Senator Smith is working on Broadband in the Farm Bill

KSFY reports on Senator Tina Smith and her take on the Farm Bill…

But Smith then says there is a third component she is trying to work into the farm bill. “Our farm bill needs to include strong rural development programs like, for example, what I’m proposing to help expand rural broadband.”

That broadband component is becoming more and more of an issue for rural areas.
Iowa’s lieutenant governor Adam Gregg is working on a similar bill specific to that state.
For rural families, broadband access comes down to a practical quality of life issue; the ability to download music, movies and the ability for farmers to quickly and easily connect to the internet for everything from market quotes to supply purchases.
But having easy access to broadband in rural areas also makes those areas more likely to land new businesses and new residents. Without out it can seem like the technological dark ages. “My broadband proposal I hope will be in this legislation.”

US Senate Commerce Committee approves bill to aid rural broadband deployment

The High Plains Midwest Ag Journal reports…

The Senate Commerce Committee April 25 approved the “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018,” as sponsored by Senators Roger Wicker, R-MS, and Amy Klobuchar, D-MN.

The bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission to establish a task force to identify gaps in broadband connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland. The measure also instructs the agency to develop ways to help encourage broadband adoption and precision agriculture in areas where it is currently unavailable.

Senator Klobuchar had this to say…

Klobuchar said, “We still have work to do to close the digital divide between rural and urban communities. In a 21st century economy that demands efficiency, farmers and ranchers are too often unable to take advantage of new technologies due to limited broadband access. This bipartisan legislation will promote broadband deployment and precision agriculture technology to help Minnesota farmers streamline their operations, improve crop yields and boost their bottom line.”

Here are more details:

Specifically, the legislation outlines these tasks for the new FCC task force:

Identify and measure current gaps in broadband coverage on cropland and ranchland;

Develop policy recommendations, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile broadband on cropland and ranchland, with the goal of achieving service on 95 percent of croplands and ranchlands in the U.S. by 2025;

Recommend specific steps the FCC should consider to ensure that available farm data from the USDA is reflected in the development of future FCC programs dedicated to the deployment of broadband infrastructure to croplands and ranchlands; and

Develop a public report detailing the status of fixed and mobile broadband coverage on croplands and ranchlands; the projected future connectivity needs of agricultural operations, farmers, and ranchers; and the steps being taken to accurately measure the availability of broadband on croplands and ranchlands and the limitations of current measurement processes.

Twin Cities on the short list as possible location of military headquarters

The article doesn’t mention broadband – but I think it’s assumed. What it does mention is all of the things that the army is looking for in a location and most of them require broadband.

The Twin Cities is one of 15 locations on the shortlist. Reading about the opportunity is fun and reads like a nice how-to for high tech recruitment for a community of any size.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

The Army considers the new project a “major command” that will organize its modernization process. Although it will include fewer than 500 personnel, the headquarters will locate around what it believes is the country’s best blend of “academic and commercial institutions” to “harness” their talent.

The Army has told each of the 15 finalists that it is “looking for a location where this command’s headquarters can rapidly join an existing innovation ecosystem.”

And local leaders talk about the effort…

“It all starts with a grass-roots effort,” said Ray Goodwin, PaR’s vice president of sales and marketing. The Twin Cities already has “a really great high tech base,” Goodwin noted. But attracting new tech jobs or companies adds to the critical mass.

The article outlines the benefits…

The public-private partnerships and academic relationships the Army says it wants will profit existing businesses and universities, wherever the Futures Command goes, Andes said. But that is only the beginning. “If you look around the country [at government research headquarters], there are usually build-out clusters around them,” Andes said. “When you attract scientists and engineers, there are follow-on benefits. These people tend to start their own businesses.”

