Broadband Efforts in Orr, Cook and Bois Fotre Band – digital inclusion classes, broadband upgrade and new equipment

This month I am traveling with the Blandin crew to visit various Iron Range Broadband Communities – communities that have been making a concerted effort to improve broadband access in their area. We rounded out our trip to day with the Grizzlies – aka the communities of Orr, Cook and Bois Forte Band.

Here’s the presentation:

Notes (these notes are rough because they mirror the PPT – I tried to add points of the conversation that might be helpful to other communities):

Grizzlies Classes

  • A wide range but for the community and in the school.
  • Classes went well. We were surprised at which ones really took off. QuickBooks, iPad/iPhone and Basic Windows were a popular classes. Less popular classes were: email accounts, buying and selling and computer protection. Other classes that didn’t work out well – social media, bring your device, web design and online employment opportunities.

How were classes advertised?

  • Local papers
  • Via social media
  • Weekend training
  • Provide 1 on 1 training for Quickbooks for business owners
  • Have second training on hand for more than 5 attendees
  • Incentive such as purchasing software for Quickbooks for business owners.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t schedule of football/volleyball…
  • Advertise more effectively
  • Never schedule a class on Thanksgiving
  • You’re not going to make everyone happy
  • Trainers were terrific


IN Library – WiFi hotspots in library – they have 5 with 24 checkouts. Mostly folks from townships are checking them out. People are amazed at the opportunity and how fast they are. They have questions about cost (there is none for patrons). There’s a 7-day checkout period and people have been pretty good about getting it back. The supply and demand are well matched now.

At Orr Center – Switches for internet connectivity, TV and rolling cart and 5 laptops.

Telecom/Broadband Update

  • All new fiber was dropped from Cook to several areas (along highways) (used CAF 2 from CenturyLink)
  • New fiber into the reservation – VBSL drops by summer. So anyone within miles of the highway will get DSL (speeds dependent on distance)
  • They are building based on population density.
  • T-mobile is installing equipment in towers (then going through NESC) – hope to be a cheaper options. Verizon is part of some conversations.

We should require  broadband providers to look for existing fiber before they build out with public funding.  A provider recently overbuilt a network using CAF 2 funding – if they had used existing infrastructure they could be offering FTTH instead of DSL to community members.

Cell access to shaky in Orr.

We might be looking at wifi on the buses in the future.

And video:

Chisholm MN Broadband Efforts – wifi on buses, in parks, to check out and an upcoming coworking space

This month I am traveling with the Blandin crew to visit various Iron Range Broadband Communities – communities that have been making a concerted effort to improve broadband access in their area. We started in Chisholm.

Here’s the presentation:

Notes on  their projects:

Chisholm/Balkan Broadband Projects:

Wi-fi on Busses:

Organization:  Chisholm Public Schools ISD #695

Coordinator:  Joe Phillips, Chisholm Public Schools IT Director

Wi-fi to be installed on two school busses owned by the district.  Allowing for students taking longer bus trips to have access to the internet.  Busses may be used for community events such as the Chisholm All Class Reunion or Doc “Moonlight” Graham Days.


Community Website/Portal:

Organization:  City of Chisholm/Chisholm Area Chamber of Commerce/ISD #695

Coordinator:  Amy Rice, Chisholm Development & Economic Director

Developing a Community Portal and Calendar to provide a “go to” website for all community activities.  The portal will be used to market for economic development, tourism, growing population, the school district, city and chamber.  The three main entities involved will also develop websites that will interact with the portal.  Uploading calendar events and keeping information current.


Community Hot Spots:

Organization:  Chisholm EDA

Coordinator:  Amy Rice, Chisholm Development & Economic Director

Installing community hot spots in three locations, Chisholm Public Library, the Lake Street Pocket Park and the Balkan Community Center.  Each organization will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and costs associated with the hot spots.


Ipad/Portable Hot Spot Check-out @ Chisholm Public Library:

Organization:  Chisholm Public Library

Coordinator:  Katie Christensen, CPL Director

Purchased ten portable hot spots as well as web access for each device.  The devices will be checked out of the library.  Security features and insurance will be provided on devices.   The Library will be responsible for continuing costs associated with the project.


