Washington County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 4

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Washington County ranks 4 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Washington is interesting. They rank very well. Their lowest ranking comes in access to broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up. While 15 is not bad, it is an area where they will want to focus because once the federal funding has come and gone it will be difficult to fill the gaps that don’t get filled with that funding.

Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.


Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

Washington County Ranking
Access to 100/20 15
No bachelors 4
No HS degree 3
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 2
Below poverty (last 12 months) 2
Disability 2
No computer 7
No broadband access 3
No subscription 2
Overall average 4

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

Otter Tail County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 43

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Otter Tail County ranks 43 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Otter Tail County is very middle ranking. One surprising tract ranking is subscription rank at 67, that is lower than their other ranking. Their rank for percent of households living beyond poverty is lower (rank 26) so affordability may not be the top reason. It seems like digital training and programs that encourage use would be beneficial. The good news is they have been working on digital equity and have local experts and engagement.

Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.


Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

Otter Tail County Ranking
Access to 100/20 47
No bachelors 26
No HS degree 50
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 23
Below poverty (last 12 months) 26
Disability 47
No computer 45
No broadband access 35
No subscription 67
Overall average 43

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

More resources:

There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation:

Project Owner Project Name Description
Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Improving Business Resilience Through Technology Increase the sophistication of use of technology by local businesses by conducting technology audits where the business’s needs related to digital security, email, POS systems, and e-commerce needs are assessed, and training offered.
Greater Fergus Falls Youth Exposure to Tech & Careers Expand students’ exposure to technology-related careers by holding a virtual career fair and increasing STEAM offerings, including coding and robotics, in kids’ summer programming.
Otter Tail County Smart Rooms Increase access to and use of technology by equipping at least six indoor public meeting spaces with audiovisual equipment so individuals and groups can attend virtual meetings, distance learning, and job interviews.
Viking Library Free Public Wi-Fi Increase access to the internet by establishing at least four additional free Wi-Fi public access sites throughout the county.
Viking Library Tech Packs Improve access to technology for people experiencing economic impacts due to COVID-19 by providing free laptops and mobile hot-spots with 6 months prepaid service along with digital resources for jobseekers to 100 county residents, with emphasis on those seeking employment.

Olmsted County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 5

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Olmsted County ranks 5 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Clearly ranking fifth is very good. Looking at the individual tracts, they can see that access to technology (broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up ranks 4, broadband subscription rates ranks 7 and computer ownership ranks 6. But the demographic tracts, such as percent of population living below poverty is higher at rank 40. This indicates an opportunity to use the technology to make improvements to the community.

Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.


Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

Olmsted County Ranking
Access to 100/20 4
No bachelors 3
No HS degree 20
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 26
Below poverty (last 12 months) 40
Disability 20
No computer 6
No broadband access 6
No subscription 7
Overall average 5

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

Koochiching County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 78

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Koochiching County ranks 78 out of 87 counties for digital equity. They are in a position where they need to work on the three pillars of digital equity: affordable access to broadband, device ownership and the skills to use them. The good news is that they have been working on it, which means they have engaged residents and some tested projects. Two standout ranks that might help guide their direction is their ranking for bachelor’s degrees (rank 84) and population with disabilities (rank 84). Highlighting these areas might give them an extra push.

Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.


Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

Koochiching County Ranking
Access to 100/20 57
No bachelors 84
No HS degree 56
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 80
Below poverty (last 12 months) 77
Disability 84
No computer 63
No broadband access 62
No subscription 61
Overall average 78

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

Regional Development Commission

There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation:

