Minnesota Broadband Task Force July 16 – notes

I wasn’t able to attend the session – but I was able to call in and I have to say that the audio quality was pretty good – for folks who might be interested in participating remotely in the future.

Here are the notes I was able to take:

July 16:

  • 8:00-8:30 Leech Lake Tribal      College, 6945 Little Wolf Road, Cass Lake, MN 56633
    • Welcome by Carri Jones, Leech       Lake Tribal Chair
    • MIRC Coordinator Mike Jones
  • 8:30-8:40 Drive to Temporary      Employment Program Offices
  • 8:40-9:15 Temporary Employment      Program, 6271 Lower Cass Frontage Road, Cass Lake, MN
    • Presentation by Janice Gale,       Director
  • 9:15-10:00 Drive to Deer River      Meeting in Deer River High School Media Center, 101 1st Avenue NE, Deer      River, MN 56636


Just like stone soup, folks have been sending me additions to the Task Force notes. Thank you! Today (Jul 20, 2012), I’m happy to add some videos http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBD6AA01F2EEBD439&feature=view_all:

• 10:00-10:15 Welcome, introductions, approve minutes from June 12 meeting

Minutes approved

Elected Officials say hello and welcome folks to the area.

Folks are eager to see what happens with the Task Force and are happy that the State is recognizing the need in rural areas. Broadband has been a boon to education and business. Connectivity in Deer River has been pretty good – but the outlying areas are not as lucky. Tourism is a big industry and it’s been nice to have broadband to offer them.

• 10:15-10:30 Public comments – none now

Adoption Sub-Committee has created a tool that highlights broadband resources in a community so that residents could easily find providers in their area as well as outlining broadband options and costs. As a pilot, they have created a model for Deer River, which they are able to give to the local leaders. (See brochure.)

• 10:30-11:15 Tribal issues panel

Visited reservation earlier and heard about the transformation brought about through the MIRC program. It was good to hear about continuum of working with folks who need jobs and are interested in working on skills and actually finding jobs.

o Fred Underwood, Fond du Lac, IT Director

I first came to Fond do Lac they had only one dialup. (12 years ago) Now we have fiber. We have come a long way.

Kids and elders expect to have Internet access – and they won’t move to areas without access. Some areas of the reservations have access; some don’t. Up to 90 percent of residents don’t have access at home, but they expect it at the school. We are now working on last mile access.

The Internet has shifted from being a luxury to being an expected utility. IT would cost as much as $100,000 to reach some homes.

Our challenge is that we don’t have the tax base or bonding to count on to deploy better broadband. The tribe has been good about supporting our efforts. And on  federal level the connectivity we have hurts us. The Feds only want to help people who currently have no connectivity.

We have too many pine trees for wireless. FTTH is the best route for us.

Problems is too many federal agencies are not able to work together on connectivity with public-private partnership. Connect MN has done a good job with mapping – it would be nice if it included government fiber as well. Government entities don’t’ work in a vacuum. They work with many partners – and infrastructure that only support some partners is not as helpful.

o Frank Reis Leech Lake

Come from the Telco side of connectivity. When I first came on board connectivity was poor. When we started we had 20 T1s, now we’re shifting to fiber. We were doing  limited wireless.

Some issues – we have to deal with 5 telcos on Leach Lake. We have unserved areas on the reservation. Qwest only came so far; Arrowhead only came so far.

We haven’t been able to get into USF money with wireless but we’re thinking that might change with the changes in funding.

Developed a new Utility Commission on Leech Lake. We want to work with public and private partners – but right now private partners are not necessarily open to working together. We have had issues with Paul Bunyan.

(Sorry my notes here aren’t stellar; I couldn’t hear very well.)


Are there areas on the reservation where folks can get access to computers?

  • Yes. We’ve had computers in public areas.
  • We have full computer centers in 3 school locations. Public wireless access has been even more popular. We’ve had great success with wireless access at camps; turns out grandparents like to Skype.

What’s the problem with partnerships?

  • The middle mile project has been an issue. We are interested in a commercial network. We spoke with Lyle MacVey (NESC) – but there were some issues with them partnering with a casino.

You reference wireless – what is the problem?

  • We would have needed five 450-foot towers to overcome trees – and we’d need to cut down trees near the user homes (or build towers on their roofs). I did the math on wireless options – but the ROI was just not there. In the long run, fiber was going to be the better investment.

What device/computers are people using to get online?

  • I think people would be happy to go online if we had wireless infrastructure.
  • We find that people without computers say they don’t have one because they couldn’t access broadband anyways. So it’s chicken and egg situation. We also find that we have a  60-65 adoption rate.

Do you have any problems with rights of way and other providers coming through or permitting processes?

  • The Utilities Commission has notified carriers of commission and we’re hoping to work with them to figure out who needs what. Qwest was there but didn’t make any effort. (This is a comment that was refuted by a CenturyLink rep on the Task Force.) We’re working on creating a good system.
  • We had have some problems with pole fees, it discouraged people from moving too far into the area. But otherwise infrastructure availability has been an issue – we were looking to build towers but in the end the providers didn’t have wires in the area.

• 11:15-12:00 Subgroup work time (first session: Coordination Across Government Levels and Best Practices/Incentives subgroups)

• 12:00-12:30 Lunch

• 12:30-1:00 Education demo of Telepresence (Ojibwe language class)

• 1:00-1:45 Education panel

o Matt Grose, Moderator

o Fred Nolan, Director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association (see prepared notes)

Importance of high-speed to role at (Superintendent of) Foley and now.

