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 deed.broadband@state.mn.us.

Good luck!!

Happy Telecommuter Forward Day in MN – esp to 23 participating cities

KSTP News reports…

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday issued a proclamation congratulating 23 cities, counties and a township across Minnesota as telecommuter-friendly communities.

Walz has also declared Aug. 7, 2020, as “Telecommuter Forward!” day in the state of Minnesota.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear how important it is for the state to support telecommuting capabilities,” said Walz. “This initiative will help ensure options for remote work expand in our state, improving the quality of life for employees and encouraging economic vitality in communities throughout Minnesota.”

How does a community sign up?

According to the release, under the law, communities must adopt a model resolution that includes a statement of support for telecommuting and a single point of contact for coordinating telecommuting opportunities within their community. Minnesota communities that wish to become a Telecommuter Forward! community can find the resolution template from the Office of Broadband Development on DEED’s website.

Which communities are participating?

The first group of communities certified as telecommuter-friendly are:

  • Cities:
    • Albany
    • Balaton
    • Big Lake
    • Bigfork
    • Halstad
    • Lake Benton
    • Lake Crystal
    • Madelia
    • Monticello
    • North Branch
    • Preston
    • Spring Grove
    • Warren
    • Windom
  •  Counties:
    • Beltrami County
    • Big Stone County
    • Chisago County
    • Cook County
    • Lincoln County
    • Sherburne County
    • Swift County
    • Martin County
  • Township:
    • Greenvale

Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition Launches Statewide Speed Test Initiative

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

“The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is pleased to announce the launch of the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative,” said Vince Robinson, Chair of the MN Rural Broadband Coalition. “There is no doubt that the lack of broadband in rural Minnesota hampers telework, distance learning, and telehealth.
Our goal is to find out exactly where broadband service is available in rural Minnesota and what speeds people are receiving.”
TAKE THE TEST: http://mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest
A pilot program for speed testing is ongoing in St Louis, Koochiching, and Itasca Counties. The Range Association of Municipalities and Schools has been leading the way to create a different set of broadband maps based on approximately 7,000 broadband speed tests submitted by area residents and businesses.

These speed tests, mapped by GEO Partners, clearly show the speeds available in cities and townships across the three northern Minnesota counties.
“For years we’ve been relying on incomplete data to make big decisions on broadband infrastructure in Minnesota,” said Nathan Zacharias, Project Manager for the Minnesota Speed Test Initiative. “Most broadband maps stop at the census block, township, or county level. The Minnesota Speed Test Initiative will give us house-by-house data that just isn’t available anywhere else. We’re very excited to get this project in the field.”
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. Testing data will be statistically valid and provide a map of what service levels are for any given area in the state. This information will be an important tool for communities that are planning a broadband expansion project through the FCC, USDA, or MN Borderto-Border Broadband Grant Program.
COVID-19 has shown us how important access to broadband is for every Minnesotan now that we’re being asked to work, learn, or receive care from home. Broadband is no different than any other basic utility that people need. It is an essential part of our daily lives.

OPPORTUNITY: Create a Digital Ready Community – pilot opportunity for 3-5 MN communities

As part of the Fall Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand conference, the Blandin Foundation is partnering with Purdue University’s Center for Rural Development‘s Roberto Gallardo and Annie Cruz-Porter to offer a unique opportunity for up to five communities to work on becoming a Digital Ready Community.

This is a chance to join an abbreviated and accelerated pilot program to create an initiative to take the reins on the digital goals and standards for your local community to help improve marketing to the folks outside the community, encourage community-wide digital inclusivity by actively inviting all corners of the community and build trust in local digital communication – by aligning local websites, Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and other existing assets. Imagine working together to build your digital reputation!

The program will include video lessons and/or coaching on:

  • Networking 101 – learning how to work
  • Digital Assets Group (DAG) – creating a local group that will lead the digital ready effort

DAG Operational Agreement – setting rules, procedures and bylaws that will guide the use of digital assets by the community in an effort to become more responsive and increase civic engagement and trust

Post conference, the communities will be encouraged to work on:

  • Community survey
  • Digital Engagement plan

What do we need from you?

  • A community leader to compile a team that is willing to work on this effort during the conference (October 2020) and beyond
  • A commitment to participate in sessions and keep up with outside work
  • A commitment to present development (ASIS) to conference attendees in final week of October
  • A commitment to check in with the Blandin/Purdue team six months after the conference to report in and offer feedback

How do you start?

The Blandin/Purdue team will host an introduction soon – watch here for that announcement. Join us and let us know you’re interested (memagnuson@blandinfoundation.org) Enrollment is open until three communities are selected.

OPPORTUNITY: MRHA Emerging Rural Health Leader Award nomiations open

From the Minnesota Rural Health Association

Each year at the MN Rural Health Conference MRHA Awards a deserving student the Emerging Rural Health Leader award. Unfortunately this year’s conference has been cancelled. However, the opportunity to acknowledge an up-and-coming rural health leader is not.

