I just finished listening to the session where Margaret Anderson Kelliher spoke about the Minnesota Broadband Task Force to the House. Here’s info on the meeting:
Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Listen Now or Download MP3
Agenda: Overview and Update from the Minnesota High Tech Association on the Minnesota Task Force Broadband report
And my notes on the session:
The Task Force is composed of a wide range of folks – business philanthropic, education, health care… We met 14 times since established in Nov 2011. We have produced 4 reports. Connect Minnesota has been an important partner; they are responsible for broadband mapping.
Our work has been built upon the work for past broadband task forces. There is a state statute for having border to border broadband – established in 2010. We strive to offer recommendations for meeting that goal. We have work to do.
Broadband is a significant issue in terms of how Minnesotans will work, learn and live. Those with high speed Internet (wired or wireless) have greater success. We have companies that would like to live in Minnesota but can’t unless they get better broadband. Digikey is one example.
State goal is download 10 Mbps and upload 6 [sic] Mbps. We have troubles with the upload speed. We get 3 Mbps in many places but not 6. [Note: the goal is actually 5 Mbps up – but the mapping shows 6.]
Right now (Oct 2012) 61.6 percent of Minnesota meet the 10/6 goal.
Without intervention we will not reach that goal. We have been focusing on adoption too – as more people have access than choose to adopt broadband. And adoption drive access. And adoption is a barrier to many activities, such as applying for a job. People can access computers and broadband at the library but there are time limitations. It seems as if adoption spread across several possible State interests.
We also added a section on mobile access. There is a digital divide – but the divide erases at adoption of mobile computing. Hispanic/Latino Minnesotans are faster adopters of mobile. But can you apply for a job on a smartphone?
We have some recommendations for action:
There’s a need for a home for this issue – so we suggest an Office of Broadband. It would be nice to have someone looking for federal funding and FirstNet. We have had great support – but we don’t’ have the ability to model out the impact of potential policies. It would be nice to do that
- Provide tax credit to providers to encourage them to reach unserved areas
- Tax exemption on fiber
- Coordination of Dig Once
- Model legislation (fiber collection database in California) (AZ allows locals to lay down conduit – and pushes information to transportation)
What are barriers? Seems like cost is an issue.
The Task Force has created a site (whybroadband.com) that helps promote broadband in rural areas. Also Comcast & CenturyLink offer reduced rate options. It would be nice to see a scholarship program where maybe students could earn vouchers/credits for broadband. We talked about more funding for libraries but in cash strapped times that seemed unrealistic.
What does the data show?
The maps show the access across the state. We’re at 61 percent of MN accessing at speed goals. In 18 months that’s gone up 5.2 percent. Adoption rates has grown by 5.9 percent from 2012 to 2012 – although that’s overall use not based on speeds.
Are people asking for access or are we asking them? We pay more for real estate tax in the metro areas than rural areas.
The rub is understanding the economics of getting the infrastructure to rural areas. It costs less than $4000 to a house in a suburban area – but when you get to rural areas the cost rises significantly to $10-12,000 per house. People may want to subscribe but those costs are prohibitively high. We need to care about it if we want to deliver education through broadband. We need to care if we want to deliver health care online. While the broadband costs money it can be reduced costs in other areas – such as cost of health care services.
Have we talked about satellite or are you strictly broadband? 100 years ago phone lines were but in and now they’re obsolete? What are third world countries doing?
The Task Force is neutral on technology. One of our members provides wireless broadband. However at some level there needs to be a connection so the service can get out. Satellite has drawbacks. The issue is that it’s weather sensitive, which leads to real time issues. We try to think broadly but having infrastructure in the ground helps – kind of like the highways.
What about economic advantage of broadband in rural areas? Do you have plans to teach people how to conduct business online? (around minute 50)
It’s an important point – and it gets at adoption. If people don’t know how to use technology, they will be less effective. We are all for free enterprise. There are things happening. Private providers have offered training – such as Google. But there may be a need to talk about this in economic development sector. It could be a webinar to help people navigate.
The phone lines aren’t obsolete – we get broadband over them in my district. Can we get more info on AZ project? (Pg 31 of report speaks to this)
In AZ the State can install conduit – but it might be nice to have providers installing too.
What about employment opportunities? Is there a demand for business to relocate in rural areas?
Broadband helps a business develop organically. Businesses looking to relocate insist on broadband. The vision is that people could be anywhere doing their work. We see countries that have made aggressive investment in infrastructure to give their countries a boost. And we compete with them. Broadband is a great equalizer!
What about broadband over power lines? Most of us have electric?
I’ll need to study. We hadn’t talked about broadband over power lines. But as far as tech advancement – it happens quickly. There will be new ideas/players and that is part of why we are tech neutral. By 2015, without intervention and attention we will not make that goal.
For example, wireless has only been brought up in this last report.
Representatives in my city are concerned that we aren’t meeting the goals. Speed and access mean jobs. The fact that we’re on top 10 is a major concern.
Have you done modeling on ROI?
That gets to the issue of needing an office of broadband. The companies are doing it when planning their deployment. This has been so helpful in health care industry.
In telecom, how does federal work mesh with what state is doing?
We see this as an emerging area. We need to be more involved. We recently testified with PUC. We’re monitoring the federal policies. We need closer monitoring. We want to talk about the fact that this needs to be a partnership – not all on the shoulders of the states – such as with FirstNet. It’s a big deal for public safety and will bring in a lot of dark fiber.
The government is looking at adding computer services to list of new sales tax target. Will that have an impact?
The MHTA is looking at this. We don’t have an opinion on this issue yet but we will.