2017 MTA Spring Convention: March 27-29

The annual MTA (Minnesota Telecom Alliance) conference is coming up – March 27-29 in Minneapolis. It’s also a big and great show with topics ranging from policy, to technology, marketing, industry new and business management. The trade show alone is a fun look at what folks are doing.

Here’s a peek at the agenda

Monday, March 27

Breakout Sessions (3:00 – 3:50 pm_

Enabling Faster Speeds at the Network Edge – Karthik Kailasam, Emerson Network Power

Automation and You: Automating Everyday Life and Business Tasks – Shaun Carlson, Arvig
Selling Ethernet Transport in a Tariff Environment – Iris Carrasquillo, NECA

Breakout Sessions (4:00 – 4:50 pm)

Evolving Broadband Privacy Requirements – Shannon Heim, Dykema Gossett

Achieving High Availability with NFV – Mike Gates, REDCOM

There Has to Be an Easier Way! – Gwen Schaffer, Olsen Thielen CPAs

Opening Reception at Hyatt (5:00 – 6:30 pm)

Tuesday, March 28

Breakout Sessions (9:30 – 10:20 am)

5G: Embracing the Opportunities – Ben Humphrey, Finley Engineering Company, Inc.

Leading Millennials – Debbie Johnson, Minnesota State Community and Technical College
How “Big Data” Can Support Revenue – Andy Rangen, 7Sigma Systems, Inc.; Aaron Hautala, RedHouseMedia

Breakout Sessions (10:30 – 11:20 am)

Fiber Indexing for Multi-Use – Erik Gronvall, CommScope

Building a Profitable Modern Video Offering – Mark Chambers, NeoNova; Terry Kucera, NeoNova

Culture Branding: The HR + Marketing Connection – Jenna Monse, Cooperative Network Services; Christine Castagneri, Cooperative Network Services

Breakout Sessions (11:30 am – 12:20 pm)

Personal Cyber Security: A Clear and Present Danger – Jon Brown, Vantage Point Solutions

Make World-Class Wi-Fi Your Differentiator: How to Optimize Carrier Class Wi-Fi in Your Subscriber’s Home – Ben Chan, Calix

Hot Topics in Labor & Employment Law Under the New Administration – Tom Revnew, Seaton Peters & Revnew

Issues Update Lunch (12:30 – 1:30 pm)  – Ron Kresha

Exhibits Open – 1:00 – 6:00 pm

Wednesday, March 29


Keynote – John Kriesel

More Info on NU-Telecom Border to Border grant project in Brown, Wabasha and Goodhue Counties

The New Ulm Journal published more info on the NU-Telecom state funding broadband expansion…

NU-Telecom will receive $850,486 in grants for a $1,889,968 project to build fiber connections to homes and businesses in the rural areas of Hanska, Mazeppa and in and around Bellechester. In a press release, NU-Telecom President and CEO Bill Otis said the company expects the projects to begin in the spring.

“We’re very pleased that we were selected in the border-to-border grant process,” he said. “We appreciate the support form the local businesses and residents. The grant will be utilized to extend our network and bring broadband services to customers in these rural areas, including providing GB speeds via fiber to the home, which will exceed 2026 state speed goals.”

State Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said more than $1 million in broadband grants will be used to expand access to Hanska and Redwood and Renville counties.

“Broadband access is critical for folks who want to do business in Greater Minnesota, and these grants will allow this to happen,” Torkelson said. “I commend those who worked together and made these grants a reality.”

Lifeline Broadband Update Webinar Feb 21

Promises to be a good discussion from NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)…

The addition of broadband service to Lifeline occurred in December.  NDIA affiliates spend a lot of time and energy  searching for and keeping track of low-cost broadband offers for their community members.  We are at the very early stages of implementation of the new Lifeline program and this webinar is a check-in for where we are now and the current trajectory for the modernization changes.

Save the date now for a conversation about Lifeline broadband featuring Olivia Wein, attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

This special NDIA webinar  will take place…

February 21, 2017
1:00-2:00 Eastern
at https://zoom.us/j/4320943209

No RSVP is required.

I’ll set the stage with an update on low-cost broadband offers available, how the different offers were mandated, and how you can find information on the offers.  Olivia will discuss:

  • Which ISPs must offer a Lifeline broadband service? How does one determine if an ISP has a Lifeline obligation and in what geographic regions must they provide service?
  • Who else can be a Lifeline Broadband Provider?
  • What are the minimum service standards for wireless and wireline providers?
  • How does one apply for Lifeline? What is the current process for signing up and how will that change when the verification platform is live? What are the timelines for the new enrollment process?

Please join us for this important discussion!

Google Grants Promote Professional Development for Computer Science Teachers: deadline March 19

Keeping teachers on the cutting edge is a good way to keep students on the cutting edge of computer science education…

Grants Promote Professional Development for Computer Science Teachers from Google Computer Science for High School
Google Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) is an annual program dedicated to improving the computer science (CS) educational ecosystem by funding computer science education experts to provide exemplary CS professional development for teachers. The funding focuses on three major growth areas for teacher professional development in CS: facilitating the development and delivery of content that increases teachers’ knowledge of computer science and computational thinking, allowing providers to customize learning content to meet local needs and the sharing of best practices for engaging all students, and addressing the building of communities of practice that continue to support teacher learning throughout the school year. Research institutions, universities, and educational nonprofit organizations such as professional development organizations, school districts, and local offices of education are eligible to propose professional development opportunities for their local school teachers. The application deadline is March 19, 2017. Visit the CS4HS website to submit an online application.

