How do you start a community conversation on broadband? A sneak peek into Chisago County

Today I was an interloper in Chisago County as the local EDA (Nancy Hoffman) held meetings (I attended one at noon; the other is at 5:00) to get community members to talk about what to do to improve broadband for everyone and could they do anything fast enough to apply for state grants. (Deadline to let the Office of Broadband know if you’re planning to apply is the end of July!) There were about 40 people – including two legislators – both with dire home broadband access.

I don’t want to give away any major community secrets here – but they were kind enough to let me take notes, a video and share the PPT. They are working with Bill Coleman from Community Technology Advisors (whose name may also be familiar from Blandin projects).

First everyone introduced themselves. Many were happy with their broadband service; many were not. Turns out if you’re in town, the odds are better that you’re happy. Several people worked in town where the access was good but went home to bad service. One name mentioned often – and with representation at the meeting was MidCo. People were happy but even the guy from MidCo was quick to say they provided good service in town but haven’t found a way to enter the rural market.

A couple attendees admitted using a combination of satellite and mobile (hotspot) service based on their absolute needs for speed, kids’ needs, data caps and costs. Some didn’t even have mobile and had only satellite, which was not reliable – on windy, rainy or snowy days.

Then they got an introduction from Bill and a PPT presentation.

The goal was to gauge interest – and attendees were invited to sign up if they wanted to peruse a grant application. As Nancy said, it’s a lot of hard work but she was willing to help. To put context to the opportunity – Sunrise Township is in Chisago County. They received funding in the last grant award round and are working with CenturyLink on a FTTH solutions. They learned a ton in the process but a lot of folks are watching – because it’s a great example of using local state funding to leverage federal CAF funding. The inherent issue with CAF is that (as the PPT shows) the required upgrade there is only 10 Mbps down and 1 up.

Here are some loose notes on the conversation and questions.

To meet the 2026 speed goals (100/20) we need fiber. It’s important to focus on that speed goal. Already 70 percent of MN has 100/20. Continue reading

Communities are getting ready for MN state broadband grant applications

Good grant applications don’t just happen – no matter how good the grant writer is. Good grant applications come from good ideas fleshed out with good partners.

I’m see some communities get started in different ways. In Aitkin, the local legislator is reminding people (via Brainerd Dispatch) to attend upcoming webinars on the Border to Border Broadband grants…

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, urged local organizations and individuals interested in applying for Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant funding to attend upcoming informational webinars to learn more.

In Chisago County, they are having a planning session on Monday to talk about how to move forward.

One good step would be to attend one of the upcoming grant webinars with the Office of Broadband Development. (First one in Monday June 26.)

Details on MN Border to Border Broadband Grant informational webinars

From the Office of Broadband Development…

You are invited to attend the informational webinars on the 2017 Border to Border Broadband Infrastructure Grant; four webinars scheduled in June and July.

Need more information and have questions about the 2017 Broadband Grant Program? Beginning on June 26 and repeating three more times (July 7, July 10 and July 12), the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD) will host informational webinars/conference calls on the 2017 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program to discuss the 2017 grant program, the application process and answer any questions.

The grant application is available for review now (click here for program details, grant information and access to the application). The grant application filing period opens on July 3, 2017.

The deadline for submitting applications is Sept. 11, 2017, at 4 p.m. Please note, however, if you are considering submitting a broadband grant application, you must contact wireline broadband providers in your proposed project area by July 31 to comply with the pre-application notification portion of the application process (or six weeks before you file your application, if you file before Sept. 11).

Webinars will be held on the dates and times below. Click on your preferred date to register. After filling out the form, click on “Register Now.”

Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the meeting. The first hour of each webinar will cover the grant program and application process details. The second hour will be available for any additional questions from participants. If you have difficulty with the registration process via the registration links above, please send an email with your contact information to deed.broadband@state.mn.us and OBD staff will assist you in registering for the webinars, or call 651-259-7610 to reach the office by phone.

Upcoming webinars on the Border to Border Minnesota funding for broadband

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Office of Broadband Development, will be soliciting proposals from qualified organizations for Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grants. The grant application period opens on July 3, 2017. The application deadline is 4:00 p.m. Monday, September 11, 2017.

