Paul Bunyan Communications Named 2017 Complete Marketing Campaign Award Winner

Congrats to Paul Bunyan…

(Bemidji, MN) (May 26, 2017)— Paul Bunyan Communications has been awarded a national TeleChoice Award by the NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association during their Annual 2017 PR & Marketing Conference. The annual awards program honors excellence in public relations and marketing.

Paul Bunyan Communications was given the TeleChoice Award for their complete marketing campaign of the GigaZone Gaming Championship, the first stadium style eSporting event in the region held last November at the Sanford Center.  Entries were judged on innovative strategies, design, writing, creativity and other elements specific to each category.

“We are honored to receive this national award for marketing.  The GigaZone Gaming Championship was a first of its kind event we brought to the region last year aimed at gaming enthusiasts of all kinds.  We spent a lot of time on the creative aspects of the campaign to ensure the message would resonate with the gaming community but also would appeal to the general public.  It was a very successful event and one that will continue in the years to come.  The 2017 GigaZone Gaming Championship is set for September 29-30 and will be even bigger and better than our first event last year!” said Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

“Congratulations to Paul Bunyan Communications on their 2017 TeleChoice Award” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. “Creating their eSport event, the GigaZone Gaming Championship, and bringing it to customers in rural northern Minnesota is unique in the industry. It shows their commitment to their community and their willingness to be industry innovators and leaders, whether that’s creating one of the largest rural all-fiber optic gigabit broadband network, or creating this wonderful gaming event. The marketing of the event was unique, creative and essential to its success. The award is well deserved and hard earned.”


For more information about the GigaZone Gaming Championship, visit


For more information on NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, visit

Minnesota has some enviable broadband tools: Blandin, Office of Broadband Development, Grants

Representative Tom Sloan (from Kansas) has an editorial in the latest Broadband Communities Magazine. He asks – How can state legislators help spread the gigabit wealth to more constituents?

Spoiler alert – I think he just might be looking at Minnesota as a model for broadband support as he makes his wish list. The job is not done in Minnesota, but Sloan’s article helps me recognize how far down the right road we are.

He focuses on the role of small providers…

Will community and independent broadband providers be able to respond to rising customer expectations and technological capabilities as quickly as investor-owned providers? Opportunities exist for communities to seek innovative partnerships with independent broadband providers that may use alternative broadband delivery [t]echnologies or have different business models that require lower rates of return than do the large providers.

In Minnesota the Border to Border grants have been an opportunity for communities to work with providers large and small. The state funding gets people to the table. And having talked to a couple of smaller providers (Paul Bunyan and HBC) they don’t have a lower rate of return as much as a slower return on investment. The funds are managed by the Office of Broadband Development, which serves as information source (and sometimes project matchmaker) for potential applicants – as well as finding time to make sure Minnesota is aware of new technologies and opportunities outside the state.

He recognizes that while Kansas doesn’t have any restrictions on community networks, they don’t have much support either…

No one seems to be offering any positive assistance that would help Kansas communities get better broadband. … No statewide organization in Kansas provides direct assistance to communities seeking information about developing a broadband system, and no statewide system provides technical assistance to municipalities with an operating broadband system. … A municipality can contract with independent engineers to design a broadband system, but where in the state do city leaders turn for guidance on how to structure an RFP, how to train system operators or where to seek financing and service pricing information?

Minnesota is fortunate that the Blandin Foundation has stepped up in this role. Communities can get support in starting or maintaining a broadband efforts through the Community Broadband Resource Program, they help fund feasibility studies and have ongoing training in the form of monthly webinars and annual conferences.

It’s a powerful one-two punch in Minnesota – but it’s not an immediate knock out. So while we have some enviable resources – we have to remind policymakers that we’re on the right track but we’re not done. Rep Sloan offers some advice we can heed here…

Educate legislators about what keeps you awake at night. We cannot help if we do not understand.

Spring cleaning? I know a place for those old cell phones.

Tech Dump is the answer to my excess phone problem! According to Minnesota Business

With outlets in Golden Valley, Bloomington and St. Paul, Tech Dump is an e-waste recycler; its retail arm, Tech Discounts sells used and refurbished electronics.
Operating as a social enterprise, Tech Dump is staffed by people who face barriers to employment. In 2016, Tech Dump employed 76; their goal is to have 100 on staff by the end of this year.

Now Tech Dump has set an ambitious summer goal that will give it the funds to up the number of people it employs. It’s mounting an aggressive campaign to get your cell phones out of your junk drawer and into their hands to be recycled.

“We’ve set a goal of collecting one ton of cell phones. One ton!” LaGrange says. “That will fund 1,000 hours of job training.”

Cell Phone Summer kicks off on June 10th, with a party at the Tech Discounts Bloomington retail store. Tech Dump will accept cell phone donations at its three outlets all summer.

In addition, you can bring your old cell phone(s) to pop-up events at summer events around the Twin Cities. There will be collection bins at Twin Cities Pride, the St. Louis Park Parktacular, Junket Tossed & Found, the Mill City and Northeast Farmers Markets, The Bakken Museum, and all Arc Value Village stores. The campaign concludes with a collection bin and display in the Eco Experience Building at the Minnesota State Fair.

