Average American Family Can Save $10,500 Per Year by Using Broadband for Comparison Shopping and Online-Only Deals

The Internet Innovation Alliance says a household can save $10,500 a year! 

The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) finds that the average American household can save $10,539.09 per year on household spending through use of high-speed internet services, according to the organization’s latest Cost Campaign analysis. Before factoring in the average annual cost of a mobile data plan and a home broadband connection ($1,575), the yearly savings add up to $12,114.09. The financial analysis, “10 Ways Being Online Saves You Money,” was authored by Nicholas J. Delgado, certified financial planner and principal of Chicago-based investment bank Dignitas, in partnership with IIA

These numbers are always fun to have. I must admit when I looked at community ROI of public investment in broadband, I went with numbers that were much more conservative; we looked at an annual economic benefit of $1850 per household with broadband – because these numbers seem a little urban-focused.

I know the text won’t transfer well so I’ll post the picture (and table below) so you can get the content in the best way for you…

Top 10: Potential Internet-Enabled Savings on an Annual Basis Continue reading

Place-sensitive distributed development – a strategy to lift up rural areas with technology

Brookings recently released a fascinating report on countering the geography of discontent. They outline and detail the economic changes to area based on uneven spread of digital technology…

However, in the 1980s, that long-standing trend began to break down as the spread of digital technology increasingly rewarded the most talent-laden clusters of skills and firms.

As the economy changed, convergence gave way to divergence, as a fortunate upper tier of big, dense metropolitan areas (the top 2 percent of U.S. communities based on measures of growth and wages) began to consistently grow faster than the median and least-prosperous cities.

Techy town flourished and smaller towns or the rural spaces between towns suffered. (There are some awesome examples of areas that bucked this trend, but on the whole we see it here in Minnesota.) This has created a deep divide in the country – not only manifesting in technology and economy…

As a result, few can now deny that the geography of America’s current economic order has brought economic and social cleavages that have spawned frightening externalities: entrenched poverty, “deaths of despair,” and deepening small-town resentment of coastal cosmopolitan elites. It is baleful realities like these that caught many politicians, academics, and journalists off guard in 2016 as they poured through post-election red-blue maps. In a very real way, the 2016 election of Donald Trump represented the revenge of the places left behind in a changing economy.

The question they post is how to balance this inequity….

Therefore, we favor a third approach to regional policy, something akin to what scholars Simona Iammarino, Andrés Rodriguez-Pose, and Michael Storper call “place-sensitive distributed development.” This approach assumes that regional equity won’t occur without economic development but that excessive imbalances between regions can jeopardize such development. Our place-sensitive strategy seeks to mitigate uneven development by ensuring economic growth occurs in a wider swath of regions.

What might place-sensitive distributed development look like in practice? To give a sense, we suggest five examples of the kinds of strategies that would help—three that focus on ensuring more regions have the assets and capabilities to flourish, and two more that suggest what specific regional development initiatives might look like. Here’s a look:

[abbreviated list]

  • Ensure businesses in lagging regions have access to capital. The pullback in small business lending following the financial crisis has hit less densely populated parts of the country particularly hard. Efforts to improve data on small business performance can help banks lower the transaction costs of extending small loans while innovations in financial technology can help create a secondary market for them and reduce risk. Boosting alternative, non-bank sources of capital, such as venture capital funding, can also help support regional economic growth.
  • Reduce gaps in broadband. Large gaps in broadband service and subscriptions have put businesses and workers in less densely populated areas at a huge disadvantage. Policy proposals should focus on connecting more people and encouraging greater subscription rates in places already endowed with broadband.
  • Identify “growth poles” that can support regional growth. While it may be inefficient to “save” every left-behind small city or rural community in the U.S., targeted federal policy aimed at strengthening 10 or so promising mid-sized centers of advanced industry activity would bring more growth to some communities adjacent to many more lagging towns and rural areas. Federal investment in these “growth poles” will put more communities on a path toward self-sustaining economic growth.
  • Help Americans move to opportunity. The federal government should expand the availability of financial support for individuals who want to make long-distance moves to places promising greater economic opportunity. At the same time, federal policy should encourage states and localities to relax zoning restrictions and construct new housing units to increase the supply of affordable housing. For those who wish to stay in their communities to live but not necessarily to work, state and local governments could provide a subsidy for workers commuting to adjacent communities.

Local students need after-school broadband access – connect them with local business

Many schools set up a computer-for-each-kid program only to realize that not every kid has broadband access at home. That level playing field just got un-leleved again. When that happened at Wintercrest Community Schools they tried an innovative approach, as reported by EdSurge

As she (Susie Meade, the superintendent of Winterset Community Schools) began thinking about ways to help Winterset students get home internet access, Meade recalled hearing about a district that had tapped local businesses to allow students to come in after school hours and use their Wi-Fi for free. “And I thought, ‘Well, we could do that,’” she says.

Nestled in a small, rural town about 25 miles southwest of Des Moines, Winterset Community Schools serves about 1,700 K-12 students. The town itself, with about 5,000 residents, frequently congregates in a “vibrant” downtown area, which is only about three blocks from the local K-12 schools, Meade says.

The people in Winterset are highly invested in and supportive of the local school district, she adds. That’s due, in part, because Winterset is a close-knit community. But it also has something to do with the proximity of the town square to the schools and what Meade describes as a setting and charm “fit for a Norman Rockwell painting.”

The project got off the ground very quickly. It was so easy, Meade says, that it was almost strange.

First, she called the Madison County Chamber of Commerce to clear the idea. With their support, Meade went to town—literally. She spent a day knocking on doors of local businesses, asking if they’d be willing to host students who just needed to finish their homework with an internet connection.

Not a single person turned her down, she says. More than a dozen businesses—coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries, bookstores, libraries and grocery stores, to name a few—opened their doors to students.

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.