Office of Broadband Development to Host Informational Webinars for 2019 Broadband Grant Application Process

Sharing an invitation from the Office of Broadband Development…

On July 24 and July 25, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development will host a series of three webinar/WebEx toll-free calls to support the 2019 broadband grant application process and to answer potential applicant questions. We will introduce this year’s changes to the program, walk through the application requirements, review the scoring criteria, and answer questions. Please join us on any one of the following scheduled webinar sessions:

• Wednesday, July 24, at 1 to 3 p.m.
• Thursday, July 25, at 9 to 11 a.m.
• Thursday, July 25, at 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

To register, please send an email with your contact information (your name, organization, address, email and telephone number to david.j.thao@state.mn.us, also copying DEED.broadband@state.mn.us.

Please indicate which session you plan to attend. You must register to receive further instructions on how to access the meeting and the associated materials. The information presented on each call will be the same, so you only need to select one session in order to participate fully.

If you have questions about registration, you may also call David Thao at 651-259-7442. If you have specific questions about the grant program, please contact Cathy Clucas at cathy.clucas@state.mn.us or 651-259-7635.

As always, any general questions can be directed to our DEED e-mailbox at DEED.broadband@state.mn.us, or our Staff at 651-259-7610.

Good luck!

FCC authorizes $524 million for broadband CAF Auction ($3.5 million in MN)

The FCC reports

The FCC today authorized over $524 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 205,520 unserved rural homes and businesses in 23 states, representing the third wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding this month.
In total, the auction last fall allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years. The FCC has already authorized two waves of funding in May and June, and funds from those first two waves are expanding connectivity to nearly 100,000 homes and businesses that lack service. Today’s action brings total authorized funding to nearly $803 million, or over half of the $1.488 billion allocated through the auction, expanding connectivity to 305,518 homes and businesses.

In the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding as it approves remaining applications of the winning bidders from the auction.

Here are the awardees in Minnesota:

  • Federated Telephone Cooperative receives $1,431,039 (over 10 years)
    to bring minimum speeds of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps to 808 locations
  • Roseau Electric Cooperative receives $2,081,770 (over 10 years)
    to bring minimum speeds of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps to 326 locations

Changes at the MN Office of Broadband Development

People around the US, well people who care about broadband, are talking about the Minnesota Model – speed goals, State support and a grant program that works as well as the Border to Border grants. The Office of Broadband Development (OBD) has been instrumental at making that work.

So we’re a little sad for us, but happy for the director, Danna Mackenzie to see that she is taking a break with an extended leave of absence. She has worked long, hard hours perfecting the Minnesota model.

She’s leaving the work with a solid team of Diane Wells and Cathy Clucas. Both are experts in the field and Diane really been with the OBD longer than it has even existed. (She had worked on telecom for the state for a long time.)

They have recently been joined by Angie Dickison, formerly of the Wisconsin broadband office and formerly formerly a Blandin Broadband Community leader.

Final note from the OBD, a reminder about the upcoming grant deadlines – The first of two grant rounds to distribute those funds has opened and the applications are due September 13th.

CVS Health Rolls Out Telehealth to MN (and other states)

CVSHealth reports

CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) today announced that MinuteClinic, the company’s retail medical clinic, has rolled out its virtual visit offering in eight additional states. People with minor illnesses and injuries, skin conditions and other wellness needs can now seek care through MinuteClinic Video Visits, a telehealth offering, in the states of Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. MinuteClinic Video Visits provide patients with access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week from their mobile device or computer.

Here’s how it works…

Working collaboratively with Teladoc (NYSE: TDOC), the global leader in virtual care, and leveraging Teladoc’s technology platform, patients can receive care via a MinuteClinic Video Visit, initiated through their computer or mobile device, including through the CVS Pharmacy app. Patients who opt to seek care through a fully customized MinuteClinic Video Visit experience the same high-quality, evidence-based care they receive at traditional MinuteClinic locations inside select CVS Pharmacy and Target stores.

Video visits can be used to provide care for patients ages two years and older who are seeking treatment for a minor illness, minor injury, or a skin condition. Each patient will complete a health questionnaire and be matched to a board-certified health care provider licensed in their state, who will review the completed questionnaire with the patient’s medical history, and proceed with the video-enabled visit.

During a MinuteClinic Video Visit, the provider will assess the patient’s condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment following evidence-based clinical care guidelines. For patients who require a prescription as part of their treatment plan, the provider will submit the prescription to the patient’s preferred pharmacy. If it is determined the patient should be seen in person for follow-up care or testing, the provider will recommend that the patient visit a health care provider in their community, such as their primary care provider or a nearby MinuteClinic location.

A MinuteClinic Video Visit costs $59, which is currently payable by credit, debit, FSA and HSA cards. Insurance coverage will be added to the experience in the coming months.

 

Rep Lueck urges folks around Aitkin to seek Border to Border broadband grants

Brainerd Dispatch reports…

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, on Friday encouraged qualified organizations to apply for Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant funding designed to expand internet access in unserved and underserved areas of rural Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Office of Broadband Development will accept grant proposals until 4 p.m. Sept. 13. The Legislature provided $20 million during the 2019 session for this round of grant funding.

It’s good advice.

US House Ag meeting on broadband Archive – rural areas need gig access

Earlier today the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit (Committee on Agriculture) met to hear about: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband“. I’m pleased to report that two Minnesotans were there to tell the story in our state – Neela Mollgaard at Red Wing Ignite and Dave Hengel at Greater Bemidji.

All of the speakers shed a light on what better broadband and supporting locals to better use that broadband make a difference in a rural community.

Here’s the meeting:

And access to Dave and Neela’s written testimony.

[Update July 15, 2019]

Rural Minnesota Cooperatives Partner to Connect Aitkin County

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently highlighted the FTTH project in Aitkin County

The lakes and forests of Aitkin County in northern Minnesota make it an ideal location for a vacation home, but poor connectivity has historically limited days spent at the cabin to weekends and holidays. However, a new partnership between Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) and Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) is making it possible for families to extend their trips up north by connecting lakeside cabins with high-speed Internet access.

The two co-ops are working together to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, XStream Fiber, that will bring fast, reliable broadband access to homes and businesses in MLEC’s service territory. MLEC hopes that the improved connectivity will benefit the local economy by encouraging seasonal residents, who make up more than 40 percent of the cooperative’s membership, to stay in the region for longer.

It’s a tale of collaboration with the cooperatives working together spurred by a network created with support from a Minnesota broadband grant…

CTC’s role in the partnership is to provide network connectivity, Internet backhaul, and backend support while MLEC manages billing, marketing, and other subscriber services. The cooperatives coordinate technical support calls, with MLEC handling basic issues itself and pushing higher level problems to CTC. The electric co-op owns all of the fiber infrastructure within its service territory.

The Xstream fiber might not have made it into the ground the $1.76 million Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant that MLEC received in 2016.