Minnesota Broadband Industry Conference Notes: Feb 19

There was a full room at the Broadband Industry Conference today downtown St Paul. It was great to have different broadband factions in one room talking about policy and technology. There were reps from cable, wireless and telecom and there were policymakers, business owners and folks from local government.

I learned a lot about spectrum, FirstNet and DOCSIS 3.0 and what sort of help providers need to reach remote and high cost areas. And for better or for worse everyone seemed to agree that the job of pushing for better broadband would never be done. Someone called it a journey, not a destination.

We also heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar:

Get the full notes…

Introduction: Lt. Governor Tina Smith

Has been touring Minnesota to talk about new broadband fund projects.

Broadband is a great tool to grow the economy. That’s why we’re focusing on broadband development. Danna MacKenzie is doing a great job.

Technology Advance and the Future of Telecom: Robert Alderfer

DSL is most popular broadband

Cable is close behind.

Minnesota is a leader in fixed wireless with about 75% having access.

Mobile broadband penetration is 104% in the US

DOCSIS 3.0 can do a Gig in speed. The next generation will do 10 Gig.

People are doing more with less broadband these days.

When you make faster speeds available – people find things to do to use them.

Immersive video uses huge broadband (4K over several screens) a new look at video and with commercial applications – maybe in real estate.

We have 55 cable operators – we reach 155 million households. We take bleeding edge ideas and make them accessible to most users

Security is a big deal to us. We work with Cable FX.

More about Wi-Fi –

Mobile wireless gets a lot of attention but the real driver to get people online Wi-Fi is the easiest and most popular on ramp.

Cable companies put Wi-Fi networks in home and businesses. It allows people to take their home network with them.

Wi-FI Spectrum – Mobile wireless get double that is used for Wi-Fi. Spectrum is controlled by FCC. It’s generally shared. But when we need more WI-FI spectrum available it runs into roadblocks. Everyone wants to protect their turf – but we need people to mutually cooperate if we want to the industry/ use to grow.

March 2014 – new spectrum became available (5 Ghz spectrum). We helped the FCC do research demonstrating that spectrum can be shared.

The latest Wi-Fi Technology: 80211ac – Gigabit Wi-Fi. If you have a Gig to the house you need Gig Wi-Fi to take advantage of it.

Pass point – will make Wi-Fi more secure and more seamless.

Cable is working to make Wi-Fi better.

What are interesting new applications that take advantage of Gig access?

How can we make spectrum available to more folks?


DOCSIS 3.1 will deploy in the next year or two. It will require new cable modems. WIFI routers will still work.

The Internet of Things – what kind of data consumption does that take in an in-home network?

Usually the use WI-Fi. (Everyone has WI-Fi in their homes.) New services will be constantly sending data and that pay add up over time. There’s a need for reliability.

Do you get into security? What about the security of the things? What do you do?

We know that security and privacy are important to customers. SO we pay attention to it. We work on certifying all devices on the network. There are things that happen at the application layer and higher. We’re open to those issues.

Do you have any research on how consumption is growing?

Cisco releases reports forecasting data growth. We don’t do too much.

Panel: The Wireless sPectrum/FirstNet

Steve Kelley, Humphrey School

Jackie Mines, Director of Emergency Services

Public Safety, ARMER network, Emergency Communications… We have 7 regional committees and a statewide committee. We are now taking on wireless for public safety.

FIrstNet – to deploy a nationwide public safety LTE network. They will charge fee, they will be regulated. Minnesota has been working with Telemate.

We are preparing to negotiate with FirstNet. We’re developing a strategic plan – looking at what devices we need, what we need to do, what standards we need and ongoing management. Right now we’re educating the public safety base.

We are also tracking state assets. We are talking to public safety folks too – what is their need, their budget… FirstNet needs people on the network and even then it probably wouldn’t be enough to build a business case. SO maybe there’s room for second and third tier users. We have tiered service available now on our existing services.

We look at coverage assessments:

What area do you need to cover? Verify critical infrastructure. About 62 percent of public safety folks use devices now in MN.

Richard Stanek, Sheriff Henn County

I’ve seen lots of times when FirstNet would have been a help – such as when the 35 Bridge fell down, tornado in NE Minneapolis, Republic National Convention, man hunts… These things go better now because we have some communication in place.

