Free WiFi Access Points

Thanks to Danna MacKenzie, former Office of Broadband Director, I became aware of a great opportunity from a national non-profit organization – the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center ( .  The initiative is called Project Connect.  You can see details under the COVID 19 tab on their web site, including the application form.  They have a great FAQ on their web site with all of the details.  This organization comes highly recommended.

The have the resources to install an external wi-fi access point on a public or private building, all for free.  They also help the host ensure that everything is secure.  They also provide some ongoing, but limited support on the access point management.

The local host must provide the Internet access, either through their existing access or with a new separate Internet service.  Most hosts are public entities like cities or libraries, but it could be a local grocery store.  Having a place to park or sit is important.  The access point can be located inside, such as in a community room of an affordable housing development, but public access is required.  Smaller communities might identify one site; larger communities might think about identifying sites that are at least 1/2 mile apart.  There seem to be few restrictions.

ITDRC uses paid staff and a corps of qualified volunteers to do this work.  It takes 30-60 days for equipment to be installed.  For those interested, they generally use Ubiquity access points.

Complete information is on their web site.  They would prefer that each site host complete their own application so that all the information goes directly into their system.

Let’s keep them busy in Minnesota!

OPPORTUNITY: Nominate 2021 Digital Equity Champion!

The deadline is Feb 12, 2021

Named for Charles Benton, the founder of Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, NDIA created the awards to recognize leadership and dedication in advancing digital equity: from promoting the ideal of accessible and affordable communications technology for all Americans to crafting programs and policies that make it a reality.

NDIA will present two awards: the Digital Equity Champion Award will recognize an outstanding individual who has made a difference in the field of digital equity, while the Emerging Leader Award will acknowledge an up-and-coming digital inclusion practitioner. Awards will be presented during NDIA’s Net Inclusion webinar.

Award Criteria

To be successful, nominees should exhibit:

  • Sustained commitment to digital inclusion programs, practices, and/or policy work,
  • Applied innovative approaches to addressing and solving problems,
  • Extensive use of data and evaluation to shape digital inclusion programs and share best practices,
  • Demonstrated leadership in his/her community, and/or
  • Collaboration that can be scaled and replicated.

OPPORTUNITY (to take a survey!): Community broadband, COVID-19, and economic development

Craig Settles, broadband researcher and advocate, and the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) are looking for economic development professionals to take a survey on broadband, COVID and the economy. Can you help? DO you want to give your two cents worth? The survey closes January 28. Here’s more info…

Please tell us about the state of local broadband after COVID-19 hit?  National policymakers – and IEDC – want to know about initiatives, policies, or programs in your community that possibly influence broadband’s impact on local economies during this pandemic.

When COVID-19 forced everyone home, was broadband ready? Telehealth took center stage, but did supporting technologies and local healthcare keep up? How did distance learning affect the digital divide in education?
We know your time is valuable and thank you in advance for sharing your insight and knowledge. This survey takes just a few to complete. To make things easy, the survey resumes right where you stop if you are interrupted.

This survey’s deadline is 11:59 PM (PST) January 28. Shortly afterwards, IEDC will share the final survey results and analysis report with you. Your input helps guide broadband policy as well as drive broadband access nationwide.
International Economic Development Council greatly appreciates you taking time to give us your feedback!

OPPORTUNITY: ILSR is hiring a Broadband Writer and Researcher

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (Community Networks) is hiring

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a national nonprofit working to empower communities by striking at the roots of monopoly power. We use in-depth research, reporting, and data analysis to work with communities as well as produce influential reports and articles. Our analyses are frequently featured in national news media and sought out by policymakers. We work closely with a broad range of allies to move these ideas and policies.

ILSR is looking for a Broadband Writer/Researcher within the U.S. to join a growing team within ILSR focused on ensuring all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access. This person will work with Sean Gonsalves and Ry Marcattilio-McCracken to develop research as well as create short- and long-form content focused on improving Internet access both in urban and rural areas. This might seem like a dry and technical issue, but it is a vibrant and exciting field that is also one of this generation’s biggest equity and justice challenges.

