Minnesota Broadband Task Force Nov 27, 2012: Full Notes

Today’s Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting was about rolling up sleeves and diving into the Task Force draft report. The final version is due in early December. The meeting wasn’t about dotting the i’s – but it was about making hard decisions – such as which recommendations to keep and which to toss. It reminded me of writing papers in college – tough to toss out a well written paragraph just because it strayed from the topic.

But some recommendations were tossed out. Some changes were made. There was a general focus on leaving a tight document that would be most effective with legislators. Some recommendation will/may be picked up in 2013.

Today’s notes include some video – which in every case would have made better audio – but it’s quicker for me to leave asis and therefore quicker for me to get online.

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome/Introductions/Approve Minutes from November 13 Meeting

10:15 – 10:30 Public Comments

None

Minutes approved

Report on the Conference from Bernadine Joselyn:

Gary, Danna, Dick and Margaret did a nice job of getting feedback. We had tracks on adoption, application and connectivity. More than 200 people attended. Good connections made across projects.

We had 60 kids at the tech academy. They enjoyed the chance to learn.

People are no longer asking about what is broadband – they are asking how they can get it. That’s a nice progression over the years.

Thanks to Bill, Diane, Joanna Peter, Dennis. The timing is really important because the Gov is looking at their legislative agenda. The sooner we get info to them the better the chances of getting their attention. They want more info on tax credits on incentives for providers to build into unserved areas. Task Force gave several examples and Revenue wants to know which model would be best to emulate, who should benefit, how much money should be involved.

Peter: when we get to policy recommendations – there are some question marks that might require extra conversation. Tax policy people (Dep of Revenue) need more information to design a plan that will work.

Diving into the Draft…

Pg 3

  • Telework – let’s add the Fergus Falls Telework Example
  • Social Economic Impact
    • Let’s add info on citizen engagement.
    • Let’s add info on education and equal opportunity (maybe use the Connect MN e-Learning report; maybe Matt Grose comes up with something)

Pg 4

Where are we now?

Pg 5

We need to emphasize urgency and need to take action if we want to make the 2015 goals.

Pg 8

Can we find a way to stress that we are at 82 percent of MN households can access broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up? That’s close to the goal – but it’s not hitting the goal. [reminder the goal is 5-10 Mbps up and 10-20 Mbps down.]

The message is that we’re getting somewhere – just not all of the way.

Why do we include data on 768 Kbps? It gives credit to a speed that is just way too slow. Originally it was included because there are some references to that speed in the FCC. They are moving to more robust speeds but still require Connect MN to collect the data.

Pg 10

Let’s add a framing paragraph maybe with a vignette.

Pgs 13-14

Lots of discussion on applications by broadband speed.

Pgs 14-16

Updates on ARRA projects and others

  • We need to outline the costs in building a network in the rural areas.
  • We also need to note that there are projects happening without ARRA funding
  • Do we need to mention the consultant working with Cloquet Valley & Kanabec?

Pg 17

  • Let’s talk about who else needs to be part of the FirstNet discussion
  • Maybe we need to add a purposeful paragraph on the role of State Government

Pg 20

10:30 – 12:00 Discuss and Edit Draft Report

Report to Governor by Dec 10 so all changes must be made by Dec 7

Top note to add: We are not on track – and we won’t be without a call to action.

Rep Sheldon Johnson wanted to visit the meeting – but we suggested that this might not be the best meeting since it’s a working, editing meeting. We suspect he will join us early in 2013. We will also invite the Senate Chair.

12:00 – 12:30 Lunch (working lunch if necessary)

12:30 – 1:30 Continue Discussion and Editing of Draft Report

1:30 – 1:50 Discuss 2013 Meeting Dates/Locations/Topics

Recommendations – coming back from small group discussion:

An ongoing broadband entity

  • LCCMR – we liked that model
  • What do we want to accomplish?
    • We need a team of folks who understand this – not just a handful of legislators who are making this their issue.

Policy Recommendations

People are asking – how do we know that we’re getting what we plan to buy? So let’s only leave it stuff that leads to immediate and direct change.

