House & Senate Questions on Minnesota Mapping

Last week Connected Nation gave presentations on the broadband mapping I saw 2 of the 5 presentations. I’m trying to catch up on the others – mostly for the questions.

Today I listened to the presentation in the House Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division Meeting led by Representative Sheldon Johnson and the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Meeting led by Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon.

Here are my notes:

From the House Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division Meeting.

Connected National Gave their presentation (similar to this presentation) and these questions followed:

Is dialup service listed?

No we assume everyone has that.

How will new technologies have an impact the map in the future?

The providers here (in MN versus other states) are moving on to new technologies. There are innovations to existing technologies and new technologies emerging. Technologies such as WiMAX, for example, may be a good solution for some areas in the state.

Is there a layer of the map that focuses on business stats?

No, it wasn’t in the specs. There are 2 types of business connections. Connections for very big business. But smaller businesses have connections more similar to residential services. And some stats may reflect those connections – we try to filter out the very high business connections.

What’s the difference between upload and download speeds?

In the early days – most people downloaded but few uploaded that has changed. New technologies such as fiber are making symmetrical speeds possible.

How is the wireless business changing the playing field?

Fixed wireless is becoming a tool for folks who don’t have access. The FCC issued additional spectrum for providers to use to offer service. That lets small providers use spectrum without going through regulated spectrums. WiMAX and LTE are technologies that will and are opening the field.

Do you have a layer that shows fiber to schools, hospitals, government in towns?

Not in the specs – but could be done.

How can the House get more providers to participate?

CN expects to get an influx of response since publishing the preliminary maps. The providers may see that getting the info into the mix will be beneficial to them. But if you notice an area on the maps that is a gap but shouldn’t have – please let us know or contact the provider in that area and ask them to respond to us.

Note: a layer that tracks speed and cost across the state would be nice too.

It seems as if fiber and WiMax are good ways to go. What do you think is the future?

The world is changing and the need for speed is changing. The info growth is exponential – thanks to applications such as YouTube. That will only continue and so will the need for broadband to support that growth. Mobile connections are seeing this too. (With advent of 4G.) All connections are faster.

Every time consumers have good ideas the structure needs to be there support it. The handheld devices are incredible and maybe once reason we’re not further advanced today is that our handhelds don’t yet come with Microsoft or other applications we need. The opposite end of that are the people who are just getting their first computers. In other states we have worked to find what works to stimulate broadband adoption.

There are barriers and we’ve worked in other areas to map barriers. Is it computer literacy, cost, or something else?

Are there examples where municipalities have done well with fiber? (Asked by rep from North St Paul)

We occasionally run into municipalities who have tried to run BB services. Williamstown OH is one example. They provided service locally – but were not able to grow easily. CN worked with them on a fixed wireless solution and now they are the only ubiquitous provider in the county. And that’s just one example.

Municipal providers are most successful when there is no competition.

What about when there is competition?

The biggest barrier is desire. With munis, they think they want to get into it but they are reticent to make the first step. Many munis have started the process but not going further. It takes a lot of interaction. It takes a drive. Going to an incumbent may make sense too.

When munis provide service they make a decision to compete with the private sector and many have had trouble – because they are competing with businesses. It is problematic when the city does not have a solid business plan. The city needs to be able to deploy, maintain and sustain the business.

In some cases the political will is not there – especially if residents are satisfied with incumbents.

Going into the data will we be able to drill down to see areas that aren’t served?

The goal was to create a granular map that was correct down to the street level.

Then there was a nice demo of the interactive tool.

When I run the test from my home – can it tell what provider I use?

The tester will not be able to see this – but it will be captured in the aggregate.

How often with the data be updated?

Continually. As providers get us updated info as citizens submit tests and feedback – we update it, nearly daily.

What’s up with fiber in western Minnesota?

The providers have indicated that there is FTTH in that area.

S1492 is a good place to look for funds to take broadband further. That bill follows the CN model and CN will be working with Pawlenty on that option.

And here are the notes from the Senate side. The Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications meeting from Feb 5, 2009.

Rick King (Task Force Chair) gave an overview of broadband in Minnesota. (I want to thank Rick for sharing these with me!) I got the impression that it was a quick tutorial on broadband in general just to prep them enough to understand the material presented by Connected Nation.

Questions – in the faster countries is BB universally available at rates shown (higher rates)?

It’s accessible to most if not all.

What’s ADSL?

A higher asymmetrical speed.

What’s the cost and availability of BB?

It varies.

What about inter-changeability?

To upgrade from copper to fiber can be difficult. If it’s buried, it needs to be trenched. But it’s worth considering when you do trench that it’s a time to lay fiber. The fiber isn’t as expensive as the trenching.

Do you foresee a time when we have competing towers for access for BB and phone et al?

Fiber is a best case practice – but in a larger state it may make sense to take advantage of wireless.

Is there an opportunity to merge this with the smartgrid for electricity in the future?

That is very possible.

Presentation from Connected Nation – and Questions

Do you expect the map will change much?

We think up to 2 percent of households might be added, but then up to 2 percent might come into question. So it’s hard to say. Also we’ll have people on the ground doing spot speed checks.

How do we compare with other states?

Slightly above average. South Carolina has been best (of those mapped by CN) with 96 percent coverage (compared to MN at 92 percent) so far. It is the fastest state tested – though we may see a difference once we factor out the Twin Cities.

Is there a capacity to increase speed?

Yes, certainly if fiber has been deployed. Though it looks as if there’s limited fiber available. Cable and DSL has been most popular. Though wireless has been high too. Fiber has actually been smaller than we expected.

Minnesota has more fiber in the ground – but the overall amount is tough to estimate. And there may be more dark fiber available – we didn’t look for that.

This entry was posted in MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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