Last week I had the pleasure of attending the MACTA (Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators) annual conference. These are the folks who work for local government on telecom, cable and broadband issues – which both an interest supporting broadband but also protecting public right-of-way. It was an interesting look at a group of folks who wear a lot of hats.
I’m going to start off topic to mention the format of their first session – 60 ideas in 60 seconds. They had four presenters – one very technical, one on regulations, one on producing TV show and one on social media. It’ was something for everyone. Very fast paced. Should be the start of every conference!
Back to the broadband-related sessions. There was a state and federal update:
State and Federal Legislative Updates (policy/legal track)
What happened during the State’s 2016 legislative session AND what is happening at the federal level that may affect cable, broadband and telecom policy? How will the election year affect legislative activities? Key legislators and policy experts will address these items … and more.
Moderator: ◦Mike Reardon | Cable Communications Officer, City of St. Paul
Speakers: ◦Margaret Anderson Kelliher | CEO, MN High Tech Association & Chair, Governor’s Broadband Task Force
◦Rep. Sheldon Johnson | State Representative, 67B (St. Paul)
◦Bree Maki | Southern Minnesota Field Representative & Broadband and Telecommunications Representative, U.S. Senator Al Franken’s office
◦Jodie Miller | Executive Director, NDC4 & 2016 NATOA President
◦Sen. Matt Schmit | State Senator, District 21 (Red Wing)
Notes from Jodie Miller’s Talk
People in other states are jealous of Minnesota. We a have good foundation: the Task Force, very early roundtables that got everyone’s view to find common ground. We have three years in a row of board to border grant legislative. In other states there are drives to stop such efforts. In Colorado, they have a super majority rule to hinder city-led broadband efforts. There were dozens of cities that have voted away from that – but they are steps behind Minnesota.
What do we want in the future?
We have 201 legislative seats open this year. That will mean more education with policymakers again.
Fiber is the foundation. Wireless is the blanket on top. And rights of way is the third leg of the stool. Fiber and a wireless is never an either/or proposition.
Knowing that there are federal efforts does not make it OK to not have a state focus too.
Local franchising – can that come up in Minnesota again? We have a second entrant in the market (CenturyLink). Google has said that removing the barrier of local franchising would make it easier to enter the market.
We need to consider budget with rights of way. It’s an asset that some folks don’t consider.
The astro-turf bill reared its head. They wanted to create a study to hear more about
Notes from discussion:
VOiP – did not get through. Big question is – Is it a telecom service or an info service? Consumer protection folks are opposed to calling it an info service, which would make it easier to deregulate.
“MN is at high risk of expensive an intrusive cyber threat”
MAK – Broadband became an issue, which elevated the telecom issues as well. 3 years ago we recommended $200 million. We were pleased to see $100 million from Governor and $85 million from Senate.
“The two items that really survived the supplemental budget are equity agenda and broadband.” That’s a win.”
Sen Schmit – “I want us to be looking at $100 million for broadband next year. We set the speed goals this year”
MAK – The $500,000 for low income household is a door open to digital efforts in the state. Looking into public housing initiatives is one way to do it. Also we need to look into where people in poverty leave. We need to remember that poverty has an impact in urban and rural areas. We need to look at racial and location inequities.
A big question is – what is affordable? We need to give guidance with affordability.
We know if you subsidize broadband for 18 months, they will find a way to keep it.
We are also looking into cyber security. And workforce issues around cyber security.
VOiP proposal probably will come back next year.
Task Force supports modernization and VOiP bills. We do want to see continued consumer protection.
QUESTION – Do you see anything in Minnesota saying we want to get rid of local franchising?
CenturyLink has mentioned it. (CenturyLink says it’s working asis.)
Google has mentioned it.
But it’s not been a strong issue.
Maybe we need to look at the approach – are there opportunities for efficiencies. Simply – is there a better way of doing this?
Local franchising authorities worry that incompetents have taken the stand a that they have. We would like to work with other providers – but the incumbents are watching every more.
Observation on Cyber Security
We need a safe method to be able to bring concerns safely to the State.
WIRELESS – there was a bill introduced (small cell bill from Verizon – they established a task force, but it was included with the VOiP bill so it did not move forward.)
We need to look at all approaches that make sense. But it’s not always an even/or. We need to understand each other’s concerns. We need impact from local communities.
We need to educate policymakers about the different before wireless and fiber.
Luncheon Keynote: Updates from NATOA – Jodie Miller | Executive Director, NDC4 & 2016 NATOA President
Cable Franchising: Hot Topics (policy/legal track)
Based on a recent query of MACTA members, cable franchise renewals and competitive franchising remain hot topics for many Minnesota cities and franchise administrators, as does tracking consumer protection complaints and consumer protection issues. This session will cover these items and any other hot topics that are current at the time of the conference.
Speaker: ◦Robert J. V. Vose | Shareholder, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered
(The video is disjointed due to technical difficulties and some musical chairs. But pretty frank talk.)