MN Broadband Task Force Notes Feb 2015: Role of Government

This month the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met at MNSCU. They heard from several folks in government – from MNIT, County IT, libraries, schools and healthcare. A couple of themes emerged. First, Minnesota tends to like to leave decisions up to the most local authority. Public and private partnerships will be necessary to meet continually expanding broadband needs – even if that partnership is really local government serving as anchor tenant to entice a private provider to come into an area.

Here are the full notes:


1:00 – 1:10 p.m.
Introductions/Welcome by MNSCU/Public Comments/Approval of Minutes from January 21, 2015 meeting.

1:10 – 1:20 p.m.
Ramon Padilla, Jr. , MNSCU: Necessity of being online as part of enrollment in two year and four year public institutions.

Greeting from MNSCU

19 percent of MNSCU classes are online

Twice as many women as men take online classes

BTOP helped get broadband to more students but there’s more work to be done.

All information is becoming digital; broadband is essential to accessing it.

Advances in technology mean we can think beyond fiber to wireless options too.

Question – What is the problem with students getting access to broadband?
In Greater MN it is about connectivity.

What speeds are required to take online classes? What do you think people will need in 5 years?
We’re seeing s trend toward high definition video. I think we should be going for 100 Mbps or a Gigabit. We should aim high.

Do you see trends in students taking more classes online?
I don’ think we’ll see the school building going away. Hybrid classes are being popular.

1:20 – 1:40 p.m.                Update from Office of Broadband Development

  • Overview of Grants Awarded
  • Update on Mapping
  • Update on Legislation
  • Grant Updates:
  • 6,000 passings
  • $7415 per passing
  • There was a tour of Minnesota to talk about the grant once they were announced.
  • On March 3 they are having a briefing on next steps.

Legislative Update:

1:45 – 3:45 p.m.

Public Network Investment Economies Panels: Each presenter will provide an overview of the connectivity they offer and barriers and    opportunities they see to partnering. Any leftover time will be used for Q&A.

Panel 1:                                1:45 – 2:45 p.m.

MN IT—Jim Johnson

They provision Internet and work with University on Internet. We work with all counties and about a quarter of the k12 schools. We work with all state higher education institutes.

We like to partner with providers. We own very few facilities. We’re not in the business of burying dark fiber. We work with commercial providers, municipal networks, anyone. We provide a nice anchor tenant.

Early expansion across the state was driven by partnership we leveraged. We partner with MNSCU – we locally aggregate and ride a statewide backbone. We put hub locations on MNSCU campuses. The University is the provider – they purchase backbone services.

We run a statewide MPLS network. We manage the infrastructure.

We are seeing congestion point. As fast as we can provision upgrades, we need more upgrades. The cloud means we all need more capacity.

We get no funding from legislature; we charge for our services.

MNSCU – Mike Janke

We have at least 70 sites throughout the state – from Roseau to Luverne. Our campuses are about an hour apart in the leat populated parts of the state. Our largest campuses just upgraded to 10 Gig. The next is ready to go with a Gig.

We work with MNIT and the Learning Network. We bring broadband to the campuses. We use the backbone for the Internet and it enables us to communicate with all of our campuses. It allows us to collaborate. It changes the cost when we can collaborate.

We centralize services. Or the larger colleges offers services to other (smaller) campuses. It reduces cost for the system.

Interactive-live, TV-based classrooms are our most importance use of the network. SO the instructors are in one town and people can take the class on other campuses. If the network doesn’t work, we have to cancel classes.

At one time we had the largest online classe system in the world. We have the ability to offer online classes on almost any top, anywhere in the state – except if there’s a large laboratory component.

We use 20 Mbps for the classes. They have super slick setups on the campuses.

Most of our network services are purchased from people in Minnesota who have fiber in the ground. We own very little fiber (maybe 7 miles).

We serve as an anchor tenant. So we can make the difference to a business case scenario for a local provider.

Connectivity affords opportunities to offer classes we wouldn’t otherwise be able to offer. For us to successfully educate students – they need to have some broadband access close to home to make it work. We want students not to relocate or travel too far.

