NBC draws from Lake County for story of broadband success and cites recent Blandin report

NBC recently wrote about the impact of broadband in rural America. They make the point that with better broadband, rural communities can see greater economic impact and they use Lake County as the example…

A contractor building high-end houses in Minneapolis swung by Greg Hull’s sawmill on Friday, a timber operation located in deeply rural Lake County, Minnesota. The builder had seen Hull’s website and driven nearly 250 miles to the mill to inspect Hull’s high-end lumber as potential building material for his homes.

These days that’s not unusual. In the past year-and-a-half, Hull has seen orders balloon and interest grow, and a significant factor is his recent ability to gain access to high-speed internet. That’s made a huge difference for the saw mill, located at the end of a power line in an area that knows only gravel roads and limited cellphone coverage.

“Before, if you wanted to download or do anything on the internet, back when it was a phone line system, you couldn’t do anything,” said Hull, who lives and works on 100 acres of Minnesota woodland. “I had to go to the library or hire someone to do stuff, but now we can do it all. We have an improved website. It’s made the whole internet presence a lot more viable, which has in turn opened the exposure.”

That’s something largely new to Lake County, an area that covers 3,000 square miles and stretches from the shores of Lake Superior to the Canadian border. About 10,000 people call this area home. But local leaders there decided they needed high-speed internet, and after nearly eight years and the investment of more than $80 million — much of it coming from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as former President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill) — access to the internet is beginning to boost the local economy.

That could mean a long-term impact of tens of millions of dollars in household economic benefit and residential real estate value, a report by the Blandin Foundation claimed.

The economic upside of internet access is being pushed by rural broadband advocates across the country who say that there isn’t enough being done to connect rural communities. Building out the necessary infrastructure, they argue, could function as an economic and informational driver for some of the country’s most cash-strapped regions.

Digidaze Community Technology Fair Comes to Rondo Library (St Paul) June 15

For folks in the area, this is an event announcement. For folks not in the area, this is an idea you might want to replicate…

Digidaze Community Technology Fair Comes to Rondo Library
Join us for a free public fair showcasing learning opportunities related to technology for youth, adults and seniors. There will be four laptop giveways from  Minnesota Computer for Schools throughout the day; free food; activities for youth; lessons on using online library services for adults; face painting; free tech advice; media production games; and sign-ups for free classes about computer and employment skills in your neighborhood.
Check out the event page on Facebook!
WHEN: Friday, June 15th, 10:30AM-3PM
WHERE: Rondo Community Outreach Library in Saint Paul, 461 N Dale St
CONTACT: krogstad@spnn.org for more information.
DigiDaze is presented by SPNN’s 35 AmeriCorps members of the Community Technology Empowerment Project and the Saint Paul Public Library.
Help us spread the word with this flyer!

Ely uses first fiber connection to connect a coworking space

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Just off the main drag in the North Woods town of Ely, often described as the “end of the road,” a side door to a brick building offers locals and visitors a little haven of modern technology.

The new Ten Below Coworking space — a basement office with desk seats for a dozen people — boasts the city’s first fiber-optic broadband-connection available to the public.

The city and the nonprofit group Incredible Ely used a $15,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation to create the open floor plan office as well as a couple of meeting rooms in the Klun Law Firm building. The money was used to furnish the space and should be enough to keep the lights on and the internet working for a year, officials said.

The coworking space is just a first step…

Ely Mayor Chuck Novak said he’s enthused about the energetic people who are working to make the space viable, including advertising it so people are aware of it. It’s part of a larger plan to bring internet fiber to the rest of downtown and get high-speed internet out to the entire school district, in some places using wireless access points, Novak said.

“We’re tired of legislators at the state and federal level always talking about broadband and not providing a sufficient amount of support for it. … It’s one of the most important things for economic development in greater Minnesota,” Novak said. “We’re going to have to take care of this ourselves. … We’re going to start getting creative here. We will find a way.”

The space in Ely will serve as a pilot project for getting local people exposed to working with truly high speed internet, officials said.

Kristi Westbrock named new CEO/General Manager at CTC

Congrats to Kristi (and CTC) and best of luck to retiring Manager Kevin Larson! CTC stakeholders and customers (often one in the same) will remain in good hands!

CTC reports

The Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) Board of Directors unanimously elected Kristi Westbrock as Chief Executive Officer/General Manager. Westbrock succeeds CTC’s current CEO/General Manager Kevin Larson who announced his retirement from CTC at the company’s Annual Meeting on June 6, 2018. Kevin’s retirement date from the CEO position at CTC will be June 30, 2018.

