Morcom Township (St Louis County) hoping for a MN broadband grant

The Timberjay reports…

Residents here, who have been without reliable Internet access for years, could soon have some of the best broadband speeds in the area, if final funding from the state’s Border-to-Border grant program is approved later this year.

The Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation recently approved a $224,800 grant to the township, which means Morcom Township has now secured three-quarters of the $899,200 they’ll need to bring broadband to the 126 unserved and underserved households in the township and in an adjacent unorganized township to the north. Morcom Township is located west of Cook.

“We are just waiting to hear in December if we qualified for the state Border to Border grant,” said Morcom Town Clerk Sasha Lehto. Morcom is asking for $331,704 in border-to-border funding under a plan to utilize Paul Bunyan Communications as the township’s broadband provider. Paul Bunyan would commit $332,696 to the effort. Morcom Township has committed $10,000 in township funds for the project.

“This was out of our really small budget,” said Lehto, “but either you want it or you don’t. This is for our people.”

The need for reliable internet service in the Morcom Township area is clear.

The article demonstrates the importance of the MN grants. The hope they bring but in reality the state grants are the difference between a community getting improved broadband or not. I saw the difference it made looking at the most recent MN broadband county profiles – counties with grants saw improvement.

The article outlines a few project proposals from the area…

IRRR grants for broadband projects were also approved for:

 $579,272 to Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for the construction of a fiber network to serve 442 unserved and underserved households on the reservation. Total project cost is $2,317,090.

 $105,450 for Ash River for the construction of a broadband network for 121 unserved and underserved households in the Ash River area. Total project cost is $421,800.

 $236,050 for the Elephant and Black Duck lake areas for the construction of a fiber network to serve 124 unserved and underserved households near Elephant Lake. Total project cost is $944,200.

Both Paul Bunyan Communications (Ash River and Elephant Lake) and Consolidated Telephone Company (Bois Forte) are provider partners for these projects. All these projects are also scheduled to receive state funding from the Border to Border program (pending final approval).

Prairie Island Indian Community now enjoys Gig access through HBC

HBC reports

Members of the Prairie Island Indian Community now have access to the fasted Internet service available with the completion of a new Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network constructed by Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) of Winona, MN.

According to HBC President Dan Pecarina, every residence now has access to symmetrical Gigabit (1,000 megabits) broadband. He said that having access to that level of high-speed broadband will be life-changing for the community members.

“Having access to symmetrical Gigabit Internet will enhance the lives of the residents of the Prairie Island community exponentially by allowing an array of advantages. These super-fast speeds will have a dramatic impact on everything from economic development and education, to the delivery of healthcare, and other community services.”

The struggle for broadband connectivity is real for rural America, but even more so in rural Indian communities. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about 8 percent of Americans, an estimated 24 million people, still have no access to in-home high-speed internet service. That percentage is even higher for rural Indian communities. According to an FCC report, roughly 35 percent of Americans living in tribal lands lack access to any broadband services.

The burden of bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas has fallen on smaller providers, like HBC. Large broadband companies prefer densely populated areas where their return on investment is greater. The HBC high-speed broadband network provides Internet, Video, and Phone services to over 30 rural communities in Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

But bringing the high-speed network to the tribal community required communication, coordination, special permitting, and a little patience.

“HBC has been working with tribal leaders for the past few years to build a network to serve the community,” Pecarina explained. “The process to build on tribal land was fairly lengthy and, at times, frustrating. While there were significant delays due to the federal government approval process, once the project received the necessary approvals, things came together rather quickly.”

Construction on the Prairie Island FTTH network began in June with the first community member homes being connected to the network in September.

This is the third fiber-optic network project that HBC has brought to the Prairie Island. In 2017, HBC worked with Dakota County and Dakota Electric Association to build a fiber optic connection to the Prairie Island area for County and Electric Association purposes. HBC turned their portion of the fiber build into fiber to the home service along the route and to install High Density WiFi Technology at the Treasure Island Resort, Pow Wow grounds, and the Casino’s outdoor amphitheater. HBC also offers Video service to Treasure Island Resort properties along with a variety of additional data services.

“This is a prime example of what public, private, and co-operative entities can accomplish when they work together.” Pecarina stated. “The Prairie Island Tribal Council’s broadband vision and the cooperative work with HBC to build this network for its community, is proof that fiber based broadband services can reach even some of the most remote areas.”

Bicameral Bill Introduces to Increase Access To Broadband Service For Low-Income Americans

From Senator Durbin’s press release (Sen Klobuchar is co-signer)…

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18) today introduced a bicameral bill that would increase access to broadband service for low-income urban and rural Americans.  The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would help states increase awareness of, and enrollment in, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline program, which aims to help low-income households pay for their telephone and broadband service charges by providing a monthly subsidy of $9.25.  Enrollment in the Lifeline program remains extremely low nationwide. …

Along with Durbin and Maloney, the Promoting Access to Broadband Act is also cosponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 50 percent of non-broadband users cite cost as a reason that they do not have broadband at home, with 21 percent citing cost as the most important reason they do not have broadband.  In 2017, the Lifeline program had just a 28 percent participation rate nationwide.

The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would do the following:

  • Award grants to at least five states;
  • Direct the FCC to consider several factors in evaluating the applications, including: states that have a higher number of covered individuals, states with plans with the potential to reach a higher percentage of eligible-but-not-enrolled households, and the geographic diversity of the applicants;
  • Allow states to use the funds for a variety of Lifeline enrollment efforts, including:
    • Informing Medicaid enrollees or SNAP participants of potential eligibility in the Lifeline program,
    • Providing these individuals with information about how to apply for the Lifeline program,
    • Partnering with non-profit and community-based organizations to provide individuals with assistance applying for Lifeline and information about product and technology choices; and
  • Require the FCC to issue a report to Congress within a year of establishing the grant program evaluating the program’s effectiveness.