Everything we do is focused on public safety mission.

We need modern networks and commercial devices – smartphones are generally better than what police officers have in their cars.

FirstNet is working on planning and design of the network. I just joined the national FirstNet board. FirstNet created a roadmap and released it last year. Different terrain means different challenges. We have a range in Minnesota.

FirstNet met with Minnesota. FirstNet plans to build and deploy the public safety network. We’re hoping for early spring for some movement.

Albert Kangas, New Core Wireless

Wireless provider from St Cloud. People want access to the network everywhere. What are we hearing across the industry?

Some folks are aware of FirstNet in the field; others are not. It’ all about education now. We are trying to extend to the public sector.

We work on 2-5 million customers in a data center. All of MN public safety need might only be 100,000. SO how do we make that work? Work with multiple states? Open the data center to others?

FirstNet has access to high quality Spectrum in the 700 MHz range. It’s the beach front property of spectrum and a block of it was held back for public safety. FirstNet wants to become the 5th wireless provider and that asset helps them.

How does Minnesota set up?

Minnesota has a lot of tower assets. This vertical real estate is big! Backhaul is a big need too – need at least 100 Mbps. There are opportunities to partner there.

You need to be able to market the idea to everyone.

Government is bringing broadband and a couple billion dollars. That’s not enough to build the network. SO what’s the role for private business?

Coverage is key. And we needs pre-emption services. People are used to 95% coverage with existing channels and we need to work with existing providers to do that.

How can public safety know the broadband will need it when they need it if they share with private parties?

Billions have been spent on this. Now we need to look at how to fund the proposal. Congress has a say in this, Department of Commerce has a say and states can opt in or out. Private sector can join or not.

We have heard that there will be ruthless pre-emptive when public safety is needed. There will be a need for redundancy.

New Core is piloting a project in Elk River with LTE platform. We are trying to demonstrate how we monitor critical infrastructure. We are working on the projects over the next few months to see how they balance the needs.

Need to ask – what is a public safety entity? Does it include public works?

Does governance need to reflect the population bases in Minnesota?

The FirstNet board reflects diversity of demographics. Will probably be like what we have now with good representation of rural and urban (by terrain).

What is the challenge in Minnesota to getting a deal with FirstNet?

We want flexibility. You might not have funding to build border to border but we might have connections to help that happen. And we need tiers of public safety entities. We need power, communications as well as public safety. Priority matters.

Does pre-emption indicate a need for redundancy? Is there excess capacity? And what is resilience?

Our constituents need ability to roll over to commercial networks. The pilot project will help us understand pre-emption better. How, how long, where will pre-emption happen?

Spectrum is a finite resources. TO get more out of it we need to learn to share it. Cognitive radios sense the state of the network and choose based on need and availability. Tools like that might make pre-emption less important and build a case for writing rules.

We dealt with rules and a type of pre-emption with the existing ARMER system.

From an operator’s point we look at reliability. But every step you take out to the customer decreases tolerance from 99.999%. And smoothing those paths will cost.

One implication is that there will be a broadband network across the state. At some point unserved areas may ask if they can use the network. Will that be possible?

It may be possible – more uses makes it more affordable – but there is the pre-emption issue.

Does anyone talk to the FCC about Net Neutrality? How do you juggle net neutrality and a model like this?

10:00 a.m.           Minnesota Broadband Coverage: Connected Nation

Diane Wells, Telecommunications Manager, MN Office of Broadband Development

  • 2008 – Gov signs agreement to get maps
  • 2008 – signed contract with Connected Nation the map included 110 providers, 7600 speed tests, 85 broadband inquiries.
  • 2009 – ARRA funding for maps
  • 2010 – Connect Minnesota continues mapping

Wes Kerr, Connected Nation

First Connect MN map was one of first full state map produced in the Country. Participation was great. People were impressed with how many providers participated.

How did we get the data?

DSL providers are used to providing some data – they are used to FCC forms. We needed to translate data into visual format (map).

