Broadband Task Force meeting July 17 in Mankato

First, Blandin Foundation held another pre-Task Force meeting on broadband policy. I’m still in Ireland so I was unable to make it in person but I heard good things about it. I want to thank John Shepard for posting his reaction to the meeting and sending me the link. He’s done a really good job with the post. I feel like I was there!

Second I want to thank Mike O’Connor for recording the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force meeting for me last Friday. The quality of the recording is great!

Third, here’s a happy addition to the post added a few hours after initial publication Rick King just sent me the latest draft of the Task Force recommendations. It’s a great opportunity for folks to see what’s on the plate and what’s not – so I encourage you to take a look!

The meeting was held in Mankato, Minnesota. (It got some local news coverage too!)

Here are the notes I was able to gleam from Mike’s audio (and some video from Bill Coleman)

Opening comments; review meeting agenda Approve meeting minutes from June 19th meeting

In September we might look at actionable items for report. The hard part is finding actions that are realistic and affordable. Bu there are resources out there that we could use and highlight in the report (such as computer reuse programs to get computers to those without.)

Connected Nation will be speaking in September rather than July at Rick King’s request.

Minutes from June approved – with one quick change.

Public comment

There have been a lot of comments from the public on Utopia – on both sides of the issue.

Video from Bill Coleman:

Topic: How to approach aspirational speed goal
* A number stated as ”the equivalent in 2015 of XX in 2010”
* A statement about where we want to be on the rankings in the US and Globally
[Subgroup included: Craig Taylor, Brent Christenson, Dan McElroy, Peg Werner, Shirley Walz]

The group met once and emailed often.

Discussion on scales of users – Do we need a specific category for government users? Probably not at this point. We did try to add in some Minnesota-specific examples.

The tough part is differentiating between consumer and producers.

Maybe we could all take this back with us and consider whether this rings true with our areas of expertise.

Aspiration penetration – right now we’re ranked at 24th in the US (on Akamai chart) but that might be per capita not per household. [Ann’s note – sorry they’re referring to a document that I don’t have; I’ll try to get it and will post if/when I do]

There’s a lot of discussion about how meaningful the stats are. Do we look at households, versus per capita? Do we look at states that are similar to us? (Is it fair to compare us to Delaware?)

The Connected Nations folks have learned that Minnesota is a hard state to track. We need to explain the kind of data we need and try to get that rather than try to fit the available stats into our purposes. That being said the data will be hard to get.

The question is – how are we going to measure success?

An absolute number doesn’t make a ton of sense. Maybe a comparison or ranking does – something like “We want Minnesota to be in the top ten in the world for broadband.”

If we’re going to go for ranking – let’s go high like being in the top five!

Yes we need to separate metrics from aspiration. But we still want to talk about how we want Minnesota to be positioned in the future.

We’re looking at penetration – not how many customers have it available. So we’re not looking at how much capacity folks are using. (SO everyone has 5M – that’s great if 50M is available. It’s getting tight if only 6M is available.)

Minnesota needs to look at ubiquity and penetration at a local basis.

We need to look at global rankings – not just US. We’re falling woefully behind in global ranking.

We need to compare ourselves to dense states because we’re talking about speed and we want the speed to lure the businesses out of the dense areas.

Should we have goals in the report if we can’t measure them? That doesn’t make sense.

I think penetration is most important. We need to make sure it’s available.

We need different measurements for different goals.

Let’s say that MN will be in top 5 in US for penetration by 2015.
Let’s say we’ll be in the top 5 in US for overall speed by 2015.

The ubiquity decided that ubiquity was availability and penetration meant take rate.

Maybe we need to think about top 3 versus top 5.

Need to look at affordability too.

We’ll need to discuss the definition of penetration a bit.

About speed…

There probably will be ways to measure speed and rank with other states.
Not everyone agrees that there will be standards set with quality measurements.

Top 3 makes sense because it puts us on rank with either coast.

Do we want to look at consumer only? How will serious business use skew the result?

We’ve heard the providers struggle with the idea of 1.5M in some areas. Do we need the Reuters in the world to bring up our average or do they skew the results?

Will 3 be unrealistically high?

Let’s say that MN will be in top 5 in US for penetration by 2015.
Let’s say we’ll be in the top 5 in US for overall speed by 2015.

