Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting: Dig Once

Today the Task Force met in the new Senate Building to talk about Dig Once policies. (Dig Once is the idea of taking advantage of road construction and other construction projects by adding conduit to the plan. Build a new road – be sure to lay fiber down with it.)  Dakota County talked about their strides toward streamlining deployment and management of their fiber network. They noted that they have saved $4 million since going from a leased network to owning – their municipal partners have also saved money. Combine the saving is $20 million. They also heard from government departments on the difficulty of Dig Once – specifically the potential it has to be an unfunded mandated. And they heard from providers about how they currently work with others on shared infrastructure and what concerns they might have in the future.

Read on for full notes…

10:00 a.m. — 10:15 a.m.  Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments

Next time let’s spend time on protocol for working together – especially when it comes to social media. For example, we are all involved with organizations that have views on broadband. That’s fine. We need to have a discussion on personal remarks made outside of the room.

10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.   Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)

We are working on new maps. We are planning webinars for the info related to the new grant funding. We contract with field verification for mapping. We do that on a regular basis and we do it when asked to verify.

We are working on a map of areas that qualify for 200% poverty for the lower income areas.

31 grants in process are moving along. Jane is in audit mode.

Question – Does office have anything to do with $500,000 for wifi on buses?
Only advisory.

We are talking with Governor and others on k12 goals.

Map folks are collecting data sets now. They are due June 17 – it coincides with 477 FCC corms.

Federal update: HUD released some rulemaking comments. And Net Neutrality was upheld – but an appeal is expected.

10:30 a.m.—11:00 a.m.    Dig Once–County

  • Matt Smith, Dakota County Manager
  • David Asp, Network Collaboration Engineer, Dakota County

Dakota County is third largest county in the state. About one third is suburban; two-thirds is rural.

Dakota has been trying to build out and share capacity to provide government services for years. The Cities and Counties work together through High Performance Program – going back to the mid 1980s. Eagan and Burnsville were early innovators.

We working collaboration. We support our narrow mission and our share mission. Our big story is focusing on getting as much fiber in the ground as possible when we dig. We went from 12 stands in conduit – now we go with 144 -up to 288. 80 percent of cost is the deployment.

WE have broadband principles:

  • Dev thru collaboration
  • We cost share
  • We contact any/all partners
  • Building for future capacity

Data Networks CIP – so we can share network plans with potential partners

Our board has been good about investment.

In 1998 – we went with fiber. And now we have Dakota County institution network. It connects county buildings, traffic lights, parks…

The benefit of going from leased fiber to owning fiber in Dakota County is $4 million for Dakota County include the cities and towns and that’s $20 million in saving.

Better traffic management – better carbon footprint

Lots of redundancy

The County took advantage of aggregate buying with a $1.2 million in fiber. Having the materials makes us ready.

Once we have fiber capacity it becomes a solution – such as adding cameras to bridges.

Partnering with TIES – serves tech need of the t school districts & partnered  with Dakota County to provide high speed fiber redundancy

Partners with Dakota Electric – they lease 90 miles of fiber and saves them a lot of money, provides public service

Partner with HBC- Dakota County purchased strands from HBC for redundancy and security

School District 196 saves $90,000 per year in communication costs through use of Dakota Network

Next Steps:

  • Umbrella mgmt. entity would reduce costs for all members
  • Sharing fiber would be quicker and easier
  • One stop mgmt. and tracking of fiber assets
  • JPA concept had been approved for the County Board and cities
  • Detailed technical and financial studies now underway

County and cities invest in the studies – share costs, share risks, shared benefits

Question – Do you share your plans with private providers?

In the spring there’s an annual utilities meeting and we share the future projects there. And there are quarterly meetings with the transportation. We work with city engineers. We have the discussion but the policy hasn’t been set up yet where we specifically work with providers.

11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.    Dig Once—Municipal

  • Craig Johnson, Intergovernmental Relations Representative, League of Minnesota Cities

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.   Dig Once/Broadband Perspective–State

Tearing up a street is one of the most expensive things we do.

Cities want broadband.

We are heavily regulated and under timelines – because of the water infrastructure. You can’t build without sewer and potable water.

We do not like to hear about additional requirements.

Water infrastructure gets funded.

Projects use state and federal funds.

Lots of regulations

Competing for scarce resources.

Delaying projects is a problem

Sometimes Dig Once doesn’t work. Cities can franchise and have utilities. Counties can’t.

It’s easy to find out what a city is doing. Budget is public. There are public meetings on everything.

Why the urgency on public funding dollars?

You come in with your plan

State agency reviews the plan and meets requirements – and approves

Goes to PFA to get on list (ranked, double checked) BUT if one check is getting sign off on broadband that will hold up projects.

BUT there’s a year in advance notice – isn’t that adequate time to get broadband sign off?

It depends on how it’s worded. We publicly inform everyone – but is it up to the local government to get sign off? Can the broadband folks step up?

Minnesota Public Facilities Authority

Jeff Freeman, Executive Director

Cities have been clear that they need more help

WE have grants and low interest revolving funds.

