Bernadine Joselyn speaks to Democratic Senate Outreach Committee

Earlier this week, Bernadine Joselyn was asked to speak to the Democratic Senate Outreach Committee on broadband as infrastructure need in rural America. Excited to have them discussing the issue – great to have Bernadine be part of the dialogue.

Here’s more on the meeting…


Washington, DC – Senate Democrats hosted a roundtable discussion on building a sustainable middle-class economy in rural America – emphasizing infrastructure needs like transportation, water and wastewater, and broadband Internet and looking for entrepreneurial opportunities in the energy economy and regional food systems.

“By fostering public-private partnerships that increase the flow of capital to rural America, we are helping to create economic opportunities that otherwise would not exist.  We must invest in the future of rural America by building its transportation and communications infrastructure — connecting urban and rural communities with regional economic hubs and improving the quality of life for families through increased access to well-paying jobs and affordable health care, education, and housing,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.

Here are Bernadine’s remarks…Bernadine Joselyn

Remarks to Democratic Senate Outreach Committee
September 30, 2015
Washington, DC

Blandin Foundation’s goal is the same as yours – to promote vibrant, prosperous rural communities.

That’s why our foundation dedicates a significant part of our resources to helping communities get and use broadband.

We make this investment because we understand that everything else we care about depends on world class broadband –

  • equal opportunity, education, health care, accountable and effective government, business growth, engaged citizens and vibrant communities.

“Rural people can disagree about a lot, but if you want consensus in a room full of rural advocates, ask about broadband. That’s our experience, anyway.”

~ Tim Maremo, Editor, The Daily Yonder

Blue or Red or Purple, Urban or Rural, everyone loves and needs broadband the same.

But rural people and people living on tribal lands have lots less of it.  Figuring out how to fund broadband is still a major challenge for many communities.

  • Just think: while 92% of urban households can get broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps (download) and 3 Mbps (upload), only 47% of rural households and 37% of people living on Tribal Lands can get that same level of access.

This is America’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ –  and rural places are being left behind.

I’ve got a sachel full of stories that illustrate the difference that broadband – or its absence – makes in the lives of rural people:

  • A mom crying when she gets her first subsidized internet hook up because now she can job hunt or take courses on line without paying for a sitter while she drives to a public internet access site;
  • families sitting in cars outside of McDonald’s at night to catch a wifi signal their kids need to do their homework;
  • entrepreneurs without an internet connection at home sitting in a parking lot to access public library wi-fi,
  • homebound grandmas reading to kids at Headstart via Skype,
  • snowbirds from Lake Superior’s North Shore, who have moved to Hawaii, stay connected to their hometown by watching their high school team’s football games livestreamed over the internet.

Bigger picture, here’s what we are seeing as the gap between urban and rural connectivity and affordability continues to grow:

  • large publicly traded companies have great difficulty bringing the necessary investment to rural areas
  • communities setting their own standard for what level of broadband is ”good enough” are unable to find a provider partner willing to invest with them in their future…
  • the Connect America Fund (CAF2) standard of 10/1 (compared to FCC broadband definition of 25/3) threatens to build in permanent second-class status for rural America.

Ensuring that all Americans – even rural Americans and Americans living on tribal lands — have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it requires that we all work together.  Not-for-profits, business and government all must do their part.

So what should the federal government do?

Last week the Obama administration’s cabinet-level Broadband Opportunity Council released a report on the steps the administration can take on its own to improve programs that support broadband access for poor and geographically remote communities.

The report estimates that changes in existing funding programs could open up $10 billion in federal grants and loans for “broadband-related activities.” Net government spending would not be affected, meaning that in some cases grantees would have to make the same amount of money go further if they were going to include broadband projects.

When implemented, the report’s recommendations will help America head in the right direction.  But it’s not enough.

Because there are real limits on what the Administration can do on its own, Congress must act.  The kind and amount of funding needed has to come from Congress.

Congress has made a positive difference in the past.

