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