Pope County working on broadband survey to measure broadband need and interest

According to the Pope County Tribune

Not everyone in Pope County has access to high-speed Internet, and county officials are working to improve that access and to provide faster speeds in all areas of the county.

The first step in that effort is to determine what areas of the county are lacking access and speed and what residents would like to see improved.  A Pope County Initiative group, headed by Information Technology Director Donna Martin, is currently working to improve Internet access for everyone in the area.  And, to measure the current level of interest in higher speed Internet access, the team is conducting a survey, which is being mailed to every household in the county.  The survey is  designed to get opinions on current and needed Internet access and seeks responses.

Residents have two ways to complete the survey.  They can fill out and return the mailed survey, which should be arriving at residences this week.  Or, residents can complete the survey online by going to http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3155201/New-Survey.  The survey only takes a few minutes to complete, but Martin said she would like to get a high percentage of county residents to complete the survey.  “That’s why we are mailing it to every residence and business in Pope County,” she said.  Those who are mailing back the survey are asked to use the enclosed “dots” to seal two sides of the brochure and attach the postage also provided.  There is no cost to the resident to mail the survey back.

The results of the survey will help the county in its efforts to secure a grant that will help pay for a feasibility study, and, it is hoped, will ultimately result in state or federal funding to increase access and Internet speeds for the entire county.

New maps of US municipal FTTH networks – including three in Minnesota

Gotta love a hometown tool! The folks at Community Networks (Institute for Local Self Reliance) just published a map of citywide, municipal, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks across the US with more info on each network – including info on the three in Minnesota: Monticello Fibernet, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Systems (SMBS) and WindomNet.

muni_2016_12_ftth_citywide_map

I’m not going to say Minnesota is well above average – but we’re not below average either.

Digital Learning Day in February 23 – tools to help plan

Just wanted to share this for teachers, digital inclusion folks and any of us who might want to plan…

Digital Learning Day 2017 is right around the corner! On February 23, 2017, teachers and students from around the country will participate in the nationwide celebration highlighting great teaching and demonstrating how technology can improve student outcomes. Will you join them?

Interested, but not sure what to do? Visit our interactive lesson plans page for ideas and inspiration.

If you’re planning to participate, add your event to our map! Then visit our graphics page to help spread the word about your event.

Add Your Event

Upcoming BroadbandUSA webinars: new tool on Jan 12 & progress report on Jan 18

Wanted to share info on these upcoming webinars…

BroadbandUSA Community Connectivity Webinar Series

Update, assessment detail, and sneak peek at online tool!
Date:               Thursday, January 12th
Time:              2:00-3:00 p.m., Eastern Time
Register:         https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/8438943433992339460
Overview: Participate in this month’s discussion about the BroadbandUSA Community Connectivity Initiative – a local planning tool that promotes broadband planning, action and progress.  The online tool includes twelve models that combine data, questions, responses, and resources to support local leaders explore key topics related to broadband availability, adoption and skills, and the community context that informs local efforts. In addition to providing an overview of the initiative and assessment, we will preview the online tool and discuss the 2017 timeline and delivery schedule.

BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations

The BroadbandUSA Monthly Webinar Series is now called  Practical Broadband Conversations
Topic:             Broadband Opportunity Council: Accomplishments and Outlook
Date:               Wednesday, January 18 from 2:00-3:00 p.m., Eastern Time.
Register:        https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/2578680599272392707
Overview:  Since the Broadband Opportunity Council was formed in March 2015, federal agencies have made great strides toward meeting the goals and fulfilling commitments to increase broadband deployment, competition and adoption through executive actions within the scope of existing programs, missions and budgets. Read the report here and join BroadbandUSA to learn about the progress made and what the future holds for this interagency working group.

