Minnesota Awards $11 Million for Broadband Projects: Official Announcement #MNBroadband

Official word…

Minnesota Awards $11 Million for Broadband Projects
~Lt. Governor Smith, DEED announce funding for 15 projects in Greater Minnesota~

ST. PAUL – Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today announced that $11 million in grants have been awarded for projects to expand broadband access in 15 Greater Minnesota communities. Lt. Governor Smith made the announcement at the Blandin Foundation’s “Border to Border Broadband: Better Together” Conference.

“We need border-to-border broadband Internet access to build an economy that works for all Minnesotans,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Broadband Internet access isn’t just nice, it’s necessary for Minnesota businesses to grow and our students to thrive. While these grants are a good start, significant need remains.”

This broadband funding was awarded under DEED’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, which Governor Mark Dayton signed into law in May 2014. This year, DEED received 44 applications for funding, totaling more than $29 million in requests. Recipients were selected based on an internal review and scoring process.

The latest round of broadband grants will improve access to high-speed broadband for 3,222 households, 786 businesses and nearly 90 community institutions throughout the state.

“By gaining access to broadband, these rural communities will increase economic development, improve living standards and enhance education and public services,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “While we are pleased to assist in the development of these projects, there are many other communities waiting to receive access to high speed Internet and additional resources urgently needed.”

Now in its second year, the program’s first round of funding awarded $19.4 million to 17 Greater Minnesota communities in February of this year.

The following is a list of the 15 recipients awarded funding in 2015:

BEVCOMM Cannon Valley Telecom, Rural Freeborn Fiber-to-the-Premises Project, $149,625
The project will build out broadband infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet service to 43 households and one business in rural Freeborn in south-central Minnesota’s Freeborn County. Total project costs are $393,750. BEVCOMM will cover the remaining $244,125 (62 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact:  The project will support various home-based businesses, stimulate economic growth, and encourage innovation and investment. Education, health care, energy efficiency and public safety will improve with high-speed Internet access. The greatest economic development potential of the project will be in crop and livestock production, including advancement in bin monitoring systems, livestock feed and environment monitoring, security, video surveillance and energy management.

BEVCOMM Blue Earth Valley Telephone, Rural Winnebago Fiber-to-the-Premises Project, $142,690
The project will provide high-speed Internet service to 30 unserved households and farms in rural Winnebago in Faribault County in south-central Minnesota. Total project costs are $375,500. BEVCOMM will cover the remaining $232,810 (62 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will stimulate home-based businesses, economic growth, and innovation and investment. Education, health care, energy efficiency and public safety will improve with high-speed Internet access. The greatest economic development potential will be in local crop and livestock production. Broadband investments will enable area farmers to access applications and tools to make their operations more efficient and enhance their crop production. A second benefit will be better health care, especially in emergency situations. First responders, paramedics and rural doctors will be able to share medical information and start vital treatment to a patient while an ambulance is en route to the hospital.

Consolidated Telecommunications Co., Fort Ripley Phase II, $759,525
Broadband infrastructure will be built out in the Fort Ripley area to provide service to 272 households. Total project costs are $1.6 million. The remaining $839,475 (52 percent local match) will be provided by Consolidated Telecommunications and regional and local development agencies.

Community and Economic Development Impact:  A survey concluded that more than 83 percent of respondents in the area would benefit from telecommuting, an option currently unavailable. In addition, the project will enable home-based businesses to develop and expand.

Federated Telephone Cooperative, Swift County FTTP 2015, $4.95 million
The project will deliver high-speed Internet service to 600 households, 425 businesses and 75 community institutions. The project area includes De Graff, Swift Falls and rural parts of eastern Swift County. The project touches 13 of the county’s 21 townships. Total project costs are $12.5 million. The remaining $7.5 million (60 percent local match) will be covered by a loan from Swift County to Federated.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will help support job creation and economic prosperity throughout the county. More than 500 jobs are expected to be created over the next few years, related to farming, home-based startups, commercial expansions and more. Nearly half of the county’s 800 farms are in the project area.

Halstad Telephone Co., Gentilly Township, $424,460
Halstad Telephone Co. will build out infrastructure in Gentilly Township in Polk County to provide high-speed Internet to 114 households, 20 businesses and one community anchor institution. Total project costs are $931,000. The remaining $504,540 (54 percent local match) will be provided by Halstad Telephone Co.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will enable more effective agricultural management and teleworking opportunities.

Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Whitewater area in Winona County, $247,000
Hiawatha will partner with Winona County to build out broadband infrastructure in Elba and Norton townships, including Whitewater State Park. The project will provide improved Internet services to 418 customers, including 135 households, 70 businesses and five community anchor institutions. Total project costs are $773,320. The remaining $526,000 (68 percent local match) will be provided by Hiawatha and Winona County.

Community and Economic Development Impact:  This area contains Whitewater State Park (which attracts 300,000 visitors annually), Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, Crystal Springs Fish Hatchery, 75 farms, 32 businesses, a school and numerous public institutions. The project will improve business and economic opportunities, education, health care and public safety.

Midcontinent Little Fork Middle Mile, $277,448
Midcontinent will build out broadband middle-mile infrastructure between Little Fork and International Falls. The project will provide high-speed service to 258 Internet users. Total project costs are $584,100. The remaining $306,652 (52 percent local match) will be provided by Midcontinent.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The community will benefit from increased speed, capacity and reliability of Internet services.

MVTV Wireless Middle Mile, Southwestern Minnesota, $808,080
This project will improve services to 6,000 households and businesses that are MVTV customers in 20 southwestern Minnesota counties, with leverage possibilities for another 29,000 customers. The counties are Blue Earth, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Meeker, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Swift, Watonwan and Yellow Medicine. Total project costs are $1.85 million. MVTV will cover the remaining $1.04 million (56 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will improve broadband access and speeds for more than 3,000 farm-related businesses and 6,000 rural residents across nearly 30,000 square miles.

New Ulm Telecom, Goodhue Fiber Project, $115,934
New Ulm Telecom will build out middle- and last-mile infrastructure in Goodhue Township near the city of Goodhue to provide service to 24 households, businesses and community institutions. Total project costs are $244,073. New Ulm Telecom will cover the remaining $128,139 (53 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact:  Nearly all of the broadband service in this project area is for farms, home-based businesses or telecommuting. Without this investment, many residents might be forced to shut down businesses, move or find alternative educational opportunities.

Otter Tail Telcom Fergus Falls 864, Highway 59, $295,432
Otter Tail Telcom will extend its existing fiber cable at the north edge of Fergus Falls to serve 56 households, seven businesses and one cell tower. Total project costs are $621,962. Otter Tail Telcom will provide the remaining $326,530 (52 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact:  The project will improve broadband service for several existing businesses and work-from-home residents. In addition, it will add value and create potential shovel-ready status for a new industrial park.

Otter Tail Telcom, Highway 59/94, $164,207
Otter Tail Telcom will build out middle-mile broadband infrastructure north of Fergus Falls, near the Highway 59/94 intersection, to provide high-speed Internet service to 21 households and multiple community institutions. Areas north and south of Elizabeth are included. Total project costs are $345,699. The remaining $182,437 (53 percent local match) will be provided by Otter Tail Telcom.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will provide increased connectivity to the Fargo/Moorhead area and redundancy for the Minneapolis middle-mile facilities. All customers served by Park Region Telephone Co., Otter Tail Telcom and other neighboring telecoms will benefit from the added connectivity. Remote clinics and hospitals associated with Sanford Health will have a seamless data flow of records, x-rays, scans and other medical information. Schools and libraries in the region also will benefit.

Paul Bunyan Central Itasca County Fiber, $1.98 million
Broadband infrastructure will be built out in Itasca County in portions of Balsam, Lawrence and Nashwauk townships and the former Iron Range Township that is now located within the city of Taconite. High-speed Internet service will be available to 1,193 households, 53 businesses and five community anchor institutions. Total project costs are $5.52 million. The remaining $3.54 million (64 percent local match) will be provided by Paul Bunyan Communications, Itasca County and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The area is home to an estimated 3,500 people and about 100 small businesses. The project will open up new markets, provide new options for training and education of employees, increase opportunities for sales and marketing, and deliver additional business-related resources. In addition, it will improve the region’s viability and attractiveness to telecommuters, freelancers and others who depend on technology and the Internet for work. Health care services also will improve.

Runestone Telephone Association, Holmes City, $189,990
The project will provide high-speed broadband service to 93 households, 14 businesses and one community anchor institution in Holmes City in Douglas County. Total project costs are $428,060. Runestone will provide the remaining $238,070 (56 percent local match).

Community and Economic Development Impact: In addition to bricks and mortar businesses, numerous home-based businesses and telecommuters will have improved services. Thirty-two local children who are either home schooled or attend school in Alexandria also will benefit. Many of them cannot complete daily assignments, participate in team projects, or conduct research necessary for papers and reports.

