EVENT Jan 29: MN Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

The MN Broadband Task Force is meeting on Friday. Here’s the login info:

January 29 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Click here to join the meeting Or call in (audio only)
+1 763-317-4323,,989314741# United States, Plymouth
Phone Conference ID: 989 314 741#

Here’s the agenda…

10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.                Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from December 18, 2020 Meeting
10:15 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.  Status of 2020 Annual Report
10:20 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development Update
10:40 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.  Focus for 2021

  • Topics
  • Presenters
  • Meeting Locations (post-virtual meetings)

11:20 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.  Break

11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  ask Force Organization

  • Subcommittee or Other Structure
  • Assign Topics
  • Assign Task Force Members to Subcommittee or Other Structure

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

EVENTS: Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Feb Topics: Talking with MN Leg (Feb 10) & Digital Navigators (Feb 24)

Well, the first month went so well we are continuing the Broadband Lunch Bunch sessions – alternating between Broadband Infrastructure and Digital Use and Equity. The idea is to get colleagues in a shared space, introduce a topic and talk. Infrastructure will happen on the second Wednesday of the month and Digital Use and Equity on the fourth. Please note! The Digital Use were originally scheduled for the third Wednesday but we realized that conflicted with the NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) monthly 101 webinars.

(Side note: If you previously registered for the Digital Use and Equity events before – please re-register. The registration were unfortunately lost in the date transition – but we learned something new!)

Talking with Legislators about Broadband (Feb 10 noon to 1pm CST)
Last fall, we heard a lot about the importance of broadband from legislative candidates across the state and across the aisle.  The commitment will now be illustrated by votes soon to be taken on appropriations bills in St. Paul.  Legislators tell us that they need to hear from constituents to keep an issue at the top of the priority pile.  What are the best ways to do this?  What is your experience with talking with legislators?  What can we learn from other issue advocates?  Be ready to share your success stories, failures and lessons learned.  Register here 

Digital Navigators What, how & why (Feb 24 noon to 1pm CST)
Digital Navigators are individuals who help people (or organizations) through the process of funding the best digital solutions to meet their needs. It scored highly on our interest survey last month and we have (at least) two Lunch Bunchers who are willing to share their expertise with the group – one national and one focused on Minnesota schools. So please come with questions, ideas and solutions. Register here.

EVENT Feb 2: Women in Ag Network sixth annual conference

The Women in Ag Network conference is not a perfect fit for all readers, but a look at the agenda is a reminder of how important broadband is to all aspects of agriculture business…

“Building Bridges, Cultivating Connections” is the theme of the sixth annual Women in Ag Network Conference. The event will be a day of learning and networking for women involved in agriculture. The conference will be held virtually on February 3 from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.
Michele Payn, CSP, principal of Cause Matters Corp, will be the keynote speaker. There will be three tracks of breakout sessions to choose from: Bridging the Gap with Social Media, Cultivating Management Best Practices and Connecting Farmers and Consumers through Marketing. The day will end with a panel discussion, “Direct Marketing: Taking it to the Next Level,” which will feature women who have taken marketing of their agriculture ventures to a new level.
For more information and to register visit z.umn.edu/WAGNConference21.

EVENT Feb 17: 5 Tech4Good Trends for Nonprofits in 2021

Tech Soup is hosting an interesting online meeting for nonprofits. It’s at 9am PST (or 11am CST)…

What are the top emerging trends in digital and how will nonprofits be impacted?

Where should we focus our attention (and resources) in 2021?

Join us for a fast-paced one hour event of mini-presentations on the trends, tools, and techniques nonprofits should use to create more impact.

“How Nonprofits Can Take Advantage of the Internet of Things”, with Gena Dellett

Learn about creative ways nonprofits are incorporating the many “smart” tools that fill our lives into their missions. From using IoT data to share impact with donors to increasing the reach of emergency service programming, everyday objects are transforming how nonprofits deliver on their missions. Getting started is not as hard as you think.

“Amplifying Human Relationships Using Tech” with Ruoyun Xu Killian

Digital has become our primary form of connection in our post-pandemic world. We are being met with a constant array of new technologies to build a bridge between the digital and physical. In this talk, Ruoyun Xu Killian, Digital Marketing Strategist, will teach you how to navigate these new trends and continue to amplify the human relationship that you have built with your audience online. She’ll showcase how new trends like short-form video, Usergenerated content (UGC), and social commerce can help your organization continue to create the impact that you seek.

