Save the Date! Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress

From the Blandin Foundation; this is a fun opportunity for anyone to speak up and tell your inspiring story, show us your innovation or ask us to get someone to speak to you…

Mark Your Calendar!
October 12-14, 2021

#mnbroadband

For our 2021 virtual broadband conference, we want to hear from YOU!

Yes, as the pandemic wanes, we’re planning another online broadband conference for 2021. But hear us out. This will not be a nine-hour webinar!

We want this conference to be your chance to be heard, and to interact with others from around the state. What’s the best thing you’ve experienced/learned around broadband or technology this year? What have you been working on? What has inspired you? If presenting isn’t your thing, don’t worry – suggest a TED talk we can discuss, pose an open space question, or better yet make your own short video. The sky’s the limit! See the Request for Proposals and submit your idea today!

Next, attend one of eight regional meetings being planned around the state to share your broadband story, to learn about the state of broadband, and plans around Federal funding opportunities in your neck-of-the-woods.

Finally, join us online for a 3-day, statewide event to hear what’s happening across the state – what is being accomplished, what is still needed, and how we can inspire each other to keep at it!

This year, we’ve all lived through a shared, but unique, experience. What was yours like? How did broadband help or hinder – or motivate – you, or your community?

We know rural Minnesotans keenly felt how important a strong, reliable broadband connection is. When kids can’t go to school, adults can’t work, and families can’t access needed resources, our communities suffer. By working together, though, our communities can forge solutions. Countless rural Minnesota communities have shown the way. Your community can too!

We’ll be in touch again soon with more information:

  • We will share information on the regional meetings as details become available.
  • Conference registration coming in August!

Questions? Visit the conference webpage

EVENTS: 100 rural MN gatherings, 100 rural MN communities.

From our friends at 100 Rural Women…

Join us this summer as we will be “traveling” (virtually) across the state of Minnesota by region during the summer of 2021. Overall we will hold 30 meetings across Minnesota in an effort to create connections, explore existing formal and informal networks of rural women and discuss what leadership looks like for women. Our goal is to ignite action in community, leadership, civic engagement, and rural entrepreneurship, while simultaneously identifying opportunities and connecting local women to each other.

Click here to Sign up for a gathering

I’m hoping folks will join and make sure that broadband is a hot topic!

EVENT Oct 12-14: Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress

From the Blandin Foundation on the annual broadband conference…

Mark Your Calendar! Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress
October 12-14, 2021

For our 2021 virtual broadband conference, we want to hear from YOU!

Yes, as the pandemic wanes, we’re planning another online broadband conference for 2021. But hear us out. This will not be a nine-hour webinar!

We want this conference to be your chance to be heard, and to interact with others from around the state. What’s the best thing you’ve experienced/learned around broadband or technology this year? What have you been working on? What has inspired you? If presenting isn’t your thing, don’t worry – suggest a TED talk we can discuss, pose an open space question, or better yet make your own short video. The sky’s the limit! See the Request for Proposals and submit your idea today!

Next, attend one of eight regional meetings being planned around the state to share your broadband story, to learn about the state of broadband, and plans around Federal funding opportunities in your neck-of-the-woods.

Finally, join us online for a 3-day, statewide event to hear what’s happening across the state – what is being accomplished, what is still needed, and how we can inspire each other to keep at it!

This year, we’ve all lived through a shared, but unique, experience. What was yours like? How did broadband help or hinder – or motivate – you, or your community?

We know rural Minnesotans keenly felt how important a strong, reliable broadband connection is. When kids can’t go to school, adults can’t work, and families can’t access needed resources, our communities suffer. By working together, though, our communities can forge solutions. Countless rural Minnesota communities have shown the way. Your community can too!

We’ll be in touch again soon with more information:

  • We will share information on the regional meetings as details become available.
  • Conference registration coming in August!

Questions? Visit the conference webpage or contact Mary Magnuson at memamagnuson@blandinfoundation.org

EVENT June 23: Lunch Bunch – MN speed tests and mapping

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions. The first Lunch Bunch in June happens next week on June 23 noon to 1pm. Here’s the topic:

Speed tests connect users, providers and policymakers.

