Rep Pelowski outlines role of Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee and broadband

In the Crookston Times, Rep Pelowski talks about the role of the new Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee…

Despite being a new committee in the Minnesota House, the Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee navigated the unfamiliar waters of pandemic legislating successfully, delivering on the primary goals built around the committee’s inception – funding an industrial technology teacher licensure and certification program, investing in statewide broadband, and replenishing the state’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account. As chair of the committee, I worked in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues to ensure these nonpartisan measures received the support they deserve.

And how they handled broadband funding this year…

In a similar fashion, our committee’s work on broadband would also get wrapped in a larger bill during the special session. As chair, I was appointed to the Agriculture conference committee, which also included broadband in its purview. Made of House and Senate members, the conference committee – later referred to as a working group after the regular session – crafted legislation that would fund operations for the Office of Broadband Development. In addition to this, $70 million in federal funding over the next two years in broadband infrastructure was included in the Jobs, Economic Development, and Labor Budget.

Rep Fischbach visits family farm to appreciate importance of rural broadband

West Central Tribune reports on Representative Fischbach’s recent visit in the field…

U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach visited Anderson Family Farms on July 15 for a tour of their family’s farm and facilities.

“Broadband is so important to [building] strong communities and broadband is part of that,” said Fischbach. “Making sure we have strong rural communities so that we can attract [workers] because today we’re going to be talking about the workforce and the need for [a strong] workforce in rural Minnesota.”

After the tour, the congresswoman met with members of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association and National Pork Producers Council to discuss concerns within the industry.

Asset mapping in Le Sueur County – including broadband plans

Yesterday I attended a Le Sueur County asset mapping community workshop in Le Center. No Zoom – an actual meeting with people. There were 40 some people in the 4H building on the county fairgrounds. It was great to be in the same room with people working and it was great to hear about how folks weathered the COVID storm and exciting to see how planful they were being about moving forward.

Like many communities, Le Sueur is in a position of having federal funding coming in and they are looking at what to do with it, starting with asset mapping. In small groups we listed the assets in the county – from Lakes to the people to local organizations. Then, again in small groups, we brainstormed projects to highlight or best use those assets. Broadband was just one of the topics that came up.

OPPORTUNITY: MN State Boards and Commissions – open seats

From the Office of the Secretary of State

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 514 vacancies 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.

Here are seats that I thought might be of interest…

  • Minnesota E-health Advisory Committee
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Community Clinics/Fed Qual. Health Centers
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Consumer Member
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health Care Administrator
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health Care Purchasers and Employers
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health IT Vendors
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Health Plans Representatives
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health System Chief Information Officer
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Hospital Representatives
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Licensed Health Professionals (Physician/Nurse)
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Local Public Health
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Long Term and Post-Acute Care
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Professional with Expert Knowledge in Health IT
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Rotating Professionals – Additional Health Settings (Dentists, Pharmacists, Behavior Health Laboratory, Home Health, Social Services, etc)
  • Technology Advisory Council
    Vacancies: 6 Seats — Private Sector or Public Sector IT Experience or Experience in Academia pertaining to IT

EVENT July 17: Opening Minnesota Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI) in West St Paul

I learned about this event from Libraries Without Borders US 

Saint Paul community, join us July 17th at the newly established Saint Paul WALI laundromat, Beautiful Laundrette, where we will be hosting an “Introducing WALI” celebration with free tacos, games for kids, and community partners.

In-person events at Beautiful Laundrette include: a pop-up Housing Clinic weekly on Wednesday evenings with Neighborhood House and in-house summer tutoring for K-5th grade youth Tuesday and Thursday mornings alongside Reading Partners. In August, pop-up legal clinics will begin with the help of partners in legal aide services.

Thanks to the Saint Paul Public Library for co-hosting a virtual story time, West Side Community Organization for their partnership in Rent Stabilization day, and Wild Rumpus’ participation in our Book Giveaway – our programming would not be possible without your support.

I had to get more details from the host Beautiful Laundrette:

  • July 17, 3 pm – sundown
  • 625 Stryker Ave St Paul
  • Fun and games
  • Prizes
  • DJ with Finnoh, and Malamanya, Live Afro-Caribbean music
  • BBQ by Black Market St.P

Come for WALI, stay for Malamanya. (I spend a lot time looking at local Minnesota bands, so with experience I can say, they are fantastic!)