New Pew Report: tracking the rise of technology use from 2000 to 2016

It’s interesting to see the trajectories of use of technologies in the last 15 years in Pew’s latest report on technology use. The graph below really spells most of it out…


The report also highlights four observations…

  1. Roughly three-quarters of Americans (77%) now own a smartphone
  2. After a modest decline between 2013 and 2015, the share of Americans with broadband service at home increased by 6 percentage points in 2016.
  3. Nearly seven-in-ten Americans now use social media.
  4. Half the public now owns a tablet computer.

One caveat to the broadband statistics is that they don’t use a speed to define broadband. When asked about the speed of broadband, this was their response…

1. And our definition of broadband users is not based on connection speed—we’ve tried to ask that question in the past, but found that the vast majority of our respondents were not able to even guess what the speed of their internet service is.
Instead, we define broadband users by simply asking them for the type of connection they have. That question has changed somewhat over time, but our most recent version is phrased as follows: “Do you subscribe to dial-up internet service at home… OR do you subscribe to a higher-speed broadband service such as DSL, cable, or fiber optic service?”

Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion

The FCC recently released their Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion. The report paints a picture of what the digital divide looks like today –

  • Americans with the lowest incomes are most likely to go without broadband at home.
  • Americans who are more likely to have low socioeconomic statuses due to historical and systemic barriers to education, opportunity, and adequate housing are least likely to have home broadband connectivity
  • African-Americans and 50 percent of Hispanics subscribe to a home broadband service, compared with 72 percent of White Americans
  • A rural-urban divide persists as well
  • People with disabilities and older adults are also more likely to go without a home broadband subscription
  • Perhaps one of the starkest divides in broadband access and adoption exists in Indian Country, where broadband is often unavailable

They also talk about national and local efforts to close the divide. It was nice to see the Blandin Foundation mentioned…

Example: The Blandin Foundation serves rural Minnesota by strategically allocating grants to organizations that support broadband access, adoption and digital literacy through its Community Broadband Resources Program. The foundation supports a number of community projects throughout the state. For instance, in Nobles County, grantees are working to establish Wi-Fi hotspots to provide access to unserved residents. In Chisago County, where broadband is expensive, slow, or unavailable, Blandin undertook a community survey to paint a picture of the divide that exists for lawmakers and providers. As a result, providers have expanded service and rolled out significant service improvements. In Stevens County, the foundation supported a consortium of school districts that developed a broadband-based system for providing specialized distance learning for students with disabilities. And in the Central Woodlands area of the state, a Blandin-funded pilot project assisted local businesses with adopting e-commerce and as a result, the program has expanded to help businesses in surrounding areas. All of these institutions, and the others that Blandin supports, have targeted-mission specific needs that are unique to their rural geography. As a community foundation, Blandin is uniquely situated to appreciate and assess those needs and support groups accordingly.

And they made recommendations. I’m going to try to shorthand them below (they are detailed in the report)..

Outreach & Education

  • Consider the creation of an online hub that catalogues digital inclusion resources by state
  • Consider convening a series of in-person and online National Digital Inclusion Summits across the country
  • Consider hosting a separate meeting to bring together representatives of Tribal libraries with representatives of non-tribal libraries and researchers
  • Consider increasing outreach to people with disabilities and their representatives


  • Commission, along with partners at the Department of Education and other interested federal agency stakeholders, may wish to explore ways to facilitate relationships in states between workforce development programs and community colleges
  • Bureau’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs(IGA)may consider engaging and working with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates, and local government representatives including the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to identify and connect community anchor institutions and grassroots organizations
  • IGA and the Office of Native Affairs and Policy could also liaise with state and local governments to explore partnerships between cities and/or states and nearby Tribal governments and Tribal libraries


  • Support Lifeline Aggregation Projects
  • Make Purchasing ISP Services Simpler and More Transparent
  • Support Using the Educational Broadband Service to Provide Service to Underserved Areas
  • Support Using Existing Federal Legislation to Promote Digital Inclusion.

More info on Border to Border grants in Douglas County

According to the Alexandria Echo Press

Help is on the way for nearly 300 households and 39 businesses in Douglas County that are frustrated with slow, unreliable Internet connections.

Two grants were approved in the Douglas County area.

Runestone Telecom Association received a grant of $700,674 that will bring high-speed Internet service to 267 households and 32 businesses in the Holmes City area. Runestone will build on a 2015 broadband grant to expand further into that area.

The goals of the project include reducing the number of people leaving the area, reducing economic disparities and mitigating the digital divide.

The total eligible project cost is $1.4 million, with a $700,674 local match…

Internet speeds in the Holmes City area are slow. Some connections are slogging along at speeds of only 1 or 3 megabits per second, Hedstrom said. The project will increase that 1,000 times to 1 gigabit per second…

Another broadband grant, this one for $68,240, was awarded to Gardonville Cooperative Telephone. The project will serve 28 unserved households and seven unserved businesses in the Lake Louise area. It’s expected to improve business development and help attract new residents and employees to the area.

The total eligible project cost is $153,348, with an $85,108 local match.