MN Broadband Task Force Meeting December 19, 2011 – Full Notes

Yesterday I attended the Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting. This is their second meeting – and the last meeting before their first report (on the state of the state on broadband in Minnesota) is due at the end of the month.

Here are some highlights:

  1. The Task Force went over the latest version of the draft report
  2. Commissioner Rothman stopped by to get an update and offer encouraging words. He suggested that for the January strategic report that the task force need only to provide an outline – akin to the National Broadband Plan outline.
  3. They decided that the will move forward on the next report by dividing into three groups to look at the 2009 report and pulling what they can use for their report, what needs to be updated and determining gaps. Those groups will communicate via email and phone – and next meet convene to share notes with the larger group.
  4. They got a presentation on broadband from Task Force Member Steve Peterson

Most of the time was spent with the Task Force members looking over the proposed report asis. They were making suggestions for improvement and asking questions. The hiccup with my note taking was that I didn’t have a report and I don’t have one to share. I was able to ort of watch on as someone posted their electronic copy of the report on a screen. So the notes are a little jumbled as I tried to follow along.

The bulleted notes are notes from the members. The non-bulleted notes are on the report itself. I hope that will make sense.

Here are the notes…

10:00-10:10 Greetings and Introductions
Minutes are approved and posted at the Connection Minnesota site.

10:10-10:20 Public Comments
10:20-11:45 Review of Draft December 30, 2011 Report

This report is a facts & figure update.

Page 2
Introduction & restatement of Goal 1

Page 3
Needs Barriers, Issues & Goals for Broadband Access and Adoption

Map of Inventory from Oct 1, 2011 – BB Service Inventory for the State of Minnesota by terrestrial, Non-Mobile Broadband Service.

Pg 5
Restatement of Goal 2
Showing ranking of MN in State and International

Pg 6

  • There is no good ranking of MN versus the rest of the world – so it’s difficult to track parts of the second goal. The goal was have something that reflects international scope.
    • Does penetration not mean adoption and use?
    • 28% of Minnesotans don’t have access
    • There is a desire to compare Minnesota to states in other counties. It’s not fair to compare Minnesota to other countries
    • In the past there was a lot of discussion on comparison – because we want to compete globally.
  • NOTE: Some discussion on whether to include the international comparison or not.
    • We need to track how data was collected in other countries. We know how it was calculated in Minnesota, not in other places.
  • Maybe we need to tell the story
    • In the US there’s an unsubsidized market / other countries have subsidized access. This isn’t being taken into consideration.
    • Maybe we need to use what we have but include narrative to help tie it together.
    • Absent global comparison the whole purpose of the Task Force comes into question. We need to keep our eyes on the international perspective.
    • We compare ourselves to other countries in educational statistics. So precedence has been set.
    • Other countries may count their connection differently in that it may be easier/cheaper to have various connections’/phones than a connection that crosses to multiple networks.

Pg 7
Needs & Use of Broadband in Minnesota — Adoption and Utilization
Adoption Issues and Barriers to Broadband Utilization

  • Do we need to include references, not just links?

FCC Recommendation in the National BB Plan for eduion

Pg 8

Connections by schools:
Satellite 3
DSL 25
Fixed Wireless 26
Cable Modem 41
T1 85
Fiber 354

Pg 9

  • Speaks a bit to online school
  • Need to talk about whether the online program in comprehensive or blended. We need to address this growing trend.
  • Do we need to address homeschool population?
  • Do we address students who are in bricks and mortar schools but need to have broadband to access homework?
  • We need number of school districts that are doling out ipads.
  • The most useful data would be data from Dept of Ed at the state. They have registrations in online programs.
  • Say you have a teen in an accelerated program, needs to take health, can’t take it as school but needs to take it to graduate so you have to take the class at home. We need a paragraph that spells out the difference between this complementary access versus comprehensive programs (programs from which you can graduate.)
  • We also need to count the teachers who assign homework that requires broadband
    • Entirely Online
    • Blended (some classes online)
    • Online access assumed at home to complete homework

