The Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Report is unveiled today. (Get it here!) It’s been more than a year in the making. It’s a consensus document, which is admirable given the strange bedfellows who worked together to create the report and the trend toward people insisting on what they want without consequence or compromise.
It’s a great opportunity to shine a light on broadband as a solution to folks who don’t think about it every day as was done in the Duluth News Tribune yesterday. For those who do think about broadband, I suspect that everyone will have their differing opinions about what the Task Force got right, where they went too far and where they didn’t go far enough – but this is a great place to pick up the conversation that began in 1985, when as the report points out (pg 17), the first major Minnesota telecommunications report was issued by the Minnesota Telecommunications Council. The Task Force hopes to give that conversation legs to move forward by recommending “the creation of a Broadband Advisory Council of Minnesota (BACM) to oversee the actions put forth in this report and see that these objectives are achieved (pg 70).
Where do we stand?
Using the FCC’s definition of broadband, 768 Kbps, more than 93% of American households now have broadband available to them in one form or another. Minnesota’s broadband adoption in the metro area rate is 57% and the rural broadband adoption rate is 39.4%, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. (pg 20)
The national broadband adoption average seems to sit between 63-68 percent. (pg 21)
There are lots of nice charts and maps. I think the chart from (pg 29) from Connected Nation on broadband availability and speeds by county is most telling. Cook County sits with 37 percent availability; 11 other counties sit with 99 percent availability. (That disparity is striking regardless of how you feel about the maps.) Broadband here is defined at 768Kbps downstream and 200Kbps upstream.
The report recognizes that 768 Kbps is not the target speed. Here’s how Minnesota ranks using the new Minnesota 2015 goal speed:
Based on statistically significant averages of consumer-initiated speed-tests:
• Zero counties currently meet or exceed the higher 2015 download speed target (20 Mbps).
• One county currently meets or exceeds the lower 2015 download speed target (10 Mbps) (Washington County at 12 Mbps).
• Zero counties currently meet or exceed the higher 2015 upload speed target (10 Mbps).
• Zero counties currently meet or exceed the lower 2015 upload speed target (5 Mbps).
So what do they recommend? Here’s a list – mostly cogged from the report itself. I’ve tried to list pages where applicable.
Recommendation 1: Identify the Level of Service
- 10-20 Mbps download / 5-10 Mbps upload (pg 51)
- Recommended sufficient speeds both up and down (pg 55)
- Minnesota will be in the top 5 states of the United States for broadband speed. Minnesota’s current ranking is 23 according to Akamai.
- Minnesota will be in the top 5 states of the United States for broadband penetration. Minnesota’s current ranking is 24 according to Akamai and Leichtman Research.
- In the top 15 when compared to countries for global broadband penetration.
Recommendation 2: Policies and Actions Necessary to Achieve Ubiquitous Broadband
- The goal is 100% coverage by 2015. (pg 56)
- An ongoing entity (Broadband Advisory Council of Minnesota- BACM) to oversee is recommended (pg 57-62)
- There is a roadmap of recommendations to help guide the BACM it includes acting as a clearinghouse of tools and communication to support communities deploying broadband, provide tax incentives to promote digital literacy programs, support programs to increase computer ownership, coordinate broadband efforts, projects, legislation in the State, initiate research including:
- A study to develop wide-ranging collaborative funding strategy, support the formation of procurement collaborations by govs and others to stimulate deployment
- A study to determine the advisability of establishing a surcharge-funded Minnesota Broadband Fund.
- Track broadband availability, adoption, speeds (advertized and actual), costs
- Assess the state of broadband in Minnesota on a regular basis
Recommendation 3: Opportunities for Public and Private Sectors to Cooperate (pg 63)
- State government should lead the effort to accurately map the state to delineate the well-served, underserved, and unserved parts of Minnesota.
- Designate one state agency to be responsible for maintaining the map, including a process for updating, verifying, and making the map publicly available.
- Local government entities (i.e., cities, counties, townships, school districts) and regional library consortia can form collaboratives to improve connectivity between them and/or combine their purchasing power in the aggregate.
- Government should encourage private sector providers to build out or upgrade their networks where necessary with tech assistance, financial incentives (appendices C &D), optimize use of right of way, be attractive to tech initiatives
Role of State Government:
- Promote broadband adoption (pg 66)
- Conduct a thorough review with the provider community to determine the security and redundancy of Minnesota’s broadband infrastructure. (pg 67)
- Continue efforts to advocate on behalf of broadband consumers, especially those consumers in areas served by only one broadband provider.
