There are spaces for local discussions and classes. In fact, when we were there a group of local entrepreneurs gathered to talk about using social media. (Funny enough, I recognized one entrepreneur from a social media class I taught in the area 10 years ago!)

There’s also a maker space or innovation center. It created itself because retired farmers from the community, who used to hang out at the hardware store kept showing up wondering if Kris needed any help or time to chat. Kris recognized the need and opportunity and made room. There’s also a museum of medical supplies like walkers and wheelchairs, which folks can borrow as needed. Apparently the 90 year old woman, who used to lend these from her home, donated them.

There are also plans for public computer access, a wellness center and Zoom room. If you are in the area, you will have to check it out. It’s the best example of a bottom up solution I’ve seen. Kris told us that she decided that for one year she’d say yes to everything. She has and she’s tired but man is that a cool center and it can’t help but engage community!

Bemidji’s broadband leaves them poised to succeed – says Dave Hengel

Bemidji Pioneer posts a column from Dave Hengel, executive director of Greater Bemidji Economic Development, on the importance of technology and broadband for a thriving community…

The primary driver has been technology, which has created both incredible opportunities and challenges for communities worldwide. Since technology has allowed both businesses and people to locate virtually anywhere, geography (where we are located on a map) matters less, and place (a community’s character and quality of life) matters more. …

Thanks to technological innovations, none of these matters as much. We aren’t remote — we are connected via Zoom and other technology. We have access to metropolitan markets and resources all with the click of a mouse. While logistics have not reduced in importance, our largest “interstate” is our broadband network.

And let me remind everyone, the greater Bemidji region has the best all-fiber network in the nation. Thanks to the investment over the past decade by Paul Bunyan Communications, every home and business in our region has up to 10-gigabit service while other communities (including metropolitan areas) are struggling to gain basic broadband service.

In other words, Bemidji is ahead of the game.

Today, great communities are built, not born. The assets that bring prosperity and economic growth are not inherited. Like our all-fiber broadband network, key quality of life and economic development amenities can be identified and built.

Farmers Bureau looks at broadband as a necessity, not a luxury

American Farm Bureau Federation  has a chat that focuses on rural broadband being a necessity, not a luxury. Here’s their high level description…

The American Connection Project’s goal is to bridge the rural digital divide. We discuss the importance of broadband access to rural America and the vital role it plays in supporting and sustaining those communities around the country with Patrick Garry, an American Connection Corps Fellow, and Bruce Tiffany, a Minnesota Farmer and Lead for Minnesota Board Member.

They talk about role of broadband in maintaining safety and stability especially on farms.

Launch Minnesota Awards $1 million in Education Grants to Organizations that Support Entrepreneurs and Startups

Big News from MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (MNDEED)…

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today announced that it has awarded $1 million in Launch Minnesota Education Grants to nine organizations throughout Minnesota. This is the third round of Launch Minnesota Education Grants, which are awarded to groups that help start-ups and entrepreneurs across Minnesota achieve success through education, mentoring, and networking opportunities.

The grantees announced today have created a regional partnership with people and organizations to support the start and scale up of high-growth businesses. These grantees and their regional partners comprise the Launch Minnesota Network, which is organized in a hub-and-spoke model that allows each region to customize its offerings while still enabling entrepreneurs to access statewide resources and best practices. The network has nine  hubs across Minnesota’s six regions and over 80 program partners.

“Launch Minnesota is such an important program for our state at a time of intense competition for talent and business growth,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “We’re creating opportunity by providing access to expertise and resources across the whole state – with a special focus on founders who are women, people of color, and veterans.”

“The goal of the Launch Minnesota Network is to be a front door for entrepreneurs and innovators at a local, regional, and statewide level,” said Launch Minnesota Executive Director Neela Mollgaard.  “Research shows that a connected and coordinated innovation ecosystem accelerates the speed and success of startups. We’re inspired by strong engagement in the network so far.”

Thousands of Minnesota entrepreneurs and startup supporters have engaged in the Launch Minnesota Network trainings, events and resources over the past year. This includes more than 270 people who joined the new Minnesota Exchange powered by Kinetic. Over 1,000 people also engaged in lean startup training through MN Venture Builders, ILT Studios and other education providers. Every part of the state is now focused on nurturing and supporting innovators and high growth startups.

Launch Minnesota Education Grant awards announced today are for use through June 30, 2023. The Launch Minnesota grant recipients and their specific awards are listed below.

Launch Minnesota works to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs across the state and has a unique focus on entrepreneurs who are often overlooked by traditional funders. Launch Minnesota’s grants have and continue to support organizations like Lunar Startups, Social Impact Strategies and others who focus specifically on entrepreneurs of color. Since inception, 1 in 4 Launch Minnesota Innovation Grants have gone to founders of color, and Launch Minnesota education grantees have reporting serving almost 1000 BIPOC founders over the last two years.

