Sharing the invitation from the Blandin Foundation…

You’re Invited! Border to Border Broadband: Advancing the Vision
September 13-14, 2016
Greysolon Ballroom – Duluth, MN

“Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”

The vision created at last year’s Border to Border Broadband conference has since been endorsed by nearly 100 organizations and units of government around the state. Their work – your work – is the inspiration for this year’s conference theme, Advancing the Vision.

We invite you to join us September 13-14, at the iconic Greysolon Ballroom in Duluth to connect with others, and to hear first-hand about the great work being done across the state to advance the vision.

The conference will kick-off with a reception, dinner and program on Tuesday, September 13. On Wednesday we’ll hear from folks involved in a number of the state-funded broadband infrastructure projects. Paul Bunyan Communication’s CEO Gary Johnson will close the conference with his reflections on what gigabyte means for communities, including rural communities.

Border to Border Broadband: Advancing the Vision is sponsored by Blandin Foundation with support from DEED’s Office of Broadband Development. It’s your opportunity to connect and reconnect with others working for a future in which everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.

Join us!

~Bernadine Joselyn
Blandin Foundation

Be part of the conversation. Connect. Learn. Recharge.

A block of rooms is being held at the Sheraton Duluth Hotel under the name “Broadband Conference.” Click here for more information on lodging.

Sponsored by Blandin Foundation with support from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, Border to Border Broadband: Advancing the Vision is being held September 13-14, 2016 at Greysolon Ballroom in Duluth, Minnesota.

Wanted to share this invitation from Senator Schmit. I plan to attend and take notes…

Please join me and the Southeastern Minnesota League of Municipalities (SEMLM) for a regional broadband discussion from 12:30 p.m. – 2p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, at the Pine Island American Legion. The event will feature area Internet service providers, officials from the Office of Broadband Development, local officials and other regional stakeholders for a discussion on broadband Internet infrastructure investment.

What:  Regional Broadband Discussion
When:  Wednesday, July 27, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m.
Where:  Pine Island American Legion – 108 1st Ave SE, Pine Island, MN

Who:  Area Internet service providers, officials from Office of Broadband             Development, area stakeholders, legislators, and you!

High-speed broadband Internet access is essential for applications in home-based business and teleworking, distance learning, telemedicine, and precision agriculture. Internet service providers have made significant investment throughout the state, but roughly 20 percent of homes and businesses in Greater Minnesota lack Internet access at basic speeds.

In 2014, the legislature created Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program to provide state matching funds for Internet service expansion throughout Greater Minnesota.  The matching grant fund already has helped extend connectivity to over 10,000 homes, 1,000 businesses, and 100 community anchor institutions.

The 2016 legislature invested an additional $35 million in funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program — as well as $500,000 in education-specific broadband use funds. The third round of funding includes a renewed focus on improving connectivity in both unserved and underserved parts of the state, as well as those areas with demonstrated economic disparities. The grants can provide up to 50 percent of project development costs, and the maximum grant amount is $5 million. The application period for 2016 opens on July 22, 2016 and closes on October 3, 2016.

The discussion aims to provide information about the grant program and bring together various broadband stakeholders and regional Internet service providers to exchange ideas for utilizing broadband Internet service to drive economic opportunity and quality of life throughout Minnesota communities.

Please let us know if you plan to attend — or if you have any questions or concerns. Otherwise we hope to see you next Wednesday!

According to the Rural Blog

The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report says 39 percent of rural areas lack access to the newly defined broadband, while only 4 percent of urban areas lack it, [it’s 41 percent on tribal lands!] Karsten notes, saying “This rural/urban ‘digital divide’ in access severely limits rural populations from taking advantage of a critical component of modern life. . . . Rural schools lack access to high-speed fiber and pay more than twice as much for bandwidth. In a growing world of personalized online curricula, internet-based research, and online testing, this severely restricts rural students from educational opportunities their urban counterparts may enjoy.”

The answer isn’t keep the goalposts low – the answer is find a way to improve access everywhere. The FCC report provides data on connectivity in each county, which is helpful. The first step is recognizing where there’s a problem.

Below is a chart of access by county – organized by percentage of rural population without access (third column) but includes total and urban percent of population without access. (There are three counties without numbers.) You can see the range is great – from 1 percent to 99 percent.

I know charts do not transfer well to the website. You can download the full table of FCC data and the Minnesota portion; both will be easier to read and provide more data (population, population density and per capita income) that what is shown here.