 Pg 10 – Higher Ed piece

  • We need to cite sources. We talk about “systems” – but it would be nice to cite specifically
    • Will be difficult to get specific citations in the timeframe
    • We reached out to private college council – but would like to talk to Task Force about what would be helpful to track. They may have data by campus.
  • Often what you measure is what you get so it is important to help people track good info.
  • There was some legislative rules that we might be able to look into to get more specifics

Pg 11 Health Care
A lot of data from Connect MN
But added into on Greater MN Telehealth/e-Health Broadband Network

  • Question on ownership of network. Sounds like it’s owned by telephone company but leased by health care providers
  • Need to add Essentia Health to list of members
  • Shows a map of 131 sites from the Greater MN Telehealth Network
  • Nice to have examples, although with the time frame we might not be able to get as many as we would like.

Pg 12 – Energy
PUC P999/CI08-948

  • To the extent that someone has decent wireless, a community can take advantage smart grid more easily IF the energy provider is willing to collaborate with infrastructure provider
  • Trying to add only facts – no value statements

Pg 13 – Industry & Business

  • More useful to talk about number of employees who can take advantage telework programs rather than just number of employers who will offer that option.
    • The citizens league has a task force working on telework issues with
    • Need geographic component that helps draw out the stats – especially in terms of how many businesses have web sites.

Pg 14 – Libraries
Again links to Connect MN report, which will be included in their interactive map

Pg 15 – Government Operations
State level – Talks a lot about MNET, which covers more than 1,000 locations and 300 MN Cities.
County level – Again a lot of MNET and OET, SCCP
By the end of 2012 the hub locations in each county are scheduled to be upgraded to 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps connections

  • Might be nice to look at possible geographic differences – but maybe better for later report.
  • Maybe we need to find a few factors to help measure county use of broadband.
  • The County CIOs are tracking a lot of the information
  • The adoption conversation is going to be held off for the next reports.
  • If there are 4-6 measures that we could use now in this report, it might be nice to include that.
  • Policymakers are the people who help them are the ones who will read this report. We need to provide information for them.

Pg 17 – Municipal Gov

  • Is someone tracking info on cities that we could use for this report?
  • League of MN Cities does collect data – so it can be difficult to get something specific. Cities have throughout the state taken advantage of cable to get connections built and some are closer to broadband provision. Sometimes the network is owned by city, sometimes cable companies. Cities have varied types/speeds or connectivity. LMC has an IT Directors group that might have info. MNET is a big piece – but don’t know how many cities are using VoIP.
    • When MN looked at online polling books – the local folks cried out because of the expected cost of having enough capacity that isn’t there now.
    • Could we work with the IT group? (Yes.)
    • May want to mention that we’ll be working with organization to get more data.
  • The City of Blooming is working to move online – everything you can get in paper, you can get online (in terms of info); have GIS department.
  • For policy discussion, the greatest impact we can have is at County and Regional level. We have biggest opportunity for change with the larger groups (Counties, group of counties, Regions)
  • Where does the tribal information go?
    • Might add a paragraph.
    • It’s been difficult to get good, accurate numbers. We won’t have any good numbers in a week. But moving forward we are working together to get the info
    • We’re looking for way to find ways to collect data

Pg 18 – Public Safety
Talk about wired and wireless
Public Safety Wireless Data Network Requirement Project

Pg 19 – Other key economic sectors
Includes cultural institutions such as the Walker, MN History Museum and Children’s Museum
They mention the MPR audio tour of public art in the Cities

  • The Museum Association folks don’t even know how many museums are in the state
    • Clarified to state that not every museum is a member of the association.
  • Someone is drafting text on the Historical Centers/Museums/Societies

Pg 20 – Internet Literacy
Looks like it’s heavily based on Technology Literacy Collaborative
Names some other efforts

