Minnesota Broadband Task Force In April, the Broadband Task Force heard from broadband providers and supporters that offered reduced rate access and training to low income Minnesotans. Also there was some discussion of current broadband-related legislation, especially sales tax exemption for broadband deployment. The Task Force had recommended tax exemptions, but the Governor’s broader tax plan reduces exemptions. There was some discussion on the proposed Office of Broadband Deployment as well.http://wp.me/p3if7-2dt (An entrepreneur from the Iron Range voices his opinion on the tax issues as well, echoing opinions heard at Task Force. http://wp.me/p3if7-2e4)
The Governor’s Office recently appointed two new members to the Minnesota Broadband Task Force: Fred Underwood, Director of Technology at the Fond Du Lac Reservation and Andrea Casselton, Director of the Office of Technology and Communications in St Paul.http://wp.me/p3if7-2dY
Minnesota Broadband Not World Class The latest Akamai report has been released, tracking worldwide broadband growth from Q4 2012. The US does not rank highly by international standards; Minnesota does even worse when compared to other states. We don’t do well with speed or adoption. We saw the same results last August. http://wp.me/p3if7-2dE
Update on Policy Broadband-Related Bills
- The Legislature learned more about the Minnesota Telecommunications Regulations Bills (HF 985/SF 584) inclduing enforcement authority, tariffs, alternative regulation plans, obsolete provisions and plans to meet with FCC plans for 2019.http://wp.me/p3if7-2d5
- The Legislature is looking at E-Government Advisory Council (SF804) to improve online government information services to citizens and businesses. (They are also looking at State procurement and solicitation provisions modifications.) http://wp.me/p3if7-2cZ
- Senator Klobuchar talks about unlocking cell phones so that consumers can change providers without steep penalties; she also speaks about the importance of enforcing call completion regulation to ensure that rural areas receive calls from all providers.http://wp.me/p3if7-2cT
- The House Taxes Committee met and quickly dismissed bills with potential to provide funding for broadband. Anything in HF1686 that related to fiber was dismissed once the legislators realized that this amendment might conflict with other policies. Legislators were not in favor of the broadband development grant program (HF389); perhaps relating to the tenuous connection between pre-paid phones and broadband more than the fund itself. http://wp.me/p3if7-2cP
- North Dakota passed legislation exempting telecommunications equipment purchases from the sales tax, creating an incentive for high tech firms to invest in North Dakota’s communications infrastructure. http://wp.me/p3if7-2dN
Local Broadband News
Cloquet Valley Some progress is being made toward better broadband in a group of townships north of Duluth known as the Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative. They are encouraging local collaboration and awareness. http://wp.me/p3if7-2cw
Eagan Joining an informal worldwide initiative of programmers who are working to teach students the language of computers, Thomson Reuters offers computer-coding classes for 50 middle-school-age children . http://wp.me/p3if7-2dQ
Lake County Lake County breathes a sign of relief as half of their ARRA-funded fiber network is complete and the incumbents who have opposed the network seem to be backing away from the project. http://wp.me/p3if7-2dr
Minneapolis The Minnesota High Tech Association hosts their annual Spring Conference. Hot topics included innovation and creativity. http://wp.me/p3if7-2dS
Minneapolis is named fifth nerdiest city. http://wp.me/p3if7-2d8
Monticello Monticello extends the statute of limitations on legal claims bondholders can file against the city (related to FiberNet broadband network), striving to reach a resolution with the temporary agreement, set to expire June 1, 2013. http://wp.me/p3if7-2d2
Redwood County The Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC) posts their recent feasibility study. It indicates that residents in town have better access to broadband than residents in small communities or living on the outskirts of communities. http://wp.me/p3if7-2cj
Southwest Minnesota Thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, portable Interactive Television systems will be placed in 36 elementary schools within in Southern Minnesota providing advanced educational opportunities for more than 9,000 K-6 children.http://wp.me/p3if7-2co
St Paul PetChatz is the ultimate petcam; it can be controlled from afar using a phone app or desktop browser. With the tap of a touchscreen or a keyboard, the owner can release a treat from within the device for Fido to enjoy. http://wp.me/p3if7-2dB
May 14: Webniar – Broadband Adoption Toolkit - 2:00-3:30 p.m. EDThttp://wp.me/p3if7-2dV
May 16: Webniar - Economic Development Webinar: Planning, Benefits and Impact - 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT http://wp.me/p3if7-2dV
May 22: Webniar - Broadband Adoption Toolkit Webinar with Toolkit Creatorshttp://wp.me/p3if7-2dV
June 1-2: Civic Hack Day (various locations TBA) http://wp.me/p3if7-26t
July 29-30: eLearning Summit (St Paul) http://wp.me/p3if7-2dj
Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)
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!