For example, ARRA investments in Minnesota deployed miles of network that wouldn’t otherwise be built yet and trained many people.  It was a game changer for hard-to-serve parts of Minnesota.

On behalf of the rural communities I represent, I urge you to consider the following ideas about what you can do to help rural America:

  • A number of bipartisan bills currently under consideration deserve your support:
  • The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act supports the critical care that skilled nursing facilities provide, often using telehealth services, thus helping to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality health care no matter where they live.
  • The Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities by providing incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers.
  • Senator Klobuchar is preparing a bill that builds on the idea of “dig once,” streamlining permitting for broadband deployment on federal lands, and improved cooperation with states.
  • Beyond that, here are other areas in which America needs your leadership.
  • Incent the States.  A very effective way for the federal government to partner with states is to provide incentives for States to come in with some match to federal resources. The E-rate 10% match is a good example. State legislators are motivated to engage on an issue when they can leverage additional investment from the federal government.  Adding a state coordinating role for federal broadband funding would give states the authority to enhance or incent collaboration.  States with coordinated approaches get more money.
  • More funding – preferably in the form of loans – for municipalities and co-op networks
  • Blandin Foundation believes that the best chance for broadband investment and deployment in rural is significant expansion of rural broadband cooperatives, especially in partnership with local units of government. . Co-ops and government/co-op partnerships are the right emerging partnership model for rural America.

In closing, here are some key ideas I want to leave you with:

  • Rural is rich.  It is a place of resources and talent, where resourceful and self-reliant people can make small investments go a long way.
  • Broadband connectivity is key to innovation.  For example, precision agriculture – which significantly increases land productivity  – requires broadband-to-the-farm.
  • We need federal investment in both deployment AND adoption strategies for rural broadband.
  • Each rural community is unique and rural funding streams need maximum flexibility (not AS much true in urban spaces where you can count on a suite of institutions being in place)
  • Investment in rural America is an investment in national security: “a strong America relies on a strong rural America.”  And a strong rural American relies on broadband.
  • In sum, everything is better with broadband.

Most of all, I hope that you catch broadband fever.

Helping rural places get the broadband they need to remain vital will win you votes on both sides of the aisle.  Because a future-proof broadband network is now the essential infrastructure for rural.

And a little bit about the Senate Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee…

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and leaders from across the nation. Each year, the Steering Committee hosts numerous meetings with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities and enlist their help in the development of the Senate Democratic agenda. The Committee serves as a liaison between Senate Democratic offices, advocacy groups, and intergovernmental organizations.  It is one of two Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate and is chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) and vice chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH).

Digital Cities Expo – Thursday Afternoon

There was interesting discussion about FTTH and economic development this morning at the Digital Cities Expo in Phoenix. While economic development is oftencited as the driving force for municipal involvement, some participants were noting that, by itself, the existence of FTTH is not enough in the absence of other critical economic development assets. Other participants promoted the succedd that their networks had in stimulating competition and lowering prices for business customers. In fact, five times the bandwith for one third the cost. That certainly, at a minimum, levels the playing field and may provide a competitive advantage.

Making sure that local businesses understand how they can use the network is a key ingredient for economic success.

Home and Community Options, Inc. – FTTH Underway

We are very excited about implementing our FTTH project.  We have been working with HBC, plotting all of our homes on the installation map and determining the potential complications with each of them.  Some will be much easier to connect than others.  Dan Pecarina, HBC VP Technology Services, has been extremely helpful in this process.  We then prioritized our facilities to insure that the most important programs were installed first. 

HBC then began to work our project into their installation schedule.  If all goes according to the schedule we should start having our first FTTH connection within the next week and our “high priority” first 3 connections completed before Christmas!

At Home and Community Options we have been busy getting things ready for the install.  We have been experimenting with some different methods of using Outlook to manage many of our day-to-day program management and communication functions. We call this our Efile system.   As soon as our FTTH connection is made we will test some of the different file sharing techniques to determine which approach provides us with the most secure and efficient performance.  Then as new homes are brought into the FTTH network we will implement the Efile program in them.

