Iron Range Entrepreneur Speaks up for Broadband Deployment and Tax Incentives

Last November the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met in Duluth – a meeting that coincided with the Minnesota Broadband Conference. The Task Force heard from one young entrepreneur about his business developing apps and the difficulty he had getting his job done with limited broadband on the Iron Range. Yesterday the same entrepreneur (Jake Dahl) had a Letter to the Editor in the Duluth News Tribune

I’m a 2012 graduate of Eveleth-Gilbert High School and currently attend Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. For the past couple years, I’ve been developing a series of handy smart phone apps that users can download on their iOS devices. In the short time I’ve been doing this, the app consumer community here has grown significantly as more and more people are using wireless devices (mostly the iPhone) for a wide variety of needs. Entrepreneurs like me are tapping into those needs and developing useful applications that mobile users want.

It’s a thriving industry, but we need a strong wireless broadband system to support our efforts.

He pleads the case for improving broadband infrastructure by allowing tax incentives to defray costs of broadband deployment…

That’s why we’re even more concerned about recent developments in the state Legislature that would increase taxes on broadband network providers. Instead of doing everything it can to encourage network providers to expand broadband services, the Minnesota Senate recently passed a bill that would repeal some of the tax breaks the state offers on purchases of telecommunications equipment.

Many Internet-related entrepreneurs like me worry that such a move would slow mobile broadband development and deployment on the Iron Range and around the state. The state needs to do everything it can to encourage private investment in broadband. The high-tech community here and elsewhere in the state depends on it.

I thought I’d include the video of Jake’s remarks from last November too…

Blandin Foundation’s impact on Kanabec County

I’m a little slow on this story – but had to share it. It’s from Kanabec County Times about the opportunity students had at the 2012 Minnesota Broadband Conference to attend technology classes and about Kanabec County’s participation in the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program).

About the Students…

Four Mora students and 33 others from across the state learned about new technology during a two-day training session in Duluth Nov. 13.

This is the first year that students in Mora are able to attend this conference. Led by Inver Hills Community College, students learned about computer hardware, networking, Web development and social media.

About BBC…

The Blandin Foundation announced Nov. 14 that Kanabec County was selected as a Blandin Broadband Community and awarded up to $100,000 for expanding broadband in the county. The Blandin Broadband Communities program is an intensive, two-year partnership between Blandin Foundation and selected rural Minnesota communities.

The program provides planning and organizing support to regions that demonstrate readiness and resources to either bring robust broadband adoption to communities without it, or assist already connected communities in making the best use of information and services broadband can deliver.

It’s fun to hear what the Blandin boost can mean to a community…

“The KBI group has been working since January 2011 to address the broadband needs of all county residents and businesses,” said Beth Thorp, Mora Community Development Planner.

“We see this partnership with the Blandin Foundation as a key step in our efforts to educate residents and business owners about the options and uses for broadband, as well as to continue to move us closer to our goal of providing increased broadband speeds and options to the rural parts of Kanabec County.”

What others are saying about the Broadband Confernece

I have been busy trying to post info from the broadband conference in Duluth. But I’m not the only one. I wanted to share notes from others…

DFL Legislature could make a difference for broadband – OK this is part about the conference and part about the latest Broadband Task Force, but I think Dave Peters from Minnesota Public Radio as done a nice job of putting the Task Force Panel in political perspective

A visiting expert’s view: Public-private collaboration can advance mobile future – Diane Smith spoke to the Broadband Task Force in Duluth. Her article in the Duluth News Tribune is reflective of the presentation she gave to the Task Force about rural entrepreneurs needing broadband.

Broadband adoption in Minnesota hits three-quarters but slows – more from Dave Peters on a new survey by the Center for Rural Policy and Development.

Building our Connected Future: Minnesota’s Better with Broadband!: Final Thoughts

This year I have final thoughts from a couple of perspectives. First we have Mark Erickson (from Winthrop) and JoAnne Johnson (from U-reka Broadband) giving their reflections on the conference. Mark focused on 10 things he had learned; JoAnne kept her ears open and highlighted comments heard and themes emerging.

We also have Bernadine Joselyn, who always does a nice job of calling out the salient themes from the conference…

Trends in Business Applications: Conference Break Out

We learned how cloud, mobile and e-commerce applications are changing the way business is conducted. Leaders from Minnesota’s technology industry provide an overview that can help you work with your existing businesses to increase their own tech vitality. Panelists: Neal Tovsen; Founder, TelemetryWeb; James Gagliardi, Vice President, Product, Digital River, Inc; Lonnie Bloomquist, Founder, Chief Technology Officer, Involta

Broadband Applications in Healthcare: Conference Break Out

We learned how broadband and technology are affecting healthcare services in northeastern Minnesota. From diagnostics, virtual specialist’s telehealth services and electronic medical records over Gb networks to home healthcare monitoring and the use of mobile devices. Broadband technology is enabling improved healthcare access, collaboration and communication in this corner of the state. Panelists: Maureen Ideker, Essentia Health; Cheryl Stephens, Community Health Information Collaborative; Jeff Plunkett, SISU Medical Systems.

ARRA and RUS Projects – Where we Stand: Conference Break Out

What is the state of ARRA and RUS broadband projects and how they will impact broadband adoption, use and availability in Minnesota? Panelists shared their knowledge and perspective on the projects, and their impacts in Minnesota; as well as share their views on what might be coming next. Panelists: Dennis Ahlers, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Commerce; Thomas Jensen, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service – Telecommunications Division. Moderator: JoAnne Johnson, U-reka Broadband.