Speed tests are tools that households can use to let broadband providers and policymakers know what they are experiencing. They are used to create maps that help providers decide who needs better broadband, help policymakers decide who needs attention and people decide where to relocate homes or businesses. But what do we do when different tests show different results? What do different tests consider? And what are contributing factors?

We have a few folks on the frontlines willing to come to talk to us about the tests and we want to hear from you. What are you experiencing? Do you have questions?

Pleased to have folks from Geo Partners (Glenn Fishbine and Paul Demming) and a few providers (Travis Carter from USI) and hopefully Steve Howard from Paul Bunyan (based on availability) join us for the conversation.

Register now!

Checking in with MN community broadband leaders around Minnesota

It’s always fun to check in with the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) participating community leaders. Today the Blandin Broadband team checked in with a few of the communities. It was a look back at what I’ll optimistically call the tail end of the pandemic and a helpful look at what everyone is expecting moving forward.

We started with a list of how we are all going to use broadband to celebrate summer. But the conversation also well more work-focused practical. Turns out that we have mixed feelings about the transition from online meetings to live-only or hybrids. It seems like we landed on hybrids are good when the expectations are honestly set. The conversation also got into practicalities of dealing with state versus federal funding and how those don’t always play well together and how folks are going to handle training in the real-virtual world.

If you’re a community leader and you’re wondering yourself how to handle the role of technology and balancing the transition to “normal” life, this may be an instructive conversation to hear.

EVENT Today (3pm): HF8 (Sundin) Agriculture and Broadband Budget Omnibus

Just got notice on this meeting. One quick note – this is to discussion funding the Office of Broadband Development NOT the Border to Border grants. Those have been moved to infrastructure. Depending on …

AGENDA – Ways and Means Committee – Monday, June 14, 3:00PM (or 1 hour after floor session adjourns, whichever is later) – Remote Hearing by Zoom

NOTE: BILLS MAY BE ADDED

-HF13 (Lillie) Legacy Fund Budget Omnibus

-HF8 (Sundin) Agriculture and Broadband Budget Omnibus

Info on broadband is on the final page of the bill language…

21.14 Section 1. BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS.​

21.15 The sumsshown in the columns marked “Appropriations” are appropriated to the agency​

21.16 and for the purposes specified in this article. The appropriations are from the general fund,​

21.17 or another named fund, and are available for the fiscal years indicated for each purpose.​

21.18 The figures “2022” and “2023” used in this article mean that the appropriations listed under​

21.19 them are available for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, or June 30, 2023, respectively.​

21.20 “The first year” is fiscal year 2022. “The second year” is fiscal year 2023. “The biennium”​

21.21 is fiscal years 2022 and 2023.​

21.22 APPROPRIATIONS​

21.23 Available for the Year​

21.24 Ending June 30​

21.25 2022​ 2023​ $​ 350,000​ $​ 350,000​

21.26 Sec. 2. DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT​

21.27 AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT​

21.28 $350,000 each year is for the Office of​

21.29 Broadband Development.

Depending on when it actually starts, I suspect I won’t be able to attend but here’s the info…

Meeting documents will be posted on the House Ways and Means Committee website at https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/Committees/Home/92029

Public Viewing Information:

This remote hearing will be live-streamed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp.

MN Broadband Task Force June 2021: broadband and people with disabilities, Emergency Broadband Benefits and MN Leg Update

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met. They heard from Arc Minnesota on the impact of broadband (good and bad) on people with autism and other disabilities. They also heard from someone from the FCC on the ins and outs on the Emergency Broadband Benefits. They got an update on broadband in the MN legislature, combined with a comment at the end meeting on federal funding. The concern is that funding for MN grants has moved from Ag bill to Infrastructure bonding. The good news is that the Senate has greatly increased their proposed budget for broadband. The bad news is that is likely a starting/bargaining place. The other bad news is that changes in federal policy and lack of specificity in eligible households may create a conflict between what MN and the Feds are doing.

Full notes:

Legislative Update

Today is first day of special session. Workgroups have met behind closed doors. It’s been slow. End of fiscal year is June 30.

Broadband has been confusing. They kept the Office of Broadband Development budget in Ag and program budget (grants) is now in infrastructure. The OBD budget is pretty much set but the grant funding is still in play. Senate wants to put $179 million (entire infrastructure budget) into broadband.