And outlines the benefits of the area …

The Twin Cities’ current supply and quality of scientists and engineers is critical. The Army says it will measure the quality and growth potential of local workforces in “nine occupations closely associated with technology innovation: biomedical engineer, chemical engineer, computer and hardware engineer, electrical engineer, materials engineer, materials scientist, mechanical engineer, software developer (applications), and software developer (systems software).” The military is also looking at existing networks that demonstrate industry and academic partnerships and government support for private innovation.

This is why a letter to an Undersecretary of the Army, led by Rep. Betty McCollum and signed by Minnesota’s entire federal delegation, focused on the state’s Fortune 500 companies. The letter also touted current government contractors such as 3M, Orbital ATK, Cray, General Dynamics, Honeywell and Cummins, and science and technology trendsetters such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealth Group.

“We have the R&D [research and development] and tech,” McCollum said. “UnitedHealth handles the military’s Tricare health insurance; 3M makes body armor. The next step forward is, how do we get on the cutting edge?”

The state university system’s commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is another measure the Army will judge.

Minnesota Farmers Union finds rural frustrations with broadband an healthcare

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Many rural Minnesotans feel left behind or ignored when it comes to challenges in everyday living.

Excessive health care costs, limited high-speed internet service and long-delayed road and bridge projects are some of the top problems that frustrate those who live in smaller communities, and many do not believe that their voices are being heard by policymakers.

The concerns are identified in a new report by the Minnesota Farmers Union, a grass-roots family farm organization that held 14 discussion sessions across the state in 2017 and another seven this year that drew more than 800 farmers and other members of the public.

And what they found in terms of broadband…

Also on people’s minds was access to internet service.

“Lots of rural areas don’t have broadband,” said Wertish. “It should be viewed as a public utility because it’s important for farmers or public schools or small businesses if they’re going to compete.”

University of Minnesota Extension Dean Bev Durgan said that the problems presented in the report are valid for most rural residents, not just farmers — and in some cases for urban Minnesotans as well.

Sen Klobuchar supports Senate Commerce Committee Approval of Bipartisan Precision Ag Connectivity Act

Y’All Politics reports…

U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today applauded the passage of their legislation, the “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018,” S. 2343, by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in broadband connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland.  The measure also instructs the agency to develop ways to help encourage broadband adoption and precision agriculture in areas where it is currently unavailable.

Klobuchar had this to say…

“We still have work to do to close the digital divide between rural and urban communities. In a 21st Century economy that demands efficiency, farmers and ranchers are too often unable to take advantage of new technologies due to limited broadband access,” Senator Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will promote broadband deployment and precision agriculture technology to help Minnesota farmers streamline their operations, improve crop yields, and boost their bottom line.”

Here are the details…

Precision agriculture describes the use of mobile devices, robotics, field sensors, remote monitoring, and other technologies to manage agricultural production. Farmers and ranchers who use the technology can significantly increase crop yields, streamline operations, and reduce production expenses. In many areas of the United States, reliable, high-speed broadband is not consistently available to support precision agriculture operations.

Specifically, the legislation outlines these tasks for the new FCC task force:

  • Identify and measure current gaps in broadband coverage on cropland and ranchland;

  • Develop policy recommendations, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile broadband on cropland and ranchland, with the goal of achieving service on 95 percent of croplands and ranchlands in the United States by 2025;

  • Recommend specific steps the FCC should consider to ensure that available farm data from the USDA is reflected in the development of future FCC programs dedicated to the deployment of broadband infrastructure to croplands and ranchlands; and

  • Develop a public report detailing the status of fixed and mobile broadband coverage on croplands and ranchlands; the projected future connectivity needs of agricultural operations, farmers, and ranchers; and the steps being taken to accurately measure the availability of broadband on croplands and ranchlands and the limitations of current measurement processes.

 

BorealCorps – a digital-savvy youth group in Grand Marais MN

Blandin just got the notes on this very fun project they funded in Grand Marais and I’m excited to share the details. The community has created a youth-driven, civic, digital news service called BorealCorps for elementary and middle school children throughout Cook County. The goal was to use immersive, hands-on learning in both in-school enrichment sessions and after-school club meetings to create a child-authored and maintained web site as a means of closing the rural opportunity gap in 21st century technology and its applications.

