St Louis County – take a minute for a broadband speed test!

This is a great use of stay at home orders – get people to take a broadband speed test to help the county get a clear picture of what is currently available in the community…

St. Louis County in partnership with the Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) is pleased to announce the formal public kickoff of a crowdsourcing project covering all of St. Louis County.  This broadband speed testing initiative is being conducted by GEO Partners, LLC during a time when more people are at home per the Governor’s “Stay at Home” directive. This includes over 30,000 students (K-12) as well as parents required to work from home and thus should provide the most comprehensive, accurate accumulation of actual broadband speeds ever conducted in the County while demand on the system is highest.

The data collected via a one minute speed test can be conducted from any device connected to your broadband signal including cell phones and will result in statistically valid data and mapping. This data will then enable any locale in St. Louis County to utilize the validated information for a broadband expansion project and seek grant funding from the FCC, USDA or Border to Border state program. We anticipate a higher than normal volume of participation, partially because of all the students who are struggling to stay connected to their E Learning while living in rural areas in the county.

RAMS, as an organization has been a strong advocate for broadband expansion across the region.  RAMS’ and St. Louis County Commissioners, recognize that high speed quality broadband is a critical utility to economic development, education, business and virtual healthcare.  RAMS is grateful to the partnership with St. Louis County on this project and encourages everyone to TAKE THE TEST and SHARE THE LINK   TAKE IT NOW! Your participation is important and no personal information will be collected.

For further comment Steve Giorgi – RAMS Executive Director is available via Zoom or by phone ( 218.780.8877) or Matthew Johnson Director of Planning & Community Development  or phone (218) 725-5008
or County Board Chairman Michael Jugovich   218.969.4323

Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar – Broadband 101 Archive

Thanks to the presenters and attendees for joining the latest Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar: Broadband 101.  Here we have the description, video archive, slides when available and chat transcript (get handouts discussed in the webinar)…

The third of ten webinars – Broadband 101 – over the next five weeks is April 7 at 9 a.m. CDT.  Join Carl Meyerhoefer of Calix and Tim Johnson of MVTV Wireless as they share their expertise in helping to create and spread a shared broadband vision in their area.

And chat Continue reading

NEO becomes GEO and can help with strategic hotspot placements

I just got an update from GEOspatial Engineering & Optimization (GEO, formerly NEO) about how they can help schools and other pick the most strategic placement of hotpots based on surrounding households. I know many schools (and perhaps others) have been racing to use hotpots to get better broadband to those who need it as quickly as possible to help people keep learning and earning and living online during the coronavirus threat. Here’s what they offer…

When we do an RF design study, we have the option to locate optimum places for hotspots and identify the number of households that are covered by them.


This was originally designed around Ruckus equipment, but the Cisco Aironet series will work with this model.  We would recommend 2.5 and 5 ghz channels be set to the 200mw setting and using the 6 db antennas.


The base display shows, based on a cutoff, in this case, of 10 households within wifi range, where we should place the hotspots.  These are the purple dots.

We can see alternative locations for hotspots indicating the # of households and hotspots required to service them.  By placing the mouse over a dot, we see the number of hotspots required in that area, the square miles of that area, and the number of households served.


We then can come up with an optimal installation strategy – minimizing distance traveled between each installation, shown both as waypoints, and as a route map.

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) talks small rural towns and broadband

This week on the Community Networks podcast, Christopher Mitchell spoke with Travis Thies, General Manager at Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) about how small towns can work together to create a market opportunity…

The network started with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and has continued to make improvements and upgrades to serve folks who were once stuck with antiquated Internet access. Before SMBS, several communities had been told by the incumbent Internet access provider that the best they could ever expect was dial-up service. Now, subscribers can sign-up for gigabit connections. With intelligent partnerships, they’re also able to provide service to farms and rural premises beyond town limits.

Travis and Christopher discuss the history of the project, the challenges that community leaders and network officials have faced and overcome, and how the area’s demographics have helped them determine the best ways to serve subscribers. They also discuss their partnership with a local fixed wireless Internet service provider and the how better connectivity has attracted people and businesses to the region.

Kandiyohi County doing feasibility study to investigate broadband grant options

Lakeland Broadcsting reports…

The Willmar and Kandiyohi County Economic Development Commission says a contract with Compass Consultants Inc. for an engineering study will determine fiber broadband feasibility in rural Kandiyohi County townships, including Dovre, Mamre and St. Johns townships. Pending the study outcomes and a positive response from the township constituents, the EDC will submit a Border-to-Border application to the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD) by August 2020.