They’ll take anything…

“We want any cell phone—an old flip phone, a device with a broken screen. You think it might be trash, but it can be recycled,” LaGrange says.

They make it safe (for your data)…

LaGrange assures donors that the devices they give to Tech Dump will be efficiently and safely handled, with a guarantee that all data on the cell phones will be destroyed.

Now if I could just find a place for all of the random electrical cords in every corner!

RS Fiber Cooperative Recognized with Broadcast Communities “Cornerstone Award”

Fun news from RS Fiber

Winthrop, MN – RS Fiber Cooperative (RS Fiber) was awarded the Cornerstone Award by the industry publication Broadcast Communities last week “for dedication, persistence, and vision in securing the benefits of broadband for their communities.”

The award was accepted on behalf of RS Fiber at the publication’s annual industry Summit held May 1-4 in Dallas, TX, by City of Winthrop Economic Development Director, Mark Erickson. The Cornerstone Award is presented each year to businesses and organizations with “outstanding accomplishments in the area of delivering telecommunications for the benefit of the end user.”

A committee of broadband industry leaders, analysts, and writers help select winners of the award. In selecting RS Fiber, the committee stated, “RS Fiber overcame more obstacles than anyone should have to overcome to get broadband for the residents of Renville and Sibley Counties. And their efforts are paying off.”

Cornerstone Awards were also presented to the City of Wilson, NC/Greenlight Community Broadband and Valley Electric Association, Pahrump, NV.

RS Fiber currently serves customers in the communities of Gaylord, Gibbon, Green Isle, Lafayette, New Auburn and Winthrop with Internet, Video, and Phone service, including Internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps over a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network. RS Air serves rural residents of Renville and Sibley counties by providing symmetrical broadband speeds up to 25 Mbps.

Phase One construction of the project is expected to be completed this fall with services being extended to the towns of Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax and Stewart.

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.”

Student cheers broadband in Cook County hopes the same for other MN kids

Careful readers will remember Sammie Garrity as the bright young woman (grade 6!) who joined the Minnesota Broadband Coalition at the Rural Broadband Day on the Hill. She wrote about her experience speaking on the panel and meeting policymakers and shakers.

Sammie is continuing to run with the idea that all students need broadband, so I’m pleased to share her recent letter to the Cook County Herald…

Dear Cook County Herald,

We in Cook County are so lucky to live in a place that has broadband internet service! It makes all kinds of high-quality things happen, and we should all tell our legislators that. I wrote to Sen. Tom Bakk about it and you should too.

For me, as a student, having high-speed access to the internet is super important in doing the best I can on my school work. We just finished our Science Fair, and without access to broadband that allows me to look up facts, pictures and essays/reports written by scientists and doctors, my project would be a failure.

To me broadband is one of the most important things that we have access to. If not, we would not be able to look things up for homework or prepare for college. All of those things are not being granted to other people in our state and I want to make a difference in that. I would appreciate it if you made hundreds of people’s lives easier by getting in contact with our community and spread the word more than everyone has.

Kids in Cook County are also just starting a new digital newspaper at Without broadband, we couldn’t do that. With it, we can make sure our voices are heard in the community, and we can help connect friends and neighbors.

Thank you Cook County for helping all us students succeed! I hope the rest of the kids in Minnesota get the great broadband service we do!


Sammie Garrity

Role of broadband in bringing Koochiching County “back from brink of demographic doom”

MinnPost recently ran a story on the diminishing population in Koochiching County…

In the last 35 years, Koochiching County lost an estimated 4,845 people — more than a quarter of its 1980 population. In the next 35 years, it could lose nearly as many, according to new population projections from the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

Koochiching County isn’t alone. More than half of Minnesota counties are projected to lose population through 2050, based on calculations by Minnesota State Demographic Center. Most of them are in rural parts of the state, especially parts of northeastern, central, southeast and southwestern Minnesota. Meanwhile the seven-county Twin Cities metro area is projected to see the fastest growth, about 27 percent between 2015 and 2050.

The article outlines the efforts to reverse the trend – through diversification and attracting residents – by calling out to former residents who went away (perhaps for college) and might be persuaded to return. They are working on databases of former residents and using touch points like high school graduation to reach them.

The article doesn’t focus on the role of broadband – but it comes up – most prominently in the main story of one resident who returned…

RaeAnne Conat, 36, grew up among the pines, lakes and rivers of Koochiching County … Six years ago, she moved back to Koochiching County (population: less than 13,000), looking to be closer to family. There, she started Swanky Sweet Pea, a boutique that makes bath bombs, salts and soaps that are sold to thousands of retailers across the U.S. With the help of the Internet, Conat has grown the company from a small storefront in International Falls to a manufacturing facility in nearby Ranier with several full-time employees in the last half-decade.

I heard an interesting comment the other day – used to be the economic core communities were on the coasts, then by the rail roads. Now it seems like if you can get online you can make your own economic core community.