Data comes from the Commission’s Form 477 data, as of December 31, 2014.

There’s a lot in the notes from today’s meeting – especially for communities or cooperatives that are looking for ways to improve broadband in their area. What’s most valuable really depends on where you are in the process but I will say there were a couple of clear messages:

  • Communities without broadband will not survive
  • Now is the time to get started
  • Money is being spent to expand broadband, we just need to get smarter about the investment
  • It’s possible to build if you are deliberate and incremental – it doesn’t have to be fiber right away (wireless plans and data caps negate wireless as an option)

Cooperation among Cooperatives: The Best Approach for Broadband in Minnesota: Full meeting notes

Hosted by Blandin Foundation, Calix, Co-Bank & Great River Energy

July 19, 2016
10:00 am – 2:30 pm
Great River Energy, Maple Grove, Minnesota
get handouts (PTTs scattered below)

Welcome – Tom Lambrecht, Great River Energy

Setting the Stage – Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation

The Opportunity Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 19, 2016

July 21: MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Agenda

Looking forward to the Task Force meeting this week. I’ll be there are taking notes. The feature topic is cyber security…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
July 21, 2016
Minnesota Senate Office Building-Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)
  • 10:30 a.m. —11:00 a.m. Protocol for Working Together
  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Melissa Krasnow, Dorsey—Data Breaches and Cybersecurity Plus State Comparison on Cybersecurity Efforts
  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch with presentation by Minnesota State Representative Pat Garofalo, National Council of State Legislatures Executive Committee Task Force on Cybersecurity
  • 12:30 p.m. –12:45 p.m. Break
  • 12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. The Cyber Threat Landscape and Q&A – Michael Krause, Supervisory Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • 1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. Task Force Discussion of Cybersecurity

2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Subcommittee Updates

2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Wrap Up, Plans for August Meeting, Adjourn 

Montevideo American News recently did  feature article on MVTV Wireless and president Dan Richter. Dan has been with the company since 1960. I think that’s a great demonstration of how the roots of anything broadband related go back much farther than people expect. Most companies working on broadband have been working for a long time; most communities working on broadband have been working for a long time.

While the article gives a nice history of the company, they also talk up the role of wireless infrastructure…

Wireless is affordable…

According to Richter, what sets MVTV apart from other companies is its affordability. He cited the high cost of installing fiber optic cable as a detriment to bringing broadband to rural areas.

“Fiber costs between $15,000 to $20,000 per mile. It doesn’t make financial sense to run fiber where there may only be a small number of people living in a section.” said Richter.

There will always be a place for wireless because it can go almost anywhere…

Wireless broadband has opened up other unlooked for opportunities for MVTV. For example, people were interested in having Internet connectivity at campgrounds, and in the last three years MVTV worked with area counties to bring the Internet to 14 area campgrounds.

The company has also brought wireless broadband to baseball fields, race tracks, and county fairs. Pam Rosenau, customer service and market developer for MVTV, said, “The technology is evolving very quickly. We never thought 4-H would be live streaming from county fairs!”

MVTV also contracts with counties and cities to provide free public access WiFi hotspots. Nobles and Kandiyohi counties are two such counties that now deliver public WiFi to people who may not otherwise have Internet.


So many meetings this week – but hard to pass up a free webinar on funding for broadband

We invite you to register for CLIC’s free webinar this Wednesday, July 20 at noon (eastern time): Federal Funding Options for Community Broadband Deployments. Although the federal broadband stimulus programs have ended, many other sources of federal funding for broadband projects are available. In this webinar, our speakers will discuss the key federal programs that support broadband projects, from the FCC to the Department of Commerce, HUD, the Department of Agriculture and more. Learn about the variety of creative approaches for tapping into federal grants and loans, from serving your schools to partnering with rural healthcare establishments to uncovering resources in your community that can serve as assets in funding applications. Learn what these programs cover, how to qualify for them, and how to avoid pitfalls that could result in loss of benefits or even refunds.

Moderator: Catharine Rice, CLIC Project Director, Washington, DC

Speakers: Jim Baller, President, CLIC & President of Baller Stokes & Lide, PC, Washington, D.C. & Ashley Stelfox, CLIC General Counsel & Associate, Baller Stokes & Lide, PC, Washington, D.C.

Register by clicking here  (then click the blue “register” link after the words “Event Status”)

The Webinar will start at Noon Eastern Time.

