Blandin Broadband e-News July 2016: Getting ready for $35 million in grants

Broadband News Around MinnesotaBBC Map

$35 Million in State Broadband Grants Applications Open July 22

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will begin taking applications on July 22 for funding to expand broadband infrastructure in Minnesota. DEED will pay for up to 50 percent of project development costs in unserved and underserved areas of the state. A maximum of $5 million per grant will be available. For more details, check out the materials from a recent webinar on the topic or plan to attend a future session.

Minnesota Broadband Rank is 13 or 18 or 22 or 25 or 28 or 30

SNG released a report based on surveys with representative from state government. They looked at availability, adoption, meaningful use, investment and regulation and ranked Minnesota 13th. Akamai just released their latest speed and adoption tests – tracking international and national broadband ranking. Here are Minnesota’s ranking:

  • Average speed rank: #18 with 15.8 Mbps
  • Average Peak speed rank: #25 with 66.7 Mbps
  • 4 Mbps Broadband adoption rank: #28 with 85% adoption
  • 10 Mbps Broadband adoption rank: #30 with 54% adoption
  • 15 Mbps Broadband adoption rank: #22 with 35% adoption
  • 25 Mbps Broadband adoption rank: #18, with 14% adoption

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting: Dig Once

The Task Force met in July and heard practitioners talk about the benefits and issues surrounding Dig Once legislation.

Minnesota is a Leader in Telecommuting

About 5 percent of the state’s 2.8 million workers logged in from a remote location at least part of the time in the past year. That’s enough to make Minnesota a national leader in telecommuting.

Policy Updates:

  • Senator Klobuchar’s Call Completion Bill is approved. It directs the FCC to promulgate rules to establish a public registry of intermediate long distance providers and service quality standards for long distance calls. It should assure that more people in rural areas get all of their phone calls.
  • The US Court of Appeals leaned toward Net Neutrality when they called broadband a utility last month. Much has been written about the decision, including the potential impact of the Presidential election.
  • The US Department of Commerce just released a report that chronicles Department’s efforts in support of the digital economy over the course of the Obama Administration. It is a go-to resources for current and historical support.

And commentary on policies:

  • Hillary Clinton outlines her proposed tech priorities and what it means to broadband adoption and deployment
  • Rep Sanders questions MN VoIP Legislation – did it go far enough?
  • Rep Hoppe re-supports incumbent challenge process in broadband grant program
  • Brainerd Dispatch editorial laments lost opportunity for legislative leadership in broadband
  • Former FCC Commissioner Clyburn on digital divide. Is urban really in worse shape?
  • The Daily Yonder called Internet access an incomplete promise in rural America
  • In June, MACTA annual conference attendees discussed the technology and policy surrounding Community Telecommunications Administration.

Local Broadband News

Goodhue County

Senator Matt Schmit joined residents and representatives from NU-Telecom as they broke ground on a “fiber to the farm” broadband deployment in rural Goodhue County.

Lake County

National Association of Counties recently featured the Lake County broadband story in their newsletter, asking – How, what, why did Lake County become a broadband provider?

Lincoln County

Lincoln County Board is looking into broadband benefits and options for the area.

Martin County

Martin County gives an update on their BBC projects: App Camps and Community Calendars

Martin County provides social media training to residents with disabilities

Nobles County

Nobles County gives an update on their BBC projects: Digital Literacy classes for individual and businesses, feasibility study and hotspots

Renville & Sibley Counties

The 10 cities that make up a portion of the RS Fiber Cooperative received the “City of Excellence Award” at the League of Minnesota Cities Conference.

Twin Cities

The Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) AmeriCorps is currently accepting applications for positions starting in September, 2016 and ending in August 2017.

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 Pot

bill rightIn the last week, I have talked with representatives from three counties just beginning discussions about broadband. All of them see FTTH projects under construction in  neighboring counties and they know that they are now falling behind even  their country cousins. Their constituents see the same and want the same investments.

For places without quality broadband (let’s use the state’s 2026 goal of 100 Mb down and 20 Mb up as the definition of quality broadband), it has never been a more difficult and confusing time to be a community leader working on broadband. With the DEED OBD grant cycle now in full swing, teams are gathering data, spending precious funds on consultants for market studies and engineering, talking with incumbent and prospective providers and learning about public sector broadband funding tools. The pressure and stakes are high. There is a ton of uncertainty. At the local level, serving everyone is a critical consideration and most public sector initiatives place ubiquity high on the “must have” list of project development. Most unserved areas in rural counties are deficient in overall densities necessary to build economically sustainable ubiquitous broadband networks, but there are pockets of development – around lakes, along major roads, etc. – that have better numbers than others. Some areas are extremely high cost with very low population densities. Most public private partnerships factor this into their finance plan realizing that the least profitable areas will need significant subsidies to ensure that all residents will have broadband in the end.

Providers willing to consider entering new rural markets face that same uncertainty. They now have prospective CAF2 funded projects combined with the Border-to-Border Grant challenge process to consider in business planning. With CAF2, the lack of a published plan by incumbent providers – what, where and when will CAF2 improvements be deployed? – puts a fog around the planning process. The new legislatively mandated Border-to-Border challenge process spurs even more hesitation, especially considering the 80/20 rule which, in this case, means that it may cost up to 80% of the total project to reach the last 20% of the customers which is true statewide as well as in most rural counties. The same rule applies as to revenue – that 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the customers and most of those customers are in cities, not in the countryside.

It would be extremely disheartening to see time, effort and expense of true public-private partnerships to provide what every state and local policy maker wants – ubiquitous, high quality broadband – disrupted by the strategic use of the grant challenge process to build CAF2 networks in the “best” unserved areas, thereby shattering the business case of the competitive provider. I hope that our incumbent providers would avoid this temptation and that our DEED OBD staff will not allow it. We will know soon enough.

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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