FCC presentation for MN & WI Tribes on federal funding: video

Thanks to the FCC for sharing their recent presentation to folks who could (and would) share information to tribal communities about the potential of federal funding for broadband. They spoke in great details about 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal opportunity. First they heard about all of the policy details, then (after an hour or so) really dove into the technology of 2.5 Ghz.

May 26 Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable Discussion Summary:

I was happy that on the Tuesday morning after the Memorial Day holiday we had a dozen folks discussing community efforts to spur broadband adoption and user sophistication.  Using the Intelligent Community framework as a guide, I showcased some of the projects that our Blandin Broadband Communities have implemented over the past several years.

For the broadband pillar, I highlighted public wi-fi offered at the Chisholm Pocket Park, Rock County campgrounds, wi-fi on school buses and improved wi-fi at libraries.  For knowledge workforce, I talked about Leech Lake’s computer training tied to their workforce program, Swift County’s online welding program, and Red Wing’s Coder Dojo after-school program and Fond du Lac’s summer app camp for kids.  Digital Equality efforts highlighted PCs for People, Hibbing HRA’s broadband project in housing that they operate and Winona’s longstanding to connect new Americans with college students for computer training.  Innovation projects included multiple efforts at one-to-one business technology audits and counselling, Access North’s installation of Smart Home technology for older adults and those with disabilities and Hibbing’s use of iPads in health care.  Finally, in advocacy/marketing, I talked about Red Wing’s community calendar and web portal and Cannon Falls “Cannon Roots” branding campaign.

There was active discussion among participants about the implementation strategies for these projects as well as talk about the challenging task about how to make them sustainable once grant funds expire.  Participants also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied the benefits of these projects and accelerated adoption.

Great thanks to Robin Weiss of Southwest MN RDC for discussion about the new funds available through the federal Department of Commerce EDA program which can support new infrastructure and adoption and use.  The Blandin blog has a nice post on this program with all of the links.

Join us June 2nd at  9 am for our next roundtable discussion when we will focus on this EDA program and generate some ideas and strategies for applications.

MN one of 39 state attorneys general urging Congress to fund broadband

The Benton Institute reports...

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D-CO) led a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congress to help ensure that all Americans have the home internet connectivity necessary to participate in telemedicine, teleschooling, and telework as part of any legislation that provides relief and recovery resources related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter sent to congressional leaders, the attorneys general urge Congress to:

  • Provide state, territorial, and local governments with adequate funding expressly dedicated to ensuring that all students and patients, especially senior citizens who are at risk, have adequate internet-enabled technology to participate equally in online learning and telemedicine.
  • Increase funding to the Federal Communications Commission Universal Service Fund, which provides funding to rural and low-income areas, healthcare providers, and educators.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is on the list.

Policy Recommendations for bringing communities into the digital age from Roberto Gallardo

Roberto Gallardo’s recent paper on digital inclusion offers the following recommendations are meant to strengthen federal and state policies so that they may better support initiatives such as those discussed above:

  • Align Federal and State Policies around Digital Inclusion and Equity
  • Increase Community Awareness of the Importance of Digital Inclusion
  • Provide Digital Inclusion–Specific Funding
  • Support and Incentivize Digital Inclusion through Local Solutions

And one way they got to those recommendations was by looking at the Minnesota Broadband model…

One example of an effective state policy framework is the Minnesota Border-to-Border broadband grant program. It began in 2014 and is one piece of a comprehensive statewide approach to digital inclusiveness known as the “Minnesota Model.” This model launched in 2008 with a set of broadband goals proposed by a statewide task force appointed by the governor and adopted by the legislature. Progress is reviewed annually and consists of four interacting components: statutory goals, data and mapping, an Office of Broadband Development (OBD), and a grant program. This dynamic plan responds to the changing needs of communities and Internet service providers (ISPs) and to the intelligence garnered through data monitoring and measurement. The OBD serves as the central broadband planning body for the state. It operationalizes the various elements outlined in the law, such as administering the Border-to-Border broadband grant program as well as a telecommuter forward program. Another critical role of the OBD is to accurately map broadband deployment throughout the state to aid in the planning and monitoring of broadband infrastructure investments.

According to Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement for the Blandin Foundation (a member of the statewide task force), these mutually reinforcing broadband plan elements constitute a critical civic infrastructure that strengthens the capacity and voice of local communities. This civic infrastructure provides support to broadband access and adoption throughout the state from setting broadband goals to supporting the OBD and to state mapping of broadband infrastructure and unmet needs (Interview, January 2020).

Statewide connectivity goals adopted in 2010 called for universal access at 10–20 Mbps download and 5–10 Mbps upload. By 2016, these goals were updated to universal access at 25/3 Mbps by 2022 and 100/20 Mbps by 2026. To achieve these goals, the Border-to-Border broadband grant program has invested more than US$85 million in broadband infrastructure in 110 projects connecting nearly 39,000 homes, businesses, and farms while leveraging roughly US$110 million in private and local matching funds. By the end of 2018, 86 percent of homes and businesses had access to 100/20 Mbps up from 39 percent in 2015. Also, 93 percent of homes and businesses had access to 25/3 Mbps up from 70 percent in 2011. In 2019, the legislature appropriated an additional US$40 million in funding for broadband grants over the following two years.

According to Angie Dickson, OBD broadband development manager, the state of Minnesota recognized early on that broadband access is a vital component of the state’s economy and all of its communities, especially its rural ones (Interview, January 2020). By maintaining this commitment consistently over time, Minnesota has taken major strides toward achieving digital inclusiveness.

Sen Jeremy Miller says broadband is a priority

In a letter to the Editor in the Fillmore County Journal posted yesterday (but dated May 4), Sen. Jeremy Miller Gives an update from the MN Capitol…

In the metro area, broadband access is universal. But in Greater Minnesota, there are still plenty of areas that are underserved or entirely unserved. That’s why we have made broadband access a top priority. Today we approved a $20 million bill to expand access to broadband internet service and telemedicine. Notably, $8 million of the bill is designated to distance learning grants for students currently lacking Internet access during the COVID-19 peacetime public health emergency.

After the Fact: what are the 21 million who aren’t online doing during the pandemic

Kathryn de Wit, manager of Pew’s broadband research initiative, explains who’s not online and shares what some states and communities are doing to bridge connectivity gaps in this recent podcast.

She talks about the need for understanding broadband need and mapping, when it comes to distributing funds to make broadband happen, especially in rural areas.

We’re talking about multiple areas, multiple departments in government who handle possible solutions and affordability.

The problem of home access is highlighted now that people can’t go to libraries, schools, fast food restaurants and other public places to access broadband to get work their work and homework done.

Minnesota leaders from Austin to Mankato discuss COVID and need for better broadband

Channel 6 News reports…

District congressional candidate Dan Feehan hosted a virtual round table with state leaders to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on small communities.

Broadband was on the table…

Other issues detailed the importance of broadband in rural communities and the limited resources for students due to closures. Blue Earth County Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg said students have had to go into town to the libraries that are closed and sit outside just to be able to complete assignments.

The discussion included leaders from all over Minnesota from Austin to Mankato and the communities in between. Though they shared different issues they all agreed that change is needed.