An archive recording of the session will be emailed to all registrants.


Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 18, 2016

Blandin webinar: Growing and Keeping Tech Talent: Aug 11

Please join Blandin for the upcoming free webinar…

Growing and Keeping Tech Talent
August 11, 2016
3 pm

As the labor force tightens due to economic growth and demographic changes, it is critical for rural communities to grow and keep their tech talent since replacing tech workers is both challenging and disruptive.

This webinar will highlight two Minnesota programs that have these goals in mind.

Becky Siekmeier is director of SciTechsperience, an MHTA internship program that connects college students studying STEM disciplines with small and mid-sized Minnesota companies, with an emphasis on placing interns in greater Minnesota.  Becky will talk about how this program for work for companies in your community and will bring along a couple interns to talk about their experience working for companies in rural communities.

Michael Olesen directs Project RITA (Rural Information Technology Alliance), a federally funded collaboration between Pine Technical, Ridgewater and Central Lakes Colleges here in Minnesota, plus North Central Texas College.  Project RITA focuses on Web and Mobile Development, Computer Technology and Network and Cyber Security.  The program is designed to address the growing need in rural communities for skilled information technology professionals.

Aaron Brown is a longtime advocate of broadband on the Iron Range. In December (2015), he shared the good news that the IRRB had approved $1.25 matching grant for Paul Bunyan to expand broadband into Itasca County.

This week Aaron shares good news (via Hibbing Daily Tribune) of deployment…

You can see the little flags all over the Itasca County countryside. The markers show where Paul Bunyan Communication’s new Central Itasca Fiber Project will connect to my home, which is also where my wife and I work at least half the time.

These lines will allow me to take on bigger media projects. These lines will allow me to grade presentations faster for my online college students. Moreover, these lines will allow our family to co-exist in peace as our three boys grow old enough to do online gaming and, we hope at some point, homework.

But that’s hardly the main reason to be excited. This project will connect the up to 1,200 households, 3,500 people and 100 small businesses to reliable, high capacity, high speed internet for the first time.

He gives a nod to local broadband provider Paul Bunyan and the State of Minnesota for their support via grants and seems to see a light at the end of a slow downloading tunnel…

One thing is certain. After years of delay and a decade of misunderstanding about the importance of broadband in the future of a region like ours, we see great progress.



Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 15, 2016

Webinar Archive: Attracting Tech Talent

Here is the archive from the Blandin Foundation webinar yesterday:

Attracting Tech Talent


Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 14, 2016

More wireless for Willmar from AT&T

According to the West Central Tribune

AT&T has expanded its 4G LTE network in the Willmar area, by increasing the power of the signal at seven cell towers.

Three of the towers are in Willmar, two in Spicer and one in Raymond.

AT&T customers in the area should already be experiencing faster speeds and improved reliability.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 14, 2016

Senator Franken talks broadband in Alexandria MN

According to the Voice of Alexandria:

Several of U.S. Senator Al Franken’s staff members were in Alexandria Tuesday to talk with people involved in the region’s infrastructure.  A handful of people employed in power companies, municipalities and business and economic development were on hand.  The “Rural Infrastructure Listening Tour” is targeting the region’s roads, bridges, water systems and broadband services.  Jake Schwitzer, Franken’s state policy advisor says hearing the stories from these individuals is vital to getting things done in Washington.

Wagner praised the senator’s emphasis on two-year education models, because of the need to fill positions throughout the region in the various trades.

Broadband and internet efficiencies were part of the discussion.  Nathan Chan of ALP Utilities talked about some of the limitations of areas outside of their coverage area.  He talked about slow upload and download speeds’ role in business development and the unwillingness for tech-saavy homeowners to live in areas that can’t offer higher speeds.  Runestone Electric CEO Kristin Dolan added the argument that even students at AAHS who are required to use ChromeBooks for their homework, experience difficulty in completing assignments as a result of lack of broadband/high speed internet in rural areas, outside of city limits.

You can learn more about the broadband situation in Alexandria in a recent podcast with Community Broadband Networks. Here’s the description of the episode…

Alexandria’s ALP Utilities General Manager Al Crowser joins us this week to explain what they have done and why. Like us, Al is a strong believer that local governments can be the best provider of essential services to local businesses and residents.

