2016 MN Broadband Task Force final draft is approved

Today the MN Broadband Task Force met for the final time in 2016. They combed through the latest iteration of their big report and approved the final version. They didn’t make a lot of changes from the earlier version. The big news remains the same – “$10 million for the OBD and $100 million ($50 million per year for the biennium) for grants.”

There was a lot of tension between the provider representatives and the community representatives – but there were a few points of agreement too.

One umbrella issue is the tension between what is currently available in some communities (with low population density) and compared to what is available (or may soon be available) in more densely populated areas. To illustrate –apartments in Uptown Minneapolis are part of a pilot test of mmWave fast wireless (I saw 700 Mbps speeds) – while people living between towns near St Cloud are having trouble getting the connections they need to run home-based businesses.

This tension emerged when discussing  the definition section of the report. Details like – how fast is DSL? – were not easy to answer, and there’s good reason for it. Searching for “how fast is DSL?” on Google, here’s a blurb from the first result (pretty similar to other results)…

Additionally, actual DSL speeds vary between households. Factors affecting DSL speed include:

  • Quality of the phone line at your residence. Neighborhoods with better copper wiring can achieve somewhat faster DSL speeds.

  • Length of the phone line between the residence and the phone company hub (often called “central office”). DSL technology is “distance sensitive” because its performance decreases significantly as you get further away from this hub.

  • Service glitches. While normally a constant, DSL speed can suddenly drop if the service provider has technical difficulty with their network. Speeds should return to normal after a few minutes or hours.

Note – no actual speeds given. People may know how fast their DSL is or isn’t – and the range of speeds is almost as extreme as difference in cost between eloping and marrying reigning monarch (or Kardashian). Averaging out the speed/cost doesn’t help. If you live next to the phone company and they have fiber to the node with DSL to your house, you will have a great connection. If you live on the outskirts or out of town, your speeds will not be good.

In my experience people in rural areas, especially those on the outskirts, understand this phenomenon better than we do in the city – because it doesn’t impact us.  They live it and you’ll hear stories of people who go home (or go to work) to download large files or upgrade software because they live/work on the wrong side of the DSL distance demarcation for quality service.

The same issue comes up with other technologies too. It’s really not that anyone is wrong – just that the answers are not simple and are not the same for each location. So what’s the right answer? The Task Force, feeling the pinch of the deadline, decided to use the same definitions they used last year and work to make it better for the next report.

Read on for full notes and video…

Task today  – Review draft

*Note: I am queuing this up hoping that the final video is uploaded before the post goes live tomorrow morning.

Comments on the new draft…

Added “Sofia’s story to the letter” – that is the kid who came into the Task Force to talk about how much she liked having wifi on buses.

We’re also hear stories that getting iPads at home might have a negative impact on homework.

Page 7:

Add context to help readers understand what 190 gigabytes – say how much time it takes to download that amount of data.

But what household downloading a gig at once? It doesn’t make sense to talk about it in terms of how long it takes.

Can we drop the IGR report? It costs money to get it.

We have cited other reports that aren’t easily available. It may be accessible through a library.

The point is to help readers understand the difference between capacity and speed.

It’s a volume issue- not a speed issue. Can we compare this to records in Library of Congress?

When you consume product – like watching NetFlix (like 3 mg) compared to downloading a huge file for work – you might need that quickly.

If you compare this to water – it’s like asking for enough for a shower all day every day instead of bursting to showers and using less for dishes.

I’m not in favor of dumbing this down. They want to learn and the people who want to learn more will dive deeper.

This is taking too long – how can we deal with it. We can’t argue with the whole report.

Maybe we could the table that outlines applications and data/speed required. (From page 9 of last year’s report.)

Page 17

Adding context about the Coalition letter in the body of the report. It was great to hear about the testimony in the intro letter. The letter from the Coalition (17 orgs and many individual) also came to us. It speaks to legislative action last year (and probably this year). It was unsolicited and was a big voice. Adding a comment about it in the report will help lead readers to the letter.

There is some debate on how to introduce the letter – but OK to add the content.

How much detail do we need to go into?

How about we say… “a joint letter from 17 orgs on the challenge process was presented to the Task Force.”

Page 20

To use or not to use the chart outlining costs in rural area for service by platform:

Pg 21-22

OK on library changes since the library folks are OK with it.

Pg 23

Adding quotes throughout the report

It’s nice to have the appendix of quotes in one place. And peppering them throughout. It’s good to hear the voice of the residents.

