OPPORTUNITY: Pine County Digital Inclusion Survey

Here’s an opportunity for folks in Pine County and an idea for other communities as Pine County News reports

The Pine County Digital Connection Committee is conducting a digital inclusion survey in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development’s Office of Broadband Development (OBD), to gather information to inform the digital equity plan that the OBD is preparing as part of the federal Digital Equity Act.

OBD defines digital inclusion as the condition in which all Minnesotans have the option and opportunity to use technology – including internet access – in ways that bring meaning to their daily lives. The feedback and insights provided through this survey will profoundly shape the content of the digital equity plan and play a significant role in determining the state’s future strategies to advance digital inclusion.

The survey can completed online until June 20, 2023 at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/R/T2LG6ZB or scan this QR code with your camera on a smartphone:

Those without access to the internet can complete a paper survey.  Copies of the paper survey are available at the Office of the County Administrator, Pine County Courthouse, 635 Northridge Drive, Suite 200, Pine City.

East Central Energy (ECE) starts fiber construction in Dalbo, Ogilvie, Braham and Pine City (Isanti and Kanabec Counties)

Isanti-Chisago County Star reports

East Central Energy is proud to announce that construction for ECE Fiber started on May 8, 2023. Construction will consist of installing both overhead and underground fiber lines, starting in the Dalbo area before moving to Ogilvie, Braham, and Pine City throughout the remainder of the year.

The cooperative first explored providing fiber internet services in 2019 but it wasn’t until November 2021 that the ECE Board of Directors made the decision to move forward with a full fiber-to-the-home project. Since then, the co-op has developed ECE Fiber and is advancing toward bringing reliable internet services to some of the most underserved counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This is big news for an area that’s been working on broadband for a long time. Last year Isanti and Kanabec Counties were in the bottom 10 served counties in Minnesota. ECE has been working hard to make it happen…

Fiber construction is scheduled to take place over the next five years, covering all of ECE’s service territory. Construction plans have been confirmed for 2023 and are in motion until the ground freezes later this year. Moving forward, ECE Fiber will solidify areas each summer to be constructed in the following year and updates will be shared on ecefiber.com….

ECE members are encouraged to visit ecefiber.com and sign up to express interest in fiber internet services, and to review package tiers and prices. By signing up online, members will be notified as ECE gets closer to building in their area and receive updates via email.


Minnesota to invest $500 million for tech initiatives in State Government

State Scoop reports

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a dozen government spending bills into law on Wednesday, setting funding for the next two years. In total, the bills provide more than $500 million for technology initiatives across state government — with $130 million going directly toward the Minnesota IT Services agency and its efforts to modernize state systems and digital services.

One of the 12 funding bills Walz signed, the state government and elections finance bill, lays out how MNIT will use the new funding, including greater cybersecurity protections, putting up matching funds for Minnesota’s award from the federal cyber grant program and improved user experiences in state digital services.

Minnesota Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes said in an interview that the funding for technology initiatives at both his agency and others across the state signals a unified stance by Walz’s administration for improving residents’ experiences.

MN high school tech education is the worst

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

In the next 10 years, Minnesota businesses will have to fill 81,000 tech jobs, including 45,000 in the next five years, vacancies mostly from retirements and job changes to other states, according to the Minnesota Technology Association (MTA). In that same span, there will be an additional 6,500 IT jobs.

Minnesota projects to produce only 6,600 new tech workers by 2032, not nearly enough to address all the positions.

Technology is a profitable career choice…

As of 2022, there are roughly 110,000 tech employees in the state. That figure ranks 18th among the 50 states, according the Computing Technology Industry Association. A year ago, Minnesota ranked 12th in net tech employment.

Experts forecast the state’s unemployment rate for tech occupations to stay at 1.1% through 2027. Software developers and analysts are the most sought after workers in Minnesota with more than 7,000 positions advertised each month, though employers fill only 1 in 4 of those positions each month.

