Fifth grader campaigns Becker County Commissioners for better broadband

I’ve heard it repeated often – If you’re going to keep kids in your town, you’re going to want broadband. I just didn’t realize we were talking about fifth graders! Here’s a letter shared with permission, but with the name blocked out, from a fifth grade in Becker County to the County Commissioners…

Dear County Commissioners,

Hello. My name is C.M. I an in the 5th grade and 11 years old. I live on Pearl Lake Drive. Today I am writing about the lack of internet. I use the internet for my school work and I will use it a lot more as I get older. I like to play video games too. Our internet is limited and expensive. I hope you take this into consideration. We need better internet for our neighborhood.

Thank you for your time,


Libraries lending mobile hotspots – the why and how?

Someone asked me about mobile hotspots lending programs and how to implement one. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked a reference desk – but luckily I still have friends in the library world who could help me out. I thought I would share the info here to help out other libraries and others who are considering a mobile hotspot lending program.

Note: a mobile hotspot lending program allows patrons to “check out” a mobile hotspot (or MiFi) that is a small piece of equipment, smaller than a smartphone, that will set up a small wireless network that allows a houseful of people to connect to the Internet via cellular service.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services funded a brochure that outlines many of the issues you’d want to consider: Starting a Mobile Hotspot Lending Program covers the following topics:

  • Why Hotspots?
  • Questions to Consider
  • What is a Hotspot?
  • Your Monthly Bill
  • Implementation Strategies
  • Peripheral Costs
  • Challenges
  • Community Outreach
  • Links and References

The NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) also has a good article outlining some of the bigger issues:

  • How much will it cost our library?
  • Won’t people just take advantage of it and watch Netflix/cat videos?
  • How will you stop people from using the hotspots to view adult content?
  • What about data throttling?
  • Hey, are you trying to spy on me?
  • What if the hotspot gets stolen or lost?

The person contacting me was especially concerned with what folks might access via the hotspot so I also found a couple model Acceptable Use Policies from Aurora Public Library Computer Use Policy and Pikes Peak Wireless Access Policy. And if you’re really considered there’s a great research paper related to all things filtered in the library.

A number of Blandin Broadband Communities have added mobile hotspots to public places or providers opportunities to check out hotspots. Most, if not all, have seem pleased with the program once it has started. (Hotspots on the school bus has been a perennial favorite.) Generally libraries and other nonprofits can get better deals on the hotspots than an individual can so it’s a great way to serve a need in the community.

USDA RUS Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program applications due June 4

The details of the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants were recently released in the Federal Register

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), herein referred to as RUS or the Agency, announces its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program application window for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. The Agency is publishing the amount of funding received in the appropriations act on its website at
Expenses incurred in developing applications will be at the applicant’s risk.
In addition to announcing the application window, RUS announces the minimum and maximum amounts for DLT grants applicable for the fiscal year. The DLT Grant Program regulation can be found at 7 CFR part 1734,
subpart B. This DLT Grant Program regulation replaced the previous DLT Grant Program regulation, 7 CFR part
1703, subpart E, on December 27, 2017.

Local libraries “check out” broadband in Cook and Chisholm

Reposted with permission from the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation‘s newsletter The Ranger…

The Cook and Chisholm public libraries are offering personal portable hotspot devices that may be checked out just like a book thanks to the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program. These hotspots can connect up to 10 devices to the internet at 4G speed enabling homes and people in rural areas to have high speed internet access where it is not yet available.

The Cook Library launched the hotspot program in December and its five devices have been checked out 39 times in three months. Each hotspot may be checked out for seven days at a time.

“Cook and the surrounding area do not yet have expansive broadband capability so these devices are very helpful to our local citizens and families,” said Crystal Phillips, Cook Library Director. “The device has a touch screen, is very user friendly and connects to the library’s Wi-Fi network so data usage is not limited.”

The Chisholm Library acquired 10 hotspots that have been checked out 58 times combined since December. “They are in such high demand that we are considering adding 10 to 20 more hotspots to our inventory,” said Katie Christenson, Chisholm Library supervisor. “The broadband

grant has made a big impact in our community.”

In addition, WiFi capacity at the Chisholm Library was upgraded to make the library itself a hotspot that is open to the public with four access points within a specific physical range. An average of 65 devices per day (or 2,000 devices per month) are connecting to the WiFi when the user is physically inside the library or parked nearby within range.

The BBC program was supported in part by a grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and involves an intensive two-year partnership between Blandin and area communities to advance broadband initiatives. This ongoing effort helps northeastern Minnesota rural communities develop high speed internet that is critical to economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life.


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 ( 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.

(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.




Bill creating music education online grant program (HF2378) introduced

Here’s the info from the MN Legislative website…

Information for H. F. No. 2378

2017 – 2018 Regular Session

Short Description: Music education online access for children and students in rural Minnesota grant program created, report required, and money appropriated.

Note:House Hearing Scheduled in Education Finance on 3/28/2018

I look forward to learning more – like will the intended participants have sufficient broadband to participate.

A bill was introduced to increase state aid for school district telecommunications projects

As reported in the Senate Agenda

Senator Pratt from the Committee on E-12 Policy, to which was referred

S.F. No. 3123A bill for an act relating to education finance; increasing state aid for school district telecommunications projects; appropriating money; amending Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 125B.26, by adding a subdivision; Laws 2017, First Special Session chapter 5, article 5, section 14, subdivision 4.

Here’s the text

A bill for an act
relating to education finance; increasing state aid for school district
telecommunications projects; appropriating money; amending Minnesota Statutes
2016, section 125B.26, by adding a subdivision; Laws 2017, First Special Session
chapter 5, article 5, section 14, subdivision 4.


Section 1.

Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 125B.26, is amended by adding a subdivision
to read:

Subd. 4a.

Additional telecommunications equity access aid.

A school district, charter
school, or intermediate school district is eligible for additional telecommunications equity
access aid equal to the greater of:

(1) zero; or

(2) the product of the district’s adjusted pupil units for that year and ? percent of the
difference between:

(i) the district’s adjusted approved costs under subdivision 1 per adjusted pupil unit; and

(ii) the average approved costs per adjusted pupil unit for all districts.


This section is effective for revenue in fiscal year 2019 and later.

Sec. 2.

Laws 2017, First Special Session chapter 5, article 5, section 14, subdivision 4, is
amended to read:

Subd. 4.

Equity in telecommunications access.

For equity in telecommunications access
aid under Minnesota Statutes, section 125B.26, subdivision 4

$ 3,750,000 ….. 2018
$ 3,750,000 ….. 2019

If the appropriation amount is insufficient, the commissioner shall reduce the
reimbursement rate in Minnesota Statutes, section 125B.26, subdivisions 4 and 5, and the
revenue for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 shall be prorated.

Any balance in the first year does not cancel but is available in the second year.


Subdivision 1.

Department of Education.

The sum indicated in this section is
appropriated from the general fund to the Department of Education for the fiscal year

Subd. 2.

Additional telecommunications equity access aid.

For additional
telecommunications equity access aid under Minnesota Statutes, section 125B.26, subdivision