Minnesota Broadband Task Force Notes: Public comments on challenge process

There were public comments at the Task Force meeting today; that rarely happens. A coalition of rural interests had sent a letter to the Task Force to ask them to focus on three recommendations: fund the Office of Broadband Development, fund the border to border grants and adapt the grant requirements especially to reduce the hindering impact of the current challenge process where incumbent providers can put the kibosh on proposed projects by saying that they have plans to expand their network to include the proposed areas in the next 18 months.

The Broadband Task Force starting to sew together their report today. Each subcommittee (Adoption & Affordability, Regulation and Cybersecurity & Emerging Technologies) met today to talk about their section of the report and eventually reported back to the big group.

The writing will continue and should be a mainstay of the meeting next month.

I’m going to include all of the videos here:

And the handouts from the meeting:

Full notes

10:00 a.m. — 10:35 a.m.  Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments

Intro from MAK

We have no policymaking authority. We write a report. We include policy recommendation – which we take the full year to work on. We are near the end of our decision making. We are volunteers.

We testify at the Legislature.

We do not administer the OBD grants and we do not oversea them. We recommended the OBD be established and we recommended funding we have make suggestions. We are almost done with this round of funding. So we don’t have all of the info on what’s happening with the grants.

We will listen to everyone but we might not have any answers. We will try to get answers from OBD when they can get them.

Public Comment

Coalition has shared goals we hope you will consider when you make recommendations to the governor: (see video above)

  • Please keep funding the OBD – they do a great job
  • Please fund the fund – at least $100 million. That’s what the governor started with last year
  • We have some policies – especially with the incumbent challenge process.

More on the challenge process:

It is overly protective of incumbents and could stifle the grant program. We have heard from grant applicants that they will get a challenge. If all of the challenges are found to be valid the money won’t go out.

The challenge rewards reactive and active building. The communities want to work with anyone who will work with them.

We would like the challenge to be removed. Otherwise we need to change it to make it more fair – to level the playing field


You’re right we put into legislative oversight that may have been netter served in the hands on the OBD. We will include your letter in the Task Force report.

We have 2 more meetings and maybe we can learn more by then to make a policy recommendation.

Today we don’t have enough info.

The OBD is still processing the applications now. (They were due this week.)


How did this get into the legislature? How did we not know?

MAK testified. They wanted even more restrictive language (in March) and MAK testified alone. The language came out of nowhere. This was viewed at the time as softening the original House provision. They thought they were taking the existing internal process and codifying it into legislature. They wanted to move up the challenge rather than have people go to a greater expense of applying and then getting a challenge.

The problem is that is serves the incumbents not the community.

This was modeled after the ARRA act. We needed a challenge and that’s where we got it four years ago.

This year we were OK we the funding we got but less OK with these policies.

There are several examples of communities that were developing projects – found out there would be a challenge and decided not to go forward. As far as I’ve heard every project has been challenged.

In the last round what was the percentage of challenges?
OBD will find this.

By way of background – there’s a federal process for the challenge too. It’s a way be good stewards of taxpayer money. It doesn’t make sense to overbuild if the incumbent is planning to upgrade soon.

But there are areas where the community doesn’t even know who the incumbent is – that’s not an engaged incumbent.

The grants will go to unserved areas first.

The difference between the federal and the state is that the federal looks at what’s in place. We are stopping projects based on speculation of an incumbent’s intent to upgrade.

The law and the program says the first to be served is the unserved areas. So anyone incumbent in an area that is unserved the challenge should be dismissed.

Why did this happen? Because there was a lot of talk about the CAF 2 money at the legislature and this was a way to fit in with CAF 2 projects and more overbuild. Even though the CAF 2 funding will not serve 25/3 access.

We want to invest in technology that us transformative.

Student wants WiFi on buses (see video above)

  • She takes the bus for 45 minutes each day.
  • There are 30 kids on the bus. And kids mostly mess around on the bus.
  • The sixth grade gets iPads but not to take home. Older kids can take them home.
  • They don’t get a lot of online homework but we get time during study hall to work.
  • Some kids don’t have access at home. They usually work at the rec center.

