Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force June 19, 2009

First I am very excited and grateful to Rick King for allowing me to post the Draft Broadband Report. It’s the version that folks had today at the meeting. I can’t tell you how I impressed I am with that level of transparency!

On with the regular meeting notes…

This month the task force met in Grand Rapids. The precursor meeting presented by Blandin was well received. The reception went well. It’s great to be out in rural areas. We’ll need to balance the report writing with hearing from the public. (Note the draft as mentioned above.)

The report is due at the first part of November. We need to schedule more meetings come fall. October 2 and 30 are possible new dates. Then we should be ready to deliver the report in November. We need to decide how to unveil the report.

Maybe we could consider a Thursday addition rather that another Friday to reduce travel for some. Saturdays might work too. We need to balance logistics of travel with logistics of preparing for the next meeting. There is a lot of staff time between meetings to prepare the report to rehash.

Agenda is approved.

Minutes from last month approved.

There were 15-20 folks from the public present and many of them had great comments. [Ann’s note:I’ve tried to capture that with video.]Brian Redshaw, Hibbing City Administrator

Pat Henderson, ARDC

Bill Arthur, Orr

Ross Williams

Matt Grosse, Deer River School

Scheduled Speakers

Scott Wiggins – ARMER – public safety network (See Presentation)


Is there a marketplace solution that the government could look towards?
Yes in some areas – but there are definitely areas without reliable service. The state needs more infrastructure.

We’re going to provide 95% coverage for safety – maybe we could mix that with residents.

This is an interesting concept. A public-private partnership makes a ton of sense. What were some of the most helpful regulatory actions that allowed your project to move forward?
In 1995, there was legislation passed that required metro folks to do a 20 year plan. Everyone wanted to do their own thing. But a 20 year projection indicated that there wouldn’t be enough frequencies for everyone in 20 years. There hasn’t been action from the PUC. Funding has been an issue – though we have enough to build the 320 towers.

Does the money come from 911 bonds? [Ann’s note – think that must be akin to USF]

A next step for ARMER is to look at real world examples. Babbit was one community that did an assessment last year and found they didn’t have cell coverage. It’s tough to grow without cell coverage. There are similar problems at a county-level too.

Fargo Moorhead gets federal dollars for infrastructure – we can collaborate with them but it won’t be as solid as the relationship with full partners.

There are a lot of requirements for a tower. The local governments have high standards and any tower would need to meet those standards.

This does lead nicely into the discussion on the role of government.

911 needs very accurate GIS mapping. Everyone seems to be doing the mapping separately. It’s expensive and they don’t talk to each other. There should be a state organization hat takes the lead on that. We need an interoperable system that cost effective.


Bernadine Joselyn – Blandin Foundation (See Presentation)

Fred Bobich – Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge (former Chair of MN Chamber of Commerce)

Speaking on behalf of tourism – good telecommunication access is a requirement for tourism destinations. There was a day when we said leave the Blackberry behind – but vacationers don’t want to do that. Also 70 percent of resort business is group activity. Without adequate broadband access, you can’t get groups to have corporate events.

The discussion of towers reminded me of the cell equipment we are lucky to locate for the Sherrif, which has boosted access.

Bob Fenwick – Cook County Commissioner

We need to respond to what the public has requested here today. In Cook County, broadband has become an important issue. We need to bring our citizens to now! We only have an ISP in the area started by local people – mostly with dialup. We have some DSL from Qwest – but it’s limited to 2 mile radius from Central Office. We have satellite at $50-100 month. We don’t have over-air TV.

I have fiber in my driveway but copper to the house. The economic stability of the area depends on broadband. Jobs are driven by the info network. Services (edu, healthcare, safety) also need broadband.

The Duluth hospitals do not want to keep our local hospital as a branch due to the expense. We need broadband to access services and continue to provide services. Out school enrolment is dropping. The model of a centralized building for students everyday is not feasible. Wireless will not work for us in all areas due to environment. Ubiquity will allow elderly to stay at home.

We are looking to the day when smart

Cook County Goals:

• Ubiquity
• Get everyone online
• Use schools, hospitals, government as anchor tenants


  • Have a locally owned, locally managed broadband service.
  • We have a feasibility study in process – 90 % of surveyed folks would sign up for broadband and they would prefer locally managed service
  • Our plan morphed with the advent of the ARRA – we’re moving from bonding to ARRA funding
  • Our local electrical coop is requesting ARRA funds. They’re going to build a new business with help from Boreal Access. They’re working on a business plan.

Why the urgency? Economic necessity. And no one else will do this.

Other counties are doing this – such as Lake County. Their reasons are similar. They are looking for local ownership with outside management. Tribes are also looking.