We do $200M/year – half  is underground infrastructure.

Funding is based on priority list looking at Public health & environment & age of infrastructure

Cities apply – usually with projects in the next 5 years

WE look at priority list when projects get closer an crate an intended use fund. That assumes project has a facilities plan, which requires a public notice.

Annually we determine the fundable range – for loans and grants. Cities have an idea of where they stand – especially with loans.

We fund 100 percent of a project. Most projects are outstate.

What percentage of projects come through your office?

We’re not sure – another option is bonding. Probably two-thirds come through us.

We are trying to encourage smaller cities to consider long terms asset management instead of waiting for things to break.

Are there smart water systems?
With water distribution – yes.

Minnesota Department of Transportation

Dave Seykora, Associate Legal Counsel, MNDOT
Jim Zigman, Utilities Engineer, MNDOT

We are a state agency – but only one aspect of state government. We don’t have overall responsibility for budget – just authority that legislature has given us. OT funds are constrained in usage.

We need to know exactly what Ig Once means.

Funding largely comes from Trunk Highway Fund – generated through gas tax and sale tax on vehicles (license). We have a huge projected shortfall between needs and funding. Trunk highway can only be used for train highway purposes. (Signs counts, pre-placing conduit for other use doesn’t count.)

Minnesota has 140,000 miles of high way. Trunk highway accounts for 12,000 miles. Most of the mileage is in rural Minnesota – highways with shoulders. We try to place utilities as far away from the road as possible. We have utilities bore underneath a highway or string above.

Dig Once to us means – the Broadband Opportunity Council released a report last fall. They look at coordinating projects and laying conduit.

MNDOT currently works with utilities in our construction process. We let utilities, companies and municipalities know what we are planning – including a 50 year plan, 4-year plan and current construction. The design phase is a long term process – it includes an environmental assessment and public meetings. We get approval. We put it out to bid. We try to get all feedback early. Once the design is set, it changes everything.

Our planning and designing schedules do not always align with business schedules, which are more immediate.

We encourage joint-trenching. Few companies take us up on that but we do try to encourage it.

We try to work with municipalities and utilities to design what they need for a specific location. If design requires extra expense – we need to work with utilities to pay for it.

We are a public agency – we try to be evenhanded with everyone – water, sewer, communication… We understand the need to expand broadband but we also limited real estate in conduit.

Is there value in sharing 5 year plans?

The data is available. But there’s a lot there.

Federal Activity – they want to make federal assets available to providers. We do have a development in the last year – historically we have looked at wireless providers as a private vs public utility. We permit to public utilities. MNDOT does not charge a permit fee. Private companies can go across the highway – as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. We have decided to look at wireless providers as public utilities with small cells.

That includes pole attachments.

MNDOT would have a difficult time taking on the administration of Dig Once policy when our main goal is build roads.

Maybe the Department Commissioners need to be part of the Governor’s Subcommittee on Broadband.

We looked at model Dig Once policy in other states and it did raise questions about who would fund the process.

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. LUNCH

12:30 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.  Overview of Other State and Local Initiatives

Don Niles, Subcommittee Chair

Google is interested in going to communities where the path has been smoothed to welcome providers

AT&T has deployed more fiber networks than Google.

Moratorium on trenching – it’s billions of dollars to retrench streets. It’s to protect the infrastructure and incent Dig Once attitudes.

New development is easier to pull fiber.

The Task Force might look at the Broadband Opportunities report for “possible policy recommendations” (See Materials)

12:45 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.   Federal Dig Once Efforts

Chuck Ackman, Sen. Klobuchar’s Office

It would be good to get Homeland Security involved in some of the high level discussions. There is mitigation funding that might help trench.

Dig Once is now Mobile Now – it’s progressing but it’s a series of best practices more than cut and dry rule.

Higher level of government – means more stringency with rules.

1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.    Dig Once Provider Perspective

Informal response/feedback gathered by provider members of Task Force

We could have a Dig Once where everyone puts everything in a vertical stack. Or some agency puts conduit in and people lease space.

We need to think about what best practices to present in the report – not the *one* answer.

We also need to look into the notification aspect of Dig Once.

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.    Office of Broadband Development Funding

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.    Task Force Discussion of Dig Once and OBD Funding (See Materials)

We are collected past Task Force recommendations. We’ve been hearing a lot about trying to find ways to streamline deployment and support adoption.

Took a look at budget for the Office of Broadband development. Money is used conservatively. What we don’t use (in management of funds) we can roll into future grants

The more the Task Force can understand the budget of OBD, the better they can explain to legislators what is happening. OBD is lean and nice – it’s all a matter of being good advocates.

The Task Force does not manage OBD. The OBD is always happy to accommodate as they can.

2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.    Subcommittee Updates

Affordability is a big topic. It’s coming up in a low of conversations. It’s the topic for the Aug Task Force meeting.

We’re working on cyber security for July meeting.

2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.    Wrap Up, Plans for July Meeting, Adjourn

This entry was posted in Minnesota Advisory Task Force, MN, Policy 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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