The First Ojibwe Digital Generation: Reframing the Rural Broadband Vision Based on Native Values

I’m pleased to share this guest post from Frank Odasz, a presenter from the Broadband Conference last month…

The First Ojibwe Digital Generation: Reframing the Rural Broadband Vision Based on Native Values

Presenting real choices for a global voice, and broad impacts, helping others, globally.

The Seventh Generation Prophesy says the seventh generation since the cultural disruption of North America by the Europeans will lead a new era of cultural sovereignty.

During a unique Native Youth Digital Storytelling workshop held as part of the Nov 18-20 Border to Border Broadband Conference: Better Together, 25 Native youth aged 10-17 years learned how broadband and specific creativity apps can give them the ability to leverage the impacts of their Native Values with a global voice, creating video tutorials to empower an unlimited number of peers as stewards of the Earth, Sky, and our one human family. This opportunity was made possible by a grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The First Ojibwe Digital Generation now has the tools and skills to teach the roughly one million Native youth nationally, as well as potentially the 4 billion young, and poor, learners who will be coming online by 2020, if they so choose to use their new global voices.

How Native Values relate to their choice as to whether to act, and innovate, or not, begins with their opportunity to first share their new skills locally, to express, celebrate, and preserve their culture, first locally, and then, ideally, globally.

Act Locally, Think Globally.

President Obama has created a new National Native Youth Network, and via the Broadband Opportunity Council Report has tasked 30 executive branch agencies with promoting broadband to “unleash the creativity of all Americans.” America’s global competitiveness depends on our ability to effectively collaborate with all good folks, globally. There is new recognition that mass innovation is a new resource, and that “The Top Down federal agencies have much to learn about partnering meaningfully with the Bottom-Up grassroots innovators.”

The real power of broadband lies in what you know to do with it, with three best practices as;

  1. Using the power to become a self-directed learner; purposefully
  2. Using the power to self-publish globally to Create and Share; meaningfully
  3. Using the power for group collaboration to bring people together to make good things happen

The Blandin Conference theme was “We’re better together.”

A new day of rural, and indigenous, sustainability, and cultural sovereignty, is upon us.

Workshop Presenter:

Frank Odasz, President of Lone Eagle Consulting:

Find the workshop description, followed by the youth’s digital Ebooks, websites, and their first exposure to virtual reality, along with all resources necessary for others to duplicate this workshop at;

Bio and 3 key articles on teaching the innovation mindset;

Blandin Broadband eNews Dec 2015: Conference Notes & Grant Awardees

BBC MapThe 2015 Broadband Conference was a big success. You can access notes (including video and PowerPoints when available) on the various sessions:

Broadband Task Force Drafts Annual Report

The Broadband Task Force met to comb through a draft of their annual broadband report. Much of the report is completed; they still need to finalize discussion on speed goals or recommendations.

Blandin Foundation Featured in Twin Cities Business Magazine

TC Business Magazine looks at the good works of the Blandin Foundation, including the impact Blandin has had on broadband expansion in Minnesota.

Two Minnesota Providers Get Rural Broadband Experiment Money

The FCC awards $16 million to rural providers. Two Minnesota providers receive funding: Federated and Paul Bunyan.

Local Broadband News

Afton is not happy that they did not receive state funding for their community broadband efforts.

Paul Bunyan Communications’ GigaZone expands to over 500 more locations in Bemidji

Chisago County
Chisago County releases broadband video that features local businesses

Gentilly area (in Crookston County) to get Border to Border broadband funding

Itasca County
Paul Bunyan gets Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grant for portions of Central Itasca County

Kandiyohi County moving to better broadband with funding for feasibility study

US Internet announces Minneapolis fiber construction plans for 2016

Sherburne County
Sherburne County releases a video on need for broadband in the community.

Swift County
Swift County awarded $4.95 million state broadband grant.

Southwestern Minnesota
MVTV Wireless was awarded $808,080 to upgrade backhaul capacity between site locations within 20 southwestern Minnesota counties, including Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Redwood, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

Upcoming Events

  • December 8 – Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting – 10 am
  • December 10 – Rural Broadband and Digital Inclusion Planning Webinar

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

bill rightStirring the Pot


Words count!  I heard that message again and again at the Border to Border Broadband Conference.  What do providers want to hear to entice their interest in partnerships?  What do county commissioners need to hear to spur their commitment of funds?  And what do the digitally excluded and non-adopters need to hear to get them to attend training and learn new skills?   Messaging is both hard work and time consuming.

Equal to the task of finding the right message is identifying the most effective messenger and determining the best timing for your message delivery.  Our BBCs learned some specific messaging strategies at the end of the conference as Blandin staff Alie Mcinerney led them through a “Planning to Win” campaign planning session.   Ali is a great instructor, but we learned that not even the Best of our BBCs could take in any more information by Friday afternoon!  People need to be ready to receive a message for it to sink in.  It’s a good thing that you can find the campaign planning tools at

One very positive trend for broadband messaging is the growing list of successful broadband partnerships.  These provide clear examples and provide quick confidence of the path to success.  You can shape your message by using quality examples.  You can find convincing messengers by asking project leaders to share their stories.  You cannot communicate too much or too often and you need to realize the long-term approach required for success.

If you are interested in “planning to win” your local broadband campaign, let us know.  We will be working with local teams to help them move their conversation forward.


Representative Nolan’s Take on #MNBroadband Conference last week

We were lucky enough to have several policy makers join us last week at the 2015 Broadband Conference. It’s always interesting and often inspiring to hear them address the crowd at the event. In the case of Representative Nolan’s it’s equally fun to see what he had to say about the event after the fact in a recent e-newsletter…

Special thanks to Dr. Kathleen Annette, President and CEO of the Blandin Foundation, for her hard work on this important issue.

