Net Inclusion 2019 April 1-3 in Charlotte

I really enjoyed this conference a few years ago when it was in the Cities…

Net Inclusion 2019 welcomes digital inclusion community practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers, and policymakers to discuss:
• local, state and federal policies and policy innovations impacting digital equity,
• sources of financial and programmatic support of digital inclusion programs,
• and digital inclusion best practices from across the country.
Net Inclusion 2019 will begin Monday, April 1st with pre-conference events in the morning and Digital Inclusion Site Tours, included in the cost of registration, in the afternoon. Tuesday, April 2nd will be a full day of interactive sessions, and we will conclude on Wednesday, April 3rd at 3:00PM.

Don’t wait to book your hotel – a limited number of rooms are available at a discounted rate!

Discount early bird registration for Net Inclusion available until February 14th!

Register for Net Inclusion 2019!

MN Watchdog take on Lake County Network sale

MN Watchdog has posted about the recent Lake County sale of Lake Connections

The project received $66 million in grants and loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) as part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus legislation. Including federal and local money, more than $80 million was sunk into Lake Connections.

After seven years of operations, Lake Connections has 2,500 customers, with 750 more interested parties waiting for service, and ironically the Board of Commissioners sought to sell its government network because it felt a private provider could do a better job of hooking up eager customers sooner.

The commission had hoped to sell the network for $20 million, but found that estimate grossly overvalued. Instead, according to a July 27, 2018, Lake County News Chronicle article, Pinpoint Holdings offered an initial bid of $3.5 million before a higher price was agreed upon. Taxpayers get to eat about $40 million that’s still owed on the debts. RUS agreed with the county that the sale price will fulfill the balance of the loan.

Freedom Foundation of Minnesota founder Annette Meeks previously told Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) that Lake Connections is one of the worst examples of the detriment effects of municipal broadband projects. Local taxpayers were forced to sink $17 million into the project, money that would have been better spent on other projects improving the quality of life of the area.

Research we did for the Blandin Foundation two summers ago found that people in Lake County were happy with the network and policy makers did not regret their decision. Each household with broadband reaps on the average a $1,850 economic benefit annually – at 2,500 homes that’s $4.6 million a year.

Thom Petersen new commissioner of the Department of Agriculture is broadband advocate

The Country Today reports…

Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz and Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan last week announced Thom Petersen as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.

And lists his affiliations…

Petersen has served on many boards and committees, including the University of Minnesota Extension Citizens Advisory Committee, Farmers Legal Action Group, Citizens Utility Board, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom, Minnesota State Organic Task Force, Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and the Minnesota Fair Plan.


Digital Divide in Tribal Communities is diverse but real

The Center for Indian Country Development reports…

The lowest category, in light yellow, shows reservations where fewer than 55 percent of households have broadband access. This access rate is well below the national average of 78 percent as well as below the average rate in completely rural counties of 65 percent,5 and is evident in several geographically large reservations in the Southwest, Northern Plains, and Intermountain West. However, other large reservations in the same areas have rates closer to national and rural county norms. It is also evident from Figure 1 that a few reservations match or exceed the national average.

Broadband access levels for many geographically small reservations are hard to discern in Figure 1 but can be analyzed statistically. Across 262 federally recognized reservations, in the typical (median) reservation, 61 percent of households have broadband access. This percentage is significantly lower than the percentage of households with broadband access in the typical U.S county which is 69 percent. In the typical county that overlaps at least one reservation, 70 percent of households have broadband access.

The Census Bureau has shown that counties’ rates of broadband access are positively correlated with income.6  We have found the correlation between income and broadband access for reservations is very similar as to counties.

They recognize that not only is lack of broadband more prevalent in lower income households, it may be a contributing factor…

However, the relatively low rates of broadband access in reservation communities may also add to their economic development challenges. Enhanced Internet access may not boost all types of reservation economic activity. For example, if reservation residents increasingly purchase consumer goods online from remote suppliers, employment at local retail outlets may fall. However, the net effects of enhanced access are generally considered positive for economic vitality, including through channels such as increased productivity at local businesses, increased sales to consumers outside the reservation, improved life-style and government services that attract residents, improved medical and educational services, and more.7 For these types of reasons, tribes and tribal organizations are taking steps to enhance Indian Country’s broadband access

Broadband bills introduced in MN House and Senate today

Broadband funding was introduced in both the Minnesota house and senate today:

In the House:
Today HF7 was introduced: Broadband grant program money appropriated.

