Minnesota Broadband Task Force will recommend $200 million in funding and set new speed goal

Yesterday the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met to finalize their report and recommendations to the Governor. The recommendations are similar to last year. The two hot topics were – funding and speeds. They are recommending $200 million over  two years for broadband funding (same as last year) and the speed goal is:

Universal access and high speed goal: It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions, including public schools, colleges and universities, have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. Also by 2026 all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions will have access to at least one provider of broadband with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

They worked through a draft that had been compiled/by staff. I will include a copy of the draft they used (so it’s not final – but a penultimate draft) and copy of the handouts from the day, which include some back and forth language, especially on the speed goals.

A lot of issues were pushed to next year’s report. Nothing is set in stone – there are a few open items yet but the draft was adopted by Task Force members. Below are notes and videos from the day.

Public Comment from Mike Reardon at MACTA

Recommendations –

Recommendation 2: Infrastructure Grant Programs – recommend $200 million (over last year and this year) but support the Governor’s $100 million

  • How many letter of expressions did OBD get for future funding?
  • That question doesn’t make as much sense given that $10 million garners different proposals than $100 million would.
  • But I think we might be getting to a point where fewer areas qualify and are able to seek funding given overall expenditure.
  • There isn’t a hard number since many people didn’t give numbers. What we found to be a bigger issue is the deadline – which was really one construction season.
  • Will CAF 2 cover everything? No even CenturyLink says no.

Recommendation 3: Create an OBD operating fund to promote broadband adoption and use

  • What if we include a directive that allows for advance use as well?
  • Sometimes we try to be more hands off – but that may be a good topic to address next year.
  • But we do agree that economic development tis a big goal for broadband and this group. We could just add a goal of “broadband adoption, use and broadband enabled economic development.

Recommendation 4: Increase telecom aid for schools and libraries – the task force recommends $3.3 million in FY2017

  • The number this year are half of last year’s numbers. Those numbers came from the schools and libraries.

Recommendation 5: Make sales tax exemption for telecom permanent

  • This has been in the report for a long time. The issue is that all over capital equipment is tax exemption – but in leaner times that was changed. It has been reversed but only temporary.
  • It is permanent but it doesn’t include wire, poles, fiber and conduit. We would like that added. It is in the current Senate Tax Bill.

Recommendation 7: Review existing permitting criteria to see where there might be opportunities for efficiencies

  • We will get a new version this afternoon.
  • DO we have any examples? Is this really an issue?
  • Yes it is a big problem. The inconsistencies of the process and costs. One example is – railroad crossing. Fees are all over the map. Some grantees last year tried to negotiate – and that seemed to help everyone. Timeline in response (esp with historical permitting) is also an issue. Better coordination would be helpful. We try at OBD. Consistent process and fee structure would be good goals.
  • Federal policymakers read this report too – so maybe we want to broaden our language to include federal.
  • Last year we had a similar recommendation – it is the same language. In fact, these are all recommendations from last year. It might be helpful to not that these were made last year and to track any progress.
  • But we have different members on the task force – so the recommendations are different.
  • But I think the legislators see us as one entity – not as individuals.
  • We do talk about the grant program, we talk about OBD, we talk about schools and libraries. It is important that the recommendations reflect the text of the report – but I think the report does touch on most of these issues.
  • I’ve never seen anyone admit that the recommendations are the same as last year – but that might diminish the impact of the recommendations.

As a new person – what was the reaction to recommends last year.

  • Funding was $10 million
  • OBD got some funding but less than prior year
  • Schools and libraries got some funding
  • Telecom reform wasn’t on policy list last year
  • There isn’t any efficiency bills this time around.

Recommendation 6: Reform regulations of Minnesota’s telecom industry

  • We need a few words on consumer protection.
  • Will get more text from industry later.

Recommendation 1: Update Minnesota’s broadband speed goal:

Here is the first draft discussed:

Universal access and high speed goal: It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions, including public schools, colleges and universities., have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. Also by 2026, at least 80% of Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions will have access to at least one provider of broad band with speeds of at least 100 Mbps.

  • Why are we going backwards with the upload speed goal?
  • Currently broadband gets used to a ratio of 17 to 1 (download to upload)
  • Why don’t we align with the FCC – not today but make an attempt to update when they update?
  • Speed goal of 25/3 by 2026 is dismal – we need to shorten the time frame or expand the goal speeds.
  • A 10 year goal is too long – it doesn’t motivate. Legislators will leave that to the next round of decisions. Maybe we can look at 2020 rather than 2026.
  • Doesn’t that 80 percent caveat leave rural residents as second class citizens? It smells like a sanctioned digital divide. We already have 84 percent who can download at 100 Mbps.
  • Why are homes, school and businesses lumped into the same goal? They have different needs. The current legislation only said homes and businesses – this was an attempt to bring in institutions.
  • I like the reference to fiber – it removes the need to discuss speeds.
  • I like no reference to fiber – we want to be technology neutral.
  • Symmetrical is not going to pass with this task force – so what else can we do.
  • The speed goal strengthens the clarity.
  • The speeds change quickly. People are already talking about 5G. We don’t’ want embarrassing goals.
  • I like the 10 years – but I like the 25/3 even more.
  • What if we go with 100M down and 10M up as aspirational goals?

Here is the last draft discussed:

Universal access and high speed goal: It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. Also by 2026, Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions will have access to at least one provider of broad band with speeds of at least minimum download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

Other proposed Recommendation

Maximize benefits of CAF2 funding for Minnesota:

  • This might be a legal issue. The State can’t try to change federal requirements for federal funding.
  • Industry people are insulted at this proposal – because they are talking to OBD and they do plan to build beyond 10/1

Promote Public-Private Partnerships

LUNCH

The Task Force is combing through the actual report. I will attempt to take pretty high notes:

Page 1: We are using $900 million to $3 billion quote – that came up from the original Task Force. Actually the second Ehlert & Associates did that with the second Task Force. (So it might be dated.)

