Update on Norman and Polk Counties Fiber Network

Sometimes local fiber project updates come in strange packages – this week I got an update from a Calix press release. The good news is that the ARRA-funded project led by Halstad Telephone Company seems to be going well. So well they’ve had an opportunity to be the first Calix customer to deploy the EXA Powered E7-20 multi-terabit Ethernet Service Access Platform (ESAP).

Here are the tech details…

HTC is leveraging both gigabit passive optical network (GPON) and Active Ethernet (AE) technologies delivered via the E7-20 and 700GE/GX family of optical network terminals (ONTs) to deliver advanced IPTV services, ultra high-speed residential and business data services capable of speeds of up to one gigabit per second (Gbps), and reliable session initiation protocol (SIP) voice over IP (VOIP) services. The combination of GPON and AE technology support in the E7-20 and auto-detect technology in every 700GE/GX ONT provides extraordinary flexibility for HTC and its subscribers. HTC can now match the right technology and service to any customer elegantly and efficiently, offering gigabit per second speed across different technologies with the same deployment methodology. The E7-20 was first introduced to Calix customers at the Calix User Group Conference last Fall, and HTC’s deployment is the first of many scheduled over the next month at numerous Calix accounts across North America.

Emergency Vehicles get Laptops in Windom

Thanks to John Shepard for sending me an article from the Cottonwood County Citizen on one of Windom’s MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) projects. Windom has used part of their funding to put laptops in 13 vehicles used by police, fire and EMTs and a two-year wireless Internet subscription.

The entire project budget was $54,400. MIRC funding covered half of the cost. The balance came from the City and County – either in cash or in kind.

They know the computers will be used to download Google maps of a location before responding, they will be able to get more info on topics such as hazardous materials when necessary and they’ll be able to do paperwork on the scene rather than taking time later to fill out reports. They expect that more uses will emerge as they start using the laptops.

Update on Lake County

Someone asked me about Lake County last week so I contacted some folks to see what was going on. I am thankful to Chris Swanson in Two Harbors  for the update. It short but as you’ll see sweet…

  • The fiber optics project is moving forward. All the paperwork is in to the RUS and they have told them to start moving forward with the build.
  • Head end building is being identified for the system and that purchase should be completed within 30 days.
  • I last spoke to Lake County a few days ago and they are believing that by next year Two Harbors will be built out.
  • RUS has extended the deadline to allow for complete project completion.

Update on Cook County

Thanks to Joe Buttweiler for sending me a heads up on last weekend’s big meeting in Cook County. They held the annual Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, which included a few of the following announcemnts that I was able to find on the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative blog

To that extent, Arrowhead Electric Cooperative is very happy to say that today, June 9th we placed our first order for fiber optic cable! Our initial order is for 450,000′ (85 miles) and we’re prepared to purchase up to another 90 miles in 2011! Our ability to order fiber optic cable was made possible after receiving revised closing documents from the RUS two weeks ago and our notification from RUS and the MN State Historic Preservation Office that we are cleared of all Federal Environmental Reviews.

Due to incidents in Japan, tornadoes in the mid-west, and numerous federal stimulus projects, most manufacturers of fiber optic cable have production lead times of 20 to even 30 weeks out (i.e October or November!) Due to Pulse Broadband’s long history and strong relationships in the business, we are able to have fiber optic cable delivered in mid to late July.

We expect that in the next 1-2 weeks we’ll be able to happily announce a general contracting partner who can begin construction during July or August!

They were also looking to pre-register folks for service. I’d love to know how many signed up!

MPR’s Broadband 7

This week, Minnesota Public Radio’s Ground Level has profiled seven Minnesota Counties and their broadband situation. It’s a concise look at what each county has done and is doing with broadband in their area. For communities, especially counties, that are looking at broadband, it is a nice range of recipes. Not every approach will suit every occasion – but you just might find a recipe you think is worth trying. Here’s a super Reader’s Digest version of their profiles – you can read Ground Level for greater details:

Lake County – They got big funding from the ARRA stimulus funds. The local area has a big interest in broadband but they are running into troubles. The County received the funding but they will partner with folks to build the network.

Lac qui Parle – LqP is working with Farmers Mutual. Progress has been smooth – but they have run into issues with finance. They also received ARRA funds. They planned for FTTH throughout the county. However the feds are insisting that workers are paid $30/hour when local planners had banked on $20/hour. Contract bids are coming in for the project now.

