Donate a device for redistribution in St Cloud this weekend!

Clean out that back room. Make room for holiday gifts. Make someone’s life a little easier. Donate a digital device. KSNI reports

The United Way of Central Minnesota will host a donation event this weekend to help families get the digital devices they need to stay connected during the pandemic.

The device drive will happen Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Quinlivan & Hughes parking lot. Donors can place donatable items in their vehicle’s trunk, drive to the donation site, and pop the trunk. Volunteers will unload the items.

Some acceptable donations include cell phones and tablets restored to factory settings, laptops, computer towers and monitors, keyboards, mice and servers. Appliances that don’t connect to the internet like copy machines and TVs will not be accepted.

Director of volunteer engagement Mary Krippner said this device drive is a first for the local United Way.

OPPORTUNITY: Applications open for Mytech’s Make a Difference IT Grant

I got the following announcement through the Nonprofit Tech Talk List…

MCN is pleased to support Mytech Partners’ Make a Difference Grant, an exciting opportunity for a nonprofit to receive three years of managed & professional IT services (up to a $250,000 value).
Mytech is accepting applications through November 20, 2020. All organizations will be judged based on their need, their technology vision, and their ability to capitalize on the value of our services. The winner and the top 4 finalists will be announced at an event on Thursday, December 10, 2020.
Learn more at

Only caveat that will impact some readers – the nonprofit headquarters must be within one hour of the Twin Cities. There can be locations beyond that point – but headquartered within an hour of the TCs. You can contact them with questions.

Good luck!

COVID-inspired free tutoring for Minnesota kids preK-8 through AmeriCorps Serve Minnesota

There’s a story behind this initiative –based on students’ need and AmeriCorps talented team and infrastructure. For busy parents who are juggling working and trying to facilitate teaching from home, I have something that might help. Remote tutoring that’s free. You don’t have to drive a kid anywhere or worry about exposure to COVID. You don’t have to pretend to understand how new math works. All you need is sufficient broadband…

Do you want to learn more about this new initiative to bring Reading Corps and Math Corps directly to families? Here’s how to works:

If you are a Minnesota family with a child in PreK – 8th grade, it’s easy to get started:

  1. Visit Reading Corps/Math Corps online for a personal consultation – it’s FREE! —
  2. Meet with a literacy or math expert to discuss the needs of your learner(s)

Based on the identified needs of your student, you’ll either:

  • Be matched with a reading/math specialist who will work with your learner(s)directly
    to provide skill building and practice (likely in a virtual setting) and/or
  • Receive resources and activities you can do at home to support learning

Schools across the country rely on Reading Corps and Math Corps to support students who need extra help. Our highly trained specialists focus on skill building and use research-based activities proven to work. For homework help and other assistance, please contact your child’s school.

EVENT: Broadband Communities Summit goes virtual Sep 22-24; and we have a few golden tickets

The Broadband Communities Summit is the leading event for Broadband Systems Operators. That means it’s a great place to learn about new technologies, deployments and policies from the folks on the ground. There are multiple tracks including a few that really speak to most Blandin on Broadband readers: a special track dedicate to rural broadband with an emphasis on funding and an economic development track full of case studies and good ideas.

You can check out the agenda online. Here are a few of my person highlights:

  • Models for Successful Public-Private and Public-Public Partnerships
  • The ‘Sausage Making’ of Fiber Financing – How it Really Works
  • The Great Reset: Community-Based Ecosystems in the COVID-19 Era
  • Apps for Rural America: Putting Better Broadband to Better Uses

Check out the agenda – you may have your own favorites. And if you do, please let us know. Broadband Communities has been kind enough to share a few VIP tickets with us to share. Contact me and I’ll hook you up. (While supplies last.)

OPPORTUNITY: ILSR is hiring a Broadband Writer and Editor

From the Institite for Local Self Reliance (Muninetworks)

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is looking for a Broadband Writer/Editor to join a small team within ILSR focused on ensuring all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access.

With Katie leaving to add her acumen, insight, and research skills to ILSR’s Energy Democracy team across the virtual hall, there’s a signifcant void to fill. Coverage of electric cooperatives here might never recover, and we’ll certainly miss her.

You can check out the website for details on responsibilites and expectations. Here’s mor einfo on the job…

This position is full-time working with a team based in Minnesota, but we currently work remotely and welcome applications from anywhere within the U.S. Position includes 100% employer-paid health plan, generous vacation and holiday leave, and retirement contribution matching. Salary is commensurate with experience, in the $35,000-$45,000 range. We are a dynamic and friendly team dedicated to making the world a better place. ILSR takes professional growth seriously.

Applications are welcome from a broad range of applicants. ILSR is committed to providing employees with a welcoming work environment free of discrimination and harassment. All employment decisions are made without regard to age, race, color, religion or belief, gender identification, family or parental status. ILSR is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability.