- Keep broadband maps up-to-date
- Study right of way issues
- Recommend state building code officials consider wiring standards to prepare to accommodate emerging “smart home” technology.
- Develop best practice common code requirements that facilitate future broadband.
- Explore a process that promotes advance notice when trenches are going to be opened (for conduit or fiber installation) as a way to share costs and create efficiencies for installation.
- Create legal authority for municipalities to mandate conduit installation on development applications as a condition for approval.
- Determine if there is current university capacity (University of Minnesota and MnSCU) to conduct research into advanced generation broadband that would support the goals of this report.
- Consider appropriate seed funding for projects which further Minnesota’s broadband goals (once adopted by the Governor and Legislature.)
Role of Municipal Government
- Form public/private partnerships as needed to extend services to businesses and residents.
- Develop model zoning ordinance language that encourages wireless tower placement.
- Install conduit, as appropriate
- Encourage the development of high-level collaborative broadband plans by bringing community stakeholders together.
Role of Federal Government
- Consider offering tax credits and other financing vehicles (See Appendix D) where appropriate, to encourage broadband deployment.
- Consider offering incentives for schools, community education entities, libraries, etc. to offer broadband adoption/education opportunities, and encourage programs to reduce the cost of home computers and
- Internet access for those who cannot afford them.
- Consider requiring federal projects and federally funded projects to require conduit installation, where appropriate.
- Establish and maintain standardized measurement criteria for annually measuring the nation’s progress toward federal broadband policy goals, including available Internet speeds and Internet adoption and penetration.
- Explore, along with business and industry, the development of a coordinated strategy and educational campaign to maximize the benefits of broadband use that will further stimulate broadband adoption.
- Establish strategies for extending next generation broadband to job centers.
Recommendation 4: Establish the Broadband Advisory Council for Minnesota (pg 70)
- Advise and assist stakeholders and policy makers
Recommendation 5: Evaluation of Strategies, Financing, and Financial Incentives Used in Other States/Countries to Support Broadband Development and Cost Estimates (pg 71)
- Minnesota should initiate a study to develop a wide ranging collaborative funding strategy to support the recommendations of this report.
- Minnesota should explore financial options such as tax incentives including property and sales tax credits and exemptions to further provide incentive for private capital investment. (See Appendix D.)
- Minnesota should encourage and facilitate a variety of partnerships that increase the adoption and utilization of broadband. (See Appendix E for examples of existing and proposed programs.)
- Minnesota should encourage minimizing any unreasonable barriers to right of way or easement access and facilitate efficient cooperation related to open trenches and development.
- Minnesota should encourage appropriate utilization of available federal funding to support the deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved populations, as well as to encourage efforts to support broader public adoption of broadband services.
There’s a nice discussion of costs by technology in pages 69-74. They maintain the following average costs per house/business passed (using technologies that will serve 20 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up):
- FTTP/FTTH $2,000 (urban area) $4,000 (suburban) $12,000 (rural)
- Hybrid Fiber Coax (DOCSIS3) $500 (urban area) $1,000 (suburban) $2,500 (rural)
- Wi-Fi 802.11g $150 (urban area) $300 (suburban) $900 (rural)
Improving adoption is set out as a strategy to improve the business case for deploying broadband. There’s also a list of potential funding resources. (pg 80)
Recommendation 6: Evaluation of Security, Vulnerability, and Redundancy Actions Necessary to Ensure Reliability (pg 82)
- Undertake and fund a detailed study on redundancy, security, peering strategies and exchanging intra-state traffic, privacy
- Identify and endorse an organization(s) (or collaborative) that can provide ongoing support and promote security, reliability and redundancy with reports, expertise, communication support and clearinghouse functions in the state
- Track, evaluate and reward successful security/reliability/redundancy initiatives
Recommendation 7: Economic Development Opportunities
- The Legislature should consider public/private partnership models in making funding available for technology training, production, and adoption in communities at the margins of technology
- Minnesota should fund digital and media literacy as a component of public education, and support education in libraries, YMCAs, and public housing community centers.
Recommendation 8: Evaluation of the Benefits of Broadband Access to Organizations and Institutions
- This section takes a look at the benefits of: e.emergency, e.government, e.economic development, e.health, e.learning
The appendices are worth a peek too – great lists of resources for anyone interested in broadband.