We also have been working with the residents of one of our priority homes to prepare them to become a test site for our Remote Monitoring Program.  We met with the men and all the responsible people on their Interdisciplinary Team. This team would include people like guardians, Case Managers, HCO representative, work site representative and any other parties that would have input into the individuals care plan.  We reviewed the precautions that would need to taken in order for the men to be allowed to be home alone without a night staff on duty. 

I ordered the basic equipment we will need to set up a remote monitoring program in this home and we hope to have all the components installed by the second week of January.  Then we will begin testing the various protocols that we would need to be able to implement if the men were going to be cared for remotely.

We are very grateful for the Blandin Light Speed Initiative for this opportunity to enhance our program quality and efficiency by connecting all of our programs to a fiber network.

light speed communityThe Blandin Foundation is supporting four standout broadband programs through the Light Speed program. The program’s purpose is to stimulate the deployment of bandwidth intensive applications that connect local institutions to area resident’s home. This post comes from a Light Speed community leader.

Broadband Conference 2007: Tobey Johnson

Track III: Considering the Business: Considering Governance, Partnerships, Financing and Operations: A View from Sweden by Tobey Johnson; Manager of Collaborative Solutions, PacketFront – The who, what and how of financing and operating a new competitive telecommunications network in Sweden.

Broadband Conference 2007: Casey Wagner

Here is a presentation from the Blandin Broadband confernece in St Cloud, MN last week. I am goign to be uploading a few of these this afternoon. 

Track II: Technology – The Infrastructure, The Applications: Understanding Wireless Technologies by Casey Wagner, St. Cloud State University – What is and what’s coming – learn about current and prospective capabilities of wireless technologies, including wi-fi, wi-max, cellular data, 800 MHz, licensed vs. unlicensed, etc.

Broadband Conference 2007: Matt Clayton on Successful Marketing

Here’s the presentation from the following session at the Blandin Broadband conference:

Track III: Considering the Business: Successful Marketing
Matt Clayton, Marketing Director, MStar, an acclaimed national expert, shares how to develop and implement a successful marketing effort to build support and sell services.

Broadband Conference 2007: Reflections from Ann Treacy

I had a great time at the Blandin Broadband Conference in St Cloud last week. It was definitely worth coming to Minnesota.

As always I enjoyed meeting new and old Get Broadband and LightSpeed community leaders. I am so impressed with the community leaders that take on the challenge of broadband. Some of them have no background in telecommunications or technology. From those folks I heard that the sessions with Sid Boswell were very good. In fact I heard that from a few folks who have been working with broadband for a while. I think those sessions were very instructive and that the time was ripe for such sessions.

In previous years, I don’t think people would have been ready, willing or able to jump into the nuts-and-bolts sessions we had on the technology or on rolling up your sleeves to plan for technology. But this year, the timing was good. I hope that even more people will learn from the sessions through the archived sessions. (We’re working on collecting all of the materials and should have them together this week.)

It was interesting to hear about everyone’s experience. Some said avoid government partnerships; some said seek government partnerships; some said wireless was the answer; others said fiber. It is so helpful to hear about programs that have worked – but I think the wide range of successful strategies demonstrates the importance of creating your own community plan.

Broadband Conference 2007: Reflection from Bill Coleman

Bill ColemanI had some incredibly interesting discussions with many of our attendees. I am sure that many of my colleagues left with a question of what it is that I really believe to be the “right” strategy for communities.

My reflection is based on the lack of our ability to break through the “armed camp” attitudes of so many people engaged in the telecommunications discussion. Our Sesquicentennial pre-conference event was an attempt to get people to adopt a new perspective based on assuming a new role. I think that it worked pretty well for 90 minutes, but I was hoping for some carry-over as we resumed our real life characters.

Burlington VT is an extremely interesting community example and the audience obviously was captivated by Tim Nulty’s message and style. Burlington’s network offers residential customers a standard top speed of 5 Mbps symmetric. The audience was far less enthusiastic about JoAnne Johnson’s discussion of Frontier Communication’s 6 Mbps download speed.

