Minnesota Broadband Task Force reports to Senate committee: Jan 30, 2013

I attended the Senate Committee on Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development yesterday to hear Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Bill Hoffman and Jack Geller talk about broadband.

The meeting was good and I took full notes and some video, as posted below. I think the smartest part of the meeting was the preparation. Bill Hoffman and Connect Minnesota had sent the Senators maps of their districts showing broadband availability.

You know what wakes up a Senator? Finding out that their district does not meet the state standard speeds – in fact they may only have 20 percent coverage.  That shines a light on the issue and seems to really inspire an interest in learning more.

Bill Hoffman on Connect Minnesota Maps:

History of Connected Nation and Connect Minnesota in Minnesota

  • Assesses broadband availability, access and use
  • Inform policymakers through mapping
  • Partner with groups to expand broadband availability, access and use

The data we collect is passed on to FCC to build the National Broadband Map, www.broadbandmap.gov

About the Maps

Everyone should have received a broadband map of your district

  • Maps will be updated until December 2014
  • We work with Minnesota Office of Broadband

Question – The map shows that we are under 20 percent in Olmsted County, what does this mean?

This map measures households that have broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps down and 6 Mbps up.

Followup – but the map doesn’t include mobile, won’t that make a difference.

Mobile is not yet meeting the speed goals. It may in the future, but it didn’t when we did the last survey.

Followup – what about the speed goal? Is it possible that residents think having mobile is more important than speed?

Some consumers may not want these faster speeds – but the State set the goal of 10/5 Mbps to accommodate for applications such as telehealth, online education… To have that option is important economically and social – even if people don’t take advantage of it.

Question – what about telephone service? People are wrestling with the need for landline vs mobile phone. Do you look at that?

We look at evolution of who is using a mobile device to access broadband. Although we could ask new questions next time around.

Followup – people are looking at this in terms of cost and security. When it’s busy it can be difficult to get the calls though.

Question – does broadband include satellite?

We don’t incorporate satellite because it is by its natute ubiquitous. We look at fixed platforms and mobile.

Question – Your funding runs our December 2014. Will there be funding to continue?

Remains to be seen. We have a federal grant from the NTIA. The NTIA and FCC have made it clear that they want this to continue – but we need the funding. The FCC will make financial decisions based on the maps (CAF) it seems like they will have to find a way to keep the info coming.

Question – One map says Freeborn County has less than 20% access to broadband. Is there a better map that gives us an idea of what tells the true story?

On the website we do have county-level maps. If you don’t see what you need, you can contact us and we’ll try to get it done for you.

We’re at 61.5 percent residents with access as defined by Minnesota

Sneak preview of upcoming report:


  • MN 78% adopt (subscribe to home access)
  • National average 66%

Why don’t people adopt

  • 41% relevance
  • 19% Cost
  • 15% don’t know
  • 6% availability
  • 6%


Folks not as happy with price (below 50%)

Margaret Anderson Kelliher – intro from Task Force

Broadband provides critical infrastructure for businesses and residents.  Access to high speed broadband, we define this broadly. We are technology-neutral. We think broadband is essential.

Mayo Clinic is making an investment in Rochester – but without high speed access across the state, we won’t be able to take advantage of any services. [Ann’s note: more on this story soon.]

Will we be able to reach the state broadband goals?

No! Not without further policy intervention.

We might make the goals with policy but we think it might be reached with partnerships. We have focused on partnerships.

We net 15 times. We learned about a range of broadband use and need.

We organized in groups:

  • How to coordinate across government levels
  • Best practices and incentives for broadband adoption and deployment
  • What is the state of broadband
  • Impact of FCC and PUC/Cost of broadband
  • Mobile wireless broadband
    • We plan to look more at the role of mobile. Currently it doesn’t meet the speed goals. Also there are tasks (such as fill out job application) that are difficult to complete on a smartphone. (A tablet might suffice)
    • Meeting logistics/agenda

We have produced 4 reports:


  • Proposal: Provide a tax credit or grant to incent broadband providers to build in unserved areas. Coordinate with Connect Minnesota to provide target areas that are underserved or unserved and provide priority for projects that will serve these target areas
  • Proposal: Provide a tax credit or grant to incent broadband providers to build in unserved areas. Coordinate with Connect Minnesota to provide target areas that are underserved or unserved and provide priority for projects that will serve these target areas
  • It seems as if the Governor has mentioned tax proposal that conflicts with this recommendation
  • Proposal: Create a program or mechanism to coordinate rural broadband installation with state and federal programs assisting hospitals, schools, libraries, and public safety facilities with obtaining broadband
  • Proposal: Implement a formal “Dig Once” process to coordinate highway construction and broadband deployment projects
  • Proposal: Develop a Minnesota Fiber Collaboration Database
  • Proposal: Award scholarship dollars for broadband access for students, especially those that meet federal poverty guidelines
  • Proposal: Increase funding to public libraries and schools for computer stations and Internet access
  • Proposal: Establishment of an ongoing, post-Task Force resource within state government for high speed broadband-focused efforts in the future.
    • It would be nice for that office to have modeling capabilities

– Pawlenty discussed this need 10 years ago. There has been lots of changes in 10 years. Is this speed still adequate? And how does mobile fit this? And Dig Once – don’t’ you think we’ll move away from wired access at some point?