ARDC has been helpful – such as with mapping. It helps us use leverage. The ARMER system is an analogy for what we need. We need to get the backbone out there. That’s the government role – get the backbone out there. Look to the RDCs in the state to help. Leverage existing resources – the RDCs can help.


What’s the population of Cook County? 5500 people – but we may have 25,000-30,000 with visitors. We have 1 million acres; 990,000 is public land.

What’s the role of government?

Most important aspect of government is the citizen. Get this to the citizen. Broadband is like roads or electricity. Don’t build roads for government entities only.

Stimulus funding should go to underserved and unserved communities.

Recommendation from “Speed” Sub-group (Contentious Issue #2) – Tom Garrison, Jack Geller, JoAnne Johnson, Mike O’Connor, Dick Sjoberg, John Stanoch and Chris Swanson

They met twice. How can we come up with a speed number without having a chart to say what you can do? Yet our mandate was to come up with a number. (Their results are on page 9 & 38 of the draft report.)

[Ann’s note: I’ll paste the info from page 38 below]

The task force recommends that any goal for a base-level standard of broadband service in Minnesota be based on a basic level of functionality available to every person in the state. We recommend the following minimum speeds:
• 10-20 mbps (download)
• 5-10 mbps (upload)
The target speed for all connections is 50 mbps by 2015, given the possibility that advanced applications will drive greater bandwidth needs. This target speed is based on the information we have today and will require adjustments as new information is available.

Here are comments from subgroup:

Question – what’s the purpose of the numbers?

  • The legislature has asked for it. They haven’t necessarily said what they want to do with it. Maybe our job is to offer a base minimum. With encouragement to get people to that need not penalties for those who aren’t there. The idea is to set out a goal that people can work to reaching.We might also have aspiration-focused goals to set a tone for the future.We need to really differentiate that difference. And we need to differentiate between business and residential needs.
  • At the first meeting, we looked at how the California tiers (page 9) looked. Largely those speeds for government and businesses are available. There isn’t a lot of specific info on what speeds we think people need to have to get on the on-ramp. I think 1.5 Mps will suffice for much of the CA tiers. We are saying 3 times that amount.Telaradiology has said that they need 3 Mbps. So 10-20 Mbps seems high.How did we get at 10-20 Mbps? We have people in the state who don’t have broadband by any definition. We need to focus on those people.Also we need to price out these speeds. Will the pricing mean that there is still a digital divide.
  • We’re heard compelling testimony for world class – but these numbers aren’t demonstrating world class aspirations. There’s a cost of action and inaction. Australia has already made a commitment of 100 Mbps to every home – that affects our world.The estimates (from Brett Swanson) of need are much higher.These numbers are OK for a floor – but not a ceiling. Minnesota should always been one of the top 3 states and top 5 locations worldwide.
  • We looked at applications and populations. Telemedicine is a big driver for rural areas with aging populations. The CA tiers indicate that 10-100Mbps is put forth for telemedicine.Our numbers are too low. I experience problems with BB every day.The process was fair but I don’t necessarily like the numbers.
  • The group laid their cards out and had to come to a middle ground. I am comfortable with these numbers. If we want to talk about ubiquity – you need to balance that with speeds to reach the last guy on the last dirt road.Thinking of the applications for that last guy helped. This isn’t just a broadband ubiquity issue. It’s a ubiquitous healthcare issue. Costs to access to healthcare can be reduced with broadband – especially for folks in rural areas. The apsirational number isn’t as important as the floor number.
  • As a provider I was OK with the 10Mbps ball park. In discussions we said we needed people to recognize that this was our best educated guess.
  • These numbers were/are a compromise.

Here are comments from whole task force:

The apsirational numbers are too low – but I agree that it doesn’t matter much. The floor numbers are OK but we need to preface them with the idea that these are not world class numbers. These numbers are embarrassingly low.

The tough question is if I were a resident in a remote area – what is the base minimum number that I need?

It’s a mistake of putting any number in the report. They will take it out of context. So let’s go with the tiers.

Yesterday’s meeting was helpful. They let us know that we don’t get to define what citizens want. Location shouldn’t matter. Home versus business doesn’t matter. It let us know that we need to offer a whole range. Something needs to be affordable. Something needs to be middle – and we need to have options for the high end.

This report needs to look at the fact that it might not matter for a couple of years – when the legislature actually uses this. Using a number will make that number very important. Characterizing the tiers might help the legislature recognize what’s world class.

Blandin urges us to set a symmetrical goal. Why didn’t we do that?
The reason is technical. If you go symmetrical you need a different type of network.

We talked about the needs of the network if everyone needed symmetrical service. It’s important that symmetrical service is available but not mandated.

Let’s capture that idea of symmetrical as a goal but not a mandate.

When you move to higher tiers – you’re talking fiber.

