FCC’s Consumer Outreach team visits Minnesota

If only I could be in two places at once, but today I’m up in the broadband meeting in St Louis County but the FCC is traveling to other places in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Benton Foundation reports

Members of the FCC’s Consumer Outreach team will take to the road again for the next in a series of Rural Tours, this time journeying to the Upper Midwest states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

During their travels to various cities and towns, the team will meet with community leaders and groups to share information and resources regarding telecommunication issues that affect daily lives. The team will also discuss the latest telecom scams targeting consumers’ privacy and pocketbooks, particularly in rural areas.

The Upper Midwest Region Rural Tour is the fourth in a series of trips designed to build partnerships with local consumer groups and hear directly from local consumers and community members.

Topics include:

Tour Schedule as of June 14, 2019:

All events listed below are free and open to the public unless noted otherwise.

Day 1:  Monday, 6/24

  • 9:30 am
    Presentation at the Chaska Community Center – Download Event Flyer
    1661 Park Ridge Drive, Chaska, MN 55318
  • 1:00 pm
    Presentation at Nicollett County Health and Human Services – Download Event Flyer
    622 South Front St., St. Peter, MN 56082
  • Meetings with local leaders in Blue Earth County, MN; Chaska, MN and Le Sueur, MN – closed to the general public

Day 2:  Tuesday, 6/25

  • 1:00 pm
    Presentation at the Semcac Senior Dining – Download Event Flyer
    Dodge County:  Sunwood Manor, 200 1st St. NE, Kasson, MN  55944
  • Meetings with local leaders in Owatonna, MN and Waseca, MN – closed to the general public

Day 3:  Wednesday, 6/26

  • 6:00 pm
    Presentation at La Crosse Public Library – Download Event Flyer
    800 Main Street, La Crosse, WI 54601
  • Meetings with local leaders in St. Charles, MN – closed to the general public

Day 4:  Thursday, 6/27

  • 12:00 pm
    Presentation at the Kupper Ratsch Senior Center – Download Event Flyer
    10025 Superior Ave., Tomah, WI 54660
  • Meetings with local leaders in in Mauston, WI; New Lisbon, WI; Sparta, WI and Tomah, WI – closed to the general public

Day 5:  Friday, 6/28

  • 12:00 pm
    Presentation at DeForest Senior Center – Download Event Flyer
    505 N Main St., DeForest, WI 53532
  • 3:00 pm
    Presentation at Portage Public Library – Download Event Flyer
    253 W. Edgewater St., Portage, WI 53901
  • Meetings with local leaders Portage, WI and Wisconsin Dells, WI  – closed to the general public


Greenwood Township moving forward with fiber to townhall

Greenwood Township board members met last week to discuss a few issues related to technology. The Timberjay covered the meeting. There were a lot of unkowns, for example it seemed unclear whether the board knew if there was fiber connected to the town hall or not.

I’m trying to weed through the discussion to get to the actions and decisions:

The board decided to join an effort for a regional feasibility study…

[Joan] Bassing [chair of the local broadband committee] then asked the town board to consider making a donation to help fund the feasibility study. She said that if the township refused to participate in the feasibility study, it would eliminate the township from future broadband projects.

A coalition of three areas are jointly funding the study and need to raise approximately $75,000, which will be matched one-to-one by Blandin.

“Our standard donation is $100,” said [board member] DeLuca.

Bassing said she was not sure what level of donation would be considered for inclusion in the study but said there was a possibility of finding other donations in the township to count towards the township’s participation.

A feasibility study looks at existing infrastructure, community support/interest in broadband and recommendations to help infrastructure meet community need. (Often it has been the first step in a community pursuing and getting a MN state broadband grant.)

A donation of $100 may not be a ringing endorsement but it is a start to a local investment that will help them know if the city hall has fiber, if local residents want it and what they can do to make it happen. It will address many of the unknowns and I thin help the city board make more informed decisions.

The board decided to connect town hall computers to fiber and install hotspots…

The board did appear to agree on getting the town hall computers connected to the fiber.

A motion to have a new wifi hotspot installed at an estimated cost of $486, to give broadband access to users in the parking lot, passed unanimously. The town board tabled a motion to get the hard-wiring done, since they felt they needed more information on the cost, but said they would consider it at their July meeting.

Not to harp on a feasibility study – but that would help them decide about hard-wiring in the future.

The board decided not to move forward with a computer for the public in the town hall. It seems that they felt the recommended computer was too expensive for the public….

Initially, township officials balked at the cost of the computer included in the proposal, saying they would rather see a more economical model for public use rather than a model that cost about $3,200.

I used to do tech assessments for nonprofits. I’ve had this discussion with people in the past. How come we need to buy a computer more expensive than my home computer? It’s a little like asking why a commercial oven is more expensive. Because the public computer will be used more, will be used harder and will called upon to meet a wider variety of needs. The secondary issue was a question of need…

But DeLuca insisted there was no need for a public computer at the town hall.

“Everybody I talk to,” he said, “nobody says we need a computer here.”

A feasibility study may prove his point or suggest a different answer.

The feasibility study will help decision makers learn what the community wants and needs! Folks who are interested in this part of Minnesota, are invited to attend  a St Louis County broadband meeting happening June 25 (Tuesday) to hear more about local efforts to get and use better broadband for economic development and quality of life.

