Broadband Listening Session in Long Prairie: Coops, Utility, Smooth the Regulatory Path

Last week I attended Senator Schmit’s listening tour in Long Prairie. There were about 25 attendees, including elected officials, county officials, broadband providers and builders, EDA folks and others. Long Prairie is in Todd County. They had a broadband feasibility study done in 2011. It was interesting to hear the impact of the feasibility study years later. Folks were interested in what could be done, what couldn’t be done and had suggestions for what might help them move forward. Here are some of the highlights…

Deployment topics

  • The quest for broadband started with the Livestock Advisory commission – we saw that to get coverage we needed to go to the County level. And we knew we needed broadband for business. And because there are so many telecos it was difficult to make a business case to do an upgrade. So it made sense to create a partnership to move forwards.
  • We need people to recognize that this is no different than other utilities. At one time we made the commitment to put in power lines; we need to do something similar here.
  • In some states there’s no regulation; in some there’s a lot. Telecommunications is beat by banking only for regulation. In industry we need to respond to state and federal regulation – that means lots of forms. We used to have USF – but the FCC has put in so much uncertainty that it has made it difficult to deploy in new markets. Subsequently growth has slowed. Utilities do not do well in a competitive market. Until that changes, or more funding comes into play, you won’t see growth. We need another source of money for these networks. We’ve invested $44 million in our area; we started in 1995 before policy changes. We’ve paid back all but $9 million. We had a system that worked and I’m not sure why it changed. WE are a carrier of last resort  we need to serve everyone. Other providers don’t have to meet those same needs – so they have an unfair advantage.

Applications and Adoption

  • People recognized the impact of Schools have access but the students don’t. So that’s tough.
  • We have people who could work from home if home if they had the broadband.
  • We have a printing press that has 605 employees and is down to 307 because they don’t have the technology that others have in other areas.
  • Next generation 911 – they need to be able to accept texts. We need to keep up and have emergency services respond to the communication that people have.
  • Aging populations could stay in their homes longer – better for them, better for public financing. But they need broadband to support remote monitoring and healthcare visits.
  • Tough to attractive a $20 million hospital if you don’t have broadband or care facility if you don’t have the broadband infrastructure they need.

What can Government do to help

  • Give us tools – perhaps state funding
  • Give us regulatory clarifications

What can we do locally

  • We can bond for telecommunications infrastructure
  • Let’s clarify partnership regulation
  • Funding – other state have grants and loans
  • Reinstate the sales tax exemption for telecommunications
  • What about tax credits for amortization schedules?

Some video from the session…

This entry was posted in Conferences, 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.

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