Free Webinar April 18 on Building Better Broadband for Cities and Counties!

Looks like an interesting session with several Minnesota stories…

Are broadband bandwidth and reliability problems plaguing your town or city due to:

  1. Low population density and hence reluctant investment by major carriers?
  2. Environmental issues that drive up the cost of replacing old, overloaded infrastructure?
  3. Restrictive permitting processes that prolong approval processes?

CJIS GROUP invites you to join Mark Mrla of Finley Engineering, Tom Johnson of Nobles County, Minnesota and Mark Erickson formerly of the City of Winthrop, Minnesota, to learn how two jurisdictions addressed these issues with innovative methods to dramatically improve broadband services to their constituents.

Topics addressed will include:

  • Funding through Public-Private Partnerships and Multi-jurisdictional cooperative agreements
  • Fundamentals of feasibility studies – when do you need them, what do they cost and what do they deliver

Network design and build considerations in difficult physical and economic environments


What: Building Better Broadband for Cities and Counties
When: Apr 18 2018 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM (EDT)

Register Now!

Chippewa County takes a closer look at broadband plans

Montevideo American News reports on the recent Chippewa County Board of Commissioners Meeting…

In other business, Chris Konechne of Finley Engineering, and Doug Dawson, CCG, presented the results of the Broadband Feasibility Study. The board directed Konechne and Dawson to set up meetings with prospective partners for a broadband project.

Ely uses feasibility study to come up with better broadband scenarios for the community

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (MunitNetworks) reports…

Last fall, the northern Minnesota community of Ely took up a feasibility study to determine the possibilities of better connectivity with publicly owned Internet infrastructure. They also wanted to explore local interest in investment. After conducting a survey and reviewing the situation, local officials are contemplating moving ahead with two pilot projects.

They outline the results of a recent community survey…

As anticipated, residents and businesses who took the survey revealed that 94 percent of local residents and 98 percent of business owners want improved connectivity in Ely. Jack Maytum, senior broadband analyst for Design Nine, relayed that approximately 400 residents and 60 local business owners completed the survey. The community chose Design Nine to complete the feasibility study.

From the residents who took the survey, only nine percent have connections that meet the FCC definition of broadband — 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

Forty-four percent of the people answering the survey purchase DSL Internet access and 27 percent subscribe to cable service.

Forty-eight percent of those who completed the survey said that they have the type of Internet access they have because they have “no other option.” If the Ely community had better competition, for companies and types of services, they might not need to engage in a feasibility study or consider a publicly owned option, but like many rural communities, large national providers are investing elsewhere.

Twenty-three percent of respondents consider themselves self-employed or describe their employment as full-time or part-time from home. In places like Ely, where upload speeds are not robust, entrepreneurs with home bases have a difficult time if their businesses require connectivity. For many businesses today, the ability to send information to colleagues online is a necessity and a fast, reliable connection is critical to everyday business.

Subsequently, they are looking at a few options – like starting with the downtown area…

One of the pilot projects community leaders are now considering is a fiber loop around the downtown area. Community leaders want to help existing businesses and attract new growth. At this early stage, Design Nine and the city are working on cost estimates, but Ely leaders have expressed that better broadband is a priority.

Another focuses on residential areas…

The pilot project for residential service may take on a public-private flavor. One of the early suggestions is that the city invest in fixed wireless equipment and towers and fiber at two local lakes that are outside of city limits. They would own the infrastructure and lease it to a private sector Internet Service Provider (ISP) to offer fixed wireless services to the homes around the area.

Community Network Map through a Minnesota lens

The Institute for Local Self Reliance maintains a Community Network Map – a map of the variety of ways in which local governments have invested in wired telecommunications networks. Those ways include:

  • publicly owned FTTH citywide network
  • publicly owned cable network reaching most or all of the community
  • some publicly owned fiber service available to parts of the community (often a business district)
  • publicly owned dark fiber available
  • publicly owned network offering at least 1 gigabit services
  • served by rural electric cooperatives

You can get a look at coverage one their map (copied) on the right. (The map on their site is interactive.) They were kind enough to send me a list of Minnesota communities listed, which I’m happy to share. (Have to admit, I wasn’t able to post in spreadsheet as I wanted so feel free to contact me if you want a better format.)