Project Owner Project Name Description
Citizens for Backus / AB Backus Conferencing Upgrades Project support to upgrade interactive videoconferencing equipment and capabilities at the Backus Community Center.
Servants of Shelter Internet for the Homeless Project support to improve internet access at Servants of Shelter, which provides emergency shelter to individuals and families in Koochiching County. The upgraded capacity will allow clients to research employment, education and housing opportunities.
Koochiching County Community Television KCC TV Local Media: Local Lives Project support to increase locally-generated and relevant media content that reflects the lived experience and perspective of county residents available on Koochiching County Community Television by building a coalition of students and other residents trained to use cameras and editing equipment.
International Falls Public Library (IFPL) Coworking Meetups Project support for creating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship by helping Ballan’s iSpace, a new co-working facility in downtown International Falls, offer relevant programming in partnership with the International Falls Public Library and Borderland Young Professionals. Partners will host weekly gatherings of mutual support to share knowledge, build skills, network, and inspire one another.
I’Falls Public Library (IFPL) The Library Reaches Into the Community Project support to increase broadband adoption and use by helping the International Falls Public Library expand its services in the community, including through improved Wi-Fi access at Smokey Bear Park, six LinkedIn Learning mobile internet subscriptions for check-out, expanded reference service to texting and LiveChat, and the addition of  Adobe Creative Cloud software for use by patrons in the library’s new recording studio.
I’Falls Public Library (IFPL) After School Libratory Project support to improve access to STEM education in the community by purchasing equipment for use by the after-school STEM program kids and expanding coding and technology experiences for younger patrons. The equipment could also be utilized by teachers in the classroom.
Borderland Young Professionals Online Meetings Project support to engage more young people in the organization and community by offering a web-ex participation option for their meetings and events and using their website and social media in innovative ways to engage young professionals.
Koochiching County Veterans Service Office Video Teleconferencing Project support to increase internet access and use and improve access to medical and behavioral health care by offering video teleconferencing equipment for use by veterans. The nearest VA clinics and hospitals are 200 to 600+ miles from International Falls, making it costly and time-consuming to receive medical care. Offering this equipment will greatly improve quality of life for area veterans.
I’Falls Library (IFPL); Koochiching Aging Options Virtual Reality and Healthcare Project support to increase the use of technology throughout the community by offering a set of ten virtual reality headsets for check-out and use at the library for healthcare applications, including patient and family education, student use, elder wellness and stress reduction – including virtual field trips, etc.
IFalls Nice Movies in the Park Project support to improve community events by helping purchase a screen for Movies in the Park and other potential community events to be determined.
Koochiching County; City of International Falls Tech Internships Project support to expand workforce and build skills among local residents while helping to meet the information services needs of local institutions by offering paid tech internships to high school and Rainy River Community College students.
Borderland Young Professionals Ballan’s iSpace Scholarships Project support to increase internet access and spur entrepreneurism in the community by offering scholarships to high school and college students, and nonprofit workers to Ballan’s iSpace, the new coworking space in downtown International Falls.
Koochiching County Historical Society Digital History Project support to increase internet use and access to digital exhibits within the museum through the purchase of tablets, allowing visitors to interact with exhibits via pop-up windows and shows, and view delicate materials.
Koochiching Technology Initiative Koochiching County Tech Club (KCTC) Project support to build a culture of technology use through the formation of a Tech Club, with the purpose of networking and knowledge sharing, provide information about tech careers, and perform community services such as device refurbishment, tech support, and staffing the library tech help desk.
Koochiching EDA Your Ticket Home Project support to enhance workforce and family recruitment marketing by the creation of www.yourtickethome.org and related social media, with the purpose of matching people with opportunities for employment and entrepreneurism in the area.
City of Littlefork Community Center Connectivity Project support to increase internet access and use in Littlefork by upgrading the internet connection, Wi-Fi capability, screen and projector for use by meeting and event participants and area residents.
City of International Falls; IFalls Nice IFalls Nice Web Portal Project support to improve access and visibility of information, attractions, and activities throughout the region through the creation of a comprehensive website and community calendar.

 

Dodge County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 9

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Dodge County ranks 9 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Dodge ranks well for most indicators but they seem to rank a little lower for access to a high school (rank 16) and bachelor’s degree (30). It seems as if they could make a compelling case for using the technology to increase educational attainment. That might be compelling to funders and improve life for residents.

Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.


Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

Dodge County Ranking
Access to 100/20 28
No bachelors 30
No HS degree 16
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 5
Below poverty (last 12 months) 4
Disability 3
No computer 12
No broadband access 1
No subscription 11
Overall average 9

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

Chisago County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 16

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Chisago County ranks 16 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Chisago’s rankings are all over the place when you look at separate tracts. Access to broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and up 20 is ranked at 78. So clearly there is room to continue to work on improving broadband access. They rank higher for many of the demographic tracts, such as high school degree (9) and poverty (6). But there is room for improvement with bachelor’s degree attainment. There may be an opportunity to develop a program that encourages further learning using technology. That might be compelling to funder and useful to the population. Chisago has a list of successful digital equity programs and partners (scroll down) to employ for future projects.

Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.


Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

 

Chisago County Ranking
Access to 100/20 78
No bachelors 48
No HS degree 9
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 8
Below poverty (last 12 months) 6
Disability 29
No computer 9
No broadband access 56
No subscription 9
Overall average 16

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

Regional Development Commission

There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation:

Project Owner Project Name Description
Chisago County HRA-EDA Community Outreach Project support to mobilize community stakeholders to gather and share information about existing and proposed broadband services and to develop and implement broadband improvement strategies
Chisago County HRA-EDA Community Survey and Outreach Project support to conduct a combined community survey and outreach effort to spur interest and action around broadband networks and services
Chisago County HRA-EDA Google Mapping Assistant Project support to increase the number of local businesses that have an online presence
Chisago County HRA-EDA Old Hwy 61 Grant Project support to inventory, map and showcase businesses and attractions along Old Highway 61 through online web and mobile devices
Chisago County HRA-EDA Quality Tech Training for Businesses Project support to design, promote and conduct multiple e-commerce/social media training sessions throughout the county
Chisago County HRA-EDA Teleconference Equipment Grant Capital support for two video conference systems to enable distance learning for the county, local residents, businesses and organizations
Chisago County HRA-EDA Wi-Fi Hot Spots Capital support to create 8-10 Wi-Fi hot spots across Chisago County for enhanced public access
Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Chisago Lakes Community Website Project support to create and maintain a multi-community/area web site to serve visitors and residents with information on activities, attractions and community events
Chisago Lakes School District 2144 Chisago County Community Mobile Wi-Fi Project support to provide Wi-Fi on school buses to enable more productive use of student time on long bus rides to and from school activities and to provide free Wi-Fi at community events
City of North Branch North Branch Community Wi-Fi Project support to create three new Wi-Fi hotspots at public parks within city limits

 

There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation. (Chisago participated in multiple Blandin cohorts):

Project Owner Project Name Description
Chisago County HRA-EDA “A Conversation of the Rural Narrative” Event Highlight and celebrate Chisago Lakes’ BBC work in the context of overall rural community health and growth by hosting an event featuring Ben Winchester, U of MN Extension sociologist and researcher who will speak to how the work fits today’s rural narrative with regards to technology, engagement, and welcoming community efforts.
Chisago County HRA-EDA Virtual Manufacturing Tours Expand students’ exposure to technology and manufacturing as a career choice by producing eight video-tours of local manufacturing businesses. Students will view the tours in school and be able to follow up with the business via videoconference.
Chisago Lakes Chamber & Tourism Bureau Digital Economic Development Specialist Grow and develop the digital marketing presence of the Chisago Lakes Chamber and the Chisago Lakes Tourism Bureau via the services of a Digital Marketing Specialist to grow their social media footprint, promote their new brand, amplify tourism opportunities, and develop a tourism blog.
Chisago Lakes Chamber & Tourism Bureau Tech Equipment for Chisago Lakes Chamber & Visitors Bureau Increase the digital marketing capabilities of the Chamber and Visitors’ Bureau through the acquisition and use of tech equipment including a laptop, owl camera, and accessories which will allow for hybrid meeting format. This service will be used by the Chamber and Visitors’ Bureau and available to other community organizations.
Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce Broadband Infrastructure Community Survey Gather the data necessary to talk with providers, community leaders, and legislators about broadband infrastructure needs across the region by conducting a survey of residents and businesses on current internet satisfaction levels and unmet needs, and promote the Minnesota Speed Test.
Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce Digital Economic Development Toolkit Promote modern, ethical, and sustainable business practices in the Chisago County area through the development of training courses. Topics will include diversity and inclusion, marketing, and succession planning.
Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce New Chamber of Commerce Website Showcase local businesses with a new website for the Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. The new site will be much easier to use and include a data management system to provide higher value to the membership and community at large.
Chisago Lakes Community Ed & Chisago Age Well Older Adults EmPOWERED by Technology Reduce the digital divide by providing older adults with educational resources, classes, and support to use equipment, websites, and virtual platforms to stay involved and safely access activities and services in the community.
Chisago Lakes School District Mobile Hotspots for Community Increase access to the internet by deploying cellular mobile hotspots for community members in need, focusing first on families with students in the school system.