In the show, we talk some history and also about the difference between local customer service and that from a larger, more distant company. He discusses how they have paid for the network and where net income goes. And finally, we talk about their undergrounding project.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 13, 2016

United States Senate Broadband Caucus – starts now

According to The Hill

A group of senators launched a new caucus to promote broadband deployment on Tuesday.
The so-called Senate Broadband Caucus was founded by five upper chamber lawmakers from states with significant rural populations, where connectivity is often limited.

“From online business startups to digital learning and telemedicine, broadband access is critical to the strength of our economy and our communities,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in a statement. “Unfortunately, the digital divide between rural and urban America is growing as essential broadband infrastructure falls behind in certain parts of the country,”

The other members of the caucus are Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.),Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.).

It’s nice to see Minnesota’s own Senator Klobuchar as part of the leading effort. It’s not absolutely clear to me whether the caucus is responsible for the letter that went to the FCC earlier to ask them to expand broadband access to rural areas.

From Senator Klobuchar’s website

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand access to reliable, high-speed mobile broadband in rural America. According to the FCC, 87 percent of rural Americans lack access to mobile broadband with minimum advertised speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, compared to 45 percent of those living in urban areas. Without the certainty that mobile broadband infrastructure will be deployed and maintained, investments in rural productivity could be delayed or bypassed altogether. In a letter to Chairman Tom Wheeler, Klobuchar and a bipartisan group of senators asked the FCC to retain and update the Universal Service Fund’s Mobility Fund to ensure that funding will promote new mobile broadband deployment in underserved rural and agricultural areas and preserve and upgrade mobile broadband where it is currently unavailable.

“Significant work remains to ensure that broadband services are available in rural America and reasonably comparable to services enjoyed in urban areas,” the lawmakers wrote. “Simply stated, broadband, particularly high-speed mobile broadband, is not readily available in many rural areas or could be at risk absent the right policies and support through the Universal Service Fund. [The Mobility Fund] should be retained and updated to ensure that funding will promote new mobile broadband deployment in unserved rural and agricultural areas and preserve and upgrade mobile broadband where it is currently available.”

Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is a leader in promoting widespread broadband access. She led a bipartisan letter with Senator John Thune (R-SD) and 59 other senators calling on the FCC to modernize rules intended to ensure that Americans in rural areas have access to affordable broadband services. She has introduced the bipartisan Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act with Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities by providing incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers. She authored the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act to require states to simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects, including building a new highway or adding a new lane or shoulder to an existing highway. The president issued an executive order in 2012 that included an initiative known as “Dig Once” that was derived from this legislation. She also submitted comments to the federal Broadband Opportunity Council in June 2015.

In addition to Klobuchar, the letter was signed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito, (R-WV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp, (D-ND), Ron Johnson, (R-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Claire McCaskill, (D-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Gary Peters (D-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), David Vitter (R-LA), Mark Warner, (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The full text of the letter is found below:

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

As representatives of states with significant agricultural activity, we share the goal of ensuring that access to high-quality communications networks in rural America remains a top priority for the Commission.

More than ever before, U.S. farmers and ranchers are demanding reliable, high-speed mobile broadband services. Mobility is essential for new precision agriculture technologies to deliver productivity gains and environmental sustainability. These technologies are transforming U.S. agriculture as American farmers and ranchers seek to feed, fuel, and clothe an ever-increasing global population using limited land, water, and other resources.
We applaud the Commission’s recent decision to allow rate-of-return carriers to access support for “standalone” broadband facilities. This step will help encourage carriers to deploy modern broadband-capable wireline networks in rural areas. Importantly, this is necessary as consumers increasingly rely on wireless services and are “cutting the cord” to shift away from wireline voice. Soaring mobile broadband relies on sufficient backhaul, often provided by these wireline networks. Going forward, sufficient support must also be available to preserve and expand mobile voice and broadband.

Significant work remains to ensure that broadband services are available in rural America and reasonably comparable to services enjoyed in urban areas. Simply stated, broadband, particularly high-speed mobile broadband, is not readily available in many rural areas or could be at risk absent the right policies and support through the Universal Service Fund (USF). While progress has been made in the deployment of broadband, significant portions of rural areas have been left behind. According to the FCC, 87 percent of rural Americans (52.2 million) lack access to mobile broadband with minimum advertised speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, compared to 45 percent of those living in urban areas.