For what it’s worth – the team is great – friendly and smart. And if you get a chance to move to Minnesota, you should take it. Always.

OPPORTUNITY: Growing Healthy Digital Equity Ecosystems Questionnaire

I am sharing the following opportunity from Colin Rhinesmith Simmons University to take their Growing Healthy Digital Equity Ecosystems Questionnaire/survey…

You are being invited to participate in a research study to examine how organizations that work with groups in their community to promote digital inclusion have responded to the challenges of COVID-19. The goal of the study is to provide data and evidence to help NDIA members, funders involved in supporting COVID-19 relief efforts in local communities, as well as local, state, and federal policymakers to develop more effective digital equity strategies nationwide. Findings from the study will also be useful for stakeholders working to promote digital equity and racial justice in communities struggling with poverty during COVID-19 and after the pandemic ends.

The survey took me about 5 minutes; it make take longer depending on your answers I imagine. Going through the survey it would be nice to have a broad swath of people take it to see how people are working on digital equity at a time when the gap seems to be deepening  exponentially.


Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation ask people in South MN to take the MN Broadband speed test

Owatonna”s People’s Press reports…

outhern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is seeking input from community members in southern Minnesota to help define where broadband service is available and what speeds people are receiving. SMIF is partnering with the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, among other partners, on this Minnesota Speed Test Initiative by asking people in its 20-county region to take a one-minute test.

The pandemic has highlighted how important access to broadband is for every Minnesotan now that more people are working, learning and receiving care from home. “There is no doubt that the lack of broadband in rural Minnesota hampers telework, distance learning and telehealth,” said Vince Robinson, Chair of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition.

The speed test can be taken with any device that has an internet or cellular connection and takes less than one minute to complete. No personal information will be collected. For people who are unable to access the internet at all, please call 715-222-2824 to take the test. The test can be found at

Project Nandi In MN Preps for national Day of Action Demanding Free Internet For All

Both National Day of Action and Project Nandi are new to me, but worth sharing the press release…

On Wednesday, August 26, education activists and organizations around the country are staging a National Day of Action demanding that every student have access to broadband internet.

Here in the twin cities, over 25,000 families can’t access online class due to lack of broadband. Project Nandi, The Minnesota Parents Union, Uplift Minnesota, & The Village are organizing locally in support of this movement.

Some of the largest school districts in the country have already signaled they will be fully virtual in the Fall, including the Twin Cities, Atlanta, Houston, LA, Phila, Chicago and Phoenix.

So many students and parents and teachers were using parking lots to access public hotspots that the tagline #ParkingLotWiFi trended.
Comcast makes tens of billions of dollars in profit every year and receives both state and city tax breaks.

Activists from all across the country—including Philadelphia, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Kentucky, Oakland, and Minneapolis/St. Paul—are coming together for a National Day of Action.

Our Demands
Comcast & Centurylink should provide free, unlimited broadband access to every Minnesota Public School Family.
Our districts should work with Black & Brown run organizations to close the digital divide for every student of color.
The state of Minnesota should invest in additional broadband infrastructure so that every community has access to affordable broadband.
Local Municipalities provide low-cost, citywide broadband services.

We call on Senators Amy Klobuchar, & Tina Smith, Congresspeople Ilhan Omar, Tina Craig, Betty Mccollum, Jim Hagdorn, Dean Phillips, Tom Emmer,Collin Peterson, & Pete Stauber, to advocate at federal level for free internet for all, and money for broadband access & infrastructure in Minnesota.

We demand free internet for every public school student! Join us in our socially distanced, masked, Day of action on August 26th 2:30 Pm, Davis Center St Paul. Questions? Email

About Project Nandi

Project Nandi has been serving families with free laptops, tech support, and broadband support in response to Coronavirus & the George Floyd Protests. We are working to raise funds to help 400 kids get laptops, internet, & assistive devices for those with disabilities. With school starting in weeks, we have 22 families on our list. If you would like to support our movement, our gofundme is at

1007 W Broadway Ave
Ste 100
Minneapolis MN 55411

Project Nandi aims to prevent Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian students from being left behind by distance learning during the pandemic. We are working to promote educational equity and improve learning outcomes for students by providing technical support, laptops, and broadband assistance to families in need.

Kentucky Judge offers tips for getting folks to take a Broadband Speed Test – after seeing amazing results in his county

On Monday (Aug 17), Judge Joe Pat Covington of Georgetown Kentucky sent the following message to constituents…

Scott County Broadband Speed Test
We realize during this unprecedented time, the need for reliable, affordable internet service in all parts of our community is more important than ever.  Scott County Fiscal Court is working with a company called GEO Partners LLC to address this need.  We need your help to test the broadband speed and access throughout all parts of Scott County.

