MN Local Government Innovation Awards 2017 deadline Oct 6

It’s a quick turnaround but another opportunity to recognize a broadband effort…

Are you a school, city, township, county or Native nation that has been innovating to improve services, offer new services, create a more engaged community or reduce the cost of local government? Share your innovation for a chance to win $5,000 and a professional video highlighting your effort!

Minnesota faces the reality of an aging population, rising health care costs, and increasing demand for government services with reduced revenue. Yet many counties, cities, townships, and schools have refused to let the traditional approaches of either increasing taxes or cutting spending dictate their responses to these challenges. Instead, they are pursuing a third way: innovation and service redesign.

The Local Government Innovation Awards recognize the creative ways counties, cities, townships, schools and Native nations are making Minnesota better and doing things differently. All types of local government innovation are encouraged to enter.

Up to 20 local government entities will be recognized as award winners for their innovation. The winner in each of the four categories will also receive a professional video highlighting their work and a grant from the Bush Foundation to continue local government innovation and redesign!

This year the awards will also feature the Local Government and Native Nation Collaboration Award. This category will ask local governments and Native Nations to co-submit an application detailing a project they have collaborated on to create positive change in their communities. The Native Nation and local government entity will each receive a $5,000 grant from the Bush Foundation and a professional video highlighting their project.


This year’s awards will honor up to 20 local government entities (five cities, five counties, five townships and five schools).

One overall winner in each category of city, county, township and school will be awarded a $5,000 grant and The Local Government and Native Nation category will be awarded a $10,000 grant from the Bush Foundation.

Please note that these grants must be used exclusively for charitable, public purposes and cannot be used for direct or grassroots lobbying efforts.

Entries accepted: September 18 – October 6, 2017

Awards Ceremony: December 7 2017

Learn more

Go Next of Duluth Wins GigaZone Gaming Championship

Sounds like it was a fun weekend…

Go Next of Duluth Wins GigaZone Gaming Championship

Over $10,000 in cash and prizes won over the 2 days through various tournaments and door prizes


(Bemidji, MN) (October 1, 2017) – The 2nd annual GigaZone Gaming Championship, was held Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30 at the Sanford Center George W. Neilson Convention Center. The event featured free gaming on various console and arcade games, numerous tournaments, virtual reality, door prizes, and more.


This one of a kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event was run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.


Go Next from Duluth won the 2nd annual GigaZone Gaming Championship and $2,500 defeating the defending champion Pro Freakz from Deer River who won $1,250 for second place.  The Iron Range Legends took third place for the second straight year and $750.  A total of 22 of northern Minnesota’s best League of Legends teams competed online with the top four teams making it to the Championship rounds in the GigaZone Championship Arena.


In addition to the League of Legends Tournament, there was several other open tournaments include three Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, Street Fighter V, Mario Kart 8, Overwatch 3v3, Madden 18, Super Smash Brothers, Ms. Pacman, and Galaga.  Admission was free and there were a lot of door prizes given away including the grand prize of an Oculus Rift – the incredibly immersive virtual reality (VR) headset which was won by Anthony Belgarde of Grand Rapids.


“There is a large gaming community in our area and GigaZone Gaming Championship not only showcases some of the region’s best League of Legends teams but it gives everyone a chance to get in on the action!  It was great to see this unique community event grow so much in its second year!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager


“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members.  The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Digital Services Supervisor.


“It is a great chance for people experience the growing eSports phenomenon locally.  This year was even bigger and better and we look forward to next year” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.


The event is made possible by Paul Bunyan Communications and local, regional, and national partners including Pierced League Gaming of Grand Rapids, NLFX of Bemidji, Accidently Cool Games of Bemidji, Northern Amusement of Bemidji, the Sanford Center in Bemidji, ESPN, Fox Networks, Turner Networks, Viacom, and many more.


For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit

I redesigned my life based on when I could get online in Ellington Township MN

Yesterday I was talking to folks in Dodge County about their broadband access. Dodge County (As you may recall from the County Profiles) is pretty well served with 99 percent coverage at speeds of 25/3 and 95 percent coverage at speeds of 100/20.

Unfortunately being in a well-served county doesn’t help much if you yourself are not well served – Linda Noble knows this! She is a farmer, parent, grandparent and active member of the community. She was kind enough to talk about what it’s like to not have good service.

After the video we spoke a bit about what life was like with dialup. She was reminiscing about what it was like to avoid dialing up once kids got home from school. She realized she was still doing some version of that now with her connectivity. As she said – she redesigned her life based on when I could get online.

Lack of access is a barrier to her!