In Minnesota, the annual median tech wage is $94,715, 106% higher than the state’s median wage. Depriving students, especially those living in underrepresented communities, from high salaries can be a detriment to the state’s economy, experts said.

Schools are not helping…

Minnesota ranks last in the U.S. in the percentage of high schools offering computer science coursework with only 21% doing so. Of those schools, 12% are in urban areas, according to MTA. The national average of states whose schools offer computer science courses is 53%.

Meanwhile in Iowa, 71% of high schools offer a computer science course, and in Wisconsin, it’s 66%. North Dakota recently signed into law a bill that makes taking at least one computer science or cybersecurity course a requirement for graduation.

EVENT: June 17: Community broadband discussion in Wiscoy Township (Winona County)

The Winona Post reports

The Minnesota Department of Economic Expansion is helping host a Digital Inclusion Committee in Wiscoy Township in southern Winona County. The committee will receive community feedback from folks that are lacking good broadband access, then use this information to help write Minnesota’s Digital Equity Plan.

The committee is being hosted by resident Dan Wilson. “Minnesota is expected to invest more than $275 million in broadband internet expansion in the next couple years, and I wanted to make sure that rural voices are a part of the conversation on how to spend it,” Wilson said.

The community conversation is open to anyone in the area lacking access to high-speed broadband. The group will discuss the impact of not having good internet access and possible solutions. The meeting will take place on Saturday, June 17, from 2-3:30 p.m. at 30935 Zephyr Valley Lane, Rushford. Refreshments will be provided.

I assume this meeting is part of the outreach for the State’s Digital Equity Plan being written by the Office of Broadband Development.

Turning wind into broadband in Lincoln County – got Lincoln County from ranked 65 to 2

KSTP is following renewable energy and snuck into the story was a highlight on how Lincoln County used the proceeds from wind taxes…

The wind farms also create a significant windfall. The counties and townships generate revenue through the Wind Energy Production Tax. The funding is tied to the power generated by the wind towers.

While the revenue is not guaranteed year to year, data shows Lincoln County’s share has steadily increased over the past 10 years, hitting an all-time high in 2021 at nearly $3.5 million.

VanDeVere said the money is most often used to offset property taxes, but in 2020, Lincoln County invested in a massive expansion of broadband service in the county.

“Every rural house, every hog confinement, every dairy setup. Anybody that wanted it, they would hook it up,” VanDeVere said. The investment meant 99% of the county had access to high-speed internet in the middle of the pandemic.

The frustrating news, and real point of the story, is that apparently there’s now too much energy going through the lines (imagine that with broadband!) and some of it is getting lost because there’s not one to send it and no way to save it.

Lincoln County (Oct 2022) did go from 80 percent of the county had access to broadband at speeds of 100/20 to 99.99 in the last year, which meant they went from rank of 65 to 2 in the last county profile check in.


RDOF areas that have not received RDOF funding authorization can apply for BEAD

Telecompetitor has an update on the situation with $9.2 billion of RDOF money doled out by the NTIA based on results of a reverse auction. The largest winning bidder was LTD Broadband, which means they won the exclusive opportunity to apply for funding in certain areas – many of them in Minnesota. It’s a situation we’ve been following in Minnesota, especially since it has led the Minnesota PUC (Public Utilities Commission) to delve into the working of LTD Broadband.

The good news they report is that RDOF areas that have not received RDOF funding authorization can apply for BEAD. One thorn in the side of Minnesota communities in LTD-RDOF areas is that being in the limbo of possibly receiving funds left they out of a state Border to Border funding round.

Here are more details from Telecompetitor

Winning bidders were required to submit long-form applications and obtain eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status if they didn’t already have it. A company is put on an RDOF ready-to-authorize list when the FCC has reviewed and approved its long-form application. The company then has about two weeks to obtain a letter of credit and a bankruptcy opinion letter, which the FCC reviews and approves prior to putting the company on a list of authorized bidders.