Todd County – Urged by residents, Todd County recently passed a resolution to make broadband available throughout the county. The interest is there – but there’s no indication of how resolute they are. They are planning a public meeting to gauge interest in creating a plan to move forward.

Redwood County – Mapping from Connect Minnesota indicates that Redwood County has some of the slowest connections in the state, so they are starting to rally to build an interest in improving their ranking and broadband.

Windom – Windom isn’t a county, but they made the list because they received ARRA funds to expand to surrounding areas in their county. Their plans are going smoothly – but they are watching LqP closely as they may run into similar issues.

Cook County – Cook received ARRA funding through Arrowhead Electric to build Last Mile infrastructure. It’s an area where adoption and interest in broadband are high and availability has really been the bottleneck. They are quietly in process.

Sibley – Sibley is gaining steam. They have been having public talks for months. They created a Joint Powers Board. They continue to talk to residents but at this point on plan seems to be to look at the county providing the service, which will require a referendum. So they’re moving forward but at a cautious pace.

Is the Lake County fiber project money well spent?

Lake County is getting a little more attention this week in the form of a report from the Navigant Economics entitled, Evaluating the Cost-Effectiveness of RUS Broadband Subsidies: Three Case Studies. The executive summary calls out the purpose/findings of the report…

The evidence indicates that RUS’ history of funding duplicative service has continued under BIP, and that the current program is not a cost-effective means of achieving universal broadband availability.

According to their web site…

Navigant Economics, a subsidiary of Navigant Consulting, provides economic and financial analysis of legal and business issues to law firms, corporations and government agencies.

Here’s the breakdown of the data they have on Lake County:

Area (Sq. Miles) – 2,675
Households – 11,637
Median HH Income – $45,499
Median Home Value (Owner Occupied) – $111,339

And their stats on broadband (broadband is defined as 768 Kbps down/200 Kbps up
Unserved Households 22.9%
Unserved Households (houses that also lack 3G access) 3.6%
(They have two definitions of unserved because they think 3G is close enough to count, especially given that 3G sets the stage for 4G.)

There are 8 providers in the area.

They use this information to figure out the price being spent to access each household ($3,153) and the cost of providing access to the households have no wireline broadband ($13,746) and households with no wired or wireless access ($87,231).

I don’t know about the veracity of the numbers. I don’t doubt it – but I thought that the federal funding was intended to reach areas that were not economically viable – if so those numbers help make the case. Also I think the area has real concerns about redundancy. Last winter, they experienced problems with redundancy when an incident took out telecommunications throughout the area. Maybe we need to look at this funding as an investment in redundancy.

I understand the concern about discouraging investment from local business. However, I recall from notes about the project written when RUS was making their announcements about successful applications that the providers said that it would take 10-15 years to build fiber network in the area. Assuming that information is correct, I think we can assume that the providers were already disinvesting. Again the numbers above might help make the case as to what discouraged them.

I think the question comes back to classifying broadband as a utility or a luxury. Can we as a country/state/community afford to leave residents at the far end of the digital divide?

Anoka County shares Connectivity Services Agreement with other communities

The ARRA broadband stimulus funding has at least two benefits. The obvious benefit is that it provides funds to help deploy or promote broadband. The communities with funded projects obviously benefit. The less obvious benefit is that with public money comes the privilege of sharing your successful recipe. So that all of us can learn what works and what doesn’t. In a perfect world, the communities that receive money are sharing the tools they create with others to help other communities build broadband too.

That’s a long intro and thank you to Anoka County for sharing some of their tools. I met Anoka County’s David Minke in Washington DC last month. I was so impressed with what he’s doing in Anoka and how kind he was to share the details.

In the latest update…

Entities continue to approve the Connectivity Services Agreement. As of this week, we know of eight entities that have taken formal action. These organizations include the City of Blaine, City of Ramsey, City of East Bethel, City of Coon Rapids, City of Columbus, City of St. Francis, Ramsey County and PACT Charter School. Many organizations are scheduled for the next two weeks.

We met on Monday with some of the attorneys and were able to make some final language changes that seem to give many of the organizations more comfort with the agreement. Thank you to all for your patience and persistence in this process.

But the best part is that Anoka County has shared their Connectivity Services Agreement With Community Anchor Institution(s) For Broadband Services At Co-location Service Site(s) with us. I thought this could be a great tool for any community that was looking at working with anchor institutions to deploy broadband. It’s yeoman’s work to get multiple entities to agree to anything – hopefully this will help; it’s a marked up version that includes the latest changes.