Dakota County—David Asp

A network collaboration engineer. Has worked over 17 years with others on the panel. We have capital dollars – so we put fiber in the ground (200 miles) or work with others to make that happen. We’re working on 100 mole miles this spring.

We upgrade old fiber – pulling out old strands and replacing them with many, many more fibers. We replace copper connections with fiber. And when we do it we put in stops for traffic lights, which allow us to manage traffic.

We are working on redundant connections with MNIT and the zoo and other counties and many other locations. We work with others to put in the electronics.

We are working more with city administrators and economic developers on a possible CNet (commercial networks). We’d like to open it up to open access to invite commercial providers to manage that service with end customers.

We build out connections and try to be anchor institutions. When we partner with others, that can mean that they get some strands and we get some strands of fiber.

MACTA/I-nets – Jodie Miller

We have an INet with cable. Negotiated cable franchise network.

INets are paid for by negotiation.  There are a few ways to slice up the cost

$40,000 per site for original fiber – but no monthly fees. INets are in a period of transition. Some cable customers (local governments) want more control; sometimes it’s an issue of franchising.

We care about:

  • Erate
  • State gap funds
  • Public/municipal networks and voting (thru cable franchising or not) we think the decision should be made at the local level.
  • Funding
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Public safety issues – we carry very sensitive info (911) and a lot of data.
  • Firstnet
  • Text to 911
  • Social media for public safety
  • Spectrum
  • Rights of Way

(Thanks to Jodie for sharing her PPT.)

Jon Linnell – Healthcare

We’re rural, very rural. Kittson County has no stop lights.

Broadband is essential for rural health. Everyone needs rural areas for food, manufacturing, clothing makers, mining… Those are high risk jobs so we need emergency services.

ER are manned by mid-level folks in rural areas; they need connectivity to larger facilities or sponsoring doctors to get support from folks who can provide the best care possible. You can’t take people to Minneapolis in emergencies – but we can bring Minneapolis doctors into the operating rooms ia broadband.

Most of our hospitals have decent broadband – but the branch health care facilities don’t necessarily have it. Small hospitals don’t have radiologists – again broadband can help. But those files are ridiculously large!

Electronic medical records – they are great. SO when you travel, they can grab your records. BUT the hospital needs to have access to broadband to access (and upload) them.

Telepresence to the home would make it possible for elderly folks to stay in home longer. That and appliances that help monitor health care factors.

Average cost in 2011 was $300/day for nursing home residents. Now imagine if they could stay at home – the cost saving!

My three year old grandkid can Facetime me – so anyone can do it!


What are your experiences trying to get more broadband from your provider?

Need for speed is moving so fast. Maybe there providers were able to fulfill needs a few years ago, but not now. When I ask about broadband it often can

In 2001, we put in a gig. IN some places that’s not sufficient. We want to do 100 Gig. We need it to do backup, high definition video, VoIP.. Building out fiber network, we have gone from $700,000+ to $15,000 in network rental in Dakota County. We are constantly working to get more and more connections because we have so many requests to save information. Body cameras are one example. We are trying to expand out of metro area.

As a provider… the problem that providers have is that we’re almost like McDonald’s. Usually the service is good – but in comes a busload of kids and we’re thrown off. We would love to see the plans for future needs. The providers could start building facilities. Limited capital is our problem. We need to know where to invest it. We need a central repository of broadband projections. We need lead time and order.

Dakota County has 15-20 weeks lead time for fiber. SO we work with everyone to get everyone on board to get broadband. It helps us save in aggregate. Over 10 years Dakota County has saved $10 million by aggregating broadband needs and buying over renting.

We could work on a longer and more open planning schedule. We follow stat RFPs – so we can’t make a commitment without an RFP but we could work on something.

The broadband task Force job will never be done. And legislators don’t’ want to hear it – but we need continued funding. It’s like roads and bridges.

I was able to work in the badlands in the winter – because I was able to get connected. Connectivity is less than an issue – cost is an issue. Data caps is an issue for wireless.

Question – what about the discrepancy in backhaul costs?

MNIT has access to backbones with the network he puts in. Right now policy doesn’t allow for public and private connections to work together to bring broadband to hinterlands.