“Beyond Virtual Volunteer Management: Tech & Trends in the Age of COVID” with James McGirr

GivePulse CTO James McGirr shares how technology has allowed for-impact organizations to pivot opportunities during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Innovations include technical solutions and trends that make staff, centers and activities safe, capabilities to simplify coordination of virtual and remote volunteers, and mechanisms to increase engagement when everyone is just zoom’d out.

“Why Should Nonprofits Embrace AI?” with Aysha Samrin

AI is no longer a complicated tool built exclusively for large tech companies, data scientists, and engineers. Organizations in every industry, from healthcare to finance to nonprofits, now have access to AI-based tools at affordable prices.

In this session, you will earn how Artificial Intelligence can elevate your nonprofit.

EVENT Feb 4: MN Rural Broadband Coalition Meeting

MN Broadband Coalition invites folks…

Save the Date!
Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting

Thursday, February 4, 2021
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Via Zoom
Agenda and Details on How to Join the Meeting Coming Soon!Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.
Feel free to extend this invitation to other interested stakeholders.

Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Archive: Share a success story

This big week of inaugural events includes the inaugural meeting of the Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity. We had a 20-25 people attend – perfect for chat and connecting with each other. We spent a lot of time on the introductions – in part because the attendance grew as we spoke but it was worth it to learn more about each other. For example, I now know at least two people who could help me fill out the forms to get an FCC radio license.

It was also nice to have a mix of rural and Twin Cities folks; I hope that will help facilitate more working together. A silver lining of all of the pandemic restriction is that because everything is online these days, it’s easier to work with people in all locations without traveling. Of course the flip side is that it deepens the digital divide for those without access.

We had folks on the frontlines of teaching, librarians, policy folks, smart city folks and engineers. If this were my Destination Imagination team, I’d feel pretty good about our ability to problem solve. And there are open seats at the table next month if you want to join us.

A quick reminder – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch series includes 2 monthly sessions. Sessions will alternate between Broadband Infrastructure (2nd Weds) and  Digital Use and Equity (3rd Weds).

Feb 10, Broadband Infrastructure session will focus on how to work with legislators – more on that soon! Feb 17, Digital Use and Equity is still open. We surveyed folks about future topics today and will report back.

Senator Klobuchar talks to Northern MN – broadband comes up

The International Falls Journal reports

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar reached out last week to northern Minnesota leaders to talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of local students, and on growing hunger.

In a phone call Thursday with International Falls School Superintendent Kevin Grover and three other northern Minnesota school superintendents, she said the information she learned would help her craft legislation aimed at assisting with the new needs communities are facing because of the pandemic.

Broadband came up…

The group also discussed the need to continue to improve broadband internet access in northern Minnesota, where areas still require “hot spots” for students to access their online learning programs.

MN House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee hears from Telecom folks

The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee heard from a number of broadband providers and Minnesota League of Cities. It’s a chance for the legislators to learn a little bit about the providers and the type of broadband. Folks talked about what policies would make their lives easier, the investments they had made in Minnesota and their roles in helping during the pandemic. It’s helpful for legislators and I suspect the testifiers become the go-to people for telecom information.

I always think the questions are the most interesting part – because of course I’m better acquainted with what the providers are doing than what the legislators are thinking. Folks asked about 5G, autonomous cars, 911 outages and Internet of Things.

[The permanent video is now in place. please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the meeting by moving the cursor that times the video to the left. Hard to guestimate how far to the left as the video gets longer each minute. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

Starting now! Commerce Finance and Policy Info on Telecom.

Speakers include:

  • – Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance.
  • – Dana Bailey, Lumen.
  • – Patrick Fucik, TMobile.
  • – Paul Weirtz, AT&T.
  • – Daniel Lightfoot, League of Minnesota Cities.

*No formal action will be taken. 

Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance.

  • -They put the “wire in wireless”
  • Regulated by MN PUC, Dep of COmmernce, Attorney General and FCC

Dana Bailey, Lumen

  • Formerly CenturyLink
  • POTS has been overshadowed by competition
  • Invested $200M in Broadband in MN
  • Wants to change 237.025

Patrick Fucik, TMobile.

  • Second largest wireless company
  • Goal to provide 97% of US with 5G low band in 3 years
  • Spectrum access makes it possible 80% of MN sites are 5G low band
  • Accelerated #COVID19 programs for students

Paul Weirtz, AT&T.