Three-quarters of the funding tentatively won in the auction is slated to go to just 10 companies. Among the top winning bidders, most of the companies planning to deploy fiber broadband have had all or most of their funding released. Several companies planning to use alternate technologies – including gigabit fixed wireless and low earth orbit satellites – have not yet appeared on a ready-to-authorize list. Gigabit fixed wireless has received criticism as a relatively unproven technology and LEO satellites have been criticized because they also are relatively unproven and have a limited lifespan.

LTD Broadband, which was the largest winning bidder and which plans to use fiber broadband for its deployments, also has not yet appeared on an RDOF ready-to-authorize list. The company has received considerable criticism from people who question whether it has the resources to complete the bids for which it won funding.

A lot has changed on the rural broadband front since the RDOF auction was completed in late 2020. Since then, legislators have made an unprecedented amount of funding available for rural broadband. The $9.2 billion tentatively awarded in the auction is only a fraction of the $42.5 billion that will be awarded through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program created in the infrastructure act and that will be administered by NTIA.

Rules for that program were recently released and they reveal lessons learned from the RDOF auction. Rather than using a reverse auction to award funding, the BEAD program will use a merit system that prioritizes fiber broadband.

Unserved locations that are supposed to receive broadband through the RDOF program are not eligible for BEAD or other funding programs, but just this week, we got some additional clarification about that. Alan Davidson, head of NTIA, told attendees at an industry conference this week that if an area has yet to receive RDOF funding authorization, that area should be eligible for BEAD grants, and it would then be up to the FCC to “deconflict” any potential overlap.


OPPORTUNITY: Research Analysis Specialist – GIS Analyst

An opportunity to get a job helping Minnesota get better broadband with the Office of Broadband Development…

Working Title: GIS Analyst
Job Class: Research Analysis Specialist
Agency: Department of Employment and Economic Development

  • Who May Apply: This vacancy is open for bids and for all qualified job seekers simultaneously. Bidders will be considered through 05/26/2023.
  • Date Posted: 05/20/2023
  • Closing Date: 06/05/2023
  • Hiring Agency/Seniority Unit: Employ & Econ Development Dept / Employ & Economic Dev-MAPE
  • Division/Unit: Business & Community Dev / 0359 Broadband Development
  • Work Shift/Work Hours: Day Shift
  • Days of Work: Monday – Friday
  • Travel Required: Yes, 5% occasional travel
  • Salary Range: $25.25 – $37.02 / hourly; $52,722 – $77,297 / annually
  • Classified Status: Classified
  • Bargaining Unit/Union: 214 – MN Assoc of Professional Empl/MAPE
  • FLSA Status: Nonexempt
  • Telework Eligible: Yes, may be eligible to telework up to five (5) days per week
  • Designated in Connect 700 Program for Applicants with Disabilities: Yes

Make a difference in the lives of Minnesotans.

The work you’ll do is more than just a job. Join the talented, engaged and inclusive workforce dedicated to creating a better Minnesota.

Job Summary

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst supports the work of the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) by providing broadband related mapping coordination, data collection, data analysis and geospatial data collection as it relates to the programs administered by the Office. Those programs include the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program, the Lower Population Density Pilot Program, the Line Extension Connection Program and the Digital Equity Act grant programs and other digital equity initiatives. The primary responsibility of this position is to contribute to the strategy, plan, design, implementation, and maintenance of broadband office mapping programs and related data and applications to ensure compliance with state and federal program requirements including the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, a component of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

This position will work closely with the state’s broadband mapping contractor, partners, and colleagues to coordinate broadband and digital equity related data collection activities and develop new state broadband map layers. This position will work with OBD staff, including broadband grant administrators and digital equity staff, and stakeholders to handle design, maintenance, updates, grant compliance, and troubleshooting of broadband maps, dashboards, websites and data collection. This position will be responsible for identifying, analyzing and interpreting large data sets related to broadband access, affordability and adoption in the state.