Cable – CAD data was the buzz word – now moving to GIS. Franchise boundaries

Fixed wireless – unknown data, no boundaries, different technologies, environmental impact on signals

Mobile – data was provided by providers

Fiber – a lot f CAD data

SBI Mapping


  • All providers
  • Validation
  • 6 month intervals
  • Speed tiers – Speed tiers were a little tricky because it meant different things.
  • Data types

Speed was an issue – some years we used 10/6 because that’s what the FCC uses and it’s what people already had. But that’s different than 10/5 that are the state baseline goals.If we don’t get participation, we do our best to guestimate access via validation processes.New FCC 477 forms have made mapping tricky. Providers aren’t sure. FCC had tech difficulties.View over timeHome broadband adoption rates went from 72% in 2010 to 77% in 2015Mobile adoption rates went from 26% in 2010 to 59% in 2015Connected Nation will do another map.Question: What made the mapping go so well in Minnesota?Part of the engagement started with a desire from the provider community. And once the relationship was established it continued.

Panel: The Government’s Role in Broadband

  • Senator Matt Schmit, MN State Senate, Vice Chair, Jobs, Agr and Rural Dev Committee
  • Colleen Landkammer, State Director, USDA MN Office of Rural Development
  • Tom Hauser, Chief Political Reporter and “At Issue” host, KSTP TV (Moderator)
  • Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director, MN Office of Broadband Development

USDA/RUS has the following funding opportunities:

  •  Expansion of rural 911 services – we have funding
  • Public TV
  • Community Connect program
  • Distance learning
  • Healthcare

Why does the State have to get involved?

Because there isn’t a market case to expand to rural areas. We need to find a way to extend networks. We have great providers – but they need incentive to reach the most remote areas where the business case is limited.How do you make sure the money iprograms:

Who is eligible for national grants?

We just awarded $19.4 million; the purpose was to have the state act as a financial partner to serve unserved areas. Anyone was eligible. It was a one-time funding piece but the legislature is working on continuation.

Who is eligible for state grants?

Home broadband adoption rates in rural areas went from 58% in 2010 to 68% in 2015


From Bill Jensen:

Question: What will broadband be in the future? How does government keep up?

You go too far into debt to deploy fiber quickly. It’s the first 5-7 years that is most difficult with debt management.

We are hoping not to borrow – but to use operating capital to build over 10 years.

They cover 800 square miles around MN and IA (also serve Michigan). We are fiber to the node. We are moving to fiber to the home. We are losing population in our communities. We need to focus on economic development efforts.

Al Juhnke, staff Senator Al Franken

Bill Jensen, Regional VP, Mediacom

Brad Finstad, Executive Director, Center for Rural Policy and Development (Moderator)

Panel — Big Picture Perspectives

Broadband is critical for our economy and our children. It’s a policy decision. Are you going to make sure everyone gets broadband? Or are you going to pick winners and losers? Minnesota can’t afford that. We take risks when we give grant and loans – but there’s a risk to not investing too!

In 5 years we’ll be talking about Gig access.

Security is a big concern right now.

How will we innovate.

TV won’t go totally away.

Todd Roesler:

  • Use of broadband is increasing. The same people are using a lot more.
  • We have to look outside our coop to invest. We invest in complimentary infrastructure.

Al Juhnke:

  • Do people have what they need?
  • Are prices equitable?

Question/Comment: Providers are OK with Net Neutrality. We don’t like Title II. Section 201 & 202 are ripe for unintended consequences. We might be pole attachment rates go up 5 times.We have staffers in DC who read through the details and they want to hear from you!Title II would look at broadband like voice and there was USF there. What do you think?Yes – and it didn’t stifle competition. We are still catching up with our funding. Government can’t keep up with technology. There is some discussion going on about where to better use money – but it’s not there yet.