MRHA will be presenting this year’s award in conjunction with National Rural Health Day on November 19, 2020. Please consider nominating someone today.

Click here for the NOMINATION FORM

With the growing reliance of telehealth, it feels like this belongs in a broadband blog as well as any health resource out there. Deadline is Oct 23, 2020.

I want to talk to your county or tribal community about broadband and its impact on your COVID response – interested?

As part of the Minnesota Broadband Profiles this year, I would love to talk to counties about their COVID experience based on broadband situation. I have one question only:

Is broadband helping or hurting your community’s ability to function during the pandemic? Generally, do you feel like broadband has been a help or a hindrance?

I would set up and record a Zoom call to include with the 2020 County Broadband Profiles. (You can check out the 2019 Profiles if you are unfamiliar.)  There are 87 counties and 11 tribal communities in Minnesota. My goal is not to talk to all of them. (Although I could.) My goal is to talk to the folks who will make it easy for me. So if you’re the economic developer, county commissioner or anyone with enough passion to get a few folks together for a call – I’m happy to talk to you and schedule something. (atreacy@treacyinfo.com)

Two requests:

  • Looking for multiple people to participate per county
  • Hoping for one local lead (so one point of contact for me)

My deadlines aren’t set in stone but I’m aiming to connect with people by July 31 and would love to schedule videos by Aug 17. I focus on county and tribal community because that is how the MN broadband maps come out.

Call for Presentations: 2020 National Tribal Broadband Summit

I presented at this conference in DC last year. I was a great opportunity to meet passionate people and the innovating ways they deployed and used broadband with tribal communities….

Call for Presentations

 

The Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs invites you to present your latest work in planning, constructing, delivering, and using tribal broadband networks at the 2nd annual National Tribal Broadband Summit. The event will be conducted virtually September 21 – 25, 2020.

We encourage service providers, engineers, researchers, funders, regulators, and other key players from across the country to submit your best projects, programs, or initiatives to be presented at the National Tribal Broadband Summit, which will cover the following topics:

  • Planning & Implementation Identifying needs, setting goals, creating strategies, developing a plan and leveraging data to maximize the short and long-term educational, cultural and economic benefits of connectivity. Identifying sources of Federal, private and other programs and funding sources and leveraging these and community assets to best address strategic goals and community needs. Building and leveraging partnerships with both public and private entities to support connectivity and maximize the positive impacts of broadband access.
  • Technical Solutions, Middle Mile, Connectivity Solutions Exploring the various connectivity options available and identifying possible solutions to bring broadband to your unique community. E.g., white space, new spectrum and how to use it best, middle mile networks.
  • Applications for Social, Cultural, & Economic Well-Being Leveraging technology to improve health care outcomes, enhance economic development, increase community engagement, and expand educational opportunity. Responding to the coronavirus pandemic through emergency broadband networks, developing new and expanded services such as telemedicine and virtual learning programs, protecting community members, and preparing for future shocks. Smart cities, smart agriculture etc.

KEY DATES

Deadline for Abstract Submission               August 14, 2020

Notification of Acceptance                       August 28, 2020

Deadline for Full Presentation Submission    September 8, 2020

 

SELECTION CRITERIA

  • Presenter should have demonstrated history of success:
    • expanding broadband access, inclusion, and adoption,
    • financing broadband infrastructure, or
    • leveraging broadband for social and economic well-being or cultural preservation in American Indian, Alaska Native, and/or Native Hawaiian communities, schools, or libraries.
  • Summit organizers are looking for representation across the telecommunications ecosystem – we encourage submissions from small, medium and large enterprises.
  • Preference may be given to proposals that include content from federally recognized tribes or tribal partners.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

  • Provide a 1-page summary of your presentation proposal to rsvp@bia.gov by 5:00 PM ET on Friday, August 14, 2020.
  • The summary should indicate which main topic you are addressing, describe the presentation content and format (e.g., slide deck, panel discussion, etc.), the name and title of any speakers.
  • Please attach any prepared supporting materials, such as slide decks, brochures, etc., that would accompany the presentation and/or better help Summit organizers assess your proposal.

OPPORTUNITY: 2021 Congressional Innovation Fellowship Application Open

A great opportunity for the right person…

APPLICATIONS FOR THE CONGRESSIONAL INNOVATION FELLOWSHIP ARE OPEN

Be part of the team to build a Congressional Innovation Fellowship on Capitol Hill.

Apply by 11:59pm ET on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Late applications will not be accepted.

The fellowship will run from January 2021 to December 2021.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and visit our blog for the latest news and information about the fellowship.