The GIS Analyst reports to the Executive Director of the Office of Broadband Development and takes daily work direction from the Deputy Director. This is a position requiring attention to detail, GIS experience, and an ability to prioritize work and resources while meeting deadlines.

This posting may be used to fill multiple positions.


Minimum Qualifications

To receive credit for your education and experience, your resume should clearly describe how you meet each minimum and/or preferred qualification listed, including dates of employment.

Two (2) years* of professional training or experience in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Experience collecting and processing geospatial data and using the data for cartography or map making. Experience with various Esri GIS tools or products such as ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS for Developers, etc.

*Bachelor’s degree in Geography, Geographic Information Systems, Cartography or other closely related field as determined by the agency may substitute one (1) year of experience OR a bachelor’s degree in any field with a certificate in Geographic Information Systems may substitute one (1) year of experience

Applicants that meet the above minimum qualification will be further evaluated on the following:

GIS Experience in telecommunications, broadband, digital equity or for grant compliance

Written and oral communication skills to articulate complex procedures in plain English

Experience working as part of a team to complete large-scale, complex projects

Ability to pay attention to details

Incumbent must maintain valid driver’s license, & insurance, OR have other reliable transportation

Preferred Qualifications

Telecom/Cable/Internet Service Provider industry experience

Experience creating maps and data sets by compiling information from multiple data sources

Our employees are dedicated to ensuring cultural responsiveness. Preferred candidates will have a variety of experiences working effectively with others from different backgrounds and cultures

Additional Requirements

This position requires successful completion of the following:

Resumes of all applicants to this posting will be evaluated against the Minimum Qualifications stated above. If your skills match the required skills for this position, the department may contact you. Employee reference checks will be conducted on all finalists. This may include a review of documentation related to job performance and education. It includes contact with the applicant’s current and/or former employers.

A Criminal Background Check will be conducted on all finalists for this position. A criminal conviction will not automatically remove you from consideration for employment.

When the position requires travel and the applicant drives a state owned or leased vehicle, a driver’s license record check will be conducted.

Must be legally authorized to work in country of employment without sponsorship for employment visa status (e.g., H1B status).

Application Details

How to Apply

Select “Apply for Job” at the top of this page. If you have questions about applying for jobs, contact the job information line at 651-259-3637 or email careers@state.mn.us. For additional information about the application process, go to http://www.mn.gov/careers.

If you have questions about the position, contact Amber Yang at amber.yang@state.mn.us.

Gov Walz signs Ag Bill with $100 million for broadband

CBS News reports

More Minnesotans will soon have access to high-speed internet under a new bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Tim Walz.

The bill provides $100 million to expand high-speed broadband access across the state as part of the state’s goal of ensuring access for all Minnesotans.

According to state data, more than 200,000 Minnesota households didn’t have access to wired broadband service with basic internet speeds last year. Most of the underserved areas are in rural communities.

The governor’s office said that the investment supplements federal funding allocated to Minnesota under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Also reported in:

It’s great news but a far cry from the $276 million in the Governor’s budget earlier in the session.

Midco offers recommendations on ReConnect funding

It’s smart to try to find out what’s working on what’s not with federal funding for broadband – especially as we’re looking at tremendous amounts of funding soon. Hearing from providers is helpful; I hope they are getting feedback from communities too. NCTA reports…

Midco is a leader in the rural broadband industry serving over 490,000 homes and businesses across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, and Wisconsin. The company has invested over $765 million in private capital in the last six years to extend and upgrade its fiber network – in places like Hartford, South Dakota – despite some of its communities housing less than 100 people.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Midco will share its experiences connecting the Midwest and discuss challenges and solutions facing rural broadband deployment.

