MN Broadband Task Force Notes: Policy from the provider perspective and library as digital inclusion partner

Today the Task Force met to hear about broadband policies – the VoIP bill and how that’s playing out for Charter and CenturyLink’s take on the Competitive Market Regulation. They also heard from a national expert on how policy is playing out in other states. There’s a big push from all directions to level the regulatory playing field for providers. I think the precaution is ensuring that all consumer perspectives are considered as well.

They also heard from Minnesota Libraries and specifically digital inclusion efforts at St Paul’s Libraries. They learned about the NorthStar Digital Inclusion Standards – which are a set of standards around which one could create curriculum. It’s an approach that helps learners, teachers and other understand what is being taught yet gives room for modifications based on learners, teachers and the ever-changing nature of technology.

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

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

Working on the same projects as last time:

  • Looking at next legislative session
  • Talk about how to actualize equity priorities
  • Participate in Lifeline discussion and how we can transfer to it in MN
  • We’re getting updates from the field. Things are going well. The weather is causing some delays. A few projects will close out this month.
  • Dealing with changes in grants this time around.

There was an article in the Star Tribune – saying broadband wasn’t a public good – esp in Itasca. The reporter thought there was no market failure. The MHTA talked to him and he may write a follow up. They’re looking for Maker stories for the article.

10:30 a.m. — 11:15 a.m. Update on Results of Regulatory Reform Bills during Minnesota’s 2016 Legislative Session

VoIP Bill (and update on Charter case): Tony Mendoza, Mendoza Law

 

Charter thinks light touch regulation is better. We don’t see a reason to make VoIP adhere to state legacy policies.

Eliminate public protection  but really the FCC has a broad regulatory overlay

 

QUESTIONS

Fixed versus nomadic? Why treat them differently?

Nomadic is a portable service – it opened the door to the impossibility doctrine. The fixed is a info service because it does provide a service. We’re not as concerned with the difference. We think a regulatory level playing field in important.

We can’t help the fact that different regulators have made distinctions.

Why does the State want policies asis?

The State believes there are important consumer protections under the old model. But there hasn’t been a lot of outcry.

Telecom Bill: Jason Topp, CenturyLink

Quick note: Railroad legislation has been great for providers.

Minnesota’s Competitive Market Regulation

There are differences in the regulation with different providers.

As the marketplace has evolved with thought incumbents should be treated like competitive providers.

Subdivision 6 says if a company is successful they will be regulated.

There were some concerns from AARP on costs for customers.

Regulators want to know:

  • Do you serve less than 40% of households?
  • Does 60% of customers have an alternative? (A wireless provider counts. But excluded who don’t use their own facilities to get to last mile.)

If you answer yes to both you can petition PUC for regulation relief. The PUC will rule section by section. CenturyLink has 108 areas – each will be considered individually. CenturyLInk says they meet these requirements handily.

Big question – does wireless count as competition? The providers say yes.

June 30 – CenturyLink filed with the PUC (See more: https://blandinonbroadband.org/2016/08/29/centurylink-petitions-minnesota-puc-for-less-regulation/)

We will see how this works.

This is an effort to level the playing field.

QUESTIONS:

Is anyone tracking private investment per subscriber?

Industry did try to put numbers together – maybe I can get it and send it. But that’s not by individual provider – it’s an industry number.

We hear that providers aren’t investing when they have a monopoly. Would this encourage investment?

Private industry investment doesn’t stop even when you have a grant program. But do we know the impact?

Legacy carriers are regulated differently. The FCC tracks expenditures for legacy providers. But that info isn’t always made public because of the competitive nature of the information.

Capital flows to the path of least resistance. Many states have easier regulation for providers. As a national provider we look for the easiest regulatory environment. Minnesota is way behind creating easy regulation for providers.

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Regulatory Reform—What’s Happening Across the States? Sherry Lichtenberg, NRRI

There are 42 states with some broadband regulation.

There’s a re-look at carrier of last resort requirements. The MN bill preserves it in areas without (or with less) competition. Whereas Maine allows the incumbent (Fairpoint) to quit providing local phone service. As some point they will be able to quit providing local service entirely.

Where you have competition you have the ability substitute for at least some competition.

There’s a big concern about 911. In Colorado there’s a Task Force talking about who will regulation 911. They have just started meeting. They are expected to have an answer by the end of the year. I suspect it will have more regulation.

Most states have decieded that where there is competition there is less of a need for

 

What do we know about effective of deregulation?

  • We’ve had bad 911 outages – and the yhave not been reported to states because a number of VoIP providers don’t’ have to report.
  • We don’t’ have direct work on customers who have lost access.
  • There is some oversight of transition to VoIP.
  • A big issue (hearing in California this week) is that as Verizon transition to Frontier there were significant failures in the ability to get wireline service. The problems is in operational support that leads to outages and extended time to repair.
  • In FLA where here’s no oversight the Attorney General has had to pick up the slack.