 

Beltrami County Digital Equity Profile – ranked 40

Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.

Summary

Beltrami County ranks 40 out of 87 counties for digital equity, while that’s a very middle ranking the details of the segment ranking tell a much more interesting story. They have top ranking for access to broadband at speeds to 100 Mbps down and 20 up because they have at least one engaged broadband provider. They also rank 86 for population below poverty in the last year. Affordability is likely an issue; population without a high school degree ranks 55 so there may opportunities here too. Finding a way to connect their good broadband to people who are living in poverty with digital literacy and workforce training might be a good investment for the community. Paul Bunyan Communications has been spreading the word about federal subsidy programs to make broadband more affordable for households – that should help too. 



Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.

Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)

Beltrami County Ranking
Access to 100/20 1
No bachelors 21
No HS degree 55
Below 150% poverty (last 12 months) 86
Below poverty (last 12 months) 86
Disability 61
No computer 44
No broadband access 30
No subscription 47
Overall average 40

The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.

So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:

Libraries

Schools

Regional Development Commission

Color of Change launches Black Tech Agenda – steps to racial equity in technology

From the Color of Change

Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, today launched the “Black Tech Agenda” which is endorsed by several prominent members of Congress: Senator Cory Booker (NJ), Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), Representative Robin Kelly (IL-02), and Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07).

The Black Tech agenda sets an affirmative vision for how to create tech policy that centers racial justice, ensuring bias and discrimination are rooted out from the digital lives of Black people and everyone. The agenda has 6 pillars which outline real policy solutions for Congress to advance racial equity in Tech:

  • Advancing Robust Antitrust Policy: Create fair markets where Black businesses can compete, Black workers can thrive and Black people have abundant options;
  • Protecting Privacy and Ending Surveillance: Limiting monopoly power to create fair markets where Black businesses can compete, Black workers can thrive and Black people have abundant options;
  • Preventing Algorithmic Discrimination: Forcing companies to address discrimination in their decision-making through independent audits and repair the harm that has happened;
  • Expanding Broadband Access: Ensuring everyone has high quality, affordable internet;
  • Supporting Net Neutrality: Treat all internet traffic equally and designate the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as its regulatory body; and
  • Addressing the Disinformation and Misinformation Crisis: Changing the incentives for profiting from harm by regulating optimization algorithms and reducing monopoly power.

The Black Tech Agenda, as a comprehensive roadmap to prioritizing the policies that impact Black communities on and offline, is an effort to distinguish the real solutions to advance racial equity from fake, self-regulated suggestions proposed by Big Tech.

City of Cook is looking at fiber before winter

The Ely Timber Jay reports

Deployment of the city of Cook’s new fiber optic high-speed broadband network is on track to be operational before winter sets in, and new projects proposed for multiple North Country areas could come next if their current applications for additional state funding support are approved.
Work on the Cook network being installed by Paul Bunyan Communications was originally scheduled to begin next spring, but multiple factors have allowed the company to accelerate that schedule. Crews began laying the main fiber optic cables several weeks ago, and those who subscribe to the service now will likely have high-speed broadband this fall.

They also mention some grant applications in the Border to Border hopper that may get funded this fall…

One of those is the nation’s eighth largest internet provider, Frontier Communications, which already provides some services in the North Country that qualify as “high speed” broadband under the FCC’s 100 megabyte down, 25 megabyte up definition.
Frontier has proposed two-gig service deployment for the areas of Ely, Tower, and Crane Lake, including areas formerly designated for LTD.
A proposal for deploying high-speed broadband in the Eagles Nest area, submitted by Ely-based Treehouse Broadband, is also under consideration for Border-to-Border funding.

MN Broadband Task Force July 2022: Affordable Connectivity Program and American Connection Corps

The Task Force member heard about Affordable Connectivity Program and Affordable Connectivity ProgramAmerican Connection Corps. It was energizing and informative.

They also got an update from the Office of Broadband Development. The OBD is in the middle of receiving Border to Border applications with hopes of doing a second round of funding later in the fall.

1:30 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from May 20, 2022 Meeting

Meeting the new Task Force member, Phil Stalboerger, VP Public Affairs, Medical Transportation Management

1:40 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Office of Broadband Development Diane Wells, Deputy Director

There are four staff members now. The Digital Equity Application and Letter of Intent were both filed. The BEAD filing is due later. The next deadline is Aug 5, to report that we do want $5 million for broadband planning. The Capitol Projects Funds – we have $70 million from the fund already in the grant project. There’s another $110 million available ($60.2M already spoken for) need to discuss the rest.

