Minnesota Broadband Task Force Notes from Jan 21, 2015: History Live & Legislative update

The Task Force met at the History Center this month. It was a fun opportunity to see History Live – the History Center’s online class offerings. It was great to see a class of fourth graders enthusiastically learning about the MN history with the help of a great teacher and a lot of technology.

A couple of legislators stopped in with updates and predictions. They mentioned that there is strong, bipartisan support for continued broadband funding. There were a couple of numbers batter around from $100-200 million.

The Office of Broadband Development will soon announce the recipients of the MN Broadband Fund. The decision is currently in the hands of the Governor.

Here are the full notes. I’m going to ask for indulgence for typos as I am in meetings for the next full day and wanted to get these up ASAP.

Nice welcome to the History Center

Update from Members – Sjoberg just finished a connection 400 gigabits connection

Update from Office of Broadband Development

Received 40 applications for Broadband funds. The total of the projects came to almost $100 million with a total request for funds from the state of $44 million. Recommendations have been sent to the Governor’s Office so everyone is just waiting to hear who gets funded.

Keeping tally on what’s happening at federal level and in different states:

  • E-rate reform – support wireless connectivity 100 M
  • Feb 26 – FCC meeting on new Net Neutrality rules – will they reclassify?
  • Cedar Falls meeting – Obama talked about
  • New NTIA tech assistance
  • RUS grants
  • NY is looking at $100 million from bank fines
  • ND is looking at $50 million loan
  • IA is looking at $5 million grants for fiber for every acre

And tally on broadband related bill in the MN Legislature:

  • HF 53 – exemption of sales take
  • SF 78 – ed tech funding
  • SF 145 – devices on schools introduced by Sen Schmit

Talking to Connected Nation about continuing on with mapping through 2015.

Super Fun Demo of History Live

– a very enthusiastic teacher/actor introduces students in Zimmerman to Minnesota inventors such as Rose Totino. Fun to see how engaged the students are.

Teaching online requires more focus and energy.


Schools can connect via laptop or actual videoconferencing setup. With laptop we use Zoom software. The local teacher stays in the room and helps with management.

How much prep has the class done?

  • We may work with the teacher again; we may not but it is easier the second time. We try to get kids out of the seat and moving.
  • We send curriculum in advance. We confirm a time and go.
  • Not a lot of setup for the local teacher.

How many schools use zoom versus videoconference?

  • 25 percent use the software (which means lower tech)
  • 80 percent of schools are connected via co-ops. And the co-ops are big advocates.
  • Lessons delivered since 2010: 24,490 (17,000 in MN)

Have you run into bandwidth issues?

  • It does happen. It happens more with software. Sometimes the video will freeze or there might be a lag.
  • We haven’t encountered any schools that were unable to connect entirely.

Would you do things differently if you had better connection?

  • I’m not sure – but the overall experience is better when bandwidth is adequate.
  • CLIC evaluates the lessons and they seem to do well.
  • For older students we have “bring your own device” lessons. It’s interactive where students can send data and we do something with it in real time. That’s where the broadband really matters. **They are the only ones doing that!***

Is Zoom hosted here?

  • No it’s a service. Students don’t need to download – they click to connect.

Are there issues with a school only being able to do one class at a time?

  • No – but I have been scheduled based on standardized testing times.
  • We multi-casted once with kids. It worked.
  • We’ve done professional development with multiple locations.

We have an interactive e-book for 6th grade. We have 5 units. Each chapter has a video (20-30Mg). That gets tough because each student downloads at once. So we try to get students to download in off hours and not at the same time.

The Task Force talks a lot about student home connection. So one issue is assigning download at home – it doesn’t work. Also need to provide enough offline tools so that kids can do some homework. (So download video vs stream.)

What are most popular programs for out of state?

  • Innovations (meets STEM requirements)
  • Dred Scott is popular (7-10th grades)

History Live has won awards from CILE. In fact they have won top award for 4 years running.

What does a school need?

  • There is a cost for the schools to participate: $75/class in MN and $120/class outstate.
  • Generally the schools have the tools they need (smartboards, videoconferencing…)
  • There is some fear (with teachers) the first time.


Approve the minutes

Work plan for 2015:

Includes items that came up during the report writing – that we

  • Jan – Legislative Update
  • Feb18 – public investment in networks at MNSCU (BUT 1-4 pm)
  • March 19 – Broadband and transportation
  • April – Mobile wireless service (coverage, data caps, price – do a big dig!)
  • May – E-health – worth revisiting
  • June – Gigabit communities & Task For
  • July – backhaul landscape
  • Aug 4 – Farmfest – they are very excited. Will be in big tent. Looking for lunch sponsorship. And in the education building. They can seat up to 6,000;
  • Sep – Re-evaluation of speed goals – We are saying our speeds goals need to be met by end of 2015 and we should make speed recommendations to Governor in next report. We need to prepare for that – maybe in the committee. It’s clear that 10/5 needs to be evaluated. How about an in-depth presentation on where we aren’t meeting goals. (And re-evaluation the legislation.)
  • Oct – recommendation on speeds
  • Nov – report writing

Do we want to look at predicting speeds?

We will update the cost estimate of ubiquitous broadband ($900 million to $3 billion)

Update from Legislators (I recorded some of this discussion.)

From Rep Kim Norton

Broadband was a topic we supported. Erik Simonson was lead last year. This year I’m involved again in Greater MN jobs et al group. There are still 300,000 in need of broadband.

We heard cost was about $900 million and $2.9 billion. That’s a big range. Last year we dipped into offering $2 million. That’s the groundwork for more interest this year. It feels like there is still interest.