150 rural school districts. We try to put learners first. I have talked to many people – broadband is transformational tool in education – like transportation of earlier times.

In education that transformation at K12 it is bringing a blended approach to education. It’s just in time; asynchronous education. We won’t be moving to entirely virtual anytime soon – because kids are social animals and need the social aspect and social learning – but the blended approach is helpful.

Flipped classrooms are becoming more popular in college environment.

We have looked at the 4-day week and use of video. IT gives more time for teacher prep.

Telepresence is opening new doors as well.

How do we get bandwidth and technology to everyone at an equitable start? We have access to education in the constitution – we need to make sure that remains true and again equitable. There is one school that can only get 10 Mbps from their provider – for the whole district. So when the 8th graders take their tests – everyone else has to keep off the computers (include admin). Access from home is another big issue. In rural areas you might not even have the option to walk to the library to get access.

QUESTION – when you talk about equity of access  – is that across districts or towns and farmland areas?

  • We are talking farming areas and home access too. Areas such as Deer River – woodsy areas – seem to have more issues. North of highway 10 is a bigger issue. But also some areas in some suburbs are having troubles – for example St Cloud. They have a multi-state provider that does not recognize the benefits of serving all areas.

QUESTION – are you aware of rural districts that are using connectivity on school buses?

  • Don’t know of any in Minnesota. We looked at it on the athletic buses in Foley – but never got it going. But there are districts in AZ that are doing that.


  • Standardize access standards – like how RR monitoring rails.
  • Develop public-private partnerships – maybe state cost share or something like it
  • Support R&D at University level to find solutions outside DSL

o Curt Tryggestad, Eden Prairie Superintendent (previously Little Falls Superintendent)

Affinity Online – small consortiums served 200 kids; not serves 11,000. Students want access to programs. Many kids are probably working from the school building to get online; although some are at home. The lessons are available anywhere, anytime.

We provided ITV to 9 schools. What’s nice is that we have fiber – but we still pay for maintenance. We found that we had to work with different providers to get ITV to far corners.

In Little Falls we tried to go digital with middle grades. We need to make sure the broadband would support the effort. Many people were using smartphones. We had 1700 students – technology changed how students connected to teachers. Teachers get email questions at night – where students would have never phoned.

We got a second provider with second 100Mbps line because we needed it.

o Joe Silko or Mark Adams, Itasca Area Schools Collaborative


Maybe the Task Force can talk to the Governor about the connectivity of the buses and the need to make sure that kids have adequate access.

Also we need to talk about incentives vs penalties.


Channel One once put TVs in the classrooms. It was a good way to get technology in the classroom.

We are happy to help share stories.

(Sorry I couldn’t hear these folks as well.)

o Jennifer Dugan, Minnesota Department of Education

History/philosophy of moving State-required assessment online – we wanted to maximize technology. We started with more limited (smaller) populations. Many of the tests have always been online. The effort really is to replicate science simulations (or other) experience as much as possible – to really take advantage of the advantages of technology.

Ease of administration has been another reason to move testing online.

We moved math testing for classes 3-8 online – for schools to choose how to administer.

Feedback from schools as tests moved online:

There was a technology workgroup that met in 2006. We had wide representation in terms of large schools, small schools, Macs, PCs, rural and metro. The hardware can be the competing factor. The problem is that using computers for testing, means you can’t use them for other classrooms. We had cached versions of the tests. So that saved bandwidth – but not we are using a web-based tests. That does impact broadband use in the classrooms.

The following was added Jul 18, 2012 based on notes to the Task Force from Jennifer Dugan:

A list of online assessments by the Minnesota Department of Education:

  • Math MCA grades 3-8 is available online and administration mode is determined at a school level.
  • Math MCA-Modified grades 5-8 are only available online.  This assessment’s initial administration was 2011.
  • Science MCA grades 5, 8, and HS are only available online. This has been the case since 2008.
  • Math and Reading GRAD retests are available online monthly.
  • Reading MCA and Reading MCA-Modified will be available online for the first time in 2012-2013 school year.  Administration mode is determined at a school level.

[Note from Matt & Others: The Legislature did give some funding to make transition possible. Something like $50/per student for two years.]


Question about waiver; I didn’t quite hear it…

  • The waiver does not alter administration of assessment. It alters accountability after the test taking.

Any research on impact of hotspots on students?

  • We don’t know if any. But it might make sense to look to Maine; they have been working on this for a while.

• 1:45-2:30 Subgroup work time (second session: State of Broadband; Broadband Adoption; and Monitor/Understand Impact of FCC & PUC Decisions, Cost of Broadband subgroups)

• 2:50-3:00 Discussion of what is needed for September report by each subgroup

  • Proposed Timeline:
    • July 27: subgroups submit outline of what is being worked on and materials
    • August 15: staff sends out an initial draft of the report
    • August 25: task force members comments due on initial draft
    • September 5: staff sends out revised draft
    • September 11: task force walk through of report at meeting, final edits

• 3:00-3:15 Other business/Upcoming meetings/Adjourn

o Infrastructure letter to mayors related to recent flooding

Audio of Meeting:

Added Jul 17, 2012: The Task Force Made the local news:


This entry was posted in MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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