Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Monday, August 31, 2009
Minneapolis Unwired: Status of Our Community Benefits
[I have been on the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee since the beginning. The Committee disburses the money in the Digital Inclusion Fund via an RFP system to nonprofits.]

In drafting the contract in 2006 for the deployment of the municipal Wi-Fi network, the City of Minneapolis negotiated a number of community benefits with US Internet (now US Internet Wireless or USIW). This "community benefits agreement" (CBA) is one of the first nationally between a city and private vendor and has become somewhat famous in the policy world.

Minneapolis is now three years into the contract with USIW. This would seem a good time to evaluate the benefits and whether Minneapolis is getting its "moneys worth," so to speak.

I dug out the contract so I could see the original language. Community Benefit portion starts on page 6 with payment and pricing information on page C-1. The DIF group has a meeting Wednesday so if you have any feedback, please send it along and I'll do my best to bring it to the meeting.

You will note references in the contract to the Digital Inclusion Task Force (DITF). The DITF "retired" after forming the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee (DIFAC) of which I am a member. That's the "governing" body now monitoring portions of the CBA. (What we exactly are monitoring is up to interpretation.)

USIW was required to fund the DIF with an initial $500,000. That money is paid and accounted for. The DIFAC has given out $400,000 of it over the last two years. We have about $100,000 on account.

USIW is further required to provide monthly payments of five percent (5%) of their "Pre-tax Income from the operation of the Network within the City." DIFAC has not seen any of that money yet and I haven't heard when payments are supposed to begin. USIW does have a representative on DIFAC and we are supposed to learn more this week. According to early estimates by USIW and listed in Attachment C of the contract, USIW should be giving the DIF $467,207 in "Year 3." That would be 2009 if we are counting from the year the contract was signed. (By Year 10, the DIF is supposed to receive $1749,387.)

There is other revenue sharing around the Walled Garden/Community Portal advertising but as far as I can tell, there is no advertising yet. The DIF will also share in revenues from any local municipality Wi-Fi deployments but that hasn't happened yet either (and wouldn't that municipality want its own CBA and share of revenues?).

Walled Garden

USIW is required by contract to build a "walled garden" portal page with free access to whoever can get the signal and access to some City and neighborhood/community sites. That's in place. I don't know how much engagement the City or USIW has with individual communities but you can go to the portal site free and access the City of Minneapolis web site free. That's cool. The contract also specifies content management systems for communities. I'm not sure if that's in place yet. Link to Community Portal.

Free Accounts

The City negotiated 100 free accounts for community technology centers (CTC) in the contract. Applications were sent out this year and 51 groups replied and should have free accounts soon. The City will follow-up with another round of application requests in case some groups missed the first round. If you know of a nonprofit that has public access to computers or tech literacy classes, you should have them contact the City. (You can download the application here.) Organizations will also receive monthly Wi-Fi subscription vouchers for volunteers.

Missing Pieces

The biggest missing piece of course, is the monthly payments to the DIF. I am hopeful that this will be addressed this week.

There are a couple of other items that are missing (or that I'm not aware of).

Free 1MB access

USIW "will offer free 1 megabit broadband Internet access service in public locations (Parks, Plazas) defined by City up to a maximum of five percent (5%) of the geographic area throughout the City." I don't know of any free access. The City press release for the agency free wireless makes it sound like this is in place. It's possible it is. It would certainly seem a good marketing move on the part of USIW. I'll update this after our meeting.


USIW is supposed to be seeking "additional contributions and/or matching funds from community businesses, foundations and charities to increase the amount available in the DIF." This is really important as the volunteer DIFAC doesn't really have the time to do serious fundraising.

USIW is also supposed to sponsor an annual DIF fundraising event. Unless I wasn't invited, as of today, there has been no event.

They are also supposed to conduct community meetings twice per year around the City "to ensure continued encouragement and support for the inclusion into the digital age of the maximum number of citizens, households and businesses in the City." I don't think these have taken place yet either.

We are three years in on the contract. I think we need to address where all the benefits are and USIW should let us know when to expect them. Maybe the City is aware of the issues and has a satisfactory response from USIW. Since I'm a member of DIFAC, you'd think I'd know that but sometimes big cities move in mysterious ways.

