Minnesota Broadband Task Force October Meeting Notes and Draft Report

I am thrilled to be able to share the draft report discussed today at the Broadband Task Force meeting. The final iteration of the report will be the annual report sent to DEED from the Task Force and includes recommendations for legislators and others. Much of what was recommended last year was put into motion based on the report – and with help from a myriad of supporters. So it is a powerful document.

Most of the meeting was spent going through the report. Hopefully the notes below will make sense – generally the remarks are pretty detailed. BUT there were a couple of higher level discussions that arose from the reading of the report.

Task members realized that there was a need to talk about the changing landscape for broadband – much of this revolved around affordability and wireless access. Wireless broadband increases ubiquity and offers mobility but the pricing structure can make it a much less practical solution for lower income households. Ironically, the “startup” fee for wireless access (which might be a smartphone versus a laptop) is lower with wireless, which adds another difficult dimension.

Also there seems to be general agreement that the state will not reach the broadband goals in 2015. The question is – so then what? Should the Task Force make recommendation for updated goals or wait until the Legislature asked for recommendations on updated goals. It seems as if they will wait until the request comes to make the recommendation.

Aside from the report we also learned that the Office of Broadband Development added staff (congrats Jane Leonard) and received 40 applications for grant funding from the Border to Border Broadband Fund. Below is the video update from the OBD…

10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. – Welcome/Approval of Minutes/Public Comments

10:10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. – Update from Office of Broadband Development (See video above)

Grant application deadline was yesterday. We feel good about what came through the door. We hired Jane Leonard; and now we are fully staffed. We also have a half time program support person.

They received 40 grants, which were diverse in all ways. Range of applicants is good; project variety is good. Just about everything slowed for in the legislature has come through the door.

10:20 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Review of Task Force Report Draft

Page 2 – letter from MAK – not yet added

Page 3-5 – Executive summary

Should we show trending?

We have Connect MN data coming out in next couple weeks. Are we only going to focus on where we’re at with speed goals? Or will we be adding wireless data too?

It will be added in.

Also to be added – adoption data and section on business survey info

Page 4

Do we have mobile data for 2013? Yes and Charts will be updated. Oct 2013 is first time mobile data had an impact.

We should note that Oct 2013 was first time mobile speeds mattered enough to be added.

On ranking of state of MN. I guess if it changes it would be good to know what it changed from.

On broadband adoption – are we fifth nationally as it says here? Did we use this stat in the past? We were 8th in the same report in the past. This report used home internet use – does that imply broadband?

Do we have reasons that we went from 8th to 5th? The difference is minute – so the actual movement wasn’t as much as it might seem. BUT wouldn’t it make sense to talk about why we may have increased ranking? It would be nice to know what’s working and recommendation continued similar efforts. Proving causality is difficult with so many contributing factors. There has to be an economic reason for getting online. Does the school move to 1-to-1 technology have an impact now?

Page 5

We hope to highlight in the executive summary but link to greater detail further in the report.

Page 6

The executive order says the task force serves at the governor’s pleasure – so we need to make sure we get that right. Is the task force sun setting? What are the details.

Might be helpful to number policy recommendations.

Page 7

Should we consider a percentage of households served rather than number.

We say (something like) “Unfortunately while progress is being made – the odds of making the speeds goals are improbable.” Do we want to make a follow up suggestion?

According to page 4 (MN is #5 is adoption) we met that goal. The real problem is that there was no good way to measure two of the goals (well especially the third goal) . Maybe we just need to highlight the fact that there is a difference because it will be confusing.

Akamai looks at all connections and then the look at use – it’s valuable for trending but maybe not for exact numbers.

What do we really mean by broadband penetration? Do we really mean adoption? Again we may need to tighten up this language – especially for readers who aren’t thinking broadband all of the time. We might need a sentence that explains the relationship – penetration used to be the more popular term internationally.

Maybe we do need to talk about what we do if we don’t meet the goals by the deadline.

Would it take more legislative action to re-up the interest? We could tie it to recommendation of $200 million for broadband funding? We could leave it asis to create a sense of urgency.

We are making funding recommendations – it would set up the timeline for that funding. The speeds recommendations are out of date. Do we increase urgency by pointing that out? Yes the goals we didn’t meet are outdated. That does help make the point. We could also look at changing some of the language.