Speakers:
Douglas Kinkoph, Assistant Administrator and Co-Chair, Broadband Opportunity Council Working Group, BroadbandUSA, NTIA, US Department of Commerce

Keith B. Adams, Assistant Administrator And Co-Chair, Broadband Opportunity Council Working Group, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, US Department of Agriculture

Timothy A. Herwig, District Community Affairs Officer, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, US Department of Treasury

Pipestone County is working on better broadband

In mid-November, community leaders in Pipestone County met to talk about the need for broadband in their area. According to the Pipestone County Star

Pipestone County is part of that unserved and underserved rural America, and the lack of connectivity creates challenges that can limit economic development, quality of life and growth.

“We are restricted with what we can do to improve our facility with automation because of our service,” said Chad Magnuson, manager of Simplot in Hatfield.

The ag retailer, as with many in rural Pipestone County, has only DSL service available. Magnuson described it as slow and intermittent with outages and downtime. As the company improves its facilities and services, they’ve buried fiber on the property past the incoming line. But there’s nothing connecting that fiber to the rest of the world.

“Our challenge is, we need fiber buried to the location,” he said.

The meeting was well attended…

That assistance last week took the form of community meetings, the one for Pipestone County held at the Emergency Services Building on Monday evening. About 20 people showed up, with several sharing the difficulties and challenges of life without reliable and fast internet service.

“It’s clear people are suffering without broadband,” Coleman said.

Sharon Hanson, Pipestone County administrator, said they not only heard from businesses and agri-businesses like Simplot, but from parents and grandparents who live in the technological ‘black hole,’ from educators and students who find it difficult to participate with online classes, and from home-based businesses that rely upon connectivity.

Then the meeting was followed up a couple weeks later with a strategic planning meeting where the decision was made to make broadband part of their plans…

Short-term action steps
•Determine what amenities are desired
•Identify where economic opportunities can be increased
•Communicate state and city incentives to potential businesses
•Facilitate community conversations
•Develop a steakhouse

Mid-term action steps
•Repurpose the Central School property
•Create a new industrial park
•Increase broadband access
•Engage Minnesota West to provide workforce training
•Expand community trails

Long-term action steps
•Develop a better solution for the Senior Center
•Have a visual/arts center in the existing Senior Center
•Develop a plan and funding for Main Street retail

Broadband hot topic at MN Association of Townships

bill rightIn the midst of rain and snow and wind, township officials met in St. Cloud last week for their annual conference.  Broadband was the topic of choice.  I stared with the following introductory presentation…

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Danna MacKenzie and two panels of presenters talked about rural broadband challenges and solutions.  Blandin Foundation community partners Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Chisago County and Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative were all featured as was the USDA and Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative.  It was great to hear of the winning solutions that will result in Fiber to the Home networks at Fond du Lac and north central Minnesota.  The value of partial solutions was also highlighted recognizing that more work and some luck will be required to reach a full solution.  The Minnesota Association of Townships has been a strong partner in an alliance of rural stakeholder groups, all of which recognize the foundational necessity of rural broadband services.

Southwestern Minnesota Counties Working Together on Broadband

bill rightLincoln, Murray and Pipestone Counties are three rural counties that have decided to work together on better broadband.  The counties share a similar mix of small communities and big farms on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.  They also see a growing number of neighboring counties getting fiber to their homes and farms, including Lac qui Parle, Swift, Big Stone and Rock Counties.

The leadership of these counties, staff and elected leaders alike, are worried that current broadband is hindering economic growth and detracting from their ability to attract manufacturing firms, other businesses and, most importantly, people due to the lack of broadband services.  More than 60 people attended one or more of three meetings held in Ivanhoe, Pipestone and Slayton, including a variety of broadband providers.

Attendees learned about the financial and technical challenges of providing high speed broadband in areas with such low population densities.  Those who live behind trees or in low valleys talked about their discussions with providers and challenges of even receiving wireless services.  They learned about the promise of the Connect America Fund 2 and when improvements might be coming.  In the future days, leadership teams from the three counties will meet to discuss the meetings, the input from residents and businesses and next steps.  Each county had 15 or more volunteers ready to team with county staff and elected officials on prospective solutions, including investing their own dollars to make expanded broadband possible.