MN Broadband Task Force October Meeting Notes: Lessons from libraries and speed goals

Yesterday at the Minnesota Broadband Task Force, the task force members heard about broadband in the libraries. I think there are some lessons to be learned from the libraries (in the spirit of full disclosure I was a librarian and have a Master’s degree in Library and Info Science). Libraries do a good job gathering stories and have data ready for legislators when it comes time for funding. Also they have worked a deal where federal and state funding work together to optimize opportunities for patrons.

The Task Members talked a bit about the report they will be writing in the next few months but the real discussion centered on updating the broadband speed goals.

Draft language for speed goals was introduced…

Minnesota defines broadband as an always-on internet connection with advertised speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. By 2020, all homes and business will have affordable access to service that meets this minimum speed. Also by 2020, at least 80% of MN households and businesses will have access to at least one provider of broadband with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload.

Spirited conversation ensued. Below is a video of the discussion, the audio is the best I could do.

Read on for more complete notes from the meeting. I am hoping to get PowerPoints from more presenter to share and will add them when/if I do.

Update from Office of Broadband Development

Grant process from Jane Leonard

They have $10.6 M to distribute. Total of $29 M was requested but leveraging $66 Million.  The challenge process has begun. There were challenges with speed goals and ODB is working with the challenger and applicant now.

Work on Report

There is an outline of the fuure report and the group spent 40 minutes discussing the outline in small groups and reporting back.

Notes from one group:

  • Overall goal is to have more narrative and storytelling – especial related to the grants.
  • Also there’s the 5 year mark. It’s a good framing piece.
  • Let’s talk about OBD – but also take a look at other State Offices that work on broadband
  • The biggest policy in 5 years was the creation of the OBD – maybe we could do a summary of the past 5 years
  • Narrative and voice are important
  • John can do history of legislative action
  • Andy will help with CAF – maybe Shannon for rural broadband experiments
  • Can we use lots of maps? (snapshots over time)
  • Maureen & Hannah will work with Sally Fineday on tribal view
  • Maybe we can look at 7-county metro versus rural. Also looking at regional centers (Duluth..). Only problem is that data is by county
  • Maybe we want to report on non-Blandin communities too. That’s OK if you can get the name of a non-Blandin community. (Like Monticello? Or communities that have done feasibility studies.
  • Try to get input from the cable, telecom, and other industries on private investment in broadband over last 5 years
  • Fun idea might be to show covers of Ag mags now and Ag mags 10 years ago – see the difference

Big report out from each group

  • How should we start the report? We thought that starting with a primer might be useful. And really focus on Office of Broadband. Then kick into where we started 5 years ago. We liked narratives and pictures. Interested in getting some rural stories. Ignite would be a good story Itasca or any community. And we’re going to try to come up with a number for private investment in broadband over the last 5 years. Maybe scenarios would be helpful. Maybe we could add telecom reform into the policy section.
  • We talked about making sure that we focus on the audience. We need to make a compelling story about the importance of broadband – for civic engagement as well as economic development. Telecom reform is important. We liked storytelling too – maybe sidebar stories from each region. Might integrate primer into the case studies. Look at useful usage. Look at 5 communities over 5 years to see which communities have flourished and which haven’t. We need to illustrate what CAF 2 is – and it’s an investment overtime. CAF 2 is not a panacea.
  • We need to refresh the idea that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Importance of stories – maybe sector specific perspectives. Support a primer but need to stay concise. Maybe a removable primer. Most people will not read this cover to cover – most will slip right to recommendations and we need to make that easy. We need to tell people why they should care.

PRESENTATION – E-Rate Overview and Library Patron Broadband Use – Hennepin County Library

Hennepin County Library has 1900 public computers for patrons

So far patrons have downloaded 1.3 million ebooks this year

What is funded?

  • Cat 1 – voice, internet, WAN
  • Cat 2 – internal services

How is funding determined?

  • Percentage of kids on free lunch programs

E-Rate funding is a small part of the funding – but it’s part that isn’t based on local property taxes. We have the potential to receive $4 million in category 2 funding over 5 years.

Library patron use of broadband

They track bandwidth average use, trends, peak use and recommended use. There’s variation based on patron walking use (after school for example) and sometimes limited use of computers.

25% of broadband use is based on WiFi use – not via library computers. PC use is trending down; WiFi use is trending up

Trends in the Library

  • Increased device ownership with patrons
  • Patrons are using computers for e-government services. Libraries have computers, Internet access and librarians. People sometimes have access (a smartphone) but don’t know how to do their taxes online.
  • Patrons run their businesses from the library.
  • Student patrons get online with their one-on-one devices at the library.
  • Immigrant populations are looking for opportunities to tell them talk to people at home – videoconferencing!

Are the libraries connected via fiber?

  • 5-6 libraries are connected via fiber with plans for more. We plan to convert a couple building a year.
  • We need to know how fiber can be reimbursed before we can look at getting E-Rate funding for deployment

Do RLTA funds help you?

The rules have changed. We’re at an 80 % discount (via LTA will make up the 20%). If there is fluidity between category 1 and 2 we could spend it.

PRESENTATION – Minnesota’s Public Libraries: Bringing Broadband to All – Jen Nelson

Pew Internet is a good source library and broadband

  • 25% of patrons go to the library to use a computer
  • 75% of patrons think library is a place to learn about technology

Made policy changes last year to help state funding to support federal funding.

