Telehealth helps better serve rural Veterans

The US Department for Veteran Affairs reports…

Approximately a quarter of all Veterans in the United States live in rural areas. Air Force Veteran Bill Nelson is one of them. As the survivor of three heart attacks, he’s a big fan of one particular VA office and their telehealth program.

The job of VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH) is to increase access to care for the nearly three million Veterans living in rural communities who rely on VA for health care. As VA’s lead advocate for rural Veterans, ORH works to see that America’s Veterans thrive in rural communities.

Nelson benefits from ORH’s remote home-based delivery of cardiac rehabilitation which uses telehealth to eliminate the need for rural Veterans to travel multiple times a week to a rehabilitation facility. It lets Veterans tailor the location and schedule of their rehab session from their home.

Nelson lives in Maple Grove, which may not be the most rural town I mention this week, but it would be a long drive to the VA hospital in the Cities. It would easily save him an hour drive each remote visit…

In addition to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, he had a separated shoulder surgically repaired in Okinawa. He is 100 percent disabled due to his service-connected injuries.

Nelson suffered his first heart attack in 1999 which required having stents implanted. He joined VA for healthcare after retirement in 2014. His second heart attack occurred in 2008 which required having more stints implanted. His had his third heart attack in 2018 and had even more stints implanted.

Today, ORH enables Veteran patients like Nelson to first meet in-person with a specialist to safely learn rehabilitation exercises, with subsequent sessions conducted at home.

Regularly scheduled phone calls with the rehabilitation specialist are used to review risk factors, such as smoking cessation and proper nutrition. Other discussions include exercise, medication adherence, and stress management


Wilkin County Commissioner wants $70 million for MN Broadband

The Wahpeton Daily News posts a Letter to the Editor from Wilkin County Commissioner Dennis Larson…

It’s painful to admit, but our area of Minnesota is part of the Not-Served-Nine-Percent of the population in the state that remains unserved or underserved when it comes to having access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet service.

We can’t wait any longer – and it didn’t help that the funding bill was vetoed last year. That’s all the more reason the legislature needs to adopt the House funding level, that incorporates the MN Rural Broadband Coalition and Governor Walz’s full recommendation of $70 million over the next two years.

MN Chamber of Commerce supports broadband

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Legislators (shared with permission)…

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, comprised of more than 2,300 businesses that employ more than 500,000 employees across the state, supports strong and continued funding for the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program in the upcoming biennium. …

But there are places in Greater Minnesota still lacking a reliable, fast Internet connection. These places tend to be in areas where geography, population density of other issues make the business case for deployment economically challenging.

A vibrant local and globally competitive economy requires robust, modern, secure and accessible communications, data and information infrastructure, systems and networks. That is why we support strategic investments to bring technology-neutral and cost-effective broadband to locations in Minnesota that lack a broadband connection.


Aitkin County Commissioner wants better broadband

The Mille Lacs Messenger posts a letter from Aitkin County Commissioner Don Niemi…

This is an urgent request for you to contact your legislators to fully fund rural Minnesota broadband. It’s painful to admit our area is part of the not-served 9 percent of the population in the state. Aitkin County has areas under-served when it comes to having access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet service.

We cannot wait any longer, and it didn’t help that the funding bill was vetoed last year. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is a rural Minnesota issue.

We need bipartisan support to fully fund the MN Rural Broadband Coalition and the governor’s recommendation of $70 million over the next two years. The not-served-nine-percent of households, businesses, schools, emergency services and hospitals in the state still struggle along on the dark side of the digital divide. A key funding committee in the Minnesota House adopted the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and governor’s proposal to fund the program at $70 million over the biennium, while the Senate funds the program for one year only at $30 million. Our area cannot be silent and continue to be underserved. When the legislature concludes its business for 2019 in May, it should be sure to fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program at $70 million.

MN Rural Counties says fund the MN Broadband Grants now

DL-Online posts a Letter to the Editor from Dan Larson, executive director of the MN Rural Counties …

The state needs to get the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program back on track, after the bill funding the program was vetoed last year.

In this wired-world where nearly everything that happens, happens online, there are still 14,500 deserving entities within the Not-Served-Nine-Percent of households, businesses, schools, emergency services, and hospitals in the state still struggling along on the dark side of the digital divide.

We must close that gap quickly, because there is no way to function in this culture or economy with no access to high-speed internet.

A key funding committee in the Minnesota House adopted the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and Gov. Tim Walz’s proposal to fund the program at $70 million over the biennium, while the Senate funds the program for one year only at $30 million. The House bill is obviously preferable because it gets access to more people faster.