They are mostly located in Minnesota but looks like the position is open to remote workers. They are good folks. I bet it’s an interesting job. Learn more.

OPPORTUNITY: NDIA Job Description for Deputy Director

The NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) is hiring

The Deputy Director works closely with the Executive Director in all management, administrative, and operations processes of NDIA. This is a new position and requires a change maker who is innovative, detail-oriented and self-motivated. This position is a unique opportunity to strengthen the field of digital inclusion and a young high impact organization.

In alignment with our values and commitment to equity, we place a strong emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are actively seeking people of color to apply.

Salary Range: $95,000-$110,000

OPPORTUNITY: Free classes for Minnesotans through DEED and Coursera from now to March 31

Update: sorry – I just learned the deadline to sign up was Dec 31. 

GCN reports

To help Minnesota’s 130,000 unemployed workers, the state’s  Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is providing on-demand access to online classes for training, reskilling and upskilling.

The department contracted with Coursera, an online learning provider, to offer 3,800 classes for free to Minnesotans, particularly those affected by job losses related to the coronavirus pandemic. Residents request access to the course catalog through the DEED website and have until March 31, 2021, to complete their courses, which typically cost individuals $400 annually.

Here’s a taste of what they have and a reminder that they have more…

Courses related to technology, health care, retail and manufacturing have drawn the most attention, but so have COVID-specific ones, too, such as contact tracing classes, Warfa said. Because this effort targets out-of-work residents, state government employees are not required to take courses, but they are eligible.

What’s more, the offering complements the state’s CareerForce platform for connecting employers and job seekers. It has a tool that residents can use to see what skills they need to work in a particular industry.

“This is by no means a replacement for the workforce-training programs that exist. This is just another tool in the toolbox that I think is responsive and timely to COVID impact,” Warfa said. “Our goal is really just economic prosperity for everyone, especially those living on the margins of our economy.”

OPPORTUNITY: Take a Local Priorities for a National Broadband Stimulus Survey (by Jan 8, 2021)

Get some good ideas and/or share some good ideas with people who are going to magnify the sharing to help us all! (Deadline January 8, 2021.)

HR&A Advisors and CTC Technology & Energy – together as the Broadband Equity Partnership – are conducting a survey for government and non-profit broadband leaders to shape priorities for broadband investment and equity in the Biden-Harris administration. They will be working with the Benton Institute to publish the results of this survey and plan to communicate to the new administration and communities about these issues. Findings will be analyzed in aggregate, with all individual responses kept confidential.

The Broadband Equity Partnership is seeking responses from State and local government leaders – including CTOs, CIOs, Economic Development heads, and other decision-makers – and non-profit leaders working with the public sector. They would be most grateful if you would share the link widely with your networks. The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and will be open through midnight on January 8, 2021.

If you have any questions, the survey administrators can be reached at  With your support, we are very excited about the survey’s potential impact in translating Federal policy to locally-based solutions.  Happy holidays!

OPPORTUNITY: Grow with Google $150k Challenge Grant to support Black communities

Sharing information from the NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)…

We are pleased to announce that in partnership with Grow with Google, NDIA is launching the Ujima Project – a $150K challenge grant to help nonprofits leverage Grow with Google resources to support Black communities.

Register now! 

90 minute informational webinar on Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 1:30 pm EST/ 10:30 am PST.  We will be joined by Google representatives who will share more on how Grow with Google (GwG) and NDIA are teaming up to offer community challenge grants to support digital skills training for Black communities.  The webinar will provide an overview of the GwG program and available resources and how they can be used.  In addition, NDIA will explain how to apply with details on the application process and timeline for submitting applications. The Ujima Project will challenge NDIA Affiliates to design a project that creatively activates GwG tools to upskill Black jobseekers and/or students. Applicants will describe how they can put the GwG workshops and trainings into action to provide upskilling for Black communities.


  • Requests should not exceed $25K
  • Requests must include use of GwG resources and focus on supporting Black communities
  • Applicants must be an NDIA Affiliate and a registered GwG Partner
  • Projects/initiatives should be episodic or cohort based. One-time projects will not be considered.
  • Projects/initiatives serving at least 50 people over the course of the grant are preferred.