Consumer protections that we depended on from state

  • Someone to call with complaint
  • Understanding of outages and how they will get fixed.
  • Ability to say I don’t like a provider and to get help
  • We will not see this in an IP-enabled environment.

Maine and Texas have tried to re-regulate. SO there have been problems.

Consumers are concerned that they will be forced to wireless. They are concerned about things like battery backup.

We have a lot more choices now.

What about 911 outages and not getting reported?

The states that look at 911 outages – takes the reporting and separates it from paying into the system. The concern is that while the FCC gets a report that includes VoIP that isn’t provided to the State. The State needs that info to respond to consumers and plan.

What about paying in to 911 fund in MN. Department of Commerce says all VoIP carriers should pay in but the evidence is that they don’t. SO with the FCC ruling and practice of VoIP – do they not pay?

The interconnected carriers (not nomad) for the most part do pay in. The FCC requires that. The question comes with the over the top carriers (like for Skype). Vonage does pay in now.

Part of the problem is that the 911 systems are manage so differently. I don’t have enough info.

The Bill in MN does require VoIP providers to pay into 911. Not sure on outage report requirements.

There are bills regulating municipal bills that didn’t pass – can you say more?

Muni broadband bills were to remove restrictions on municipal broadband and attempt to allow munis to expand or add services. In AL it failed. In TN they asked if I already offer broadband, can I expand. The answer was no. In UT residents can vote on whether they want muni broadband.

18 broadband bills introduced in 2016

5 passed –

  • CA already has a fund – big discussion was fund unserved or underserved. They decided to go with unserved.
  • ID – created a broadband grant.
  • UT – allows munis to vote on municipal broadband – might be additional hoops but it helps residents decide
  • VA – passed a bill that allows companies to install fiber on highway conduit.
  • WI – grants to broadband providers may not subsidize telecom providers

If you were scanning for good ideas – what policies would help?

  • We don’t’ generally think of pole attachment as broadband – but it’s been a big issue. If I can’t attach to the pole I can’t expand broadband.
  • Google is looking at wireless – to save money.
  • The new broadband lifeline will be interesting to see if it really does increase broadband adoption.

How is Minnesota doing?

Having a Task Force is really important. It’s good to have industry and regulators work together.

 

So what’s the scene in Minnesota? It’s not a level playing field

  • Incumbent gets one type of regulation
  • CLEC gets one type of regulation
  • Small company AFOR – light regulation

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch

 12:30 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. How Libraries are Partnering to Provide Digital Literacy Training – Jen Nelson, Minnesota State Librarian & Rebecca Ryan, St. Paul Public Library

Minnesota has a statute that says all counties need funds for libraries. There’s a minimum of one library per county. And there are bookmobiles too – and in rural areas that includes broadband. Unfortunately the bookmobile’s visits are short.

Minnesota library collaborate well – so your library card from Mpls may work in Grand Marais.

2015 numbers for MN libraries

  • 52,512,4343 loans
  • 24,340,248 visits
  • 3,707,300 reference transactions
  • 1,475,550 program attendance

Why is the library so successful at digital inclusion?

  • We’re open
  • We have up-to-date computers
  • We have people who can help
  • We have market penetration
  • People come in with their kids and find opportunity
  • People have warm feelings for the library – it’s nonjudgmental
  • Libraries are nurturing

What about hours?

It hasn’t changed much lately in terms of reduced hours – just shifts of hours.

Where do libraries need help?

The need is for libraries to have partners to get broadband. The costs by individual library ranges extremely.

Are the NorthStar Standards national?

No – not officially, although people are using them all over.

Why is the magic that Northstar is a standard?

We didn’t want to get bogged down into individual needs. And there is a lot of curriculum out there. The standards allows for uniformity AND modification.

It’s most popular in St Paul because of the staffing and the proximity to the project. It was developed because the library was overwhelmed with requests.

The local businesses have not embrace it as much as we might like. But anecdotally it has been well received when job seekers have mentioned their certification.

Have you thought about working with schools?

We have worked with Adult Basic Education. We find that schools are sending people to us. ON a statewide level we do work with the schools but not specifically on NorthStar standards.

Do you advertise with Community Ed?

Certification is new in Minnesota. Maybe we need to get the word out.

1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Discussion of 2017 Report format

Looking at the outline…

  • We will have new legislators next year
  • Maybe we need to explain broadband (like with the graphics we saw at ComScope)
  • Maybe we can keep the glossary
  • This can be an educational tool.
  • Can we compare to other states – like Sherri did today? It can motivate legislators?
  • Need to address why?
  • What about a video component?
  • Maybe we could include a thumb drive?!
  • Callout boxes work

People need to start working on their sections of the report now. MHTA will start working on graphics.

Discussion of Outline and Policy Recommendations for Inclusion in 2016 Report with Assignments to Subcommittees

Adoption is still working.

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

Next meeting in October 5.

This entry was posted in Conferences, 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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