“The CTC Board of Directors is delighted that Kristi has accepted the CEO/General Manager position. We are confident that Kristi will continue to move our Cooperative forward with the best interest of our members in mind,” states Morris Nelson, Chairperson of the Board of Directors. “We also thank Kevin for his dedication and commitment to the Cooperative for the past 17 years. Kevin has many accomplishments over his tenure, including leading the fiber to the home project to our original ten service areas.”

The NDIA ranks worst connected cities: St Paul is #74 and Minneapolis #120

NDIA reports

Using data from the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS), released in September 2017 by the U.S. Census Bureau, NDIA ranked all 185 U.S. cities with more than 50,000 households by the total percentage of each city’s households lacking fixed broadband internet subscriptions. Note that this data is not an indication of the availability of home broadband service, but rather of the extent to which households are actually connected to it.

Only St Paul and Minneapolis show up on the list (with more than 50,000 households). Here’s how they ranked:

  • St Paul ranks 74 with 32.91 percent without fixed broadband
  • Minneapolis ranks 120 with 27.99 percent without fixed broadband

It’s a little counter intuitive since they’re looking at worst cities – the lower the ranking, the better. We have room for improvement.

News from the FCC Meeting – streamlining barriers or eliminating consumer protections?

The FCC held a big meeting last week and lots of things were decided. Here are two high level takes on the changes from two big broadband policies. The headlines from the meeting from the FCC:

FCC Eliminates Needless Barriers to Next-Generation Networks, Services

And from the Benton Foundation:

FCC Eliminates Consumer Protections for Carriers Promising Network Upgrades

The first headline describes the whole meeting, the second only one change but the tone remains the same regardless of your looking at specifics or whole.

You can read the Benton Foundation’s take on the meeting in a recent newsletter. (It was really just too long to paste here. Here is the press release from the FCC…

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2018—The Federal Communications Commission today took additional steps to eliminate unnecessary regulatory hurdles for carriers seeking to move from the networks of yesterday to the networks of tomorrow.


As demand for lower-speed data and legacy voice services declines, the Commission determined that its rules must be modified so that resources that could be used to expand next-generation networks and services aren’t unnecessarily diverted to maintaining outdated infrastructure.  The current FCC rules entail burdensome requirements that carriers must meet in order to replace legacy voice and lower speed data services.  The Commission’s action helps to reduce these burdensome requirements while maintaining protections for consumers and providing incentives for deploying better networks.


In a Second Report and Order adopted today, the Commission eliminated some unnecessary impediments to timely network upgrades, while ensuring that consumers and businesses receive the services they require and the notice they need to adapt to changing technologies.  The Order includes the following revisions:


  • Streamlines grandfathering of lower-speed data services where the carrier already provides fixed replacement data services at download speeds of 25 Megabits per second and 3 Mbps for uploads. The streamlined process provides 10 days for public comment, and grandfathering is allowed automatically in 25 days, barring substantive objections.
  • Streamlines permanent discontinuance of services already grandfathered by the Commission for 180 days. The process will now provide 10 days for comment and 31 days for an automatic grant.
  • Relieves carriers of discontinuance approval obligations for services with no customers and no reasonable requests for service for at least the preceding 30 days.
  • Eliminates burdensome, inflexible, and unnecessary education and outreach requirements for carriers discontinuing legacy voice services in the transition to next-generation IP services.
  • Allows carriers to seek streamlined discontinuance of legacy voice services when a carrier provides stand-alone interconnected VoIP throughout its affected service area, and at least one other stand-alone, facilities-based voice service is available from another provider.
  • Eliminates unnecessary and burdensome or redundant notifications for changes that may impact compatibility of customer premises equipment.
  • Facilitates rapid restoration of communications networks in the face of natural disasters and other unforeseen events by eliminating advance notice and waiting period requirements for network changes in exigent circumstances.

The Second Report and Order builds on reforms adopted by the Commission last November to the network change disclosure and discontinuance processes to encourage investment in next-generation networks.


Action by the Commission June 7, 2018 by Second Report and Order (FCC 18-74).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, and Carr approving.  Commissioner Rosenworcel approving in part and dissenting in part.  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, and Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.

MN 2018 Tekne Awards – Nominate a neighbor by Aug 3

It’s nice to see a lot of rural businesses, leaders and projects make the list…

The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) announced categories for our 19th Annual Tekne Awards. Applications will be accepted until August 3, with the Tekne Awards ceremony to be held November 29.

Tekne Awards recognize the leaders in Minnesota’s innovation economy and cutting-edge innovators in science and technology. The awards celebrate the individuals and organizations that play a significant role in discovering new technologies that educate and improve the lives of Minnesotans and people around the world.

Learn more.  Also, on June 20 at 9 a.m. there is a Tekne Award Webinar.  MHTA will be hosting a webinar to provide advice and answer your questions on award categories, eligibility, important dates and more. A past award recipient and Tekne judge will also provide their perspectives. Register here for the webinar.