  • Traffic rose 20% in March (COVID)
  • $125B investment in wired/wireless service in 3 years
  • Launched 5G across MN in 2020
  • Committed to FirstNet

Daniel Lightfoot, League of Minnesota Cities

  • Works on rights of way for cities
  • Tries to allow tech growth AND city authority to manage and be compensated
  • Cord cutting puts PEG at risk


Q: What are the problems with 911 outages?
A: They are upgrading to digital 911 
A: There were outages with our network. Often issue with weather or equipment @lumentechco

“Networks are moving to IP – why would I need cable unless they are my broadband provider. Thanks and congrats to ramping up via COVID. There were issues with latency but that seems to be fix. IoT creates a drain on the network.” @EricLuceroMN

Q: How can we facilitate 5G? @BarbHaleyMN
A: Let us know city plans so we can react. Make it easy to get permits? @PaulWeirtz
A: Passing the 5G small cell legislation makes it easier. @FucikR

Q: Will there be conflicts with 5G cabinets and autonomous cars? @ElkinsForHouse
A: We are looking at it and we’re going to need open lines of communication. @DFLightfoot


MN House committee discusses $120 million for broadband – hear concern about federal investment

The Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy met to hear testifiers and Representative Ecklund talk about HF14, the proposed $120 million for broadband grants (over two years). Everyone seemed on broad with recognizing the need, even the increased need for broadband in COVID and post-COVID world. One concern seemed to be spending state money on broadband without knowing how much federal money will be coming for broadband. The committee expressed interest in meeting again once we did know how much Minnesota would be getting.

This didn’t come up in the meeting but I think it’s helpful to remember that there is an opportunity to maximize use of federal funding with the state grant. We’ve seen that with at least two previous border to border grants. Fish Lake Township and Sunrise Township both grants where the provider (CenturyLink) investing their federal CAF money and the community raised funds to apply for (and get) a state grant. The CAF money only required CenturyLink to build to 25/3 but the state funding required faster speeds (100/2o) and that the connection be scalable to 100/100. State funding can help lift the utility and longevity of any federal investment.

[The permanent video is now in place. please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the video by moving the cursor that times the video back to the left. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

“The proposal is $120 million for better broadband is meet the 2022 speed goals of 25/3 and prepare for 2026 speed goal of 100/20” @RobEcklund

The Office of Broadband Development gave a presentation…


Q: How much will MN get from Fed COVID funding? @GenePelowski
A: $300M total – states will fight for that funding. @mndeed
Q: What’s up with electric cooperatives?
A: Some cops provide service; others do not. It varies. Many deploy fiber; some used fixed wireless

Q: Are we on track to meet the broadband goals of 2026? @CedFrazierMN
A: That depends on state funding. 

Q: How do you reach all areas? @DaveLislegard
A: Grants provide extra incentive to serve the areas that are harder to serve. @mndeed
Q: Are there any immediate solutions?
A: We are tech neutral. We’ve seen hotspots for short term

Q: Can someone from industry tell us what we have done? @DebKiel
A: We will have more hearings. But they really stepped up to get students online during #COVID19 @mndeed
Q: If we invest $120M doesn’t that mean taxpayer funding – when fed might do it?
A: That is a concern. I talked to someone yesterday who said we might get a lot @GenePelowski

Q: We need kids to be in school? @RepJoeMcDonald
A: Yes, but telecommuting is not going away even after #COVID19 @JulieSandstede
A: We need broadband in my district @GenePelowski

They also heard from Vince Robinson from the MN Broadband Coalition:
“It’s nice to hear people talk more about how we fund broadband, not why. Livelihoods and lives in rural areas need broadband – work, school, health church.” #VinceRobinson

And from Andrea Zupancich, Mayor of Babbitt and realtor.
“People want to know about access to broadband before they buy a home. Businesses need to have business. Families are now sharing broadband so weak, they cannot do two Zooms at once. The need for broadband will not subside after #COVID19.”

Final comments from Rep Ecklund: Thanks for all. I’m sitting in a rented office because I don’t have adequate access to work at home.

EVENT Jan 21: Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity: Share a success story

Just letting folks know that this session has moved to Jan 21, to not conflict with the inauguration on Jan 20. We have more than 30 people signed up. Please join us!

Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 21: Share a success story

Pleasure join us for the inaugural Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Jan 21 from noon to 1pm. It’s an opportunity to talk turkey with colleagues and cohorts around Minnesota and beyond! Normally they will be on a specific (but loose) topic but to get the ball rolling, I wanted to invite planner and folks from the front lines to share their best stories of success. Please come and brag!

It will give us some good ideas to replicate. It will give us stories to share with legislators. Most of all, it will help set the stage of success for 2021!

(Register now – for the first, all or several of the upcoming sessions.)