We are now partnering with these organizations in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, focused on elevating and accelerating startups with a specific focus on founders from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color:

  • Forge North/Greater MSP: ($100,000) Forge North is a coalition of entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and other problem solvers united to make the Twin Cities the best place to start and scale ventures.
  • Social Impact Strategies Group: ($75,000) partners with public and private institutions to drive growth in corporate social responsibility, including racial equity, in industries like tech, finance and philanthropy.

Across the state Launch Minnesota working to grow local and regional efforts to create better pathways for innovators and startups to start and grow. These are organizations specifically in Greater Minnesota:

  • Red Wing Ignite (RWI): ($110,000) Leading the Entrepreneurs First Collaborative for Southeast Minnesota. RWI fuels economic development by working with key sectors of the community to spur innovation by supporting entrepreneurs, businesses and students.
  • Greater Bemidji: ($105,000) Leading the NoW Innovators Network. Greater Bemidji’s LaunchPad is a coworking space and hub for entrepreneurial support for the Northwest region. LaunchPad provides entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and professionals with the opportunity to collaborate, network and learn in an innovative environment.
  • Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC): ($100,000) IEDC-led Innovate 218 is a regional collaboration in northeast Minnesota designed to streamline startup services, support entrepreneurs, strengthen networking and increase new business formation and growth.
  • Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC) ($100,000) This is the third consecutive year the GSDC, a private collaboration of more than 250 business and community leaders, has received grant funding from DEED to serve as its West Central Minnesota Launch Minnesota hub, which has been vital to providing impactful training to more than 100 entrepreneurs from this region.
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU) Strategic Partnership Center: ($65,000) MNSU’s Start-Up Southwest will provide educational programming to innovative technology businesses and early-stage businesses; and outreach to and collaboration with businesses, federal and state agencies, institutions of higher education, trade associations and other organizations working to advance innovative, high-technology early-stage businesses throughout Minnesota.

We’re creating opportunity by providing access to expertise and resources at institutions like the University of Minnesota. Services that were previously reserved for students and faculty are now accessible to all innovators in the state. Our statewide partners are:

  • University of Minnesota (UMN):
    • Venture Builders: ($120,000) Organized by the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, this online education platform shares information with early-stage technology entrepreneurs throughout Minnesota about courses, competitions, seminars, mentors and connections to the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
    • Discovery Launch Pad (DLP): ($115,000) DLP is a no-cost, no-equity-required startup incubator and program of formal coaching for UMN innovators interested in forming a startup company to commercialize new technology or an idea.
    • Technology Leadership Institute (TLI): ($75,000) UMN’s TLI program provides education opportunities that turn later stage technology professionals into business professionals.
  • Agriculture Utilization Research Institute (AURI): ($35,000) MBOLD’s Bold Growth initiative, led by AURI and Grow North, will provide education and technical/business support to high-growth food and ag entrepreneurial businesses.

1 in 7 Minnesotans who needed reliable broadband during pandemic, didn’t have it

A report from APM Research Lab finds…

According to our Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey, only half of those from households that included someone either working from home or attending school online reported a “very reliable” internet connection. One-third indicated that their internet connection is “somewhat reliable,” with the remainder split between “slightly reliable” (9%) and not at all reliable (6%).

The survey looked a broadband access and use of broadband during the pandemic (did anyone in household work or go to school online) and cross referenced with demographic information.

Despite a large proportion of Minnesotans with reliable internet access, more than 1 in 7 Minnesotans who needed a reliable internet connection for work or school did not have one. A small but notable proportion of Asian (excluding Hmong) and White Minnesotans reported lacking an internet connection in their home.

Among those who needed the internet for work or school, a higher proportion of residents of the Twin Cities 7-country metro had a “very reliable” connection than is the case for residents of the remainder of the state. Somewhat surprisingly, a similar gap exists between those identifying as Democrats versus those identifying as either politically independent or Republican.

They found that affordability was an important as access…

Our data from the Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey suggests a similar conclusion. Since there is a strong correlation between education level and income, the fact that fewer Minnesotans with less education report access to reliable internet than Minnesotans with more education implies that this difference hinges on the affordability of high-speed internet.

While the state has made great progress on overall access to broadband, there is still a lot of work to do—especially in terms of affordability and adoption—before every Minnesota household and business can regularly and reliably use the internet. The reliance on internet-based schooling during the pandemic has further underscored the equity concerns at the heart of the push toward universal broadband.