And a little info on the program…

The Congressional Innovation Scholars fellowship program will place you among the top tech decision makers in the United States government at a time when technology is reshaping society in fundamental ways. Even if you’ve never considered working in government, the Congressional Innovation Scholars program will allow you to make change at the highest levels and at a scale unparalleled in the private or public sectors.

AG Ellison settles with Frontier – including info on compensation for customers

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Monday his office has settled an investigation into possible deceptive practices in Frontier Communications’ billing and sale of internet services.

Under the settlement, Frontier agreed to fully disclose its prices for internet service to new customers before they take service. Many current customers will be allowed to cancel their service without penalty. Frontier also agreed to invest at least $10 million over four years to improve its broadband network and to pay $750,000 in restitution that Ellison’s office can distribute to Frontier’s customers.

Frontier provides telephone and internet service to about 90,000 customers in Minnesota, many of whom live outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and have limited options for high-speed internet service.

The Attorney General provides info for customers…

Minnesotans who are customers of Frontier may submit a claim for restitution through a dedicated claim form on the Attorney General’s website, or by calling (651) 296-3353 (Metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).

And here is more info on the investment requirements…

Frontier agrees to make an investment of $10,000,000 in capital expenditures to provide or enhance internet services in Minnesota over the four-year period following the
Effective Date of this Assurance, in addition to the Frontier expenditures to fulfill: (a) the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund build out requirements; (b) any State or local government grant for internet broadband funding build out requirements; and
(c) Frontier’s existing franchise commitments in Minnesota. Such expenditures shall be made in furtherance of providing or improvement to internet service to locations that are not required to fulfill build-out requirements of these subsidies and franchise commitments. With regard to
Frontier’s $10,000,000 capital expenditure obligation, Frontier shall: (i) expend no less than $3,000,000 within two years after the Effective Date; (ii) no less than $5,000,000 within three years after the Effective Date; and (iii) no less than $10,000,000 within four years after the
Effective Date.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Auction short-form application Open yesterday (July 1) closes July 15

I’m a day off. Not too late but the window is closing as Multichannel reports

The FCC Wednesday (July 1) opened the short-form application window for phase one of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction (Auction 904).

All potential bidders must complete and submit such an application.

Carriers will be bidding on how economically they can deliver service that meets FCC speed and build-out metrics. The money is for fixed voice and broadband service to unserved, high-cost, areas at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.

RDOF is the re-imagined Connect America Fund II subsidy.

RDOF, phase one, is the $16 billion over 10 years the FCC is spending to close the rural digital divide to get broadband to unserved areas. Phase two has another $4 billion to go to underserved areas.

The application window closes July 15 at 6 p.m.

On July 25, the FCC released an updated list of the census blocks it has determined lack the requisite service and thus are eligible for the “unserved” subsidies.

The FCC said that 5,392,530 unserved locations have been “deemed eligible” for carriers to bid on in the auction beginning Oct. 29.

Learn more on the FCC site.

OPPORTUNITY: Rural Tech Project $600,000 in grants for educators

I saw this notice in the NDIA online discussion list and thought folks might be interested…

The Rural Tech Project is a $600,000 challenge to advance rural technology education and prepare students for the careers of today and tomorrow. The U.S. Department of Education invites high schools and local educational agencies to propose technology education programs that use competency-based distance learning.

Quick facts:

  • Who should enter. The challenge is open to any publicly funded school or local educational agency serving students in grades 9-12 in rural communities. “Rural” is broadly defined as a non-urban, non-suburban area. An area may be considered rural based on its population density and/or distance from suburban or urban hubs. See the eligibility criteria for further guidance.
  • $600,000 in cash prizes. Up to five finalists will be selected to receive an equal share of the $500,000 Phase 1 cash prize pool. At the conclusion of program implementation, one grand-prize winner will receive an additional $100,000.
  • Two years of ongoing support. From January 2021 through August 2023, finalists will have on-the-ground assistance, expert mentorship, and access to virtual resources as they plan, run, refine, and report on their programs.
  • Deadline. Program proposals are due October 8.

Governor Walz announces Public-Private Partnership to Support Technology Needs of Minnesota Students

Excited to share the news…

Today, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan announced a public-private partnership of philanthropic and business leaders from across Minnesota that aims to meet the technology and connectivity needs of families with school-aged children. Partnership for a ConnectedMN is led by Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the State of Minnesota.

Before the start of the upcoming school year, ConnectedMN’s goal is to bring technology and internet access to students across the state, especially communities most in need, including Indigenous students and students of color, students from low-income families, and families residing in rural Minnesota.

“I’m grateful to see Minnesota companies step up and help meet the needs of students,” said Governor Walz. “We need to work together — as individuals, state agencies, private companies, and schools — to face the opportunity gap and make sure that Minnesota is the best state for each and every child to grow up and receive the best education possible.”