West Central Telephone Association, Highway 71 Wadena North Expansion Project, $193,515
The project will provide high-speed broadband service to 162 households, 43 businesses and three community anchor institutions. Project costs are $2.12 million. The remaining $1.93 million (91 percent local match) will be provided by the West Central Telephone Association and by local and regional organizations.

Community and Economic Development Impact: The project will help struggling small businesses, provide tele-health services to assist seniors, address a shortage of mental health workers, and provide online education and other learning opportunities.

Winona County Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Cedar Valley Area, $314,450
Broadband infrastructure will be built in and around the Winona County communities of Witoka, and Wilson, affecting 256 households, 117 businesses and three community anchor institutions. Total project costs are $973,000. The remaining $658,550 (68 percent local match) will be provided by Winona County and Hiawatha Broadband Communications.

Community and Economic Development Impact: Entities that will benefit from local broadband access include trucking firms, 90 farms, nine commercial and industrial businesses, 18 home-based businesses, a school and numerous public institutions.

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and our services, visit us at the DEED website (http://mn.gov/deed) or go to our Twitter account (http://twitter.com/mndeed).

The State of Broadband in Minnesota : 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, along with DEED’s Office of Broadband Development announce the 2015 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant awards.

Here are the winnersawaard

  • BEVCOMM $292,315
  • Consolidated Telecom Company (CTC) $759,525
  • Federated Telephone $4,950,000
  • Halstad Telephone Company $424,460
  • Hiawatha Broadband (HBC) $247,000
  • Midcontinent Communications $277,448
  • MVTV $808,080
  • New Ulm Telecom $115,934
  • Otter Tail Telecom (2 projects) $459,639
  • Paul Bunyan $1,980,000
  • Runestone Telecom $189,990
  • West Central Telephone $189,525
  • Winona County $314,450
  • Total $11,008,366

Later I may get a press release or have time to cross reference later – but for now here’s a list of the applicants for more info:


Welcome from Blandin President Dr. Kathleen Annette: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

A lifelong resident of rural Minnesota and president and CEO of Blandin Foundation for the past four years, Dr. Kathleen Annette is a recognized leader at local, regional and national levels. Here is her welcome…

Thank you, Bernadine. I’m really glad to be here today to be part of this Broadband Builders Breakfast. Welcome everyone!

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the contributions of those of you who are actually doing the work of building our state’s broadband infrastructure. A special nod of recognition and appreciation to all of the providers who are in the room with us this morning.

I want also to acknowledge and thank DEED Commissioner Katie Sieben Clark, and Office of Broadband Development Director Danna MacKenzie and their colleagues for partnering with us to put on this conference. You helped the conference offerings grow from good to great.

In particular, I want to thank Lt. Governor Tina Smith and Governor Mark Dayton, for recognizing the significance of this gathering by choosing it as a venue for announcing the recipients of the state’s 2015 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant awardees.

It is in vogue to call for “public-private collaboration” – and appropriately so, I think, for in this increasingly interdependent world no one sector or group alone can solve the complex problems that threaten a prosperous and healthy planet.

It is our shared responsibility and opportunity to partner better together for a better Minnesota. What’s more – it’s our “Minnesota way” to recognize that we all do better when we all do better.

But collaboration often is not easy. It takes trust and will and most of all – common commitment to creating public value.

In their new book, Public Value and Public Administration, Humphrey School professors John Bryson and Barbara Crosby and Carlson School of Management’s Laura Bloomberg conclude that strengthening public “deliberative capacity” helps communities address complex challenges in an inclusive way.

“Deliberative capacity” – that is, the ability for people of differing opinions to be curious, respectful and open in a shared exploration of effective approaches to public problems.

This conference has been designed:

  • to build a sense of collective efficacy and hopefulness,
  • to welcome all of your perspectives,
  • to spotlight new ideas and promising practices,
  • to draw out your wisdom and passion ….. – ultimately,
  • to contribute to the “deliberative capacity” so key to the quality of our shared public life.

At Blandin Foundation we believe that local leadership matters, and that communities do best when they name and claim their own future.

We are in the hope business – helping communities feel hopeful and leadership-full.

It is my personal hope that you will bring the important work you are doing together here back to your organizations, businesses and communities.

That you will continue to stoke the momentum building here today to name and claim a broadband future worthy of our best hopes for our children and their children’s children.

Again, thank you for being here this morning for this Broadband Builders Breakfast, and congratulations and thanks to each of you who are doing the actual work of building networks.

