Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on MN Broadband Coalition and speed test notes

Today, the Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable participants heard from Nathan Zacharias, representing the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition about the new statewide broadband speed test.  With large numbers of participants, Minnesota will be able to create a new broadband map that demonstrates the availability and use of high speed Internet.  The new map will also show where high-speed broadband is not available.  Large numbers of tests will increase the validity of the maps.  The software system has a built-in feature that provides the required number of tests to ensure statistically valid information.

While there is clear value for this tool at the state level, there is huge value at the local level.  Cities, townships and school districts can use this information in their own broadband planning and development programs as well as for digital equity initiatives.  Local efforts to promote and complete the speed test will provide clear evidence that supports grant applications and local leadership.

For complete information, go to the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition website at http://mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest .

Next week, August 18th at 9 am, Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (www.ilsr.org) will lead a discussion about public engagement in broadband network development.  Join us.

Chat log: Continue reading

Aug 11: Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on MN Broadband Coalition and speed test

A message from the Blandin Foundation…

Join Blandin Foundation on Zoom Tuesday morning at 9:00 am for our Broadband Roundtable conversation. This week, Nathan Zacharias of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition will discuss how communities and counties can best make use of the statewide broadband speed test opportunity.

You can register for this and future Roundtables here.

 

On Senate Floor, Klobuchar Highlights Need to Keep Families Connected During the Pandemic and Invest in Broadband

Senator Klobuchar speaks about the need for broadband…

Here are

On the Senate Floor, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke about the impact that the lack of access to broadband is having on Americans during the coronavirus pandemic– particularly students and low-income families – and the critical need to bring high-speed internet to every family, regardless of their zip code. 

“Access to broadband, as I just noted, has become more critical now than ever as schools and workplaces are closed in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus where teachers, many with pre-existing conditions simply cannot put themselves at risk. And where we know going forward that we will continue to have a substantial number of kids learning remotely. As I said, even before the pandemic one study found that about 42 million Americans nationwide lacked access to broadband, reports have also found that only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Latino households, and 63 percent of rural households have broadband at home of the quality that would allow them to work and to conduct their business and to participate in school and telecommuting and health care…,”Klobuchar said in her remarks.

“In rural areas of my state, about 16 percent of households lack access to broadband even at baseline speeds. That means we have one hundred forty four thousand households that don’t have access to the Internet. One of the saddest stories I remember was a household on one of our tribal areas that got and paid for their own high speed Internet and the parents looked out the window and saw all these kids in their lawn. And that’s because they were trying to get that access to the internet at that one household to be able to do their homework. That was a story from Leech Lake Reservation…”

I’ve always believed that when we invest in broadband, we invest in opportunity for every American. If we could bring electricity to everyone’s home in the smallest farms, in the middle of areas with very little population, we can do this in the modern era. Otherwise we are going to continue to have — Have and Have Nots. It shouldn’t depend on your zip code, whether or not your kid can learn to read. It shouldn’t depend on where your zip code is to figure out what their homework is the next day. All Americans should have access to high speed internet. This pandemic has put a big magnifying glass on what was a problem for many, many years and it’s time to act now.”

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Klobuchar has long championed closing the digital divide and expanding access to the internet. 

In July, Klobuchar introduced TheAccessible, Affordable Internet for All Actwith Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) following introduction in the House of Representatives by Majority Whip James Clyburn and the Rural Broadband Task Force. The bill will invest $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide and connect Americans to ensure they have increased access to education, health care, and business opportunities. The bill passed the House as part of the House comprehensive infrastructure package in July. 

In May, Klobuchar and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Rosen introduced theSupporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Actto help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial needs can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would appropriate $1 billion to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill provides federal support for these colleges and universities to directly help students in need pay for at-home internet connections and equipment such as routers, modems, Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops, tablets, and internet-enabled devices to students. 

The legislation has gained support from over 60 organizations and in a letter released by Higher Learning Advocates and 59 partner organizations, the group called on Congress to include the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act in the next relief package.  

In March, Klobuchar and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to sustain rural broadband connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. TheKeeping Critical Connections Act would appropriate $2 billion for a temporary Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help small broadband providers sustain internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families during the pandemic.