When I discussed my current work with a community client and their pending recommendations about working aggressively with the incumbent providers to ensure competitive services, my table colleagues were aghast at the lack of vision by the community’s staff and task force. Of course, both of these folks benefit financially when cities decide to pursue their own municipal networks.

I am troubled by our lack of shared statewide perspective. How can we talk about gigabit connectivity when many rural Minnesotans don’t even have DSL or a wireless broadband choice? At the same time, I wonder how our top elected officials can avoid serious discussions about the need to ensure world-class telecom services in our economic centers. How can we move everyone forward?

My final thought goes out to my own profession. Where the heck are the economic developers? I enthusiastically applaud those few who were in attendance and wonder about the rest, especially those from state and regional organizations.

Webinar Archive: Notes from Marc Osten

A couple of weeks ago the Blandin Foundation had a webinar entitled, Walk the Talk Through Tech Applications. (The slides are available online. The webinar featured Marc Osten, from the Summit Collaborative talking about Web 2.0 applications.

Marc was good enough to send us a list of follow up resources:

This is the link to my ever growing long list of useful links related to Web 2.0

Great overview slideshow by Beth Kanter, a Summit Collaborative member,

Good overview article but the most important thing are the links within it
to connect you to others resources.

Case Studies

59 Smartest Orgs Online

Broadband Conference 2007: Reflection from Bernadine Joselyn

Bernadine JoselynAnn Treacy invited Blandin staff to share any reflections we might have from yesterday’s Community Broadband: Making the Right Choices conference. I decided to pull out the notes I made for my summarizing comments at the very last session of a long and rich day. They are raw… but fresh!

Conversation and discourse are important in and of themselves. I think an important outcome of the day – though it will be hard to track – will be the connections that were made among the over 140 attendees from 8 states and all across Minnesota. Participants came from Big Lake, Bruno and Brainerd, all the way to Winona, Windom and Wilmer. It was a great opportunity to hear directly from folks what’s going on with broadband in their communities. The short answer: a lot!

Keep on message. There is a wide continuum of awareness and use of broadband across the state. While many people and communities have moved on from asking “what is broadband and why should I care?” to “how can we get it?” I think it’s important to continue honing the message about how critical broadband infrastructure is to community economic vitality and quality of life.

Necessity is the mother of… learning. People “get” broadband applications when they have to. Urgency helps. The more we focus our educational efforts on helping people use broadband applications and connectivity to solve a problem they have, do something they want to do, or make their lives better in some concrete way (for example, connecting with a relative serving in Iraq, as Light Speed grant recipient and School Superintendent Peter Hoyer in Hutchinson, MN is doing via high-quality, broadband-enabled video conferencing), the easier it will be for folks to appreciate the importance of broadband for now and the future. Let’s work to match “killer apps” with the audience we’re trying to reach.

Broadband is no longer just a “nice to have” for rural communities. What we heard from educators, health care providers and government officials in particular, is that broadband has become essential infrastructure for them to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Ann’s got some great notes from the “Community Transformation” sessions. And more stories from the Light Speed and Get Broadband grantees will be available over the coming weeks and months on this blog.

Connecting to place in a global world. Through citizen media, community portals, issue forums, and other efforts to build and manage locally-developed content, broadband can be an important tool for not only connecting rural places to the world, but for building community in community.

No one size fits all. There are lots of paths for “getting broadband” and raising the sophistication of broadband use. Our collective challenge is moving knowledge into practice and sharing what best practices we have. Starting with the end in mind and keeping focused on the goal is important, but so is remaining open to new paths that may open up along the way. Learn as you go. Stay focused, but flexible.

Framing, framing, framing. Thee are lots of ways to talk about how a broadband-enabled society can help us do good, and do well, better. Broadband can be “framed” as a new alternative energy (think of the savings from e-commuting), as a national security solution, and as a resource to address public health threats (like pandemic flu). It’s a way to improve life long learning opportunities and help retain (and attract) youth and the “creative class” to rural places. Broadband is not just for geeks anymore.

