Top reasons for great connectivity in the parks in Dakota County (or any place!)

campingDakota County has great wireless broadband in their parks. They just installed fiber at the Whitetail Woods Park and three wireless ports that support speeds from 40-60Mbps. It’s out near UMORE Park.

I’ve told a few folks and the common response seems to be why? So I’m going to do something different and just post my top ten reasons I think it’s great to have good, wireless broadband in the park.

  1. In case you get lost or injured. If you have a smartphone and can access the network, you can get help.
  2. Got community space to rent – having good access makes it much more attractive for a business retreat.
  3. Got a cabin to rent – having good access makes it possible for more people to stay longer. Yes, being off the gird can be nice but many people simply can’t leave work unattended for that long. Being able to check in a couple times a day can help many people extend a visit.
  4. Snap and post those pictures in real time. It makes a vacation with teens a lot easier! If it’s Instagram-worthy, it’s a vacation. (And great promotion for the park.)
  5. Look it up – find out what tree that is or what that rash could mean.
  6. Bring in the students – bring in their one-to-one iPads and make use of some fun outdoor adventure apps.
  7. Broadcast nature to the cubed masses. Several parks have webcams that broadband the nature to us – such as the Ely International Wolf Cam. They are popular, they build an interest and demand for the park.
  8. Internet of Thing can means remotely monitoring and managing park stuff from afar – turn on air conditioning, monitoring fire risk, warn for dangers.
  9. Apps for everyone. There are lake finder apps, star gazer apps, fishing and hunting license apps and more.

What’s the difference between bits and bytes? And how long does it take to download 190 GB?

Blandin just introduced six new communities to the Blandin Broadband Community program and we have a lot of new legislators leading the state next year. So it feels like a good time for some basic technology 101 posts – like the difference between bits and bytes.

Both are measurements of data. A byte is 8 times bigger than a bit. Both measurements are small – so in the practical world usually give measurements in Kilobit/byte, Megabit/byte, Gigabit/byte. So how much is that?

  • KB, MB, GB – A kilobyte (KB) is 1,024 bytes. A megabyte (MB) is 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte (GB) is 1,024 megabytes. A terabyte (TB) is 1,024 gigabytes.
  • kb, Mb, Gb – A kilobit (kb) is 1,024 bits. A megabit (Mb) is 1,024 kilobits. A gigabit (Gb) is 1,024 megabits. A terabit (Tb) is 1,024 gigabits.

Bits are generally used for describing interface speed and bytes for storage. For example we tend to know broadband speed in bits or Megabits per second (Mbps). We tend to know the size of something we want to upload or download in Megabytes (MB) – a song is roughly 3-4 MB.

So how long does it take to download that song? It depends on your connection speed – and a little extra math is required to take in consideration the bit/byte difference. Luckily a good friend who is a math and tech whiz – Mick Souder – has shared with me a spreadsheet that calculates time to download.

I just read a recent report by iGR Research saying that the average household consumes 190 gigabytes (GB) of data per month – so that’s what I want to measure. How long does it take to download (or upload) that amount of data?

  • With a 1 Mbps connection it will take 453 hours to transfer (almost 19 days)
  • With a 5 Mbps connection it will take 90.7 hours to transfer (3.8 days)
  • With a 10 Mbps connection it will take 45.3 hours to transfer (almost 2 days)
  • With a 20 Mbps connection it will take 22.6 hours to transfer (just under 1 day)
  • With a 100 Mbps connection it will take 4.5 hours to transfer
  • With a 1 Gig connection it will take 27 minutes to transfer

Notice I haven’t separated upload and download – because the rate is the same. When we download a song to listen – it’s 3 Megabytes (MB); when we upload it to share or sell it’s 3 Megabytes (MB). Minnesota has separate speed goals based on upload or download because most households download (buy, watch, consume) more than they upload (create or share). But wouldn’t it be fun to see Minnesota households create as much as we consume?!

Want to know more about bits and bytes? Here’s a fun video:




Want to be a gamer when you grow up? Here’s a MN resource to help.

It feels like “I want to be a gamer when I grow up” is a little bit like “I want to be an actor, firefighter or astronaut.” Yes – someone does grow up to become those things but for most, it’s impractical. Unless you have the support to help you hone the skills and lead the way.

Well, Minnesota has such a resource, a nonprofit called Glitch and they were recently featured in Duluth New Tribune

Headquartered on the University of Minnesota’s west bank, Glitch helps incipient game designers create, develop and publish games. The organization has helped designers throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas.

They have a number of opportunities to learn…

Glitch offers weekly events and has larger educational programs throughout the year. Its two-week Immersion program, occurring in January, takes a group of 20 people and asks them to stay awhile and listen — a joke any gamer should instantly get — as professionals educate them on a game development topic from start to finish. A past program resulted in an augmented reality game for the Minnesota Historical Society called Play the Past.

And they have the number indicating that there’s work to be had…

And there’s certainly money to be made. Video games have become a $16.8 billion revenue industry in the U.S. and generated $79.7 billion worldwide last year, according to the International Trade Administration. U.S. revenues are projected to increase by another $3 billion by 2019.

And Minnesota has at least a toehold in the industry…

Though the U.S. video game industry is generally established in California, Minnesota makes notable contributions. Game Informer magazine, a monthly video game publication, is based in Minneapolis and has a circulation of 6.3 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

Minnesota Iron Range Communities gear up for better broadband adoption

Yesterday six new Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) – all from the Iron Range (so now they are IRBCs) – met to get started on their path to greater community broadband engagement.