In April, Klobuchar and Cramer and Representatives Peter Welch and Roger Marshall led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to include dedicated funding to help small broadband providers sustain internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families in any future legislation in response to the pandemic.

Also, in March, Klobuchar and Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Peters, and John Thune’s (R-SD) bipartisan legislation to improve the FCC’s broadband coverage maps was signed into law. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act would require the FCC to collect more granular data from fixed, wireless, and satellite broadband providers, strengthen the accuracy of data from mobile broadband providers, consider a process to ensure data is reliable, and create a process for state, local, and Tribal governments to challenge the FCC maps’ accuracy.

Klobuchar has also urged the FCC to take action to ensure students have access to the internet so they can continue learning while schools are closed during the pandemic. In March, Klobuchar led a letter with Senators Peters and Jon Tester (D-MT) urging the FCC to ensure that all K-12 students have internet access and can continue learning from home as schools nationwide are closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also asked the FCC to create a searchable web portal to help consumers locate existing resources to help them connect to the internet.

In April, Klobucharjoined a letter led by Senator Markey with 32 Democratic Senators to Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, and House Minority Leader McCarthy expressing disappointment in the lack of broadband funding for distance learning in the third coronavirus relief package and urging them to include at least $2 billion for E-rate funding for schools and libraries. Klobuchar joined another letter led by Markey with 18 Democratic Senators to Leader McConnell and Commerce Committee Chairman Wicker requesting $2 billion for E-rate funding in the third relief package.

In March, Klobuchar joined a letter led by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) with 12 other Democratic Senators to Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer urging them to include funding in the third relief package to support expanding digital distance learning—including for devices for children to access the internet and complete their schoolwork online—and closing the homework gap.

Transcript of remarks as delivered below and video available HERE. (or below)

Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force August Meeting notes & video

The Task Force met this morning. There is a new member, Jason Hollinday from Fond du Lac. They heard from Minnesota Department of Education Overview on CARES Act Funding for Distance Learning and from a few experts from the Department. The difficulty is balancing the immediate need for infrastructure with investing in infrastructure that will be around and sufficient for the long term. Bernadine Joselyn was able to talk about the ConnectedMN program that augments the federal funding.

The talked about the need to get started writing the annual report and Task Force members expressed an interest in engaging more in broadband activities in and around the state. And each of the subcommittees reported on their mid-meeting discussions:

  • Report out by Minnesota Model Subgroup (Chair: Brian Krambeer; Members: Steve Fenske, Theresa Sunde, Paul Weirtz)
  • Report out by Barriers and Technology Subgroup (Co-Chairs: Marc Johnson, Dave Wolf; Members: Nolan Cauthen, Steve Giorgi, Jim Weikum)
  • Report out by Economic Development and Digital Inclusion Subgroup (Chair: Bernadine Joselyn; Members: Dale Cook and Micah Myers)

 

Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on Partnership for a Connected MN

Bernadine Joselyn led a presentation and discussion about the new public-private Partnership for a Connected MN initiative and how the effort hopes to benefit Minnesota students during the upcoming school year.

Here’s the chat log Continue reading

OPPORTUNITY: Create a Digital Ready Community – pilot opportunity for 3-5 MN communities

As part of the Fall Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand conference, the Blandin Foundation is partnering with Purdue University’s Center for Rural Development‘s Roberto Gallardo and Annie Cruz-Porter to offer a unique opportunity for up to five communities to work on becoming a Digital Ready Community.

This is a chance to join an abbreviated and accelerated pilot program to create an initiative to take the reins on the digital goals and standards for your local community to help improve marketing to the folks outside the community, encourage community-wide digital inclusivity by actively inviting all corners of the community and build trust in local digital communication – by aligning local websites, Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and other existing assets. Imagine working together to build your digital reputation!

The program will include video lessons and/or coaching on:

  • Networking 101 – learning how to work
  • Digital Assets Group (DAG) – creating a local group that will lead the digital ready effort

DAG Operational Agreement – setting rules, procedures and bylaws that will guide the use of digital assets by the community in an effort to become more responsive and increase civic engagement and trust

Post conference, the communities will be encouraged to work on:

  • Community survey
  • Digital Engagement plan

What do we need from you?