Chisholm/Balkan Broadband Projects:

Community Training Project:

Organization:  Chisholm Community Education

Coordinator:  Dr. Janey Blanchard, Chisholm Community Education Director/Superintendent ISD #695

Monthly community training on all things broadband.  A monthly presenter will train on a specific topic relating to broadband, internet, social media, security and many more.  Student aides (CHS Seniors) will be trained by a mentor in order to provide help to attendees.  Monthly meetings for the first 12 months are planned, additional topics will be added depending on community input.  Our Community Portal will be showcased as well as the Hot Spot Checkout System at Chisholm Public Library.  Other partners will include the Chisholm Area Chamber of Commerce, ISD #695, Chisholm Public Library and area banks and medical facilities.


MDC Broadband Access:

Organization:  Minnesota Discovery Center

Coordinator: Ethan Bexell, MDC

The Goal is to provide broadband access at the Minnesota Discovery Center that is reliable, affordable and provides speeds adequate for a museum, educational facility, premier meeting facility and area attraction.


“Business Perks” Building:

Organization:  Chisholm EDA

Coordinator:  Amy Rice, Chisholm Development & Economic Director

We plan to create rental space for part-time/temporary/startup businesses with access to technology.  For example high speed internet service, webinar access, skype, google hangout and other options.  Staffed by an intern from our local community college, in addition to an intern opportunity with UMD-CED we plan to have that person also provide social media marketing and e-commerce training to our downtown businesses free of charge for the first year of operation.  We are looking at a building that is adjacent to our new downtown Pocket Park, with the recently installed Hot Spot equipment in the park we plan to expand that to cover the building. Plans call for a coffee hub in the front of the building that will have a side door opening to the Pocket Park.  The coffee shop will be open for the facility renters and eventually we hope to have it run as a viable business.  The space will be an incubator/business development tool, training center and brain hub for the community.  In-Kind partners will provide art work/decoration for the property.  Partners will include the IRRRB, AEOA Business Energy Retrofit Program, the Chisholm Community Foundation, Chisholm EDA, Chisholm Downtown Revitalization Committee, UMD-CED, Hibbing Community College and the Chisholm Area Chamber of Commerce.


And video of the meeting:


Foundation for Rural Service hosts Youth Tour for kids interested in broadband

I learn about the Youth Tour from Paul Bunyan Communications. (More on that soon.) Apparently there’s a broadband camp for teens. Or as the Foundation for Rural Service puts it…

Every summer, the FRS Youth Tour brings together high school students from across rural America to visit our nation’s capital and learn about rural telecommunications. The tour provides a forum for teens to meet and interact with their peers from other rural communities, as well as, key legislative, regulatory and government figures. Since its inception in 1995, the youth tour has hosted thousands of students.

The event draws from member communities…

NTCA member companies can sponsor a student from their local community. FRS leaves the selection of the youth tour participant completely up to the telco. The program offers sponsoring companies an excellent public relations opportunity by increasing their connections with local schools and the community in the rural areas they serve.

NTCA member companies can also sponsor a chaperone to attend the Youth Tour. FRS relies upon the support of chaperones to assist us with ensuring that the students have a safe and productive experience. Serving as a chaperone is a wonderful opportunity for a staff member of your organization.

I learned about it from Paul Bunyan because they sent me a press release. Folks in their area might contact them for more info. Folks in other areas might contact their local provider to see if they have an y programs that might help get a kid to DC. (Or if other providers want to send me info I’m happy to post here.)

Here’s the info from Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan Communications 2018 Youth Tour Essay Contest

Chance for 16-17 year old high school students to win a free trip to Washington D.C

(Bemidji, MN) (January 3, 2018) – Area High School Students age 16 o 17 are encouraged to enter the Paul Bunyan Communications Essay Contest for a chance to attend the 2018 Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. June 2-6, with all expenses paid by Paul Bunyan Communications.