Here’s the text:

A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; appropriating money to the broadband grant program.

Section 1. BROADBAND GRANT PROGRAM; APPROPRIATION.$35,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 and $35,000,000 in fiscal year 2021 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund account under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396. The appropriation must be used for grants and the purposes specified under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.

Authors include: Ecklund; Layman; Sandstede; Sundin; Lueck; Baker; Davids; Lislegard; Sandell; Wazlawik; Noor; Cantrell; Hortman; Winkler; Lee; Schultz; Wolgamott; Huot; Lesch; Olson; Lillie; Persell; Fischer; Nelson; Gomez; Elkins; Brand; Lippert; Morrison; Carlson, A.; Mann; Kunesh-Podein; Long; Her

It was referred to Ways and Means

In the Senate
Today SF9 was introduced: Broadband grant program appropriation

Here’s the text:

A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; appropriating money to the broadband grant



$35,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 and $35,000,000 in fiscal year 2021 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband fund account under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396. The appropriation must be used for grants and the purposes specified under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.

Authors include: Koran; Simonson; Dahms; Westrom; Tomassoni

It was referred to Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance

Minnesota ranks top state to raise a family

This news was too good not to share. WalletHub was just named Minnesota the best place to raise a family. No surprise to me with three girls! To be fair they don’t mention broadband or internet but reading through their categories, it was easy for me to see the impact broadband would have on each:

Family Fun – OK we only ranked 13. I have a family blog that alone should rank us higher than that. (To be fair, we were more obviously fun when the girls were little.) But especially when the girls were little, broadband helped us find fun. I scanned local calendars for fun things on a regular basis – from Winter Carnivals to art openings to pumpkin carvings. You name it, if we had an afternoon off, we could find fun. Also we used the internet to see things we’d never go see. Question about the Sphinx? We’ll look it up. For some families, gaming may be an issue or feature – and Paul Bunyan has shown us how fun and profitable that can be with their annual Gaming Contest. Not for us – but it has been a ticket into finding unusual activities.

Health & Safety – Access to remote healthcare – be it doctor emails or actual video visits has been a game changer, especially as a parent. And I’m a parent in a city. I can’t imagine the time savings not bundling up kids for every sneeze when the doctor is 10 miles away. Also portals make it easy to manage regular visits and payments. Telehealth use increased seven-fold in Minnesota between 2010-2015, and use continues to grow. But it also helps with healthier lifestyles. Many of us use devices (fitbits and others) to maintain healthy habits. And of course using the internet for quick fixes for getting out splinters or getting gum out of hair is a day saver too.

Education and Child Care – My kids have used broadband for assignments starting almost in kindergarten. In Kindergarten we used it to extend learning. But by second grade one was using Khan Academy for extra math support. They have all created and uploaded videos for class assignments. All have been required to access, complete and turn in assignments online. The youngest has created (on her own) online quizlets to help her with mock trial. Broadband is all but required for basic education but it is key for extending a student’s reach beyond formal education. (Last year, Blandin hosted a webinar on broadband and the homework gap.)

Affordability – Studies show that homes with broadband see an annual economic benefit between $1,850 and $10,500. And home buyers will pay seven percent more for a home with gigabit service; people wouldn’t pay that if they didn’t think there was a return on investment in education, healthcare or fun for their families.

Minnesota gathering to Livestream: Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy on Jan 15

I mentioned earlier that Blandin Foundation and League of Minnesota Cities is hosting a meeting to watch the Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy Livestream on Jan 15:

Livestream: Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
7:45 a.m. -12:45 p.m.
League of Minnesota Cities
RSVP Online

Today I’m pleased to share the list of confirmed speakers (with a special nod to fellow Minnesotan Chris Mitchell!)

  • Blair Levin: Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Christopher Mitchell: Director, Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Jonathan Chambers: Partner, Conexon LLC
  • Harold Feld: Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge
  • Brent Skorup: Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
  • Jamie Suskind: Chief of Staff, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr
  • Neil Chilson: Senior Research Fellow for Technology and Innovation, Charles Koch Institute
  • William Rinehart: Director, American Action Forum
  • Laura Moy: Executive Director, Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology
  • Francella Ochillo: Vice President, Policy and General Counsel, National Hispanic Media Coalition
  • Ryan Clough: General Counsel, Public Knowledge