I'd love feedback on this especially before the Wednesday meeting.

Posted via email from Peter's posterous

Sunday, August 30, 2009
Day at the Fair (photos)
We went to the Minnesota State Fair today starting with the Milk Run 5K (sorry, no photos), then returning for a family day with the daughter and her family. It was a beautiful day for it (if a bit cool in the morning). 


Paul is the singing guy in the video and my son-in-law.

That's Robbie the Oldest Grandson showing off some autographs he got over by Fan Chatter.

Crayfish are by the DNR building (although I bet they put different critters out each day). 

The fish. If you aren't from around here, you may not know that our fish pond is one of the most popular spots at the fair. 

Trash sculpture. Always an interesting art piece. They make a scavenger hunt out of it as you try to find particular pieces of trash in the sculpture. I can't find the 2009 artist's name at the State Fair site. Looks like they will tell us after the fair is over. 

Seth the Middle Grandson is eating a turkey leg. His father ate most of it but lets him gnaw on the bone.

How the hell long has Spamville been at the fair? 

Lego Nation leaves the Fair today (and travels to Colorado State Fair). Very busy with lots of kids.

The art show. Does anyone anywhere put on an art show like this one? 2,105 artists from all over the state submitted work this year and 382 pieces were accepted. A wonderful show! (I did think photography was a bit weak this year but it was made up for by some incredible photo-realistic pencil work.) I photographed a few pieces.
Alligator Alley is by Denise M. Rouleau
Check out Morning Ritual the necklace by Elizabeth M. Garvey. Those aren't shells.
The lure is entitled Fish Story and by Michael A. Hall.
Bone Doggy is by Mark Davidson

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Peter's posterous

Monday, August 24, 2009
City of Minneapolis seeks BTOP grants to get broadband to public housing
Business Information Systems at the City of Minneapolis is applying for NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant money to bring broadband to Minneapolis Public Housing highrises. The request was approved at the August 10 Ways & Means meeting. Full text of the request is below.

Since they are looking at using Wi-Fi, I will surmise that US Internet Wireless (USIW) will be involved in the deployment. Did anyone consider broadband via fiber which would be much faster and not require any Wi-Fi cards? Another option would be a community wireless system using Open Source hardware and software. I would guess that it would be far cheaper than USIW's equipment. I know of at least one non-profit that might be interested in working on something like that. 

Here's the request (also available at the City's site):

The Recovery Act directed The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits. The result is the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption projects.

BIS has partnered with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) and seeks approval to apply for two grants: 

1. Infrastructure -  to bring broadband into Minneapolis Public Housing highrises 
2. Sustainable Adoption - to develop and deploy an awareness campaign; provide training; purchase and distribute hardware to connect with mobile and WiFi (iTouch, Netbooks); and to update the Minneapolis Civic Garden portal to provide multi-lingual support, mobile accessibility, and ideation software. The sustainable adoption project will reach out to all MPHA residents including Section 8.

In addition to MPHA, BIS is partnering with area organizations. 

Posted via email from Peter's posterous

Saturday, August 01, 2009
Meet Mr. Slim: New AC unit downstairs
We live in (and own) a duplex in Minneapolis. We're on the second floor. We have baseboard electric heating so no ductwork for a central AC system. We have an older industrial AC unit mounted in the wall which does an adequate job of cooling about half of our unit. There's no installed AC in the tenant's unit. Or there wasn't. Now there is. We just had a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim Split-ductless Heat Pump installed. (Never mind that this is  a record-breaking COOL summer in Minneapolis.)

It's really, really quiet. Besides cooling to 12,000 BTU, it will also provide heating at a 13,600 BTU rating which installer said would give enough heat down to freezing temps. It was pricey but we can get some stimulus money to cover 30% of the install charges. (It is Energy-Star rated.)

We are considering (and have a bid) on having one installed upstairs next year. 

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Peter's posterous

Greek-themed Dinner (pictures)
We had an excellent meal the other evening with tabouli, hummus, and a
simple Greek salad. (Taouli wouldn't hold still for a picture.) Wish I
could claim credit for its creation but it was all Mary's doing.

 (I'm also testing some photo quality in posting to posterous)


See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Peter's posterous

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