Cyberattacks hitting Minnesota and local governments

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports of cyberattacks in Minnesota…

Hackers forced the Minnesota Senate website offline Tuesday, the latest in a series of cyberattacks targeting state and local computer systems. …

Ludeman said the security breach came from the same hacker group that targeted 10 state agencies, including the governor’s office, in recent days.

It’s unknown whether the attacks are related to demonstrations and unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd. But Gov. Tim Walz said at a weekend news conference that “a very sophisticated denial-of-service attack on all state computers was executed” as the state readied its response to riots on Saturday.

Such denial-of-service attacks send high levels of external traffic to a website’s servers, causing the site to freeze or crash.

“That’s not somebody sitting in their basement,” Walz said at the time.

City of Minneapolis websites also experienced outages due to a cyberattack early Thursday morning. A city spokeswoman said there was no evidence of a data breach and that most of the sites were back online by 9 a.m. that day.

It reinforces an important layer to digital inclusion – cybersecurity. Back in 2012 there was a national push (Stop Think Connect) to promote and encourage cybersecurity. I know the MN Broadband Task Force learned about cybersecurity in 2018 (and earlier). And there were discussions and tips shared even at the onset of the COVID move to work at home – but I think people are probably ready for a more detailed discussion and expecting more coverage especially given the tumultuous times and Minneapolis coverages in the news.

Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects with Iron Range Tourism Bureau

Part of becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), is the opportunity to show off what you’ve been doing related to broadband in your community. It was great to hear from folks with Iron Range Tourism Bureau.

It was great to hear about all of the projects happening in the area. I loved the focus on art. Here’s a list of their “mini” porjects – with a special nod to their online artist map.

  • Eveleth Heritage Society partnership with Minnesota Historical Society to scan 1,332 pages of the Eveleth Mining News.
  • Iron Range Historical Society connect Instagram and Facebook, add newsletters to website, add Online Donation button with new PayPal account
  • Hibbing Historical Society new website
  • Embarrass Township Printer, website improvements, Facebook account addition
  • Virginia Area Historical Society digital photo frame, printer/copier, light table, scanner
  • Camp Vermilion office laptops
  • Lyric Center for the Arts  desktop and laptop
  • SISU Heritage laptop and internet access

Paul Bunyan Communications Returns Capital Credits Early; Over $4.1 Million Distributed, Largest in Cooperative Histor

I don’t usually share such business-focused press releases, but it’s a good time for good news and it seems like a sign that you can make a business case for rural broadband at Gig speeds…

Instead of the regular fall distribution, Paul Bunyan Communications has sent out the 2020 Capital Credit return early to its members and it is the largest return in the cooperative’s history, over $4.1 million.
Paul Bunyan Communications is a not for profit company that strives to provide the highest quality service at the most affordable rates. As a cooperative, membership in Paul Bunyan Communications includes sharing in the financial success of the company. Profits are allocated to the members based on their proportional share of the allocable revenues. These allocations may then be returned to the individual members through capital credit retirements.
The 2020 distribution includes 20% of credits earned in 2019 and the remaining credits earned in 2002. For current members with a distribution amount of $100 or less, a credit has been applied to your June bill. Checks have been mailed out to members receiving more than $100. “The state of the cooperative is strong and our all-fiber optic network, the GigaZone, is one of the largest rural gigabit networks in the country. This enables our members to keep connected to work from home, distance learn, use telehealth services, watch streaming video, and much more. To help our members in these current circumstances, our Board of Directors felt strongly about paying out capital credits as aggressively and as quickly as possible” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“Our cooperative member-owned structure and rural focus allows us to provide technologies and a level of service to our members unlike other providers. We are well prepared and committed to provide our members the critical communication services they need with the local customer service they deserve now and well into the future. Thank you to all of our members for being a part of Minnesota’s largest broadband cooperative!” added Randy Frisk, Board President.
“Our cooperative provides the latest in technology at cost. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications and there are no annual membership dues. To become a member of the cooperative, all you need to do is subscribe to either local phone or broadband Internet service. You get the latest in technology backed up by our talented team of over 130 local employees that all live and work here” added Dave Schultz, Paul Bunyan Communications Chief Financial Officer.

Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband, Policy, COVID-19 (June 2020)

MN Broadband Maps and Rankings are Out!
The Office of Broadband Development recently posted broadband coverage maps for Minnesota Counties. See how your county ranks for broadband access at speeds of 25 Mbps up and 3 down, 100 Mbps up and 20 down or Gig access.

MN County Prosperity Ranking
Go Daddy releases Venture Forward, a report on the impact of local ventures on a community and impact of community on local ventures. Diving into the report, we created a list of the Top 10 in Venture Density, in Highly Active Ventures, in greatest change and other factors.

MN Broadband Task Force May Meeting
The MN Broadband Task Force heard from GEO Partners on their mapping services and MidCo introduced their services, especially on their fixed wireless services. They also got updates from subgroups and talked about how they might let policymakers know that broadband is even more important during this time of COVID-19.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Aitkin

Alexandria
Alexandria Area Community Foundation Funds telehealth and other COVID-19 needs

Bois Forte, Cook & Orr
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects with the GRIZZLIES

Cannon Falls
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Cannon Falls

Carlton County
Carlton County uneven broadband – large swath unserved

Dakota County
Charter Communications extends network in Rosemount

Duluth
Duluth New Tribune Letter to the Editor lifts up fiber as the broadband solution

East Iron Range
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in MN East Range

Ely
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Ely

Grand Rapids
Introduction to telehealth to end users from Grand Rapids Herald Review

Hibbing
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Hibbing MN

Iron Range
Working from home saves money and time – but requires broadband on the Iron Range

Itasca & Koochiching Counties
RAMS, Koochiching and Itasca Counties ask residents to take the broadband speed test and spread the word!

