Blandin on Broadband eNews: Minnesota Monthly Recap (July 2019): New County Maps are Out

Oct 8-10 – MN Fall BB Conference – Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work
This three-day conference at the beautiful Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, MN will offer learning and engagement on many aspects of the challenges and benefits of broadband access and use, from “Pursuing Broadband 101,” to digital inclusion tools and strategies for diverse audiences. Registration opens soon.

New MN county broadband maps are out
The Office of Broadband Development unveils the latest Broadband County Maps. Check them out to see how your county ranks for access to 25 Mbps down and 3 up or 100/20

MN with better broadband speeds that other Midwest States
Roberto Gallardo (Purdue University) looks at Midwest urban and rural access to broadband speeds. Minnesota does best with equitably access to the highest speeds measured (Gig).

Interactive broadband map of MN based on speed tests
NEO Partners unveils an interactive map created from speed tests It highlights served (faster than 25 Mbps download) and unserved (slower than 25 Mbps) areas.

MN Contingency heads to NYC
Blandin Foundation takes a contingency to the Intelligent Community Forum Global Summit where community members learned from award-winning smart communities. Having broadband is only one ingredient to success, now Minnesotans are armed and inspired to create more ingredients.

On the Minnesota policy front…

And national policy front…

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Cannon Falls
Blandin Foundation Strut Your Stuff Tour in Cannon Falls highlights use of technology to build a food brand and more

Fargo (ND)
It could be up to five years before customers in smaller cities like Fargo and Bismarck can expect to see 5G

Grand Rapids
Paul Bunyan Communications announces construction of new customer service and technology center in Grand Rapids

International Falls
International Falls Journal says broadband touches us all

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County moves forward with broadband engineering study

Little Falls
Growth & Justice unveils latest chapter (economic development) of their Blueprint in Little Falls

Northeastern MN
Technology makes it easier for seniors to stay at home in Northeastern MN

Renville & Sibley Counties
RS Fiber and HBC form long-term agreement and plan expansions

Rock County
Blandin Foundation Strut Your Stuff Tour in Rock County highlights hotspots in libraries, buses and camping sites as well as programming

St Louis County
There was a meeting in St Louis County to talk about partnership and preparing for MN broadband grants. Local media look at it as an opportunity to get ready for better broadband

“I need better internet period!” says local business in St Louis County

Local business needs better broadband to grow in St Louis County

Fiber to the farm means food to the people in St Louis County

Stearns County
Stearns County recognizes the one-two-three public punch at broadband expansion

Swift County
Blandin Foundation Strut Your Stuff Tour in Swift County highlights hybrid welding classes, 4H app, STEM for kids and more


Upcoming Events and Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Decisions are not getting any easier for community leaders working on broadband.  The pressure to do something is increasing as the impact of being un- or underserved mount, yet new wireless technologies are providing more strategy options.

Consider just these two alternatives from the many out there for consideration:

  1. A cooperative telephone company operating nearby offers to partner on a fiber to the home project that will provide gigabit service to everyone in the area. The project will require relatively large grants from both the state broadband program and from the county.
  2. A wireless company offers to partner with the county to offer services in the rural countryside that will offer 100 Mb/20 Mb service to 80% of rural residents. Implementation of the project will require a moderate sized state grant, but no county contribution.

These two simple examples require local leaders to make judgments that they may feel unqualified to make, considering the following questions:

  • Fiber can deliver gigabit speeds both up and down and more. Wireless can now meet the 2026 state goal.  Will wireless meet the needs of farms, resorts, students and tele-workers far into the future?  What else could our county do with those local grant funds?  Would fiber provide a long-term strategic advantage for our area?
  • Will state grant makers grant our county the necessary large grant to make our project feasible or will they pass us by for solutions that serve more people at lower cost? Conversely, will state funders favor more high-capacity, future-resilient technologies?
  • What about the 20% of rural households that would not be served with the wireless solution?
  • If we only have an opportunity for one state grant, what is it that we really want long-term for our citizens?

