As originally posted on Blandin on Broadband…
Question: What does our extended cold and snowy weather have in common with broadband?
Answer: The promise of 10-20 Mb ubiquitous broadband and 70 degrees and sunny weather both seem like they will never come!
We do know that 70 and sunny will be here sometime in the next 90 days, but the path to meeting the state broadband goal is much less certain. The areas that lack wired broadband solutions that meet state broadband goals are clearly not easy to serve; densities and terrain ensure that private sector companies cannot invest in these areas and reach their ROI hurdles. We know from the feasibility studies recently completed in some areas that the business case for these areas is marginal even with much longer public sector financing horizons and 100% adoption. These areas with broadband are the same areas that needed significant subsidies to get telephone and electric utilities as those technologies emerged as standard requirements for quality of life and economic competitiveness.
The legislative session is almost over and once again, there are no signs of any new tools, financing programs or incentives to stimulate private or public sector investment, or a more defined or enabled public sector authority to stimulate broadband investments at the local or county level.
Even as we fail to reach the current state broadband goals, those very goals seem increasingly inadequate as Gb broadband is fast emerging as the new global standard.
What’s more, in Minnesota we still have health care, education, public safety all doing their own thing with no coordination in sight and not even on the task force agenda.
I am encouraged to see some regional planning emerging and hope that they can push their way forward to some new solutions – kudos to the east central broadband initiative and to the new group in Region Five!
Earlier this month, Bill Coleman was on the on Digital Inclusion at the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas.
Other panelists included
- Debra Berlyn – Executive Director, Project GOAL
- Geoff Daily – Executive Director, FiberCorps
- Nicol Turner-Lee, Ph.D. – President and CEO, NAMIC, Inc.
Here’s the presentation:
You can also see the archived session on the BroadbandUS.TV website.
As originally posted in the Blandin Foundation April 2013 eNews…
Good planning, collaboration and action! Seems to be the recipe for success.
A regional broadband event, a draft feasibility report and an email from a newly satisfied broadband consumer have me thinking about the path to achieving the Minnesota broadband goal.
Congratulations to the organizers of the East Central Broadband Summit. With 80 attendees and the active participation of many broadband providers, it was an exciting day of active conversation. The organizers are now following up on at least a couple of the priorities identified at the event and it will be interesting to see if the conversations begun at the Summit can lead to broadband solutions – wired, wireless or hybrid – in these five underserved communities.
Redwood County is now reviewing the feasibility study partially funded through the Blandin Foundation Robust Broadband Networks Feasibility Fund program. The study examines a couple of options for bringing Redwood County up to the state broadband standard. The study is unique in its significant assumption about the role of the area incumbent providers. Again, it will be interesting to see if study and discussion can lead to a broadband solution.
The email that I received was from a health professional who had contacted me more than a year ago about her frustration with a lack of broadband at her home in northeastern Minnesota. Thanks to the entrepreneurial folks at Laurentian Wireless, her situation has greatly improved.
As originally posted in Blandin on Broadband eNews…
Good planning, collaboration and action! Seems to be the recipe for success.
Over the past couple weeks, our Blandin team has seen the fruits of the harvest of our MIRC communities and new seeds planted in our new BBC communities. In addition, we have seen what a small group, ad hoc in nature, can do with a little facilitation and assistance.
I was part of a group that toured central and northern Minnesota with federal evaluators. In each location, our MIRC coordinators and their teams talked about success through collaboration, new partnerships and sustainable efforts. Project leaders beamed with pride about new activities and new ways of doing old things.
Over the past several weeks, Karl Samp and I have helped launch nine new community teams in our BBC communities. It was fun to meet so many great people who are interested in benefiting their communities and organizations. They have plenty of ideas and lots of energy. They are hoping to repeat the success of the MIRC communities and by utilizing the lessons learned through MIRC, Karl and I are determined to help them do just that.
Finally, the Blandin team was energized and amazed by the attendees at the East Central Broadband Summit in Hinckley. About 80 people attended and heard presentations from Bernadine Joselyn, telecom providers, community members and Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Then the attendees got to work and discussed ways to work together, within and across sector and geographic boundaries. Thanks to the planning team and the participating telecom providers for a very active discussion!
We will be anxious to support the continuing work and recognize accomplishments. With four BBC communities operating within the five counties, this will be a new opportunity for significant broadband related activities on improved services, access and use.
Makes it fun to go to work!
As originally posted on Blandin Foundation’s eNews…
After 12 years in business as a consultant, I have managed to fill two four-drawer filing cabinets with paper. In anticipation of installation of a new floor in my home office, I am doing some office cleaning and paper management. I am managing to recycle about three-quarters of the paper in the cabinets. Luckily my garbage guys have mechanical devices on their trucks! I am stunned to think that I could be storing all of this information on a couple of flash drives.