One quick final addition. I wrote this up earlier and queued to post today – but got a fun update I wanted to add. David got three more entities to sign up this week. Here’s the list so far:

City of Ramsey
City of East Bethel
City of Coon Rapids
City of Columbus
City of St. Francis
City of Blaine
City of Lino Lakes
City of Oak Grove
City of Fridley
City of Columbia Heights
City of Circle Pines
City of Lexington
Linwood Township
City of Nowthen
PACT Charter School
Columbia Hts School Dist

Tele-wellness tools are making life better in Benton County

Thanks to Nancy Hoffman for the heads up on the following story…

Foley, MN, April 8, 2011: LA Home Care, a home care provider, located in Sauk Rapids, is making an impact on area residents through use of The GrandCare System, a combination of Smart Home Technologies, Activities of Daily Living monitoring, Internet communications and Tele-Wellness, which supports an entire network of caregivers providing greater security and less social isolation.

Last fall, after partnering with Cybermation, Inc located in Waite Park, LA Home Care www.mylahomecare.com received $16,000 in funding from the Living Connected in Benton County Steering Committee www.bentoncountyconnected.org to help make this technology available to area residents.

“Technology has been such a growing force in our health care system. Now is the time to make the technology affordable, easy to understand and easy to use for all of us,” said Leslie Ann, owner of LA Home Care. “The GrandCare System, I believe, has done just that.”

This technology, which is currently in five homes, serves three main purposes:

  1. Assists seniors to stay in their homes longer. Clients are more productive and able to remain connected to community and family through favorite websites set up by the client and caregiver as well as SKYPE, a scrolling alert/message system, brain bending exercises and more.
  2. Enables caregivers to assess a client’s abilities and helps monitor activities of daily living to keep them safe. They are able to accommodate a client’s needs and coordinate with doctors. This technology provides a number of wellness devices to fill the need of many different health issues including a blood pressure device, a weight scale, and a pill dispenser which all use a wireless bluetooth device to record results in the computer and route them directly to a nurse or other care provider.
  3. Gives family members peace of mind. Family members and caregivers are able to remotely upload pictures and send messages in real time, post daily reminders, create calendar appointments and events for the client. Family members are able to monitor their loved ones health concerns and stay in touch with caregivers.

LA Home Care cites Dorothy O. as an example of someone who is benefiting from this technology and who has been able to stay in her home longer. Without this technology Dorothy O. would likely be in an assisted living facility. “We have used Skype to see her newest great-grandchild in Hawaii,” says Leslie Ann. “She has some medical issues that have greatly improved while using the GrandCare system. She likes the fact that if she is in need of a nurse she only has to push a button and I would receive a message saying she needed help. Of course for emergencies she continues to have the Lifeline pendant. I can monitor all movement in the apartment and that can be reassuring to family members who are only hearing part of the issue over the phone. Family members can also log into Dorothy’s computer and see the same information that I do. This makes a well-rounded caring atmosphere.”

For more information about LA Home Care, Leslie Ann or this technology visit www.mylahomecare.com or call 320-828-0802.

Living Connected in Benton County www.bentoncountyconnected.org is a project partner in the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities Initiative (MIRC). MIRC is a coalition of 19 statewide partners and 11 demonstration communities funded in large part through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. The work of the coalition focuses on bringing the full promise of broadband technologies to rural Minnesota communities, businesses and people. Blandin Foundation serves as the project administrator. More about MIRC is available at www.blandinfoundation.org.

Project FINE doing great in Winona

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to meet with Project FINE in Winona. They are a nonprofit organization that helps newcomers integrate into the community. They provide foreign language interpreters and translators as well as opportunities for education, information, referral, and empowerment for immigrants and refugees. With funding through MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities), they have also started with broadband adoption and computer literacy programs.

They have received donated computers and money from community partners. They have computer science majors who are tutoring FINE clients. Currently they offer training in the classes, but they have plans to expand training to people’s homes. The response has been terrific; people come early to the classes and want more. One attendee offered a nice testament to FINE…

“I am thankful for the class. I have nothing but positive things to say about Project FINE. I was able to get my Drivers License and employment through them. I’m not sure where to get the services if there is no Project FINE. I am so thankful to them.” – Cha Lee

Winona has become a hub for New Americans. Fatima Said, Project Fine manager, is Bosnian. There are many clients from the Hispanic and Hmong communities. Folks from the Hispanic and Hmong communities take classes either separately in their native language or together in an English-language class. While Project Fine works extensively with these groups, the computer/internet classes have been the first ones with great interaction between the two communities.