Q: What about the need for majority votes?
A: Not sure how that plays out when this is federal funds into bonding.

Broadband is bipartisan so the hope is that this is something they will push through.

Q: Should the Task Force send a letter?
A: Good point.

PRESENTATION

Presentation by Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer, The Arc Minnesota and Maren Christenson, Multicultural Autism Action Network/Arc Minnesota Board of Directors

We address the needs of kids with autism, who often come from families without a lot of resources .Access to broadband is a big part of providing services.

One big barrier for our clients is stigma.

Programmatic Values:

  • Human and Civil Rights
  • Self-Advocacy and Self Direction
  • Equity and Belonging
  • Racial and Disability Justice

Broadband Access and the Disability Community

  • Education
  • Healthcare and quality
  • Neighborhood and built environment
  • Social and community context
  • Economic stability

Online tools (such as Zoom meetings) have made things more accessible for some people, depending on disability and broadband access.

You might think that most people with people disabilities live in the Twin Cities. Percentage-wise that isn’t true and comparing maps you can see there are some areas with low broadband and high disability percentage.

Policy Recommendations

  • OBD job opportunities for people with disabilities
  • Interagency collaboration
  • Representation for people with disabilities on Task Force
  • Broadband grants – consider weighting grants based on work with people with disabilities
  • K12 Connect Forward Initiative
  • Grants to Supplement tech access
  • Ongoing tech support

PRESENTAION

FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Presentation by Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

What is EBB? (Learn more: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit) It can mean:

  • $50/month subsidy for broadband – but paid to provider
  • $75/month subsidy for broadband on tribal area
  • $100 one-time discount for computer if you buy through your provider
  • (reduced bill for customer not a check)

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?

A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

How long will this continue?

  • Until the funds run out OR six months after the Dep of Health decide the pandemic is over

SUBGROUP UPDATES

Yvonne:

  • Working on plans for an in-person meeting.
  • Heard from Chris Mitchell
  • Going to hear from Community Broadband Access Network

Nolan:

  • No recent meetings (although some met in May)
  • Looking for a speaker from industry – guy from Lumen didn’t work out
  • Paul Solsrud with talk about CNS mapping tool

Paul:

  • Nothing new to share

Updates:

  • They have maybe found someone to write the next task force report.
  • The July agenda is set

Biden made recommendations on America Rescue Funds. At first it looked good for broadband. But not they are focus on households without “reliable access to 25/3” and there’s no real definition for this. AND combine that with the movement at State level of funding from Ag to bond infrastructure – and we’re in danger of having funding get lost in the red tape.

July agenda

  • CNS (mapping)
  • Dep of Transportation (IoT)

EVENT Jun 15: Rural Broadband & Telehealth Financing

Looks like an interesting session…

Rural Broadband & Telehealth Financing
Tuesday, June 15 at 2:00 PM Eastern —
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many disruptions in our daily lives and highlighted disparities among communities. Schools have gone remote, healthcare providers have increased seeing patients virtually, and small businesses have shut their doors to in-store customers. These disruptions have particularly impacted rural communities where there is already a gap in accessing high-speed internet.

Join us for the CDFA // BNY Mellon Development Finance Webcast Series on Tuesday, June 15 at 2:00 PM Eastern to hear experts explain how rural communities can embrace the challenges of financing high-speed internet for the economic and societal gains provided by broadband.

Speakers:

  • James Young, Vice President, The Bank of New York Mellon, Moderator
  • Caitlin Cain, Vice President and Rural Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Lindsay Miller, Of Counsel Attorney, Ice Miller LLP
  • Kenneth Neighbors, Partner, McGuireWoods LLP

To participate, register below. You will receive the login information on the day of the webcast. Registration is free and open to all interested parties.

Get Engaged! Contact Allison Rowland.