Land O’Lakes tells legislators Minnesota need better broadband

Below is a letter Land O’Lakes sent to the Governor and Legislators and shared with permission…


Dear Governor Walz and Legislative Leaders:

I am writing to applaud the bipartisan effort thus far this legislative session to expand high-speed broadband internet connectivity across Minnesota. In the final weeks of this legislative session, I urge your continued collaboration and attention to bridge the significant digital divide that is impacting rural residents, farmers, businesses and communities across our state. I respectfully request that the biennial budget you are currently considering include at least $70 million in state funding and continue to encourage public-private partnerships to further leverage the state’s investment.

Land O’Lakes, Inc. is a member-owned cooperative with industry-leading operations that span the spectrum from agricultural production to consumer foods, ranking 216 on the Fortune 500. In addition to our iconic Dairy Foods business, we deliver crop inputs and insights through WinField United; animal feed and ingredients through Purina Animal Nutrition; and farmer-led stewardship solutions through Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. Nearly a century since we were founded by Minnesota dairy farmers in St. Paul, Land O’Lakes remains farmer-owned and has a strong footprint in Minnesota, with 306 farms owned by our dairy members, 102 local farm supply co-op and ag retail members and 329 independent ag producer members, in addition to numerous production facilities and our headquarters located in Arden Hills. We are proud to directly employ more than 2,000 Minnesotans.

Access to high-speed broadband internet in rural Minnesota is a top priority for Land O’Lakes because bridging the digital divide is critically important for Minnesota’s economic future. It is important that all parts of our state have the opportunity to fully participate in today’s global internet-based economy.

Across our cooperative, cutting-edge ag tech and innovation plays an important role in equipping farmers and rural businesses to thrive. When farmers are able to deploy the latest technology to their fields, they are in a stronger position to grow and compete on a global stage – with a focus on productivity, profitability and natural resource stewardship fueled by insights and technology. New technology on the farm can also help farmers and food companies meet growing consumer interest in where food comes from and how it was produced. Much of this technology requires dependable broadband access to properly deploy and utilize.

Off the farm, access to reliable, high-speed broadband is critical to many day-to-day essential services for rural communities: providing patients greater, more affordable access to health care through telemedicine and telepharmacy; giving students, no matter where they live, the opportunity to broaden their horizons through distance learning; assisting workers in acquiring new skills and continuing education to advance their careers; and providing businesses an enhanced platform to market products both domestically and internationally.

A 2018 report by the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband estimated one in five Minnesota rural households are unserved with high-speed broadband, and more than 40 percent are underserved.1 We have seen directly, and heard through our cooperative’s members, the challenges posed by a lack of high-speed broadband internet access and we remain focused on identifying solutions to help address the issue. We recognize that expanding high-speed broadband is a complex issue that carries significant costs – nearly $1.5 billion according to the 2018 Governor’s Task Force report. However, given the economic and quality of life benefits associated with rural broadband, timely state investment is critical.

With your help, I remain encouraged that we can solve this problem. We look forward to working with you, our state’s leaders, to find innovative ways to accelerate the deployment of broadband technology to all corners of Minnesota. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Matthew Wohlman, Sr. Director of State and Industry Affairs at Land O’Lakes via email at, and he will work together with our leadership team and I to provide any assistance or information that could be helpful as discussion of this important issue moves ahead.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Beth E. Ford President & CEO Land O’Lakes, Inc.

Duluth News Tribune say rural needs broadband to do homework and build small business

Duluth News Tribune outlines the importance of broadband investment in their editorial…

The good news is that since 2014, the state has been investing to push high-speed internet deeper and deeper into rural Minnesota. With a belief that all Minnesotans, no matter where we live, ought to have the same access to opportunities borne of technology, the goal of the Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program has been all-in 100 percent penetration by 2022.

The better news is that since committing to rural broadband, the state’s $85 million investment has resulted in “an admirable 91 (percent) penetration” with Minnesota now “a national model that other states are using to make sure they aren’t left behind,” as Nancy Hoffman of North Branch, Minn., chairwoman of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, wrote in an op-ed last week distributed statewide, including to the News Tribune Opinion page.

The bad news, unfortunately, is that after four straight years of welcomed broadband bills, a state appropriation last year was vetoed along with just about everything else by then-Gov. Mark Dayton. The veto was purely politics, yet another DFLers-vs.-Republicans spat that got in the way of something beneficial to Minnesotans in favor of party wants. Hoffman called it “political crossfire … over issues not related to broadband.”

“The progress needs to continue this year to make up for lost time,” Hoffman wrote.

To that end, the Minnesota House passed off the floor this session a bill containing $70 million over two years, the amount the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition recommended as “exactly how much is necessary to put the program back on track,” as Hoffman wrote. A Senate proposal contains $30 million. Negotiations are underway to find compromise and an appropriate level of funding that will allow Minnesota to reclaim its momentum toward border-to-border broadband.