Why is Blandin Foundation leading a Minnesota contingency to the Intelligent Community Forum Conference in NY?

The Blandin Foundation is leading a contingency of broadband-focused community leaders to the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Global Conference in NY in June. Why? To learn and to teach!

We will go to learn from some of the top smart cities (counties, counties and towns) in the world. The ICF awards the “Intelligent Community” each year. These are communities that are ahead of their peers when it comes to having and using broadband to the point of creating innovation in work, school and play!

ICF has a framework for communities that the Blandin Foundation has adopted with the Blandin Broadband Communities. It focuses on 6 facets (pictured at the right) that help communities recognize their strengths and challenges and create a plan to use broadband/smart technology to highlight strengths and address challenges.

We are also going to talk to communities around the world about our work in rural areas. We suspect that there will be projects that will excite us coming from larger communities but that our communities might also serve as a model to smaller communities. We have worked with the ICF model for almost a decade now and we feel that we have some lessons worth sharing!

We are bringing representatives from:

Red Wing Ignite Cup – Congrats Busy Baby

Last night Red Wing Ignite hosted a competition where several entrepreneurs presented their ideas with the hopes of winning a seat in the MN Cup competition. It was great to see the projects that people came up with and the skills they had to present their ideas. While the winning project was not high tech, it was interesting to see the impact of technology on all of the projects in every aspect from rapid prototyping, to research, to marketing.

Red Wing Ignite helps the community make the best use of the technology they have – moving from infrastructure rich to innovation rich!

Timberjay suggests that Relocating government jobs could significantly boost rural Minnesota

The Timberjay applauds Walz’s efforts to use broadband to boost jobs and suggests that some of those jobs could be State jobs…

Gov. Tim Walz has rightly made boosting the economic prospects of rural Minnesota a key part of his One Minnesota agenda.

Major investment in rural broadband, which is high on the governor’s agenda, is certainly one way to provide new economic opportunity in non-metro parts of the state. His plan to boost local government aid and education funding will also yield benefits for rural Minnesota.

They also make the case that once broadband is available, the door opens to moving State jobs…

But here’s one more thing that should be on the governor’s agenda: Spreading more of the state workforce outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The state of Minnesota is an enormous employer, with a permanent workforce that averages about 35,000 people. Right now, about 21,000 of those employees, or about 61 percent, work in the seven-county metro area. That leaves just over 13,000 jobs spread out across the rest of Minnesota, about a quarter of those with the Department of Natural Resources.

Livestock Auctions need broadband – one more reason to get rural areas connected

Prairie Business Magazine shines on light on how livestock auctions happen today…

At the weekly Herreid Livestock Auction here, area ranchers no longer see as many cattle buyers checking out the cattle as the animals move through the ring.

“We’ve still got 12, 15, 18 buyers there, but it’s not like it used to be,” says Joe Vetter, auction co-manager.

But the buyers really are there in a virtual sense. They’ve simply arrived via the fiber telecommunications routes of America instead of the Interstates and two-lane highways.

Thanks to high-speed Internet, the buyers study video of the auction and buy cattle at every sale.

That’s great for the potential participants that are online. But that’s not everyone yet…

BroadbandNow.com, a comparison and research website, said nearly 95 percent of North Dakotans, nearly 92 percent of Minnesotans and nearly 90 percent of South Dakotans have access to wired broadband of 25 megabits per second or faster.

That isn’t as meaningful as it might appear, given that most of the population lives in urban areas. But even in South Dakota, which trails Minnesota and North Dakota in broadband rollout, the South Dakota Telecommunications Association reports that rural providers in the state are already reaching more than 65 percent of their customers’ homes or businesses with broadband.

The costs are high…

Without such assistance, those in the industry say, it would be very difficult to serve sparsely populated pockets of the Great Plains.

Here’s why the help is required. Last year, the South Dakota Telecommunications Association – which has 18 member companies – calculated that it costs an average of $16,000 per mile to install “backbone fiber” in rural South Dakota, compared to an average of $60,000 per mile in Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city.

But that’s not the bargain for rural areas that it first appears. As the SDTA report points out, the Sioux Falls metro area has 2,490 residents per square mile compared to 4.48 residents per square mile in the area served by the association’s 18 member companies.

The cost to bring fiber to rural South Dakota is an average $3,571 per resident compared to $25.54 per resident in Sioux Falls.

Bottom line? Companies will reap a much greater return on investment in urban areas. And that means government help is vital in ensuring timely upgrades in rural areas.

Music labels suing broadband providers for customers’ music downloads – time to innovate!

In honor of Spring Break, I’m writing a different sort of post for me but it combines two part of my life – broadband and music. (I have a local music radio show.) It raises a lot of questions for me – but I think the answer is innovate or get left behind. And while this example focuses on the music industry, I think there are lots of folks wearing similar shoes. The people who use broadband to their advantage are most likely to prevail. That’s a lesson in and out of the music industry.

Ars Technica reports…

The music industry is suing Charter Communications, claiming that the cable Internet provider profits from music piracy by failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who illegally download copyrighted songs. The lawsuit also complains that Charter helps its subscribers pirate music by selling packages with higher Internet speeds.