Here’s a list of the problems they see…

  • The insufficient focus on directing funds to genuinely unserved areas wastes government resources and encourages overbuilding in areas already burdened by challenging economics.
  • Legacy application requirements for certain experienced businesses that discourage participation by companies.
  • The lack of sufficient coordination between the many agencies giving out broadband funding, which can lead to overbuilding and forum shopping.
  • The lack of flexibility in program speed thresholds to permit alternative platform solutions like fixed wireless to be used when the per-household costs of a terrestrial fiber solution may be cost-prohibitive.

Here are their recommendations…

  • Require that at least 90% of households in a proposed service area lack broadband access.
  • Prioritize applications in areas without 25/3 service.
  • Update buildout speed requirements that would consider different technological solutions to connect hard-to-reach areas.
  • Exclude funding in areas where providers have already been granted funding under another government program, unless used by the same provider for different expenses or to achieve expedited deployment milestones.
  • Simplify the application process.
  • Establish better communication between federal agencies to ensure transparency and avoid duplication of funding.


Paul Bunyan Communication to bring Gigazone to Grand Rapids, Warba, Marble, Calumet, and Waukenabo Township in Aitken County

Big news from Paul Bunyan Communications for Aitken County…

Paul Bunyan Communications will be expanding its all-fiber optic network the GigaZone®, in 2023 to over 2,500 more locations in areas of south Grand Rapids, Warba, Marble, Calumet, and Waukenabo Township in Aitken County.
“We are excited to continue our efforts to bring gigabit broadband Internet to those currently without reliable Internet access in our region. Internet access is no longer a luxury, it is a vital component of everyday life and our cooperative continues to expand our network to bring this essential access to more homes and businesses right here in northern Minnesota” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
Anyone interested in getting connected to the all-fiber optic broadband network should sign up for service now. That can be done online, over the phone, or in person at our Grand Rapids Customer Service & Technology Center. To check to see if a specific location is within an expansion area, visit https://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/availability-map/ Paul Bunyan Communications will be also mailing more information to those within the 2023 plans as construction is about to begin in their area. Construction will take place over the summer with services expected to be available by winter.
“This will be a huge service improvement for everyone in the project areas. It is very challenging for those who don’t have true high-speed internet available at their home or business. As more and more students and employees work from home, many people are learning how critical upload speed is for their job or school work. Unlike many other providers, our speeds are symmetric, the same speeds are available for upload and download. This will be a game changer for these areas.” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications Information Technology and Development Manager.
The cooperative’s services will become available once the network is operational including GigaZone™ Internet with its unprecedented broadband speeds of up to 10 Gig and low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone™ voice telephone service. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications, membership is included by subscribing to either local phone service or GigaZone™ Internet service.

Last year Aitken County ranked 77 out of 87 for MN broadband county ranking with 5527 households unserved. This deployment will make a difference!

NTIA Commits Nearly $500,000 in Internet for All Grants to White Earth in MN

NTIA  reports

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today it has awarded grants totaling $4,997,592.68 to 10 Tribes as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).

With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these new grants bring the total of the program to over $1.77 billion awarded to 157 Tribal entities. Record investments in high-speed internet deployment are a key part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

These grants from President Biden’s Internet for All initiative will help reduce monthly Internet service costs, plan for future Internet infrastructure investments, upgrade network equipment, and purchase devices.

White Earth Band of Chippewa in MN was one of 10 recipients:

They received $500,000.00: This Broadband Use and Adoption project will equip 6 community centers/business incubators with computer stations and online training courses for the approximately 3,343 White Earth Tribal Members.

Comcast bring Gig access to Wayzata MN

Bring Me the News reports that Comcast is bringing to Wayzata “speeds faster than 1 Gbps and advanced WiFi technology…”

Want to see the possibilities of tomorrow’s internet on full display? Look no further than Wayzata, where Comcast is now beginning to roll out its entire suite of innovative broadband services.