  • A community leader to compile a team that is willing to work on this effort during the conference (October 2020) and beyond
  • A commitment to participate in sessions and keep up with outside work
  • A commitment to present development (ASIS) to conference attendees in final week of October
  • A commitment to check in with the Blandin/Purdue team six months after the conference to report in and offer feedback

How do you start?

The Blandin/Purdue team will host an introduction soon – watch here for that announcement. Join us and let us know you’re interested (memagnuson@blandinfoundation.org) Enrollment is open until three communities are selected.

Keynote Speaker Announcement: Roberto Gallardo joins us online for the Fall Broadband Conference

As part of the broadband fall conference planning team, I am excited to announce the first of our four Keynote speakers…

Roberto Gallardo, Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development will present on, From digital infrastructure to transformation: leveraging broadband for community economic development (speaking Oct 7).

His presentation will discuss some digital applications and uses to help communities leverage this technology to improve their quality of lives.

Roberto holds an electronics engineering undergraduate degree, a master’s in economic development, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration. He has worked with rural communities over the past decade conducting local & regional community economic development, including use of technology for development.

Careful readers will remember Roberto’s presentation at the 2017 Blandin Broadband conference asking if rural Minnesota was poised for the digital age? He has a gift for bringing research to the playing field, making information practical and recommendations actionable; we are looking forward to more of the same this year.

In fact, Roberto has offered to invite up to three communities to participate in a unique opportunity to create a digital community – more info on that coming right up. (I’m so excited about the opportunity I want to call it out in a separate post, which I’ll publish momentarily.)

Aug 4: Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on Partnership for a Connected MN

Join Blandin Foundation on Zoom Tuesday morning at 9:00 am for our Broadband Roundtable conversation, where Bernadine Joselyn will lead a presentation and discussion about the new public-private Partnership for a Connected MN initiative and how the effort hopes to benefit Minnesota students during the upcoming school year. Bernadine will describe the partnership’s new Request for Proposal, and describe what entities are eligible to apply for what kind of support.

You can register for this and future Roundtables here.

EVENT Aug 4: Task Force on Broadband agenda & instructions

Online and open to all, here are the details from the Office of Broadband Development

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

August 4, 2020

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

 

Webex/Conference Call
Dial-in:
1-619-377-3319 or 1-888-742-5095, Passcode 3249482049

Meeting link:

https://intercall.webex.com/intercall/j.php?MTID=m084c72bdb90f292b59fc021ac3ebd7de

PW: DEED

Meeting Number: 130 292 7338

10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from June 24, 2020 Meeting

10:15 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Minnesota Department of Education Overview of CARES Act Funding for Distance Learning Alicia Waeffler, Equity and Opportunity Programs Supervisor

Michael Dietrich, ESEA Policy Specialist

Sara George, ESEA/ESSA Title I Part A Program Specialist

11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.                Break

11:15 a.m. – 11:35 a.m.  Report out by Minnesota Model Subgroup (Chair: Brian Krambeer; Members: Steve Fenske, Theresa Sunde, Paul Weirtz)

11:35 a.m. – 11:55 a.m.  Report out by Barriers and Technology Subgroup (Co-Chairs: Marc Johnson, Dave Wolf; Members: Nolan Cauthen, Steve Giorgi, Jim Weikum)

11:55 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Report out by Economic Development and Digital Inclusion Subgroup (Chair: Bernadine Joselyn; Members: Dale Cook and Micah Myers)

12:15 p.m. – 12:25 p.m. Discussion of Report Writing Process

12:25 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, September Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

EVENT Aug 3: Workshop Examining the Role of Libraries on Broadband Adoption and Literacy

An invitation from the FCC

Workshop Examining the Role of Libraries on Broadband Adoption and Literacy
Aug 3, 2020
10:00 am – 1:30 pm EDT
Online Only

The Digital Empowerment and Inclusion Working Group of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) and the Media Bureau is hosting this virtual workshop to examine the role of U.S. libraries as community hubs to drive digital adoption and literacy. The workshop will be convened via WebEx in light of travel restrictions and other concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and will be available to the public via live feed from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.