Maps: Let’s add captions to the maps to help readers understand the significance.

Let’s include a list of Minnesota communities that have Gig access. But let’s also talk about who is really leveraging the Gig. (Like a Kansas City or Chattanooga.)

Lots of discussion on the glossary.

MORE SUBSTANTIVE COMMENTS

Can we add the Minnesota Broadband Vision?

This statement was not created by the Task Force so there is some reticence.

This statement is about the voices of rural Minnesota – not just Blandin. The conference was hosted by Blandin and the DEED.

Maybe it doesn’t fit in the introduction.

Maybe we could add it in a call out box in the report. OK

Move the 1-page primer to the appendix

Space is an issue, this move would open up space.

It makes for a slow start to the report but it is important to start with definitions.

Do we think the audience knows this info? That could be a deciding factor.

The recommendations are going to be at the end so that folks will have to read the whole report before you see them.

Add chart that talks about which technologies allow which functionality

Households have multiple devices now. We need to help readers understand that.

Better context is helpful.

Can we add 6 community snapshots that demonstrate what the broadband playing field currently look like?

Some of the community snapshots are editorial – MAK could rewrite it.

The content of the snapshot doesn’t fit the primer tone of the rest of the report. This is more data and conveying for information.

This seems like more of a lobbying piece.

Why did we select these communities?

Maybe we need this for each community. That would be helpful.

The community profiles have been shelved.

Can we remove a paragraph on cloud computing?

Yes maybe we can hear from businesses in the upcoming year.

Can we add Arrowhead project? Can we maybe delete Coops? Can we add more Coops?

I’m not opposed to something on cooperatives – if it were more general. Just didn’t want more on RS Fiber.

What FFTH is not from a cooperative?

Can we delete Annandale?

No – because it was a big political topic last year.

Do we want to add more community examples?

Well these examples aren’t private options and this section is already a little long.

We could talk about Eagan – but it doesn’t serve unserved areas – it competes with commercial providers.

Can we add back a section on public private partnership?

This is part of the answer. It’s helpful to illustrate the range in which sectors can work together.

It seems like this information might not be helpful.

Maybe we could bolster the private investment section to incorporate a few examples where commercial providers worked with public partners.

There are so many flavors of public partners that it might be confusing.

But that’s the point – politicians would benefit from knowing the options.

So do we want a new section or intertwine it?

What if we do an insert on public private – it’s been a huge topic inside and outside broadband. But let’s not use the chart, let’s use prose.

Can we add numbers about how many people access low-come-reduce-rates programs?

That info should be easy to get.

It’s not.

We don’t want lifeline numbers.

It’s a proprietary number and providers aren’t going to want to give that.

We could get eligibility numbers but not how many people take it.

Can we leave this for next year?

But it’s not helpful to mention the program is we don’t know how many people use it but I can let it go.

Can we add back the section on Rural/Urban Digital Divide?

We address some of that on pages 14-15.

And some of it comes in section of coops.

We have to be careful as a task force about emphasizing one type of provider over another.

BACK TO RECOMMENDATION

SPEED GOAL:

Universal access and high speed goal: It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions, including public schools, colleges and universities., have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. Also by 2026, at least 80% of Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions will have access to at least one provider of broad band with speeds of at least 100 Mbps.

Can we stop at 2022 to align with CAF2? But CAF2 might go longer?

Can we lose “high speed” these speeds really aren’t high speed? Outside professionals say 10 Mbps is OK for next few months. 30 Mbps is closer. I’ll agree to 20 Mpbs. The costs to getting the rest of the state is enormous. We’re just picking number here without much research.

We’re not setting speed goals – we’re only recommendations.

We’ll be talking about non-fiber speeds in 5 years.

Wireless is not 10/1. Who knows we might be 100/30? 5G is already being talked about.

WiFi is talking gigabit symmetrical connections.

Can we add “affordable” in the recommendations? It’s very important to several folks. But where do we add it?

Affordability is important (we allude to it in he report prominently) but I’m afraid adding it to the speed goal might hinder the goals. Affordability is subjective. Let’s leave it off.

But people often pull out the recommendations without the context of the report – so losing affordable in the recommendation would be unfortunate.

What about leaving it until next year?

The FCC is looking at the issue now.

At the border to border conference affordable was a key piece of their vision. We should add it.

We do ask about affordability in the grant applications.

It would be helpful to go deeper into this and put in some good research with legitimate recommendations. How can we help them? Are we looking at Internet Essentials? Maybe we can suggest that the State help. We found that Blandin was helpful when we looked at the issue in Their River Falls.

Can we talk to PCs for People about their reports?

Free and reduced lunch is a good way to help define need. Affordability is a big issue with some people.

We can put off until next year.

Can we talk to PCs for People about their reports?

Free and reduced lunch is a good way to help define need. Affordability is a big issue with some people.

We can put off until next year.

Universal access and high speed goal: It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions, including public schools, colleges and universities, have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. Also by 2026 all Minnesota businesses, homes and institutions will have access to at least one provider of broadband with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

Other Items:

  • We will shelve the discussion on Dig Once for next year.
  • CAF2 carriers will continue to take advantage of OBD at their discretion – that’s the compromise to incorporate CAF issues
  • MTA will get back with content on the sales tax issues
  • They will add a section on public private partnership

What’s the vote? yes

This entry was posted in Minnesota Advisory Task Force, MN, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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