Students interested in attending the Youth Tour need to submit a short essay, no more than 500 words in length, on why they would like to attend the Youth Tour. Students must be 16 or 17 years of age and in high school with their parent/guardian a member of Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative.

Entries can be dropped off at the Paul Bunyan Communications office in Bemidji or Grand Rapids, or they can mailed to:

Paul Bunyan Communications Essay Contest
1831 Anne St. NW
Bemidji, MN 56601

The deadline for entries is Friday, March 16.

The trip features a comprehensive overview of the telecommunications industry, including careers in telecom, the critical role telecommunications plays in rural America, and how legislative and regulatory decisions affect the industry.  The tour allows youth to meet with members of Congress who represent rural constituents.  They also participate in educational sessions about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Students visit some of the nation’s most historic sites, including Mount Vernon, the Smithsonian Museums, and a beautiful night tour of our Washington D.C.

“We hope that by providing our youth with telecommunications services comparable to those found in urban areas, as well as exposing them to cultural and educational opportunities, such as the FRS Youth Tour, our youth will remain in and become active members in their rural communities,” said Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

The Foundation for Rural Service is dedicated to informing and to improving the quality of life throughout rural America.  Each year, it organizes the Youth Tour, designed to educate rural youth about the telecommunications industry and the federal political process.  The FRS is a subsidiary of the NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association of which Paul Bunyan Communications is a member.

This is the 22nd consecutive year that Paul Bunyan Communications has participated in sending a local high school student to the Youth Tour.


6 Things to Know about the E-Rate Program

Education Week reports on the status of the E-Rate program…

In recent years, the program has experienced big changes, remarkable successes, and new perceived threats, all of which Education Week has covered in-depth.

The offer six big numbers to know about the program…

  1. The E-rate program continues to have extraordinary reach, impacting more than 118,000 school and library facilities across the U.S.
  2. Schools’ appetite for bandwidth continues to grow, with $2.5 billion in E-rate requests for data & internet service: By far, the biggest slice of the 2017 E-rate pie was for “data and internet service,” which accounted for more than half of program requests.
  3. Among surveyed applicants, 55 percent want voice services to remain E-rate-eligible.
  4. The average school site requesting E-rate funding now spends $32,576 on Wi-Fi equipment and services.
  5. Among surveyed applicants, 48 percent said the E-rate’s ‘self-provisioning’ option lowers bandwidth costs.
  6. Among surveyed applicants, 44 percent still don’t like the E-rate application process.

The Ojibwe Netflix – great idea but viewers need broadband

MPR reports

The new “Ojibway TV” app is the first ever video streaming service for indigenous Ojibwe speakers. (The app uses an alternative spelling of Ojibwe.) It’s available now on Apple TV and Apple’s app store.

To keep an indigenous language vital, it has to be passed on to young people, Baxter said, and right now, that requires streaming video.

“Young people want to consume that content,” he said. “My 13-year-old son is more likely to recognize someone from Netflix, let’s say ‘Stranger Things,’ than a regular TV star.”

I love this idea. I’m a fan of keeping languages alive. (So much so I used to take Irish language lessons.) A language is so integral to a culture.

The MPR article goes on to talk about the need for more content. I might also mention the need for broadband access to download the videos. A federal report last year details the discrepancy between access in tribal areas and the rest of the US…

Until recently, data on tribal broadband deployment had been scarce. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have begun to collect and compile data on tribal broadband deployment. The most recent data show that, as of December 31, 2014, approximately 41% of Americans living on tribal lands lacked access to broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. This compares unfavorably to 10% of all Americans lacking access to broadband at those speeds. Tribal areas that are the most lacking in broadband service are rural Alaskan villages and rural tribal lands in the lower 48 states.