Border to Border grants are open now. The deadline to submit an intent to apply has passed. We are going through the stages and hope to be done in September. Hoping to open another grant round later this fall.

We are working to add new staff. Final stages of hiring a Digital Equity Lead. Applications just closed for Executive Director. It will be at least a 2-interview process. Will soon be hiring more grant managers.

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. Affordable Connectivity Program Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. American Connection Corps Updates in Minnesota Benya Kraus, Lead for America Co-Founder and ACC Executive Director

The American Connection Corps is a national nonprofit that matches fellows with rural communities to expand broadband infrastructure and use. They have had great support from Land o’Lakes and Center Care.

We heard from fellows from Otter Tail and Redwood and their efforts to understanding the broadband needs in the community and increasing use. They have done great work with gathering data, mapping out availability and funding opportunities.

We also heard about the importance broadband has in bringing healthcare, especially mental healthcare to rural areas.

3:15 p.m. – 3:20 p.m.  Affordability and Adoption Sub-Group

  • Haven’t met – but talked about a schedule for the future.

3:20 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. Funding, Mapping and Usage Sub-Group

  • Did meet. Making plans for future topics. How can people challenge the maps? How can we track the funds available.

3:25 p.m. – 3:40 p.m. Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Update Teddy Bekele, Chair, Minnesota Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

They are still talking about sending a letter to the PUC about LTD Broadband’s reconsidering ETC status.

3:40 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, August 29 Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

MN 8th Congressional District candidates mention broadband (Jen Schultz and John Munter)

The Duluth News Tribune posts candidates’ views from two candidates competing for Democratic candidate for Northeastern Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. Both mentioned broadband, although Jen Schultz seems to be more specific in her plans.

From Jen Schultz

I’m running to represent Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District after four productive terms representing Duluth in the Minnesota Legislature.  …

We need to diversify our economy with investments in infrastructure, broadband, education, affordable housing, and technology. Our current Rep. Pete Stauber voted against the federal infrastructure bill that will bring more than $7 billion to Minnesota to upgrade our roads, bridges, ports, broadband, and airports. It will also pay to replace lead service lines and bring good-paying jobs to Northeastern Minnesota. Incredibly, Stauber’s strong opposition to the bill didn’t stop him from taking credit for projects it funded .

From John Munter

I am running for Congress because anyone picked out of the phone book at random could be doing a better job than Rep. Pete Stauber the past four years, with his votes against the economic interests of the 8th District in opposing the American Rescue Plan and infrastructure funding for schools, small businesses, child tax credits, 29 area airports, six iron mines, Duluth’s Can-of Worms project, the cleanup of the St Louis River, and a critically important new lock in the Soo Locks that prevents an economic catastrophe to our grain and ore shipping if the large lock goes down.

Stauber has promoted low-cost drugs, a cap on insulin, broadband, infrastructure, and support for veterans — and then voted against them like a Libertarian who hates all government. He also voted against reasonable gun regulation, flying in sorely needed baby formula, and prohibitions against oil-price gouging.

Should MN PUC look at revoking LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC? They are asking you!

Last week I noted that MN industry associations (MTA and MREA) are asking the MN PUC (Public Utilities Commission) to revoke LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. If you have an opinion, especially if you have firsthand experience as a customer or otherwise, the PUC would like to know what you think. Should they initiate proceedings to look into it?

Why is it happening? Because a year ago, LTD qualified to apply for large amounts of federal funding (RDOF) to deploy fiber to the home in Minnesota (and other states) and many are wary of their ability to successfully deploy a FTTH network. And right now, the areas where they have applied are stuck in a limbo of dibs; because they might get this RDOF federal funding, they are disqualified for other options.

What does this mean? An entity must have ETC designation to qualify for RDOF. Therefore, a revoked ETC designation would impact RDOF eligibility. That would mean, LTD may no longer qualify for the RDOF funding.

Again the PUC is asking Minnesota residents what they think – especially if you have (or might have in the future) firsthand experience with LTD Broadband.

