April 24 Ultra High Speed Task Force Meeting

Here are the notes from the April 24 Minnesota Ultra High Speed Task Force. They seem short because much of the meeting was spent with task force members hovered over computer actually doing writing. So there wasn’t a ton for me to report there.

It did seem as if people were really working – despite the amazing weather outside- and that they were working well together.


Agenda approved
Notes from last month approved


There have been 3 public input meetings; Dan McElroy is going to DC soon. They are awaiting guidance. Expect to have some on the 23rd. So really don’t know much more than last month.

They’ve done inquiries with FCC staff. They are writing a national broadband policy; it will be a staff effort and then public can comment. Maybe as soon as June.

Does anyone with industry connection know more? Nope.

The FCC will post their report in Feb 2010 – after 2 of the grant round funds are distributed.


The public sent lots of note after the article in MinnPost.

Last month TDS sent a letter; this month Monticello sent a letter. (Jeff O’Neill, Monticello City Admin is here.)

No comments from the public.


August meeting (in Mankato) – is being finalized. June is ready. Details should be ready in a week or so. Next month we’ll meet at Thomson Reuters again.

The Department of Commerce has resolved the budget for lunches. Looking into whether we can get help from Task Force members and/or their organizations.

Mike O’Connor spoke to Robert Stevens (of Geek Squad) and Vint Cerf about the job of the Task Force. Videos are available online.

I’ve posted my favorite portion below:

After the break the Task Force shifted from gathering info to really starting in on the recommendations…

Values They Agree On:

• Ubiquity of Service (everyone is served – or at least is service is available)
• Bring service to underserved (Businesses & citizens can get the broadband capability they need)
• Technology Neutral (not picking a technology)
• Specific minimum speed to all Minnesotans
• One size does not fit all (tiered service)
• Affordability
• Competition across all players
• Public-private partnerships
• Focusing on supply & Demand
• Serving Public Good
• Looking forward & being proactive
• Sustainability
• Economic development
• Educating the public

Values that were added

• Support of home-based business
• Quality & reliability

Values that Need Additional Discussion:

• Broadband should be treated as a utility
• Competition
• Consumer protection
• Symmetry


Talk about what is meant by technology neutral versus neutrality

Are ubiquity and tech neutral contradictory? No.


How do we define affordability? The tiers address the difference in affordability to some degree. There’s a difference between business and residential class. It’s tied to competitiveness.

Bring service to underserved – are we talking about capacity they want or capacity they need. Who are we to say what someone should want or need?

Is there a disconnect between affordability at tiers – versus if people are willing to pay they can get access. Is that based on consumer’s value of service?

Do we make sure that the minimum service is affordable? And let take rate play into fees for advanced speeds. Kind of akin to universal service – where minimal service was subsidized.

Universal service funds – does not have a government funding – it’s industry funded. (Or maybe not funded by taxpayers – but industry.) So a subset of users subsidize use by other users.

Maybe we have poverty thresholds instead of USF – and then qualifiers could get some kind of coupon to get broadband.

Needs to be affordable for small businesses too. That opens the door to people who want to start a business in their home. But isn’t there a difference between Reuters and a home-based writer?

Geography seems to play a big role in Minnesota. I can get broadband to run a home-based business in the Twin Cities – but not so much in rural areas.

The cabin and the house in Roseville have wildly different costs associated with them. So it does fit in with affordability. But we’re not necessarily talking about the lake home versus a home in the north woods. However in the area – the cabins and the homes live interchangeably.

This isn’t just a rural-urban issue. But maybe it does make sense to tie the urban-rural issue under affordability? Or is it really ties into tiers?

Maybe it makes sense to define small business – and what do they need? Some businesses won’t invest regardless. Also we need to look at home-based businesses.

Set minimum and maximum levels for small business you also need to look at when a business is no longer small. Would a subsidy for small business access promote bad business plans?

We need to consider the cost of service as well as value. The cost to provide is an important facet of affordability. Also there’s an opportunity cost to clients.

The statue requires us to look at affordability.


Redundancy is a big issue – and it very important. If you’re a business and you connection goes down you’re immediately unproductive.

Maybe quality and reliability are broader terms to look at using.

But will quality of service make sense in low density areas? And who will define it?


Ensuring choice was something that Robert Stevenson mentioned. Do we want to look at that too?

Is choice competition?

Choice feels like a luxury. Getting access to un/under-served seems like a higher priority than choice.
Choice isn’t as important at the bottom stack of the service strata. Fiber is a natural monopoly – but we need choice a t the higher end.

We don’t want to cut off new innovation. We don’t want to cut off growth when we cut off choice.
Horizontal choice may mean multiple providers. Vertical choice means many choices from 1 provider.

There are choices in the type of broadband.

But if we look at the bottom (most root) level of service we’re looking at a utility.

Openness is critical to the Internet.


Maybe we ought to change it to increasing demand – to focus on the need to help people use and learn to use broadband.

Is increasing demand a tactic more than a value statement?


Everyone handed in paragraphs.

Each table is a workgroup:
1. tatement of Values
2. Where we are today
3. Where we want to be – lots of info
4. Where we want to be – no technical
5. How are we going to get there? (partners)
6. How are we going to get there? (money)

Workgroup Jobs

1. Write and create stuff (not wordsmithing)
2. Expound on ideas
3. Don’t have to agree

So folks worked away. They made notes for info they might need to seek later. They tried to connect notes. Mostly it seemed like everyone was getting comfortable with the document(s) and the process.

How does this work?

Writing notes to staff was a helpful tactic – but it would be helpful to know what the end product is.

What’s the point of the exercise? I write, someone erases, I write back. There are some key issues that need to be fleshed out before we write. Otherwise we may be writing over each other.

We shouldn’t erase – we could simply comment.

We need to be clearer about purpose and ground rules.

There are issues that are going to be contentious. We’re starting with points of agreement. Is that the right way? How are we going to approach the sticky issues? We need a process.

We knew this wouldn’t address those sticky issues. We need to get sticky issues on the agenda sooner rather than later. Maybe we can discuss this in the rural areas – that would be more interesting for folks attending the sessions.

Maybe we need to list the hot issues and take time to learn more and prep for a discussion. Maybe we could address an issue a session.

One of the goals today was to jumpstart the writing. We now have content with which to work.

For May – is there an interest in redoing this exercise? Maybe there’s value looking back at the statute and the top three values.

We need to focus on report – not stimulus.

The exercise is fine – but you need to think about what we want. Content is pretty easy. The hot button issues might priority.

Let’s each identify 3 issues where we think there’s disagreement and come up with the pros and cons and use that for conversation next time.

It was fun to read what everyone contributed. Maybe we need to discuss this at a higher level to draw out 5 points we like and points of potential contention.

Added note – I am hoping that the Task Force will share the share the various paragraphs with us soon. I know they need to compile it first.

This entry was posted in MN, Policy and tagged 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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