More than 50 people attended the broadband listening session in Spring Valley hosted by Representative Davids and Representative Kresha. The crowd included lots of folks who are unhappy with their current service, elected officials including Mayors, County Commissioners and providers (Frontier, Ascentek, Spring Grove, CenturyLink, BEVcomm, Mediacom).
There were a number of topics that came up. I’ll list out a few recurring themes or assertions – and post full notes/videos below:
- Wireless is enough – actually it was touted as potentially superior to fiber. Others asserted that they were wary of limitations and costs of wireless.
- CAF funding will benefit the areas that are hard, but not hardest, to serve – and while only required to offer services of 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up, providers will build beyond that capacity.
- We need to make sure that state funding doesn’t disqualify MN for federal funding.
- Because the Office of Broadband Development only received $30 million in proposals for funding last year, folks seem to assume that means the need (or preparedness to spend) is close to that amount.
It’s probably worth noting that two proposals for state funding were submitted from this area – neither were awarded. Acentek submitted at least one proposal and say that if there is future funding, they will apply again. Also attendees were adamant and seemingly unanimous in desire for future funding. Several tried to get officials in the room to commit to supporting Governor Dayton’s $100 million proposal.
The meeting started with Representative Kresha talking about the broadband situation in the state and his strong push to get connectivity to all corners of the state. He speaks as someone who used home connectivity to start his successful business. He doesn’t want broadband to become a political pawn – after all, the Broadband Task Force started in the Pawlenty administration and is strong in Dayton Administration.
Broadband is a tool to get people back to rural roots. We need to get kids to return home – they can work from their homes if they have broadband and that’s a good way to get them back.
Kresha is pushing for more competition. He says that Broadband isn’t wires, it’s connectivity. For example his daughter did her college application on her smartphone. He says we can’t just spend our money hard wiring things. We need to get to as many houses as we can – and we need to reach the most difficult homes. But he says that wireless connections should be considered.
Scott Bowler from Frontier spoke about CAF (Connect America Fund) – universal service historically has subsidized high cost areas. It went to small rural providers. In 2011 the FCC expanded USF to include broadband. The came up with CAF. Now they look at high cost areas – not just high cost providers. The FCC defined broadband as 4 Mbps per census block. They set aside $1.8 billion but it wasn’t enough. They focus on supporting areas that cost $52-198/month. In MN they focused on $86 million per year for through 2020 to build to 170,000 households.
Now the FCC defined broadband as 10 Mbps. The FCC set a schedule for build out.
Kresha – the providers aren’t building to 10 Mbps – they are building to faster speeds