Reaching a consensus on these questions will drive each community’s unique broadband solution.   “Go slow to go fast” is wise advice that apparently goes back Rome’s Augustus.  I suggest that you take that advice as you consider your options.

Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Summit – Minnesota learns and shares with Top 7 Smart Communities

The Blandin Foundation led a contingency of broadband community people to the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Summit in New York. ICF is a strategy that creates and recognizes communities that do well with the framework. In Minnesota, the Blandin Foundation has adopted (and adapted) the framework and employed it with dozens of rural communities. Each year, ICF names 21 Smart Communities, whittles that down to the Top 7 and then – we got to see the unveiling of the Most Intelligent Community. (Yay – Taoyuan, Taiwan!)

The conference highlights the Top 7 communities and the various aspect and outcomes of the ICF framework. Our contingency learned a lot and I think it was very inspiring. But we didn’t come empty-handed. We brought our own stories of success and we brought the rural perspective. It was fun to show off the hard work of so many Minnesota communities and we certainly raised the Minnesota Broadband Profile.

My aha moment came when we met with John Jung, co-founder of ICF and keynote speaker at the MN Fall Broadband Conference. He mirrored the focus on people that many presenters had also mentioned. It’s about how people can use technology but also about making sure they are resilient and flexible. He talked about how the goal of ICF is prosperity. So where ICF succeeds it can change policy. It allows a community to make decisions based on abundance, not scarcity.

Bernadine Joselyn and Bill Coleman each participated in a session:

You can read more complete notes… Continue reading

MinnPost looks at state and federal broadband policies and potential funding

Last week I wrote about the Small Business and Broadband Congressional Field Hearing in Scandia. MinnPost also wrote about it too. Stauber, Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a 1st District Republican, and Rep. Angie Craig, a 2nd District Democrat, are on the House’s Small Business Committee and showed up to the subcommittee hearing on Thursday. MinnPost covered the meeting…

In the U.S. Capitol, there’s been a mixed bag of proposed legislative fixes and changes related to rural broadband, most of them bipartisan. And while Democrats and Republicans have not yet coalesced around a package of bills, there seems to be consensus among members of congress: reliable access to broadband is necessary. And lacking. …

“The deployment of broadband is a non-partisan issue. It’s not a luxury anymore to have high-speed internet. It’s a necessity,” Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, said. “And people understand that. Including my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

They talked about federal support…

Hagedorn said he was in favor of most broadband solutions, but had his eye on using two existing sources of money to help fill in service gaps in the meantime: The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC’s Connect America Fund has been the agency’s primary vehicle for expanding access to broadband in high cost areas nationwide and the USDA provides grants and loans to rural America through the Farm Bill. In 2018, the USDA announced it was offering up to $600 million to internet providers looking to expand broadband.

Hagedorn said he would like to see changes to USDA rules that may limit speeds in some parts of the country. “Probably what we’ll be able to do is something administratively, as opposed to legislation,” he said.

Craig was a co-sponsor of the Access Broadband Act and is also a co-sponsor on the Accelerating Broadband Development by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019. Her office said the House is currently working on a package of broadband bills.

And mentioned state funding…

Rural broadband has drawn wide support at Minnesota’s Capitol, too, and they appear to have taken more concrete action than Congress. During this year’s legislative session, which adjourned last week, lawmakers mostly debated how much they could afford to spend on the issue.

In the end, they approved $40 million in the two-year budget for a grant program that helps build high-speed internet systems. The achievement was celebrated by lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate and majority-DFL House.

And detractors to funding…

There has been some opposition in St. Paul to government intervention in rural broadband policy. A few lawmakers have argued there are cheaper options than fiber-optic cable, the state’s preference. The approach is costly, yet reliable.

The telecom industry has sometimes fought to stop government broadband projects where private companies already offer some form of internet. And free-market conservative groups also say that government-owned broadband reduces innovation and competition. The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a conservative think tank, has argued it’s also risky since they may not have the expertise of telecom companies. They have pointed to the crumbling of Lake County’s broadband service as a cautionary tale.

