Broadband at Senate Committee on Ag, Rural Dev, and Housing Finance Notes & Video

Today the MN Senate Committee on Ag, Rural Development, and Housing Finance heard about broadband. The Committee heard from Angie Dickison and Diane Wells from the Office of Broadband Development on the details of the Office, the grants and progress toward the state broadband speeds for 2022 and 2026. Then Senator Draheim introduced HF3049, recommending one time $30 million additional funds for the broadband grant program.

Finally the Committee heard  from Jane Leonard, Kevin Larson and Brent Christensen in supportive of the bill. NO one voices any concerns and the bill way laid over for possible conclusion in the omnibus.

The video also include Senator Westrom on the Rural Finance Authority.

Broadband Overview from Minnesota Office of Broadband Development

– Angie Dickison, Broadband Development Manager
– Diane Wells, Telecommunications Manager

Here is the 4 element approach to the #MNBroadband model:

  • Statutory goals
  • Data (mapping program)
  • Broadband Office & Task Force
  • Grants

The Office of Development does more than grants. They coordinate and number of efforts to expand broadband.

Broadband mapping: We have snapshots of where we stand today. We can see improvement toward the 2022 speed goals. We can also see counties that need more progress – where less than 50 percent of households have access to 25/3. We also see the maps for 2026 – we have some counties that are there, more are not.

496 citi es where 25 percent of more have fiber.
62 cities with more than 50 percent lacking access to 25/ 3

How does federal funding impact state funding? We have a map of these areas. We have had some projects that have combined funds to bring higher speeds to those federal funded areas.

Senator Draheim: introduces: S.F. 3049: Broadband development grant program annual statutory appropriation establishment.

Asking for additional resources ($30 million) from general fund to supplement the #mnbroadbnad grant. Businesses, farmers, telehealth and online entertainment need better broadband to reach the 9 percent unserved areas.

Jane Leonard speaking for MN Broadband Coalition:
Thanks to everyone for their interest and attention. I’ve worked with broadband since out aim for a 56k in each community. More recently have worked with the Office of Broadband Development. Investment in broadband will touch every sector. IN 2018, the broadband Task Force recommended $70M per biennium – this increase of $30M will get us there.

Kevin Larson for Rural Counties:
Here to support SF3049 and thank the Legislature for supporting it. Broadband is essential for rural communities

Brent Christensen MN Telecom Alliance:
If this bill passes and is signed into law, it does not mean we’re done but it gets us closer. We won’t need support forever, but we will need it for a while. The last people getting broadband will be the most expensive. We have 5 years of evidence indicating that this program works.

Laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus

NEO software will help collect user input for better served/unserved maps

Earlier today I posted about the impact of broadband maps built from the top down (getting info from providers and/or government) versus maps built from the bottom, with actual households verifying the information. Broadband Now estimates that the FCC maps under-represented the unserved count in the US because of their top-down, high level approach.

Funny enough, just last week I got a demonstration of NEO’s latest iteration of their software that helps plan and deploy broadband networks. Here is what they do..

NEO is proud to introduce a turnkey crowdsource system suitable for smaller communities. The system is designed to manage township or county data, as the community chooses. The reporting from the system can be shown as a map, or all relevant data can be dumped to a csv file which can be presented to any grant issuing agency for review. The collection of crowdsourced data takes into account multiple factors to maximize accuracy and has provisions for reluctant citizens to still provide valuable location and performance data. We can provide you, or the grant agency, with academic research that validates what we do. Our approach is evidentiary, and factual, and devoid of politics or vendor bias.

The trick is then promoting the mapping to folks in your area and getting them to test their connection. But once created the maps and data are useful for grant applications and network planning. I’d say a map created with residential input that highlighted specific areas of underserved interest would be more appealing to a provider than going to them without a map.

Broadband Now finds that FCC under reports unserved population in MN by half

CityLab reports on a new report from Broadband Now that found that the FCC may have underestimated the number of Americans unserved by broadband…

The FCC’s latest deployment report, released in May, calculates that 93.7 percent of the American population have broadband access in their area, leaving only 21.3 million Americans without high-speed internet. But when researchers at Broadband Now crunched their own numbers, their analysis suggest the actual number of Americans without broadband access is 42 million—double FCC’s figure. (And that doesn’t account for people who can’t live in areas with broadband infrastructure, but can’t afford it.)

“Frankly, I was surprised about how big the gap was when I got the data back. I’d assumed it was smaller,” says Busby. “It really sheds the light on the need to have better reporting.”

To get its estimate, the Broadband Now team manually ran 11,663 randomly selected addresses through the “check availability” tool of nine large internet service providers that claim to serve those areas. All in all, the team analyzed 20,000 provider-address combinations. A fifth of them indicated that no service was available, suggesting to the researchers that companies may be overstating their availability by 20%, Busby says. The results also show that 13% of the addresses served by multiple providers didn’t actually have available service through any of them. They then applied these rates across the country to get their final estimate of 42 million people without broadband.