Making a Minnesota Broadband Vision – collectively building a voice

We’re doing something a little different at the conference this year. And I think it’s something that Blandin does best – they’ve convened this great group of folks who are working for better broadband and they put them to work to think (and act!) about what would be a good broadband vision statement for Minnesota. We started by looking at the vision statement the Blandin Broadband Strategy wrote in 2004…

To ensure a high quality of life and a globally competitive future for its citizens, businesses and communities, Minnesota is committed to making the necessary investment to become a world leader in the universal deployment and use of ultra, high-speed next generation broadband.

Then everyone broke up into groups and we hashed out a new version…

All Minnesotans will use world class universal broadband networks that enable us to thrive in our communities and across the globe now and into the future.

Then we hashed out the process for making the vision happening by answer in the following questions in small groups:

  • What do we need for networks?
  • What tools do we need? (ex: state funding, legislative actions, policies, forums to promote/facilitate collaboration)
  • What do we need to do to incent the investment we need?
  • What key questions or principles should decision-makers keep in mind?

You can see the high level answers to the questions in the PPT

Or you can see everyone’s compiled answers in this document – which reads a little backwards as we create the document on the fly. (Like reading an email discussion you might want to start from the bottom.)

The process was very collaborative: everyone talk, everyone make it better, a core team compiles and brings it back to the group to make sure we’re still speaking as one voice. The work will continue – and one reaon I’m working hard to get this message out tonight – I invite folks to tweet suggestions (#MNBroadband) – or post them as comments below.

Best of the Blandin Broadband Communities: Local Leadership Matters: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference


Moderated by Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy & Engagement, Blandin Foundation
Nancy Hoffman, Executive Director, Chisago County HRA / EDA
Kay Wruke, County Recorder, Martin County
Tom Johnson, County Administrator, Nobles County
Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director, Red Wing Ignite
Amanda Outhoudt, Economic Dev. Director, City of Elk River (Sherburne County)
Dan Weber, Assistant County Administrator, Sherburne County

Sadly there was a technical glitch so I didn’t capture Dana nd SHerburne County but I do have a video they created earlier…

Keynote – Large as Life: How Fiber Will Turn Our World Upside Down #2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Added Nov 30 – just got better video!

I am posting video although the audio is not great:

I am going to try to post the talk in its entirety after the conference – ironically I don’t have the bandwidth at the conference to do it but I want to share what I can in a timely fashion.

Minnesota Policy Remarks: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

We were pleased to have comments from Minnesota policy makers and deployers over lunch:

Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben, MN Department of Employment & Economic Dev.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President, MHTA; Chair, Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director, MN Office of Broadband Development


Open presentation

Digital Storytelling Show and Tell: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

We were pleased to see youth share their experience and learning from Wednesday’s Digital Storytelling Workshop. Moderated by Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting, and made possible through a donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

  • Fond du Lac Ojibwe School: Jacob Ammesmaki, Mary Ammesmaki, Dakota Barney, Brea Hoagland, Michael Sayers, Quintana White
  • Leech Lake Boys and Girls Club: Steven Bruce, Alivia Christopherson, Amber Headbird, Keith Howard, Dedrick LaDuke, Dacia Staples, Ramona White, Donavin Wittner
  • Nay-Ah-Shing High School
  • Onamia School: Deilyah Dexter, KC Merrill, Aiyanna Mitchell, Bella Nayquonabe, Megan Saboo, Madison Sam

Their teacher describes the motivation:

You can see the results of their efforts online.

Here are some videos from the session: 

Bernadine Joselyn Opens the #MNBroadband Conference

And abridged  script:

Good Morning everybody! My name is Bernadine Joselyn. On behalf of the Blandin Foundation and our co-sponsor, DEED’s Office of Broadband Development, it is my pleasure and honor to welcome you to the Border to Border Broadband: Better Together conference.
Thank you for being here this morning.
At Blandin Foundation, we have come to understand that broadband access – and the skills to use it – are fundamental to everything we care about as a foundation:
equal opportunity, education, health care, accountable and effective government, business growth, engaged citizens and – ultimately — vibrant communities – all depend on world class broadband.
I bet that many of you here today get this too.
But ensuring that all people – especially people living in rural places and on tribal lands — have access to world-class broadband and the skills to use it is hard. It’s going to take all sectors of society working together. Not-for-profits, business and government all must do their part.
That’s what this conference is about – being better together.
We have gathered to address the reality that Minnesotans without access to high speed broadband and the ability to use it are denied equal opportunity to participate fully in community life.
These are high stakes. Getting this right for Minnesota matters. Broadband has become the indispensable infrastructure of our age.
As Luis Ubinas, former Ford Foundation President, famously said:
As the Internet becomes a gateway to democratic participation, economic opportunity, and human expression, it is critical to the future of our country to ensure that everyone has high-speed, or “broadband,” access to an open Internet.
In sessions over the next two days, you will hear about many of the efforts underway across our state to move the needle on meeting the challenge President Ubinas describes.
Efforts in Minnesota classrooms, clinics, on school buses, in community centers, libraries and city halls, at the state house, at DEED, in tribal government facilities, and in people’s understanding and awareness.
We also will be working together to articulate a shared Broadband vision for Minnesota. And to talk about what we can do together to move that vision forward.
All of this together offers each of you multiple opportunities to Connect, Learn, and Recharge.
There’s lots going on – some of it simultaneously – so check your program for details.
Our parents and grandparents invested in the infrastructure upon which rural America was built – electricity, roads, bridges, telephones. Now it is our turn.
When the federal government wanted to reduce deaths by improving air quality – they did not ask the auto industry to create a goal.
Rather the Feds said – here are the emission standards we expect you to meet, and they gave the auto industry a deadline. So why are we looking to the providers to set our broadband goals?
Understandably, the goals of for-profit companies are influenced first-and-foremost by what is good for their business, not necessarily what is good for Minnesotans. Not-for-profit co-ops – with member services as their business model — are able to do what for-profit providers often can’t. It’s time for families and schools and communities to set the goals and leave the tactics to the providers. They will rise to the occasion, just as the auto industry did.
And now it is my pleasure to pass the mic to my friend and colleague and conference co-sponors, and the Director of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development, Danna MacKenzie, to add her words of welcome.

Digital Inclusion Strategies: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Digital Inclusion Strategies featuring show and tell sessions on a range of digital literacy projects and a discussion of how to better run programs.


No matter how great (or poor) your network is, if community members are being left behind without access, skills and devices, then your network is not being used to its full capacity. Learn best practices in a range of digital inclusion strategies including computer refurbishment, community technology centers, computer training programs, and low-cost Internet connectivity.

Welcome by Ann Treacy

Tech Literacy Collaborative (Elise Ebhardt and Angie Willardson) – A centralized resource for tools and calendar and directory of projects in the Twin Cities

Show & Tell Stations (1 hour – 4 rounds of 10 minutes)

  1. PCs for People (Sam Drong) – refurbishing donated PCs to distribute to low income households. They have a system that works for everyone.
  2. Hack 2.o (Larry Handlin) – recently hosted their first Hackfest at their coworking space in Willmar.
  3. Kids Summer App Camp (Charles Hilliard) – getting teenagers to develop apps in the summer.
  4. Winona Friendship Center (Malia Fox) – a one-of-a-kind approach to getting elders online – interactive online workout classes.
  5. Open TC (Bill Bushey) – hosting regular meetings of civic coders to develop projects, solve problems and make connections
  6. Visual (Chuck Olsen) – “Virtual Reality is Here.” Learn how this new medium opens up a world of new experiences with your smartphone.
  7. Project FINE (Fatima Said) – teaching computer classes to new Americans from the basics to online publishing. Students learn and make friendships.
  8. Reduced Rates for Low Income HHs MVTV (Julie Foote) – offering reduced rates can make good business sense and community development.
  9. Winger Kid Coder Dojo (Neela Mollgaard) helping kids to develop computer programming and coding skills with space, mentors and opportunities.
  10. Community Technology Empowerment Project (Lisa Peterson de la Cueva) – AmeriCorps members dream up and deploy digital literacy projects

Show & Tell Materials & Videos

And an example of the videoconferencing:


Intro to Community Broadband Notes: 2015 #MNBroadband Conference

Intro to Community Broadband with Dave Russell, Calix; Albert Kangas, Palmer Wireless; Paul Solsrud, Cooperative Network Services; moderated by Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors


Are you still working after years of trying to get better broadband within your city or across your county? Or are you just getting started? This session will provide basics about community organizing, wired and wireless technology options, and business and partnership models.




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).