The workshop will feature experts from libraries, academia, and civil society organizations who will discuss efforts to support underserved rural and urban communities’ acquisition of digital skills. Experts will consider what constitutes digital inclusion today and the role of libraries and public-private partnerships in supporting digital literacy. Panelists will also address the impact of COVID-19 on advancing digital inclusion, as well as the impact of various local, state, and federal interventions in recent months.

 

 

EVENT OCTOBER: Mark Your Calendar! Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand

From the Blandin Foundation…

We invite you to join us this October for a next generation broadband-enabled, broadband-focused conference.

Interesting times require innovative solutions!

The world is in flux and broadband seems to be at the center of it. The COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines on social distancing are creating the need and opportunity to learn how to do things differently, often with an online element. Meanwhile, the internet and social media are allowing people from all over the world in real time to witness and participate first-hand in the movement to end racial inequities in Minnesota and nationwide.

From telework to distance learning to keeping in touch with family and friends; from citizen journalism to starting a movement online; one thing is certain – access to broadband and the skills to use it is more important than ever.

We have decided to lean in, to take advantage of the technology we’ve been promoting for so long to meet your educational, professional, and civic needs, and hopefully demonstrate new ways to work and meet that you can bring back to your community.

The conference will be entirely virtual – but that doesn’t mean a series of online lectures. While we have planned a few traditional presentations, we have also created opportunities for discussion and collaboration, such as:

  • Custom meetup/mentoring sessions where you can meet online with potential partners and/or experts in broadband adoption and deployment.
  • Learning Cohorts (small groups) to connect you with other attendees to bounce ideas and traverse an online event throughout the conference.
  • Exciting keynote speakers with the option to ask questions in real time or later
  • Opportunities for small group discussion

For more information including a preliminary schedule of events, visit the conference webpage.

COVID exacerbates the gap between haves and have-nots – starting with healthcare facilities vs broadband providers

High Plains Journal reports on a recent webinar on rural telehealth…

A July 15 webinar on those issues was hosted by Kevin Oliver, lead relationship manager at CoBank, part of the Farm Credit System that supports key initiatives in both rural broadband and healthcare. Titled “COVID-19 Impacts On Rural Healthcare and Broadband,” it is the fourth in the “From the Farmgate” series of webinars sponsored by CoBank. The speakers were Rick Breuer, CEO of Community Memorial Hospital, located in a rural area of Minnesota just west of Duluth; and Catherine Moyer, CEO of Pioneer Communications, which provides connectivity services in western Kansas via coaxial cable, copper wire, fiber and wireless.

I was especially interested in the bottom line impact to the broadband providers versus the healthcare facilities (the tele vs the health)…

Oliver noted that the cost dynamic was different for health care facilities and communications. Health care facilities saw a simultaneous increase in costs and decreases in revenue. On the other hand, communications companies have added customers and grown more quickly than they might have otherwise. While some payments are in arrears, “most of those arrears will be collectible,” said Moyer—whether from customers, or by laws like the Critical Connections Act that reimburses communications companies. Moyer said Pioneer had “donated” about $500,000 worth of connection services that may or may not be reimbursed.

Breuer said he doesn’t expect revenues at the hospital to return to anything like their full levels for at least a year.  The hospital has managed to avoid layoffs or furloughs, “but we’re getting [through] by the skin of our teeth.” Whatever happens with COVID, he said, “telehealth will definitely be part of our future. Home and hospital connections are equally important, since telehealth often happens from home.”

Breuer noted that until recently, he had to drive his kids into town to access hot spots so they could do their homework. One hospital sectioned off part of its parking lot for customer parking to use its hot spot, whether for medical tele-visits or other reasons. He also noted the vulnerability of rural networks, with little or no redundancy. He said one gnawing squirrel recently took down connectivity for a 50-square-mile area.

His hospital could not have kept its doors open without help from 10 separate funding organizations, said Breuer—but that in turn created a lot of documentation paperwork. He said independent clinics have been the worst-hit by the COVID crisis, especially those that service mostly rural populations but that don’t technically qualify as rural health clinics for one reason or another. Breuer supports changing those designations to allow more clinics to be helped.