Still, Danna MacKenzie, the executive director of DEED’s Office of Broadband Development, said Minnesota has better broadband access than most states thanks to efforts from Republicans and Democrats.

“To be so strongly supported by all parties really says a lot about their understanding of the importance of this as kind of an underlying issue that touches all the other things they care about — whether it’s K-12, health care, public safety, rural economic development,” she said.

Event May 30: Small Businesses and Their Limitations without Reliable Access to Rural Broadband

I am planning to attend and will livestream unless there are any issues with me doing so…

Small Businesses and Their Limitations without
Reliable Access to Rural Broadband
With Congressman Pete Stauber And Special Guest
Congressman Jared Golden
ME-2 Chair, Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure Connecting Families. Connecting Businesses. Connecting America.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
9:30 A.M. Registration Opens
10:00 A.M. Field Hearing
Bulltear Industries
24543 Olinda Trail
Scandia, MN 55073
Register Here
Questions? Call Congressman Stauber’s Office: 763-310-6208

Mille Lacs Reservation Broadband Profile: partnership with Mille Lacs County for MN grant might help

Earlier this year, the Office of Broadband Development released data and maps on broadband coverage of tribal areas. The numbers are high level or maybe more reflective than exact but it’s a great start on getting a handle on what’s happening in tribal areas. I thought I’d do a profile of each area, much like I have done for Minnesota Counties. Here is Mille Lacs Reservation

Info on Access/Households:

  • Number of households (2010 estimate): 1835
  • Percent Wireline Broadband 2022 speed goal (25/3): 61.12
  • Percent Wireline Broadband 2026 speed goal (100/20): 61.07

Mille Lac was a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) in 2012. Back then, there had been past attempts to boost broadband use – such as starting an online school but connectivity was an issue.

In 2015, Mille Lacs County developed a broadband feasibility study that included a brief statement on connectivity on the reservation…

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have constructed fiber connecting their casino, their main headquarters, and some of their other businesses. They buy bandwidth from the local cable company and are satisfied with the bandwidth they can get. They operate businesses outside of that fiber network for which they cannot get good bandwidth.

And it included opportunities for broadband partnership between the Band and the County…

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe could be a partner in several ways:

They have a desire to see all of their members get broadband, many of whom live in places without broadband. It’s possible that the Tribe might consider ideas like contributing equity or paying connection fees on behalf of their members.

The Tribe might even be a possible source of some of the upfront seed funding to get going. This project brings a lot of benefits to tribal members.  The Tribe has access to some types of financing that the cooperative could not get. It might be possible for the Tribe to help get a loan for the cooperative that otherwise you might not qualify for. For example, some of the loan guarantees discussed in this paper would be easier to do with help from the Tribe rather than directly as a cooperative.

They own some fiber today and it might be possible to use some of that fiber for part of the needed fiber route. There are many ways to structure this sort of sharing that would be in the benefit of both parties.

Mille Lacs applied unsuccessfully for the last available broadband grants; it seems likely that they would try again now that funding is secured again. That will help Mille Lacs Reservation get closer to ubiquitous coverage.

Learn more about Mille Lacs reservation demographics from Center for Indian Country Development.

Teledermatology at the Minnesota State Fair with gpTRAC

Obviously this story isn’t new – but I ran across it and thought it was interesting to see how the doctors interact with patients online …

The gpTRAC is one of eleven federally designated telehealth resource centers in the nation supported by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Serving Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin, the gpTRAC strives to promote health care services that take advantage of modern telecommunications technologies.

National $2 trillion investment in infrastructure still on table

The Hill reports

Democratic congressional leaders said they held a constructive meeting with President Trump on Monday at which they agreed to seek a deal on a $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) left the meeting at noon sounding a decidedly positive note, calling the meeting with Trump at the White House constructive and good.

They said they had not agreed on how to pay for a $2 trillion bill to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and broadband, but that they had agreed to meet in another three weeks.