Here’s the info on the comment period and process (There’s more in the PDF.)…

NOTICE OF COMMENT PERIOD
Issued: May 11, 2022

In the Matter of the Petition of LTD Broadband, LLC to Expand its Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier

In the Matter of a Petition to Initiate a Proceeding to Revoke the Expanded Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (“ETC”) Designation of LTD Broadband, LLC (“LTD”) and Deny LTD’s Funding Certification for 2023

PUC Docket Number(s): P-6995/M-21-133

P-558, P-6995/M-22-221

Comment Period:
Initial comment period closes June 1, 2022 at 4:30pm
Reply comment period closes June 8, 2022 at 4:30pm
Comments received after the close of the comment period may or may not be considered by the Commission.

Issue: Should the Commission initiate a proceeding to develop a record to determine whether LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation should be revoked?

Topic(s) Open for Comment:
• Should the Commission initiate a proceeding to consider revoking LTD Broadband LLC expanded ETC designation, which was granted in the Commission’s June 3, 2021, Order Approving Petition for ETC Designation in Certain Census Blocks, and address LTD’s certification for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding in 2023?
• If the Commission initiates a proceeding: – Should the proceeding be conducted as an expedited proceeding under Minn. Stat. §237.61? – Should the matter be referred to the Office of Administrative Hearing (OAH) for a contested case proceeding pursuant to Minn. Rule 7829.1000? or – Some other procedure?
• If the Commission uses an expedited proceeding, should the Commission designate a lead Commissioner or a sub-committee of Commissioners under Minn. Stat. §216A.03 subd. 8 or 9? And should this proceeding include a cross-examination of parties?
• Should the Commission adopt one of the schedules proposed by the petitioners? Or a schedule proposed by one of the other parties? Or delegate scheduling to the designated lead commissioner, subcommittee of commissioners, or administrative law judge (ALJ)?
• Should the Commission order LTD to submit its FCC RDOF long form application to the Commission?
• Are there other issues or concerns related to this matter?

Background
On June 3, 2021, the Commission issued an Order that expanded LTD Broadband’s (LTD) ETC designation to include approximately 102,000 additional locations in Minnesota (“LTD Expansion Order”). LTD sought that designation to qualify for $311 million in support under the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) to build and operate a fiber-to-the-premise (“FTTP”) broadband network in Minnesota.

On May 6, 2022, the Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA) and Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) jointly submitted a petition under Minn. Stat. § 216A.05 subd. 5 to initiate a proceeding to revoke the expanded eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) designation of LTD and deny LTD’s certification for 2023. The petitioners believe that newly available facts show that LTD cannot meet the extensive commitments it made to qualify for RDOF funding for approximately 102,000 locations in Minnesota.

Filing Requirements: Utilities, telecommunications carriers, official parties, and state agencies are required to efile documents using the Commission’s electronic filing system (eFiling). All parties, participants, and interested persons are encouraged to use eFiling at: https://www.edockets.state.mn.us/EFiling

Full Case Record: See all documents filed in this matter on the Commission’s website at: mn.gov/puc/edockets, select Go to eDockets Project Database, enter the year (21) and the docket number (133), and select Search.

Subscribe: To receive email notification when new documents are filed in this matter visit: https://www.edockets.state.mn.us/EFiling and select Subscribe to Dockets. Questions about this docket or Commission process and procedure?

Contact Commission staff, Marc Fournier, at Marc.Fournier@state.mn.us or 651-201-2214 or Sally Anne McShane, at Sally.Anne.McShane@state.mn.us or 651-201-2224.

MRBC gives CALL TO ACTION: House Lowers Broadband Funding to $25 Million

From the Minnesota Broadband Coalition…

The House Ways and Means Committee lowered broadband funding from $100 million to $25 million in a hearing yesterday afternoon. The move was made following the committee’s adoption of the Budget Resolution, better known as budget targets. This resolution was set by House leadership and not committee chairs or rank and file representatives. The budget resolution only allowed $25 million in spending for broadband.
Rep. Rob Ecklund had no choice but to accept an amendment to his bill that reflects the new budget target of $25 million. “I’m not real thrilled with the amendment,” Rep. Ecklund said when asked of his thoughts during the committee hearing. The broadband bill was amended onto the Agriculture, Housing, and Broadband Omnibus Bill, HF 4366. This allows the House and Senate Agriculture omnibus bills to match up for a future conference committee.
While we are glad the House is proposing additional funding, $25 million is not enough to keep us on track to meet our statutory speed goals and is much less than what could be done given the state has a $9 billion budget surplus. We are asking you to write to your elected officials, including House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. Tell them why broadband funding is important to your community and ask that they restore the House’s broadband funding position to $100 million.
Remember to always be respectful and courteous in your messages to elected officials and their staff, even if you disagree with their position!
You can use the Who Represents Me? tool to find your state elected officials’ contact information. Contact information for the Speaker and Majority Leader is as follows:
Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman
rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn
(651) 296-4280