My initial community technology assessments found that dial-up was standard for homes and ISDN and frame relay were used by schools and hospitals. DSL was an emerging technology. Dedicated video conference networks were state of the art with 384k connections. My reports focus on the emergence of the Internet as a critical tool for community development. An advanced website had five or six pages and we encouraged page owners to update them once a quarter for freshness.
Today, Gig networks connect many school systems and many rural farms and lake cabins have FTTH connectivity. Wow, that is progress! Today, many businesses and organizations have online strategies that combine web pages, blogs and social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Again, wow!! Mobile devices are a common way to connect with texts, tweets, maps, apps and more. Wow, wow and wow!!
While there has been great progress in connectivity, the flip side is that many still lack connectivity that meets state broadband standards. For those with dial-up or slow DSL the gap is even more pronounced and its impact is greater. For those who did not have home broadband Internet in 2000, it was considered an inconvenience. Today, it means less access to critical information and a lack of ability to communicate fully with the world around. The connectivity gap for residents using dial-up compared to early DSL was 200 Kbps; today the gap is from somewhere under 56 kbps to 10 Mb to 50 Mb to 1 Gb depending on where you live and your ability to pay. The gap for schools and health care facilities has grown from a 56 k frame relay connection or a T1 (1.54 Mbps) to many 1 Gb school or health care networks. And yes, in the past week I met with a clinic that cannot get more than one T1 from their incumbent telco.
On the applications side, we know that barely a majority of small businesses have a website, fewer have claimed their Google Places and that many have not jumped into the social media game. We know that many small businesses are resistant to change and are slow to adapt. From my perspective, they can choose to adopt and compete, or not.
I do have significant concerns for those who cannot connect due to lack of availability and affordability. With changes in education and health care coming full speed down the applications track, the inability to connect will mean limited access to these critical services and an inability to fully participate in today’s society. Their lack of access will translate into a lack of services for them and unrealized human potential. It will also mean higher costs for society as duplicative and inefficient service delivery mechanisms will need to be maintained with tax dollars.
Lots of work yet to do in the broadband world. And on my filing system!
As originally posted on Blandin Foundation’s eNews…
As the year winds up, I would like to express my gratitude to the many leaders who are working so hard to improve their community’s access to and use of broadband. It is great to see the progress that they are making on the many facets of community broadband – all for the purpose of securing a more prosperous future for their area.
Thanks for working to overcome infrastructure and service shortcomings across your regions, your counties, cities and rural townships. For those putting the final touches on new ARRA funded FTTH and wireless networks, I offer congratulations! For those who are pursuing better services without the benefits of the stimulus programs, I offer encouragement to continue your efforts in spite of the current lack of legal and financial models. Let’s spend the new year convening people who are really interested in making things happen and figure out a new model that brings the strengths of all parties to the table.
Thanks to those who are working on the adoption and increasing sophistication side of the broadband model. We all know that networks without users and value generating applications have limited impact on the economic well-being of our communities. The success of the MIRC Demo Communities and the MIRC statewide partners shows that by creating models and tools, we can move our institutions, businesses and residents upward on the ladder of tech sophistication. The result is that our communities are better positioned for today and tomorrow.
Finally, thanks to all whom I have worked with over the past year. Your positive energy and resulting success has made it a fun and exciting initiative of which I am proud to have played a part. I am looking forward to the new year and continuing to support the work of such great community leaders! Thanks for the opportunity!!
As originally posted in Blandin Foundation’s eNews…
Public – private partnerships are noted in almost every broadband strategy as an alternative to strictly private or public sector network deployment. While some disagree, the consensus of policymakers is that combining private sector technical and marketing expertise with public sector patient capital is a smart way to improve odds of a successful venture. Those who disagree are in one of two camps â€“ strictly private or strictly public.
Some months ago, I wrote about the characteristics of a good private sector partner. Today, I will focus on the characteristics of a good public sector partner.
- Know what your community’s primary goals are before you select a partner. Is it to get better services for your own organization and other public sector entities or is your vision to stimulate community-wide benefits for better services, lower prices, economic competitiveness or quality of life?
- Recognize that the terms of the deal are important to the private sector partnership. Length of the contract/partnership term, decisions on who owns what equipment, who will maintain the network and other operating decisions affect a private partners’ ability to attract equity, obtain debt financing and lock down their business plan. What seems like a small change for the public sector can have a significant impact on the private sector. Too many changes, especially close to the decision-making deadlines, can make a private sector partner lose credibility with their prospective financial partners, especially if your private sector is a smaller, entrepreneurial firm.
- Recognize the impact of press releases on your private sector partners. Know that press releases motivate incumbent telecom firms to lobby even more aggressively against your project. Know that every question about the emerging deal is magnified in the press and that the press is likely to get key details wrong.
Attracting a private sector partner is a real challenge. The ARRA funding helped many partnerships form and deliver on the promise of advanced fiber network deployment. With the stimulus funding done and the pending changes in rural broadband funding from the FCC, understanding what it takes to be a good partner in advance will help you attract and work with a quality private sector provider.
Originally posted in eNews Blandin on Broadband monthly recap…
Feeling the need to start or rejuvenate a community broadband initiative? If so, you are facing numerous questions before you even pick up the telephone or send an email. Questions like: What is the right geography for the effort – your city, city and area townships, the county, multiple counties? Or technology choices – Is it fiber or bust for your effort or is the 700 MHz wireless spectrum with its potential 10 Mb bandwidth or even 3G cellular wireless a “much better than nothing” alternative? What about provider partners- Is there anyone out there with the skills, money and interest?
Blandin Foundation is convening a meeting this week with people from five counties in east central Minnesota to begin a discussion. This area – Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Pine, Aitkin and Carlton have lots of geography with relatively poor service. There has been great interest in broadband in these counties over the years, but the barriers to deployment are significant. It will be interesting to hear what the area broadband leaders have to say. Stay tuned!
Billed as the “Academy Awards for high tech,” rural Minnesota communities and partners received a Tekne Award in Minneapolis on Nov. 1 from the Minnesota High Tech Association for their work on broadband access and adoption. Representatives of the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative collected the “Innovative Collaboration Award” in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
CTAC founder Bill Coleman has been working with the Blandin Foundation on the program since its inception. He was instrumental in the planning and have been working with communities involved with the collaboration for several years.
Selection of Tekne finalists and winners was made by an independent panel of judges. In choosing MIRC, an initiative convened by Blandin Foundation and involving 30 partners, judges noted that, “MIRC has benefited from a legacy of collaboration. MIRC partners are numerous and the impact the collaboration has had on broadband adoption is significant. In fact, the [broadband] adoption rate is 29.8 percent faster in MIRC partner communities when compared to the rest of rural Minnesota.”
All rural regions of Minnesota have engaged in broadband projects as part of the MIRC Initiative. Individual communities initiated more than 70 locally designed and led demonstration projects, such as Lac Qui Parle County’s “Commuter Computer” (mobile learning lab) or Winona’s “Project FINE” (language-specific computer literacy training in Hmong and Spanish).
Statewide MIRC partners provided training to more than 8,000 individuals, computers to more than 1,600 households and has resulted in more than 40,000 households in rural Minnesota subscribing to high-speed Internet. The two-year initiative was funded through a $4.3 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant administered by Blandin Foundation and will be completed at the close of 2012.
“Resilient, vibrant communities are connected communities,” said Dr. Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. “And the quality and diversity of those connections is a hallmark of a community’s leadership and sustainability. Through MIRC, engaged local leaders and statewide partners worked together to bring the promises of broadband to many of Minnesota’s rural communities, including all residents in their progress. Blandin Foundation is thrilled that coalition’s ambitious and innovative work has been honored through the Tekne Award.”
Presented by the MHTA, the Tekne Awards honor those who play a significant role in discovering new technologies that educate, improve lifestyles, and impact the lives and futures of people living in Minnesota and all over the world. The program reinforces Minnesota’s place as one of the most competitive and technologically advanced regions in the world. A full list of winners and finalists is available online at http://www.tekneawards.org/finalists
“The Tekne Awards recognize those whose leadership and dedication to technological innovation helps demonstrate Minnesota as a global player in technology-based markets,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President & CEO of MHTA. “This year’s finalists should be extremely proud of their role in helping Minnesota excel.”
As originally posted on the Blandin Foundation eNews…
As we talk with communities about the Blandin Community Broadband Program, http://tinyurl.com/8d78g5g I am impressed with the level and diversity of interest across the state.
Many communities have expressed their intention to apply to become a Blandin Broadband Community. They seem to understand the level of cross-sector commitment that will be required to successfully participate in the program. Yet, this expectation seems to fuel greater enthusiasm and desire to participate in the program.
Other communities, especially our existing MIRC demo communities, have specific technology projects that they want to implement. Champions in health care, education and small business have ideas that will help their organization and their community deliver services in new and exciting ways. Many of the most promising projects have cross-sector partnerships that put them a step above.
If you have questions about Blandin Broadband Communities or any of the four programmatic grants, be sure to ask!