So as if often the case the curriculum and primary goals have been based on Digital Inclusion – but the results have expanded beyond technology. There was even a story of a Hmong family who gave an old washer/dryer to a Hispanic family as a result of interaction at the class.

It’s just one of the stories of success that we’re starting to see with the MIRC projects.

Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities: Broadband as a Rural Development Strategy

I’m excited to share the following article with John’s permission. It was originally published by the Small Town & Rural Planning Division, American Planning Association.

By John C. Shepard, AICP, Southwest Regional Development Commission (1,284 words + Resources)

America’s economy runs on broadband. Ninety five percent of small businesses that have computers have adopted broadband internet service, according to US Small Business Administration studies. While a similar percentage of private households have access to broadband internet (2/3 have actually adopted broadband), that still leaves hundreds of thousands of small town and rural residents in states such as Minnesota without basic access to this essential element of 21st Century infrastructure.

The Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) project aims to do something about that. Minnesota’s Blandin Foundation was awarded stimulus funding in 2010 by the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to reach out to rural Minnesota (which we affectionately call “Greater Minnesota”) through education, training, technical assistance and removing barriers to broadband adoption. The Blandin Foundation has a long record with their Broadband Initiative working to improve economic vitality in rural communities by encouraging development of telecommunications markets and infrastructure. They also sponsor the Blandin on Broadband Blog and an annual Blandin Broadband Conference. The Initiative has developed principles such as ubiquity, symmetry, and affordability that have guided their efforts in small towns and rural areas across the state.

There is a significant gap between rural and urban broadband adoption rates. The small percentage of citizens still without access to broadband infrastructure is predominately located outside metropolitan areas. In Minnesota, for example, stimulus-funded mapping by the Connected Nation organization found that only 3/4 of households in rural Jackson County along the Iowa border have access to broadband service, let alone subscribe. Among the Leach Lake Band of Ojibwe, surveys found only 48% of households with land-line telephones subscribe to broadband services. Rural demographic characteristics such as an aging population, lower per capita income, and lower educational attainment compound the challenge.

The MIRC project draws on the Intelligent Community Indicators framework developed by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF): broadband, knowledge workers, digital inclusion, innovation, and advocacy. “The basic question,” stated Robert Bell of ICF at a project training session, “is ‘Do you want your community to be a place your children can live in 20 years from now?’“ The internet today is like oxygen, Bell noted. You don’t miss it until you try to do anything without it. In the ICF framework, broadband infrastructure is an essential utility that provides a solid foundation for economic development. The knowledge workforce of the new economy relies on broadband connectivity to spur innovation, in the public and private sector. Digital inclusion efforts utilize broadband to empower ALL members of the community. Marketing and advocacy, finally, celebrates success and helps cross-pollinate new ideas.

While broadband internet access underlies the MIRC project, broadband is just a tool to help create better communities. Broadband is the journey not the destination. The project doesn’t push cable modems or DSL, fiber optics or satellite, mobile or fixed wireless, nor dwell too much on improving asymmetrical upload/download speeds that place most of the US at a distinct international disadvantage. Rather than debating 1 Mbps vs. 100 Mbps service, initial project reports are highlighting what speed it takes to do basic Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) vs. telemedicine increasingly necessary for an aging rural population. Project partners discuss the technical details and are working with local leaders to better understand their options, but at the end of the day the intent is to make the technology transparent so we can all concentrate on helping create those places where our children want to live.

The Blandin Foundation assembled a core team of local experts, including Community Technology Advisors and Treacy Information Services, to support an array of partners from across Minnesota. The core team is supporting local efforts with community technology planning to reduce the ‘digital divide’ and create a ‘culture of use’. Public and non-profit MIRC partners include:

  • University of Minnesota Extension is delivering e-entrepreneurship training and technical support to small businesses in rural communities
  • MN Learning Commons is developing knowledge worker courses, career exploration and learning pathways
  • MN Workforce Centers are extending public access to training and new online learning opportunities
  • MN Renewable Energy Marketplace is providing technical assistance focused on creating new jobs in renewable energy industries
  • PCs for People, a non-profit organization that refurbishes previously-owned Windows machines, is distributing 1,000 free personal computers in Greater Minnesota. Minnesota-based Atomic Learning joined w/PCs for People to provide free online training for computer recipients.
  • 11 Demonstration Communities, including small towns, rural counties, and a Native American reservation, are providing matching grants to local broadband projects
  • Regional Development Organizations are assisting with broadband advocacy and information sharing on development strategies
  •  University of Minnesota-Crookston EDA Center is measuring progress in individual small towns and across rural areas of Greater Minnesota.