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

I’m pleased to share a guest blog post from Frank Odasz. Frank is going to be offering training for Native youth at the Fall Broadband Conference (Nov 18-20). I’ve heard about his good work for years – it’s been fun to work with him…

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

For the stories we can tell; Digital Storytelling for Global Citizens

From: Frank Odasz, Lone Eagle Consulting


I’m excited to announce I’ll be delivering on November 18th a unique digital storytelling workshop for Ojibwe Youth to share digital apps and tools for;

Youth to show how to digitally preserve elder’s stories and wisdom for all future generations.

Youth will learn to create free ecommerce websites in less than an hour, including using mobile apps, at http://www.weebly.com

Youth will learn to quickly create video “Show and Tell” screencasts to allow them to teach others locally, and globally, on an ongoing basis.

New digital entrepreneurship models allow youth to “Make the living they want, living wherever they want” as self-employed Lone Eagles.

Learn More; Pre-workshop short videos to explore:

The first digital generation has powerful choices to consider. For the first time in human history, a global voice is theirs, if they choose to use it; to help others, and to empower our one human family;

  • Teaching Native Values for all global citizens on how best to support one  another, and build sustainable community, and cultural, capacity.
  • Teaching Native Values as Stewards of the Earth and Sky; for everyone to learn how to take responsibility to protect the environment.
  • Teaching Native Values for sustainable living as opposed to rampant consumerism, which wastes precious, and limited, natural resources.

I recently attended a conference for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, where an elder stated this profound bit of wisdom; “The further we can look back to where we come from, the further we’ll be able to see into the future as to where we are going.”  In many ways, we are coming full circle, returning to our origins.

As an online teacher of teachers, I follow many trends carefully and read a fair bit online, as well as learning from teachers when we Skype as they do their online lessons.  Did you know Internet video is returning us to being an oral culture, and that digital storytelling is the medium by which our global voices can be heard. By 2020, 80% of Internet use will be video related.

I heard another elder say we only have two things in life where we don’t have a choice; when we’re born and when we die. Everything else in life is a matter of choice.  So, I’m planning to share with you what I see as wonderfully amazing choices for your consideration.

Canoe Club in Metlakatla, Alaska says “We’re all in the same canoe, and need to learn how to all paddle in the same direction, as global citizens.”

We’re limited only by our imaginations

Workshop Presenter: I’m Frank Odasz, president of Lone Eagle Consulting, and I’ve been teaching rural citizens, and teachers, online since 1988. Enjoying the freedom of no bosses and no employees, I’m living my dream, living in a rural ranch house with the personal challenge to teach others online how to preserve their rural lifestyle, rural communities, and cultures.

Youth workshop attendees will be invited to consider their choice of whether to help me develop an online curriculum for 4 billion young people, mostly poor, who are due to come online by 2020.

That said, a quote from Charlie Brown is; “There is no heavier burden than a great potential.”

All my Lone Eagle resources are online without restriction. Recent conference video presentations and online resources are at http://lone-eagles.com/austin-2015.htm and http://lone-eagles.com/ATNI-2015.htm  A dozen rural grant templates are at http://lone-eagles.com/rural-grant-templates.htm

Included in the above resources are links to Lone Eagle’s recent Alaska Native Innovations Incubator (NTIA Technical Assistance Pilot) as a replicable broadband-related local model created specifically to inspire, and enable, all Native and rural communities to become intentionally innovative.

This 8 minute video inspired the above “innovations incubator” and is strongly recommended to show locally,

The Alaska Native Tradition of Creative Adaptation.   Released Nov. 1, 2013,

I welcome all calls, emails, and can even Skype with anyone interested;
My skype ID is frankodasz and my email is frank@lone-eagles.com
My Cell # is 406 925 2519

I’m offline for the next week celebrating my father’s 93rd birthday, but will check in online every few days to see if anyone would like to schedule a time to talk or skype.

We are all related,

Frank Odasz
President Lone Eagle Consulting

Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind Recap

The 2014 Minnesota Broadband Conference is done. Whew! It was great to see some faces I hadn’t seen in years – and a few new folks. It’s a bittersweet example of how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. We’re still asking “What is Broadband” but we’re also talking about how to get a gig. The digital divide is still there and it’s getting exacerbated by the increasing chasm. We need to continue to work for broadband expansion – deployment and adoption. But we’re getting closer – and I left the conference inspired.

Bernadine Joselyn offers her parting remarks – I think she always does a good job framing the work for the future…

And I thought I’d try to provide ready reference access here to the various posts from the conference. I may add a few more – and I’ll try to get in and fix typos over the next week but I like to get the information out as soon as I can.