Looking for techies AmeriCorps workers in the Twin Cities – CTEP at SPNN

Earlier this month, I went to SPNN (St Paul Neighborhood Network) to hear “what I did with my summer” presentations from current techie AmeriCorps members stationed in the Twin Cities and working through SPNN”s CTEP program. It is one of my favorite work events of the year. I wish I could bottle and hope and enthusiasm in the room.

It does a mind and body good to see how the AmeriCorps youth (20 somethings) are using technology to help communities in distressed areas – often projects that include younger kids (lots of middle school). Each group takes on a project. (You can see a full list.) They plan every aspect of it – from what the program will be to finding partners and funding to deploying the project. We heard about the ups and downs of each project. Some very quick top level highlights:

  • They created a Digital Homeroom to help with digital literacy classes.
  • FabFem is a great directory of women STEM speakers.
  • Libraries have Friend groups that will help you raise money (for library projects).
  • Keep programs simple.
  • Recognize whether you want drop in attendance or need consistency to make program work.
  • Go to where the people are.

Here’s a video on one program:

It turns out that CTEP is looking for new members. I’m going to include a letter from the Director below. It’s a fun opportunity for the right person. It might be difficult to replicate the project in a smaller community but I think there are some ideas to be gleaned – and I suspect the CTEP folks would be willing to share info.

My name is Joel Krogstad, and I am Director of the Community Technology Empowerment Project.  AmeriCorps CTEP Members are placed with one of twenty different partner organizations in the Twin Cities; most are non-profits that have community technology centers serving low income and new immigrant youth and adults. CTEP members teach technology skills for social, civic and economic empowerment. These skills teaching include basic computer skills, and could involve more advanced skills such as website and media production.

For more information on our program, please visit:

All of our positions begin on Sept 5, 2017 and finish toward the end of August 2018.  To see the organizations where you could be placed, go to:

The positions will be filled on a first come first serve basis, so it is in your best interest to apply as soon as possible to assure that you are matched with the organization that best aligns with your interests.

Benefits of the full-time positions include around $1000 monthly in living allowance, health and dental insurance including reimbursement of your deductible, child care depending on eligibility, and upon completion of your year an Education Award of $5775 that can be used to pay off past school loans or future education-related expenses up to seven years in the future.

You would also need to be available on the first and third Fridays of every month to participate in our AmeriCorps professional development trainings with other AmeriCorps members. This can be a conflict for some individuals who have university classes on Friday or another job that isn’t so flexible, hopefully this won’t be a problem for you.

If you feel ready, apply online at and click on “apply to serve.” Search for “Community Technology Empowerment Project” when asked where to send the application. You will see other site-specific CTEP listings, at this point it doesn’t matter which or how many listings you apply for. All CTEP-related applications go to the same place, and specific sites will be agreed upon after the first interview.

Two interviews are required for consideration. The first interview is with Joel Krogstad, CTEP Program Director. Then, you will have the opportunity to choose up to three service sites where you would have a second interview with your the site supervisor, who would be your day-to-day supervisor.  We feel this placement process finds the best match between your skills and interests, and the needs of our service sites and communities.

Please contact me, Joel Krogstad, at 651 298 8918 or if you have any questions about the positions. AmeriCorps can be a powerful experience; we hope that you would find it extraordinarily rewarding.

We hope you apply!

MN Broadband Task Force July 2017 – telehealth saves money and lives

Yesterday the MN Broadband Task Force met at the new Essentia Hospital in Sandstone. It’s a beautiful location with a fiber connection symmetrical 100 Mbps connection. And they’re making good use of that connection saving money and making lives better.

I have video of most of the meeting. We learned a lot about telehealth – but there were a few details that stuck out for me.

  • More people in rural areas come to health care facilities with a stroke. Treatment has traditionally been slower for them. Every 15 minutes a patient with a stroke goes untreated the situation becomes more dire. Telestroke technology (and promotion of it) cuts that time and helps people get better.
  • Hospitals don’t just share images faster with faster broadband – they share more, giving a fuller view of any problem.
  • There aren’t enough healthcare professionals – especially specialists – to go around in rural areas. Telehealth provides an opportunity for one specialist to serve many facilities.
  • Communities in rural areas without broadband are envious of communities with cooperatives because they feel they would get better service. Communities are worried that broadband expansions paid for with CAF 2 (federal) funding will leave some communities with worse infrastructure for longer periods. They are especially worried about upload speeds. (CAF 2 funding only requires a provide to expand/upgrade to 10/1 service. And really 4/1 service is some areas.)
  • Minnesota does not allow for bonding for technology (software or hardware) but perhaps there’s an opening to discuss bonding for broadband.


