Minnesota Broadband Task Force July Meeting Notes: CTC Partnerships & E-Rate and Speed Goals

Today the meeting was held in Brainerd. It was good to see the town as welcoming as ever after recent storms. It was also good to hear from CTC about the different partnerships they have and how they have helped them bring fiber to wider and wider groups of their customers. The Task Force also got a crash course in E-Rate by hearing aboy how it works and what it means to Brainerd Schools. Read on for full notes…

Welcome from Brainerd Chamber of Commerce

  • The weather has been devastating. It magnifies the important of broadband for business continuity.

Approve minutes from June meeting.

No public comments

Presentation from CTC – Kevin Larson & Kristi Westbrock

How can CTC do it? Through RUS funding. Need funding to maintain, not just build.


  • Brainerd Lake Fiber Optic Partnership – 10 years in the making, $25 million invested but buys an anchor tenant from which to build out.
  • Also partnered with Atomic Learning to expand fiber
  • In 2015 for $2.4 million from MN broadband fund
  • Arrowhead Partnership – CTC provides connectivity & ISP business support, Arrowhead Electric provides infrastructure

Barriers to building broadband?

  • Financial uncertainties with the FCC lack of decision on USF
  • Standalone broadband funding (USF insists customers get a phone, which doesn’t make sense)
  • Cost associated with building FTTH in remote rural areas
  • RUS Broadband Loan Funds unavailable
  • Lack of knowledge by policy makers and consumers

Where is broadband going?

  • CTC member usage May 2014 was 2100 MB now it is 4600 MB – Internet usages doubles each year.
  • Heat maps show that heave users are heaving users no matter how much you upgrade them.
  • Current Internet use for company? 7 gig access but predicted to be 190 gig in 2020
  • Nanobots- find white blood cells with anomalies and attack them
  • Intenet of Things
  • What can you do with 50 Mbps? – 1 Ultra Def, 3 High Ded, YouTube and video chat


What do you budget for costs to reach the last folks?

  • In Fort Ripley we estimated $8000-9000 per passing. But we’ve seen as high as $10,000-12,000.
  • We use existing back office infrastructure – someone starting new would have a difficult time making a business case.

How many devices do you budget per customer home?

  • A casual survey of CTC employees indicate that Up to 30 connected devices in the home – for millennials. More like 7-10 connected devices per home for baby boomers.
  • Upload demand is increasing

What are the electronics costs?

  • For 10 Gig – whole new set of equipment but you get more usage
  • For 1 Gig – we have to do direct work at customer home – upgrading equipment that connects to the house
  • Anything less than 1 Gig you can modify what is there

What can Task Force look at for policies?

  • We need a level playing field for providers
  • We need advocacy for promotion and education – and see it in Task Force and Office of BB Deve

Tell me more about the school situation.

  • Voter approved referendum ear marked money for fiber to schools in came from Chamber training seminars
  • One company couldn’t meet the need
  • So anchor tenants bought fiber from the school district for the initial 40 miles of fiber
  • Trust was a key element

What about communities without anchor tenants?

  • If you don’t have that the partnerships don’t come to fruition
  • You need leadership with vendor and community
  • Local champions make partnerships work
  • Champions can come in different forms – but it’s hard to think outside the box.

Office of Broadband Development Report

12 of 17 contracts are fully executed from 2014 Broadband Fund Grant projects

  • 4 are waiting on signatures.
  • 8 projects have done construction
  • 1 project (Dunnell Telephone in South Central MN) declined funding – and funds will be reallocated for next round
  • Jane Leonard has done 4 site visits

About new funding

  • $10.8 million allocated for 2015 – application is available online now! Due September 15
    • You must resubmit your application even if you applied for 2014 funds
  • State speed goals are still 10/5 Mbps
  • Definition of unserved for grant is 25/3
  • Projects need to be completed by June 30, 2017
  • New county by county maps are available online!!
  • We will be running an expression of interest process too – but folks are really encouraged to apply

Braodband Sub-Cabinet

  • It’s getting rebooted
  • Included DEED, MNIT and Commerce – looking at composition now

FarmFest – next Task Force meeting

  • August 4
  • Getting some new voices! (Like Ag publications)

Digital Literacy

  • We think it’s important
  • We have a project going with WorkForce Development – we are getting in early with their process

MAK & Danna & Gv Staff met to ID small fund for mileage for Task Force members

Diane on New Maps from Connected Nation

  • Data was collected from 77 providers (about 66% rate)
  • Where provider didn’t participate they used ARRA fund grant data from November or most recent


Will OBD be staffing the subcabinet? Yes

Can we get data by tribal areas? Yes – connect offline.


Goals expire at the end of 2015. So now is a good time to look at it.

We have a sheet on

Do we want to be aspirational?

  • It isn’t in law – it’s a goal
  • Wanted to get buy in from policy makers
  • We want to get bipartisan support and we get that by putting it into legislation

Might be worth having the office look at the analysis done by other bodies to get to their numbers.