We are calling on all community members, including those with students in grades K-12 and citizens working from home, to complete a one-minute speed test.  The test can be done from any device connected to your broadband internet signal in your home.  Your participation is very important!  Please complete the internet speed test by 5:00pm on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.

Make sure your device is connected to your broadband service and no one in your household is streaming video or gaming at the time you conduct the test.  Disconnect from VPN if you use it to work from home.  For those individuals without broadband internet access in your home, the only thing you will have to do is enter the address of the home with no available service.

Take a one-minute speed test to help all of Scott County get reliable internet access.

CLICK HERE [NOTE: for speed readers like myself that’s a link to Kentucky’s speed test – here’s the Minnesota speed test]

He was hoping for 2,000 responses, although some guesswork went into that number. When I spoke to him a couple hours ago, they were at 3448. Wow! (IAbove is a map of their results from an earlier day.)

Scott County Kentucky is partnering with GEO Partners to do a countywide speed test – similar to Minnesota’s partnership with GEO Partners to do a statewide test.

(Sidenote: GEO Partners is hoping to create the national active and evolving statistically valid citizen broadband map! Which would be a cool counter to the FCC maps.)

I was so impressed with Kenticky’s numbers I had to ask for tips. It turns out Joe, now a judge, used to be a school principal, which explains a lot. Here are some of the things they have done:

  • Sent a mass test and email through the schools (with an easy link)
  • Used all of their social medis channels and outlets
  • Got some local TV coverage
  • Built upon the dire need in much of the county. People are hungry for broadband

I know some communities in Minnesota have tried these things; maybe others have not. Either way, I thought Kentucky’s story might inspire Minnesotans to push again. Make it your plan for the weekend – get two new people to take the Minnesota speed test. The greater the input, the greater the decision making.

And for folks working in the broadband world, Joe’s plan after this is to continue working with GEO Partners and once he gets the results and the analysis, he’s going to be looking for federal funding. Maybe we can help Minnesota help Kentucky if there are any grant writing readers looking for an opportunity.


Beltrami County certified as telecommuter-friendly community

I wrote about the big announcement from DEED’s Telecommuter Forward Program last week, but it’s always fun to see local communities get local recognition for their efforts. The Bemidji Pioneer reports…

Beltrami County was congratulated as a telecommuter-friendly community earlier this month by Gov. Tim Walz.

According to a release, these types of communities are labeled as those that coordinate and partner with broadband providers, realtors, economic development professionals, employers, employees and other stakeholders to promote the availability of telecommuting options in their region. In total, 23 communities were recognized, with Beltrami County and Cook County, as well as the cities of Bigfork, Halstad and Warren being the only northern areas listed.

And the local perspective…

Locally, Beltrami County is served by the Bemidji headquartered Paul Bunyan Communications, as well as the Sioux Falls-based provider Midco. Additionally, some of the county is served by Garden Valley Technologies.

Last year, Beltrami County was shown to be No. 1 out of 87 counties when it came to broadband internet access, with 98.78% having access to speeds of up to a gigabit per second. During the stay-at-home order from Walz, the access was essential as Midco and Paul Bunyan Communications saw traffic increase by at least 30% during daytime hours.

Currently, government units and educational institutions are still relying on telecommunications. Since March, all of the Bemidji City Council and several of the Beltrami County board meetings have been held digitally. Additionally, this semester, just 13% of BSU classes will be held in person, with the rest being online or hy-flex courses. Northwest Technical College, meanwhile, will have 35% of its classes in person.

Barbers and beauty shops with broadband poise to offer telehealth services

Craig Settles is an original thinker. I recently saw him talk about a project to get barbers and beauticians involved in telehealth. Being honest I first thought of the Medieval Barber from SNL, and then I remembered how everyone – male and female, all walks and ways of the world – were so happy when the salons opened after quarantine. And I realized it was a pretty genius idea.

MHealth Intelligence wrote about his idea back in January…

 An innovative project in Ohio is using barbershops, hair salons and telehealth to screen people for hypertension.

Three Cleveland-area barbershops in urban neighborhoods are currently working with the Cleveland Clinc to screen patrons with mHealth-enabled blood pressure cuffs. Once the readings are taken and entered into a connected health platform developed by VSee, those patrons can then work with care providers to manage their blood pressure.

For some, the experience was life-saving.

“Ninety percent or more (of our) customers discover the first time they’re screen they have high blood pressure,” Waverley Willis, owner of the Urban Kutz barbershop, said in a story prepared by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. “Several customers’ blood pressure was so high they went straight to the ER, and a good number were well on their way to a stroke or a heart attack.”

The program is the brainchild of Craig Settles, a telehealth and broadband business planner, who wanted to find some way to improve care management for the African-American community – 40 percent of which are living with hypertension.

Craig is looking for some more cities to try this out. As he recently posted in a public discussion list..