Last year we asked – who are we reaching unserved or underserved? We need to continue to discuss that. We need to focus on impact for business (getting broadband) too. Do we want to bring broadband to areas that have business or to areas that might use broadband to attract businesses?

I need help with info to keep this moving forward.


We have heard too that there is interest in continued support. Interesting to hear about the perspective of business.


You have hit the nail on the head. Unserved and underserved was a big topic. This group has been working on broadband longer than it’s been housed at DEED.  SO we’re working yet on the vocabulary that fits the economic development perspective.


Senate met on education technology – connectivity at home is a big issue. Students need to be able to connect to do school work. We’re currently seeing inequities.


Where do you think focus should be?


We look at E-Rate and one-to-one device. We are trying to get more cooperation with Department of Education.


We are tracking connectivity for anchor institutes – current connectivity and need.

Right now we’re having to develop curriculum based on students not having connectivity. We have schools that invest in devices. There’s a gap there.


There’s an overlap between business and households. Generally business can get what they need. BUT one issue is business wanting to workers to telecommute. They need home connectivity to do that. We get calls from Rochester where people want connectivity but can’t get it in the newer homes with big lots and homes right outside of town.

The Mayo Clinic decided that teleworkers must have wired connections. So satellite doesn’t suffice.


A problem is the cost to getting broadband to remote areas with lower population density. There are people at the end of the road – but it’s a lot of road to reach them. We settled in on what our business objectives were in consideration of state support. We drew a circle around the homes we could serve – there were only about 160 homes. Once we got beyond those circles the costs were more than $4000 per passing. That’s not possible.


As a legislator, I assume the funding will go to those homes where there is no business case.


Costs are not the same in rural areas EVEN after the lines are built. Lack of competition is an issue – and that’s why I pay $2800 per month.

Senator Schmit

Feel good about the momentum we’ve built and we sustain. Hopefully the broadband fund recipients will be announced soon. Anticipation is building. It’s been great to engage people around te state.

Hoping to renew the broadband fund investment. We’re looking at numbers and less at text of legislations. Bills will be introduced soon.

There was a great hearing yesterday on education technology. Folks on the education committee were very interested and impressed. It’s great to get buy in from committees that aren’t overtly broadband-focused.

Looking forward to Governor’s budget. Looking forward to the recommendations in the latest Task Force report.

School districts are at different points in deploying technology. Payment for telehealth is another issue if we can get them to look at it.

This session we are going to make it real for folks.


We are looking at broadband and transportation and health care – any thoughts?


We could look at what other states have done. Need to get Dep of Transportation to think of corridors in new ways. We need to bridge gaps.

Can look at CA and driverless cars.


There is a lot of talk on smart cars and drones.

The U of M is looking at teen drivers – that maybe be an interesting vein to focus on too. There’s great interest from parents to know how they are driving. A little big brother but interesting.


The precursor to the smart car is better managed traffic. It lays the groundwork for smart cars.


Rochester is interested in high speed rail – being online on the train is highly desirable. There are businesses that would like to build the train rather than using state money. There’s technology involved and that’s part of the selling point.


Electronic records were a hot topic last here. The remote stroke center is a hot one too. We need to talk about innovation. I’d be interested in a bill if we have info to support cost saving health ideas. Reimbursement is an issue – we need to get specific.


Connectivity is an issue – especially for private practice. Can they comply with laws? Privacy is a huge issue on both sides of the aisle. That could get in the way.

The delivery isn’t the only issue – using technology to improve lives (such as drug monitoring) is an issue too.

Looking into costs cutting measures related to nursing homes is helpful too.


We have a renewed interested in rural areas – economic development, healthcare… connectivity is the glue that keeps these together.

The speed goals were very helpful. What gets measured gets done. But we realize that once we hit it, we’re not done. So I recommend greatly that you re-evaluate the speed goals.

Rep Sheldon Jonson

Looking at working with Ron

  • Need to get operations funding for OBD
  • Need funding for mapping; we understand proprietary info
  • Broadband grants – we want to see if funded. I’m introducing a bill for $100 million though I’d love to see $200 million. We’re working through the folks who fund DEED.
  • Increasing aid for schools and library (working with education finance) to fill E-Rate holes
  • Department of Public Safety – looking at collaborating with tower and other infrastructure.
  • Telehealth is huge – what direction is that going and how can we be supportive. Need to look at reimbursement – but not sure how
  • Telecom deregulation bill – we’d like to move forward on that. CenturyLInk and MTA had a bill last year – we’re working with slimming that down.


Mobile service comes up a lot. We’re hoping to dig even deeper into it. We need to look at how it helps in MN but what are the constraints. Data caps are an issue now – but will they be in the future?

People of color adopt mobile services at a higher faster rate than terrestrial services.

Most members are seeking reappointment to the Task Force for the rest of the Governor’s new term. That will probably happen in the next month. The report from last year will be released soon – maybe tomorrow.

Is anyone talking about broadband adoption?


People have said they’d love to have money for adoption. But first things first – access. But adoption would be good.


Applications will drive adoption


Adoption is embedded in workforce development.


In the OBD fund there is some funding for promotion – especially to promote existing resources. Research shows that if someone gets broadband subsidy for 18 months, they are hooked.


We’ve had good luck building adoption through reduced rates (even temporary) and now kids get devices in schools so that lowers another barrier.


Iowa has scholarships for low income households with kids. Perhaps we need a grant program for area where the local provider doesn’t offer reduced rates.


You have adoption, economics. For a long time no one recognized wireless – yet every student has a device or phone or something. Kids choose mobile.

There’s a wealth of knowledge at this table. It’s a tough topic to pick up quickly. We’re here for you.

This entry was posted in Minnesota Advisory Task Force, MN, Policy and tagged 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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