Blandin Broadband e-News June 2016: Actions and reactions to the $35 million state funding

A recap of the last month of broadband in Minnesota…mirc map

Broadband News Around Minnesota

$35 million on Broadband

The Governor signed the supplemental budget, which included $35 million for broadband in 2017. The number fell short of the Senate proposed $85 million or Governor’s recommendation of $100 million but it is considerably higher than last year. http://wp.me/p3if7-3ze

Read on for actions leading to and reactions to the decision:

Other Minnesota Broadband Bills

While the big news is the broadband funding, it wasn’t the only broadband-related bill this Session. Legislators also passed a telecom reform bill. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yh And a bill that makes is easier for broadband developers to work with the railroads. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yb

$2.15 Billion from the FCC

The FCC is making $2.15 billion available for rural broadband projects, and it’s trying to direct at least some of that money toward building services with gigabit download speeds and unlimited data. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yV

Wind Turbines and Wireless

Can wind turbines be used to expand wireless networks? Yes, if they are smaller turbines they can be a good place to place wireless equipment. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yF No, if they are large utility grade turbines – those will actually interfere with the wireless signal. (One might not, several will.) http://wp.me/p3if7-3xP

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting at CommScope

In May, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force celebrated the $35 broadband budget from the Legislature while they met at CommScope to learn about broadband security and how it is being handled in large companies. They also discussed telecom reform and railroad crossing bill. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yh (Post includes video.)

Broadband for Low Income Households

There was a push to include funding ($500,000) to expand broadband to low income households in the Minnesota Legislature. It’s part of a growing trend recognizing the role broadband plays in combatting poverty. http://wp.me/p3if7-3y9 National strides have been made to reduce costs, but as Minnesota’s own Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva points out, it’s not enough. http://wp.me/p3if7-3xY

Local Broadband News

Brainerd

Chisago County

  • Chisago County holds a Broadband Summit to discuss survey results and stories of a community that wants more http://wp.me/p3if7-3yM, including an impassioned speech from the Mayor on what a difference broadband made in her life. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yK

Dakota County

Rural Minnesota

  • Minnesota Association of Development Organizations’ strategic plan for rural Minnesota includes emphasis on broadband http://wp.me/p3if7-3xB

St Paul

Twin Cities

  • Urged by upgrades by the competition, Comcast promises improved services in the Twin Cities. http://wp.me/p3if7-3z2
  • USInternet runs into problems from the Minneapolis Park Board while trying to install fiber near Minnehaha Parkway. http://wp.me/p3if7-3yf

Events

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. 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

With the $35 million of broadband funding now signed into law, both communities and telecom providers are beginning the process of project development. Some have projects lined up, engineering completed, business cases prepared and partnerships in place. Others are just getting started in their project planning. I suspect that the Office of Broadband Development will have plenty of projects from which to choose. Deciding how to choose in advance of releasing program guidelines and application forms may be the OBD’s toughest job!

Here are some questions with which they might be grappling…

  • Should OBD funds be used to solve rural Minnesota’s broadband shortcomings for generations or should shorter term “something is better than nothing” projects be considered?
    • Should projects like the previously funded Alliance Communications – Rock County partnership that provide a ubiquitous, long – term broadband solution using OBD, county and provider funds, provide the standard project framework funded by DEED?
    • When is it appropriate to fund incremental projects that only edge out and make the hardest to serve areas even more difficult
  • What does “scalable to 100 Mb” really mean?
    • Is a CAF2 fiber to the node deployment with 8,000 foot local loops that defers the majority of FTTH deployment expense into an uncertain future, really “scalable?”
    • Should OBD require a claw-back enabled commitment from all grantees to actually deliver to the 100 Mb standard by 2026
  • What are the essential elements of a public – private partnership?
    • Does a simple support letter from a unit of government count as a partnership?
    • Is a project funded almost exclusively with a combination of federal CAF2, OBD grants and local government funds a partnership or a government giveaway?
    • What is the minimum percentage of equity or borrowing that should be required of private sector providers?
    • As the percentage of government funds increases in a project, what other benefits should the public sector receive
  • With the limited funds for projects in underserved rural communities, where should the focus be?
    • Facilitate and showcase a limited number of FTTH communities?
    • Fund targeted investment in open-access networks that serve anchor institutions, downtowns and business parks?

These are not easy questions. For my part, I would advocate that limited state dollars should be used to fund long-term solutions in projects that provide ubiquitous coverage using a fair balance of public and private funds. In underserved cities, the funded projects should create strong platform for economic development, innovation and an expanded network backbone.

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.

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