The disparity between their estimate and the FCC’s largely comes from the agency’s reliance on Form 477 reports, in which internet providers self-report the locations they serve. Providers can claim to serve the population of an entire census block if service is provided to just one household in that block. After the release of FCC’s May report, the agency’s Democratic commissioners dismissed the report, berating their colleagues for “blindly accepting incorrect data” and using the numbers to “clap its hands and pronounce our broadband job done.”

Going directly to the Broadband Now report, here’s what they found for Minnesota:

  • MN Population: 5.58 million
  • FCC estimate of unserved: 290,000
  • Broadand Now (updated) estimates of unserved: 580,000

That would indicate that there are twice as many unserved people than originally reported. How does that happen? The report outlines one expected reason:

However, there is a widely acknowledged flaw with Form 477 reporting: if an ISP offers service to at least one household in a census block, then the FCC counts the entire census block as covered by that provider. BroadbandNow Research examined the magnitude of this flaw by manually checking internet availability using FCC data as the source of truth for randomly selected addresses.

Part of the answer is better mapping and engagement from the field would be helpful. This afternoon I hope to have more info on a new tool that helps make the maps more accurate.

EVENT Feb 24: Broadband at Senate Committee on Ag, Rural Development, and Housing Finance

I am planning to attend and will plan to livestream…

Monday, February 24, 2020 – 3:00 PM
Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance
Chair: Sen. Torrey N. Westrom
3 p.m.
Room 1150 Minnesota Senate Bldg.
S.F. 3408-Westrom: Rural Finance Authority bond issue and appropriation.
Broadband Overview from Minnesota Office of Broadband Development
– Angie Dickison, Broadband Development Manager
– Diane Wells, Telecommunications Manager
S.F. 3049-Draheim: Broadband development grant program annual statutory appropriation establishment.

Update from MN Broadband Coalition: upcoming meetings and call to action

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Broadband Funding to be Heard in House and Senate; Contact your Legislator
Saint Paul—We received the news earlier this week that HF 3029—the broadband funding bill for an additional $30 million each year authored by Rep. Rob Ecklund—will be heard in the House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division on Wednesday, February 26. The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee will hear SF 3049 on Monday, February 24. This bill is identical to HF 3029 and is being carried by Sen. Rich Draheim. These hearings will give committee members an opportunity to hear from the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and other advocates about why funding for the program is critically important.
Because the Legislature funded only $40 million in last year’s biennial budget, the Coalition is requesting an additional $30 million each year to match the $70 million recommendation of the 2018 Governor’s Broadband Task Force.
Last year, the Office of Broadband Development received $70 million in applications but only had $20 million to disburse. Well-crafted grant applications were turned away because the Office did not have enough funding to fully meet the need. That’s exactly why the Coalition is advocating for the inclusion of HF 3029 and SF 3049 in this year’s supplemental budget bill. We know that there is significant unmet need and thousands of Minnesotans without access to broadband service across the state. We are excited to have the bill heard in the House and Senate in the same week!
February Revenue Forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget will release its February Budget and Economic Forecast on February 27. This report tells us the overall economic health of the state as well as if the state has additional revenue to spend on a supplemental budget. The November Revenue Forecast indicated the state had a healthy $1 billion surplus. A strong February Revenue Forecast would make additional broadband funding more likely.
Governor’s Supplemental Budget
We expect Governor Walz to release his supplemental budget request in the weeks following the February Revenue Forecast. He and his team are making decisions right now about what items will be included should there be a surplus. Last month he endorsed $30 million in one-time funding for the grant program.
Now that HF 3029 and SF 3049 have been introduced and will be given hearings, we’re asking you to reach out to your legislators to urge them to support long-term, full funding for the Border-to-Border Grant Program. Let them know why broadband funding is important to your community. If your community has already received a grant, tell them how it’s changed your community for the better—tell your story!
Find Your Legislators With This Tool
In addition, please reach out to Governor Walz to tell him to include $30 million in long-term funding in his supplemental budget proposal.
Office of Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan
130 State Capitol
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
Phone: 651-201-3400
Meeting Reminder: Tuesday, February 25
A full Coalition meeting will be held  this coming Tuesday, February 25, from 3:00 – 4:30 pm at the League of Minnesota Cities offices. A full agenda has been attached to this email and is available at
Day on the Hill – Registration Opens Next Week
Registration for the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition 2020 Day on the Hill will be opening soon. We are currently working on the web registration portal and will send along a note when it is ready. This annual tradition will be held on March 12, so please mark your calendars and plan to attend. It is a fantastic opportunity for you to network with other advocates and speak directly to your legislators and state leaders about the importance of broadband.

Neonatal telemedicine in Hastings, Faribault, New Ulm, Buffalo, Cambridge and Minneapolis

I’m written about neonatal care in Cambridge and Mayo Clinic but it looks like it’s spreading as Becker Hospital Review reports…

Minneapolis-based Children’s Minnesota Health System will provide neonatal care delivered via telemedicine technology to six hospitals across Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to a Feb. 20 news release.