BorealCorps results have far-surpassed the initial proposal to Blandin, and can be seen on the website. Not only have they formed a sustainable, reliable and increasingly-recognized youth group of able civic connectors and communicators, the children have made BorealCorps self-supporting — in less than one year.

They have a steady enrollment of 12-15 child staff members (~10% of the county cohort) and parental support in grades 4-8 from all school communities throughout Cook County, and have taught as many as 30 in one day of serial classes.

BorealCorps youth have proven themselves to the community to be able, helpful communication collaborators. Here are some of their projects:

  • Sawtooth Clinic turned to BorealCorps for help with health reporting key messages on youth nutrition
  • The Lions Club has invited child representatives to present a proposal for the Fisherman’s Picnic event in August 2018
  • The YMCA engages BorealCorps reporters to help publicize events
  • Great Expectations Charter School worked with BorealCorps to develop a winter-long community reading advocacy program called “A Long Winter’s Read.”
  • Oshki Ogimaag Ojibway Charter School has invited BorealCorps to coach teachers how to work with its students to author an Ojibway-language children’s book in spring 2018.

And one surprise project: In December 2017 BorealCorps was hired by the American Lung Association in Minnesota to provide 15 weeks of social media health messaging on Facebook( @borealcorps ) as a demonstration curriculum for other schools on dangers of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction to youth, who are targeted by advertisers. BorealCorps did such an impressive job that 8 members and 4 parents were sponsored by the Lung Association on March 21-22, 2018 to present in St. Paul an artistic interpretation of lung cancer. They created it from primary source photographs of lung cancer victims, and through felt sculptures of lung sections, calling it “Beautiful Lungs.” It was displayed in the Minnesota History Center. At the Capitol, BorealCorps members also lobbied Sen. Tom Back and Rep. Ron Ecklund to pass Tobacco 21 legislation to protect youth health. They have recently been hired to do even more!

Great broadband digital inclusion project ideas from Minnesota

The Blandin Foundation works with communities to help them better use better broadband. They’ve been doing it for years and sometimes I get lucky enough to be a part of the projects. Each community works with a community broadband coach (Bill Coleman – another consultant on the Blandin Broadband Team); he helps them figure out their community priorities and where broadband fits in.

Then each community submits broadband proposals (to the community team, then Blandin) for potential funding. These projects are well thought out, vetted and most are well executed. (As my kids say – sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Sometimes the projects are good learning opportunities and those lessons get shared.)

Today I’m pleased to share a matrix of the most recent projects. It’s a great list of ideas you could try in your own community. I suspect the layout of the projects will not be perfect – you can get a nicer, printable version too.)

Also – it’s a gentle reminder that Blandin is looking for future communities – deadline is May 31, 2018. (You can learn a lot more about the program in this archive of a recent webinar on it.)