“As the parent of a seven-year old, we endured our share of triumphs and challenges with distance learning this past spring,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “Those challenges are exacerbated for low-income families, Indigenous families and families of color, and families in Greater Minnesota who may not have access to technology that meets their work and learning needs. Whatever school looks like this fall, this partnership will help us fill in the gaps.”

“As someone who grew up in rural Minnesota in a family without many resources, I am aware of how important this effort is. Without it, far too many of our state’s students will be left behind as we face an uncertain school year, more reliant than ever on the tools and resources necessary to learn remotely,” said Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy. “As a founding partner, we are pleased to work with the Governor and other organizations to truly ‘connect Minnesota’ and I call upon my fellow CEOs to engage however they and their business are able.”

“It is vital that all Americans are connected to the internet—for education, for work, and for personal health reasons, but unfortunately, many low-income families who live in our service areas don’t have internet at home and that’s where we can help,” said J.D. Keller, regional senior vice president, Comcast Twin Cities. “We are proud to be a founding partner of ConnectedMN knowing we can help through our Internet Essentials program, which is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income Americans.”

“Access denied is opportunity denied,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement for Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation. “It will require partnership to make sure that every student, in every corner of every county, has access to the knowledge, learning and services for their success.”

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) estimates that at least 25,000 Minnesota students lack the technology and high-speed internet access essential for academic learning, out-of-school activities and critical services such as telehealth. These students are disproportionately students of color, Indigenous students, and low-income students. ConnectedMN aims to supply these students with technology before the start of the upcoming school year. In addition, the partnership will work to create solutions to the lack of reliable, affordable broadband access in communities around the state, so students have the tools necessary to connect and engage around school, physical and mental health, and future career pathways.

Business and philanthropic leaders have collectively raised $1.65 million to date. In addition to the founding partners of the initiative, other organizations contributing include Accenture, Andersen Corporation, Bush Foundation, Ecolab, EY, Land O’Lakes, Minneapolis Foundation, Protolabs Foundation, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Securian Financial, SPS Commerce Foundation, and Xcel Energy. These organizations will provide financial support and resources to this important initiative, including in-kind products, services or other support (e.g., hotspots, devices, connectivity, technical assistance).

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor have prioritized the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) dollars to meet technology and connectivity challenges, with approximately $14 million earmarked for districts to prioritize devices and connectivity. MDE has prioritized distributions of GEER and the discretionary Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund dollars to districts with the highest numbers of students receiving special education, students of color, homeless students, English language learners, and students who qualify for free-and reduced-price meals. Districts applying for these funds should visit MDE’s website .

Partnership for a ConnectedMN’s application process will be available later in July. The Governor and State do not have a role in fundraising or directing funds for the Partnership for a ConnectedMN. More information on ConnectedMN can be found at www.connectedmn.us .

Frontier Communications may be due rebates or bill credits

A notice for Frontier customers…

Frontier Communications are potentially due a rebate or bill credit based on past Frontier service quality and reliability problems. But you must apply before July 20.

 

If you have expereinced any of the following as a former or current Frontier customer, you may claim a refund or bill credit:

 

  • Telephone was out-of-service and not restored within 24 hours.
  • Incorrect billing for service related to vacation rate.
  • Late fees charged for phone service despite bill being paid on or before due date.
  • Frontier did not cancel telephone service upon request, resulting in additional charges.
  • Charged to receive a paper bill for telephone service.
  • Charged for three-way calling without subscribing to the service.
  • Wrongly charged for directory assistance or 411 calls.
  • Charged an early termination fee on or after January 1, 2016, without having signed an agreement.
  • Inappropriately charged fees to reconnect telephone service.
  • Telephone disconnected without proper notice.
  • Refusal to install local telephone service.
  • Inability to use the telephone due to static, cross talk, or other notice.
  • Installation delay of more than 3 business days for primary local service line.
  • Same trouble on the same line within 30 days.
  • Frontier missed a repair appointment for telephone service.
  • Customer service representation claimed no trouble report exists from an earlier call regarding the same phone issue.

Applications for refund or bill credit are available by clicking here.

OPPORTUNITY: NDIA is Hiring – Research and Policy Director

A great opportunity for the right person at NDIA

NDIA combines grassroots community engagement with technical knowledge, research and coalition building to advocate on behalf of people working for digital equity and to ensure all people have access to technology in communities large and small, urban, and rural.

Now doesn’t that sound like an amazing place to work?

NDIA’s team is fully remote. We love our online collaboration tools and our flexible schedules. Now, more than ever before, there is a broad awareness of the necessity of affordable home internet, appropriate devices, responsive tech support, and digital literacy. NDIA is raising digital equity awareness, supporting local efforts, and impacting policies.

The Research and Policy Director serves as the lead on NDIA’s policy positions and research projects.

Check out the NDIA for more info and a job description.