Literature review on the impact of broadband

When you need numbers to make your case I know where you can go! To the new report from Purdue University (by Roberto Gallardo, Brian Whitacre and Alison Grant) – Research & Policy Insights: Broadband’s Impact A Brief Literature Review. It looks at research related to broadband specifically on the following topics:

  • Economic Development
  • Migration & Civic Engagement
  • Education
  • Telework
  • Telehealth
  • Smart Cities, Big Data, & Artificial Intelligence
  • Agriculture

Again, it’s a great reference tool to help give you quality answers to help make the case for better broadband. It’s also inspiring to read. I wanted to share just a portion they wrote about rural broadband…

Focusing on rural areas is important since they are lagging behind urban areas when it comes to broadband deployment and use (Perrin, 2017; Good, 2017). Furthermore, rural places need digital connectivity in order to compensate for their remoteness (Salemink, Strijker, & Bosworth, 2015). Studies that have given specific attention to rural areas have noted a positive relationship between rural broadband access and adoption and greater economic growth (Stenberg, et al., 2009), attraction of new firms (Kim & Orazem, 2017), higher household incomes (Whitacre, Gallardo, & Stover, 2014), small business growth (Shideler & Badasyan, 2012), increase in annual sales and value added (Canzian, Poy, & Schuller, 2015), and growth in annual payroll and number of business establishments (Kandilov & Renkow, 2010). In addition, a recent article explored the effects of USDA broadband loan programs on agriculture and found a positive impact on farm sales, expenditures, and profits among rural counties adjacent to metropolitan counties (Kandilov, Kandilov, Liu, & Renkow, 2017).

Additional studies have estimated the economic impact of rural broadband or lack thereof. The Hudson Institute estimated that broadband companies contributed $2.4 billion in 2015, supporting over 65,000 jobs and $100 billion in e-commerce (Kuttner, 2016). Another report conducted by Ohio State University attempted to estimate the economic benefits associated with increasing broadband access and adoption in Ohio. Using two research articles that estimated broadband consumer surplus ($1,850 per household per year was used in practice), they concluded that reaching full broadband coverage and adoption among currently unserved Ohio households would result in $2 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years (Rembert, Feng, & Partridge , 2017). Following a similar methodology, another study found that assuming full access of 25/3 Megabytes per second (Mbps) fixed broadband in the United States and a 20 percent adoption would result in $43.8 billion in economic benefits over 15 years (Gallardo & Rembert, 2017).

Important to note is that distinguishing between broadband access/availability and adoption is critical. Even if broadband is available, subscribing or using it (adoption) is not a given. In fact, Internet know-how or utilization is not randomly distributed among the population. For example, a study among young (college-age) Internet users found that parental education, gender, and race/ethnicity impacted the level of web-use skills (Hargittai, 2010). Furthermore, the relationship between entrepreneurs and creative class workers found that broadband adoption actually had a negative relationship with creative class type of workers in rural communities, while higher broadband availability is associated with a higher level of entrepreneurs (Conley & Whitacre, 2016). Another study found that increases in broadband adoption were more significantly related to changes in median household income and percentage of nonfarm proprietors than broadband availability (Whitacre, Gallardo, & Strover, 2014). Thus, it is important to distinguish between the impact of broadband access/availability and adoption/utilization since the digital divide consists of both (Gallardo, 2016).

Check out the Internet to bring home at Hibbing and Chisholm libraries

Fun news from the Hibbing Daily Tribune

The Hibbing and Chisholm public libraries recently broadened their capabilities offerings by adding Internet resources for patrons, thanks to a broadband grant [from the Blandin Foundation].

Hibbing Public Library received 20 wireless hot spots and a year of data for the devices this week through funds from the Blandin Foundation in cooperation with Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRRB), St. Louis County, Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce, Congressman Rick Nolan’s office and library staff.

The project has a value of nearly $10,000, according to a press release.

The goal is to close the digital divide on the Iron Range…

“The wireless hot spots are intended to decrease the digital divide in Hibbing between those who have access to Internet and those who do not,” said Lory Fedo, president of the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Hibbing Broadband Steering Committee.

She noted the devices will be available for checkout around Jan. 1, 2018, and can be used to access the internet anywhere Sprint wireless service is provided.

Putting mobile Internet devices into the hands of those who don’t have access has been identified as one of the community’s top technology priorities. This was determined through a process by the Hibbing Broadband Steering Committee and projects were created to address those priorities.