Minnesota Library Stats:

  • 211 libraries (62%) in MN are connected via fiber
  • There are 5,759 computers available for patrons
  • 529 mobile devices
  • 5,594,135 Internet sessions
  • 76% of Minnesotans have library cards
  • 352 library (97%) have public wifi available
  • IN 2014 there were 4,017,994 digital downloads in Minnesota libraries

What about the MN Learning Commons?

It’s still out there. The do an annual digital learning conference. OER (Open Education Resource) Commons

Do the libraries have open IT positions?

It varies a lot. There are some areas that are having difficulty. Libraries are at a crossroad. It’s a challenge to train and pay for IT staff.

How do you get this level of information?

There’s a statutory requirement for libraries to provide reporting. And we help librarians understand that data helps us tell their story, which helps get funding.

What do libraries do for outreach?

We work to get to patrons. We are trying to reach people is the ways that they wanted to be reached – from bulletin boards to Twitter.

PRESENTATION – Education Superhighway

A nonprofit that focuses on – How do we help kids get what they need?

We provide a fact base on where MN is compared to other states


  • Schools are shifting to 1:1 and blended models
  • 1+Mbps per student is needed in media-rich schools

FCC 2014 goals – 100 Kbps per student/staff (2014) for Internet / 1 Gig for WAN

FCC 2018 goals – 1 Mbps per student/staff (2014) for Internet / scalable to 10 Gig for WAN

  • 22% of districts are not meeting 2014 Internet goals
  • 19% of districts are meeting 2018 Internet goals (quite a gap)
  • Recommendation: So maybe be need to create state goals to coincide w/FCC goals
  • 26% schools need fiber upgrade
  • 26% of building are not scalable
  • E-Rate Makes fiber deployment more feasible
  • Recommendation: Start IDing and supporting these schools (help with E-Rate)
  • Average cost $10/Mbps – 3 times the target
  • Top 25% schools pay $2.5/Mbps
  • 73% of schools access the Internet through consortium
  • Recommendation: Leverage transparency to increase bandwidth for schools
  • $65M of category 2 is still available
  • Recommendation: More effective procurement to maximize value
  • 94% of districts have yet to exhaust the new $150/students budget (albeit a 5 year budget)
  • 45% of schools are not requesting any C2 funding

Any data on urban/rural spilt?

Yes – urban and suburban are less likely to make goals. There are regions in central to south central that are not meeting goals too.

How do you set $3 costs?

We took the average of the top quartile.

They are working on a Broadband Education Price Transparency Model that will help figure out the costs and potential


(these are notes I was able to take while recording the video at the top of the post)

We want attainable and aspiration goals so we have

  • 25 Mbps down and 5 Mbps are attainable goals.
  • 100 Mbps symmetrical is the aspirational goal for 2020.

Nothing was decided – but a lot of perspectives were introduced!

  • 2020 is way too soon. CAF won’t have played out by then.
  • Can we get to 25/5 with fixed wireless? Yes – the issue today is that you can’t do it everywhere.
  • AT&T is doing a large part of CAF 2 project with fixed wireless – especially in Wisconsin.
  • Could you get to 25/5 5 years ago? No.
  • Three years ago we set speed goals – I thought it was farfetched at the time. Physics doesn’t change overnight.
  • Can cell deliver 100 Mbps now? We’re not saying that.
  • We have people who are throwing out numbers – but don’t understand the technology for delivery.
  • 100 Mbps is unrealistic.
  • We need to talk about affordability.
  • A stretch goal is a good idea. Without goals we don’t see these leaps in increased access.
  • Affordable and reasonable of what people need should be part of our goals.
  • Defining as always-on is confusing. It’s over-simplistic.
  • Are advertised speeds meaningful?
  • The practical goal seems realistic – we need to label the aspirational goal as such.
  • There’s a problem with an 80 percent goal – that sets up a divide. We need to shoot for equitable.
  • When we present these numbers we get a reaction – we need to be prepared. Be able to say how we came up with that number.
  • Do we want to tie in with what other states are doing?
  • It would be nice to include some adoption goals too – like 99-100%
  • Affordable access – FCC uses urban benchmark for affordability – but it doesn’ always get updated when we need it.
  • 2025 has to be a minimum to let CAF 2 play out.
  • Speed goals are used for the Border to Border grant funding.
  • FCC why don’t we use the 25/3 FCC goals – that would make it easier for providers.
  • It’s good to get rid of state rankings.
  • I like 25/3 FCC goals.
  • Symmetrical goal doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t make business sense.
  • It’s hard for us because we don’t’ have the costs to upgrade at the Task Force – it take a lot to make certain leaps.
  • Going to 25/3 seems like a step backwards.
  • With national trends –what will the need be? Maybe we need to look at what broadband will be required in 2020 or 2025.
  • We need to be able to explain how we got to these numbers. Connecting with FCC might make sense – we could defer to them in the future too.
  • We should tie out goals to outcomes – support economic development or other.
  • Affordability should be addressed too – and adoption.
  • The Task Force recommends to the Governor – the Governor decides. We only have so much control from the Task Force perspective. We have been told that numbers are needed/desired.

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