Blandin on Broadband News: Oct 2019: Broadband conference & county profiles

The regularly scheduled eNews has been slightly changed this month, because we have posted the annual MN County Broadband Profiles. We take a look at the top counties, the bottom counties and everything in between – and if you want to talk more about it, please join us at the Fall Broadband Conference…

Oct 8-10 – MN Fall BB Conference – Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work
This three-day conference at the beautiful Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, MN will offer learning and engagement on many aspects of the challenges and benefits of broadband access and use, from “Pursuing Broadband 101,” to digital inclusion tools and strategies for diverse audiences.

Local Broadband News

Read analysis of the top and bottom counties

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

It is so interesting to review the Blandin on Broadband blog reports on county connectivity.  Many counties are making great progress on achieving the 100 Mb/20 Mb state goal.  The next big community challenge will be to maximize the value derived from this combination of significant investment by private and public sector partnerships. The question is how to move from being able to tell stories of individual people, businesses and institutions that are making great use of technology to a bigger story of widespread sophisticated use of the network for work, school, entrepreneurship, health care and social life; in essence, creating a world-class environment that retains and attracts people and investments.  It will take a major shift in mindset for community leaders to focus on this even more complex task.

The Intelligent Community framework provides a guide to measure this shift.  The six elements of Intelligent Community are: Broadband; Knowledge Workforce; Innovation; Digital Equality; Sustainability and Advocacy.  It is interesting to note that the MN Department of Economic Development now has key staff devoted to several of these topics.  The beauty of the Intelligent Community framework is that it helps break down the silos between these topic priorities.  Done right, there can be great synergies between these topics though it is sometimes difficult to knock down those institutional barriers.

Great thanks to those folks who attended one of Blandin Foundation’s Intelligent Community workshops this fall and special kudos to those who followed up with a submitted application to ICF.  Minnesota applications jumped from two to five.  Special recognition to Alexandria Lakes Area; Brainerd Lakes Area; East Central Minnesota – GPS 45:93; Koochiching County; and City of Winthrop. Communities can still submit the benchmarking questionnaire at any time and receive their benchmarking report shortly after. When you do so, you will see how your community stacks up compared to 400 other communities around the world.

We all know that broadband does not get deployed in rural places with strong community effort.  It will take that same level of effort to achieve the full benefits of the network.

Senators Klobuchar & Smith and Congressman Stauber announce $1.9 million in broadband funding for Aitkin County

Brainerd Dispatch reports…

Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, along with Congressman Pete Stauber, announced Wednesday, Sept. 25, over $1.9 million in funding for broadband deployment in Aitkin County.

The Community Connect grant of $1,953,464 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is intended to construct a fiber broadband network helping spur economic, business, telehealth, and educational improvements in Rice River Township and Spalding Township. …

This rural development investment will be used to construct a fiber-to-the-premises network to 235 establishments in portions of the Aitkin County townships. This includes tribal land and facilities of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative in Aitkin will construct a broadband network to support service at levels up to 1 gigabyte per second for each subscriber. This broadband network will assist in economic and business development, as well as telehealth and educational improvements, the release stated.

Notes from the Klobuchar meeting in Aitkin on broadband

Last week I followed Senator Klobuchar’s staff around to listen to communities talk about broadband, infrastructure and housing in Aitkin and other places. Aitkin Age recently wrote about the local meeting, highlighting some of the broadband conversation…

Outreach director with Klobuchar’s office, Kurt Johnson, led the conversation on broadband. Currently, the office is working on mapping to identify broadband needs in communities throughout the state and supporting funding or other solutions.

Aitkin County Economic Development Coordinator Ross Wagner said the county has supplemented funds toward increasing broadband availability in the area, adding, “We need outside help to get broadband throughout our county.”

Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative is a member-owned organization that has also invested into expanding broadband services in the area. Stacy Cluff said MLEC has applied for additional grants. However, in 2017 a new tax law passed which limits the amount of income generated from non members. If awarded grants next year, it would affect their tax-exempt status.

The lack of broadband and low-speed standards are barriers to attracting businesses to the area, Wagner said. When the internet is down, some businesses still have the ability to store credit card charges, but if they aren’t accepted when they go through owners lose revenue.

The larger populated areas of the county are served, but outlying areas struggle to connect. “Local restaurant owners find 10-12 cars in their lot each morning with people parked there to use their broadband,” Wagner said. “The schools have high speed, but the kids who live 2 miles out of town can’t connect to do their homework because they don’t have broadband.”

Rep Neu talks to North Brank about Broadband

County News Review reports about a meeting in Chisago County…

Rep. Anne Neu, R-North Branch, attended the North Branch Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Sept. 10 to share highlights of the last Minnesota legislative session.

“It’s so fun to be here, especially since there are so many friendly faces,” Neu said. “I’d like to give you an idea of maybe some things on what you should be watching for and looking ahead to the next session.”

Neu said one issue the Legislature worked on is broadband funding.

“I think some things that are really critical for our area is that we put $40 million into broadband funding. It’s not enough yet, but we are continuing down that path to fund broadband,” Neu said. “Obviously, everyone out here knows it’s a huge issue.”

Neu commended the work the city of North Branch is doing regarding the broadband issue.

