Blandin eNews April 2016: Broadband State Funding is All about the Details

Broadband News Around MinnesotaBBC Map

Broadband in the Legislature
In the middle of the Legislative session, several meetings related to broadband have already happened. Most people seem to agree that broadband is worthy of funding, it’s just a matter of defining the parameters – speed, unserved versus underserved and goals:

  • After making broadband one of the key points in his State of the State speech, Governor Dayton announces his budget including $100 million for broadband; local press chimes in.
  • Notes from MN House meeting on broadband (HF2381): focus on unserved vs underserved, budget, incumbent rights and implications of federal funding.
  • Notes from MN Senate Hearing on broadband (SF 2448 and SF 2447): focus on unserved vs served and who should get priority for funding
  • Minnesota House Committee talks broadband (HF 2381) a second time: focus on speed goals, unserved vs underserved and wireless (See also planned testimony from Bernadine Joselyn and Bill Coleman
  • Small wireless facility deployment bill; came up quickly, didn’t make deadline

Local papers have been covering the issues, local policymakers have been vocal and even industry folks and community leaders have chimed in:

  • Austin Daily Herald promotes funding for underserved and unserved areas
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune supports Minnesota broadband funding for unserved and underserved
  • Faribault enthusiastic about broadband funding but curious about details for grants
  • Reaction from various sources to broadband battle at the Minnesota Legislature: how much, how fast, who gets first dibs on broadband
  • Mankato Free Press sums up 2016 legislature in three words: Broadband, bonding and roads
  • Minnesota Public Radio finds that one of the biggest issues for townships in Minnesota is broadband.
  • Lots of organizations support the Minnesota Broadband vision!
  • Blandin Foundation sends a letter to MN Legislators asking them to remember the Minnesota Broadband Vision and the many who support it.
  • Blandin Foundation’s Kathy Annette implores Minnesota to seize the momentum to build broadband statewide.
  • Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation supports Sate broadband funding.
  • Industry view of HF1066/SF736 promotes allowing competitive landscape within telecom regulation.
  • Original Broadband Task Force Chair Rick King on current status of broadband in Minnesota.
  • Senator Schmit on (then upcoming) Senate Hearing
  • Senator Sparks and Representative Sanders promote telecom deregulation
  • Gary Schindler is running for House seat 27A House brings up broadband in his plans FCC extends Lifeline to cover broadband For eight years Akamai has been tracking the national and international status of broadband. The report only shows locations that rank “Top 10” in any category. Minnesota does not show up in the report. Here is how Minnesota ranks in the latest report (looking at the US rankings):

New Akamai rankings are out – MN is not top 10
Policy discussions are not limited to State matters. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) expands the Lifeline program to support stand-alone broadband service as well as bundled voice and data service packages. Low-income households may have access to a $9.25 subsidy for broadband.

  • Average Speed: Minnesota ranks #18 with an average speed of 14.9 Mbps
  • Peak Speed: Minnesota ranks #23 with a peak speed of 61.8 Mbps
  • 4 Mbps adoption: Minnesota is #29 with 84 percent adoption
  • 10 Mbps adoption: Minnesota is #26 with 51 percent adoption
  • 15 Mbps adoption: #22 with 33 percent adoption
  • 25 Mbps adoption: #16 with 12 percent adoption

Minnesota Broadband Task Force on Adoption
The Task Force hears from a number of local practitioners (Technology Literacy Collaborative and PCs for People) on digital inclusion best practices. They also hear from Professor Colin Rhinesmith whose research indicates that the answer to combatting a digital divide is a four-pronged approach:

  • Access to good, affordable computers
  • Reduced rates for broadband
  • Public access (such as at libraries)
  • Training

Rural health care suffers from lesser broadband
According to Daily Yonder, rural areas are falling farther behind urban counterparts when it comes to broadband access and that divide is growing even greater in rural health care. There are subsidies to support rural health care facilities but it appears as if the rules to apply may be too stringent.