The bill is supported by the National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; the United Church of Christ, OC Inc.; the National Digital Inclusion Alliance; Third Way; and Public Knowledge.

Get ready for Digital Inclusion Week: Oct 7-11

Digital Inclusion Week is less than a month away! I always think this is a great excuse to offer that class you wanted to try or host that tech fair. Heck – the Blandin Foundation is hosting a whole conference! (The conference is Oct 8-10: Innovation, putting broadband to work. It is a perfect fit; the timing may be serendipitous.)

The folks at NDIA have made it easy to find an event in your area or promote an event you’re hosting. Check out the website for some fun ideas…

What Kinds of Events Do People Organize?

  • Digital resource fair– bring together digital inclusion providers for a family-friendly fair that promotes opportunities to learn and raffles devices or services to participants

  • Door-to-door outreach– canvass an area of the community with low rates of access to educate residents about low-cost broadband options and your organization’s services

  • Device donation drive– collect and refurbish used desktops and laptops to disseminate to program participants

  • One-day workshoprelated to a specific technology training need in your community (e.g. smartphones, cloud applications, computer basics)

  • Resume rally– help people learn how to create a resume and search online for job openings

  • Open house– to promote the work of your organization to the community and key stakeholders

  • Internet enrollment event– partner with a low-cost internet service provider to get people signed up for affordable broadband


Libraries need affordable broadband because their patrons need it!

I couldn’t resist posting this article. Libraries are great equalizers. I know because I have spent my time on a Reference Desk. Libraries provide broadband where it’s most needed and at least as importantly – the librarians provide a guided tour to those who need it.

Public Knowledge reports/implores folks to consider the on the FCC’s proposal to cap the Universal Service Fund …

Libraries need quality, affordable broadband internet access to provide nearly all of their community services. While many branches lack such access, libraries in rural America have it particularly tough. Almost 20 million people lack access to adequate broadband service in rural areas, and nearly a third of rural Americans do not have access to broadband at home. While this digital divide affects everyone, it disproportionately impacts communities of color, particularly in rural areas. Libraries play a key role as “anchor institutions” in closing the rural broadband gap not only by providing direct internet access to those most affected, such as seniors and job seekers, but also by acting as a hub around which to extend additional broadband deployment to local residences and businesses. Traditionally, the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund (USF) has funded broadband deployment to underserved areas. Unfortunately, despite 42% of libraries having internet speeds slower than 10Mbps, the Trump administration’s FCC has now proposed to implement a cap on the USF, which would curtail libraries’ ability to close the rural digital divide.

Bridging the digital divide can be accomplished in part by connecting anchor institutions like libraries together. A recent report by CTC Technology & Energy concluded that connecting anchor institutions would bring 95% of the U.S. population within the ZIP Code of an anchor’s broadband. The FCC’s current proposal to cap the USF is a step in the wrong direction as it risks underfunding certain programs like E-rate, which provides much-needed broadband subsidies for libraries and schools. Instead of jeopardizing the critical role libraries are playing in closing the digital divide, we should be empowering them.

Limiting the broadband deployment challenge to simply serving libraries and other anchor institutions could also prevent libraries from evolving their services fully into the digital age. Lack of broadband access in the home limits the benefit of the digital services libraries can offer to those who can afford the cost of in-home broadband connectivity. Just take a look at the long lines to use a computer in a public library today and you will see families and users who could benefit from hours of library services a day, instead of a rationed amount of digital media time based on the physical limitation of connecting in the library building. With universal access to high-speed broadband, libraries could transition resources to their digital archives and online services that can be accessed by more people through a decentralized internet instead of maintaining large banks of computers to meet the needs of every patron.

Digital Inclusion grant opportunity for libraries: deadline Dec 20, 2019

I’d love to see Minnesota libraries apply…

Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries

December 02, 2019

Application: FY 2020 Notice of Funding Opportunity (PDF 399KB)
Grant Amount: $10,000–$50,000
Grant Period: Two years
Cost Share Requirement: None

Program Overview:
Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries (APP) is a special initiative of the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program. The goal of this initiative is to support projects that strengthen the ability of small and/or rural libraries and archives to serve their communities and to build grantee capacity through participation in a community of practice. IMLS invites applications that focus on the following topics:

  • transforming school library practice
  • community memory
  • digital inclusion

There’s a webinar next week for more info:

We invite you to participate in a pre-application webinar to learn more about the program and ask questions.

  • Thursday, September 12, 2019 3:00-4:00 PM Eastern

Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work for Digital Equity – Oct 8-10

A message from the Blandin Foundation…

You’re Invited!

October 8-10, 2019
Grand View Lodge – Nisswa, MN



Please join us October 8-10, at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa for our annual broadband conference, Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work.

Broadband is a powerful tool for innovation, and we’re going to show you how to best use it to improve quality of life and increase community vitality.

We’ll start with a fast-paced show and tell session where 12 practitioners will show you how they are maximizing the benefits of broadband. Expect to hear about big gaming (for money!), virtual reality, turning a laundromat into a digital information center, and more. Then we’ll take a closer look at how broadband technologies are transforming healthcare, education, and precision agriculture.

You’ll get an opportunity to mix and mingle with presenters and attendees. Pick up some ideas, and start some new partnerships!

Check out the conference website for more details.

Register Today!

Join policymakers, economic and community development professionals, and community broadband champions from across the state for this annual opportunity to Learn, Connect, and Engage.

We hope to see you there!