Strut Your Stuff Tour in Orr: Training, equipment, wifi for checkout

Yesterday I attended the Strut Stuff Tour in Orr to hear about our the local broadband adoption programs went through the IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities) program. We were in Orr but this project brings together Orr, Cook and Bois Forte. It is apparently the first time these three communities have worked on something together outside of the school.

It seems that everyone is working well together they are focused on training, equipment for community center (to accommodate training and other online interactions) and wifi in the area – both in terms of places to go for public wifi and mobile hotspots for community members to check out from the library.

It was interesting to hear about the training. They had just completed a survey of residents and businesses and had a good return. Training needs range from how to use a computer to online business marketing.

I have a video of the intro to the meeting and full notes below.

I’m going to keep my notes a little rough with the intention of leaving them more complete for any community looking at implementing similar projects. Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force July 2017 – telehealth saves money and lives

Yesterday the MN Broadband Task Force met at the new Essentia Hospital in Sandstone. It’s a beautiful location with a fiber connection symmetrical 100 Mbps connection. And they’re making good use of that connection saving money and making lives better.

I have video of most of the meeting. We learned a lot about telehealth – but there were a few details that stuck out for me.

  • More people in rural areas come to health care facilities with a stroke. Treatment has traditionally been slower for them. Every 15 minutes a patient with a stroke goes untreated the situation becomes more dire. Telestroke technology (and promotion of it) cuts that time and helps people get better.
  • Hospitals don’t just share images faster with faster broadband – they share more, giving a fuller view of any problem.
  • There aren’t enough healthcare professionals – especially specialists – to go around in rural areas. Telehealth provides an opportunity for one specialist to serve many facilities.
  • Communities in rural areas without broadband are envious of communities with cooperatives because they feel they would get better service. Communities are worried that broadband expansions paid for with CAF 2 (federal) funding will leave some communities with worse infrastructure for longer periods. They are especially worried about upload speeds. (CAF 2 funding only requires a provide to expand/upgrade to 10/1 service. And really 4/1 service is some areas.)
  • Minnesota does not allow for bonding for technology (software or hardware) but perhaps there’s an opening to discuss bonding for broadband.


Continue reading

Pope County public meeting on broadband options today (Tuesday) at 2:00

According to the Pope County Tribune

Faster and better internet access in Pope County will be the topic of discussion from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. this Tuesday at a public meeting in the community room in the courthouse in Glenwood. …

The meeting Tuesday will shed some light on those needs and what the county is doing to meet those needs.

Thanks to the county committee, headed by commissioners Paul Gerde and Larry Lindor, and Donna Martin, Pope County’s Information Technology director, for working on this important economic development issue.

I suspect they will talk about opportunities to apply for a Minnesota state broadband grant but it sound like they might also talk about the need to remind legislators of the importance of continued funding for the program…

The Republican Party campaigned in the last election how outstate Minnesota was left behind and the Twin Cities was somehow the recipient of the state’s largesse.  Despite that, the Republican-controlled Legislature ignored its own rhetoric and came up short on broadband funding.

Greater Minnesota needs more, as the demand for dollars for broadband already shows.

We need support from both sides of the aisle at the Legislature, and that support should mean more funds committed to outstate Minnesota to expand broadband across the state.

Does the Internet look different to you today? It’s a glimpse at a repeal of Net Neutrality

The Washington Post reports…

Visitors to Facebook, Google, Netflix and dozens of other websites will likely be greeted Wednesday by a special message about the future of the Internet, as part of a broad campaign by the companies to stop what they say is a threat to the Web as most consumers know it. …

It’s up to each site to decide how far to go — and virtually all of them are mum about what they intend to do — but the participating businesses are expected either to write messages to visitors, or change the look of their homepages or user interfaces, in ways that make it impossible to browse those sites without learning about the issue of net neutrality. Some may post graphics like these that seek to simulate the experience of a “slower” Internet.

I wrote about the event last month. You can learn more about the movement, who is participating and what it means.

Digital Inclusion Basics Blandin Webinar Archive

Thanks to everyone who attended the Blandin webinar on digital include earlier today. Here’s the archive:


And description:

The July webinar is entitled “Digital Inclusion Basics” will feature three nationally known digital inclusion experts.  Angela Siefer is the director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.  She has hands-on experience with many digital inclusion projects and has done significant research in this topic area.  Emy Tseng is a senior program specialist with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and worked previously with the City of San Francisco.  Emy recently was recognized for her excellent work at the NDIA conference with the prestigious Charles Benton award.  Ann Treacy is a key member of the Blandin Broadband team and has tremendous experience both researching and providing hands-on training for technology learners at all levels.

What are the elements of a successful digital inclusion partnership?

Later today I will be part of a Blandin webinar on Digital Inclusion Basics. I’m excited to be on a panel with Angela Siefer (director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Emy Tseng (senior program specialist with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration)

It’s going to be a good conversation. I invite you all to join. I have been ask to talk about the elements of a successful digital inclusion partnership. So I’m getting myself ready in the best way I know how – write it all out. And then I figured heck – might as well share the sneak preview

So what are the elements?

Get the right partners 

At the National Net Conference (in May in St Paul) we heard about the three legged stool of digital inclusion:

  • Access to (affordable) broadband
  • Access to (affordable) devices
  • Knowledge to use them
  • Cheater addition: tech support and reasons to go online to that list

Start by finding partners who address these issues. An obvious example might be a broadband provider, a computer refurbisher and a community ed teacher. Or it might be a library, which provides all three. Also you’ll need someone to help promote the opportunity. Who speaks to the audience you want to reach? Get them involved. Get them involved early for a glimpse at what the target audience wants now.

Be sure that everyone understands their part – especially for any post-event, post-opportunity tech support.

Give it time

We all learn best when we get to practice what we learn.  The second round of training is often better than the first. BUT more importantly, students need time to practice what they have just learned. Think about how they can get the time they need with a connected device or computer. Can they take the computer home? Do they get reduced rate broadband? Is there a regularly scheduled open lab

Giving it time also allows for word to get around. A happy new digital will tell friends and family and build demand for more opportunities. An ongoing program helps build a community.

Check in and report back

Create a way for partners to talk on a regular basis to see how the project is going from all sides. Are there any opportunities for improvement? Any stories to tell to funders, policymakers, supervisors? Keeping that channel open helps everyone feel more rewarded and can provide a heads up on any changes such as funding cuts or opportunities for new funding.

July Broadband Task Force in Luverne – notes from a provider

Last month the Broadband Task Force met in Luverne. They heard from Alliance Communications and SDN. (I posted notes from the meeting last month.) SND posted their notes from the meeting (including video). It’s always nice to have another view. Here’s a snippet…

Gov. Mark Dayton’s Broadband Taskforce visited Luverne on June 28. It heard from Alliance Communications on how the Garretson, SD, -based company serves rural Minnesota residents thanks to a $12.8 million Border-to-Border Broadband state grant and an additional $1 million Rock County grant.

The taskforce also heard how the Southern Minnesota Broadband (SMB) partnership doing business as SDN Communications interconnects six Minnesota and one northern Iowa independent telephone companies to improve connectivity and long-term economic viability for the region.

SDN account executive Ryan Dutton works from his home office in Blue Earth, Minn. He told the committee a personal story about how these projects are economic drivers for rural America.

“I know a lot of my peer group who grew up in Faribault County would come back to Faribault County if there were jobs and opportunities to do so,” Dutton said. “I think home offices with broadband infrastructure might be one of the real drivers in the next decade to maintain the intellectual investment [the communities] make in the young people to have them come back.”