Blandin Broadband eNews March 2016: Broadband is hot topic for legislators

Broadband News Around Minnesota

Support the Minnesota Broadband Vision
So far 166 individuals and 61 organizations have signed on to support the Minnesota Broadband Vision

Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.

Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken applaud the effort. Representatives Nolan and Peterson put the Vision into the Congressional Record.

Broadband Hot Topic for Legislators
There are articles and editorials related to broadband in local papers other publications almost daily:

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting and Report
The Task Force releases their annual report recommending $200 million for the broadband fund over the next two years and a speed goal change from 10-20 Mbps upload and 5-10 download to 25 Mbps up and 3 Mbps down. They had an opportunity to discuss the report with policymakers at their monthly meeting.

Does Broadband Get Redlined?
A research report in Connecticut indicates that broadband is not served equally. They assert that businesses in a more diverse community of Hartford have greater connectivity issues than other communities in CT. It sounds like the situation for ISDN in the Twin Cities 20 years ago when only some neighborhoods qualified for service.

Minnesota Broadband Industry Conference
The second annual MN Broadband Industry Conference is a success with twice the attendees as last year. Policymakers say they know broadband is important but they don’t necessarily understand the details – inviting attendees to continue to raise the issue to help keep it on the front burner.

Tools for Community Broadband Proponents

  • How Can you Prepare for Public Private Partnership?
    The Benton Foundation releases a new guide on public private partnerships that includes two checklists that communities at any stage of broadband planning should bring to the table: Key strategy considerations for Building a Partnership and Key legal considerations for localities looking to Build a Broadband Partnership.
  • Looking for a Broadband Project Idea
    Blandin Foundation recently shared a matrix of broadband projects that have received funding from the Foundation.
  • Tool Helps Communities Assess their Local Broadband
    CTAC releases an assessment to help a community determine where it stands in comparison to other communities with regard to broadband access.
  • Understanding Compliance with Federal Broadband Regulatory Requirements
    Baller, Herbst, Stokes & Lide generously share their memoranda on compliance with federal regulatory requirements, compliance with the federal Universal Service Program, and qualifying for E Rate subsidies for schools and libraries.
  • Considerations in Site Selection and Data Centers
    The archive is now available from the February Blandin Foundation webinar: Broadband Considerations in Site Selection and Data Centers.

Local Broadband News

Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith visits Paul Bunyan Communications to congratulate the cooperative for being a leader in bringing high quality broadband Internet service to northern Minnesota.

Itasca teen would rather live in South Africa where internet is better – or at least Romania.

Kandiyohi County
The Kandiyohi County Board endorses the Broadband Vision and considers partnering with MVTV Wireless to add Wi-Fi hot spots around the county to help remedy the lack of high speed internet and data capacity in some areas.

A business owner in Kandiyohi explains that lack of adequate broadband stifles her ability to take part in necessary online training.

Northern Minnesota
Paul Bunyan Communications announces that all of the school districts served by the cooperative have been upgraded to Gigabit fiber network. School districts include Red Lake, Northome, Kelliher, Blackduck, Indus, Bemidji, Laporte, Littlefork-Big Falls, Park Rapids, Greenway, Nashwauk-Keewatin, Grand Rapids, Deer River, and the TrekNorth and Voyageurs charter schools.

Red Wing
Red Wing Schools make snow days an online working day for educators by using their group subscription access to Whitewater Learning. Red Wing educators can now stay home on snow days and work on professional development to get credit for working.

Resilient Region
Resilient Region gets grants for tech marketing, conference, video conferencing and computers

St Louis Park
St Louis Park is working with developers to encourage them to build in conduit to make new buildings ready for broadband.

Sherburne County
Sherburne County talks about their recent Blandin Foundation-supported broadband projects including WiFi in various locations, support for schools, training and broadband advocacy.

Sherburne shares their broadband feasibility study that includes details on a Middle-Mile Fiber Network and Fiber to the Home solution.

Southern Minnesota
Hiawatha Broadband and Jaguar Communications expand their 100 Gigabit network in southern Minnesota. The network now connects more than 20 southern Minnesota cities.

SDN Communications and seven other broadband providers collaborate on fiber backbone that supports world class connectivity to approximately 500,000 people in Southern Minnesota.

Hiawatha Broadband gets a nod for investing in the local community, especially noting that according to the Census report, every one of the towns with one of their broadband networks gained significant population while every town around them that doesn’t have broadband is losing population.

Upcoming Events

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Stirring the Potbill right

Nothing has confused rural community broadband policy discussion more lately than the FCC CAF2 funding program. $500 million dollars to rural Minnesota over the next six years is the good news; a minimum 10 Mb/1 Mb standard is the bad news.  CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream and Consolidated Communications (formerly HickoryTech in Mankato) will use these funds to extend DSL service deeper into their rural networks by extending fiber to the node. The ability to deliver high speed Internet via DSL is extremely distance sensitive, that is, that if you are within 3000 feet of where the fiber ends, you can get broadband that meets or exceeds the FCC 25 Mb/3 Mb standard.  If you live 9,000 feet or just less than two miles from where the fiber ends, you will receive 10 Mb/1 Mb. Old, deteriorated copper will further reduce the carry capacity of the service.  Emerging technologies that providers like to talk about – vectoring and G-Fast are only effective to supercharge that first 3000 feet and have no impact on the longer loop length customers.

At the recent broadband industry conference, there was conversation around using future DEED Office of Broadband funds in combination with the FCC CAF2 funds to gain better services throughout rural Minnesota.  I have mixed feelings about that since loop lengths would have to universally shortened to 3000 feet to even reach the FCC standard of 25/3, but what about our new proposed state goal of 100 Mb/20 Mb by 2026?  At what point does it make sense to stop upgrading old networks to build new virtually unlimited capacity Fiber to Home networks?  We have all faced that choice with old cars.  The decision to rely on an old car often leads to the same situation that many rural Minnesotans now find themselves – stranded on the side of the highway when you most need to get someplace in the worst possible weather.

In this discussion, I have already had incumbent providers cringe when these issues are discussed.  Yet there is never a clear declaration of intent or shared plan to reach the state broadband goal of 100 Mb/20 Mb nor any data on what rural Minnesotans will receive in the next five years from CAF2 investment.  The physics of broadband are pretty clear – 9,000 foot loop lengths yield 10/1; 3,000 loop lengths yield 25/3 or more.  Geometry is also pretty clear; to go from 9,000 loop lengths to 3,000 loop lengths is a lot more expensive and still leaves no clear path to the 100 Mb broadband standard.

Let’s hope policy makers insist on an open and honest conversation on this critical topic.



This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s