I’ve got five cities ID’d for my barbershop/hair salon telehealth pilot program (Cleveland, Wilson County, NC, Chicago, Denver-area and possibly Topeka). I need five more, and I’m thinking some cities don’t have a broadband project lined up because they have to get the money spent by Christmas. This pilot addresses the time constraint.

I spoke with Craig and he’s interested in some rural areas too. If you’re interested, I encourage you get contact Craig for more info.

What Should We Ask in our Next Internet Use Survey?

I wanted to share the following from an NTIA email to data users. If you have some thoughts, you should tell them…

For more than 25 years, NTIA has been surveying the American public about its computer and Internet use, in partnership with the Census Bureau. Our most recent NTIA Internet Use Survey went into the field in November 2019, with more than 50 questions administered to approximately 50,000 households across the United States. In anticipation of conducting future surveys, NTIA is seeking recommendations from the public about how we can improve our survey and make it as relevant as possible. Are there questions we previously asked that should be changed or deleted? Are there any questions that we should be adding? We want to hear from you. | Read the complete blog post >>

By submitting your ideas for our next set of questions, you can help ensure that our survey is keeping up with evolving technologies and any new policy challenges that arise. After digesting your comments, NTIA will draft a revised survey instrument to use in the future. Beginning this fall, experts from the Census Bureau will conduct cognitive testing of our draft survey, which will help us learn what questions may cause confusion or elicit inaccurate responses. You can find more information and instructions for submitting your comments in the official Request for Comments. | Read the Request for Comments >>

In the meantime, we will continue to analyze the results of our November 2019 survey. In our initial post on the results, we shared that seniors and other demographic groups reported encouraging increases in Internet use, and that Americans in general were using a larger and more varied range of devices.

North Branch And Chisago County are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities

I wrote about the big announcement from DEED’s Telecommuter Forward Program last week, but it’s always fun to see local communities get local recognition for their efforts. Isanti-Chisago County Star report

For a long time now, one of the biggest pet projects for the North Branch council and staff has been trying to bring high-speed internet to the entire area, something that is desperately needed even near downtown North Branch. To that extent, back in February, the council approved a resolution in support of Telecommuting Opportunities and Telecommuter Forward Certification, which is a bill passed by the State Legislature in 2019. North Branch was one of only 23 cities, counties, or townships to formally get on board with the initiative. Chisago County was also one of these 23 communities.

While there has so far been minimal advancement in the area with high-speed internet – even despite the increased emphasis in the need due to more people working from home and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city was recently honored by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz for being a “Telecommuter Forward Community.”

Local leaders commented…

“We, as a community, want broadband in every single household,” said North Branch Mayor Jim Swenson. “They all deserve to have broadband. North Branch has got a plan for our community and we are ready and willing to be the leaders in the state of Minnesota.”

“As the city went through its rebranding process about a year ago, we really identified the city of North Branch as the place to work, live and play,” said City Administrator Renae Fry, who was designated as the single point of contact for coordinating telecommuting opportunities within North Branch – a mandatory component of becoming a Telecommuting Forward community. “My city council, my mayor, my staff have been committed to making sure that individuals who choose to work from home have the resources to do so.”

Lake Crystal and Madelia are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities

I wrote about the big announcement from DEED’s Telecommuter Forward Program last week, but it’s always fun to see local communities get local recognition for their efforts. Mankato Free Press reports

Two area cities have been recognized for promoting the availability of telecommuting options.

Lake Crystal and Madelia are among the first group of Minnesota communities certified as telecommuter-friendly.

These 23 cities, townships and counties across Minnesota are being recognized for their efforts to coordinate and partner with broadband providers, Realtors, economic development professionals, employers, employees and other stakeholders.

MN Broadband Grant Application – Due Date for Pre-Application Outreach is August 19, 2020

The Office of Broadband Development sent out a reminder…

The Office of Broadband Development (OBD) wishes to remind all potential broadband grant applicants for this year’s 2020 grant round that – prior to submitting a broadband grant application – every applicant must contact all existing wireline broadband providers in the proposed project area.  This pre-application outreach requires each applicant to include a description of the proposed project and a map of the project area with the written outreach.

Under current law, this must be completed no later than six weeks prior to the grant application deadline of September 30, 2020.  That makes the last allowable date for written (email) outreach to all existing providers in the project area to be August 19, 2020.

Detailed information regarding suggested format and informational details for this mandatory outreach is included in the 2020 Grant Instructions and Application at pages 27 – 30 and located on our website.

For a more detailed overview of the Border to-Border Broadband Grant process, we encourage potential applicants to view a recorded webinar – 2020 Border to Border Broadband Grant Overview.

For questions regarding this required pre-application outreach or other grant submittal questions, please contact OBD Staff at 651-259-7610 or

Good luck!!