And you can get the notes, video and PowerPoints (when available) from each session:

10 Blandin Broadband Communities Named at the #MNBroadband Conference

Yesterday was a very full day. So much broadband learning, news and networking – including the announcement of 10 new BBC communities:

  • Carlton County
  • Central Woodlands (East Central RDC)
  • Chisago County
  • Martin County
  • Nobles County
  • Red Wing
  • Redwood County
  • Resilient Region Virtual Hwy Taskforce
  • RS Fiber Cooperative
  • Sherburne County

Here’s the official announcement…

Blandin Foundation Announces 10 New Blandin Broadband Communities

Two-year partnership provides planning, technical and financial support to help county meet its digital technology goal

Brainerd, Minn. (November 19, 2014) – Blandin Foundation announced 10 new Blandin Broadband Communities. The announcement was made today in Brainerd, before more than 140 participants in the Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind conference, co-sponsored by Blandin and Connect Minnesota.

The Blandin Broadband Communities program is an intensive, two-year partnership between the Blandin Foundation and selected rural Minnesota communities. The program provides planning, technical and financial support to communities that demonstrate the determination to bring the benefits of a broadband-enabled economy to their communities.

Blandin Broadband Communities announced today include Carlton County, Central Woodlands (east central Minnesota), Resilient Region 5 (north central Minnesota), Sherburne County, Chisago County, Redwood County, Renville/Sibley Counties, Red Wing, Nobles County, and Martin County.

“At Blandin Foundation we recognize that broadband access – and the skills to use it — are essential to expanding opportunity for all.   Thanks to community leaders in Carlton County and in the other communities with whom we partner, Minnesota is making important strides toward ensuring that rural places and the economically and socially disadvantaged are not left behind,” said Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement.

Communities were selected based on demonstrated commitment to work together across sectors to set and meet information technology goals and bridge digital divides.

“It takes strong local leadership and commitment from whole communities to tackle the tough issues related to Internet access and use,” said Dr. Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. “We’re honored to stand with Carlton County as they design and claim a vibrant, connected future.”

Next steps in the Blandin Broadband Community partnership include assessing the community’s current broadband access and adoption and, in early 2015, a series of public planning meetings.

And a little detail on each community…


Carlton County plans to stimulate community conversation that looks beyond infrastructure to innovative ideas about how to reduce the county’s digital divide. A key focus of their efforts will be to identify opportunities that will benefit the unserved and underserved areas in the county.

Carlton County Commissioner Marv Bodie expressed his excitement on the invitation to participate, “The Blandin Broadband Communities Program is the vehicle that will help Carlton County explore its future.   We will bring together individuals who normally do not have the opportunity to interact but who will now provide new energy and creativity on this common issue. We recognize that by working together greater benefits will be generated for all of Carlton County.”

Leading their work is the Carlton County Economic Development Authority. Together, with government, education, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, the EDA will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Carlton County.

Central Woodlands:

The Central Woodlands plans to strengthen existing broadband-related work happening in Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties, both past Blandin Broadband communities, and advance the work to un- and under- served areas of the region. This includes a special focus on older adults, whose population will grow to almost 50,000 by 2020.

“The Central Woodlands area remains very rural in economy and lifestyle. We expect to bring more broadband options to the region; with the intention of attracting consumers, employees and entrepreneurs to access and engage in highly skilled, connected endeavors,” says Penny Simonsen, ECRDC Community Development Director.

Leading the Blandin Broadband Community work is the East Central Regional Development Commission. Together, with educational, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, ECRDC will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in the Central Woodlands.

Chisago County:

The BBC program will benefit across the entire county for the residents, communities, and businesses. Chisago County anticipates the program benefiting job seekers and students as well as marketing the community and providing businesses with technology assistance for a competitive business climate.

Chisago County Board of Commissioner Chair Rick Greene stated that the County is so pleased to be selected to be a Blandin Broadband Community. Broadband is a very important topic for Chisago County. It is essential for economic development and for the future workforce.

Leading the Blandin Broadband Community work is the Chisago County Housing Redevelopment Authority/Economic Development Authority. Together, with education, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, the HRA-EDA will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Chisago County.

Martin County:

Martin County hopes to increase access to computers and enhance skills and connectivity for all community members. There is a need for a better broadband opportunity and experience for our residents and businesses county wide. This will provide an opportunity that will benefit the residents and business in Martin County.

“On behalf of the Martin County EDA-IGNITE, we are excited that Martin County has been selected to become a Blandin Broadband Community. Broadband is an integral part of our infrastructure for our residents and businesses. We embrace the opportunity to work with the Blandin Foundation to enhance broadband in Martin County,” said Scott Higgins, Martin County Coordinator.