– Both were voted into the recommendations


Speed on global level…

Let’s say that MN will be in top 10 in world for penetration by 2015.
Let’s say we’ll be in the top 10 in world for overall speed by 2015.

Maybe this to a sidebar but not a goal.

Are we competing with Iowa or the rest of the world? And will our broadband speeds really come into play with that business to business competition?

Is the US moving aggressively towards top ranking? No. If not, then it doesn’t make sense to consider domestic comparisons to be aspirational.

Using a quick vote it seems that most people are interested in the global comparison.

We need to strive for a global goal to fit economic development goals.

There seems to be a divide – that mostly the providers aren’t interested in the global comparisons.

There is controversy in the global stats.

There’s no objection to measuring the data – but because the measurement is so controversial maybe it’s not worth building a goal on this.

Are we talking about penetration? There should be fewer issues if we’re talking about penetration.

I’m uncomfortable with this before we know the dataset that would be used.

The goal is to increase penetration.

What if we said, “Our goal is to increase penetration in the state and representative benchmarks would be to compare well internationally…” and make the global aspect be a symptom, not a cause.


How about this for speed goal/statement… “Recommendation … increasing BB penetration in MN and recommend that … MN will be among top 15 globally to 2015”.

Another goal might be that we increase our current standing by a certain percentage.

We don’t want to change how we present the US numbers – we were just reiterating for this goal.

Are we going to look like goofballs with grandiose goals?

Are we getting anywhere with this discussion or is it time to set it aside?

There’s a consensus about adding in the global perspective. There’s some dispute about where we should land in the global ranking. There’s a plan to defer the issue.

We have to determine what the broadband is being used for – are we talking business or consumer use?

Maybe looking domestically is enough?

If you want to be top in the world – you have to go with fiber. We talked about not wanting to promote one technology over another but in creating this global goal we in effect promote fiber.

Need to capture the idea that says that we know that global perspective is important but that the measurement tools were not good enough to allow us to set a specific goal.

Topic: Symmetrical sub-group report
* Review language to cover the notion of symmetrical vs. asymmetrical speeds
[Subgroup included: Shirley Walz, JoAnne Johnson, Mike O’Connor]

Symmetrical speeds should be available to everyone everywhere. It’s not required but should be available.

Need to include source of the table.

Are we recommending that the state gets into how vendors provide their service?

As applications change – we need to send a message to providers to let them know that consumers are going to want and need more symmetrical service to keep up with the new applications.

Symmetrical isn’t so tough for telcos because it sounds like the technology is there to make symmetrical available; there just hasn’t been much call for it yet.

Do we want to get into instructions on how vendors work?

The intent is not to create a mandate but rather to provide a heads up that symmetry is becoming more important.

Are we concerned about symmetrical or just faster upload speeds?

Well, so long as you can do telepresence it doesn’t matter.

Maybe we need again to highlight when and where symmetry is needed. Is Internet service compatible with applications people want/need.

At the Blandin meeting there was a gentleman who talked about MD camps that were cancelled due to flu. If there were more quarantined in business or school due to health care concerns – we’ll need the symmetrical infrastructure.

Maybe adding the caveat that symmetry and/or faster upload speeds are enough.

We need to get the infrastructure architects to understand that there’s a shift away from Internet customer as consumer to producer.

Recommendation #2 – Policies and actions necessary to achieve ubiquitous broadband – sub-group report
* Review sub-group recommendations
[Subgroup included: Mike O’Connor, Brent Christensen, JoAnne Johnson, Diane Wells, Peg Werner, Mary Ellen Wells/Joe Schindler, Carlos Seone]

We are presenting not something to go into the report – but a map. And we want to get your impressions on that map.

Goal – 100 percent availability in State – meaning available not penetration. We got some reasons why that’s a good goal.

How to accomplish that goal:
We need to lead by mobilize & manage & organize
We need to get everyone involved (digital literacy…)

Who’s going to be responsible?

Do we want to include wireless (satellite & cellular) into the solution set or not?

Ubiquity is a big deal. Needs to be front and center.

The cost of not doing this might cover the naysayers.

A lot of the words look more accidental than they are. There is a lot of discussion around this. Rural areas need speed just as much as other areas.

Our goals for ubiquity are much quicker than goals for speed & penetration.

Do we consider satellite? No. The federal government is not considering satellite.

