Aitkin County gets Blandin grants for wifi, community website and high tech conference center

The Aitkin Age reports on Aitkin County’s community broadband partnership with the Blandin Foundation, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) and St. Louis County. They have been working on plans and have recently received funding for a few specific projects…

Residents came together last winter for a visioning session to name their technology priorities and create project ideas to help meet those priorities. Grant funding from this round will drive those projects forward. They include the following:

Wi-Fi for Palisade and Hill City: wireless Internet hubs will be launched in each community to attract commercial growth, promote connectivity, enhance educational opportunities and allow caregivers and their families to expand their availability to resources/support.

Aitkin County landing page: this webpage will combine information from a number of different sources to be a one-stop destination for area events.

Conference centers in Aitkin, McGregor and Hill City: a conference suite will be created complete with a mobile computer bank, smart boards, technology information centers and Wi-Fi hotspots.

“It is exciting to see so many Aitkin County residents and organizations working together to get these projects funded,” said Ross Wagner, Aitkin County Economic Development and Forest Industry coordinator. “Creating more access to broadband and educational opportunities will benefit the entire county.”

MN Legislative Committee leaves $20 million for broadband grants

The Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance met late Sunday night. The conference committee report for SF 1456 is available online.

It looks like the $20 million for broadband grants stays asis. Here are the details:

29.15 Subd. 8.Broadband Development $ 20,250,000 $ 250,000
29.16(a) $20,000,000 in fiscal year 2018 is for
29.17deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund
29.18account in the special revenue fund established
29.19under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396.
29.20(b) $250,000 each year is for the Broadband
29.21Development Office.

AND

39.12 Subd. 4.Administrative Services 7,386,000 7,386,000

39.17(b) $100,000 each year is for the support of
39.18broadband development

There is also legislation for small cell equipment collocation. I will to a separate post about that legislation.

Omnibus budget that include $15 million for broadband (SF1937) passes out of committee

MRP News reports …

Republican legislative leaders Tuesday threatened to push ahead with passing their budget bills despite likely vetoes from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, ratcheting up the pressure at the Capitol with only two weeks left in the session.

I got to see a little bit of the rush to pass budgets at the Conference Committee on SF1937 this morning. The meeting was called last night at 9:30, then time changed at 10:30. Meeting was scheduled for 9:30 this morning but probably started around 10:00.

You can watch the meeting below. Staff announced changes. Policymakers commented, which included some agreements and some disagreements. Then they voted (not unanimously) to pass the bill. Some voiced concern that the bill would get vetoed – and they’d be back to discuss issues again/further at a later date.

I won’t try to capture the whole conversation, only anything remotely related to broadband:

Rep Mahoney outlined a number of his concerns, including recognizing that satellite broadband is not sufficient for rural areas because many employers and potential economic development partners will not work with someone using a satellite connection because of security concerns. He also noted that $15 million for broadband grants is not enough because it doesn’t help rural economies grow into the future.

Senator Champion was concerned that there were no provisions on Internet privacy. (Someone else countered that actually Minnesota is one of two states that has an Internet Policy on the books.)

Senator Miller noted that there’s $15 million for border to border broadband, which rural areas need.

Here are documents from the meeting:

 

Republicans list proposed broadband funding as enticement for Governor

The Minnesota State Republican Caucus recently listed 5 reasons the Governor should sign each of the proposed budget bills. Broadband is included as a reason he should sign the Jobs & Energy budget…

Expands Access to Broadband Internet. Continues Minnesota’s efforts to expand broadband access to rural areas thanks to $15 million in new broadband grant funding.

 

A brief history/reminder of broadband funding in 2017:

And now the latest version of the budget proposes $20 million.

Bush Prize for Community Innovation deadline April 27

It seems like there are a lot of communities doing great things with broadband that could be contenders here…

The deadline to apply for the Bush Prize for Community Innovation is Thursday, April 27 at 12:00 p.m. Central.

The Bush Prize is awarded to organizations with a proven record of making great ideas happen.

Winners receive a flexible grant of up to $500,000. We also produce a short film and a case study to celebrate each winner’s success.

Check out all of our Bush Prize films!

SF1937 Omnibus Job Growth & Energy Finance bill passes – $7 million for broadband grants

A funny thing happened on my way to attend the SF1937 Omnibus discussion on the House floor on Thursday. First, I stopped to check out the satellite demonstration I mentioned earlier this week. HughesNet was giving demonstrations. The invitation has said bring your laptop so I was looking forward to testing Skype and some other applications. Unfortunately when I got there they told me I couldn’t use my own laptop. I could do a demonstration their laptop – but they didn’t have Skype. So no demo – but I did get a flier for their service.

Then I tried to go to the House Floor and was met by a lot of civic engagement. Specifically a lot of people were there to protest the Enbridge pipeline upgrades. So I wasn’t going to get anywhere near the room – but the meeting was well over 5 hours long so in retrospect, I dodged a bullet.

I’ve been watching the archive of the meeting and I’ve tried to pull out any discussion related to broadband. Spoiler alert – the Omnibus passed with what sounded like a genuine promise on both sides of the aisle to work together to smooth out wrinkles on contention.

Here are the broadband highlights in order discussed…

Ways and Means April 3 – Senate File 1937 Omnibus Job Growth and Energy Affordability bill moves to general register

The Minnesota Ways and Means met last night (video archive available)  to hear  SF1937 (HF2209) Omnibus Job Growth & Energy Affordability Finance. The language of HF2209 was inserted into SF1937 as a delete-all amendment. Here’s the latest version (3rd engrossment) available on the legislation site right now. (I don’t think it yet reflects the amendments from last night.)

The reduction is broadband funding was discussed. They have only budgeted $7 million for Border to Border grants. Representative Garofalo said that there was no need for funding since everyone now has access to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up through HugheNet satellite. I’ve pulled those segments out for quick viewing:

There were some concerns about VoIP. Rep Hilstrom took issue (around min 34) and was concerned that doing away with landlines will remove consumer protections. Also there was discussion related to the Amendment that changes the budget coming from telecom $2 billion to $977 million reduction – based on reductions coming from changes to VoIP.

SF 1937 is referred to the general register.