MN Broadband Task Force Meeting September 2014: Full Notes

There was a huge crowd for the Task Force this week – maybe 30 people attending outside of the Task Force members. At least 20 of those people were from Arvig. But it also included some from the local press.

We heard from Arvig, the local provider. Got a remote presentation from John Deere on precision agriculture and the Task Force talked about their 2014-2015 Annual report and presented recommendations from the sub-groups.

And they got an update from the Office of Broadband Development:

Update from the Office of Broadband Development:

  • The MN Broadband Grant application is now out. It closes Oct 28.
  • Two days after that deadline the OBD will release a name of applicants and areas of request so that others can make comments and/or question viability of those areas qualifying for funding.
  • We are in preliminary discussions with stakeholders on what do to about the broadband maps once Connect Minnesota completes its contract.

Presentation from Arvig:


We have been able to increase broadband with plant equipment and electronics changes. Distance is a greater issue now than it was when we were focused on phone and dialup services.

We find most cost effective ways to serve the greatest number of people.

Random Stats

  • 70% of customers choose lower tier services (get up to 5 Mbps at $33-45/month)
  • 70% of traffic is streaming media
  • 15% is media infrastructure (software updates et al)
  • 54 schools and libraries in the areas – they provide the speeds requests
  • 2% of customers question faster upload speeds – mostly businesses

What do people want?

  • The keyboard effect
  • Wifi in house to be the same as broadband they buy (no matter how many devices are on the network)
  • Faster downloads
  • Wires HS service no matter where they live
  • Secure VPN connections
  • Healthcare & Home Security connections

Arvig won’t hit the Minnesota goals by 2015. The challenges:

  • Cost
  • Population density
  • Seasonal areas
  • Terrain (lakes)
  • Adoption
  • Regulation
  • Competition

It would cost $30 million for Arvig to meet the goals. But they have gone Gig in Melrose.

One concern is shifting cost recovery from voice to broadband.


Are schools and libraries constrained by budgets in terms of ordering broadband?

Yes! Especially for libraries. E-rate helps.

What about the non-contiguous areas you serve?

They are part owners of network in those areas.

Video Presentation by John Deere – Mark Lewellen



  • We need to count people and modems! (One tractor might have 6 modems sitting in it!)
  • Will ask FCC to consider cropland


How much do you know about Connect Every Acre? And the Broadband Bundling Bonus (BBB) Iowa can offer additional incentives for broadband projects that bundle or take advantage of more than one state program to bring broadband to our state.

You would have advantages to collaborate.

The ag sector and forestry sector overlap but could collaborate more. Maybe the cropland effort could be extended to forest. We could reward efforts to use land for common good.

What is your upload speed? Does it vary by equipment?

It does vary. In 2013 we upgraded from 2G modems to 3G modems; we are always behind. We are looking at LTE 2-4 years from now. I would trade coverage for speed.

Task Force Annual Report Review and Discussion of Subgroup Recommendations

Danna, Margaret, Diane, Bill And John will work on upcoming report.

What should the outline be?

  • Intro
  • ARRA updates
  • Maps (Connect MN)
  • Update on MN Fund grants
    • list rewards
    • indicate interest of proposals that weren’t funded
  • State of BB 2014 – include trends
  • Federal Update
  • Policy Recommendations

The Task Force discussed a letter from Resilient Region on reimbursement parity for telehealth (I posted the letter in full last week). The need is to make sure that health care professionals get paid for their tele-work or it becomes a barrier to using technology.

It seems like most of the recommendation make sense – maybe to just soften the tone on licensure.

Here are handouts from the meeting (retyped perhaps not perfectly by me). They seem to be notes from the sub committees. I will include discuss of the document after each “document.”

From the Infrastructure Subgroup:

Policy Recommendations for Potential Inclusion in 2014 Task Force Report Draft:

  1. Health Care: Video Health Care Reimbursement
  2. Support Efforts of Schools Utilizing 1:1 Devices – research state programs and consider adopting “best practice” guidelines in conjunction with the MN Department of Education
  3. Make sales tax exemption for telecom permanent (potential Expansion)
  4. Review existing permitting criteria to see where there might be possibility to streamline
  5. Reinforce infrastructure fund recommendations … 2015 broadband year per Governor Dayton


The first item tracks back to the issues raised by Resilient Region (discussed above).

We need to flesh out a little more on some of these items and do more research.

There’s an online and digital learning task force at the U of M; we may want to work with them. Best Practices are being developed. Perhaps we can tie in there.

We could also at research folks about looking into this.

We may want to have a whole meeting on this topic next year.

Looking at #5 – we have already suggested $200 million; we want to make sure to promote that.

