Broadband and housing in Chisago County: broadband touches everything

I was just telling someone that broadband is the solution to almost any question. And today while I was reading the Comprehensive Housing Needs Analysis for Chisago County, Minnesota and I was reminder that it’s true.

The report projects housing demand from 2017 through 2030, and provides recommendations on the amount and type of housing that could be built in Chisago County to satisfy demand from current and future residents over the next decade. Lack of internet access was listed as a potential problem to attracting people….

Internet Access. Several interviewees mentioned the lack of broadband Internet and slow Internet speeds across parts of Chisago County. The lack of Internet connections could hinder housing development in the county as Internet access is critical for many households in today’s digital age. Many interviewees mentioned the desire to have a home based business or to be able to telecommute in Chisago County. Without high-speed reliable Internet, many will not consider moving to the county. Studies suggest high speed Internet connection to a home boost property values. We understand Chisago County recently received grant funds to analyze technology trends and to address the issue. Two townships in Chisago County have partnered with CenturyLink and MN Dept. of Employment and Eco-nomic Development Broadband Office to bring fiber to the home.

There’s also a note that lack of online marketing of housing options keeps some of the market closed to people form outside the area…

Point of Contact/Housing Resources/One Stop Shop. Several interviews stressed that housing options for rental housing are exceptionally low in Chisago County. Finding a rental housing unit can be difficult as there are few options to begin with and many buildings have high occupancy rates and are not necessarily marketing. Many of the rental properties throughout the county are smaller and are locally owned and managed and they are not actively marketing on the Internet or social media which is difficult for non-residents to find housing availability. Furthermore, many landlords mentioned there is not a lot of turnover as many tenants stay in the lease for years.

Webinar Archive – Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community

Thanks to all who participated today:

And the description:

Bill Coleman will talk about all you need to know about CAF II and how it effects your community based on his recent report, Impact of CAF II-funded Networks: Lessons from Two Rural Minnesota Exchanges Left Unserved.

Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community
Thursday, July 19, 2018 03:00 PM

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Catching up with broadband projects in Aitkin MN: Hotspots that have encouraged private investment in FTTH, landing page, training

Today we’re in Aitkin talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

We learned that when people don’t have broadband, that’s all they want to talk about. The broadband expansions in the area have made a huge difference. This was an area that lacked access so effort has been spent on increasing access with hotspots in the library, buses, for checkout and in community centers. It’s been nice to se private investment follow the interest in the hotspots. There have also been efforts, such as remote training and a landing page that encourage use.

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Webinar July 19 – Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community

Bill Coleman will talk about all you need to know about CAF II and how it effects your community based on his recent report, Impact of CAF II-funded Networks: Lessons from Two Rural Minnesota Exchanges Left Unserved.

Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community
Thursday, July 19, 2018 03:00 PM
Register now!

The CAF II program is designed to spur broadband development in unserved, high-cost rural areas and will infuse $2 billion into broadband projects that make service of at least 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload available to more than 3.6 million homes and businesses across America by 2020. To date, four companies (CenturyLink, Consolidated Communications, Frontier Communications, and Windstream Communications) in rural Minnesota have received funding to bring Internet service to 170,355 rural homes and businesses.

Using GIS base maps and a GPS-enabled camera, lead researcher Bill Coleman of Mahtomedi-based Community Technology Advisors, conducted field research to identify CAF II-funded broadband equipment in two rural Minnesota communities, Lindstrom and Braham, MN.

After mapping available speeds to end customers based on their distance from the broadband-fed equipment, Coleman found that, even after CAF II investment, the majority of land within these two exchanges will have access to speeds less that Minnesota’s 2022 state broadband goal of 25/3 mbps. These improvements will fall severely short of Minnesota’s 2026 goal of 100/20 mbps.

So what does that mean for your community? Join the conversation to find out.

Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) speaks eloquently on need for rural broadband

The Aitkin Age wrote about the USDA/Farmers Foundation meeting I attended last month. They focused on comments from CEO of Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC), Brian Zelenak…

The electric and telephone cooperatives teamed up and received a $1.7 million Border-to-Border project grant in 2017 from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development for a project in southern Aitkin County.

The grant has been used to install fiber from MLEC headquarters in Aitkin, past about 800 homes, ending at MLEC’s Spirit Lake substation. Approximately 400 members are signed up and 180 members are connected at speeds up to 1 Gig up/1 Gig down, which accounts for close to a 50 percent take rate. This is significant, Zelenak explained, because 45 percent of MLEC’s 15,000 members are seasonal.

“Aitkin County has the highest senior citizen rate of any county in Minnesota,” Zelenak said. “Keeping our aging population in their homes longer through the use of telemedicine will increase their quality of life and reduce their exodus to neighboring cities and towns.”

