September Minnesota Task Force Meeting – full notes

Today was the second meeting of the new Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force. I’d say that the meat of the meeting today came from Connect Minnesota as they presented their latest finding and gave a sneak preview of some of the data they will be unveiling later this year. Some stats related to Minnesota broadband adoption were released today:

The Task Force also started to define and assign segments of the report they plan to have completed by the end of the year.

Here are the details:

Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force
September 30, 2010
Falcon Heights City Hall
2077 Larpenteur Avenue West, Falcon Heights
9am to 3pm

And the notes:
[Ann’s note: Mike O’Connor recorded the meeting. I will add link to that recording once I have it. I’m very glad to have the recording. It’s nice to go back to remember what was said and by whom.]


Peter Lindstrom gave a nice welcome to Falcon Heights, former home to BF Skinner, Bernie Bierman, home to University of Minnesota St Paul Campus, State Fair, Rap Rapson homes – it’s where T Roosevelt first said, “speak softly and carry a big stick”.

Introduction of guests:

Brent Legg – from Connected Nation
Ann Treacy – Blandin on Broadband blog helper
Mike O’Connor – original Task Force member
Dennis Fazio – from TIES
Phillip Brown – from Connection Nation

Approval of Minutes of August 26, 2010 meeting – done

Legal and policy issues for the task force with Alberto Quintela, MN Department of Commerce who provides legal support for Commissioner and Task Force & Boards

Proxies – can be a person who listens, speaks for someone else. Or can be a written substitution. In government there is no authorization for voice proxies. In Congress or State Legislature you have to be present to vote. The Task Force is a creation of government. Proxy for the Task Force is in a grey area. It’s neither authorized, nor forbidden. It’s up to the Task Force.

There are only two meetings left – so maybe the best route is to continue asis. [Ann’s note: presumably 2 months refers to the end of the year when the first report is due and when new Administration will take over.]

Are we in a position to use volunteer service of folks to help us with our work? Yes

We are bound by open meeting law. Here are some specifics:

  • Applies if there’s a quorum.
  • Applies is there is not a quorum, but is an official committee.
  • It’s best to try to not sidestep the open meeting law – especially in the world of bloggers and tape recorders.
  • This applies to conference calls too.

Open meeting rules:

  • Any meeting of the body need to be posted in advance
    • Will be posted on the web site
  • Public should be able to monitor meeting
  • There are 15 members; a simple majority constitutes a quorum

Electronic meeting guidelines (according to Public

  • All members must e able to hear everything
  • Visitors must be able to hear
  • At least one member of the committee must be at set location
  • Notice must be given of meeting location – but must add in details on how to participate electronically

What are the member terms?

  • Everyone has a two-years term from appointment
  • It is at the pleasure of the Commissioner
  • If you miss 3 meetings you might be asked to leave
  • It’s rare that a Commissioner would come in and make a drastic changes to a committee or board

Our direct purpose is to work on the report that is due at the end of the year.

Connect MN – Brent Legg

[Ann’s note: Big thanks to Brent for sharing his PPT!]

Number of providers on the map: 100
BB definition 768k down/200k up

Excluding Mobile BB
Covered households: 1,810,763
Unserved households: 84,391
Total households 1,895,127
Percentage: 95.55%
Geographic Availability: 60.22%
Rural Statewide BB Covered households: 756,035
Rural unserved: 78,848
Total Rural Households: 834,833
Percentage: 90.56%

All Platforms
Covered households: 1,881,358
Unserved households: 13,769
Total households 1,895,127
Percentage: 99.3%
Rural Statewide BB Covered households: 822,405
Rural unserved: 12,478
Total Rural Households: 834,833
Percentage: 98.51%