MRBC Legislative Update: Special Session Broadband Funding

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Legislature Convenes Special Session
The Minnesota Legislature convened its first Special Session of 2021 on Monday, June 14, at the Capitol in Saint Paul. There is a lengthy list of things legislators need to accomplish, including the constitutionally mandated two-year budget and other priority items like an infrastructure (bonding) bill, police reform measures, various policy bills, a tax bill, and the governor’s emergency powers extension. The state will enter a government shutdown if a budget is not passed by July 1. If this seems like a lot to tackle in two weeks, you’re right. However, leaders expressed optimism this week that they believe the job can be done.
Broadband in the Bonding Bill
Funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program was moved from the Agriculture Committee to the Capital Investment Committee. Legislative leaders said after the regular session ended that the funding will be in the bonding bill and would come from the Capital Projects Fund given to the state through the federal American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress earlier this year. The agreement at the end of the regular session was $70 million over the next two years. A bonding bill requires a supermajority vote in both chambers, so it is more difficult to pass.
Note: Even though the funding is in the bonding bill, the money will not come from state bonds. It will simply be an item within the bonding bill.
We expect House and Senate Capital Investment Committee Chairs will exchange offers several times during the next two weeks, so funding levels and location may change! However, we believe broadband is in the strongest possible position to receive a significant investment.
Call to Action
Keep an eye out for a Call-to-Action letter-writing soon. We will send this out via the Coalition list sometime this week. So, be prepared to have your organization’s members write and call their legislators and the governor about why broadband funding is so important!

EVENT June 14: MN Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

Everyone is welcome and they always leave room for public comments. I plan to livestream on Facebook too…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

June 14, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

ZoomGov meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Or call in (audio only)

(669) 254-5252

Meeting ID: 161 548 9756

Passcode: 543376

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from May 24, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Legislative Update by Deven Bowdry, DEED

10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Presentation by Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer, The Arc Minnesota and Maren Christenson, Multicultural Autism Action Network/Arc Minnesota Board of Directors

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Presentation by Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

11:50 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Subgroup Updates

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, July Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

EVENT Jun 9: Dakota Broadband Board

Looks like an interesting meeting this month. Dakota County is always a county to watch if you’re looking for tips…

Board of Directors Meeting
Preliminary Agenda
June 9, 2021
4pm
The regular meeting of the Dakota Broadband Board will be held via Zoom due to an Emergency
Declaration from Governor Walz and the ongoing COVID-19 health impacts.
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88574743336?pwd=enlQZFRkTmUrZjdxL3NCTzdidk1Ldz09
Meeting ID: 885 7474 3336
Passcode: 103141
1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call
3. Approval of the Agenda
CONSENT AGENDA
4. Approval of meeting minutes from the regular board meeting of April 14, 2021
5. April 2021 DBB Expense and Revenue Report
REGULAR AGENDA
6. Land O’ Lakes Presentation
7. Annual Insurance Renewal
8. Employee Interchange Agreement
9. DBB Member Conversations and System Plan Update RFP
10. Construction Guidelines/OSP Review

EVENT June 9: Lunch Bunch – Community Broadband Planning in 4 MN Communities

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions. The first Lunch Bunch in June happens next week on June 9. Here’s the topic:

Blandin Foundation has created a unique approach to community broadband planning this spring by working intensively with four communities – Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe/Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, Kanabec County, Aitkin County/Aitkin County Growth and Pine County.  The regional concentration of un- and underserved communities in the east central area has provided an unplanned opportunity for regional collaboration.  Each community recruited a team of at least eight leaders to commit to work on broadband for a 16 week period that is nearing completion.  The teams meet every Friday morning as a cohort to discuss a key aspect of community broadband planning.  Participants watch an archived topic-focused webinar and then have the chance to ask questions of a broadband expert.  The teams worked together on a broadband survey that has almost 3,000 responses and continues to work together on community messaging. Join us for a brief presentation about this process and how it might work in your community and/or region at our Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch on Wednesday, June 9 at noon.  Register now!

EVENTS: June Lunch Bunch: Infrastructure (Jun 9) & Digital Use (Jun 23)

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions; on the second Wednesday of the month the focus is Infrastructure and on the fourth the focus is Digital Inclusion and Use.

  • Join us on June 9 for our lunch bunch update on Infrastructure
    Register here 
  • Join us June 23 for our lunch bunch on Digital Use and Equity. Register here.

EVENT TOMORROW: Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Inclusion – noon to 1pm

Just a reminder that we’re meeting Wednesday (tomorrow) to chat about Digital Use and Inclusion. In the spirit of summer starting – it’s an open topic day. So please bring your questions, your answers, your updates. We’re happy for it all.

