Last week we got word on the newly appointed Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force members. Here’s the quick roll call: (You can see full bios here.)
- Six Members who work for broadband providers, provider associations or vendors
- One Public Affairs Consultant (and former ISP employee)
- One IT Director of a large business
- One High Tech Association Director
- One Retired from the Legislature and MN PUC
- One IS Director for a Metro County
- One Metro Cable Communications Officer
- One Metro Librarian
- One Healthcare IT Director
- One Rural K12 Technology Co-op
Where’s the rural* representation? Where’s the community representation? Who will be speaking for the folks who are least likely to be online – the elderly, low-income, ethnically under-represented and rural folks?
Last year when the original Task Force unveiled their recommendations, Blandin Strategy Board applauded the formation of a continued Task Force to carry on the work of the original team but cautioned…
The membership of this advisory committee will be crucial to its success. Diverse voices and perspectives must be included. Specifically, we urge the participation of more community representatives and end-users, especially those with strong technology backgrounds and needs – from large and small businesses, historically marginalized and disadvantaged populations, health care, education and government. We believe these representatives would be well positioned to identify and implement collaborative strategies to bring world class broadband throughout Minnesota.
Apparently there were 31 applications for the 15 positions; almost one third (11) were from rural applicants. The Department of Commerce tried to get a mix of backgrounds, gender, geography but it seems as if the list is a little industry-heavy and community light.
The initial Task Force strove for consensus, which made for more powerful and practical recommendations – but consensus is only powerful when you have everyone’s voice at the table. The newly elected folks are all qualified but some voices are not at the table and I’m afraid we may miss their voices too late.
The job of the new task force is to…
Advise and assist the commissioner on progress in achieving state highspeed broadband goals and assist in annual report to legislature regarding same.
That means there won’t be a publicized “final report” that the public can read and assess; rather advice will be given without the fanfare and probably without the scrutiny that the first Task Force experienced. Therefore it’s even more important that we have a diversity of representation around the table. Maybe there will be opportunities for the new Task Force to hear those voices – I hope those voices will speak up!
*I want to quickly add that legislation for the original Task Force “metropolitan area” means the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington, and “rural area” means an area outside of the metropolitan area.