Is there a way to present this more visually? Hard to make meaning out of it now.

Do we want to look at more synchronous numbers?

  • The reason there’s a difference in upload/download. We see a 17 to 1 ratio.
  • Right now one third of the Internet traffic is YouTube and that keeps increasing. It will take a long time to match that with quick interactions from the Internet of Things
  • 60-70% of traffic is streaming
  • How tech neutral do we want to be? That really drives toward FTTH. If we do it we need to do it knowingly. We all know that’s not possible or financially feasibly in some parts of the state.

More on the speed question

  • The FCC has named broadband a utility. What does that mean?
    • That rings hollow when you consider that in rural areas – people need a well despite the fact that water is a utility.
  • We need to think about how people are thinking about broadband – not just at the numbers.
  • Maybe we need to have someone talk to us about this.
  • Other state have higher reach goals – what do we want to achieve?
  • We could add comparative goals (be top 5) as we’ve had in the past
  • I have concerns about comparing ourselves to other states – many states are smaller
    • Minnesota is big and not densely populated as Delaware or Germany
  • Do we want to be aspirational or realistic?
  • Unforeseen technologies make planning difficult
  • By setting a standard it allows us to spend time talking to folks. But Mbps isn’t meaningful to many people. We need to create a value that people understand.
  • At Blandin we had a vision statement that spoke about making an investment rather than starting with numbers.
  • Do we have a vision for the group? Is the executive order the vision? Maybe we need a value statement we can take to the Governor.
  • Affordability is an issue too. You need to look at local income families too.
  • We really are driven by Governor’s order but the Governor looks to use so we’re caught in a circle now. It might be more effective to work on this next year. IN four years we’ve had no push back from the Governor.
  • Are we amenable to having Rep Johnson add to the discussion on value of legislative

Welcome to Representative Sheldon Johnson, a champion for broadband.

Rep Johnson – on speed goals

I’m flexible about the issue of goals. The goals originally provided a practical definition of what was needed. I understand that a specific number I difficult when the technology and need changes. So we’re open to a new way to define Minnesota as a national and international leader. It needs to be clear. We are open to what the Task Force recommends. Affordability is always in the background as well. Needs to be practical and easy to understand. Clear and definite is better for bills.

Does is make sense to adopt/reference the FCC goal? That is a possibility but there may be a problem there too.


What is e-rate? Learn more: https://www.fcc.gov/guides/universal-service-program-schools-and-libraries

  • Some changes were made in 2014
  • $3.9 billion
  • Schools can build their own
  • Carriers that receive support need to offer schools metro rates

What does e-ate look like in Brainerd?

They have 12 buildings – with 6500 students. Some areas are veey rural. We will get about $1 million over 5 years.

We can really beef up our wireless. We could never have done it without funding.  We are getting redundancy. Adding 175 access points. Firewalls and backups.

Future needs: Gig and more access points

We partner with CTC.

We look for ways to better utilize data

Our need for telecom will go down and need for broadband goes up

The bottleneck in the system was the 300 Mbps pipe – now we have a gig. We will spend half in next year and a half by adding access points.

Think of requirements of 2000 students – for private smartphone use alone!


Cat 1 – reimbursed telecom and broadband tied to federal free & reduced lunch. We were at 43%. We get reimbursement of 70% – but the telecom is getting phased out.

Minnesota has an equity aid fund that helps schools make up the difference.

Impact on students

  • We are working on a 1-to-1 plan
  • We are including more digital experiences and they require uploading videos
  • We need for students to have access to broadband to do homework. In Little Falls we had to *not* assign Internet homework because of unserved homes.
  • We only have one part of the curriculum that is entirely technology driven.
  • Bandwidth and testing – we had no trouble from the school but our testing partners had problems.
  • We have a Gig connected to CTC – we don’t go above 350 Mbps on a sustained basis very often.


Is the issue availability or affordability? Both. One devices started coming home the families started to get broadband.

Another issues is bring your own device and teachers are expected to troubleshoot all devices, without training.

How is the process of applying/reporting on E-Rate? It’s not too bad but we have a consultant that helps us. We’re used to forms and processes in the school systems. One more layer isn’t difficult.

Are teachers learning to teach with technology? No

Our big issues is having broadband in the building, at the homes and getting them devices!

MAK: We have drafted letters to Commissioner of Education in the past. Should we think about a committee to look at that option? We would have a fresh perspective.

Some programs do have a technology component.

We have negative unemployment in tech sector.


OBD  will work on…

  • Visual representation on what’s happening elsewhere
  • Analysis of how others created speed goals
  • Get FCC perspective on speed goals
  • E-rate was made a priority so we’d know federal opportunities and could consider Minnesota’s policy in regard to suiting federal opportunities.


9 am on Aug 4 they start

DEED van is reserved.

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