Continue reading

Rural Minnesota needs broadband – what will help?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune today features a big story on the need for better broadband in much of rural Minnesota. They opened with a story about a business that recently moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin for better broadband…

“It never dawned on me that it would be such a detriment to my business,” Jelinski said of inadequate broadband access. “There’s no reason for it.”

A recent switch to a DSL connection helped, but Jelinski worried about her business’ future. The family moved to De Pere, Wis., last week — after Jelinski confirmed that it has great broadband access.

Some predictions on future federal support for broadband

“The outlook [for rural broadband improvements] is not positive” under Trump, said Milda Hedblom, a lawyer, broadband advocate and digital studies professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Hedblom said she’s worried that the president, a former businessman, will naturally favor big private companies over municipalities and local collaborations. That could mean he’ll steer federal broadband funds to big providers that are averse to expensive rural projects, she said, since the return on investment isn’t as quick or as large

Some details on federal funding..

Trump’s budget, released May 23, proposes $1 billion in cuts from U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development spending — including some funding for broadband infrastructure. Instead, he wants $160 million in new rural economic infrastructure grants that would include broadband money — along with many other projects. Half the money would be set aside for Appalachia; broadband’s share was not specified.

Trump also plans a $1 trillion infrastructure package— which he is expected to detail on Monday — and his budget lists broadband among priorities that include “surface transportation, airports, waterways, ports, drinking and waste water.” It added that “federal funding for infrastructure is not the solution,” however, and promised to “fix underlying incentives, procedures and policies.” Exactly what that means is unclear.

Some advice…

Some rural broadband advocates say the infrastructure initiative could be the best bet for future federal grants.

“Our message to communities is get ready. Those with civic infrastructure [in place] to respond to opportunities … are going to be in the best position to benefit,” said Bernadine Joselyn, public policy and engagement director for the Grand Rapids, Minn.-based Blandin Foundation.

And some new approaches…

Uncertainty about government funds has prompted new approaches to leveraging grants and raising awareness:

• Member-owned rural electric cooperatives are installing broadband to fill voids left by mainstream providers.

About 100 of the nation’s 900 co-ops “are involved in some way,” said Martha Duggan, who handles regulatory issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “We’re very local … and very focused on economic development.” She hopes funding will be included in Trump’s infrastructure plan and the 2018 farm bill.

• The Minnesota Farmers Union called broadband “an essential utility” in an April report to state officials. Gary Wertish, the group’s president, said it’s time for a broad national initiative. “The state can’t do it on its own,” he said.

“We’re trying to compete in a global economy and if we don’t have access to broadband, we’re left behind again,” Wertish said.

• Communities are pooling resources and clout. Six southwestern Minnesota counties (Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine) are working with the Southwest Regional Development Commission and in May received a $123,800 Blandin Foundation grant to study ways to fill broadband gaps.

VA wants Telemedicine authority to improve health care for rural veterans

IT World reports…

Officials from the VA recently made their way to Capitol Hill to appeal for legislation that would grant the agency greater flexibility in providing remote health services to the military community. In particular, the VA is putting a “special emphasis” on improving the delivery of health services for veterans in rural and “underserved” areas, according to Dr. Kevin Galpin, executive director of telehealth services at the Veterans Health Administration.

They are looking for a solution that could open a door to similar solutions where policy is hindering technology use…

Galpin’s primary request is relatively straightforward. He is asking Congress to expressly affirm that VA providers are authorized to deliver telehealth services across state lines and to patients in their homes.

“This authority will remove barriers that currently exist between a national VA clinical expert and a veteran that needs their service,” he said.

They have had success with telemedicine and want to continue to grow…

The VA has three broad categories of telehealth services, comprised of clinical telehealth, home telehealth, and “store and forward” services, where a device captures an image and relays it along to be examined by a specialist at a later time.

The VA offers telehealth services in more than 50 clinical specialties. The VA reports that more than 307,000 veterans received care through a clinical telehealth encounter last year, and, at present, more than 87,000 are using home telehealth services.

In an interesting tangent, the Minnesota House is looking at the definition of telemedicine

HF1314/ SF1353*, sponsored by Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center), would cover professional standards both regarding practice and conduct and services that can be provided via telemedicine including assessment, diagnosis, treatment, education and care management.

The bill would also clarify that “telemedicine” refers to real-time, two-way interactive audio, visual and audio-visual communications — like secure video conferencing, said Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River).

A telephone conversation, email or fax between licensed health care providers would not count as telemedicine consultation or service.

The Minnesota definition seems more limiting that the federal as I’m not sure where the VA’s idea of home telehealth and store and forward fit into the local version of telehealth as video conference. And it will be interesting to see how such differences get ironed out especially since one of the things the VA is requesting is authorization to deliver telehealth service across state lines.