The project born is of a partnership between Blandin, IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and St. Louis County). Yesterday they met to learn more about the IRBC program, the process and each other.

It’s a great group with a healthy competitive collaboration among them. Several communities have joined together as teams for the first time. It will be exciting to see what gets done in the area.

Below are videos from each community on their hopes and expectations for their projects.

Could Trump bring in a ARRA-like opportunity to broadband?

Remember the ARRA stimulus projects? Millions of dollars came into Minnesota for broadband projects – helping providers to expand and upgrade broadband and helping organizations such as the Blandin Foundation to support broadband adoption. ARRA was a game changer.

For years I’ve heard people say  – ARRA was great but it’s not going to happen again. Then not that long ago I heard someone intimate that another ARRA might not be the strangest thing. That was before Trump won the election but that sets the stage for a recent article in Bloomberg indicating that big money will be going into infrastructure – just a matter of how…

Details of President-elect Trump’s plan are murky, but at an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years is twice as long and nearly four times as big as the five-year, $275 billion effort championed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Candidate Trump’s response during Clinton’s August rollout of her initiative? “Double it.” …

Trump’s site calls for new investments to “create thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing, and other sectors to build the transportation, water, telecommunications and energy infrastructure needed to enable new economic development in the U.S., all of which will generate new tax revenues.” It’s this crossover appeal for infrastructure investment that makes it ideal as Trump seeks to build bridges in both a figurative and literal sense.

To be fair, the same article includes precautions in expecting too much predictability. And broadband is rarely listed at the top of the new Administration’s priorities but as I often said with the ARRA funding – luck favors the prepared. Here’s what Bloomberg said…

For municipalities with “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, the thought of increased Federal funding for infrastructure projects is an exciting one. Studying project specifications, scopes of work and bid documents to benchmark proposals and pricing from other agencies who have already issued similar solicitations is a time-saving tactic that can help expedite getting the contracts out the door for public bidding.

A-CAM 101: federal funding for smaller broadband providers

Sometimes you just need a practitioner to give the 10,000 foot view of what’s going on when policy and technology combine. I’m thankful to Brent Christensen (from MTA) for his time today giving me the low down on A-CAM.

I’ve talked a lot about CAF 2 funding from the FCC – $85 million a year for 6 years going to Price Cap Carriers (big guys such as CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream ).

For Rate of Return providers (mostly smaller providers, often in rural areas) the FCC has come up with another plan. Providers can choose to reduce their rate of return OR apply for A-CAM funding:

  • Reduce the rate of return means going from 10.25 percent to 9.75 percent over the next few years.
  • The A-CAM option is available for providers where less than 90 percent of their service can access broadband at 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up and/or receive less than $200 per loop. A-CAM funding is for 10 years.

For most folks it’s a numbers game – can you make more by applying for A-CAM funding or going with strict cut in rate? For some folks, it’s a stability issue. They’ll take a reduction in support for the certainty over 10 years.

The deadline to apply for A-CAM funding was November 1, 2016. They received $160 million more than they had budgeted; they had budgeted for just over $1 billion. So, the FCC is trying again with a round two of applications. In fact that application should be available soon. The providers will have 30 days to respond. The FCC is hoping to be done with the process by the end of the year – in part I’m sure due to political changes.

So many questions still remain.

Why are they funding 10/1 access when they define broadband as 25/3? The reason is to help the folks who have no service. But this stuff is difficult for community leaders, policy makers and really anyone outside the industry to understand without using multiple speed definitions for broadband (10/1 vs 25/3).

Why the continuation of uncertainty? We’re asking providers to continue to make long term investment – albeit with government support. But the uncertainty can be as difficult as the financial pinch.

The biggest question – what will be the impact of political change on this and other broadband funding and regulation?

Senator Klobuchar joins Broadband Policy Goals Event tomorrow (Nov 30) – available online

Promises to be interesting…

Broadband Policy Goals Event with Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to be Held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 30th in Washington, DC

Washington, DC — Next Century Cities, the Schools Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, and US Ignite will host a major policy event, Transforming Communities: Broadband Goals for 2017 and Beyond, on November 30, 2016 from 9:00am-12:15pm at the Google office in Washington, DC.

The event will feature US Senator Angus King (I-ME), Senator John Boozman (R-AR), and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and will bring together broadband champions from the federal, state and local level, community leaders including mayors and heads of anchor institutions, and broadband policy experts.

Transforming Communities will feature keynote conversations and panel discussions on how to expand access to critical next-generation broadband infrastructure in communities nationwide and key policy goals and needs for the new Trump Administration and Congress. It will also include demonstrations of innovative civic applications enabled through gigabit technology.

The event will be livestreamed here and details on the agenda can be found here. Media planning to attend should RSVP to Katie Watson at


Senator John Boozman (R-AR)
Senator Angus King (I-ME)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Larry Strickling, U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary
Mayor Dana Kirkham (Ammon, ID)
Mayor Andy Berke (Chattanooga, TN)
Superintendent Dallas Dance (Baltimore County Schools)
R. David Edelman, Special Assistant to President Obama
Susan Crawford, Harvard Law School
Blair Levin, Brookings Institute
Other national and local broadband champions and policy experts


Transforming Communities: Broadband Goals for 2017 and Beyond


9:00am- 12:15pm ET
Wednesday, November 30, 2016

25 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20001