Regional planning and development organizations like the Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC) are helping bridge the gap between state-wide service providers and local communities. Whether it’s helping entrepreneurs start new businesses or small towns chart their future land use plans, regional planners are looking at new ways to foster innovation in rural areas. “Southwest Minnesota is seeing great local investment in broadband infrastructure,” said SRDC Chairman Gary Sorenson. “Now we need to use that infrastructure to be competitive in the global economy.”

Public and private utility providers are making improvements to their networks. The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group, for example, is leveraging experience from the Windom, MN, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project to build a 125-mile fiber ring to connect eight communities in Jackson County, which will greatly improve the existing low access rate. The independent Woodstock Telephone Co, based in Ruthton, MN, population 284, is dropping FTTH to 1,300 access lines across 450 square miles of rural customers. MIRC is working with these communities to help more people get better use out of that infrastructure.

MIRC is also supporting recommendations from other sources. In 2010, the FCC issued a national broadband plan that stated “Like electricity a century ago, broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.” The national plan proposes policies intended to remove barriers to broadband deployment and foster competition, according to analysis completed by the MIRC project team. The Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force reported in 2009 that “To remain competitive with other states and the rest of the world, Minnesota must make a long-term commitment to developing and maintaining ultra high-speed broadband capability.” In addition to policy initiatives, the Task Force report to the Minnesota Legislature included action items for local government, such as:

  • Plan once; develop coordinated broadband, electric grid, and energy retrofit projects.
  • Dig once; coordinate infrastructure construction projects, such as roads and electrical grid improvements, with ubiquitous broadband projects.
  • Encourage conduit installation with new development.

Lessons will be emerging from the MIRC project as activities progress. With the timeframe of the federal stimulus funding, MIRC has been something of a design-build project, so adjustments are being made as we go. Organizations such as Connected Nation are compiling new and improved GIS maps of broadband availability in several states, and local projects continue to bring new and improved wired and wireless broadband access to more of our country.

It is increasingly apparent that planners need to treat broadband internet service the same as other basic utility networks like roads, water and sewer, or the electric grid. We need to know about broadband, yes, but also about how knowledge workers in our community are using that infrastructure, and how we can include all members of our community in online opportunities. Planners need to be advocates for the future of our communities. The Intelligent Communities framework is a development strategy that small towns and rural communities can use to log on to that future.
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Resources

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John C. Shepard, AICP, is Development Planner for the Southwest Regional Development Commission in Slayton, Minnesota. John has experience in local economic and community development across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states. He blogs on life, liberty and the pursuit of Americana at www.jcshepard.com.

Uncertainty of Federal Funding for Rural Broadband

Lately I’ve heard a lot about Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation Reform. (I’m hoping to have notes on the topic from a recent MN PUC meeting to post soon.) The concern is that federal funding goes to the right place to promote and sustain broadband in areas where it is difficult to make a business case to provide broadband. No one seems to deny that some areas need that subsidized support, the debate is on how it’s doled out.

But while in the industry we’ve been working on the rules to the game, someone else has been working on a game change at a higher level. Daily Yonder got the word from Stimulating Broadband

A full $1.445 billion in federal funds slated this year for rural telecommunications project capital subsidies is now in jeopardy. The risk of steep cuts to 4 programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each of which is now open to funding applications, is part of the partisan battle over the larger federal budget.

