Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 26, 2010

Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force Meeting August 26 – full notes

It felt like the first day or school today for the Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force at their first meeting since being appointed a week ago. There were a couple of sophomores who were there to help lead the pack – but otherwise it was freshman orientation. Introductions went well, there was some discussion of rules (open meeting et al), the outgoing class president had some suggestions, they worked our some logistics (next meeting is September 23) and then they talked about what they needed to do to get a passing grade (meet the Legislative objections for an annual report) and what they could do for an A.

I tried to take full notes and have posted them pretty mush asis below.

Commissioner Glenn Wilson started -
We are hoping that you will help meet the goals of the legislature, which is fairly general, please also will focus on ways to help meet those goals. How can we have an impact on how we can improve? And remember the goals are minimums.

Help us draw consensus – help think more broadly so that we have good coverage.

Introductions:
Joanne Johnson – With Frontier for 10 years, before that Onvoy, before that Collin Peterson handling telecommunications issues. I learned a lot about rural constituencies. Our territory is some metro, southern suburbs around Burnsville, otherwise 58 exchanges throughout the state, in nearly every county. Hope to learn where the broadband gaps are. Then we can find out why they’re there. There will be different reasons.

Peter Lindstrom – Two hats: one is VP of Public Affairs with MHTA. The other Mayor of Falcon Heights. Looking forward to being able to answer a question that came up at the recent meeting with Sen Klobuchar. If you were Glinda the Good Witch and make bb happen what would you do?

Pete Royer – Little Crow Telemeida Network K12 networks in rural areas. We have a wide base of schools. Been dealing with technology here since 1989. We were set up to teach classes over video; we still have several foreign language classes online.

We’ve been dealing with broadband since 1987. Our network is currently a Gig between campuses and 70 Mbps Internet connections for the school districts.

John Schultz – U-reka Broadband we do work with strategic planning and implementation of broadband networks. We had $35 million in ARRA funding for successful programs in MN and Western WI. We work with Windom, Troy WI, and Lac qui Parle. Have a Public Computer Center grant with Northern Tribal Communities.

Have worked at all levels in telephone, TV, telecommunications in the area. My interest is in building network access. I am interested in the 6 percent that are not served. There are ways that cities and providers can work together.

Andy Schriner – Director of Public Affairs for Qwest. Worked for West Publishing. Primary interest is reaching the 6 percent and how can we build demand for broadband. We need to reach out to low income communities, which don’t seem to adopt.

Lois Langer Thompson – Director of Hennepin County Library. Started as a children’s librarian. We have 1700 computers with Internet access. My interest is in how we can partner. We need work together (public and private).

Shirley Walz – work at Thomson Reuters, started when it was West Publishing. Interest in broadband goes back to 2006 while working with a MHTA committee. During that time I spoke with a lot of people. Got further in involved with the last Task Force. I too am interested adoption and the final 6 percent. I teach community education at Woodbury and Cottage Grove. The classes are always full. Folks are interest in email. Can’t get broadband at home in Hastings (5 miles outside city limits).

Bob Bass – President of AT&T in Minnesota. New to Minnesota: 12 years in AT&T but 2 years in MN. Also worked for State of Nevada. Has climbed poles, done sales – pretty much everything in the industry. We’re focusing wireless in MN. It will take a combination of technologies to reach the final 6 percent. We’re watching the 3G evolution.

Brent Christensen – on the last Task Force. I want to see us continue where the last TF left. I’m president of MN Telecom Alliance (MTA). Was the GM of Christensen Communications. I have a tech background. My night job is the Medelia School Broadband and involved with economic development in Medelia. We’ve starting an online school this fall.

Mike Martin – ED of MNCAA for 25 years. There are 25 businesses serving 600 communities with cable and other services. The regulatory picture for different providers (telecom, cable) is getting blurrier and blurrier. In fact some MTA members are also MCCA members. I’m an active board member at a camp up near BWCA. Our focus is reaching the final 6 percent. We never had this problem with video. Also interested in studies brought up by the Task Force.

Cindy Kevern — Director of information services for Anoka County. Worked for county government for 30 years; worked in IT for more than 20 years. We worry about connectivity between buildings. And I realized that if we can’t get broadband between buildings, then what are residents? When working on ARRA grant we learned that folks would not choose Anoka again because of the poor connectivity. The 6 percent isn’t all rural. We need to come up with solutions.

Todd Kruse – Grew up in Iowa. Worked in politics. Then worked for Frontier working in government –corporate relations. In 1998, I left to join a business focused on corporate public affairs. Now I represent consumers. Spent a lot of time in Europe. Moved back to MN in 2004 and set up my own consulting. We have software tool and sell it via Go-To-Meeting. At night I write a weekly column and teach in MNSCU. We have a system called D2L (Desire to Learn), which his out online teaching program. I teach a blended class. Live in IGH.

David Lind – born and raised in MN. I represent healthcare organizations. We are lucky to have great healthcare companies. Spent 30 years managing technology in 5 different industries. There are solutions that are accessible. We can look at where we were, are and need to go. The day of the e-visit is here. The gating factor to telemedicine is the network. As demands continue to increase (such as digital imaging) we have to re-architected our network and are working on Healthcare w/o Boundaries – any access, anywhere, anytime, any device. Lake cabin in Northern MN. I’m looking forward to 4G.

Mike Reardon – work for City of St Paul, been in government entire career. I work closely with Comcast. I am representing MACTA. I represent municipal perspective. There’s a lot of meat in the original TF report. It will be nice to work to get this going. Affordability is a big issue.

Ken Wolf, vice-chair – Worked at Control Data from 1960-1988. I saw their rise and got downsized. In 19764-80 we had a network of computers around the world. The all fed data into a central computer in Bloomington – for monthly financial reports. Was a City Councilmember in Burnsville. Was in House of Reps from 1993-2003. Worked at the Department of Commerce but job shifted to MN PUC. Now retired and saw this opportunity. We are blessed here because so many people can change providers.

Lisa (on the phone) is with Connected Nation will be helping to get numbers together.

Other attendees: Ann Higgins, Diane Wells, Alberto Quintela

Rick King – Advice for the new Task Force

Legislators were supporters and they are interested. It’s gotten more heated and more to the foreground.

What we did –

  • Pre-work – we started a group to look at broadband in 2004. We started thinking about the State in 2006.
  • Law April 2008
  • TF started in August 2008
  • Comprehensive report came out in November 2009
  • Legislative Action happened in April 2010
    • State goals were set
    • Annual Report requested
    • On-going council created

The Legislature members are interested in this. Cultivating interest with Legislators will be helpful. There will be changes after the election

How we did it

  • 23 diverse people met 18 times for a full day over 16 months
  • The art of the possible
  • Agreed to without dissention or votes (we worked on agreement, not votes)
  • Listening and collaborative spirit developed
  • Took the show on the road

We looked for commonalities, not differences and that helped. We found that there were many intersections of agreements. Then we could sand down some of the sharp differences. Some differences we found weren’t worth the time and some were just too big to handle – but we could agree on a lot.

What we learned

  • You can do things by consensus
  • Trust is key
  • Partnerships
  • Early values work helped
  • Social time (meals and drinks)
  • Where there is a will (and declared direction), there is a way
  • Lobbyist and media help

Partnership is the model. The industries have spent $8 billion on broadband in MN; compared to millions spent from ARRA. We can’t forget about the partners who have already invested. That’s how we got to 94 percent coverage – not 80.

The value work we did at the onset did frustrate some people at the beginning – but it was valuable.

Lobbyists are like staff to leadership because they don’t have staff. Many people in the room have good contacts and you may need to exercise those contacts. Broadband is a big issues lately with the FCC visits, editorials in the papers.

Make sure you think about the new Task Force vs the return members. There may be items you want to revisit. For the returners – you have to be open to the new voices. For the new folks – you may have to listen to the voices that have been there.

Questions

How much did politics play into the process? (Say for example with Connected Nation.)

There wasn’t much political influence on the TF members or report. The Legislative Chairs and Governor wanted to hear what we had to say. There were some issues having business folks dealing with government rules – such as open meeting and data practices. Not that there were problems – but it is a different set of rules.

The State had Connected Nation do mapping. Then there was more money and the State again selected Connected Nation as a potential partner although they could have selected a Minnesota-based partner. The Task Force was not involved. It’s wasn’t in the charter and so we didn’t do it. We spoke about some of the ARRA applications but we recognized that chiming in on the ARRA applications wasn’t our job. The State (and the Task Force) was happy with their experience with Connected Nation. Connected Nation data isn’t perfect – but it’s the best we have.

Who is Connected Nation?

They provide broadband maps to States. The providers give their data to CN and CN uses the info in aggregate to build maps. They also had residents do speed tests.

There were attempts to bring in politics to the Task Force but we focused on the mission.

What is Lisa’s roll? (Lisa was on the phone from Connected Nation.)

Lisa Araya(?) will be working with State of MN on mapping project. We will speak more at future meetings. We want to be able to support your efforts moving forward. I don’t live in MN but will be in the state at future meetings. There will be a Minnesotan resident on the project soon.

There is more money coming in via NTIA and we are hoping to hire someone through Connected Nation that will be able to work with the Task Force.

BREAK

Logistics – Discussion of Report

[Ann's note: these are pretty stream of consciousness - I tried to follow as best I could. Roughly each line represents a change in speaker. ]

Don’t we have very specific charges? We’re advising commissioner on report. So job one is the benchmarking.

Connected Nation: One of us will be at the next meeting. And we will be able to share information.

We have a change in Administration so that may complicate matters – but we can still ask the Commissioner what he wants. Our lives are made easier by the fact that Connected Nation is responsible for statistics. But the legislature calls for “the task force shall, by Jan 1 of each year issue a status report to the commissioner or commerce on the attainment of the Minnesota broadband goals and recommendations for achieving these goals.”

Shirley will be able to gather statistics for the Task Force using resources used before – that will help us keep consistent.

Our goal is top 5 or top 15 – it would be nice to have consensus on where we stand and where we are going.

How did we come up with top 15 in nation?

There was a lot of talk about how Minnesota doesn’t just compete with Wisconsin anymore – we also compete with Germany. So while MN isn’t a nation, it does make sense to compare ourselves with international standing.

The charge is to report on goals that are met – but it’s not just statistics. We should go beyond that. The Commissioner seems hopeful that we will go beyond the goals.

We will create a list of the types of topics we want to investigate – the Commissioner can choose what he wants for the official report – and we can decide about what else we want to pursue.

One thing we could do is track the $140 million coming to MN through ARRA – when they money comes in. We could get information on Blandin’s project. Bernadine mentioned that 75 percent of homes have computers; and of those 91 percent have access. We should get that report. [Ann’s note: that report isn’t out quite yet.]

It would be nice to get data from previous reports. There’s room for growth with the folks who don’t have computers. Age and income have been big determiners in whether folks have computers.

Why do we care of people take advantage of broadband?

There’s a sociological group of Tech-Nos, folks who knowingly opt out of using technology. One father spent 40 years in telecommunications – but he opts not to get online.

Iin terms of adoption, I wonder what the demographics are.

Minnesota is 14th or 23 for Internet/broadband use. Some folks think that if we had access, we would use it. But some folks believe that people are choosing not to get online. We need to know why we’re ranking lower – is it because we don’t have access or is it because we don’t it or is it because we don’t know how to use it?

You could grow adoption by simply offer training and being available for questions. It will drive adoption.

What is the goal of the legislature? I thought it was economic competitiveness? That’s clear cut. If the goal is social engineering – that’s another issue. If we’re talking accessibility then 100 percent is good. But if we’re talking about getting computers to folks – that’s different.

We need to go back to the report – it asserts that the ranking show that we are competitive – when it comes to telemedicine. We don’t want to force folks to do what they don’t’ want to do – We want to remove barriers.

So maybe we need to skim off the Tech-Nos from our numbers or goals.

There’s a class of folks who don’t want to pay for broadband. One barrier is that it’s too hard to transition from dialup to broadband if you are not tech savvy.

To be a successful citizen you need to be online: to become a citizen, to get a job, to file for unemployment you need to get online. We need to move and transition folks to understanding how/why to use a computer.

Our goals talk only about accessibility – not adoption. Actually the OECD goal is ranking 15th addresses penetration.

We spoke a lot about speed vs adoption but ubiquity became a top goal with the TF overall.

Speed can correlate – but it can be driven by wanting faster speeds with increased adoption.

1994 the state of MN had one Internet connection, a 56K to Chicago; 16 years later look at us.

In the 1990’s that schools needed more than one computer. But schools then thought that a computer lab would solve everything – but really as Randy Young noted back then “if you have a bad school and put computers in it, you still have a bad school.”

We may need to look at the 6 percent – that’s using an old definition. We might need to understand why folks are happy to stay with dialup. At one time we had to convince folks to use electricity, it’s similar here too.

It does make sense for us to look at adoption – perhaps starting with household computer ownership.

Maybe our first step is to figure out what our benchmark is going to be and mean. Maybe we need to talk about what is access, availability, adoption – find some real base numbers for the state. Then next year we can talk about how to make improvements.

We need to look at the 2015 goal; and we need to look at applications. We need to decide whether our 2015 goals will hold steady. Technology changes – and that opens the door to increasing the speed goals.

That was the theory for setting the speed range. We wanted bandwidth to meet the needs of the users – be it telemedicine, online learning, video gaming… The whole point is to make sure that in Minnesota people would not have a broadband barrier – that’s why we included the ranking goals.

So we need to find reliable data to measure our core measures: speed, availability, penetration.

We feel that there is background narrative that needs to go with numbers.

Why is there a difference between downloading and uploading?

It is a technical issue. You have a finite capacity for traffic to travel. You can move more data down because more people want that. But you can get symmetrical connections and more applications will require that in the future – or at least they will require faster upload speeds – not necessarily symmetrical speeds.

I came into past meetings thinking symmetrical was important – but was convinced that asymmetrical is fine so long as both directions serve the need of the customer.

As an academic, the rankings (pg 42) seem to favor places with high population density. We should look at that so that we can look at anomalies. The Netherlands is not like the US.

But Canada and Australia might be exceptions.

We should look at what folks who are doing well are doing. The TF just ran out of time on that issue.

The government doesn’t need to provide a computer – but a partnership with someone who can might help. Some states have jumped ahead with government intervention.

In Australia they have a national broadband network – but parliament is hung up on that and Finland made broadband a right.

We discussed early that there are folks who don’t have computers – but still if they want to interact with businesses or government agencies, they need to get online. So people need to have access. If we force folks to fill out forms online (such as unemployment) then we need to provide access to those form – via libraries, schools or other.

Do we want Legislators to come in?

It would be nice to know what their expectations are.

The first report will be the shortest.

Can we start using broadband in the meeting? It would be nice to videoconference folks into the meeting –not just a phone. Will we have a web site?

Videoconference is tough because we don’t have a budget. If we set up videoconference in one area, we have to set it up in multiple areas to adhere to open meeting laws.

Web site – no budget so that again makes it tough. The last site is hosted on Thomson Reuters. We could look into using that. We’ll need to ask the Commissioner. But possibly we can post on the Department web site.

Maybe we shouldn’t post news and info because of filtering/selection issues. But we can share articles in other ways.

We need to be sensitive to open meeting rules. At the next meeting Alberto Quintela will go over decisions made last time on how to adhere to open meeting laws.

Where can we meet? MTA would work – and there’s free parking. Anoka would work too – maybe we can have Diane collect info and we can pick places. St Paul Central might work.

Next Meeting: 9 am – 3 pm on September 23

Sub-groups worked really well last time and are something we may want to use again.

Do we want presentations? Yes. Especially if we start in January. Next month we’ll have folks from Connected Nation.

It might make sense to include an open forum for public comments.

Maybe we could schedule some field trips. Not necessarily to International Falls – but more local trips to see what folks are doing.

Or maybe we could go to International Falls.

But if I go to International Falls I don’t even want to think about broadband.

Well let’s wait to decide and maybe let’s shoot for field trips in 2011 after the first report has been written.


Responses

  1. Thank you Ann for the great overview. I do have to admit that am a bit disapointed on the group diversity. I’m glad to see someone like Mike Reardon to help represent the municipalities, but where is the true small rural city and rural county representation?

  2. These are pretty high caliber folks, so I doubt it would have made a difference, but when I looked at the application material and they said in-person meetings in St. Paul…. Is it a surprise to have people making 40 mile trips instead of rural folks making 400 mile (or longer) trips?
    You think a Broadband advisory group would have at least made a nod at USING broadband for meetings instead of relying on even more driving, driving, driving. The last comments are telling: The road to International Falls goes both ways.
    That said, it’s good to see they are jumping in full tilt.

  3. Melissa,

    Mike will do a great job. And I know that some members are great champions for rural cities and counties – but it would be nice to see more folks from the field.

    One thing that might not have transferred in the notes is that it seems that many members have personal connections to rural areas. I’m hopeful that that will help too.

  4. John,

    That’s a good point. It came up yesterday. Pete Royer participated via phone. He had asked about video conference capabilities – especially since that’s really his game. Unfortunately, the committee has no budget so they aren’t able to offer it as an option.

    There are two sticky wickets – one the cost of allowing Pete to join via videoconference, that might be surmountable however opening that door apparently opens the door new open meetings rules. Once the meeting is made available to Pete via video, they would need to make it available to other communities too.

    Given Pete’s connections I suspect they might find a way to make this work. I remember these issues coming up with the first Task Force too. Maybe one of the legacies of the Task Force would be to find a way to use broadband to make this work, not only for themselves but to create a template for all of the other various statewide committees that run into this same issue.

  5. [...] and their offerings, status of regulations and competition, as well as topography. (Someone at the Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force last week mentioned the need to look at topography when comparing International broadband [...]

  6. My name is Scott Colesworthy. I am the owner of Soltrite, a video conferencing service provider using new technology that creates an HD video conference over the public internet. All you need is a PC/MAC, webcam and audio device of choice. I would be willing to donate some service so some rural members could participate. Who should I discuss this with?

  7. Scott,

    That sounds like a generous offer. I don’t know what the implications would be with open meeting rules – but I suspect Diane Wells at the Department of Commerce would be the person to ask. You can get her contact info here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/minutes1ls86.asp?comm=86109&id=2440&ls_year=86

    Otherwise you might try the Committee Chair Joanne Johnson. You can get her contact info here: http://www.ultra-high-speed-mn.org/CM/Members/JoAnne-Johnson.asp

    Good luck! Ann

  8. [...] a new group of people on the task force this time around.  Click HERE for Ann Treacy's summary of the meeting last month which includes a short backgrounder on each [...]


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