Do the following recommendations meet their criteria set out by Peter? Each item was put to a loose vote – here are the results:

  1. Increase funding to public libraries & schools (mostly positive)
  2. Scholarship dollars to students to tutor for broadband funding (luke warm)
  3. Expand ed credit to pay for broadband (luke warm)
    1. Discussion: Let’s not include because we can’t track who has added connection because of the credit and who is just getting a credit on an existing connection
  4. Tax credits for broadband providers to go to unserved areas (winner!)
      1. Discussion: we need to pick a single model for Dep of Revenue to flesh out. How about Wisconsin?
  5. Sales tax credit for fiber/broadband equipment (winner!)
  6. Coordinate rural broadband installation with state and federal programs assisting hospitals, libraries et al (less than luke warm)
    1. Discussion: maybe we could suggest that we seek federal funds here – keep the state budget out of it. Maybe the ongoing entity could take this on.
  7. Dig once proposal – but question, do we need staff coordinator (mostly positive)
    1. Discussion The state may install conduit and ask the providers to rent space from the State. The idea started strong but is losing momentum. The only cost is coordination. Let’s make is provider – not just “private” providers.
  8. Develop MN fiber database (winner)
  9. Incentives for rural sites that collaborate on broadband projects (mixed)
    1. Discussion: Hold to 2013
  10. Facilitate public/private partnerships for free/discounted computers (no)
    1. Discussion: Include somewhere in the report – but not in recommendations.
  11. Consider public-private partnerships for funding for tech training, production and adoption (luke warm – maybe we need more info)
    1. Discussion: hold
  12. Establish an ongoing broadband entity (mostly positive)

There is another sub-cabinet meeting next week. We can have the members look health & transportation will also be there.

General notes:

  • Need US comparisons
  • Remote isn’t an issue population density is an issue; that has a greater impact on cost

1:50 – 2:00 Other Business/Adjourn

January date: January 29

Maybe a strategic planning meeting? Maybe here from someone at budget? How about legislators (Sen Sparks & Rep Johnson)?

This entry was posted in Minnesota Advisory Task Force, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

2 thoughts on “Minnesota Broadband Task Force Nov 27, 2012: Full Notes

  1. I am sorry to say that I think that the strongly supported recommendations are inadequate to the task of pushing broadband out to underserved and unserved areas.

    The sales tax exemption on capital equipment is unlikely to spur capital investment. Assuming the worst cost example of $10,000 per house for FTTH and that the entire cost is capital equipment would mean a sales tax savings of around $700. That subsidy amount was just generally rejected by CenturyLink and Frontier for them to extend DSL to unserved areas (with much lower per – house costs) with services that would not meet the state broadband goal. CenturyLink did take some of these funds in Minnesota, but for targeted areas.

    I wonder about the effectiveness of tax credits against corporate income tax. Do these companies have corporate tax liabilities in Minnesota?

    There is also no support for any public sector activities, whether in partnership with private entities or independently. The discussion on the conduit was informative with Gary Evan’s question about MNDOT installing conduit quickly dismissed. The corporate income tax subsidy would not help public sector entities.

    The idea that it is too complex to inventory who has fiber where is amazing. All you would need is the following fields: Road number, mile segment, fiber owner. You would not need the number of fibers, number of fibers lit, or other more technical data. On the other hand, it is not too hard to gather this information as locally required – one simply walks over to the bright orange post and see who’s name is on there as owner.

  2. I agree with Bill’s comments regarding the tax credits-sales tax exemptions are nice but don’t spur investment and national companies have complex tax situations that rarely offer incentive from income tax credits in specific states.

    Let me also leave this caveat, we are not angry that Ureka is not named as the CVII and Kanabec consultant-honestly. They know who we are. (smile)

    State sales tax on online sales will come eventually–Congress has it on the table now although it won’t get action until the new Congress takes over–and when it does, it seems to me that having revenue generated by broadband online activity would be a sensible place to find some funding. And if you want more federal funding, use those dollars to provide the match, like Illinois has done. (The Governor will have to be convinced, he’s already stated other uses for the revenue that are unrelated to our efforts.)

    Libraries need to be promoted better as what they are in rural MN–the only public access to broadband connections. Funding and new ideas for support that equalizes opportunity should be developed.

    As for the note on remote versus density….the remoteness of the sparse density is the problem–not either or. Distance is still the great barrier. Leads me to believe that combinations of technologies are needed to supply a region fully and sensibly and new combinations of partners are needed to finance it.

    And yes, we could have a fiber data base and a dig once program. The telecom industry already has a multistate organization that is made up of the small providers and their assets and MnDOTcertainly has the staff talent to track conduit. Do this along with the Broadband Office and perhaps DEED and you have a claimable economic development tool.

    I do applaud the work of the task force and thank you for your service–it is so complicated and you have worked very hard.

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