St Louis County broadband efforts and opportunities to be highlighted at public event

I mentioned the meeting in a previous post. Here are more details. I am planning to livestream via Facebook

Saint Louis County broadband efforts and opportunities to be highlighted at public event

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (June 20, 2019) — Iron Range Broadband Communities invite Saint Louis County community members to attend a presentation on their project progress on June 25 from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the Mountain Iron Community Center.

Over the past two years, 10 community initiatives from across the Iron Range have been working to improve both access and use of broadband technologies.  These efforts are being supported with resources from the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, Blandin Foundation and Saint Louis County.

As broadband services grow increasingly important for community and economic development, community efforts to improve broadband access in Saint Louis County are gaining momentum.  Compared to much of northeastern Minnesota, Saint Louis County has large areas where local access and needs are considered unserved or under-served.

Feasibility studies analyzing broadband construction costs and revenue streams have been conducted in an area stretching from Hibbing to Mountain Iron and another in the Ely area.  Additional studies are planned that would include the Tower area, East Range and Laurentian Communities.

The event will highlight emerging broadband projects and related accessibility maps, feasibility study results, and insights on how to work with local broadband providers.  An opportunity for informal discussion over coffee and cookies will conclude the meeting. Co-sponsored by the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, Blandin Foundation and the Iron Range Broadband Communities, the event is open to the public.  There is no charge, pre-registration is not required.

EVENT ALERT: June 25 – What’s happening with Broadband in St Louis County?

I will be there and hope to livestream!

Learn about current broadband initiatives and available resources for broadband development in St Louis County.

Poor broadband services hurt quality of life, hinder economic developemnt and lower property values. Do not let your community or township be left behind! Local leadership matters!

June 25
1-3:30 pm
Mountain Iron Community Center



St Louis County/Blandin Overview

IRRR/St Louis County/Blandin Foundation Broadband Partnership

Update on Area Broadband Feasibility Studies

Provider Partnership Strategies

Broadband funding Resources

Prospective broadband project updates

Refreshments, informal discussion and networking


EVENT ALERT: 2019 Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities conference Sep 6

Looks like an interesting conference…

Join us for our inaugural Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) conference in Minnesota. Strengthen and broaden your regional networks as you connect with fellow:

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Business leaders
  • Economic development professionals
  • Decision makers
  • Community champions
  • And more

Come to share ideas, learn best practices and find tools and resources to support your entrepreneurial work. You’ll also hear from keynote speakers Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corporation, and Tom Smude, owner of Smude Enterprises.

Thursday, September 5 – Friday, September 6
8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Waseca City Hall

Learn more

MN Broadband Coalition meeting – celebrating success and planning for more

On Tuesday, 16 people met for the MN Broadband Coalition. It started with a congrats to everyone for $40 million for broadband grants in the legislature. It was nice to see in the introductions how members are planning and preparing to apply for grants (state and other) to extend broadband in the state. On the one hand, it’s great to see the interest and enthusiasm; on the other hand, it’s clear that communities need even more support to get broadband to everyone.

It was nice to see an array of members including many communities or association of communities and providers. People mentioned upcoming events (will post details when I get them) and/or mentioned that broadband has a place at the various annual meetings.

They did well with the legislature because we all worked from the same fact sheet. They had a unified voice. The work they did in 2018 built up a momentum and that helped. They had broadband bipartisan support. We got early media coverage. Getting letters to the editors of local papers was helpful.

Outside of the Coalition, the legislation passed Telecommute Forward, which is a great opportunity for communities. It’s a reason for many communities to talk to the Office of Broadband. For communities with broadband, it’s a chance to promote themselves. For communities without broadband, it’s a reason to rally.

Right now Minnesota is known as a leader for our broadband situation. It would be nice to build on that.

Plan for the future

April and May revenues for the State have been ahead of forecast. If there is a surplus, they will go for it. Even if they don’t get the funding, they build a momentum.

There were bills that were introduced related to policies. They consulted with people and decided not to pursue broadband policy changes:

  • The challenge process
  • Helping tribal areas and places without the tax base to raise 50 percent match

The new broadband Task Force might be a good forum to introduce policy. There are lots of events that the coalition could attend – for example the fall broadband conference. The hope is to keep the buzz going.

Telemedicine is only as strong as the available broadband

Duluth was host to Minnesota Rural Health Conference last week. The Duluth News Tribune wrote about the event. The meeting was attended by many elected officials…

Monday’s public health forum included Hargan and Stephen Censky, a deputy secretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a second panel, state Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, was seated next to state Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, along with Lindsay McLaughlin, health care and aging specialist in U.S. Sen. Tina Smith’s office. Schultz mentioned at one point that things might improve in 2020, and she and McLaughlin were more prone than the rest to talk of funding needs. But it was a largely bipartisan affair, with Zerwas and Schultz often nodding in agreement with each other.

Interesting to see that broadband took such a prominent part of the article and presumably the conference…

On another of many topics, Censky said the telemedicine that makes it possible to connect medical specialists with patients in remote places is only as strong as the available broadband network.

“One of the things that we are working on very hard is to close that digital divide that exists between the 53 million Americans who are living in areas without access to broadband,” said Censky, who grew up on a farm near Jackson, Minn.

“Much like we saw in the 1930s, where rural electrification was simply transformative for all of rural America, we also think that broadband and having access to broadband can be transformative for … rural residents (today) as well.”