EVENT Jan 20: MN House to discuss broadband bill HF14

Sharing an email from the Committee Administrator…

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 8:30 AM

Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr.
Location: Remote Hearing


This remote hearing is taking place pursuant to Rule 10.01, which you may view here: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/permrule/1001.htm
HF 14 (Ecklund) Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.
This remote hearing may be viewed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp
NOTE: HTV 1 and HTV 2 will provide live closed captioning. Video archives of meetings streamed on HTV 3, 4, and 5 will have closed captions added. Other reasonable accessibility accommodations may be made with advance notice.
If you have questions about the accessibility of remote hearings or require an accommodation, please contact Jenny Nash at: jenny.nash@house.mn or by leaving a message at 651-296-4122.

HF14 (Ecklund) – Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.

EVENT Jan 15: NDIA Community Call – hot topic is federal funding

NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) hosts two Zoom calls a month that are open to the public on the first and third Fridays of the month. I just got a little sneak peek at what tomorrow’s call is going to be like. If you’re interested in federal funding for broadband expansion (deployment and adoption!), I recommend you join the call tomorrow at noon (MN time).

And if you want to hit the round running (or get a preview of what happens on the call, you can check out the archive from their call on Dec 23, which includes an overview of the bill. (Video on the call below.)

EVENT: Jan 14 (6 pm): Lack of Broadband in Suburban and Rural Areas: A Community Conversation

An invitation to a NineNorth event…

January 14, 2021, 6 p.m.
Lack of Broadband in Suburban and Rural Areas: A Community Conversation

In March of 2020, many of us migrated into our homes, turned on our laptop and began working remotely. Schooling migrated online, business meetings online, our social lives online. What about people who don’t have access to internet, specifically broadband access? How has the pandemic effected their ability to work and connect?  What can our communities and agencies do to include our distant neighbors into the social circles of an online community?
This program will be speaking to a panel of policy and broadband professional to provide us insight to broadband build outs in rural areas, or lack of, and why.



ANNA BOROFF – Executive Director, Minnesota Cable Communications Association

BERNADINE JOSELYN – Director of Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation

NATHAN ZACHARIAS – President, Zacharias Government Relations

DANA HEALY – Moderator  (Executive Director, NineNorth)

EVENTS Jan 13 & 21 : Blandin Broadband “Lunch Bunch” online discussion sessions

An invitation from the Blandin Broadband Team…

The Blandin Community Broadband Program announces a new virtual series for 2021 – the Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch. Sessions will take place the second and third Wednesdays of the month from noon-1:00 pm.

Sessions will alternate between Broadband Infrastructure (2nd Weds) and Digital Use and Equity (3rd Weds). The idea is to get colleagues in a shared space, introduce a topic, and talk. We learned during the 2020 virtual broadband conference that people really enjoy the opportunity to talk to one another, and we often found that the wisdom is often in the room – even in a Zoom room. Topics will be announced monthly and may include some experts to get the ball rolling.

Here’s what we have for January:

January 13 – Broadband Infrastructure: Everything You Want to Discuss about RDOF

The FCC’s Rural Development Opportunity Fund is a game changer for rural broadband development. Are the pending results of the reverse auction a win, loss or is the game still in play. Come bring your questions, share what you know  and tell the group how the RDOF auction is changing your local broadband strategies.

(Register here – for the first, all, or several of the upcoming Infrastructure sessions.)

January 21 – Digital Use and Equity: Share a success story

Note – this session was originally scheduled for January 20, which is also Inauguration Day. We decided to reschedule to Thursday.

The inaugural Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity is an opportunity to talk turkey with colleagues and cohorts around Minnesota and beyond! Normally there will be a specific (but loose) topic but to get the ball rolling – but for January, planners invite folks from the front lines to share their best stories of success. Please come and brag!

It will give us some good ideas to replicate. It will give us stories to share with legislators. Most of all, it will help set the stage of success for 2021!

(Register here – for the first, all, or several of the upcoming Digital Use & Equity sessions.)

We’re planning on holding Lunch Bunch sessions through June – at least! The monthly topics will be shared on the Blandin on Broadband blog, and in our monthly Broadband e-Newsletter. Links are also available on the Webinars page on our website.

Questions? Contact Mary Magnuson at memagnuson@blandinfoundation.org.

EVENT Feb 17: Data as the Foundation for Broadband Planning

Another great event coming up…

Data as the Foundation for Broadband Planning

The federal government compiles huge broadband datasets cataloguing broadband availability and subscriptions through the US Census Bureau and Federal Communications Commission, among others. These can be augmented with commercially available speed test data to provide a better insight into broadband access and availability. Join BroadbandUSA on February 17, 2021 to gain a fuller understanding of these datasets and how to use data to strengthen your broadband planning efforts.

Wed, Feb 17, 2021 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST
Register now!