Without the certainty that essential mobile broadband infrastructure will be deployed and maintained, investments in agricultural productivity will be delayed or bypassed altogether, and the potential efficiencies and benefits to rural communities will be lost. The extension of high-speed mobile and backhaul facilities to agricultural croplands and ranch lands must keep pace with the ongoing deployment of technology in the field. Increasing numbers of modems in the field means a growing demand for connectivity in the areas in which they operate.
The expansion of rural broadband should be a top priority of federal and state policymakers, as expanded de
ployment in rural areas will address important economic, educational, health care, and public safety goals. Ongoing USF reform can provide a mechanism for enabling mobile broadband access in rural communities where “people live, work, and travel” that is truly comparable to broadband services provided in urban and suburban areas. To accomplish this goal, USF should support mobile broadband at a minimum of today’s level to close the coverage gap while preserving existing service.

In this regard, we ask you to give special attention as you work to establish Phase II of the USF’s Mobility Fund (MF). Given the importance of mobile services today, the MF should be retained and updated to ensure that funding will promote new mobile broadband deployment in unserved rural and agricultural areas and preserve and upgrade mobile broadband where it is currently available. Importantly, the FCC must rely on realistic measurements of network experience on the ground to determine areas to support.

Croplands and ranch lands have lagged behind in adequate mobile coverage, even as demand for coverage has grown. To address this coverage gap, we urge you to consider a metric of broadband access in croplands (and farm buildings), or some other geographic measurement, in addition to road miles, to identify these areas of greatest need. “Cropland” coverage can be assessed using United States Department of Agriculture data for crop operations, the United States Geological Survey’s Land Use classification, or other databases.

Agriculture is a significant generator of economic activity in our states. We greatly appreciate your efforts to ensure that the latest mobile broadband services are provided to all Americans, including those in agriculture whose livelihoods depend on it.

Kandiyohi County recently submitted the final report for their Blandin Foundation-backed recent community Wi-Fi project. I am happy to post their slightly modified report here in hopes that it will help others with similar projects…

Kandiyohi started out with a goal to create multiple Wi-Fi hotspots selected to impact several communities and multiple age groups and populations in Kandiyohi County. Here are the locations an reasoning behind each:

  1. Willmar Civic Center – host of many events. Broadband access needed for vendors and operations.
  2. The United Way Growmobile – direct programming and educational support to over 100 families each year.
  3. Central Community Transit – over 20 routes with stops in every Kandiyohi County community.
  4. Willmar Public Schools and New London Spicer Schools – student access for homework during daily routes and special events. Also for backup of critical data needs in the case of an extended electrical or data outage.

They ran into some challenges. There was a change in project leadership, which meant a little catching up but also securing the equipment was more cumbersome than expected as the four mobile units were not able to join a data plan together as originally planned and separate plans for access and data had to established.

But in the end, the challenges were overcome and the hotspots are in place. Here are some of the rewards…

  • Willmar Civic Center – Wi-Fi installation at the Willmar Civic Center is completed. The network was instrumental in successful events, including a regional curling tournament, regional math competition, several community and regional marketing shows, and much more.
  • The United Way Growmobile now has Wi-Fi access while traveling to and from daycares, as well as child and family events and at the remote locations of United Way family events. United Way staff are able to input data and reports during the many hours that they ride the bus each day.  A new curriculum can be accessed at event locations because of the mobile Wi-Fi access.
  • Central Community Transit (CCT) now has constant access to the Internet for riders from every Kandiyohi County community.  CCT recently expanded their service area to include Meeker County.  Residents of Meeker County benefit from the project in addition to the original goals.  Two CCT buses received the hotspot equipment and access and they can be moved to other buses as needed.
  • Willmar Public Schools and New London Spicer Schools have been able to add Wi-Fi hotspots on four buses because of the project.  Students are extremely thankful.  They have utilized the broadband access to complete homework while on the buses.  An unexpected positive outcome is that behavior incidents have decreased on buses with installed Wi-Fi.  Superintendent Carlson notes, “This is wonderful for our students when 1,000 hours of web research translates to 1 GB.  This is a great opportunity for our students who only have Wi-Fi access in our buses.”
  • Additional Outcome:  Wi-Fi hotspot antennas were placed in three locations to provide a place for internet access to Kandiyohi County residents that have no access in their homes.  MVTV Wireless made a contribution to the project to allow for two years of free access through the Wi-Fi hotspot installations.  The locations receiving the service include Pennock Community Center, Blomkest Community Center and Lake Andrew Township Hall.

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