 Community Project Owner Project Name Project Description
Aitkin County Aitkin County Aitkin County Community Calendar Create a county-wide landing page for events sponsored by Aitkin County Chambers, Schools and other organizations.
Aitkin County Aitkin County Community Conference Centers Provide three small communities with conference/meeting suites, including a mobile computer lab, smart boards, other digital equipment, and Wi-Fi hotspots for use by residents, community education and others.
Aitkin County Aitkin County Wi-Fi Network for Small Cities Provide Wi-Fi for the central hub of Palisade to attract commercial growth, promote connectivity, enhance education, and promote telehealth. This project will serve as a pilot for Wi-Fi networks in other small cities.
Aitkin County Aitkin County Wi-Fi at Berglund Park Provide Wi-Fi at the Palisade city park campground – a main entry point for the Northwoods ATV Trail and important source of economic activity. Park usage is anticipated to increase with Wi-Fi availability.
Aitkin County East Central Regional Library Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots The East Central Regional Library will obtain 14 mobile hotspots and make them available to patrons at the Aitkin Library and other outreach locations in Aitkin County, providing internet access to county residents who don’t have broadband.
Aitkin County ISD 1 Aitkin Public Schools Wi-Fi Enabled Buses Install Wi-Fi on four school buses so students will be able to work on homework while traveling to and from home, and on longer trips.
Aitkin County Long Lake Conservation Center Wi-Fi and Increased Bandwidth at Long Lake Conservation Center Increase the Internet bandwidth to the LLCC campus, and improve the Wi-Fi network. This will improve working conditions for the staff, increase the effectiveness of programming offered, and make the center a more desirable event venue.
Chisholm Chisholm Community Education Community Training Sessions Training sessions on internet use (social media, security, Facebook) to be offered free of charge to the community. CHS students will be on hand to help class participants as they utilize the training.
Chisholm Chisholm EDA Community Website/Portal Develop a community portal and calendar for community information and events, including marketing, tourism, school events, city and chamber.
Chisholm Chisholm EDA Community Hot Spots Provide Wi-Fi hotspots at the Chisholm Public Library, Lake Street Pocket Park, Balkan Community Center, and HRA Apartment Complex.
Chisholm Chisholm EDA The “Business Perks” Building Develop a technology center with rental space/incubator space available for businesses. Broadband/Internet/website/social media training opportunities for businesses will be offered.
Chisholm Chisholm Public Library Hot Spot Check-Out System Provide fifteen hotspots with mobile data plans for check out at the Chisholm Public Library.
Chisholm ISD 695 Chisholm Public Schools Wi-Fi on Buses Install Wi-Fi on two school buses, allowing students taking longer bus trips to have access to the internet. Bus Wi-Fi may be used for community events as well.
Chisholm Minnesota Discovery Center Minnesota Discovery Center Broadband Connection Upgrade Wi-Fi throughout the Minnesota Discovery Center, allowing for better access during meetings, for events, and for patron/staff use.
Chisholm / Hibbing / Mt. Iron-Buhl Chisholm EDA Central Range Area Feasibility Study Hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study to better understand options for improving broadband infrastructure and services within the designated area, present the resulting plan and funding options to city councils, townships, school boards and the St. Louis County Board, and assist with grant writing as requested.
Ely City of Ely – Ely EDA Homegrown Ely Website (Elyite.com) Create a website to showcase Ely to prospective residents, businesses, and visitors. The site will include information on the cost of living, the arts, restaurants, churches, business opportunities, infrastructure, etc.
Ely Entrepreneur Fund Digital Marketing for Small Businesses Engage seven small business owners (selected through an application process) in hands-on consulting to build brand awareness and increase revenue by developing and implementing affordable website and social media strategies.
Ely Incredible Ely Ely Technology Center Utilize current space in the downtown business district to provide a shared office space with high-speed Internet for local telecommuters, entrepreneurs, and visitors.
Ely Entrepreneur Fund Ely Small Business Workshop Series Provide three structured workshops on timely topics for small business owners. Local facilitators will share practical tools and ideas on topics such as digital marketing, employee recruitment, and QuickBooks.
Ely City of Ely Ely Area Broadband Feasibility Study Conduct a feasibility study that will provide factual information about market demand, technology alternatives, deployment and maintenance costs, network operation and marketing. It will include installation of fiber within the City of Ely, and extending throughout the entire school district area. Project partners will use the data generated to develop a plan for service delivery.
Ely Incredible Ely Business Development/Broadband Survey Conduct a survey on business development and internet usage data as well as projected broadband usage information, with the goal of bringing broadband to Ely and making it an economic success.
Grizzlies

(Bois Forte, Cook, Orr)

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians Business Training and Community Education Design and provide community technology education programs at Bois Forte, Orr Center, Cook Library and Community Center, and North Woods High School. Topics will be determined based on community feedback.