Looking at #4 – we can look for chances to streamline broadband permitting. We included this in the last report and shall include this again.

Looking at #2 – from ROI teacher champions make the difference. It’s a matter of sharing promising practices.

From Advances Applications / “Big Network” Subgroup Recommendations – Draft

  1. Require that BB infrastructure projects that received state support be accessible across sectors Many Gb networks are deployed and operated via significant public sector funding. Education, health care, public safety and transportation are increasingly reliant on these types of networks and they are organized at either the state or regional level. Through barriers ranging from convenience to strict funding prohibitions, these networks are often proprietary users are limited to specific silos – schools only on education networks; hospitals only on health networks. The result of these rules and practices are duplicative networks, uneven levels of infrastructure availability across and between sectors, and expensive deployment costs. Where state funding is being considered for network deployment, as assessment of other potential users, especially anchor institutions from other sectors, should be conducted. Where federal funding is involved, the state should seek waivers from any regulations that limit potential users, especially other public users. Consideration of how these public sector investments might enable increased private sector network access, either by ISP or en-user customers, should also be conducted, especially in hard to serve areas without affordable and/or redundant high capacity networks.
  2. MNIT to build out Gb network connections to each county seat, thereby offering gig backhaul/middle mile capacity to local providers As local governments, small to medium size ISPs and others build high capacity local networks, with FTTH, FTTN or FTTT (Tower) technologies, affordable backbone connections to the network core become increasingly important. Currently these exists a patchwork of networks leading to the wide variability in the competitive backhaul environment and pricing. As the state’s primary public sector technology organization and possibly the state’s largest telecommunications consumer, MNIT reaches stakeholders/customers in every county of the state. As the state moves towards standardized Gb connections to county seats, there is the potential to leverage excess bandwidth users in the private sector. Policy makers may want to limit MNIT’s capability to serve in this role in county seats with existing affordable bandwidth provided in a competitive environment. Affordable might be defined by using the pricing available in the network core (511 Building) and adjusting that by some negotiated factor or using the average pricing available in the larger, more competitive regional centers as a ceiling. This strategy will ensure that no part of the state would be at a significant completive disadvantage with regards to wholesale bandwidth pricing.


Maybe we ask that the OBD to work with MNIT to look for opportunities to address #2.

Danna spoke about varying ability of backhaul and price differences – so we’re talking about how to do further research. Also I recommend we get Jim Johnson from MNIT to talk to us. It seems like MNIT is already a pretty good business partner – we could build on that.

The infrastructure group also discussed this. Prices are going from $46/Mg to $.50.Mg.


Adoption Subgroup Policy Recommendation

  1. Legislation that would provide subsidies for low-income broadband access
  2. Create public policy interventions to bridge the digital divide that focuses more on computer ownership. When people get a computer online.
  3. Community Education Digital Literacy Fund – Create legislation that would subsidize community education programs for low-income individuals and/or seniors. The community education programs already exist but this would enable low-income individual and/or seniors to enroll for a reduced rate.
  4. Program to Foster Elimination of the Digital Divide – Via donation on their monthly telephone bills, Illinois consumers may voluntarily contribute to the program. These contributions are used to fund grants to public and private organization seeking to reduce the digital divide in Illinois. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity accepts contributions from individuals, companies and foundations to support the Elimination of the Digital Divide program. Local telecom exchange carriers may also collect voluntary contributions from consumers.
  5. School Technology Revolving Loan Program (IL) – This program provides 3-year loans with 2% interest rates to school districts, charter schools, lab schools and vocational schools to fund technology hardware investments, including the construction of technology networks.


We need to look at how much the contribution option has raised in IL. In 2013-2014 they raised $75,000.

We need to look at how many people we could reach and what impact we might have. Especially on use of low-income access programs. Maybe the best role is for the state to simply help promote.

Is there any interface with the librarian group? We already made suggestions to the Commissioner on library and school aid.

Maybe we just need to hone these ideas.

Maybe we could preserve the flexibility by not recommending a specific program but highlight the need to reduce the digital divide. We could provide examples but maybe not be so specific in our recommendation – but open the door to let the OBD work with the program.

We do need a balance between the broad goal and the need for legislators to have specifics.

Maybe we need something like last year’s recommendations

When you talk about phone bills – what about cable, wireless… How many people pay bills in ways that wouldn’t allow for something like this?

Upcoming Meeting Details and Adjournment

Next steps for the report…

Get an actual report together for the October meeting. We will include the fiscal recommendations. ($206 million for broadband funds and $9.75 million for education)

Next Meeting October 29

Then December 9

I’m pleased to able to share Bernadine Joselyn’s notes from the meeting – for folks who like a visual interpretation..

bj notes 1 bj notes 2

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