Before the session, we encourage you to sign up for the Grow with Google Partner Program (it’s easy and free) and take a look at the GwG Partner Program Get Started Guide.

Additionally, details about the Ujima Project will be posted to the NDIA website and shared via the NDIA Community Listserv next week.

Should you have any questions, please contact Kristi Zappie-Ferradino.

Solving regional issues: The next step in advancing broadband in northeastern Minnesota from IRRR

From the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Ranger…

Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation are continuing their broadband partnership in a new initiative called Arrowhead Intelligent Communities. The initiative is designed to bring the Iron Range Broadband Communities (IRBC) program to regional scale.

Over the past four years, 10 local communities have participated in IRBC which gave them access to technical expertise, planning assistance and an opportunity to obtain financial resources to implement their broadband initiatives. IRBC resulted in 122 broadband projects in those communities such as laptops in ambulances that link to emergency rooms, WiFi on school buses, public hotspots, iPads for fire departments, and technology in seniors’ homes allowing them to age-in-place. Over 500 families received refurbished computers and connectivity, over 1,200 people were engaged, and new broadband champions and community leaders were developed.

Arrowhead Intelligent Communities will continue the broadband momentum and engage all communities in northeastern Minnesota. The first stage of the process is “benchmarking” which will compare our region to more than 400 others around the world. All communities, cities, towns, townships, counties and tribal nations in the seven county Arrowhead region are encouraged to complete their own benchmarking by using the questionnaire found on the Intelligent Community website. (Note: The scale of a community may vary. For example, it may be a single city such as Ely or Grand Rapids, or it may be a group of communities such as East Range.) Questionnaires must be completed by Jan. 11. Click here for the questionnaire.

Each local community that submits a questionnaire will receive a complimentary “snapshot” report of their global standing. All community submittals will be incorporated into the regional analysis that will be presented at a regional online summit in February. Continuing in February and into March, there will be a six-webinar series detailing the Intelligent Community method and global best practices gathered from 20 years of working with leading communities around the world.

Local communities interested in submitting a questionnaire must notify Bill Coleman. Email Bill or call him at 651-491-2551. He is also available for questions or additional information.

“Our agency is committed to continuing our partnership with Blandin and working together to bring high speed reliable broadband to every acre and corner of northeastern Minnesota,” said Commissioner Mark Phillips, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. “Fast, reliable and affordable broadband access in northeastern Minnesota is an economic and public safety necessity, not a luxury. Our health care systems, families, workers, businesses and senior citizens are using it like never before, especially during the recent months of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

OPPORTUNITY: How Intelligent is Your Community? Submit a questionnaire to ICF to find out!

I was just saying to someone today that what gets measured gets done! Why not start the next stage of your broadband plan with an assessment from the Intelligent Community Forum?

ICF publishes research based on the data provided by communities like yours around the world. The goal is to provide cities, towns and regions of all sizes with evidence-based guidance on achieving economic, social and cultural growth in the challenging digital age.
By completing this questionnaire, you will:

There is no cost to submit a questionnaire. If you wish to be considered for the 2021 Intelligent Community Awards, the deadline to submit a questionnaire is January 11, 2021. Click here to learn more and submit your questionnaire. Nominees for the Intelligent Community Awards are evaluated based on ICF’s six factors that make up the ICF Method. Click here to learn more.

Request for Broadband Consulting Proposals from Dakota County

For broadband consultants out there, here’s a potential opportunity. For other communities, here’s a model in case you need to look for a similar service. Thanks for Dakota County for sharing the Request for Broadband Consulting Proposals from Dakota County..

The Dakota Broadband Board is seeking responses/quotes from vendors to update the existing Systems Plan for its broadband fiber network, and to conduct a business analysis of the current broadband environment in Dakota County. Dakota County (MN) is a part of the seven county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, and its communities range from urban and suburban in the northern portion of the county to its rural towns and townships in the southern half. The outcome of the project is expected to inform future operational and policy decisions of the Dakota Broadband Board regarding the use of its broadband fiber network.

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.)