With Title II we lose the advantage of tiered customers. Most of the telecom providers here have built the networks we use. With Title II a Netflix-type company cannot make a deal with a provider regarding a network he privately built. That doesn’t seem right. Users should be able to pay for better service. (Bill Jensen)We looked at MN funding to serve underserved areas. But even if we got funding – fiber to the node costs $14,000 BUT we’re so far away we couldn’t even serve a meg. And there were no towers around. (Todd Roesler)

Keynote Speaker: Jonathan Adelstein  

How can you increase wireless capacity? More spectrum, improve technology or intensify infrastructureInfrastructure is the easiest way to growth. We densify the network.Wireless investment will mean $1.3 Trillion and 1.2 million jobs!Question: What keeps you awake?      Universal serviceConsumer protection

Panel: Broadband – The Backbone to Driving Our Future

Moderator Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President, MHTA Chair, Broadband Taskforce

Cadi Breun, Nurse Specialist, Knute Nelson Home Care & Hospice

They use Grand Care systems to help patients stay at home. Patients become accountable for their own health. It provides a better understanding of a disease or condition. BUT the patients need broadband at home to make it work.

Gerry Hansen, Vice President of Cloud Operations, govDelivery

We depend entirely on broadband to deliver our services – we’re a SAS company. We deliver outreach services around the world. We mobilize people to act for local governments.We do this through a range of online tools (website, social media, email). We went 20 million emails a day. We send 20 million text messages a month. People can send segmented, custom messages.

Diane Smith, Founder, America Rural and Mobile Future Advisor

The Kaufmann Foundation found that new businesses were responsible for most of the new jobs.Broadband is fixed and wireless. Both count. I wok in rural Montana – and I could sit in my coffee shop and start my business like people do anywhere.Smartphones use 58x mobile data. There are 1.2 devices per capita.Mary Meeker research talked about connected devices (Internet of Things). 29.3 million wearables now and that’s growing. Traffic from wearables will grow 19 times between now and 2019.People don’t care about websites now – they care about mobile apps. We’ve become silicon everywhere these days.Question: How do you deal with reimbursement issues?Reimbursement would be nice. We save money for the economy at large as well as for the patient. With broadband we can do with hundreds of dollars what cost thousands of dollars on site. We don’t have the payment plan that compensates us for that.Senate file 980 – just introduced by Julie Rosen to look at telehealth reimbursement.We want lower cost, unbundled access and a streamline process – we’re not asking providers to build to these homes.Question: What do you think our speed goal should be?We see government agencies using SAS (Cloud) solutions. The overall volume will grow to the point of pushing broadband needs.Broadband is a journey, not a destination. We need flexibility and agility to meet consumer needs.Question: What do you see coming down the road that require broadband (up and down)?Education applications will drive demand – use in higher education that includes high definition video. MNSCU now delivers 19 percent of classes online.Volume is an issue too. It’s a lot of little transactions or emails sent.Video will drive demand.Question: What about shortage of rural doctors?It does help. We are only feeling the tip of the iceberg of nurse shortages now. It makes us work smarter. We can’t have nurses spending half a day in the car.Closing Comments – Paul Weirtz, State President, AT&T Minnesota, Member, Broadband TaskforceTakeaways:


How does broadband affect a nurse?

Serve rural areas – 26 counties around Douglas County. We are working to become leaders in telehealth and telemedicine. Our clients want to stay at home.





Senator Klobuchar (video above)

Public safety

We need a rewrite of the 1996 telecom act and we need to focus on:

Rural spectrum availability act

It’s now time to govern from a place of opportunity – not crisis. That’s a door open for broadband.

Cuba only has 2G – there’s business to be done there!

What’s your take on Title II?

The work force issue – we don’t have enough trained people. Last year 15 people died on cell towers. And even when that doesn’t happen, some states have 50-70 percent re-dos. Until we started the program in Aitkin – no one was teaching people how to do the work.

Final Notes from Paul Weirtz, AT&T

  • The amount of spectrum being made available is not enough.
  • The Internet of Things, 5G and education are all drivers of demand for broadband. We have to be ready to help kids reach full potential with broadband.
  • Businesses need to pay attention to the technology – they are the users, which is why John Deere was a good addition to a broadband group.
  • There is bipartisan recognition that we need to speed broadband deployment.
  • Our job is never done.
  • We are privileged to have policymakers in MN who are really engaged and invested in broadband.
  • There’s a lot of legislative action and effort on technology and broadband.
  • Broadband coverage is a big effort and we are willing to look at state funding.
  • Last Minnesota telecom regulation overhaul was about 1995.
  • MN Bills to Watch: HF 777 SF 895 HF 1066 SF 877


This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, Policy, uncategorized, Vendors by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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