Moyer supports what she calls contribution reform. Bill surcharges are based on an outdated model of long-distance service, now that texting has taken the place of phone calls for many. Fortunately, “the COVID crisis has focused the attention of many in Congress. I’ve been talking about all these connectivity issues for 20 years,” she said. “The silver lining is a lot of other people are focused on this issue now too.”

For so many years, the providers have invested (often with public support) in the networks that have made millions for private industry without reaping the same benefit. (A couple years ago, I looked at the community ROI of public investment in rural broadband – the community sees the return much more quickly than the provider.) It will be interesting to see what happens with healthcare and telecom/broadband. Many broadband providers are being generous with free/low cost connection right now and hopefully that will be an investment in a future paying customer. While the hospitals are in a different situation – the article points out that “163 rural hospitals have closed and about 600 more are vulnerable, or a third of all rural hospitals in the United States.“

Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on Data and Broadband Investment Archive

Thanks to Michael Curri of Strategic Networks Group (www.sngroup.com) for a very interesting and informative presentation on the uses of data to justify broadband investments.  Every stakeholder group – community members, business owners, elected officials, broadband providers, funders – has a unique set of Return on Investment measures by which they will consider participation and measure success.  Michael’s presentation provides an overview of those measures.

Participants raised many questions about broadband investment, including discussion of a changed mindset that would treat broadband infrastructure more like roads, a part of the public investment strategy to supports economic development.  We also talked about the economic and business benefits to increased broadband and technology sophistication.  An interesting point was made about that jobs created by a rural-based company may now be filled by people who are working online from another location.  We often think about remote rural workers teleworking to jobs in the metro area; the Internet is a two-way street which reinforces the need to build a local knowledge workforce.

Congratulations to Becky Lourey and her company Nemadji.  After years of seeking better broadband, they are about to get it through a new fiber extension by SCI, a regional broadband provider in east central Minnesota.  As a result, Nemadji will now have a redundant Internet connection and all residents of Bruno, population 102 in northern Pine County, will have fiber to the home Internet services!

Next week, August 4th, Bernadine Joselyn will lead a presentation and discussion about the new Connected MN program and how that will benefit Minnesota students in the months ahead.  Register at broadband.blandinfoundation.org under the webinar heading.

EVENT JUl28: Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable on Data and Broadband Investment

Join us Tuesday, June 28th at 9 am for the next Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable where Michael Curri of Strategic Networks Group will participate in a discussion of broadband data necessary to justify a broadband investment.  Strategic Networks Groups has worked with many states and cities gathering and analyzing broadband related data.

SNG has recently been studying how various stakeholder groups can effectively measure their own Return on Investment for broadband investment.  Learn what what data are needed to make the case for broadband and to build local buy-in or to get projects funded and financed?

Everyone that invests their time, money, and/or effort needs to see returns based on their terms – which vary depending on the stakeholder group and what they are bringing to the table. Elected officials, local champions and organizations, service providers, investors, government funding will be discussed and what each need to move forward in terms of data, commitments, or opportunity.

Bring your data questions for Michael. Register now.

EVENT Jul 23: Dancing Heart with Kairos & MN Orchestra Via Zoom

Thursday at 10:30 would be a great time to take a little dance break with Kairos Alive. I have mentioned their distanced dance breaks before but for the next week there’s a special twist – they will be joined by musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra.

Hawthorne Neighborhood News reports…

Kairos Alive, in collaboration with guest musicians from the MN Orchestra, is kicking off a new interactive project via Zoom with special guest MN Orchestra Good Fellow bassoonist Kai Rocke, and Kairos Artists, including percussionist Kevin Washington.

Kairos Alive! Dancing Heart™ with MN Orchestra begins Thursday, July 16th from 10:30-11:15 AM. We’ll continue to webcast these creative sessions every Thursday morning at 10:30 AM Kairos Alive! creative sessions from July 16- August 13th. We’d love to have young people join us too.

There aren’t a ton of silver linings to this pandemic – but mid-morning music from MN Orchestra, dance leadership from Kairos and no coworkers in your eyesight – that a reason to take a break! Get the details and invitation from Kairos.