The National Broadband Plan – A Minnesota perspective

I’m torn between combing through the long awaited National Broadband Plan with fine-toothed comb or looking at the broad strokes. After reading Steve Borsch’s article Why the FCC Broadband Plan Matters, I’m going to shoot for the middle ground and look at what the Plan might mean in Minnesota – based mostly the executive summary, the March 16 FCC open meeting and various (early) critiques of the Plan. First, Minnesota has started with recommendations from the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Task Force and the FCC recommendations are just that – recommendations. The FCC suggests that that executive branch continue the effort with an ongoing, multidisciplinary committee; the MN Task Force requested the same.

Now let’s look at the goals:

Goal No. 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.

Minnesota’s Task Force speed recommendations were well below these speeds; subsequently the speeds in the current Minnesota broadband bill are also slower with a universal broadband goal – 10-20mbps up / 5-10mbps down and be top 5 in US, and top 15 internationally. However Minnesota calls for 100 percent coverage; National Plan does not. (I think I saw someone say 100 million households was out of 114 million)

Want to test your connection speed today? Check out the Speed Test on the FCC site; it’s one of their new consumer tools. You can compare your speeds with the rest of Minnesota on the Connect Minnesota site. (Or test your speeds reported on the FCC site with the tests reported on the Connect MN site.) FCC will be using the tests in a report to come out next February.

Goal No. 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.

As seen in the excerpt above Minnesota is shooting to be a world leader but Minnesota’s Task Force plan was purposefully technology neutral. (And the way the FCC handles mobile innovation is not a discussion at the state level.) Though I have to give special mention to Representative Juhnke who asked about cell coverage when the Task Force brought their recommendations to the Capital. Rep Johnke was talking about simple cell phone coverage, but that’s required – in rural areas especially – before we can see any innovation!

Goal No. 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.

The FCC is already receiving grief about this one. National Public Radio has accused the FCC of ignoring its own international study (by Benkler) on broadband cost…

The FCC got Benkler’s report and basically said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Blair Levin, executive director of the FCC’s broadband initiative, says forcing companies to open their circuits to competitors — what’s called “open access” — just won’t work in the U.S.

What they have done instead is plan to shift up to $16 billion over the next decade from the existing Universal Service Fund (USF) Program to support broadband. Yahoo! reports that the FCC might have issues with this option too…

Tapping this pool of money for broadband could be an uphill push, too, because the long-distance revenue base that supports the Universal Service Fund is shrinking. The FCC plan offers several options to pay for the new broadband programs, including one that would require no additional money from Congress and one that would accelerate the construction of broadband networks if Congress approves a one-time injection of several billion dollars.

The FCC may also need to sort out questions of legal authority. Existing law and policies say Universal Service money can only be used for telephone service, not broadband.

Goal No. 4: Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.

The Minnesota Task Force recognizes the importance of anchor tenants in a community, but doesn’t necessarily suggest a higher speed for those centers…

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. This level of connectivity can serve as the anchor tenant for existing service providers and be one way to encourage them to build out the existing network.

Goal No. 5: To ensure the safety of the American people, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.

Locally, the Task Force looked e.emergency (pg 92). I don’t think it was super fleshed out or made a top priority – but there are recommendations to create entities to look into e.emergency is greater detail. So in short, I think the US and MN recommendations are in alignment here. Any action on the National level will support Minnesota’s efforts. …

Minnesota’s public safety and emergency response organizations need broadband so they can rapidly share information between public health, safety, and emergency responder entities and private entities. Broadband is also required for cybersecurity, 24/7 availability, fault protection, and to support seamless disaster management between branches and levels of government, as well as to expand capacity and connectivity for the Public Safety and Homeland Security Networks of Minnesota.

The Task Force believes that it is necessary to ensure a network connection to every public sector emergency responder facility (i.e., sheriff, police and fire, PCA, public health locations) as well as each of the 63 National Guard armories and training centers.

Goal No. 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption

I don’t know of Minnesota movement that aligns with this goal. I like to see broadband offered as a solution – and I think many reports and recommendations seem to focus on broadband as a solution.

The goals are braced up with a 4-prong plan:

1. Establishing competition policies. Policymakers, including the FCC, have a broad set of tools to protect and encourage competition in the markets that make up the broadband ecosystem: network services, devices and applications and content. The plan contains multiple recommendations that will foster competition across the ecosystem.

2. Ensuring efficient allocation and use of government-owned and government-influenced assets. Government establishes policies for the use of spectrum and oversees access to poles, conduits, rooftops and rights-of-way, which are used in the deployment of broadband networks. Government also finances a large number of infrastructure projects. Ensuring these assets and resources are allocated and managed efficiently can encourage deployment of broadband infrastructure and lower barriers to competitive entry. The plan contains a number of recommendations to do accomplish these goals.

Reading with Minnesota eyes, I have to give credit to Senator Amy Klobuchar for the dig once model!

3. Creating incentives for universal availability and adoption of broadband. Three elements must be in place to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to reap the benefits of broadband. All Americans should have access to broadband service with sufficient capabilities, all should be able to afford broadband and all should have the opportunity to develop digital literacy skills to take advantage of broadband.

4. Updating policies, setting standards and aligning incentives to maximize use for national priorities. Federal, Tribal, state and local governments play an important role in many sectors of our economy. Government is the largest health care payor in the country, operates the public education system, regulates many aspects of the energy industry, provides multiple services to its citizens and has primary responsibility for homeland security. The plan includes the recommendations designed to unleash increased use, private sector investment and innovation in these areas.

And a few of the early critiques of the Plan.

Why the FCC’s New Broadband Plan is Worth Covering – good for broadband newbies and experts  

Stearns Wants Answers on Cost of FCC Broadband Plan – stood alone as a very negative piece

Will The National Broadband Plan Come Up Short?

FCC: National Broadband Plan will target 4 Mb/s to the home – the goal is higher but support is given at that level  

Who Hates the National Broadband Plan? – pretty self-explanatory,2817,2361361,00.asp  

On the Feds’ Wish List, a Choose-Your-Own-Broadband App

FCC’s National Broadband Plan: ‘The Second Wave of Electricity’

This entry was posted in FCC, 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.

3 thoughts on “The National Broadband Plan – A Minnesota perspective

  1. An eagle eye friend noticed that the MN Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force is referenced at page 170 (and footnotes #41and 42 on p. 187) in regard to state level strategies to encourage adoption!

  2. Pingback: Minnesota Broadband Bill passes in Senate « Blandin on Broadband

  3. Pingback: Marshall celebrates broadband success « Blandin on Broadband

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