ISSA Team of Bemidji Wins 2018 GigaZone Gaming Championship

I love this event!

Over 3,500 attended the 3rd annual GigaZone Gaming Championship on Saturday, October 20 at the Sanford Center George W. Neilson Convention Center. The event featured free gaming on various console and arcade games, numerous tournaments, virtual reality, door prizes, and more.

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 was run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.

ISSA Team from Bemidji won the 3rd annual GigaZone Gaming Championship and $1,500 defeating the Iron Range Legends who won $900 for second place.  The Shinob Squad took third place and $450.  A total of 32 of northern Minnesota’s best Overwatch teams competed on the esports stadium style stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.

In addition to the Overwatch Community 3v3 Tournament, there was several other open tournaments including Fortnite, Rocket League, Mario Kart 8, Madden 19, Super Smash Bros. (4), Super Smash Bros. Melee, Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, Tron, Bust A Move, Galaga, and Asteroids.  Admission was free and there were a lot of door prizes given away including grand prize winners Michael Railsback of Bemidji who won an Xbox One X and Jesse Waldo of Detroit Lakes who won a PS4 Pro.

“There is a large gaming community in our area and GigaZone Gaming Championship not only showcases some of the region’s best gamers but it gives everyone a chance to get in on the action!  It was awesome to see so many people from right here and all over come together!” 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 Digital Services Supervisor.

“There is no other gaming event like it anywhere I’ve seen. It’s unique to our area and we are very proud of our team for making it happen. We’re already looking forward to next year.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

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

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

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,100 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties. The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services including the GigaZone, digital and high definition television services, digital voice services, Residential and Business IT services, and is also northern Minnesota’s certified Apple Service Center.

Broadband down from Wed to Fri in St Paul MN – no TV, no Internet

Last week, my internet was down starting about 5:30 Wednesday afternoon until Friday noon. At first I thought I’ll give it a minute and just use my hotspot. I left, returned home and forgot about it until I realized the Internet was painfully slow. Couldn’t download email and look at a website at the same time slow. Then I remembered I was using the hotspot.

So first – anyone who thinks a family can thrive on a hotspot connection. Think again. My kids were on their smartphones using up our cell plan, not on the hotspot network. It was just me. I wasn’t uploading video. I was doing the tasks that most folks claim you can do with slow access – checking email and browsing the web albeit at the same time .So call another number. At 8:29 I reach the “Internet Repair” online chat on my phone.

At 8:43 they transfer me to the people who deal with account that bundle Internet and TV. At 9:10 they told me a technician would have to be dispatched to my house and they could be here on Friday between 11 and 3.

The person on the phone was nice enough. The technician who arrived before noon was nice enough. It took him 10 minutes to realize that the problem was leading into the house – not in the house. In other words, nothing I had done.

But in those days, kids had a hard time getting homework done. I had to leave to do work, my online volunteer work took longer and I had to wait until Friday to queue up my radio show. If I lived like this all of the time I would do less volunteer work and not be a radio host and kids’ grades could suffer. Doors close when you can’t get adequate access.

And the TV was gone. And while some might suggest my kids could play outside, they are teenagers. On a rainy afternoon I’d much rather have them cozied up on my couch than walking the neighborhood! People who roll their eyes at using broadband for Netflix have never had to entertain kids – from 2 to 20. It serves a purpose.

I think we need to recognize that broadband is a utility both in terms of transport but on a practical matter. Very hard to live without it. And providers need to be ready for demand and reliability. The connection wasn’t down because of a natural disaster – it just went down. And I have a choice of provider – but who wants to change provider regularly. I won’t say who mine is – but I will give a nod to Comcast; they called me to see if they could help because, well I tweet stuff. I tweeted I was down, again didn’t mention a provider, and they took the initiative to see if they could help. Sadly they aren’t my provider right now.

My week renews my passion to advocate for broadband to everyone! And I hope my story – encourages others to advocate. As a community, state or country, we can all be more productive with better broadband.

Farmers need better broadband to take advantage of precision ag benefits

The University of Virginia is looking at the benefits of precision agriculture…

Sitting in the cab of a combine harvester on a soybean farm in Wells, Minnesota this summer, University of Virginia assistant media studies professor Christopher Ali was amazed as he looked down at the dashboard.

Using GPS, the harvester could, in real time, map, monitor and record massive amounts of data – such as crop yield and soil moisture levels – which would let a farmer know exactly which rows required attention.

“It was the coolest thing,” Ali said. “The capabilities were just incredible.”

But those benefits are only possible where there is adequate broadband…

Unfortunately, the vast majority of farmers in the Midwest aren’t able to utilize this “precision agriculture” technology because they don’t get high-speed internet, according to Ali. He said companies don’t want to put in fiber optic cable – considered the gold standard – because of its great expense.

And public policy isn’t supporting increased broadband…

Ali said the U.S. offers $6 billion in subsidies to telecommunications companies for the purpose of installing rural broadband, but the funds aren’t making their way out to the farms.

“We’re giving CenturyLink $500 million a year for the next six years, and CenturyLink has announced that they’re not going to upgrade their network,” Ali said. “They’ll roll out what they have, which is copper wire, but they won’t upgrade to fiber and that stinks.”

But there are efforts within the cooperatives…

“Co-ops are the unsung heroes of rural broadband,” Ali said. “They don’t need the return on investment that the giant companies need because they don’t have shareholders to satisfy. They have community members to service. And I think because they don’t need a 20 percent profit margin, they’re able to take a few more risks. Wouldn’t it be great if public policy could help these co-ops leverage or mitigate some of the risk?”