MLEC recognizes the importance of high speed internet service so its rural members have access to the same educational opportunities for children and adults wanting to further their education and training.

“Rural school children are at a competitive disadvantage when trying to get into colleges and trade schools,” Zelenak said.

Lack of sufficient high speed internet also hinders opportunities for increased economic development and jobs for rural communities.

“High speed internet access is a deal breaker for those working from home or starting a home-based business, and for manufacturing companies or other businesses to locate here,” Zelenak said. “Economic development does not exist without high speed internet access.”

According to Zelenak, broadband is as transformative to rural communities today as electricity was 80 years ago. “MLEC does not see rural Minnesota growing and prospering without the basics, and the basics are becoming good internet access.”

CTEP’s 2018 Civic Engagement Presentations – Aug 3 in St Paul MN

This is one of my favorite events for learning about some innovative digital inclusion projects. I hope to be there, taking notes…

Every year our CTEP AmeriCorps members choose civic engagement projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. Please join us on Friday, August 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, where our members will share their accomplishments and struggles in creating community change through their projects. Feel free to swing by earlier for informal networking starting at 9 a.m; bagels and coffee will be served.

The Saint Paul Neighborhood Network’s AmeriCorps program, the Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) bridges the “digital divide” for immigrant communities, low-income residents and persons with disabilities in the Twin Cities. AmeriCorps members help youth and adults use technology to access social, civic, educational and economic opportunities.

PLEASE Register Here 

Read more about what CTEP members did in their 2018 Civic Engagement Projects:

Naturally Bridging the Digital Divide
Conducted a week-long day camp focusing on urban agriculture and media skills. Introduced youth to the technology in urban farming as well as expand their knowledge of food sources in the Twin Cities, and then provided a platform for youth to share their experiences through digital storytelling.
Community Partners: SparkY, University of Minnesota Cornercopia Organic Farm

Broadband in Minneapolis: Closing the Digital Divide
Created a short documentary and recommendations for equitable fiber internet access in Minneapolis through meetings with city officials, private internet providers, and other key stakeholders.
Community Partners: Various

CTEP Resource Consolidation
Overhauled CTEP’s internal online information structure, with the goal of streamlining and updating online resources onto SPNN’s website for the benefit of CTEP members and participants alike.
Community Partner:  SPNN

Saving Cents with Sense
Provided a series of short classes on various digital financial concepts, such as using Microsoft Excel and checking credit scores online. The workshops sought to educate those who may not have benefitted from personal finance classes or a financial mentor.
Community Partners: Volunteers of America, Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning

Field Testing Northstar Digital Literacy Assessments
Assisted in the redesign of the Northstar Digital Literacy assessments and engaged in field testing with local community members. Students at CTEP sites gave valuable user feedback for the  development team.
Community Partner: Northstar Digital Literacy Project

Re-Entering the Digital World: Computers for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals
Taught a series of computer classes to formerly incarcerated adults at Amicus, an organization that provides resources for people recently exiting the correctional system.
Community Partner: Amicus

Diversity and Inclusion in CTEP AmeriCorps
Began developing a diversity and inclusion framework for CTEP AmeriCorps to increase diversity and inclusion. Conducted focus groups with CTEP alumni to identify D&I strengths and weaknesses, and to get input towards a nascent advisory board.
Community Partner: SPNN, CTEP Alumni

The Rondo History Preservation Project
Worked with the Hallie Q. Brown Center in St. Paul to record and preserve oral histories regarding the historic Rondo neighborhood, and conducted media training for staff to be able to carry on the work.
Community Partner: Hallie Q. Brown Center

Consolidated Communications Boosts Broadband Speeds in Southern Minnesota

Latest news from Consolidated Communications

Consolidated Communications (NASDAQ: CNSL), a leading broadband and business communications provider, today announced the availability of increased broadband speeds in the company’s southern Minnesota service area.  Residents can now choose from a variety of plans with connections up to 80 Mbps, all competitively priced.

“We are constantly investing in the communities we serve and are excited to offer increased speeds in the greater Mankato area,” said Mark Sharpless, manager of network engineering at Consolidated Communications. “As people have more and more devices and the Internet of Things becomes an essential part of everyday life, we have made delivering faster speeds and reliable connections to our customers a top priority.”

Consolidated Communications’ high-speed Internet services include no data caps and a free wifi router, all backed by local customer service. The new broadband packages can be bundled with Consolidated’s Digital TV and voice services to provide even greater savings.

Increased speeds are available within the following communities: Mankato, North Mankato, Amboy, Cambria, Eagle Lake, Ellendale, Faribault, Garden City, Good Thunder, Janesville, Lake Crystal, Madison Lake, Mapleton, New Richland, Nicollet, Pemberton, St. Clair, St. Peter, Vernon Center and Waseca.