I know the Emergency Broadband Benefits have been a hot topic on various chat groups. The MN legislature is a limbo – the budget spreadsheets are expected on Friday if anyone has more info on that. Or I just did a some quick research on telehealth. In other words, we’re wide open.

Register here.

MN Broadband Task Force Mtg May 2021 Notes: Fixed Wireless & State Demographer

Today the Task Force heard from a panel of Fixed Wireless providers. They spoke about advanced in wireless technologies and the range of customers they have. The also heard from Susan Brower, State Demographer. We learned that the state is growing but at a slower rate and that growth is uneven. There’s more growth in urban areas.

Here’s the whole lineup including some of Susan’s slides:

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from April 5, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Update on 2021 MN Legislation Deven Bowdry, DEED

Session ended May 17 with no action. But Senate, House and Gov agreed on $70 million over biennium for broadband – not sure if it’s State of Federal funding yet. Funding will not be included in Sen Westrom’s Ag bill. They passed a policy-only bill with nothing related to broadband. It will likely become an infrastructure bill. Spreadsheets expected May 28; June 4 bill language is due; Special session is June 14 – with all new bill numbers.

10:15 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Fixed Wireless Panel – Luke Johnson, Broadband Operations Manager, Meeker Cooperative Light & Power – VIBRANT Broadband Terry Nelson GM/VP, Woodstock Communications Mary Lodin, CEO/Partner and Jay Mankie, CTO/Partner, Genesis Wireless, Tim Johnson, Operations Manager, MVTV Wireless

Questions:

Can fixed wireless provide symmetrical services?
Only at lower speeds 10/10, 20/20 even 50/50 but not up to 100/100

How much is fixed wireless?
$39.95/month to 99.95 – we really need to average $50 per customers to remain sustainable.
We have 300-400 people who only use email; we have others that seem to stream constantly.
Folks can get 25 Mbps for $35/month.
Woodstock has a service that starts at $24.95/month. It’s a legacy from a Moose Lake municipal service and it’s mostly seniors who only email. No streaming.
If we want symmetrical speeds we have to go with fiber.
If someone wants a light package we can serve northern areas but the trees make it difficult. They try to map accordingly.
Costs can be high for end users – and sometimes we need to go to them to help pay for those costs and people do it – especially with fiber? Do people really need FTTH or do the hybrid solutions work.
It might be helpful to have a “bank” of funds to help offset some of these installation costs for folks who need it.

How has COVID impacted demand?
Many people now know they can work from home and many of them will continue working from home. That might not be the case with students.
Evening hours are the busiest for most providers. They built the network for those nighttime peaks; so we were ready for the shift to day time use. For most, they got new customers and upgraded existing customers.
Learned that we need to deploy quicker in rural areas. They were installing 7 days a week. They’re still seeing growth and people are not getting the lower packages; the buy at higher levels.
Sometimes you can get around obstacles.

How can we help you?
What about a program that helps upgrade existing customers? Rather than introduce a faster competitor, but look at who is the incumbents and how can the State help make them faster. Especially in areas where you might have 4 customers per square mile. The customer is there – we just need to upgrade.
Need better education. Wireless had gotten a bad rap – and there are good ways and bad ways to build it. The new technology is a very good solution.

How many residents actually need a Gig – we have to quick chasing these numbers. Getting to 100/100 with today’s technology is difficult but providers feel they can get there in the future. Not sure about higher speeds.

Cost to build a tower:
In Meeker $120,000
300 ft tower $100-175,000
And there’s a 50 percent increase in steel costs

How do you deal with businesses in range but out of line of sight?
We work with them – taking down trees or extending existing towers.

11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower

Minnesota had growth but it has slowed, as has the US growth. Our population is getting older. (More people living longer than babies born.) Most growth is in 7-metro counties and up the Highway 94 core. IN rural areas – there’s not as much growth but these areas are not quickly emptying out. It’s more of a stability that most people think.

In rural areas – we are seeing population declines, albeit modest decline. It has picked up in some areas in the last decade. Entirely urban areas are growing.

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, June Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

What are we going to do with RDOF? Can we get the legislature to look at the problem of RDOF closing the door on so many communities that night have qualified for Border to Border grants and are now left in the lurch.