Meet the New Blandin Broadband Communities

The Blandin Foundation is very excited to announce the new Blandin Broadband Communities. (You can access the press release with full details on an earlier blog post.) I was excited to learn a little bit more about each community during the naming ceremony. You can meet the folks and hear a little bit about their communities and their plan in the video below…

You can also learn more about Blandin’s plan for the new broadband focus. While this cohort will have access to specific programming, there are other opportunities to interact with the Blandin Foundation if your community is looking at broadband. Bernadine Joselyn detailed some of the opportunities with the presentation below… a tool to find a broadband tool

Shirley Walz, Minnesota Broadband Task Force member, gave a demonstration of the Task Force’s new toolkit that helps to connect new computer users with resources that help them learn how to get to the next step making the best use of broadband. The tool includes links to online training tools, links to classroom opportunities throughout Minnesota and information to help you get a computer and get connection.

Recognizing that building the toolkit is an iterative process, she invites people to take a look and offer feedback on the toolkit.

The New Digital Divide

Today we find that while availability is still an issue in some locations, the new digital divide not only references the digital “haves and have nots,” but also recognizes that people of different ages, races, ethnicities and geographies access the Internet in different ways and utilize it for different purposes. This session referenced some of the most contemporary data to explore both the older and newer dimensions of the digital divide.

What we’ve seen through the conference is that the questions have shifted from “why would I need broadband” to “why don’t I have it.” The presentations we saw today helped to frame the reasons why.

Jack Geller started by observing that there is no clear line for the digital divide anymore – people are coming through different doors. Mobile access has been a game changer; suddenly you don’t need a computer to get online anymore.

Students Learn to Use Technology at MN Broadband Conference

Inver Hills Community College instructors led high school students through two short courses on computer technology hardware and software.

Computers & Networking – This class focused on practical knowledge of computer hardware and operating systems. Students learned how to troubleshoot computer issues and use system tools and diagnostic software. They learned fundamental aspects of connecting computers to the internet and shared resources in a networked environment.

Social Media & Websites – In this class students explored how businesses might use social media to interact with customers and partners. Students also learned aspects of website development and how a business might optimize their web presence. Lastly, students discovered cloud based applications and how they are redefining the way people work and interact.

Here is a little bit more about what the students learned in their own words…

Blandin Broadband Communities named

I’m pleased to share this fun news from the Blandin Foundation. I’m hoping to post more news on the effort in the future. It’s been fun to meet folks from these communities at the conference…

Blandin Broadband Communities named
Two-year partnerships provide planning, organizing support for high-speed Internet work in nine rural Minnesota communities

DULUTH, MINN—Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012—Blandin Foundation announced today at its annual broadband conference in Duluth that it has selected nine rural Minnesota communities for intensive, two-year partnerships with the Foundation to advance local broadband initiatives.
Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa, Itasca County, Kanabec County, Lake County, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services, Lake of the Woods County Economic Development Agency, Lac qui Parle Valley School District, Mille Lacs County and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe all have been successful in leading their communities’ bids to become Blandin Broadband Communities.

Following on the success of the Blandin Foundation-administered, federally funded Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) demonstration projects, the newly minted Blandin Broadband Communities program provides planning and organizing support to regions that demonstrate readiness and resources to either bring robust broadband adoption to communities without it, or assist already connected communities to make the best use of information and services broadband can deliver.
“Broadband is a community imperative,” said Dr. Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. “Vibrant, resilient communities depend on abundant and robust access to the Internet, and the digital literacy skills necessary for everyone to take full advantage of this access.”

Blandin Broadband Communities assemble diverse, local leadership teams from key institutions and representing underserved populations. They commit to defining technology goals, measuring current levels of broadband access and use, engage the broader community, and promote opportunities such as training and refurbished PCs. Ultimately, Blandin Broadband Communities design and drive initiatives that position their communities and every resident for greater success.

“We’ve been doing broadband work for 10 years, and know that communities have to tackle themselves the tough issues related to broadband access and use—there is no substitute for local leadership,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of Blandin Foundation’s broadband initiative. “We also know how complex this work can be, and work to match community resources and vision with technical resources, grants, connections to peer communities and steady support.

“Effective partnerships and local leadership can release the power of shared ideas, resources and experiences, and allow us to do together what we can’t do alone.”

Blandin Foundation announced in 2012 the two-year, $1.5 million renewal of its commitment to rural broadband initiatives in line with its Expanding Opportunities area of focus. In addition to the Blandin Broadband Community program, any rural Minnesota community will have access to a series of broadband project matching grants and technical resources beginning in 2013. Application details will be available at the Foundation’s website in December.

Craig Settles: Moving the Needle Forward

It was fun to hear from keynote speaker Craig Settles tonight. He provided honest, yet inspirational, advice on how to build community network. It was great to hear his list of dos and don’ts and to realize that many of the items on his list are things that communities around Minnesota are doing. He spoke about the surveys he has done with economic developers and his work in various communities.

Conference Brainstorms on Ideas to Expand Broadband in Minnesota

During the Open Space sessions groups gathered to talk about topics that were of interest to them. The following topics came up:

Seeding and harvesting technology to the older generations

How do we make internet access equitable statewide?

How to get money to deploy?

Business and broadband

Low income interest and computer access programs

How do we get to the people that don’t care about the internet?

Rural communities that still feel underserved – where are the bottlenecks?

Workforce development how to get employers to engage talent where they live? Telework

USF – Universal Service Fund

Broadband based economic development

How to incentivize MN business community to refurbish instead of discard computers and devices?