MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Dec 2014: Full Notes, a report and recommendation for $200 Million

Yesterday the Task Force held the last meeting before their big annual report is due. Like last year – some of the meatiest discussion of the year happened at the end of the year. The Task Force seems to agree on so much:

  1. public private partnership will be required to meet state broadband goals
  2. the goals set years ago are outdated
  3. affordability is a bigger issue than access.

BUT the devil is in the details and that’s where people disagree AND the disagreement often taps into definitions and ideologies that are larger than the topic at hand…

  1. What is the role of state government? Does broadband need state funding, different regulation or should government have ability to run networks?
  2. What speeds are appropriate? Do we look to the feds who currently use much slower definitions than MN does? Do we look at international definitions even though they have different regulatory structures?
  3. What is affordable? And are we talking affordable for a home, business or community?

The differences seem larger in black and white, so there seems to be a desire to stay vague in the report so that everyone can agree – but I suspect that leaves some parties feeling lukewarm about the report. Whereas the original report focused on hard fought compromise, this report comes less from compromise and more from general softening of all sides. That being said – this report (and the report last year) has a pointed recommendation for funds. That recommendation was successful last year and signs point to fertile ground again this year. And I think everyone on the Task Force feels that’s a good thing.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband December 9, 2014 DEED –
James J. Hill Conference Room
1st National Bank Building 332
Minnesota Street Saint Paul, MN, 55101-1351

10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m – Full Notes & Video…

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

Done

10:10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.   – Update from Office of Broadband Development

  • Kevin McKinnon is transitioning to new role as DEED Commissioner
  • Doing evaluation of fund applications
  • Plan to announce awards before end of the year – but not entirely in the hands of the OBD
  • Jan 7 or 21 for first meeting.
  • Working on Farmfest.(hotel is already booked out)
  • Connect Minnesota contract ends at end of January – so the Office of Broadband will be transiting information to their website. It’s the end of the ARRA funding for the office

Discussion on Task Force Member Terms

  • Still looking into details there’s a range of options
  • But this hasn’t reached the top of the priorities yet
  • We will proceed as if we exist; it seems likely that we will continue but no way to know for sure

Dan Richter Speaks on PCs for People

  • MVTV helped with PC for People rehab program – so humbling
  • Amazing to see the people who need a computer – any computer
  • Interesting to see the people who really only have smartphone access to the
  • The end of the year is a good time to think about donating computer to PCs for People as your company looks to upgrade

Bernadine Joselyn spoke about the fall broadband conference

  • 200,000 people had info from the conference put in front of them via social media
  • Thanks to everyone who participated

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

I don’t have a copy of the proposed report – and in the past out of respect for the document I have not posted the penultimate version. So many of the notes are disjointed. I’ve tried to highlight the discussions that I think are potentially most interesting. (Also I think the video on speeds in pretty interested to listen to – as always the visual is less interesting.)

Page 4: Was the speeds actually mandated

Page 5: Need to stress state statutory goals – so it doesn’t look like Task Force goals

Page 5: Connect penetration with adoption

Page 6:

  • Problems with adjectives such as imperative.
  • The word can be changed BUT softening the importance is an issue. We want to stress importance.

Page 7:

  • We have specific numbers in for OBD and Libraries – do we have the data to back this up?
  • Bullet 5 (medical reimbursement) who gets the reimbursement? Providers want to get reimbursed from insurance companies.
  • Reviewing permits and streamlining? Is the intention for only state controlled land? Or are we talking municipal too? We highlight in the report area where people might want to pay attention. Primary audience is state policymakers but local leaders have been reading the report as well.
    People are looking at local level outside of this report. Today’s permitting process might not work in the future – it might help to get them looking at the issue.
    We talked about having policy leaders talk about this – not necessarily make changes.
    Can we add something about the fact that we’re looking for guidelines?
    ROW is a local issue – it’s important.
    Maybe we need to remove streamline and focus on efficiency to soften the idea.

Why move recommendation to front? Because people will read the first few pages rather than full document.

Page 9 (what has happened)

  • Do we want to take so much credit? Yes because we’d like to exist in the future.

