Panel – Rural Minnesota Speaks: Report Out from Legislators’ Broadband Listening Tour

Moderated by Senator Matt Schmit

[Full video of the panel will be posted as soon as available]

Notes from the session – including brief notes from the panelists and questions.

David Collins (Park Rapids) – they have been trying to be a squeaky wheel in Park Rapids to get broadband. Didn’t get ARRA funding. They have several providers. Competition makes a business case tough in town – and very tough in outlying areas. Changes in USF/CAF. There is an unleveled playing field. It would be nice to have better equality. We’d like to partner with the state – maybe a Minnesota USF would help.

Marc Johnson (ECMECC) – Marc just wrote a great series on education and rural broadband. He works with ECMECC – a collaboration of schools and libraries in Central MN that allows them to get better broadband in aggregate. Broadband is required to access commonplace tools – electronic textbooks, YouTube and more. These tools can be cheaper than print. Now we have to make resources available online and off to accommodate the large number of students who don’t have access at home – due to access AND affordability.

Kelly Hinnenkap (Annandale) – The incumbent in Annandale has not been interested in improving broadband connectivity in the area. They did a recent feasibility study which indicated that 93-95% of business and residents were interested in changing providers; 86% wanted the city to get involved with improving access.

Daryl Kallevig (Aitkin County) Few providers in the area (local, CenturyLink, Frontier) and the larger providers are not super communicative. The medical home is a team of healthcare workers that will focus on chronically ill people – using a lot of remote monitoring.

Jody Reisch (Rock County) – Bought a gorgeous house in Rock County  – didn’t even think to ask about broadband. Going through data caps in 7 days – not gaming or watching video but working!

Terri Lenz (Goodhue County) – Crowdsourced an article on broadband areas. Newspaper has 700 likes – 670 read the story on broadband; 30 people commented. It’s an issue that makes a different in people’s lives!

Rep Sheldon Johnson – We need a push from the public to demonstrate how important broadband is.

Rep Ron Kresha – founder of Golden Shovel – We have so many different models of growth across the country. We need to keep Connect MN funded. Need a balance for public and private. The sales tax for telecom hurt business. We need to fund content providers.


What else needs to happen to have an ideal world?

A: We forget that there are people who have to pay for services and that when we buy something globally, our local vendors lose out.

A: Accountability is a big issue. Lack of regulations can be a problem. If we have issues with the phone we can call the PUC – with broadband there’s no one to call

How can we get all parts of the government to work together?

A: Danna MacKenzie is in place at the Office of Broadband Development; that should help.

A: As legislators we need to back off the OBD.

A: You need to challenge local government too – we should be working with providers as we do with road if we are looking at this as infrastructure.

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