We’re in 2014. We’re waiting for November numbers to come out. We are having a discussion on change goals. This is important but we ought to address it in 2015. The legislation was by 2015 – that doesn’t necessarily mean Jan 1, 2015. SO I don’t think we need to go down that road in 2014

But we need to mention that this is a moving target. The need for broadband (video) is increasing and different than what was there in 2010. Critical services, social services, entertainment – we use broadband for so much more than we may have expected.

We should take this on in 2015 – talk about changing landscape and need to change the goals.

Page 7

We need to include the speeds of 10 & 5.

I like including the state’s goals. We include a map of each county and the state on State website– with served, unserved, underserved indicators BUT it only includes wireline only. These maps were created for the grant program. We might need to note that the grants were the impetus for maps.

We could include it as we make transition from federal definition of broadband. Next year we will be using Minnesota data – especially in context with the grant program.

The readers will expect maps. But are we looking at multiple maps – will that be confusing.

We can look at grant maps in grant section and more inclusive map in update on statewide progress.

How about mobile versus wireline maps? Do we need to explain the difference and important implications with mobile and wireline for the readers? We did highlight the difference in last year’s report. We need to frame the information.

That’s a natural diving point in technologies.

Yes – but we should support with interpretation.

Video includes part of  discussion

Delivery of technology doesn’t matter to me. But the difference really is in the economic differentiator. I’d like a map on distribution of cost by Mg. If we could show that the delivery becomes moot. Cost per Mega really makes the difference. The folks from US Internet were shocked at the backhaul cost in rural areas – they knew the technology but the costs were news. Gigabit is available everywhere – for a price. It’s the cost that’s the barrier.

I’m looking at the difference between fixed and mobile and the trade-offs inherent in each option. For mobility you pay more.

We need to help our audience understand the important differences – in economics, technology and demographics. We can help the policymakers better understand.

We need to look at use too and economics of having a smartphone or tablet – for job applications.

Good wireless coverage doesn’t lead to better wireline. The lower the adoption rate – the lower the economic rate.

Wireless is more expensive is rural areas – because you need boosters or need multiple devices. It’s not an issue with the providers, it’s an issue with the state. It’s the way the state is laid out; it’s the way the population is laid out. I’m not saying the wireless providers have to charge less – but we need to recognize the issues.

SO where should this addition go? We need to figure that out and fit it in.

It fits into recommendations and how to we meet goals going forward.

The Mayo does require a wireline connection for their teleworkers – that decision was based on security concerns.

I go back to the fact that we’re talking about a big policy issue in November – can we really add new topics at this stage of the game? The penultimate meeting is not the time to bring these things up.

We can start with last year’s paragraph on wireless vs wireline.

We need a discussion in the report on the changing landscape. We can say we mentioned it last year but change in the landscape increases the importance.

We did talk about backhaul costs last month. That was a big aha moment for many of us.


The 10/5 maps will go under grant reporting.

Page 9

The word “only” minimizes wireless access.

Next time we say we’re technology neutral – we need to rethink that as it seems that in practice we really aren’t technology neutral. We’re more wireline focused.

“There’s still discussion on mobile access and addressing state goals” – what does that mean?

That does highlight the dance we’re in. What is the so what? We allude to the statutory speeds goals and those really were wireline when designed because wireless wasn’t the same in 2010. Now we have 4G LTE and that’s a speed that matters in this discussion. We do need to talk about this.

At OBD – affordability is a component in definition of access – because we use federal definitions. So wireless is not affordable many households. A larger discussion on this issue would help us because the difference comes up often in practical applications.

NOTE: The Office of Broadband Development also has to do a report. The information on the grants may not be complete before the Task Force report is complete. We have a Connect American program that’s still being baked right now – maybe that needs to be mentioned too as a way to bring funding to serving rural areas.

People choose connectivity based on needs. Some customers are choosing wireless. Lower income households are looking at mobile options because they don’t’ want to be tethered to their homes. And they are looking at prepaid options.

Also we need to distinguish between speeds available, speeds purchased and speeds delivered.

12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Lunch Provided for Task Force Members

12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – Review of Task Force Report Draft

Pg 10

Has there been a lot of movement in ranking 1-10 States? Oregon moved in Top 10.

Charts of placement and movement might be nice. Then we can see trend lines. Even if we don’t put it in the report, it would be nice to know.