10:35 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Comments by MN Department of Commerce with Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zaun (See the video above)

High level overview of Telecom Protection for MN citizens

Chapter 237 goals:

  • Support universal service
  • Insure just & reasonable rates
  • Deployment of infrastructure
  • Encouraging fair & reasonable competition
  • Quality of service
  • Customer choice
  • Mediate industry issues to avoid lawsuits

Here are the services they provide:


We may talk to these folks more if the VoIP questions come up again. We should know more at the end of the day.

The Regulatory Committee has talked about just creating an informational piece – not making recommendations.

What’s the issue with nomadic providers (like Vonage)?

Public Safety tries to collect from the nomadic providers. We don’t’ even know them all.

So the fixed providers end up paying.

Charter transferred customers to a nomadic provider and no longer collected fees. One issue is that you can’t transfer customers without letting them know.

Companies were using the wrong forms.

We’ve received complaints and generally when we do the provider tried to make it right.

Most companies collect and remit fees. We’re only aware of oe company that doesn’t.

How is VoIP regualted?

There isn’t one place. You have to go to Public Safety and the Attorney General and… So that’s difficult for the customers. The PUC can’t just handle it.

10:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)

All hands on deck processing applications. Received over 60 applications. Last year there were 44 applications. They seem to run the gamut in terms of type of projects and budgets.

On Maps

The 2016 maps are online and available. The maps show that there are a few aggressive providers that are making a difference. And there are some areas that remain slower. We will do some analysis for the annual report. We’re seeing more people be better served and fewer people be unserved.

11:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m. Subgroup work time to finalize policy recommendations and proposed report content (Room 2412 is available from 11:00 am to noon)

Notes from the Regulatory group (See the video above)

Library section is based on MLA legislative committee 2017 recommendations. In the past only the Regional Telecom Aid made it into the final recommendations but we’ve been talking digital inclusion so it’s been added here.

Have libraries been eligible for state bonding dollars? Yes.


Dig Once – use model language from CO in appendix

Need to make money available if you want the folks who works on the roads to get invested. You can’t expect them to draw from existing pools of money – they are already spent. Maybe go with new revolving loan funds.

A recommendation of new resources is always well received especially when it’s voluntary.

We have 8 recommendations – is that too much. Perhaps we could prioritize.

Information exchange (#7) with federal agencies is a daunting task – perhaps we could leave that off for another time.

Could consolidate recommendations into an action plan too. (Such as 2 & 6 and 1 & 3.)

  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch
  • 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Task Force discussion of policy recommendations

Report out Subcommittee Regulatory

  • Dig Once (See the video above)
  • Library (See the video above)
    • Based on presentation from State Library and MLA recommendations
  • Office of Broadband Development piece – John is working on it
    • Know we’ll be asking for funding for OBD and grants
    • Some difficulty getting dollar amounts as the current grant applications are still in process
    • Maybe we work on base funding and an estimate for increase based on tasks added through 2017 recommendations
    • Do we want to use a number? We haven’t in the past.
  • We will be whittling down the list of recommendation which currently
  • Regulation Update (See the video above)
    • Andy is working on it. Will use material from NRI and last year’s document.
    • There’s a good house research report too.

Report out Subcommittee Affordability & Adoption (See the video above)

  • Recycle computers and have State take lead
  • Reduced rates for broadband – OBD promote existing low income pricing options
  • Need to recognize existing digital inclusion efforts

Report out Cyber Security & Technology (See the video above)

  • Will focus on emerging technologies
  • Recommendation: focus on networks in a building codes – especially in multi-tenant dwellings. Have builders deploy networks in an open access model.
    The telephone provider has recommendations – will the obligation flow to the provider or the building. Will the code be fiber-specific or cat 6 wiring? Might look at what HUD is doing too.
  • Recommendation: Grants to study impact of technology opportunities from a marketplace perspective
  • Cybersecurity: get people involved. Create classes on internet safety.
    It would be nice to embed these offerings in existing spaces as part of existing programs. Not create a silo.
  • Provide info for folks on cybersecurity
  • There are concerns about sharing too much about cybersecurity. You don’t want to ask people to share too much dirty laundry. And there are open meeting laws. Maybe find a way to create a secure place on this conversation.

Fund the Fund (See the video above)

Let’s reiterate the recommendation from last year and ask for $100 million

  • For the biennia or for each year?
  • Does that open us

2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Task Force discussion on report content to include from each subgroup (so subgroups can prepare final report content for review at November meeting)

2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Discussion of report outline: what else needs to be included and who will be responsible for drafting; plans for November meeting

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