Pg 21 Broadband Accessibility
Availability of at least 768 k – 99.87%

  • Let’s use a chart
  • Let’s get rid of the lower speed rates (768 kbps)
  • Maybe we can include it but graphically make it very clear that 768k is not broadband
    1. The problem with comparing this year to last year is that this is the first year that results have included upload speeds higher that 200 kbps
    2. Addition of 195,000 households from 2000 to 2010 census tracks
    3. Also got changes from providers
    4. Maybe we need to add more explanation
  • Are the speeds actual or advertised? (Need clarification)
  • Households should be whole number

Pg 22 – more charts I think

  • Why are there more people with 25Mbps than 10Mbps?
  • Because they didn’t track upload speed for 25, but stat related to 10Mbps needed to have 6Mbps upload speed.

Pg 23 –
Pg 24 – Map of Underserved – updated Oct 2011

  • Would it be helpful to zoom into the map to share greater detail?
  • We could use it to help highlight geographic issues (both rural and urban stories)
    • What story do we want to tell?
    • There might be a surprising disparity in some metro area
    • You can zoom in/out if you’re reading online.
    • Do plan to do a centerfold?

Pg 25 – Progress of the ARRA Broadband projects
Updated version of chart

  • Do we want to include phone?
  • Let’s remove phone numbers but leave in email so that people can click to contact
  • The timeframe is having an impact on the final version

Pg 36 – Opportunities to coordinate with Fed, State and Local Agencies
Looks like it’s meant to be a list of places where collaboration might be possible. Including: FCC, NTIA, RUS, “other fed agencies”, Connect 2Compete, Comcast programs, NCTA, CenturyLink

  • Lots of digital literacy programs out there – might be an opportunity for some coordination
  • Blandin is giving support to Main Street to look into digital literacy programs

Pg 41- Conclusion

“The preceding pages offer a high-level view of how broadband impacts and is utilities by targeted sectors of Minnesota’s economic and social sectors.”

  • Need final form by next Wednesday

11:45-12:20 Lunch
12:20-1:00 Discussion of Content and Assignments for January 31, 2012 Report

  • Given the efforts leading up to the current report, we’ll see if there’s any wiggle room on deadline of the January report.
  • Use outstate meeting to create a broader platform for public engagement – such as tech fairs, computer drives/rehab/distribution.
  • Past task forces worked in groups based on chapters of the report. DO we want to set groups in the same method?
    • Are people signing up for the next report or a broader scope moving forward?
    • Both – public engagement is a good place to have an ongoing plan
    • The next report needs to have tasks and recommendations.
    • Breaking it into groups helps bounce ideas off each other and not spend time in a larger setting. Smaller groups were more practical.
    • Maybe we need to focus on the report first. Then can decide where to focus my attention.
  • Is now a good time to bring past reports to look at their recommendations?
  • That is a good place to start
    • We can’t just divide the group in half given open meeting laws. Maybe in three groups we could tackle the past reports to see what needs to be done to move forward.
    • Probably makes sense to divide sectors into each group.
    • People can work via email on this.
    • First we need to finish the first report.
  • The January report is not an annual report. This is the last requirement.
  • With the timeline in place – we might need to look at past reports and base the January report on which ideas are worth

Commissioner Rothman Visits

  • Sorry I missed the first meeting. This is a very high priority job & Task. Border to border broadband is critical to us. It’s important from the perspective on all stakeholders.
    • We understand that the task is arduous giving the timeline. But it’s as important to get started and be on a path. This will be the roadmap for what will happen in the state.
  • This is a broad perspective, analyze; think about what our future should be and how to get there. What are the challenges, barriers? I’ve talked with many stakeholders. This is like a public private partnership. Broadband is important for everyone.
    • We need you to lay the groundwork for the administration.
    • Now we have new guidance from the FCC – what will that mean?
    • This is an opportunity to take the info and reset Minnesota’s perspective. We have high goals. Need to work with everyone to decide how to make it work. We have needs for folks who need to have access. There are education issues, healthcare issues, senior citizens. There are last mile issues. Don’t forget the people who are stranding on the end of a country mile.
    • Back to Jan 31 deadline – we need an outline. You can decide what an outline is. Think of the original National Broadband Plan release as a possible model.