CTIA 5G Futures

Oct 8, 2019
Minneapolis MN

For folks who aren’t heading to the Blandin Fall Broadband conference

5G will be transformative—making our lives better, our communities safer, and our country more prosperous. From new smartphone uses, automated vehicles, and the Internet of Things to remote healthcare, augmented and virtual reality, industrial automation and more, the innovations of the future will be built on 5G.

Join CTIA & the Minneapolis Regional Chamber at 5G Futures: Minneapolis to learn what our future holds from the companies making 5G a reality.

To learn more about CTIA and the wireless industry, please visit us at

Four companies seek broadband grants for Douglas County

The Alexandria Echo Press reports…

Four companies have applied for state grants to expand internet access next year in Douglas County, according to records made public last week.

Arvig, Charter, Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association and Runestone Telecom Association are all seeking some of the $20 million the Minnesota Legislature approved this year to help expand high-quality internet access throughout the state.

They took a look at how the providers chose their areas…

Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association has applied for six grants, responding to neighborhoods that organized and asked for service, said Executive Director Dave Wolf.

“The neighborhoods we selected were all unserved as far as the state map was concerned,” he said. “We had been reached out to by residents in those neighborhoods.”

A Lake Victoria neighborhood was particularly active, he said, with residents helping to organize their neighbors.

“It’s a grass roots thing, very effective, but we encourage that,” Wolf said.

Next year, Gardonville would like to run fiber to 600 homes, including 300 existing customers and 300 new customers, he said. Gardonville chose to break up its grant requests into six projects, hoping that if one grant gets turned down, another will win approval.

Meanwhile, Runestone applied for just one grant, but it covers a sizable chunk of turf south of Interstate 94.

“This is by far the biggest one that we’ve applied for,” Hedstrom said. Runestone’s first grant was for 100 locations and its second was for 400 locations. This one includes 965 locations.

“We kind of went where people called, and where people contacted us,” he said. “It doesn’t make much sense to do (Lake) Andrew and Forada and skip everybody in between. They’re just as important as everybody else.”

And here’s a look at the specifics…

It’s unlikely that all these projects would receive full funding from Minnesota’s Border-to-Border grant program. However, they outline the neighborhoods that internet providers in Douglas County want to reach. Every project listed here would provide internet speeds well above the state’s goals.


  • Along U.S. Highway 29 southwest of Carlos, including Maple Way and Maple Lane NE. It would provide speeds of 940 megabits per second download and 35 megabits per second upload.


  • South of the interstate on the north side of Lake Andrew
  • Between Lakes Darling and Ida, around Lake Charley
  • Southeast of Garfield, along Centennial Drive NW from N. Oaks Lane NW to County Road 22 NW
  • Inside the wishbone of Lake Victoria, along its eastern shoreline
  • Near the Minnesouri Club, along Krohnfeldt Drive on Lake Miltona
  • Around Lakes Mina and Latoka
  • Gardonville would provide speeds of one gigabit upload and one gigabit download.


  • Just one grant, but it’s a biggie, looping a chunk of Douglas County south of I-94. Like Gardonville, it would provide one gigabit down and one gigabit up.


  • It also wants grant money to install connections in Forada and around Maple Lake; it would provide speeds of one gigabit down and 100 megabits up.

The Echo Press did a nice job getting info that is helpful to the community and beyond!


Senator Klobuchar supports rural broadband with Dig Once and better mapping

Faribault Daily News posts a letter from Senator Amy Klobuchar. She talks about the benefits of broadband, especially for rural areas based on recent visits from her staff to Bemidji, Walker, Wadena, Aitkin, Brainerd and Mora

I’ve heard from people across our state about how access to broadband is changing their lives and making their jobs easier. For example, farmers have told me they are excited about how advances in precision agriculture—like technology that can detect the level of moisture in the soil— can help them save money, increase yields, and protect the environment. And tractors can now use wireless broadband to send data directly back to the farm, allowing farmers to better manage their operations.

We have also seen advancements in telehealth technology that can help connect rural communities around the state to health care providers hundreds of miles away. Doctors can monitor the fetal heart rate and the weight and blood pressure of low-risk expectant moms remotely without having them drive to a clinic. Remote monitoring can also link specialists to patients and doctors in rural areas to provide real time consultations from the other side of the state.

And talks about plans to help make that happen…

I’ve always believed that when we invest in our infrastructure, including improved access to broadband, we invest in opportunity for every American. If we do this right, we can bridge the rural and urban divide that’s damaging our country and hurting our economy. That’s why I sponsored legislation to make broadband deployment easier by requiring coordination between states and federal agencies when highway projects are built so that broadband infrastructure is installed at the same time. In other words, agencies only “dig once” and lay the groundwork for broadband when building or expanding roads. A provision based on my bill was signed into law last year. “Dig once” policies help streamline broadband deployment and reduce the costs of building new broadband infrastructure while also helping expand wireless coverage in our rural areas.

As we work to bring high-speed internet to communities across the country, it’s critical that we have a clear and accurate understanding of where broadband is available and where it is not. While the Federal Communication Commission collects this information and provides maps that display broadband availability, these maps significantly overstate coverage in many rural areas. That’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation – the Broadband DATA Act — with Senators Wicker, Thune, and Peters, to collect more precise data so that broadband deployment funds will go where they are needed most. This bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee in July, and I am working to quickly get it signed into law.