Ubiquity of cell phone coverage … vendors are building out their networks. Some carriers accept USF; some don’t. There are limitations on ROI and access points (towers).

We’re talking about access overall – not that every provider needs to cover the state but the state should be covered.

The speeds may not be the same in some rural areas. That’s another issue.

Do we need to get into what it broadband? That’s not our charter – but we assume that we’ll be taking the info from the speed folks and applying it here.

We set a minimum of speed last time – 20 down; 5 up. So will that work across the state? Remember we’re working at 2015.

We’re at 92 percent of coverage right now – but the last few percentage points will not be easy.

It would be nice to add a laundry list of actionable points.

We do need to marry this with Role of Government discussion. Maybe this is a framework that works for that intermingling of recommendations/goals.

Are we talking about ubiquity in terms of households or geography? How have we defined broadband? Is cell part of ubiquity? Only if we’re talking geography. But geography has its own challenges.

The remaining 8 percent isn’t only BWCA – there are lots of areas with 2-5 homes that are uncovered. They need coverage too.

Even in Eagan 100 percent coverage doesn’t actually mean 100 percent. There are homes in stubborn pockets.

When you purchase a spectrum license from the FCC there are build-out requirements. You need to serve a certain percentage of licensed coverage areas.

There’s a role for government but this is not purely instructions for government.

Are the unserved people our top priority over underserved and served? Yes – we don’t’ care where someone is – they need broadband.

Does ubiquity include affordability and tech centers?


[Ann’s note – there was an issue immediately after the break so I’ve missed some. Sorry!]

Topic: Role of Government – sub-group report
* Discuss and decide on language for the report
[Subgroup included: Tom Garrison, Mike O’Connor, Vijay Sethi, Karen Smith, John Stanoch, Robyn West]

[Ann’s note – not sure how much this was discussed but I see that there will be follow up in August.]

Recommendation #3 – Opportunities for public and private sectors to cooperate to achieve goal – sub-group report
* Review sub-group recommendations
[Subgroup included: Brent Christensen, Steve Cawley, Tom Garrison, Tim Lovaasen, Vijay Sethi, Robyn West, Mary Ellen Wells/Joe Schindler, Diane Wells]

We’re trying to encourage the public and private sectors to work together. Within governments we understand that budgets are tight. So they need to build consortia.

Governments need to help private sectors:

– Technical assistance – get business and broadband funds especial in regards securing funding
– Provide financial incentives as appropriate
– Encourage public-private partnership for sharing info in regards to rights-of-way
– Position the state to be location of choice for tech companies to try out new technologies

This emphasizes hardware – what about public-private role in stimulating use and increasing computer ownership/use?

We didn’t – but maybe we should have.

Remember the Blandin conference with Intelligent Communities speaker talked about public-private partnerships as a strategy for smart communities.

We need greater collaboration of information and that may include GIS.

Many times government relationships include impediments but there are ways to do it. We need to look at what are current government impediments and can some of those be removed and maintain public safety.

Those impediments have to do more with getting into phone business more than broadband.

There are impediments for everyone especially if there are physical plants. For example in Eden Prairie the issue was landscaping around the physical plant.

Minnesota has been a welcoming environment. We (Comcast) have been able to locate facilities. We’ve used MN as a beta state for many products. There’s a lot more working than not working – as compared to other states.

Anything that makes for a smoother process would probably help all sides. Maybe we really just need to highlight the issue with some examples.

There are barriers for municipal broadband hidden in the need to provide triple play, which includes telephone.

But there is a workaround in providing telephone by VoIP.

Does is fit here to talk about grants such as the Iowa State grants – we tried to hit that with “provide financial incentives”

The following issues will keep until next month…

Recommendation #4 – Evaluation of strategies, financing, financial incentives used in other states/countries to support broadband development & Recommendation #6 – Cost estimate – sub-group report

Recommendation #5 – Evaluation and recommendation of security, vulnerability, and redundancy actions necessary to ensure reliability – sub-group report * Review sub-group recommendations

Connected Nation worked on a number of new maps for the State.

Plans for Upcoming Meetings

Next month we’ll meet in Fergus Falls. Balndin meeting from 3-5. Reception to follow. More public comments.

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

About Ann Treacy

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

1 thought on “Broadband Task Force meeting July 17 in Mankato

  1. Pingback: Less aspiration, more actionable « Blandin on Broadband

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