The numbers are practical. It’s nice that they link to applications.

There isn’t much emphasis on telecommuting, which is a rising applications. Delivery of certain kinds of healthcare in the home is upgrading to move to virtual visits. It will reduce costs but patients will need broadband because patients want to see their provider.

Remember your pipe serves several computers.

Let’s come up with a number that forces the providers to bump up to broadband.

We’re called the ultra broadband task. Businesses want the ultra speeds. Businesses want employees to be able to work at home and that will require broadband.

The University of Minnesota is working much, much faster. We should note that in the report too.

K12 education is another place where we’re going to need broadband.

We’re gone from 22 percent standby energy to 12 percent with use of better management.

One member recently had an operation that was done robotically.

If we want world class service, then maybe we do need to set a status goal such as – being in the top 3 states.


More on speed.

Does everyone want to add the California tiers?
• Please add more edu info
• Please add more on telecommuting

Differentiation is done by application. Therefore not a differentiation between consumer and business.
• We need to talk about how to pay for it.

Accept minimum recommendation from subgroup: 10-20/5-10 Mbps
• Implies acceptance of asymmetrical
• Can we get symmetrical with tiered options
• We’re putting out a minimum
• We can add a caveat that we don’t know how we’re going to get there
• Isn’t the person who buys the service make the decision?
• The majority of consumers will opt for higher option. And once you get to a certain speed the technology has been decided for you.
• Can we offer a symmetrical and asymmetrical minimum option?

Set aspirational goal by competition ranking rather than targeting 50 by 2015. Such as Try for being in the top 5 in the or top 10 globally.
• “We’d like Minnesota to be in the top 5 states and top 10 globally. Today that would require speeds of XX.”
• I’m not interested in going with the comparison because we don’t know what that means
• I like the penetration rule. Including goals for statewide penetration.
• We need to have a metric. The legislature is going to need to see a number.
• We need to go back to saying why we selected speeds and what applications can be done at which speeds.

We’d like Minnesota to be in the top 5 states and top 10 globally. Today that would require speeds of XX and this is what you can do at that speed.
• They did a “fist to five” vote and most folks really liked this and some folks didn’t like it.
• Several people liked the global aspect.

Are we OK with the numbers?
• Can we compare this to what’s out there?
• But the last OECD numbers are from 2007.
• Also if we want to get to top 5 we might need to adjust the numbers
• That which gets measured gets done.
• Do we want to aim at top 3? Is it a negative approach especially if every state decides that they want to be top 3? Maybe a speed makes more sense?
• Yes but that would be like a baseball coach saying we don’t care about winning; we just want to score 5 runs every day.
• A team has been selected to work on this. Craig Taylor will be leading the effort.


We’ll want to assign a subgroup to role of government. But let’s start looking at it today.

There are 4 government groups:
• Federal
• State
• County
• Local
Let’s look at what they do in terms of broadband:

• Consumer
• Provider Content
• FCC Interstate regulation
• Internet
• Like to see International security
• Like to see consumer protection
• Like to see financing
• Like to see National Policy

• Consumer
• Provider Content
• Provider of infrastructure
• Like to see more consumer education
• Like to see clarification for public-private partnerships
• Like to see clarification on when regulator and when competitor
• Like to see consumer protection
• Like to see right-of-way management
• Like to see infrastructure coordination
• Like to see pulling together & codifying best standards
• Like to see speed up permit process

• Consumer
• Provider Content
• Provider of infrastructure
• Like to see clarification on when regulator and when competitor
• Like to see right-of-way management
• Like to see infrastructure coordination

• Consumer
• Provider Content
• Provider of infrastructure
• Like to see clarification on when regulator and when competitor
• Like to see right-of-way management
• Like to see infrastructure coordination

We have 6 potential subgroups to work on following recommendations for the next meeting

Research Top 5 states/Top 10 global – Dan, Joanne, Peg, Craig
Policies – Joanne, Brent, Peg Mike, Diane, Joe/Mary Ellen
Financing the broadband/ Cost estimates – John S, Dan, John G, Dick
Security – Craig, Steve, Mike
Public Private Partnership – Steve, Tom, Brent, Tim Vijay, Robyn, Joe/Mary Ellen
Role of Government – Tom, Robin, Mike Vijay, John s., Karen

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN, Policy, Rural 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.

5 thoughts on “Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force June 19, 2009

  1. Pingback: Urban Broadband Users in Minnesota » Blog Archive » Grand Rapids meeting. Highlight? Bill Arthur’s comments

  2. The audio isn’t great – but it’s there. At least I can hear it and I’ve heard from others that could too.

    I got as close as I could to the speakers – but as the video attests – as far as being a cameraman, I should keep my day job.

  3. Pingback: Hayfield Broadband moves forward « Blandin on Broadband

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