Broadband Conference 2007: Community Transformation via Portals

Official description from agenda:

Track II: Technology – The Infrastructure, The Applications
Suite 2
Community Transformation via Portals
Projects are underway throughout Minnesota to help connect people online to their local communities through online citizen engagement and citizen media. A panel of participants in Blandin Foundation’s Get Broadband grants program will talk about their plans, their hopes and their experiences to date.
Panelists: Jill Klinger, Mankato, Sheila Howk, New Ulm, Bill Carlson, Moose Lake, Maggie Montgomery, KAXE
Moderator: Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

Notes from the session. I think I will be able to follow up with their PowerPoint presentations soon. I don’t have them yet – but I think I will soon (by soon I mean tomorrow or next week). Continue reading

Broadband Conference 2007: The Infrastructure, The Applications

The description from the official agenda:

Track II: Technology – The Infrastructure, The Applications
Suite 2
Community Transformation via Broadband Applications
Hear first hand about new projects underway to deliver to rural Minnesota the broadband promise. A panel of awardees from Blandin Foundation’s Light Speed grants program will talk about their plans, their hopes and their experiences to date.
Panel: Light Speed Grantees
Panelists: Peter Royer; Hutchinson, Pat Wickham ; Lakewood Hospital, Staples, Peter Walsh; Winona, Tom Riordan; Windom
Moderator: Geoff Daily; Assistant Editor, Killer Apps
Get descriptions of the LightSpeed programs:

What are you going to do with the money?

PW: Money will go to purchases telemedicine unit we need. Want to reimburse folks for in-home care.

TR: We are creating an Internet-ready classroom. The infrastructure is there in the city. One of the first classes will be meteorology. It’s a unique offering and potentially could become a money maker for the school.

Kids will get homework from on-call teachers via web conference in the off hours. Money will go to cameras and equipment needed to facilitate

Setting up a Mass Media class and need the technology required for that. The class will capture school events and publish on the community video server.

PR: We do online learning. We offer Mandarin Chinese – so we’re buying an IP-VCR to allow kids to access the curriculum at the right time. But when you’re working with people all over the world the timing can be an issue. Also now we can record the activities to archive them.

PW: Working on fiber to the household (FTTH) through Hiawatha Broadband. This will provide the infrastructure to allow for a wide range of applications. This will open the door to new ventures – staff training, more communication, videoconferencing with our clients and among clients.

Plan to do video health with local clinic. Plan for visits from social worker through work with the county. Electronic filing system is another project.

The second phase will be train the trainer implementation.

How important is broadband to get communities to connect?

PW: High speed is critical. Access to bandwidth and money were barriers. Blandin match has helped with training.

PR: The speed of the network has gone from 100Mbit to a Gig. And we’re not there yet – but it’s nice to have it. It’s like garage space – once you have it, you use it. School to school connections are nice because they are faster than connecting via Internet.

TR: Broadband is a vital piece to going into the future – especially to keep a small rural community alive. We have a lot of bandwidth and now we want to use it.

PW: We worked with U of M on a telemedicine project but it was first generation – it was too slow to use. Greater broadband will make these tools usable.

What are the other challenges?

PR: Getting people to understand that the technology will get used is tough. Sometimes the supply comes before the demand. But now people understand that they don’t have to get in the car to meet.

PW: MPR interviewed us (Digital Divide) and at that time 50 percent of use of broadband was determined by an age barrier. SO, teaching folks how to use it and why to use it was a challenge.

What marketing have you done?

PW: Not much, we’re already very busy. Get 10-20 customers a month and there is a waiting list. But we know we’ll have to market at some point. Right now we’re a little cheaper than the incumbent.

How are patients reacting to the technology?

PW: A few years ago with the old telemedicine – the customers were wary and it wasn’t very successful. But with the baby boomers people are expecting the hospital to have telemedicine options and glad to participate.

The patients get a telemedicine unit (on loan) – not really a computer. They get virtual visits – not a huge amount of training is required.