The partnering hospitals include Regina Medical Center (Hastings, Minn.), District One Hospital (Faribault, Minn.), New Ulm (Minn.) Medical Center, Buffalo (Minn.) Hospital, Cambridge (Minn.) Medical Center and Western Wisconsin Health (Baldwin, Wis.).

Through the partnerships, physicians can participate in a virtual consultation using audio and video technology with a neonatal clinician from Children’s Minnesota.

“Expert, specialized care should be available to all newborns, regardless of where they’re born,” said Mark Bergeron, MD, director of special care nurseries and neonatal virtual care at Children’s Minnesota. “These partnerships bring us one step closer to that reality…”

Comparison of States’ broadband speed goals and investments

The State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN) has created an interactive map of broadband plans and initiatives by state. It’s similar to the work recently gather by the Pew’s State Broadband Policy Explorer.  Pew’s work would be helpful if you wanted to take a deep dive into a state’s (or a few states) broadband policy. It’s also well organized if you want to compare specific policies – like you has statewide policy or activity on pole attachments.

SBLN has a clickable map where you can get a high level look at what’s happening in each state. Over the weekend, I took a deeper dive into that info to come up with a quick comparison what states are doing in terms of speed goals and committed funding. Unfortunately, it’s not an apples to apples comparison. Some states have been investing for years. Some state of speed goals where others don’t have goals but at least they have defined broadband. Some states set goals last year, some set them a few years ago. The age of those goals is showing.

The other issue is that the information is often buried in a state website. I did a comparison of state initiatives back in 2016 so I knew that would be an issue. I decided to make this a quicker job so there’s a larger margin of error but there are also resources (State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN) and State Broadband Policy Explorer) to get more info now. But for a high level look this version is easy to take in.

From a very high level, I think the FCC and Minnesota have set the bar. You’ll see a lot of goals of 25/3 Mbps, which is the FCC standard and Minnesota’s 2022 state goal. You’ll see a bunch of states with question marks; those are states where I didn’t see a lot of state level activity. And there were a few standouts  for speed:

  • Washington 150/150 by 2028
  • Hawaii Gig by 2018
  • Iowa 100/100
  • Vermont 100/100 by 2024

And for funding:

  • California $645 million
  • Illinois $400 million
  • Indiana $100 million
  • New York $500 million

Minnesota has been a leader in the field. The “Minnesota Model” has been touted for over a year now and I saw it mentioned in a few footnotes in other states. But to continue to be a leader, it may be time to freshen up the goals and the commitment.

Here’s the comparison:

State Goals/Investment
Alabama 10/1
Alaska ?
Arizona Fund: $3 M
Arkansas Speed: 25/3

Fund: $25 M

California Speed: 10/1 by 2022

Fund: $645 M

Colorado Speed: 25/3

Fund: $20 M since 2016

Connecticut ?
Delaware ?
Florida ?
Georgia Speed: 25/3
Hawaii Speed: Gig by 2018

Fund: $20 M

Idaho ?
Illinois Speed: 100/20 by 2028

Fund: $400 M

Indiana Speed: 100/10

Fund: $100 M

Iowa Speed: 100/100

Fund: $5 M

Kansas ?
Kentucky ?
Louisiana Speed: 100/100 by 2029
Maine Speed: 25/3

Fund: $13 M

Maryland Fund: $10 M
Massachusetts Speed: 25/3

Fund: $40 M

Michigan Speed: Gig by 2026

Fund: $20 M

Minnesota Speed: 100/20 by 2026

Fund: $40 M

Mississippi ?
Missouri Speed: 25/3

Fund: $5

Montana Fund: match for e-rate
Nebraska Speed: 10/1

Fund: USF for hospitals

Nevada Fund: $2 M for schools
New Hampshire ?
New Jersey ?
New Mexico Speed: 4/1 – but 100 Mpbs for business
New York Speed: 25/3 in remote areas

Fund: $500 M

North Carolina Speed: 25/3

Fund: $10 M

North Dakota ?
Ohio ?
Oklahoma ?
Oregon ?
Pennsylvania Speed: 25/3
Rhode Island Fund: $15 M e-rate match
South Carolina ?
South Dakota Speed: 25/3 by 2022 and to be #1 in the nation
Tennessee Speed: 25/3

Fund: $20 M in 2020

Texas Speed: 25/3
Utah ?
Vermont Speed: 100/100 by 2024

Fund: $20 M

Virginia Speed: 25/3 by 2022

Fund: $19 M

Washington Speed: 150/150 by 2028

Fund: $20 M in 2019

West Virginia Speed: 25/3

Fund: $1.5 M

Wisconsin Speed: 25/3

Fund: $48 M

Wyoming Speed: 25/3 residential Gig/100 Mbps business

Fund: $10 M