It’s the latest step in Comcast’s Twin Cities expansion, which has brought a whole range of possibilities to not only Wayzata, but also places like Rogers and Dayton, and later this year Corcoran and Cologne.

OPPORTUNITY: Center for Rural Policy and Development looking for border members

Not necessarily tied to rural broadband, but definitely would nice to have more broadband heads around the table when they are discussing rural policy; the MN Secretary of State just posted open positions. I’ve included them all, just in case there’s interest:

The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State today released notice of vacancies for various state boards, councils and committees that are accepting applications. Minnesotans are encouraged to apply and serve in demonstration of public service. The newest vacancies are listed below, and the full list of 1,078 vacancies / 639 positions can be found on our website Open Positions.

Applications may be submitted online and must be submitted within 21 days of the “Publish Date” listed on our Open Positions page, to be assured of full consideration by the appointing authority. Appointing authorities may choose to review applications received by the Secretary of State after the 21 day application period.

See our new instructions on HOW TO APPLY at the end of the message.

Below is a list of agencies with vacancies posted in the previous 15 days.

Please visit our website for complete descriptions and all other vacancy listings previously posted.

Behavioral Health Planning Council

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Providers of Substance use disorder services to the LGBTQ and/or underserved communities

Board Of Behavioral Health And Therapy

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Licensed Professional Counselor/Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Board Of Trustees Of The Minnesota State Colleges And Universities System

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Student

Center For Rural Policy And Development

Vacancies: 1 Seat –Regional County Government Rep.

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Business Rep

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Rural County Government Rep.

Minnesota Sex Offender Program – Hospital Review Board

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Attorney

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Psychologist/Mental Health Professional

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Public

Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Teacher

Special Review Board

Vacancies: 1 Seat — Special Review Board Member


Visit the Open Positions page.
Scroll down to find the correct Agency/Board/Council.
Choose the correct seat type, and click button that says APPLY
The system will walk you through creating an application profile.

Page 2 of the application will now allow you to attach the following documents:
• Letter of Interest
• Resume or Biography

Federated REA applied for USDA funding for FTTH in Martin County

The Fairmont Sentinel reports more on one the Martin County ARPA broadband grants approved last month

JACKSON- Federated Rural Electrical Association (REA) has applied for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to further develop rural broadband in Martin County. If approved the grant would pave the way for a $35 million expansion which would completely eliminate a lack of broadband access within the county.

The proposed project would provide up to gigabit upload and download speeds for every home and business within the county that currently has download speeds of less than 120 megabits per second and upload speeds of less than 20 megabits per second. Geographically this would cover nearly all of Martin County west of Granada, excluding Fairmont, Sherburn, Trimont, Truman, Welcome and Ceylon. …

The project signifies another step forward for the cooperative in becoming a major internet service provider in south central Minnesota. In 2022 Federated REA purchased Jackson-based Back 40 Wireless and began offering fixed point wireless service. Later that year the co-op began a project to provide fiber optic connections in Ceylon which is already serving a handful of customers in the city. Outside of Martin County Federated REA is planning a similar project to connect most unserved or underserved areas of Jackson County using funding from the state’s Border to Border grant program.

The costs of the project would be split between Federated REA, the USDA and a smaller grant from the Martin County Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) Broadband Partnership, which itself uses federal funds. Overall Federated would cover 46 percent of the project, the USDA would cover 50 percent and the EDA would cover the remaining four percent.

If approved the project is expected to directly connect to 2,352 households and 106 businesses. Most of these connections would be via underground cables but Reimer estimated roughly one third of these would utilize Federated’s existing overhead power lines. Federated’s existing fixed point wireless systems would not be part of this new project.

Federated REA is looking to invest $16 million for a project they predict to serve 5 customers per mile on construction. Predicted fees for customers…

Once the project is completed Reimer predicts rates to be similar to what the cooperative currently offers for fiber connections which range from $70 a month for download speeds of up to 100 MB per second to $100 a month for download speeds of up to 1 gig.