Fiber brings Delta Dental to Bemidji and smile to 150 new jobs

The Bemidji Pioneer reports that Delta Dental is coming to Bemidji…

A regional nonprofit company has selected Bemidji for a new $12-to-$13 million development that will create up to 150 jobs.

Delta Dental of Minnesota announced Friday it will break ground in Bemidji for a new operations and technology center. According to a press release, the new center is expected to open by the end of 2019 and the completion will make Delta Dental one of the top 10 employers in the city.

Fiber was one of the reasons Delta went with Bemidji…

“They went through a broad process. For a time, the company was anonymous and did an assessment of several regional centers throughout Minnesota,” Hengel said. “Bemidji submitted a blind proposal because we didn’t know what the company was at the time. We shared what we believed to be our assets and what would matter to the company. It earned us a site visit and made them really consider Bemidji in a serious way.”

One of the reasons Hengel said Delta Dental was interested in the community was the fiber optic network in place by Paul Bunyan Communications. Others included access to a talent pool with educational resources and the combined focus on the future by business and community leadership.

I was lucky enough to spend time talking to folks in Bemidji about their broadband access for a report on the return on investment of broadband last year. One of the lessons was that a community generally sees a return on investment (in greater opportunity, cost savings and increased value in property) but the provider doesn’t always reap the benefits as quickly. Here’s an example of where Paul Bunyan has helped the community and itself by investing enough to catch a fish like Delta.

Why (and how) do we need to close the digital divide?

There is a new Digit Divide report out of Purdue University (Digital Divide in the US) authored by Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., Lionel J. Beaulieu, Ph.D. and Indraneel Kumar, Ph.D. Folks who attended the Fall Broadband Conference will recognize Roberto’s as the keynote speaker – where we got a little glimpse at this report and a very solid explanation of the DDI (Digital Divide Index), which the team uses to measure broadband availability as well as socioeconomic indicators that characterize the digital divide. They use that to compare communities on either sides of the digital divide and the impact that lack of technology and technology-savvy as had on the communities.

As the authors comment – the digital divide is the most critical issue of the 21st century – so this report sets out to talk about why it’s so critical and how we can close the divide.

Why do we need to close the digital divide?

  • Job and establishment growth between 2010 and 2015 was substantially lower in counties with the highest digital divide; establishments with paid employees declined in counties with the highest digital divide while establishments with no employees barely grew.
  • Digital economy industries—one of the fastest growing group of industries in the nation—and associated jobs increased overall and across all DDI quartiles between 2010 and 2015.
  • Digital economy establishments—of which 57 percent were nonemployers—increased in the nation and across all digital divide categories. In fact, the largest percent change in digital economy establishments between 2010 and 2015 took place in counties with the highest digital divide.

It’s worth noting and demonstrating with the table below that while there may have been growth in digital economy industries and establishments in all areas – the areas with higher digital divides saw less growth that the areas that were better connected.

Investment in infrastructure and digital inclusion efforts reaps benefits in the forms of greater industry and establishments.

So – how can we make that happen? The authors offer a couple of suggestions…

  • Economic and community development efforts need to be refined to target and support digital economy entrepreneurs that are emerging throughout the nation. Robust strategies should not only focus on updating broadband infrastructure, but also on increasing awareness and digital literacy knowledge to effectively leverage and maximize these technologies.
  • Collaboration among key local and regional assets—schools, libraries, nonprofits, Extension Services, local economic development organizations, regional planning commissions, think tanks, faith-based among others—should be strengthened. This will ensure that local and regional resources will be working in tandem to tackle the digital divide problem in high need areas of the country.

Wondering where your county sits on the DDI scale? Roberto was kind enough last fall to run reports for us for all of Minnesota Counties. So you can see for yourself!

The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America? Nearly $1.4 trillion

The Foundation for Rural Service recently published a report – A Cyber Economy: The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America. They surveyed 1,200 user to answer a few questions:

  • How frequently do U.S. consumers use the internet for various transactional purposes—shopping, checking their bank accounts and investments, paying bills, etc.?
  • To what degree do those transactions end up driving actual spending?
  • What is the estimated dollar amount that can be attributed to internet-based transactions?
  • With respect to U.S. urban and rural markets, where does that economic activity occur?

Here are their key findings

  1. Internet usage among urban and rural consumers was largely similar.
  2. Rural consumers are responsible for more than 10.8 billion internet-driven transactions annually out of a total of 69.9 billion annual internet-driven transactions, representing 15% of all internet-driven transactions.
  3. Internet-driven transactions drive nearly 50% of United States gross domestic product (GDP) or $9.6 trillion annually. These transactions are estimated to grow to over 65% by 2022 to $14 trillion annually.
  4. The estimated value of rural online transactions is nearly $1.4 trillion—14% of all internet-driven transactions, or 7% of the U.S. nominal GDP.

