Blue Earth County Board talks about expanding broadband

The Mankato Free Press reports

The Blue Earth County Board already has a New Year’s Resolution: kickstart efforts to bring more broadband options and data fiber connections to the area.

Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg called on county officials Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a future public-private data fiber partnership as recent data show Blue Earth County is lagging in internet connectivity.

Stuehrenberg said during a board meeting Tuesday he was concerned only about 14 percent of the county was equipped to handle at least 100 mpbs download speeds and 20 mbps upload speeds. While almost all of Blue Earth County’s internet options meet the state’s immediate high-speed goals — at least 25 mbps downloads and 3 mbps uploads by 2022 — Stuehrenberg and other commissioners believe the county needs to have better internet access if it wants to continue growing and attracting more economic development.

“It’s kind of disheartening to hear that in Mankato and Blue Earth County, we don’t have the same ability to get internet service as some of those smaller communities,” Stuehrenberg said.

I applaud the forward-looking vision. They are brainstorming some ways to make it happen…

Stuehrenberg suggested future highway reconstruction projects include installing fiber to help offset connection costs in rural areas. Yet he and other commissioners said it will ultimately be up to area internet providers to use and maintain fiber networks.

The county finished installing fiber infrastructure around Mankato and nearby cities over the last two years, according to County Administrator Bob Meyer. He said county officials have been in preliminary talks with internet providers to expand broadband access throughout the county.

Eighth Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing of Charter VoIP Decision

You may recall that in September, Minnesota PUC ruled in favor of Charter by limiting state regulation.

On December 4 (2018), the Eighth Circuit Court issued an order denying the Minnesota PUC’s petition for rehearing of the Court’s September 17, 2018 decision affirming the Minnesota district court’s ruling that Charter’s VoIP service is an information service under the Telecommunications Act.

A map of areas in MN without Internet access

NDIA has created maps from the latest Census data…

The interactive maps below are based on new Census data released on December 6, 2018 as part of the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates.

For the first time, the 2017 ACS includes computer ownership and internet access information for local Census tracts. (Note: The Census uses the term “internet access” to refer to actual household connections, not just availability.) This information, presented in ACS Tables B28002 through B28011, was previously released only for communities of 20,000 or more and only on a community-wide basis. (NDIA’s Worst Connected Cities reports are based on this ACS citywide data.)

I was most interested in the map that shows where we lack access…

But the map of access is important too…

Both maps are interactive if you visit the NDIA site.

FCC is looking for new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee Members

The FCC announces the opportunity. I hope we can flood the market with Minnesota names!

The Federal Communications Commission announced its intent to re-charter the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), a federal advisory committee, which provides advice and recommendations to the Commission on accelerating the deployment of high-speed Internet access. The Commission intends to renew the BDAC’s charter for a two year period, starting on or about March 1, 2019.

Nominations for membership to the BDAC should be submitted to the FCC no later than January 10, 2019.

Thriving by Design attendees are finding connections to broadband

I’m doing something a little different today. I’m at the Growth & Justice Thriving by Design conference. The goal of the conference is to finesse a plan for the future to hand to Governor Walz. The process started last summer when 100 or more people from around Minnesota gather to talk about shared problems, shared goals and potential solutions.

We started the day talking about equity blueprint problem statements:

  • Human Potential (green)
  • Economic Development (blue)
  • Physical Infrastructure (red)
  • Environment & Natural Resources (yellow)
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement (white dot)

Each problem was then divided into sub-statements – including broadband as a sub-statement under Physical Infrastructure. Attendees had an opportunity to create connections among the statements. It was done visually so that you placed a colored dot (representing the statements above) next to the sub-statement that connected with it. It sounds confusing and I may have more to report tomorrow when the conference continues but for now I think it’s interesting to see that broadband was a magnet for many attendees. I was one of the top draws.

FCC is moving to new broadband map format, decommissioning old maps

The FCC reports on the decommissioning of their old broadband maps – on Dec 21, 2018…

Since 2011, the National Broadband Map has been a vital tool for consumers, businesses, policy makers, and researchers by providing an easy- to-use and searchable way to find out who is offering broadband, what types of broadband they are offering, and where they are offering it.  But the mapping platform has become dated, as has the coverage data, which was collected through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) State Broadband Initiative (SBI); the last published SBI data set was current as of June 30, 2014.  Based on the age of the data, and the underlying technology, the National Broadband Map and its Application Program Interface (API), will be decommissioned on December 21, 2018.

Recognizing the value of broadband data visualizations, the Federal Communications Commission released a new Fixed Broadband Deployment map in February 2018 to display new data collected by the FCC from carriers on FCC Form 477, which is updated twice annually. Like the old map, the new map provides key information about broadband deployment for consumers, policymakers, researchers, economists, and others.

Looking at the new maps was a reminder to me that they were last updated in 2017. We are lucky in Minnesota to have updates more often.

Minnesota broadband is better than Wisconsin broadband

If I were more of a sports ball person I could probably make a lot more of this story. As it stands, I’ll just say it’s interesting to see what your neighbors think of you. The [Appleton] Post Crescent reports…

Minnesotans have more access than Wisconsinites to fast internet that consumers rely on for everything from schoolwork and jobs to shopping and binge-watching Netflix, new census data show.

Access to broadband internet in Wisconsin is also worse for many poor and rural families, as well as racial and ethnic minorities, according to data that the U.S. Census Bureau calls its first-ever look at internet subscription rates over five years.

The paper is part of the USA Today network. They came up with five findings after looking at state level broadband data…

  1. Wisconsin slightly behind Minnesota, Illinois
    About 78 percent of Wisconsin households had a broadband internet subscription from 2013 to 2017, mirroring the national rate over the period but trailing states to the northwest and south. Minnesota had the highest rate of neighboring states at 80.8 percent.
  2. Minnesota children had more access
    Most children in Wisconsin had access to fast internet in their homes and they had access at higher rates than kids in Illinois, Michigan and the nation overall. But compared with Minnesota’s 90.6 percent, Wisconsin was slightly behind at 87.7 percent.
  1. Fewer subscribers in low-income households
    Why is broadband internet more common in Minnesota than Wisconsin? One factor may be income. Like other Midwest states and the nation overall, access to high-speed internet in Wisconsin varies greatly by household wealth.
    About 93 percent of Wisconsin households with at least $75,000 in annual income had access to broadband from 2013 to 2017. But only half of those households with less than $20,000 in annual income had access.
  1. Fewer subscribers in northern Wisconsin
    Waukesha, Dane, Ozaukee and Calumet counties had the highest rates for households with broadband internet. Mostly northern counties — such as Forest, Clark and Menominee — were at the other end of the spectrum in the state. More than one-third of the homes in those three counties were without broadband.
  1. Fewer African American subscribers
    The racial inequities for fast internet in Wisconsin are larger than in most of the state’s neighbors and the nation overall. While 84 percent of white residents in Wisconsin had access to broadband, just 68 percent of black residents had access. The rates varied for Asian, Latino and Native American residents, too.