Board Chair Comment: We are thinking that the outstate meetings might be an opportunity to rally local public and help them get involved with broadband. Adoption is a bigger piece of pie – we need to reach people to get them online. The infrastructure alone won’t do it

Commissioner Rothman: I am a proponent of that. We need to get people to understand broadband and starting with regional approach would be helpful.

Back to Session
We need three workgroups to look at previous task force recommendations. Are these recommendation still good? Are we missing anything? From the 2009 report – are there things that no longer make sense? Are there new ideas (time permitting)?
Diane, Bill & Margaret will select the groups. Work will be done via email and phone.

1:00-1:30 Bloomington and Broadband (Steve Peterson) -¬‐ Presentation from National League of Cities

[Ann’s note: I think that Steve will be sending a copy to share – but I didn’t want to hold up the rest of the notes]

Can we use this presentation out with folks?

Could this be extrapolated over time?
The difficulty is that it’s not entirely linear.
A lot of this is consumer demand. Is there a way to track business use?
Yes. But some of it is the aggregate of use. And it depends on use and choices. Do you use a VoIP system? Do you use video presence?

In healthcare we had one T1 10 years ago. Back then it was reserved for video conferencing when needed by patients. Now we have a lot more bandwidth.
It’s a capacity planning exercise.

Compression will help – but they can only do so much. The compression works by pulling out content that human ears/eyes can really perceive anyways but there is a limit on what you can do.

How much is enough should/could be based on what is defined by the community. Right now we have as many devices on the Internet as we have people – but eventually we will have many more devices than people – the devices will talk to each other. That will have an impact on broadband as well.

1:30-1:50 Other Business/Upcoming Meetings
Next meeting January 10 – TIES
Next meeting January 24

1:50-2:00 Additional Public Comments

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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 “MN Broadband Task Force Meeting December 19, 2011 – Full Notes

  1. Thanks for posting these notes Ann.

    I am a bit worried about the task force spending too much time on adoption and digital inclusion. There are people working on adoption, including libraries, schools, Adult Basic Education, workforce centers. Blandin’s MIRC project partners have done a pretty good job on this task.

    I want to see a strong emphasis on infrastructure. The key question is how to get 10 – 20 Mb service everywhere. In very rural areas, the business case is so out of whack that even 100% adoption will not stimulate investment. Most of these places have poor cellular service as well; key question: how can we leverage all of these public safety towers?

    Secondly, I would like to see that task force get engaged in how key institutions are adapting technology, especially those that rely on public funding – schools, health care, local government services. These institutions will drive big broadband use and adoption. They also need broadband ubiquity to deliver services to all citizens, closing the circle on the need for the state broadband goal.

  2. The other critical issue is affordability. A certain segment of the population may not know about the value or just not want to be connected. Many people in rural areas are paying more than $50 per month for Internet, some significantly higher. At some point, that is just too expensive when people are weighing their purchases.

    Through federal mechanisms, a phone does not cost more in greater Minnesota than it does in the Twin Cities. Internet should not cost 2 or 3 times the price either.

  3. I think you’re right. This year the Connected Nation folks have been looking at adoption and that will probably feature highly on this first report – especially since time is so tight.

    I think adoption is a good topic for the Task Force to tackle first because most folks are in agreement with adoption. More adoption is good – and as you point out there are people in the community (local, city, county, state and/or national) who are willing to help. So in the footsteps of the original Task Force led by Rick King, consensus prevails. But I’m glad you’ve called out infrastructure and affordability.

    Infrastructure and cost are more contentious and more difficult; starting with the definition of both. The original Task Force defined broadband for us (10Mbps up and 20Mbps down). Maybe this Task Force could work on a definition of affordable and work on a plan for making affordability and availability happen in all corners of the state. That would be exciting.

    Hopefully the next report, which sounds like it will be a game plan for the Task Force and the state will cover these issues.

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