We took our campaign to wire rural America for high-speed broadband to a friendly audience on Friday – helping the Blandin Foundation cap a week-long conference that brought some of the state’s best minds together in Minneapolis to help free thousands of Minnesotans from dial-up Internet – and connect them to 21st Century communications.

Explaining my Rural Broadband Initiative Act to consolidate hundreds of millions of dollars in rural broadband programs under a single federal office and develop a national strategy to connect the countryside, I pointed out that 22 million people across rural America are still living in the dark ages of high technology. That means trouble for small communities struggling to compete, attract new people, create good jobs, expand educational opportunities and advance local health care.

We need the same kind of big thinking on rural broadband that Franklin Roosevelt used to establish the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and the Rural Telephone Administration (RTA) in the 1930’s. When Roosevelt established the REA in 1935, about 1 in 10 rural homes had electricity. By 1953, it was 9 out of 10. In 1949, when the RTA started making loans for rural telephone service, only about 1 in 3 homes had telephones. By 1975, it was 9 out of 10. President Roosevelt and his generation passed rural electricity and telephone service on to us. We need to pay that legacy forward by passing 21st Century high speed broadband on to future generations of people who will live, work and do business across rural America.

Freedom Foundation of MN is a voice against municipal networks: But there’s another narrative

Last week – while the Minnesota Broadband conference was happening in St Louis Park, the Pioneer Press ran an editorial from Annette Thompson Meeks from the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota. The letter alluded to the conference (although they had the wrong date) and the keynote speech from Susan Crawford.

Here’s a cheat sheet on the issues at hand. Susan Crawford encourages the option for local government to provide broadband to residents and businesses as a utility. The Freedom Foundation discourages government intervention because of the risk involved with using government money to build, maintain and run a broadband provider business – citing a study done by Charles Davidson and Michael Santorelli that included a profile of the network in Monticello.

To be clear – they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Freedom Foundation supports “free markets and limited government” and Crawford writes about the negative impact of broadband monopolies have had on “America’s global economic standing”. They each have a story. And as Davidson and Santorelli point out (in a different publication on broadband than the one cited in the Freedom Foundation article) narratives matter…

Narratives matter in politics and policymaking. How an issue is framed and the evidence offered in support combine to tell a distinctive story about a particular issue or industry; the goal is to pique the interest of stakeholders and animate or deter a particular type of response. In the context of the market for broadband Internet access in the United States, two competing narratives have emerged, each with a unique set of arguments, evidence, and desired outcomes.

They go on to say…

Whether GONs [Government Owned Networks] are a prudent and appropriate investment of public funds and other resources is the subject of fierce debate. Advocates and opponents alike cite an array of reasons, data points, successes, and failures as evidence of the wisdom or folly of having a municipality enter the broadband market as a service provider. In many ways, this debate is a microcosm of the larger conversation about broadband in the United States and which of the competing narratives more accurately reflects the consumer experience and the realities of the marketplace across the country.

The problem is that there is no singular “consumer experience” across the county or in Minnesota. As Bernadine Joselyn is fond of saying, if you’ve been in one small town in Minnesota, you’ve been in one small town. They are all different. I recently had reason to dig into county-level data on broadband. We hoped to find the magic ingredient to better broadband. We’re still looking.

Some local providers are an asset to the community. (We have many in Minnesota!) And I heard at the conference that some communities feel like they are being held back by their providers. Attendee stories were a strange mix of “What we do with a Gig” and “How we innovate to get kids access after school because they can’t get access at home”. (Quick aside – where would you like to live?)

Willing local providers are the best partners! But there have to be options for when that isn’t the case. Shannon Sweeney (from David Drown Associates) spoke at the conference about Broadband Partners. His goal is to minimize risk. They have six directions they look to before they look at community networks…

“Only after all other opportunities are exhausted do we begin to look at alternatives for providing services through a start-up company – and even then we go back to Step 1 and have similar conversations with operators, companies or cooperatives in other industries that could potentially provide this service.”

There is risk in a community-owned network. But there’s risk to the community in not having broadband too. It’s difficult to measure the negative capability inherent in not doing something but there is a cost of doing nothing – the loss of opportunity. It’s not the job of a private business to take on that risk (all the more credit for those who do!) but it responsibility of local government to remove barriers for their local businesses and citizens. Community broadband networks are a door that should be open to local governments – it will be the right door for some and not others. It will rarely (I have never seen it) be the first door a community tries. I’ve seen the communities where the door is shut on them and they do risk loss of business and residents. Those costs are as hard to recoup any investment risk.

2015 Border to Border Broadband Conference: Final Reflections #MNBroadband

I’m going to call the 2015 Broadband conference a success! Thanks to everyone who attended. Highlights include the announcement of the Border to Border Broadband Fund recipients, an inspiring talk from Susan Crawford and the crafting of a new Minnesota Broadband Vision. For a more complete view of the conference, check out the video recap from Bernadine Joselyn.

And here’s a short list of articles posted on the conference:

Remarks by Senator Al Franken: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

We were delighted to have Senator Franken join us at the end of the conference. I want to thank Tim Marema from the Daily Yonder for sharing his audio of the talk with me. You can hear the speech in its entirety.

Legislative Policy Panel: Responding to the Vision: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

broadband visionModerated by Senator Matt Schmit

Representative Dave Baker
Senator Vicki Jensen
Representative Ron Kresha
Representative Paul Thissen

Policy makers responded to the Minnesota Broadband Vision that was crafted during the conference:

One added highlight was when Rep Thissen suggested the Legislature consider $100 million for broadband in 2016, Rep Kresha suggested closer to $30 million and a representative from Senator Dayton’s office announced that he would be suggesting a budget significantly higher than what he suggested in 2015 ($30 million).