OPPORTUNITY: Tell your EBB for discounted internet access story

I’m sharing with permission, a request from friends at NDIA. They do great work on the frontlines and policy – so if you have a story, they will make good use of it…

Have your clients/students/community members successfully used EBB for discounted internet access?

We need your success stories that show that EBB is working and should be continued. If you have successfully helped people connect, please contact me this week. You can share your story and/or quotes from clients by email or through a call with me. If you have any pictures or video to share with a story, that would be extra amazing!

Thank you so much for participating, community!

Yvette Scorse, yvette@digitalinclusion.org

EVENT July 14: Lunch Bunch: Infrastructure chat

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions. The first Lunch Bunch in July happens tomorrow at noon (July 14). It will be an open topic. SO bring in any questions, stories or ideas that you want to explore!

Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch on Wednesday, July 14 at noon.  Register now!

OPPORTUNITY: Rising Star Application

An opportunity from Minnesota Technology Association

Rising Star Application
We are looking for applicants that are no more than 10 years into their role in technology or tech touching role (e.g. talent, HR, etc) who are emerging talent/rising stars in their organizations based on achievements to date and the promise of what they may accomplish in the future. Special consideration will be given to applicants that are not just making an impact in their own companies, but in the broader community as well. For questions or comments please contact Jackie Spiess at Jackie@mntech.org

Sen. Carrie Ruud rehashes Legislative sessions highlighting broadband investment

The Brainerd Dispatch posts a guest update on the 2021 Legislative Session from Senator Carrie Ruud…

The pandemic made it very clear that broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and we have work to do in that area. Therefore, included in the agriculture budget was important funding for broadband expansion. Last year we provided a large investment for expansion efforts to our rural communities — and we again this year invested in broadband expansion, thanks to federal funding from the American Recovery Plan. This continuous investment shows our commitment to ensuring Greater Minnesota is no longer left behind in broadband expansion.

Senator Smith requests funding for Northern MN – including for broadband

The Timberjay reports

Minnesota’s junior U.S. Sen. Tina Smith has filed a formal request for including approximately $26 million in next year’s federal budget to support multiple initiatives to benefit North Country communities.
Ely, Greenwood Township, and Orr would be the regional beneficiaries if Smith’s proposals make their way out of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration and into the overall FY2022 budget that goes into effect Oct. 1. Her requests include:

(I have pulled out the broadband projects only)

$5.5 million for Greenwood Township for fiber optic broadband access for Lake Vermilion areas of the township and surrounding areas.• $6.9 million for Bois Forte Tribal Government to provide fiber optic broadband access to the majority of Greenwood Township and its surrounding areas.

Minnesota Farmers Union calls $70 million for broadband one of the most important pieces of legislation

WNAX Radio reports…

Several priorities for Minnesota Farmers Union members were contained in legislation passed by State Lawmakers this session. MFU Government Relations Director Stu Lourey says getting biofuels infrastructure approved along with funding for expanding smaller meatpacking facilities and reauthorizing the Farmer Lender Mediation program were all legislative wins.

He says one of the most important pieces of legislation that passed was for $70 million dollars for broadband internet that has become essential for farmers, ranchers and businesses.

MN Dep of Commerce and Attorney General’s Office call out CenturyLink for landline customer service

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

CenturyLink has asked Minnesota regulators to eliminate or modify what it calls archaic telephone rules — at the same time two state agencies say the company is violating those regulations and several others.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office have blasted CenturyLink for its landline customer service, claiming long delays for repairs and slow response times to customer calls.

“Customer complaints reveal an alarming pattern of regular and extended landline telephone service outages,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a filing last week with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). “Given CenturyLink’s seeming lack of attention and indifference to landline customer inquiries, requests and complaints, it is no surprise that customer wait times are an issue.”

The Commerce Department, meanwhile, concluded that the company “may need to be subject to penalties for violations [of PUC rules] to provide the economic incentive for CenturyLink to update its network and employ adequate staffing.”

CenturyLink (Lumen) responded to filings…

“Over the past several years, we have made significant investments to modernize our network to enable the deployment of more broadband and increased speeds for consumers throughout Minnesota,” the statement said.