  • How did the program get started? Was it the telecommunications lobbyists?
    Several US Senators took an interest. They got feedback from home that people wanted to expand broadband. Dick Durbin from IL was the lead sponsor. Also one of Durbin’s key staffers had a spouse involved in the industry.
  • BTOP award winners are required to provide data. BIP award winners are not required to provide data.
  • Will the maps get into price?
    We try to identify if cost is an issue for adopters. However we don’t ask providers about cost. Pricing went out of the provider formula in 2009.
  • Do you think that you have good representation of the providers in the research at 83% of the 123 providers in MN?
    We have a good range of the providers. They do need to meet the 768kbps speed limit to qualify. Only two last mile providers refused to participate, however 20 were not able to provide the data.
  • We could use connections to organizations such as League of MN Cities to ask local folks about provider coverage (are we aware of all of the providers).
  • What’s a middle mile backhaul provider?
    Think about a community provider. They probably have a node in a community that reaches your home. That’s a last mile provider. A middle mile provider would get from a centralized node to the last mile providers. The middle mile providers are not being mapped. We track it when we can – but we can’t map it.
  • With the NTIA projects will this be mapped?
    Right now it can’t be mapped. We might be able to show generalized routes without showing exact locations; so we are working on that. Middle mile providers are very reticent to give this info.
  • NOTOA reports that 95% is broadband coverage in the state. So we’re on track with the rest of the nation.
  • How do you validate the speeds?
    There’s no method that 100% accurate. Speed tests help. We do use them because you can track them by IP address. So we rely on averages of speed tests. They are limited by demand on network. They are affected by possible wireless network hiccups. We try to incorporate public feedback. We also do field validation.
  • How do you reach people who aren’t online?
    It would be nice to find ways to reach more people and the Task Force can help extend the reach as others have done – such as the Blandin on Broadband blog.

Looking at the tool at Connect Minnesota:

[Ann’s note: I don’t want to go too detailed in the demonstration. I’ll track the points I found most interesting and questions/comments from board members. In short, it is easier to use (more like Google Maps). The info is only as good as the providers and confirmation could indicate, which is not meant to be faint praise. It’s just always the case.]

You can track easily to information by census block. You can track broadband info as well as access general census info.

There are 4-500 households that don’t have access to POTS (regular phone service).

Connect Minnesota represents mobile differently because there is such a difference in quality of service.

All of the info on the mobile layer comes from Mobile service providers. We check it against FCC tower base. There are big pockets on unserved areas in the north-central area of MN. But again they only track anything over 768k.

The maps have been used in other states to demonstrate market possibilities to incumbent providers.

The plan is to create a formal report on an annual basis (such as the Iowa Report) – we are open to providing less formal updates on a more regular basis, that would work too.


  • Cost of broadband is crucial. Is there a way to track cost? St Cloud had three providers and the price was competitive. Now they only have one and the prices are increased dramatically.
    We asked “Would you pay $10/month to double your speeds?” even at the lowest tier 62% said no. But we found that the very minute someone wants to do something online and can’t – that’s the moment that they will upgrade.
  • Who do you work with to make this available? Such as EDAM or DEED. Maybe you need to work with DEED to make this information available. Maybe this could replace MNPRO since the MNPRo profiles are not updated regularly.

What does the new funding provide?

  • Extend the maps to 2014
  • Hire a state broadband coordinator.
  • Have an office in St Paul.
  • Support the Task Force.
  • Host an annual Summit.
  • Get county-level research on residential & business adoption (yrs 2 and 5)
  • State level research on residential & business adoption (yrs 3 and 4)
  • Get independent research peer review

Iowa Broadband Report review with Phillip Brown

You can access the Iowa Report online:

[Ann’s note: we looked at some sneak preview content]

It’s a slick report of Connected Nation’s research and mapping in that state. And it’s a template that we can use to create a customized report for Minnesota.

Minnesota is in a unique position because you have the recommendations of the original Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Task Force.

We are looking at the 3Mbps and 6 Mbps speed limits because to get 3 Mbps actual you really are looking at 6Mbps advertised

BB download speeds Percent of Households by Speed tiers
768k 95.56
1.5Mbps 95.01
3 Mbps 92.62
6 Mbps 88.88
10 Mbps 78.76
25 Mbps 48.6
50 Mbps 1.76

People in rural areas feel that we should go for ubiquitous broadband. But it seems as if the FCC might be looking at what speeds they might fund.

Also they are looking at a speed that most households need to perform typical tasks online.

We look at an improvement as an improvement (in terms of speed) but there are some clear differentiations between what you can do with different levels of broadband.