Majority Leader Ryan Winkler
rep.ryan.winkler@house.mn
(651) 296-7026

MN House Committee moves two broadband bills rereferred to Ways and Means

Today the MN House House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance & Policy Committee addressed two bills:

  • HF 14 (Ecklund) Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.
  • HF 4375 (Ecklund) Commissioner of employment and economic development required to prepare and submit federal fund application, and money appropriated.

Both bills as amended were unanimously rereferred to Ways and Means.

You can see the session below – it was the first topic raised. Or read the notes from the session.

(I will change this video once the archive is available, versus the live link available March 30)

Why two broadband bills? To increase the odds that a broadband bill separate from other bills moved to the Governor.

Representative Ecklund offers three amendments to the request for $100 million for broadband grants:

  • Raises cap to $10 million
  • Higher match to 75 percent
  • Office of Broadband should report back on impact of changes to grant match and cap.

Testimony:

From Brent Christensen at MN Telecom Alliance

  • Raising cap to $10 million only if $100M comes to grants. Otherwise recommend a caveat that says no one project can get more than 10 percent of funding.
  • Concerned about higher match requirement. Prefer a limit on grants with lower grant match.

From Brian Kranbeer – MiEnergy

  • Supports $110 in grants
  • Supports $10 million cap in grants and lower match especially if state gets $100 million.

Ida Rukavina – RAMS

  • Supports bill and amendments.
  • Tells stories of costs to get broadband for communities in Northern MN

Nathan Zacharias – MN Rural Broadband Coalition

  • Supports bill and amendments.

Comments/questions:

Rep Bliss: I want fiber to everyone but I hear the supply chain is slow. And I doubt the ability of providers to get this done.
MTA: We are adapting to the environment. I Have heard there is a 72 week wait on fiber but many folks have ordered ahead. That explains the need for no spend-by date. We can do it but it will take longer.

Rep Bliss: Can you do conduit then add fiber?
MTA: Yes

Rep Bliss: With a big lump of money, do you think we’ll get people who bid without qualifications? I’d be happy with $40 million a year for many years
MTA: That funding sounds right. Multiple years does allow us to better plan. The Office of Broadband Development does a great job and they have been the gatekeeper for best use of funds.
Rep Bliss: Concern that $100 million will close the purse strings in future. Let’s not let that happen.

Rep Kiel: Why isn’t the funding available yet?
MN Broadband Coalition: The State has applied; they are waiting for approval from the Fed Treasury.

Angie Dickison from Office of Broadband Development (OBD): Yes, we applied in January and we’re waiting approval. This process has cost us one construction season – so far. We were unable to to dole out grants last year. General funds give us flexibility and provide a bridge as we wait for federal funding.

Rep MacDonald: How much federal COVID money has been used?
OBD: States can use federal funding; none has been used in MN yet. Last week, Wisconsin announced $200 million in federal funding for broadband.
Rep MacDonald: I’d like to give some of that funding back to the Feds. My dad was a legislator as well.

Rep Kiel: If we have funds for fiber but want to get higher speeds can we?
MTA: We like to focus on least served areas.

Rep Lislegard: Thanks to Rep Ecklund

EVENT March 31: Next Steps for Capital Projects Fund Broadband Program

Looks like a great session from SHLB

The $10 billion Capital Projects Fund (CPF) is in full swing. The U.S. Treasury Department has already started receiving and reviewing state grant plans, while other states are still preparing their submissions. One key question for all states is how anchor institutions will factor into these plans, especially considering CPF’s relative flexibility. Join us for a discussion with Treasury’s CPF director and state broadband leaders covering the CPF process, how states’ plans are coming together, how they complement anticipated Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program investments, and the role of anchors in connecting their communities. Additional speakers to be announced.