Here’s the application: 2017 Broadband Grant Application (including the scoring criteria)

Are you thinking about applying? Check out these upcoming informational webinars offered by the staff at the MN Office of Broadband Development:

The first webinar will be held on Monday, June 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Central Time). There are three more scheduled, all repeats of the first:

  • Friday, July 7 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Monday, July 10 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 12 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The first hour of each webinar will cover the grant program and application process details. The second hour will be available for any additional questions attendees may have.

To register to attend the webinars, please go to the registration links below for the date/time you wish to select, click on the URL, fill out the form, and then click on “Register Now.” Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the meeting.

To register for the Monday, June 26, 2017 meeting, go to: https://intercall.webex.com/intercall/j.php?RGID=r0d9c21dd3d7de63f4fd6ed318844adda

To register for the Friday, July 7, 2017 meeting, go to: https://intercall.webex.com/intercall/j.php?RGID=reac3f726ca1a5f828fbeec23be8530c2

To register for the Monday, July 10, 2017 meeting, go to:
https://intercall.webex.com/intercall/j.php?RGID=r769d112a67e75ef8c603112215f3f163

To register for the Wednesday, July 12, 2017, go to: https://intercall.webex.com/intercall/j.php?RGID=r60d39322f2fdba92781b563601eeda79

If you have difficulty with the registration process via the registration links above, please send an email with your contact information to deed.broadband@state.mn.us and OBD staff will assist you in registering for the webinars, or call 651-259-7610 to reach the office by phone.

The grant application is available for review now (click here for grant info and access to the application). The grant application filing period opens on July 3, 2017.

The deadline for submitting applications is September 11, 2017 at 4 p.m.  However, please note, if you are considering submitting a broadband grant application, you must contact wireline broadband providers in your proposed project area by July 31 to comply with the pre-application notification portion of the application process (or six weeks before you file your application, if you file before September 11).

Kandiyohi County residents need to sign up to get broadband project going

West Central Tribune reports on the status of the Border to Border grant in Kandiyohi. They need more people to sign up for service before the project can progress. If they don’t the project will be delayed and possibly in jeopardy…

Kandiyohi County officials have partnered with Consolidated Telecommunications Co. for a $10 million broadband project to construct a fiber line to bring high-speed access to north central Kandiyohi County. This Kandiyohi County-Consolidated Telecommunications partnership would bring the high-speed access plus high-definition TV and phone services to homes and businesses.

Currently, the proposed Kandiyohi County project has reached 72 percent of the household/business sign-up goal of 800, but still needs another 220 households to sign up to reach the project’s goal.

The sign-up goal must be reached before CTC can begin construction of their fiber lines in the proposed service area. The longer it takes to reach the sign-up goal, the greater the likelihood that the fiber installation may not be completed before the winter freeze, which will delay installation progress another year.

If the Kandiyohi County project does not reach the initial sign-up goal, the state grant funding could move onto another community on the state’s waiting list. Then Kandiyohi County broadband needs would likely move to the back of the line and prospects for future broadband improvements would be very poor.

If commercial broadband companies have not invested in broadband access for rural Kandiyohi County over the past quarter century of the internet era, why does anyone think these private businesses are going to invest anything soon or even in the next decade or quarter century.

So this Kandiyohi County-CTC project is basically the last best chance for developing high-speed broadband access in rural areas of the county. This is also a major economic development opportunity for the residents and businesses of our county.

Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grant opportunity opens July 3

From the Office of Broadband Development email alert…

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Office of Broadband Development, will be soliciting proposals from qualified organizations for Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grants. The grant application period opens on July 3, 2017. The application deadline is 4:00 p.m. Monday, September 11, 2017.

Application Process

DEED is required by law to post the specific criteria and any quantitative weighting scheme or scoring system that will be used to evaluate or rank applications and award grants for this competitive grant program.

Contact Information

If you have any questions, you can call 651-259-7610 or email the Broadband office at deed.broadband@state.mn.us or look through the Broadband Grant Program FAQs. The FAQs will be updated throughout the grant application process as new questions come in.

This notice does not commit the State of Minnesota or DEED to entering into a grant contract with any organization.

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.