It’s an interesting report – who buys what where online. There’s a lot to check out – one interesting note – the market for online transactions and spending is growing…

Man Sets Up His Own 4G Antenna, In Order To Get Broadband To His Remote Farm

I’m looking up something else and I found this video that I had to share!

Here’s the description from YouTube…

Living on a farm nestled in a remote area of Salisbury Plain, Richard Guy had battled for years with an unbearably slow internet signal. But the 60-year-old farmer decided enough was enough and resolved to take on telecoms giant BT and find an alternative source. Mr Guy noticed that his mobile phone’s 4G signal – a wireless internet connection – was significantly faster than the broadband link provided by BT to his home, but he needed to find a way to route the signal to his farmhouse. So the savvy father-of-two built his own makeshift wooden telephone mast, on which he set up a 4G adaptor inside a toolbox.

Is slow broadband hurting your chance for a BWCA permit?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the U.S. Forest Service is changing our they issue permits for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)….

The rule change by the U.S. Forest Service will put the scarce permits up for grabs on a first-come basis starting next January. Last year, 12,500 applications were made for 3,500 permits. The permits allow boats powered with 25-horsepower (or less) motors to enter two separate bays of Basswood Lake and a couple of neighboring lakes.

Some outfitters in the Ely area resent the change, saying it will hurt their businesses and disadvantage people who are not equipped with high-speed internet. On the annual “go live’’ date, prospective permit buyers will be poised at their personal electronic devices with credit cards in hand. Starting at 9 a.m. Central time they’ll try to make a reservation through

“If we hit a button at the same time, I lose,’’ said BWCA outfitter Bob LaTourelle, who works northeast of Ely in an area with undependable internet service.

Under the old system, motor lottery applications could be made via computer without deadline pressure throughout a four-week period. Winners would be notified by mid-February. Prospective visitors could submit as many applications as desired. Moreover, qualified outfitters could make applications on behalf of confirmed clients — an option no longer available in the first-come, first-served system.

Some of us know this tried and true method with TicketMaster sales.It’s just another example of the advantages of broadband!

Super Bowl hype brings some awesome wireless solutions to the Twin Cities

Here’s an infomercial on the role of wireless access on the Super Bowl. They mentioned the 1300 wireless access points around the US Bank Stadium. It’s created by National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) – the builders of the network.

Having adequate broadband for a conference is a big deal. A few weeks ago I was helping with a conference in St Paul. The location (which fit 2,500 people) had a wireless network but it wasn’t enough for the sold out audience. They only had a 100 Mbps into the building. (And I assume that was down only – they never did get me in touch with the person who knew.)  We wanted to invite people to live stream and post on social media during the conference. And we wanted them to not use up their personal cellular data caps or run into congestion.

It was expensive to have anyone upgrade the connection – especially for one day. We weren’t as big as the Super Bowl so probably not worth 1300 wireless access points – but still worth consideration for any community (or business) looking to attract conferences – broadband matters. In the end – we went with what was available. People got a little frustrated – I quickly moved off the free wireless to my own hotspot. And I think next time broadband might move of the list of necessities for a location.

Why is Bemidji best? Courageous conversations, Broadband and Art

Minnesota Monthly voted Bemidji their Best City. The article is an interesting look at all sides of Bemidji – and includes broadband…

As charming as Bemidji is, it has grown a lot in the past decade, as per a plan set by a coalition of businesspeople and civic leaders, including Treuer, called Bemidji Leads. They saw Bemidji as more than a small town with a flagging timber industry. Funding since then has gone into a new civic center, heart and cancer centers at Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, and broadband for all residents—among the most progressive internet services in the country’s rural areas, set up to attract entrepreneurs.

Bemidji is pretty awesome. (I won’t be picking a MN Best – I travel too much for that!) I had the opportunity to check it out and talk all about broadband last summer when we were on our case studies measuring impact of broadband in a community. Bemidji was one of the five towns we investigated. What I found was that active community leadership (who plan from the future) keeps the community eye are focusing on what they want to be 10-20 years from how. Also, they are lucky enough to have an engaged local broadband cooperative Paul Bunyan that has focused on community needs as much as company profit understanding that long terms community prosperity also means long terms company prosperity.

I’m sure I’ve posted it before – but seems like a good time for a reminder from Paul Bunyan on their view of rural broadband…