Can broadband help reduce or postpone food deserts in Minnesota?
Minnesota Daily notes reduced longevity of locally owned rural grocery stores and offers broadband as a support to help local businesses stay stronger and remain locally owned.

Comcast explains why 4/1 may not be enough for your home business
Comcast Trends promotes broadband speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up for their business clients.

Local Broadband News

Afton may have better broadband by fall. CenturyLink may spend some of their CAF 2 funding in the area.

Aitkin County
Aitkin County leaders talk to local providers, who are willing to expand in the area if there’s financial assistance from the county.

Bemidji and Grand Rapids
Paul Bunyan’s GigaZone is activated for over 3,400 locations around Bemidji and Grand Rapids.

Computer virus shuts down schools in Cloquet

Dakota County
Dakota County to move forward with Joint Powers agreement to expand a countywide broadband system.

The Faribault Daily News publishes a series of editorials on broadband that distill down to a passion for increased broadband and decreased politics.

Itasca County
Itasca County endorses the Minnesota Broadband Vision.

Madison is looking into options to extend fiber to the city. Madison is the county seat of Lac qui Parle County, which has fiber to the home through most of the county. Madison did not qualify for the original funding the supported fiber.

In an interview with Institute for Local Self Reliance, US Internet co-founder Travis Carter talks about how they are able to deploy fiber in Minneapolis. (Learn more about their planned expansions.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Digital Divide in Minneapolis is narrowing but getting deeper

Slayton hosts broadband conversion, recognizing that they need it for commerce and want to better understand the nuances of building it. Specifically, they are interested in what happens with funding for underserved communities with proposed legislation.

Twin Cities
PCs for People finds a way to offer reduced rate broadband to low income households.

Upcoming Events

  • March 10: Blandin Webinar Archive: Spurring small business use of technology (See archive:
  • April 14: Free Blandin Webinar: Broadband-Focused Economic Development Marketing
  • April 18: Ignite Cup Startup Competition Deadline
  • April 29: E-rate applications are closed
  • May 3: Call for Entries: Best of the Web & Digital Government Achievement Awards 2016
  • June 14: Applications due for $10 Million in Funding for Gigabit Applications from US Ignite
  • 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

As the legislative session passes the midway point, it seems like a good time to review the hot broadband topics.  These are my own personal reflections on the discussion.

The question of how much money should be appropriated is still open.  The Governor and the Senate have each talked about $100 million and the House’s starting bid was $35 million.  Doing the simple math might indicate a fund of $75-80 million.

The Governor’s Broadband Task Force recommended two new broadband goals. I am extremely disappointed that the 25/3 Mb by 2022 goal seems to be taking priority over 100/20 Mb by 2026. There are three reasons why this is extremely disappointing.

First, the current state goal is 10-20/5-10 Mb.  25/3 would mean an embarrassing decrease in upload speed in our goal from 2010 to 2022. Second, tying our state goal until 2022 to the FCC current definition of minimum broadband speed is deflating. The FCC’s definition has increased thirtyfold over the past eight years.  What might it be in 2022?  Third, some now dismiss the 100 Mb goal is “aspirational.”  By definition, all goals are aspirational.  Some are challenging, others are too easy so as to be meaningless.

There is also controversy around broadband access versus broadband based economic development.  We need both.  A rural industrial park without fiber is now by definition, deficient.  There are many ripe opportunities to get fiber installed in critical locations through public private partnerships.

There was even discussion about providing state grants for wireless services meeting a very low 10/1 Mb standard.  In my opinion, state funds should only be used to support projects with long term, useful benefits, not quick fixes that won’t satisfy anyone very long.  Where providers are installing fiber, these areas are set for decades no matter what the standard.  These networks can also support any emerging wireless technologies. The current 100 Mb scalable standard (upgradeable without extraordinary delays or costs) seems reasonable to me.

These are my thoughts.  I am sure others have a different point of view.

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