What do you think of the current state of applications? Are applications ready to go – or is it still in development?

PW: We have a hard time finding applications. So we invent them. Getting initial buy in as been a challenge. Getting people when they can use the technology soon is key. You learn when there is an urgency.

PR: A lot of the applications are there but the teachers don’t necessarily think it’s easy to use. We went through a technology in the curriculum push – and some folks have taken to it easier than others. The teachers who are users are the best to convince others.

TR: The pieces are there – it’s just a matter of putting it all together. There is a wireless provider in Windom that can provide access for the kids at home – so many kids have the infrastructure and home and homework helpers can also answer email.

PW: The more technology makes life easier or better the easier it is to sell and it’s just a matter getting them to use it.

What’s the role of school librarians?

PR: Some of our trainers were librarians.

TR: Our librarian has not been involved. We only have one and he is very busy.

What can other areas do to promote broadband? Any advice?

TR: We have city council meetings on cable. The next step is to have them live online so that people can ask questions online. It would help get people involved.

PW: Call you senator to get senate funding. We want it for telemedicine and we need contact legislators to sustain it. Medicare doesn’t reimburse for telemedicine. Some/many others do reimburse.

PR: We participate in Internet2 – they signed up to watch the knee replacement online. We need to pay $35,000 to belong to Internet2 – the state wouldn’t it pay for it so a bunch of schools got to get together to get the money – without state help. But we need to get money from the state.

Any info on best practices?

PW: Rural TeleHealth Center is out there with info on QIO that works between homecare providers and medicare.

GD: These programs really highlight the ability of the Internet to bring the community together not just bring outside resources in.

Broadband Conference 2007: Mike O’Connor Determining Project Feasibility

Description from Agenda:

Track III: Considering the Business
Suite 3
Determining Project Feasibility
Mike O’Connor; President, O’Connor Company
Success requires starting with the end in mind. Get an insider scoop on understanding the decision-making process; conducting and interpreting market studies; and developing a successful design, costing and financial modeling processes.

Notes from the Session:

During the session we filled out the following chart: 


The problem we have is complicated. We try to solve it at once – but it’s too big. We need to divide the problem into smaller chunks. Engineers do this – and solve similar problems in similar ways to avoid mistakes that already happened and to build upon the method that’s there.

Needs Assessment should be quick and cheap and give a good assessment of need. Then you can decide if it’s worth it to carry on.

Feasibility study is like Needs Assessment – but not really. Feasibility can get you into projects that are too big or too small – it doesn’t address the issue of need. It really fits in between the Requirements Definition and Procure or Design stages. Or even better – it makes sense to be a feasibility study after each stage on an ongoing basis.

Breaking this big project into chunks makes it easier to manage cost and time expectations. Blandin can help foster this methodology. Communities would benefit from example deliverables, examples phases – estimating guidelines.

One of the tasks of regional broadband group is to crease a history of broadband projects to help to communities learn from other projects.

Timelines are very important.

Broadband Conference 2007: David Russell Wireline Broadband Technologies

David Russell was good enough to share his PowerPoint presentation (Wireline Broadband Technologies) with me in advance so I am posting it online. Because I had his PPT, I was able to attend another session during this breakout time.

Broadband Conference 2007: Tim Nulty & Tobey Johnson

Here are notes from this morning’s events.

Started with a welcome from Bernadine Joselyn

People need ultra high speed connections to work. Location is no longer the mantra – now it’s connectivity, connectivity, connectivity… The Blandin Foundation recognizes the shift supports locally led efforts to build broadband.

The strategy board has a vision for broadband:

Big challenges require collaborative solutions. We need to get started – the world is not waiting for us.

Then we went on to a great discussion on OANs

Description from the official agenda:

Panel Discussion: Understanding Open Access Networks
Panelists: Tobey Johnson; Manager of Collaborative Solutions, PacketFront, Tim Nulty; Bulington Telecom
Moderator: Steve Kelly, Director, Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota
Learn how open access networks can increase the economic development impact of telecommunications investment

And on with the notes… Continue reading