This first table might basis for further conversation


  • If I’m in an area with 3Mbps and need more bandwidth to use an application, can I use the middle mile access in some way?
    Usually an institute with a need for high bandwidth uses has needed dedicated services. The more we build out the network, the more availability there should be for dedicated use.
  • In regional healthcare implementations, we need 50Mbps and we can generally get that sort of access. But when we try to consult with specialists via video we need the bandwidth to be good to the household so that we can have in-home consultations.
  • Can we see urban unserved areas?
    Yes – not with a number of clicks per se but by clicking through and we can run any reports if folks are interested.
  • The new report will include service coverage by county both with a 768k definition of broadband and 3Mbps.
  • It’s interesting to see which counties have access to fiber. Only 4% of the state has access; yet 90+% in Clearwater County have access.
  • It might be interesting to look at broadband rates and areas that are currently receiving USF. That might not be necessarily for the legislative reports – but these reports aren’t only for the legislature – they are for the whole state.
  • One recommendation CN makes is getting the involved with the state delegates and the FCC in terms of making policy that benefits the state.
  • Much of this info is publically available – but not particularly accessible. Making this information available will help multiple sectors.
  • We plan to insert info on tribal and federal lands.
  • We plan to list all of the broadband stimulus programs.
  • The mapping programs have to report on their reports as the other ARRA-funded project must do.

Broadband Adoption Surveys:
(You can get access to the info here:

Collected 1200 via phone (200 were cell; the rest were landlines). Set goals to get demographic variety (rural, urban, suburban. Income…)

Broadband adoption
Use bb from home 72%
Use internet other place 10%
Do not use 9%
Use dialup at home 7%
Don’t know home access 2%

Why don’t people have broadband?

  • Most folks don’t want or need a computer
  • Too expensive
  • Use computer someplace lese
  • Too complicated

How many people subscriber at home 72%
That’s 6% higher than national average


  • As Baby Boomers age it might be interesting to look not just at 65 and older – but to break down that segment into 65-75 and 75 and older.
  • When will the draft be written?
  • Mid-November – with final draft ready by start of December (after the election)
  • We (the Task Force) want to track the same info as the Connect Minnesota folks so it would be nice to work together.
  • On one extreme we might see the Commissioner’s report as a paragraph, yet we don’t want to replicate the efforts of Connect Minnesota either.
  • Is there a list of which counties are considered rural and which are considered urban?
    The census block define the rural/non-rural standing.
  • Can we get info on costs to cover Minnesota (such as Blair Levin gave recently on how much it would cost to cover the US).


We spoke about an abbreviated report for 2010/2011 but it might make sense to talk with Connect Minnesota about reports moving forward.

Ideas for what to put in the report (as brainstormed last meeting):

Data & Benchmarking in terms of the Recommendations Goals
Use the same measurement tools
Identify where 6 percent of unserved folks are
There are two kinds of gaps (Swiss cheese in rural areas and lace cheese in urban areas)
Explain differentiation of broadband definitions
Talk about National Broadband Plan

How do we grow demand?
Plant seeds like Blandin has done with PCs for People
Find ways to reach and subsidize people – but that might be too deep for this year.
Review adoption rates to make sure we aren’t creating barriers.
Skim the Tech-Nos/Laggards
Consider focus group with non-adopters (maybe for next year)
Computer skills for adults used on the job

How to partner – we have anecdotal evidence through stimulus applications

Track federal stimulus funding
Review what programs have been successful nationally (good for next year)
Input from key legislators on what they’d like to see in the report

This might be a more educational report, especially given that the Administration is going to choose.

Will we be recognizing barriers and addressing those too. Restrictions on e-rate for example might be a topic.

We do need to get folks writing – but we could get help – from Connect Minnesota and other folks in the room.

Last time around security came up – but we didn’t have enough time to address it adequately. Maybe someone like Mike O’Connor could look at those issues. If not now, then later.

Who will look into what?

  • Shirley will be looking at data and putting into the framework we used for the first Task Force Recommendation document. John Schultz will help.
  • Get summaries on sectors (healthcare, government, libraries, schools) and folks at the table can get involved. It might be nice to get partners on the Task Force who could balance the risk of too much jargon. Folks might start by looking at the original report.
  • Joanne can start by looking at what other states are doing and the National Broadband Plan. Bob Bass will work on the National Broadband Plan too.
  • Mike Martin and Brent Christensen will be looking at the unserved 6 percent.
  • Johns Schultz will work on partnerships and stimulus programs.

Logistics for future meetings: date, time, location and agenda

The next meeting will be October 27, 2010.
Then November 17, 2010

Possible meeting spot – TIES in Falcon Heights


This entry was posted in Minnesota Advisory Task Force, 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 “September Minnesota Task Force Meeting – full notes

  1. Pingback: A sensible approach to universal broadband? « Blandin on Broadband

  2. Pingback: Minnesota Rural Broadband Surveys are out « Blandin on Broadband

  3. Pingback: Home Broadband Adoption using 2009 Census Data « Blandin on Broadband

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