Let’s highlight good news and stats – especially since this is the first time we’ve moved in the right direction in years.

We’re using Akamai to support “universally accessible data speeds” but that’s not necessarily what the data indicates. We may need to look at that. We need better context to the data. Average speeds does not reflect availability.

Pg 11

This allows for international comparison – you have to have a connection but then they look at connections at 4Mbps and above. If you don’t have a connection, you aren’t counted.

MN is ranked 5th among states for percentage of households that have adopted broadband at home, which a rate of 82.4 percent – according to NTIA reports. It’s good news – so maybe we can highlight it with a chart.

Pg 12

Next Connect MN reports will come out in the first week of December.

A move to rephrase slightly to remove the notion that some populations makes choices of volition versus necessity.

Pg 13-15

Should we include in the appendix a list of completed ARRA projects? Yes

Where can we fit in the info on OBD and MN Border to Border Development Fund. The Listening Sessions, the grant projects…

$300 million invested by USDA – do we need to fill that in?

I’ve heard people use the total cost of meeting the state goals that we came up with “$900 million and $3 billion – no one expects that it will be all public funding” – so it might be nice to bring it up again.

Pg 16

Maybe we can add links to definitions when possible or even a glossary of terms in a printed version.

DO we know how much of MN is served with price cap carriers? We can link to the maps.

Pg 17

We need to explain that the FFC Rural Experiments originally was open to anyone. Minnesota had 62 submissions. BUT that doesn’t mean that 62 groups in MN will submit actual applications. Because there original call for application was really aspirational – now they really need invested companies. (Companies that can meet requirements, such as matching funds for long term investment.)

Maybe we just need to highlight the fact that Minnesota had such a great response – we had more applications than any other state.

We have 1.5 pages dedicated to an opportunity that we think may not think merits this attention. Maybe we need to the amount of content on the optic reflect our level of importance placed on it.

The USDA funding is potentially more important – maybe we can reflect that.

This story lets us know that there’s need and demand BUT the FCC Rural Experiment funding will not meet that need.

Pg 18

We should have the links to pertinent info – especially since the FCC often removes/moves historical info.

We should add info on school and library access in MN. The rate of connectivity may be high; the capacity may not be sufficient. We have heard that from schools and libraries. We need to connect to Minnesota. The highest need we’ve heard is for more funding because capacity is the biggest issue.

We should also specify if we’re talking about K12 schools.

One frustration is that some of the info is not being collected at a state level. There is no state E-Rate coordinator.

Pg 19

Can we add a Minnesota spin to ConnectED?

Pg 20

Maybe add the FirstNet Minnesota connection – Commission Doleman(?). And we just need to tighten up the content to be clear when we’re talking about state and when national.

Maybe find a better transition leading to Policy Recommendations. It might be nice to rally around partnerships.

Pg 21 Really a restatement of what the Task Force sent to DEED earlier in the summer.

Stylistically we have several things going on – we need to fill out some specific recommendations and tighten up others.

It makes sense to ensure not to confuse the two funding requests for the OBD but looking at careful use of the term program.

Are we asking for funding for the biennium?

There’s funding for mapping. The providers think this is very valuable. Can we highlight that funding via bullet points?

Can we add more numbers? We have numbers.

Pg 22

Changing Environment Section aka State of the Landscape might be a place to move some of the content that is currently in some of the recommendations.

Are there legal issues with recommending that “infrastructure projects that receive state support be accessible across sectors?” We don’t know yet – waiting to hear back.

Maybe both of the bigger topics are really better for the 2015 agenda. And/or we need run them by MNIT.

Can we focus on the policy recommendations sooner rather than later and check back via email?


Fred and Bernadine are going to work on section on shifting landscape – no more that a page

OBD will work on section on MN Border to Border fund.

Maybe we can get a new draft out by Nov 10

2:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – Upcoming Meeting Details and Adjournment

The next meeting is scheduled for Dec 9 at DEED.

For next year we’d like… To go to Farmfest TO see more of the state Need to look at term expirations for task force members

Need to talk to about the need to update state goals – the big conundrum is which comes first – a recommendation from the Task Force to change/update the goals set in Legislation or a request from the Legislature for an update and more details. There’s an opportunity to go into greater details this time around as people are generally smarter about broadband


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