Koochiching
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Koochiching County

Laurentian communities (Eveleth, Gilbert, Mountain Iron, and Virginia)
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Laurentian communities

Le Sueur County
Blandin Broadband Communities vision meeting with Le Sueur County planned June 11
DFL Candidates in Le Sueur County talk about issues, including broadband

Mankato
Local musicians raising funds for local efforts through community websites in Mankato

Northeast MN
Northeast Service Cooperative and CTC map public WiFi spots in NE MN

Prairie Island
Dakota Language gets new life with Zoom

Rock County
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Rock County

St Paul
Broadband changes everything – it changes a revolution

Swift County
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Swift County

Tower
Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Tower MN

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Notes on previous Blandin Broadband Roundtables

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Today, I find myself relatively speechless.  In this time of high social anxiety, the Internet is showcasing its power to both support and stress our communities and country.  Rather than personally blathering on, I thought that I would provide a few great sources of information for your thoughtful consideration.

Privacy
Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (www.Epic.org)

Digital Inclusion
National Digital Inclusion Alliance (www.digitalinclusion.org)

Internet
Berkman Klein Center – Harvard (cyber.harvard.edu)
Benton Institute for Broadband and Society (www.Benton.org)

Broadband changes everything – it changes a revolution

I live in St Paul. Three months ago I thought COVID changed my life; one week ago my life really changed when George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police. Our community is outraged because his brutal death was captured on video. History has proven that the story, without video, would not be enough to garner overwhelming support. But the story was captured on video and shared worldwide.

The power of broadband made that possible. And since that moment broadband has fed us stories and has allowed people to mobilize – for better and for worse. By day I volunteer for Women’s March Minnesota. I livestream and Tweet to support peaceful protests. I had covered the 10K March to the 35W bridge. I left 10 minutes before the semi plowed into the crowd, which was captured on livestream. Those images fed to the world in real time paint the picture and effect change.

The Revolution will not be televised – it will be livestreamed.

Those of us privileged to have access to broadband during this time have had the opportunity to learn, work and stay healthy online during the pandemic. Now, in the Twin Cities we are learning to guard our community. At night during the curfew, I use broadband to track what’s happening outside. The neighborhood Facebook page lets me know that someone has checked my alley and that the car speeding past has been reported. So I don’t have to go into the alley. Livestreams help me watch what’s happening our town. Police scanners warn me when something is close to my home.

If/when broadband cuts out I feel blind and mute. I see nothing and I can say nothing. We are also seeing that broadband is a tool for information and misinformation; broadband and devices are necessary, but not sufficient. We need the skills to use it. We need to be content providers to tell our stories but also information literate. We need the skills to assess information as well as to keep it secure and private.

It’s a scary time. Coming into it without broadband, device or info literacy skills leaves you less prepared.

Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Laurentian communities

Part of becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), is the opportunity to show off what you’ve been doing related to broadband in your community. It was great to hear from folks from Laurentian communities, inclduing Quad Cities of Eveleth, Gilbert, Mountain Iron, and Virginia, Minnesota, as well as surrounding business communities on the Iron Range

It was great to hear how broadband and e-makreting trianing had helped to prepare businesses to recalibrate during the COVID-19 pandemic. One local business used her brand new website to sell 600 tshirts online to support businesses in her area. She made $6000 for everyone and learned how to perfect selling online. Also they were able to promote local businesses with a shop local app, which has been getting nice attention.

Working from home saves money and time – but requires broadband on the Iron Range

The Hibbing Daily Tribune published an article from Aaron Brown about working from home. Aaron wrote about the difference working from home has made…

I’ve worked from home about two days a week most of my career. After COVID-19 hit, my employer learned that a surprising amount of work could be done remotely. Not all of it, of course, but more than we might have thought possible.

Awkwardly at first, most of my coworkers adapted to online meetings and working from home. I bought a lawn mower from a local dealer over the phone. An executive from a Fortune 500 company told me about overseeing a billion dollar loan program while keeping an eye on his ice fishing tip-up. A lot of this was just the realization of what was already possible all along.

Then we crunched the numbers. In April my family purchased no more than a half tank of gas for each of our two vehicles. Even when we added a few more trips in May we spent a tenth our normal gas budget. The savings were tangible.

It was the added time that we felt most of all: at least an extra hour each day. Whether driving into a big city or a small town on the Iron Range, all commuters understand the cost — financially, mentally, and physically — of drive time.

And he wrote about what you need to work from home…

For one thing, this means high speed internet and the service infrastructure to support creative work and associated technology. Here, this region has won small victories in recent years. Yet significant work remains unfinished.

A week before last the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools announced an effort to survey needs for high speed internet in rural parts of Itasca and Koochiching counties. They’ve already been doing this in St. Louis County. Coupled with previous efforts by the state Border to Border Broadband initiative, this is the ground level work that leads to expanded broadband access.