CenturyLink, Minnesota’s largest landline phone service provider, said in a PUC filing last month that its landline service quality “remains strong.”

The company said further in its Wednesday statement: “We constantly conduct maintenance and repair on our networks, and there is always work to do…. As can be expected, at any given time some facilities require repairs due to vandalism, snowplows, automobiles, animals and age.”

Last month, CenturyLink asked the PUC to relax landline repair rules because they saw landlines as obsolete. They also want the answering time relaxed…

The company also wants the PUC to rescind or change its “answering time” rule, which says landline providers need to answer 90% of their customer service phone calls within 20 seconds.

It is not necessary anymore, CenturyLink said in the filing, as the “penalty for failing to resolve customer concerns or inquiries quickly … is imposed by the competitive marketplace.” Customers will drop the landline service.

Their requests are not going well…

The Commerce Department and the Attorney General’s Office have both recommended that the PUC deny CenturyLink’s request to rescind or alter phone service rules. …

The two agencies concluded that CenturyLink isn’t answering 90% of calls within 20 seconds as required. In its PUC filing, the Commerce Department listed examples where customers were left on hold by CenturyLink for as long as three hours.

Nor has Century Link restored 95 % of service troubles within 24 hours, the agencies say. “Not only does CenturyLink not meet the goal using its own metrics, but the [Commerce] Department believes the troubles are underreported due to the inabilities of customers to reach customer service.”

In a survey of 180 CenturyLink customers, the Commerce Department found that only 5% of respondents reported quick restoration of service after an outage; 18% reported long waits, including from three days to several weeks.

The Attorney General’s Office’s claims that due to sustained outages, CenturyLink’s landline customers often lack 911 service for more than 24 hours.

“Many of these outages involve landline-only customers and/or customers that rely on landline service for emergency and medical purposes,” the office said in a PUC filing.

The comments, as is often the case, are as interesting as the article.

 

Arrowhead Intelligent Region: Program Update

The Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) initiative brings together northeastern Minnesota economic and community developers to identify and fund projects across the seven-county Arrowhead region that will:

  • improve broadband infrastructure
  • build a knowledge workforce
  • incent innovation
  • ensure digital equality
  • enable community engagement
  • ensure environmental and social sustainability

The latest AIR cohort just got started on their path to better broadband, and I thought it might be fun for folks to get a glimpse on what’s happening there…

How to spend the American Rescue Plan? Ask the residents

While even the New York Times is talking about how cities and states should be spending their federal funding (American Rescue Plan), Burnsville (MN) is asking their residents. Here’s text from a letter they recently sent out. (Please don’t take the survey, unless you live in Burnsville) but it’s a nice model to use in other places…

Lend Your Voice to the Future of Recovery Fund Spending

In this early planning stage, we want to hear what’s important to you.

Take our brief two question survey!

The City of Burnsville is set to receive approximately $8 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds over the next two years. The City will have until December 2026 to spend the money. Many governing boards around the country are making unilateral decisions on how to spend their ARP funds, but that’s just not how we do things in Burnsville. We work for our community, and we want to be sure that we listen to the voice of the community!
The US Treasury Department has limited the use of ARP funds to the following areas:

  • Respond to the public health emergency
  • Lost revenue recovery
  • Investments in water, sewer, and broadband
  • Premium pay for eligible workers

The Burnsville City Council will take many different factors into consideration as they continue to evaluate the use of ARP funds. These factors will include things such as:

  • Community feedback
  • Ongoing guidance from US Treasury
  • Existing funding/programs
  • Access to previous funding/programs

 

Legislators Bakk and Ecklund talk about MN broadband funding

The Timber Jay asked Senator Bakk and Representation Ecklund to talk about the 2021 Legislative highlights. Broadband was on the list…

Securing $70 million for the state’s Border-to-Border high-speed broadband initiative was also near the top of their lists of accomplishments.
“I’ve been the chief author of the broadband legislation for the last four years, and that’s a huge win for the state of Minnesota,” Ecklund said. “You compile that with all of the federal money that will be coming in and we might finally get to the point where we can say Minnesota is true border-to-border broadband, but right now 257,000 households are unserved.”
“That’s the biggest (allocation) we’ve ever made, $35 million a year,” Bakk said.

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