NEW (?) RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • We have added “look at speeds in 2015” when did we discussion that?
    We talked about that at the last meeting. It was tabled but discussed. We propose that we re-examine the goals. The language is pretty much the same as in the draft report – just moved into the recommendations.
    We haven’t really discussed it.
    But we have discussed it – and it’s timely now because the goals are set for 2015. So it seems like a good time to suggest an upgrade to the goals. We’ve danced around the real discussion about what the new goals should be.
    But the Task Force is supposed to advise the Legislature. [Ann’s note: except last
    The FCC just changed their goal from 4/1 to 10/1 – so we’re still ahead of the Feds. Although some people may feel otherwise.
    Evaluation of the speeds goals is premature given the role of the federal government.
    The government set a number – when he signed the law.
    But it was the Task Force that made those recommendations.
    If the legislature were asked to review them – they would ask you to testify what would you say?
    I’d say that’s our plan for 2015. The Task Force has worked because of iterative discussions. But we haven’t talked about this.
    So maybe we need to add this somehow but maybe not as a recommendation.
    OR we can say by the end of 2015 – the Task Force will make recommendations for new speed goals.
  • Another new recommendation: Require BB structure projects with state support be accessible across sectors.
    I think you were trying that State built…
    Nope
    A lot of funding is restricted to one sector silo – for example a network may be for a hospital or school only. So fiber comes into the school but cannot be used outside the school.
    The devil is in the detail. I have 1000 questions – and I don’t know that we could write this in a manner that would vague enough for me. So if the State gives me $200,000
    How about is we change require to recommend – because we’re not trying to make all networks open networks – but would like to open the door when an open network make sense to everyone.
    I wasn’t able to join conversation – so I don’t know what the discussion has been. In the past we have had discussion on this room that has informed recommendations. I think we need to stick to that.
    Maybe we can make sure this gets added somewhere.

Section on Wireless – this is most of the content we were asked to provide.

  • I have a focus concern that we have tried to not talk about entertain.
  • Can we say that wireless connection are unrealistic?
  • Can we really say that a family of four will consistently surpass data caps?
  • We are already going down the anti-wireless road
  • But ST Paul school (reports) that all kids get iPads
  • We need to find a way to not polarize connectivity. We don’t want to segregate what people can do with which type of connectivity. We have wide swaths of Minnesota that has only wireless options. The problem isn’t platform; it’s affordability.
  • MAK will rewrite the section and circulate it before we move to final approval.
  • We need to make this more technology neutral. We need to talk about characteristics that are inherent in different technologies.
    • Fiber is good because it’s best
    • Wireless is good because it’s affordable.
    • Wireless business is booming – how were we able to do it? Private and government investment.
    • MN has a huge challenge and we’re meeting it. We are getting covered.

Page 9: Do we need to define access?

Page 11:

State Broadband Maps: suggestions to make them easier to read.

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

12:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. –  Review of Task Force Report Draft

Page 20: I think it’s important to give context when comparing Minnesota to Rhode Island. Seven of the top 10 states are very small – we need to explain the challenge of reaching a larger state with areas of lower population density.

People do ask why we can’t do this easily – maybe we need to get into the details.

Page 22:

  • Adoption is key to investment – leave asis
  • Can we insert new language to refer to the many meetings and discussion from summer rural broadband
  • Do we want to leave in the comparison to the UK and international standing? They have a different regulatory system.
  • Maybe we need to add more countries to the paragraph.
  • Minnesota is not going to claim broadband as a utility in MN any time soon.
  • Everybody love the last line – the need to _____

Page 23:

Let’s update OBD info if we can before the report goes to the presses.

Page 24:

Summary of federal activities.

Callout box? Why mention that we’re unlikely to see ARRA investment in the future. We don’t need to add that.

We need to update FCC rural broadband experiments details.

Page 25:

Page 27:

  • Do we need to use the term “profitable” and “market failure”? Do most people know what ubiquitous means?
  • Market failure – how can we call it a failure when we’ve only been working on this for 20 years?
  • I don’t like this tone.
  • Maybe we can strike the sentence about market failure – that gets to the need for all hands on deck. Does that make sense?
  • Maybe we can talk about public funding opportunities for private companies.
  • At the capital we have talked about how the private sector cant’ do it alone – but we see why private providers might not want to say that out loud.
  • We want to add the cost of meeting the goal – it has been very powerful. This is a good place to put it.
  • I don’t want to quibble the $900 million to $3 billion to meet the goal – but we need to update that number.
  • We do need to educate people about the challenge. Telecoms can’t make an investment where it doesn’t make sense and we need to help people understand that.
  • A larger discussion is – what is the role of state – in and out of broadband. We haven’t talked much about it around the table because we’ve learned that it’s true. It takes both public and private. Sometimes the free market doesn’t work. And the answer is not always public ownership. We need to get policymakers to understand that.
  • Our business is not based on market challenges in wireless; there can be regulatory hindrance to deployment too.
  • It depends on provider too – a local independent might install fiber where a larger provider won’t upgrade DSL.
  • We need to talk about why this is important too.
  • Once grants are reported – when will we hear from recipients? Maybe this is for 2015.

We can follow up on email.

NOW OUTLINE FOR WORKPLAN:

  • Can we fit in hearing from OBD grant recipients? Some projects will be turned on by end of 2015. We are also waiting to hear on some ARRA projects.
  • Can we reframe the year to work on the report during the year – or at least an overarching goal to work to? But what if the legislators pull the plug?
  • We need to talk about speed goals earlier. We will need to do research. We need a report on what other states are doing?
  • Let’s look at what speed goals are required.
  • What about affordability? Can we explore that?
  • Can we discuss security? We did discuss it last year. BUT we didn’t talk about statewide vulnerability.

2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. –  Upcoming Meeting Details and Adjournment

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