I’ve asked CenturyLInk about get big broadband (10 Gig). The sales folk say yes – but 6 month, a year later there’s still nothing.

I don’t’ know if we need to collapse on the same fiber. The question is how do things get funded without grant support? It’s hard to afford anything even with partnerships. In Greater MN, we’ve come a long way. It’s hard to keep up with the technology. The public-private partnerships are there but it’s always going to be a funding issue.

I have kids and they have multiple devices – as do the parents. And we’re using a lot of broadband and it’s ever expanding. Again the question is – who is going to pay for it? And how can we expand beyond the metro area?

Question – How much traffic on MNIT infrastructure is intranet versus internet?

80 percent is internet.

We need more collaboration that you’ve demonstrated today – but we need you to share the sentiment of needing public funding for broadband with everyone.

Panel 2:                                3:00 – 3:45 p.m.

Libraries – Mary Mehsikomer, TIES

12 regional public library systems

Public libraries use internet and have seen exponential need.

People do come into the library – for digitalized materials and electronic databases. And we partner with workforce centers. People come for wireless.

In remote areas – the library becomes a community hub.

Financing comes from various pockets. Libraries can’t double up on broadband unless/until costs come down dramatically.

We have state funded resources through Electronic Library

We partner with different folks. Some procure their own network; some work with cities; some work with others. We’re big with local control.

Libraries rely on eRate. They also have state gap program – we’re seeking a $1 million increase.

Regional Public Library System – some are federated (so libraries are pretty independent; the admin works on communication and funding) some are consolidated (which means much more centralized control). They are good for flow-through of money.

We have a coordinated library card – so you can use it anywhere in the state.

Rural Schools –  Marc Johnson, ECMECC

Networks exist to manage and aggregate need.

There was some discussion to expand The Learning Network – the regional networks could have facilitated that expansion.

Schools generally have good broadband speeds available to them. We work within cooperatives to bring costs down. A number of cooperatives work with MNIT and others. Most school districts don’t have fiber in the ground, we generally get it from local providers.

The transport piece in SW MN they pay $23.40 per meg per month. In East Central we get it for $2.30/month. And they we pay for the service on top of that and the cost for service ranges as much.

We pay more for less broadband in some rural areas.

The cooperatives try to find economies of scale.

Barriers – is the rapidly increasing rate of use. If only technology would stop changing, we could catch up and predict future need!

Kids have multiple devices hitting the network.

Jan 2011 – all of East Central schools and library consumed 286 megabits of traffic at peaks. It’s now 1.6 Gig. We predict 6 Gig in the next few years.

Our students need access at home too – affordable and without data caps.

ERate prohibits partnerships and different use.

In West Central – they get a great deal from their provider. (Maybe Runestone.) Detroit Lakes & Bemidji use a city network. La Porte is so small that it makes sense to go on their own. Near Owatonna – they were in a telecom region but it didn’t work out for them.

Questions – what about devices for kids?

1-to- 1 initiatives are big. About 30 percent of our students (at ECMECC) have 1-to-1 devices. It has skyrocketed need for broadband.

Comcast has Internet Essentials- and others have programs – does that help?

Mediacom has that program. And others in the area. It’s good in towns – but not great for outskirts. They can’t get access there. Providers in the area have been surprised with how popular the offer has been.

Providers in the Twin Cities are marketing their low income offerings.

Comment – we talk about adoption in the low income sector. They need to have a computer, a reason and the knowledge. The 1-to-1 initiative opens the door to all three needs. Maybe we need to look at this across the state. We could get everyone involved. We change the playing field when we introduce the devices. We have 1300 ipads in schools in Thief River Falls.

Comment – It would be interesting to see what’s happening in St Paul. The impact of 1-to-1 devices has driven traffic there. Sometimes we get the idea that there isn’t a problem in inner city. IN some schools two thirds of the kids don’t have access at home. There are a lot of homeless students too. Maybe we can add this topic for a fall meeting.

3:45 – 4:00 p.m.                Wrap up/Next Meeting

March meeting will be heald at the Center for Transportation Studies so we can hear about connected transportation. It’s on Washington Ave. It’s on the light rail.

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