It’s easy to spend a lot of time on this. But the Task Force realized that this is the goal and we need to measure against that goal. But you legislators could decide to lift those speeds. We have discussed how some “broadband” speeds are really too slow to qualify for that broadband definition.

We have looked at satisfaction because there is a balance and satisfaction would speak to a need for improvement.

We see mobile as an important part of access. The providers would say that even if the provider is wireless, at some point the connection needs to be wired to the backbone. In some topography in the state satellite doesn’t work. It’s great until it snows. It’s not reliable.

Question – Governor Dayton has proposed funding the Office of BB Development. How would you collaborate?

Our Task Force has talked about the structure for future Task Forces. We could envision some more statutory designation of a task force commission that might include legislators and/or the governor.

Question – What’s happening in rural Minnesota?

The maps provided will give you a visual answer. For the most part rural Minnesota does lag behind. In some places they have better access – when it’s regional center or economic drivers. The challenge is last mile and last farm. It can be a barrier.

We heard from business owners in rural Minnesota and they talk about this as an issue. We need to talk about uses and importance for businesses. When a business has a website, they do better. It’s a real advantage to be connected and live where you want to live.

Jack Geller – University of Minnesota Crookston

On Residents:

How much do we want to go to reach the final adopters? Have we reached saturation?

We do know that intervention does work. There are things you can do.

Elderly people make up many non-adopters but we’re seeing growth there. Some of the growth is organic. Younger people, tech users, get older. And non-adopters pass away.

We ought to invest more time maximize the broadband they’ve already adopted.

On Businesses:

Rural businesses don’t have websites to the same extent as metro businesses. But for businesses broadband boosts productivity.

  • 72% of all business have a website
  • 58% of rural business have website

On Mobile:

I’m more positive on mobile use in rural areas than previous speakers. People are starting to look at mobile more now.

People are dropping their landlines – 35.8 percent are completely wireless.

People are need to make financial decisions are going mobile.

I agree with Ms Kelliher, I don’t want to fill out a job application on a device. But you can use wireless on desktop/laptop as well.

Wireless is a great equalizer!

Is Mobile Internet enough?

Access everywhere is spotty. I can get good speeds in some places and bad speeds in other places.

On Why MN is falling behind?

We set the State goals 3 years ago. Our ranking as a state has been going down since we put those speeds in place.

We need to act to improve access and adoption.

I don’t have recommendations about what the legislature should do. But the Task Force presented a clear set of recommendations.

Setting out for public-private partnerships with providers is a good approach. The Broadband Development Office is a good first step.

If we really want to be a leader – we need to do something!

Question – can you paint a picture of the future – maybe 10 years from now? Are there applications that are coming up?

I’m not a futurist, but I’m comfortable saying whatever you think we’ll need – you’ll need more. I think everything will come in one big pipe. Many of us are getting hi definition videos now.

Business applications will be one big pipe.

The Blandin Foundation started talking about a Gig going into the home. Now there are multiple communities with Gigabit access. Chattanooga has Gig access. Not only high tech industries need broadband. Realtors need broadband.

Broadband need is ubiquitous.

Question – What will happen with TV? We’ve been looking at Apple TV.

Apple TC is a good example – the only barrier now is do you want to wait an hour to download that movie?

Question – What’s the infrastructure required to get wireless in rural areas?

Most of the wireless network is not wireless at all. We think the signal between the device and the tower BUT that tower is surrounded by fiber. There is significant investment required.

LTE platform is available in metro areas; but not in the rest of rural Minnesota. We’re still on 3G, which is OK but it won’t replace terrestrial platforms.

Wireless won’t solve all of our issues. Security is a big world. No banks will look at wireless but for residential use it will work. At street fairs people can now take payments with wireless devices.

The public private partnerships will help move that faster.

Question – You mention that we’re ranking lower since 2010. What have those doing better done differently?

It seems like other state are putting policies in place – not just setting goals. They are appropriating dollars. Other states are dong lots of different things. Some want to keep ahead and some just want to keep from falling behind.

Slide from Bill Hoffman & Jack Geller

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 (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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