While the act of providing higher Internet speeds clearly isn’t a violation of any law, ISPs can be held liable for their users’ copyright infringement if the ISPs repeatedly fail to disconnect repeat infringers.

The top music labels—Sony, Universal, Warner, and their various subsidiaries—sued Charter Friday in a complaint filed in US District Court in Colorado. While Charter has a copyright policy that says repeat copyright infringers may be disconnected, Charter has failed to disconnect those repeat infringers in practice, the complaint said:

Charter is not the only provider that has run into issues with the music industry. Just the focus on this most recent article. I had to check the date on the article twice. It seemed like much of this was settled with Napster years ago but issues persist. Here’s what Ars Technica posts as the rules around the issue…

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ISPs cannot be held liable for Internet users’ copyright infringement if the ISPs “‘adopt and reasonably implement’ a repeat infringer policy that provides for termination of users’ accounts ‘in appropriate circumstances,'” an EFF explainer notes. But the law is vague enough that courts have had to interpret its meaning in various cases over the years.

In 2013, AT&T and other ISPs began using a “six-strikes” Copyright Alert System, working in conjunction with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The system ended up doing little to thwart copyright infringement and was shut down early last year.

Music publishers have called on ISPs to filter out pirated content, and they have filed various lawsuits against ISPs. Cox lost a jury verdict in a music piracy case in 2015. Another lawsuit involving Cox was settled last year, but Cox faces yet another lawsuit filed in August 2018.

In the Grande case, a federal judge this month ruled that Grande does not qualify for a legal safe harbor because of the ISP’s “complete abdication of [its] responsibilities to implement and enforce a policy terminating repeat copyright infringers.”

While ISPs have often resisted disconnecting alleged pirates, AT&T recently terminated the broadband service of more than a dozen customers who were accused multiple times of copyright infringement.

It’s too complicated for most music listeners to understand. If you can get a song you like, you get it. It’s like when I see a pirated video for sale at a garage sale. It’s illegal but lots of folks do it and I’m sure most are oblivious. The “most than a dozen” AT&T customers were probably egregious downloaders and understood the rule. But “more than a dozen” is a drop in the ocean.

To be fair, consumer should pay attention to laws. Providers should pay attention to customers known/suspected of criminal activity. But it’s the music industry that feels the pain here. They are likely the ones that need to innovate.

The flip side of broadband and the music industry is that it’s much easier now for musicians to record, release and promote music. A friend (Katy Vernon) just released a CD, spearheading much of her own promotion – to a sold out show and tons of publicity. There’s a leveling of the playing field.

Broadband is a disruptive technology. It’s all in how it’s harnessed. And as I spend my Spring Break talking to my college daughters about big “college” issues I think about the different industries, entrepreneurs and workers can innovate or spend their time fighting change.

“It’s about connecting citizens to the global economy” Steve Groves

The Timberjay reports on the status of broadband in the legislature…

“The governor cares deeply about this,” Grove said. “The model should be that you don’t need to live in the metro to take part in the global economy.”

The commissioner said rural projects don’t always have as much appeal for private companies because sparser population tends to increase the cost of bringing broadband speeds to customers. Broadband speeds in Minnesota are defined as 25 megabytes per seconds (mbps) for download speed and 2 mbps upload speed.

According to Grove about 87 percent of Minnesota residents have access to these speeds, but the state is pushing for a further increase of 100 mbps download and 20 mbps upload by 2026.

How the grant money will be dispersed will be determined by a number of factors, including a company’s 10-year build-out plan.

Danna Mackenzie, the Director of the Office of Broadband Development, said residents should be contacting their Internet service providers to let them know if they want broadband. She said people who want better Internet service, but feel their local provider is not responding adequately, can call 651-259-7610.

And a little more detail on the grants and other possible funds in the legislature for technology…

As of right now, Mackenzie said, the rules governing how grant money is awarded to Internet companies will not be changing.

Grove said DEED is also looking to lobby lawmakers to bring grant programs for small startup companies, including tax incentives for angel investors, to put money into rural startups.

He said there is broad support at the Capitol for the programs.

“Generally, the reception has been really good from lawmakers,” he said. “This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s about connecting citizens to the global economy.”

Ecklund agreed, noting that the state may not be able to rely on the major telecommunications companies, like Frontier or CenturyLink, to make the investments necessary to improve service in rural areas. He said he’s been talking to township officials in parts of his district about forming cooperative ventures using joint powers as a way to attract more customers. “Then it makes it easier to get local companies or cooperatives, like Paul Bunyan or others, to come in and provide service,” he said. Just as rural electrification was accomplished mostly through the use of cooperatives, Ecklund said the same model might work for extending broadband.

Red Wing Ignite Cup April 16

Red Wing Ignite is hosting their annual Ignite Cup – an entrepreneurial competition. It reaches emerging entrepreneurs from Southern Minnesota and connects them with tools, resources and support to launch and accelerate the development of their new ventures.

People represent their areas and the winner will automatically be a semifinalist in the Minnesota Cup.

It is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors.