Posted by: Ann Treacy | December 29, 2011

MN Broadband Task Force Report is Out: Work to be Done

A big congratulations go to the hard-working team that crafted the latest MN Broadband Task Force report. It was done in record time. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (Task Force Chair) sets the tone and expectations in her introduction…

The report we present today is a high-level analysis utilizing existing data and information that will allow the Task Force to move forward into 2012 with a foundation upon which we can develop a more comprehensive approach to broadband policy development. This process will begin in January 2012 when the Task Force will release a Minnesota Broadband Plan Outline.

But even from a high level, the report indicates that there is work to be done if we want to hit the Minnesota Broadband Goals set out in the Minnesota Broadband Law in 2010:

Universal access and high-speed goal. It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2015, all state residents and businesses have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of ten to 20 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of five to ten megabits per second.

The recent report indicates that (as of Oct 2011) only 57.4% of Minnesota households meet that goal. The Law also includes goals to make Minnesota a broadband leader – but the report indicates that in the US we rank 24 in terms of universally accessible broadband speed and 28th in terms of availability.

That’s not so hot. But the group seems ready to hit the ground running in 2012 to close that gap. I know that they are looking at the original Task Force report for some guidance; I think that’s a good place to start.

I suspect policymakers will stick with the Executive Summary so I’m glad that the need is spelled out (no one wants to be at 60 percent of goal). But for staffers and wonks – there’s more detail.

The report highlights the following sectors and facets:

AdoptionConnect MN reports indicate that 99.13 percent of Minnesotans do have access to some level of broadband but that 28 percent of Minnesotans do not subscribe. The stats for adoption are even worse when you look at particular demographics – especially among minority, low-income, rural and senior households. Cost and relevance are noted as key reasons folks don’t subscribe to broadband when the option is available. The report and the Task Force meetings have indicated that adoption will be a focus going forward.

Education – A Connect MN survey that found that for the 243 school districts where they were able to determine a bandwidth number, the speed in use by the school districts ranged from 1Gbps to 1.5Mbps. Same survey also gauged cost of broadband per district at $10,000 to $100 per month.

Health Care – Minnesota is home to several innovative e-health programs and networks such as the Greater Minnesota Telehealth/e-Health Broadband Initiative (GMTBI), Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community and Benton County’s Living Connected program

Energy – The Task Force plans analyze PUC data that tracks utilities past, current and planned smart grid projects.

Industries & Business – Connect MN surveys indicate that 73% of businesses in Minnesota subscribe to broadband and 58 percent of Minnesota businesses have a website.

Libraries – Connect MN will be working with libraries next year to update data provided in 2010 Task Force report.

GovernmentMinnesota’s Network for Enterprise Telecommunications (MNET) connects over 1,000 locations and 300 Minnesota cities. State networks go to schools, higher ed, agencies, court, zoos and other sites. MNET plans to deliver a minimum 100Mbps connection to each county within the next six months

Arts & Culture – Local museums are using technology; tourism is a key industry in Minnesota.

Digital Literacy – There are several state, local and national efforts to increase digital literacy.

ARRA Funding – Programs with a Minnesota interest received more than $238 million in ARRA funding. There’s a nice chart that updates progress on Minnesota programs.


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