They also provide a little history…

Kandiyohi County was granted a 4.9 million dollar Border-to-Border grant in 2017 to improve broadband in an area north of Willmar but the project fell through when the contractor, Consolidated Telephone, decided not to do the work out of fears there wasn’t enough interest.

More details on the previous grant – CTC was looking for 50 percent of potential customers to sign up for service. And competitor TDS announced plans to expand (using A-CAM funding) to parts of Kandiyohi County.

Sen Klobuchar team talks to Windom about broadband, housing, transportation and childcare (video included)

 There were about a dozen people at the meeting in Windom on Dec 17, in part because the meeting in Mankato went so well that they decided not to have a double header. The conversation extends beyond broadband. I only took notes on the broadband portions but they also discussed housing, transportation and childcare.

Intro on broadband from Chuck Ackman from Klobuchar’s Office:

Broadband was infrastructure (historically) until the Senator realized it’s a rural issue. So in 2016, it came to Chuck.

Working on Deployment, data and mapping – the details of broadband. We are working on getting the facts to make better decisions. Minnesota already does a good job with broadband data – we’re looking to bring that MN model to the rest of the country.

Farming has gotten very high tech. We toured a robotic dairy far. The internet got cut – which meant the cows weren’t going to get milked.

Notes from participants and questions:

Rumor has it there’s a online portal to get rights of way permission from Wisconsin’s version of MNDOT. It seems permits can be an issue. There’s a backlog and it depends on the location of the need for permit is determining the impact on slow down.

The FAA can be an issue for getting permits. We needed a permit to remove rock from a local airport and that was going to take 3-5 years if they approved it.

Local control of permits and control of local assets would be helpful.

Windomnet – business is still growing. We have worked with other providers in the area to help

Julie Foote:

MVTV covers 30,000 miles in southern MN with fixed wireless. We don’t go into areas that don’t need us. We are working ourselves out of a community. We bring fixed wireless into a community (25 Mbps for residential). That helps to build demand and we hope they get fiber. We will always be there for the folks outside of towns. And we have fiber to our towers.

We are a member-owned cooperative. So we strive for equal service for all. We are working on being LTE capable.

Mapping is one of our struggles.


Rural Cottonwood County – the problem with wireless is that line of sight is tough there. I live near Westbrook. I can get services from Woodstock I get 10 Mbps from CenturyLink. I had 1.5 Mbps – I kept it because their brought fiber to the node. They serve 150 homes in the areas with the new fiber. I am 4400 ft from the node, so I get 10 Mbps. If I were 4000 I could get 20 Mbps. The wireless is usually faster but less reliable.

What would it take to get broadband to everyone?

We need funding to help serve the hard to serve areas. We’d nee dot partner up with a private entity to get state funding.

It’s hard for us because we are a municipality.

Continue reading

RS Fiber gets an international shout out for publicly supported broadband

Open Democracy is taking a look at the UK’s proposed takes on broadband…

T his week, the Labour Party announced a bold new policy proposal that has shaken up the election race – publicly owned broadband internet, free to all. In the words of Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leader, it is “a taster of the kind of fresh, transformational policies that will change your life.”

Under the plan, the government would purchase Openreach, the digital network operator that is a subsidiary of BT Group, and form a new publicly owned British Broadband company to extend high-speed internet access to every household, business, and institution in the country.

They look at what’s happening in other places…

However, in reality, governments around the world are taking the lead on developing the digital infrastructure necessary to develop thriving 21st century economies (just as they did with the electricity networks, roads, bridges, railroads, airports, and other vital economic infrastructure of the 20th century). They are doing so because in many cases the private sector, and specifically a shrinking group of giant for-profit telecommunications corporations, are unable and unwilling to equitably provide the necessary investment and service – leaving whole towns, regions, and socio-economic groups shut out of the modern economy and society.

Their examples include Minnesota’s RS Fiber…

Success stories include larger cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee (which was the first location in the US to offer 1Gbps service) where the publicly owned network added around $1 billion to the local economy in just 4 years; smaller towns such as Thomasville, Georgia, where the publicly owned network is credited with saving small businesses and maintaining a vibrant downtown area; and rural areas like south central Minnesota where RS Fiber (a cooperative supported by a joint powers agreement between 10 small cities and 17 townships) has extended broadband access to 6,200 homes, farms, and businesses across a wide geographic area.

Publicly owned broadband is not only increasingly popular in the United States, it also has demonstrated economic and social benefits.