Quick breakdown:

  • There are four publicly owned FTTH citywide networks. Lake Connections serves three communities. Monticello Fiber and Windomnet each serves one. SMBS serves eight communities.
  • There’s one publicly owned cable network  – Bagley Public Utilities in Bagley MN
  • There are seven providers serving some publicly owned fiber service available to parts of the community.
  • Two counties with dark fiber available. CarverLink serves 10 communities. Scott County Fiber Network serves seven communities
  • There are two rural electric cooperatives. RS Fiber serves 10 communities. True North serves four communities.

Digital literacy and older Adults Webinar: Feb 22

Pleas join the Blandin Foundation for the upcoming webinar…

Digital literacy and older Adults: Best practices, recommendations, and future directions in the face of a digitally mediated world

Feb 22 from noon-1pm. Register online

In this webinar, participants will be introduced to OATS & Senior Planet programs, methodology, and the technologies best suited for digital literacy instruction among older learners. Additional topics will cover the impacts of ageism and technology acceptance among older adults, creating social learning environments poised for successful tech adoption, and the implications for deploying digital literacy training in myriad settings.  Finally, participants will be presented with opportunities to discuss replications of OATS programs in their respective catchment areas.


Alexander Glazebrook, MSW
Director of Training & Technology
Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)
Senior Planet
917 620 9460 cell
168 7th Street, Suite 3A
Brooklyn, New York 11215  |

Dakota County Broadband Joint Powers Agreement

Thanks to Dakota County for sharing notes on their Dakota County Broadband Joint Powers Agreement from Mendota Heights. It’s a good model for anyone else looking at community broadband. Here’s a quick take from the document…

Introduction The City Council is asked to authorize the execution of a Joint Powers Agreement with Dakota County, cities in Dakota County and Dakota County Community Development Agency (CDA) to create a Dakota County Broadband joint powers entity to manage the Dakota County Fiber Network.

Lyon County gets results of broadband feasibility study

The Marshall Independent reports on the results of Lyon County’s broadband feasibility study. Lyon County was part of a project with Chippewa, Lincoln, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine counties who collectively hired CCG Consulting and Finley Engineering were selected to look at possibilities for expanding broadband Internet in the area…

At Tuesday’s meeting, engineer Chris Konechne of Finley Engineering and Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting presented a draft version of the Lyon County study.

Some areas of Lyon County already have broadband Internet access, including Marshall and Tracy, the study said. Parts of the county served by Woodstock Communications have fiber access, and Minnesota Valley Telephone had plans to build fiber lines, the study said. In addition, Midcontinent Communications received a grant last year to improve broadband speeds in Taunton, Minneota and Ghent.

The study looked at rural areas of Lyon County served by CenturyLink and Frontier Communications, including the communities of Green Valley, Cottonwood, Amiret and Florence. The study also looked at the possibility of building fiber lines in Balaton and Lynd.

The study looked at two main options for expanding broadband access in Lyon County. One would be to build buried a fiber network within the area of the study. However, that plan would require running fiber along 811 miles of streets and roads, the study said. It would also be much more costly, Konechne and Dawson said.

The second option the study looked at would be to bring fiber access to towns in the study area, and serve rural customers with wireless broadband.

Dawson said one of the positive aspects of building a hybrid network was that it would bring fiber access to more people in Lyon County, while leaving infrastructure that could be expanded later.

They also went over costs…

The draft study also included costs of assets like fiber and wireless towers needed to launch the different plans, assuming the project would have a 70 percent customer penetration rate. Asset costs for a fiber network in the rural study area were about $19.98 million, or $21.99 million if the cities of Lynd and Balaton were included. Asset costs for a hybrid network of fiber lines and wireless Internet were about $5.87 million, or $7.89 million if Lynd and Balaton were included.

Next step is public meetings, which they are planning.