Leading their work is the Martin County Economic Development Agency. Together, with educational, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, the EDA will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Martin County.

Red Wing:

Red Wing, was included in the charter family of US Ignite communities as the result of the gigabit-enabled network provided by Hiawatha Broadband Communications. US Ignite is an organization started at the White House to foster the creation of next-generation Internet applications that provide transformative public benefit.   Red Wing has made the most of this momentum by developing programs that focus on innovation.

Leading the Blandin Broadband Community work is Red Wing Ignite, a nonprofit organization that brings innovation to reality. They create an innovative environment for businesses to thrive. Together, with community and business leaders, Red Wing Ignite will continue to develop ways to adopt broadband and change the way the communities live, learn and work.

Neela Mollgaard, the Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite said, “The support of the Blandin Foundation is affirmation of the critical role Red Wing Ignite is playing to ensure that rural America benefits and leads in innovation. We are grateful to be joining the efforts of the Blandin Foundation.”

Redwood County:

“We are thrilled to be selected as a new Blandin Broadband Community. This is the perfect opportunity and boost that we need to advance the usage of broadband applications across our county and into our communities,” said Julie Rath, economic development specialist at the Redwood Area Development Corporation. “Our students, businesses, citizens, and visitors will all benefit from the funding provided to better access to applications, training and tele-medicine. We look forward to discovering what our future holds by increasing broadband access and usage!”

Leading the Blandin Broadband Community work is Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC). Together, with educational, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, RADC will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use.

Renville Sibley Counties:

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to be a Blandin Broadband Community,” said Mark Erickson, Director of Environment and Community Development for Renville County. “In the coming weeks we will be working with a variety of stakeholders to determine how to make best use of the opportunity.”

Leading their work is the RS Fiber Cooperative, EXPLAINNNNNNN. Together, with educational, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, the RS Fiber Cooperative will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Renville and Sibley Counties.

Region Five:

Region Five has been doing this for a number of years through their Resilient Region Plan, a development strategy that resulted from input by more than 600 Central Minnesotans. One of the Plan’s goals centers on using broadband technologies to improve bottom lines as well as quality of life.

“We are excited to be chosen to participate as a Blandin Broadband Community. Our “community” is the entire five-county region of Cass, Crow Wing, Todd, Morrison, and Wadena,” said Cheryal Hills, executive director of Region Five Development Corporation. “We have already been successful on a number of fronts because of the dedication of our Connectivity Champions:

Pam Mahling (Information Research Specialist, West Central Telephone Association)
Kevin Larson (CEO) and Kristi Westbrock (COO), Consolidated Telephone Company
Janelle Riley (CEO, Syvantis Technologies)
Stacey Stockdill (CEO, EnSearch, Inc.)
Sally Fineday (Wireless Telecommunications Business Manager, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe)
Paul Drange (Director of Regional Programs, National Joint Powers Board)
Janet Johnson (Instructor, Minnesota State Community & Technical College
Rick Utech (Executive Director, Todd County Economic Development Corporation)
Michael Amick (Dean of Computer Technology and Online Learning, Central Lakes College)

We are looking forward to moving our work to the speed of light with the tools and resources now available to us because of Blandin Foundation!”

Leading their work is the Resilient Region Virtual Highway Connectivity Committee, one of several committees working on advancing the Resilient Region Plan. Together, with education, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, this committee will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in the Resilient Region.

Nobles County:

Leading the Blandin Broadband Community work is the Nobles Economic Opportunity Network (NEON). Together, with educational, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, NEON will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Nobles County.

“We are excited to bring together ideas and options to open up faster, stable broadband to encourage economic growth over the whole county and give rural residents better connectivity,” said Cheryl Janssen, NEON committee member.

Sherburne County:

“As we filled out the Blandin Broadband Community program application it became apparent to all involved how important Broadband infrastructure is to the entire Sherburne County region. We received support from many sectors including cities, townships, school districts, private businesses and Chambers of Commerce throughout the County. We are thrilled to be partnering with the Blandin Foundation to help us connect Sherburne County,” said Dan Weber Sherburne County Economic Development Specialist.

Leading their work is the Sherburne County Broadband Coalition, a group whose goal is to enhance the quality of life for citizens through efficient use of technology. Together, with education, nonprofit and business partners throughout the county, the Broadband Coalition will rally local leaders to develop a sustainable model for broadband access and use in Sherburne County.