U of Minnesota gets $1.75 million to study autonomous vehicles

ECN Magazine reports…

The University of Minnesota announced today that it has received a $1.75 million grant over three years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the NSF’s Smart & Connected Communities grant program. The University of Minnesota’s project is one of only 13 projects chosen by NSF nationwide.

The grant, entitled Leveraging Autonomous Shared Vehicles for Greater Community Health, Equity, Livability, and Prosperity (HELP), supports fundamental research on a critical challenge facing many cities and communities—how to leverage the emergence of self-driving vehicles, also known as autonomous vehicles, to rethink and redesign future transportation services and enable smart and connected communities where everyone benefits.

The research envisions an ambitious “smart cloud commuting system” based on giant pools of shared autonomous vehicles.

“These smart cloud community systems have the potential to bring about far-reaching societal changes,” said Zhi-Li Zhang, a University of Minnesota computer science professor of computer science and engineering in the College of Science and Engineering who is the lead researcher on the grant.

The proposed smart cloud commuting system would also provide equity and boost economic productivity.

It’s great news. And nothing feels more like we’re moving into a Jetson’s cartoon than autonomous cars – but that will only be true where the cloud is available.

Keeping an eye on Wisconsin with their Telecommuter First designation

It’s good to know what the neighbors are up to, turns out Wisconsin’s Bayfield County was just names the first Telecommuter First community. Business North reports…

History was made in Cable on Aug. 22 when Bayfield County was officially certified a “Telecommuter Forward!” Community, the first in the nation. At a meeting held at Norvado’s impressive headquarters on U.S. Highway 63, state, county, and local officials gathered to celebrate the landmark designation.

Administered by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, the “Telecommuter Forward!” certification recognizes local units of government that meet criteria for promoting telecommuting opportunities in partnership with broadband providers, economic development professionals, and the Wisconsin Broadband Office.

State Sen. Janet Bewley, District 74 Rep. Beth Meyers, and Public Service Commission Broadband Director Angie Dickison all were on hand to share their thoughts about what makes “Telecommuter Forward!” so noteworthy.

(Quick side note – nice to see Minnesota’s own Angie Dickison doing well!)

Minnesota has some communities that have been forward thinking when it comes to promoting broadband with telecommuting and home businesses. It’s interesting to see the designation, which sounds like it may be a Wisconsin construct. And I think valuable to see (or see again) the impact that promoting broadband as an economic development tool has…

“Broadband has become a major factor in driving the economic engine in our rural communities,” Albertson said after the meeting. “We’ve long practiced ‘catch & release’ with tourists who visit our area. Now we want to try a ‘catch & keep” approach with those who come visit. They love our beautiful unspoiled nature, but they don’t want to leave their jobs. Now they can bring those jobs with them and move here!”

The game is only as good as the broadband that fuels it

Here’s a fun story from the Herald Journal Blog (Delano MN) about a teen who turned into helper of the world when his parents offered an Xbox as a prize for helpfulness. Turns out Xbox was only part of the recipe. They also needed to upgrade from satellite to CenturyLink…

However, the gamechanger came shortly thereafter, when we got CenturyLink.

For the first four years of living in our house in the country, we had been stuck with satellite Internet.

We had a 60 gigabyte monthly limit, after which Internet speeds were throttled to a crawl.

Since I work from home during the day, it had been a constant source of frustration, and even anger. The quickest way to tick off Dad was by watching a video without telling him, and sucking up his precious gigabytes.

Then, in late May, CenturyLink finally reached our house, with faster speeds, cheaper pricing, and, most gloriously, unlimited Internet.

If I sound like a shill, I don’t care. It felt like Christmas. I told the installer I wanted to give him a hug.

That’s also when the real fun, and the real fights, began with the Xbox.

The first thing the boys did after the new Internet was installed was download Fortnite. If it was Christmas for me, downloading Fortnite was Christmas, Easter, their birthdays, and winning the lottery all at once for the boys.

I imagine they’ll notice this even more as school begins and suddenly everyone is able to to work from home without slowing down the connection or reaching data caps!

Expanding Rural Electric Member Coop broadband coverage in Indiana could mean benefits of $12 billion

Purdue University just released a report that looks at the quantitative benefits of investing in broadband – they look specifically at extending/expanding networks deployed by Indiana’s Rural Electric Member Cooperatives (REMCs) – but expanding the network ubiquitously across the state. Here’s what they found…

We estimate the net benefits of broadband investment for the whole state of Indiana is about $12 billion, which is about $1 billion per year annuitized over 20 years at six percent interest rate. Year after year, added government revenues and cost savings would amount to about 27 percent of net benefits in the seven REMCs each year. If the rest of rural Indiana is like these seven Cooperative service areas, then 27 percent of the $1 billion per year would be government revenue and health care cost savings, or $270 million per year. In terms of total net present value of benefits, 27 percent of $12 billion is $3.24 billion in added government revenue and health care cost savings.

It’s interesting to see that 27 percent of the net benefits would be government revenue and health care cost savings. That’s a number taxpayers can use to determine the return of public investment in broadband. Last fall, I looked at community return on public investment in broadband – which came to about $1,850 per household. Taking it a step farther, figuring out how much benefit is there in government revenue and health care savings make it even easier to balance cost with benefit.