Unlike the discussions of USF and ICC, it seems that broadband isn’t the issue at hand – taxes and government spending are the big issues. I think that makes the discussion much more difficult. A discussion of USF and ICC is like sibling rivalry. We’ll argue hard, we all know the nuances, the rest of the world may or may not understand the fight. Taxes is like you’re dad coming in and telling you it’s time for bed. The nuance is gone, the decision has been made, the fight is over. My intention is not to trivialize USF and ICC – but just to say that tax talk is a game changer. And it may have an impact across the board…

Based on our review of the budget process, and off the record discussions with officials, StimulatingBroadband.com believes all of the programs are at risk of potentially substantial cuts:

Total RUS Rural Telecom Grants & Loans: $1.445 billion
Subtotal, Grants: $ 55 million, 4%
Subtotal, Loans: $ 1.39 billion, 96%

Community Connect Grants: $ 25 million
Distance Learning and Telemed. Grants: $ 30 million
Broadband Access Loans: $ 700 million
Telecommunications Loans: $ 690 million, total
Direct Loans, Hardship Loans $145 million, subtotal
Direct Loans, Cost of Money Loans $250 million, subtotal
Guaranteed/Insured Loans $295 million, subtotal

Senator Klobuchar praises broadband in Southwest Minnesota

According to the Worthington Globe Senator Amy Klobuchar mentioned local broadband success while talking to area residents over the weekend…

Klobuchar praised the efforts of the Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group, which has received federal funding in order to bring fiber optic cables to the area for broadband Internet, telephone and cable television access to local communities. The improved broadband should help the area retain its existing businesses as well as allow for further economic development.

Update on Anoka County Broadband Plan

Last week I attended the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition BTOP Summit. As I said last week, it was a great opportunity to hear from folks making policy and see what’s happening, especially with ARRA-funded projects across the country. It was also an opportunity to learn more about Anoka County – as David Minke (from Anoka) and Essam El-Beik (from Zayo) were presenting at the conference.

I captured most of their presentation on video. Most of the presentations from the day were from libraries and schools – folks who seemed unreservedly to want to be part of the local broadband project. Anoka County was a little different. Like other countywide projects, Anoka needs to get support from individual cities as well as the county, which means talking to taxpayers about investment and that can always be a challenge – but I think it helps the project leaders hone the benefits of broadband. (In fact, Lino Lakes was meeting to discuss broadband the night I met the folks from Anoka.)

Update on UMN project at Hmong American Partnership

The University of Minnesota received about $3 million to address broadband adoption in the Twin Cities through improved computer centers and broadband training and internships. One of their partners is the Hmong American Partnership (HAP). We posted some background info on them last November and mentioned their Open House the following month. Since them I haven’t heard much (although because they are urban, not rural I don’t seek out much info) so I was pleased to see an update in the Twin Cities Daily Planet

HAP has implemented employment readiness classes where it teaches participants how to interview for jobs, develop skills and habits to become better employees, life skills and financial literacy. They have found that many people don’t have familiarity with computers, so the updated computer center will provide them opportunities to develop additional skills.

HAP’s three centers-two in St Paul and one in Minneapolis-provide programs and services such as economic development and housing, employment services, educational training, youth and family services, and elderly services. The computer center is located at HAP’s main location, 1075 Arcade St., St. Paul. The computer center hours there are Monday, 1-3 p.m.; Wednesday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

The BAP, envisioned as a service to bridge the digital divide for under-resourced sections of the Twin Cities, has created computer centers in four federally-designated poverty zones: north Minneapolis, south Minneapolis, southeast Minneapolis, and St. Paul. The community groups in these areas are typically African American, Latino, Native American, Somali, and Hmong.

The BAP is a $3.6M initiative of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center (UROC) in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Office of Business Community and Economic Development, and the community-based Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium (http://multiculturallife.org/). The initiative established two new computer centers and upgraded nine existing ones

A-Vu: an update on an unfunded ARRA application

The ARRA funds spurring a lot of ideas. I guess that’s the nature of stimulus funding. Some of those projects were funded; many weren’t. I’ve often wondered what has happened to the good ideas that didn’t get funding. Well thanks to Jeff Pesek at Tech.MN, I got a glimpse of at least one project today.

Jeff reports on A-Vu Media

A recent SEC notification indicates that Winona-based A-Vu Media has raised $214k in equity financing over the past few months.

A-Vu’s specifics aren’t very clear, but note on the website explains the conceptual goal as one of reducing Internet and communication complexities for senior citizens and persons of special needs.

I remembered the name from old lists of Minnesota ARRA applications. Their round two application describes their project:

A highly simplified user interface facilitates preprogrammed direct access to multiple services delivered through an integrated digital “TV/PC”. All services are remotely programmed and controlled by a 24/7 customer service operator on a secure network. This network creates new high value connections for the users and all those providing healthcare and other broadband based services.

It’s great to see a project move forward.