It would be nice to add a sentence – Some examples of these programs include: technology training for business, free wifi access and efforts for redistributed computers.

The example of digital literacy programs were discussed a lot in our committee – we could put this in the index. We don’t need to describe more?


No we don’t want to name the Blandin programs.

Actually we might want to highlight Blandin.

We note the results on the Blandin programs of increase of 15 percent adoption. We should footnote it.

Pg 27

Should we include the following, the source (Heritage.com) has a very clear bias:

Heritage.org has recommended best practices needed to effectively share information regarding cybersecurity issues.

  1. Alleviate the privacy concerns by explaining the what/how/why of the information you are sharing.
  2. A nimble process to share the rapidly changing information among members
  3. Legal and regulatory protections for members sharing information

Maybe we can just not say it came from there.

Maybe we can find another sources.

But my goal was to get to the needs related to open meeting.

Decided to pull it out.

PG 28

Redo graph

Pg 32

Do we spell out what the OBD does for adoption and use?

But they don’t get funding to do anything.

But they do some tasks.

This is the list the OBD gave to the task force

Maybe this is an opportunity for the TF to talk about what tasks should be for OBD


Policy Recommendations

$100 million for Border to border grants – in ongoing biennial funding.

$10 million for OBD for a range of activities

Recommendation being discussed:

Allocate $10 million in FY2018 to create an Office of Broadband operating fund to promote broadband adoption and use, provide mapping services, and implement a “Dig Once” policy, among other tasks.

  • Question – should we move tasks from separate bullet points to adding them into the second bullet point related to OBD
  • I thought that these tasks were not necessarily aimed at OBD tasks. We want to make policy makers realize that they have a role to play.
  • We are not policy makers, we are advisory
  • Didn’t we delete some of the bullet points?
  • Do we want to up the regulatory impact of the Task Force?
  • Maybe some of the list can be borrowed from either list on OBD in the report
  • Maybe OBD could get more funding for Dig Once and Adoption activities
  • Need to make clear that there are OBD tasks assigned in the legislature but not funded
  • But are we asking the OBD to promote provider programs and is that good use of the OBD
  • The list of OBD tasks includes recommendations, not mandates. There are many unfunded mandates out there – why would this be different.
  • We can mention OBD support for providers but not add it in policy.

Library funds

Recommendations being discussed:

Fund Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) at $2.3 million annually. RLTA offsets the cost of Internet access for libraries participating in the federal E-Rate program. Cost coverage through E-Rate is incomplete and generates a funding gap between E-Rate payment and actual expenses; RLTA fills this gap.  AND

Increase the Telecommunications Access Equity Aid by $7 million to provide full funding for approximately the next five to seven years.  This program offsets the cost of Internet access for schools participating in the federal E-Rate program.

  • We are looking to keep funding stable – it is in the base
  • We are supporting the MLA recommendation
  • We have supported libraries and school since the inception of the Task Force

Did some recommendations get aided in the mix of the footnotes getting lost?

Cyber security

Recommendation being discussed:

Establish a legislative cybersecurity commission, whose scope of work includes cybersecurity workforce issues and emerging technology, to develop legislation to support and strengthen Minnesota’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

  • We need a place in the legislature where people can discuss cyber security.
  • We need to include info sharing and a place to discuss cyber security needs.
  • We want to add the language of the open meeting law.

Building codes

Recommendation being discussed:

Amend building codes to require that multi-tenant housing units funded with public dollars deploy either category 5/6 or multi-mode fiber cabling between units and a central wiring location.

  • Widen the discussion to be less technology specific
  • We are really talking about the apartment complex

Modernization of technologies

Recommendations being discussed:

Continue to monitor advancing technologies with an eye towards encouraging ongoing stakeholder dialogue as to those regulatory responses that would balance the desirable but sometimes seemingly conflicting goals of increasing capital investment in broadband and assuring adequate access, consumer protection and public safety in Minnesota.

  • Could we be specific about telecommunications technologies?
  • Maybe this should go to OBD – if not them then who?
  • Dep of Commerce looks at the issue – but it might be even better to just let people know that these advances need to be tracked. Commerce regulates it. OBD could do research. But it’s not our job to tell them what to do. This opens the door to have the legislators use this to create a directive. Next year this may make more sense based on technology policy that may come up this year.
  • This is a wait until next year policy issue. This is a hot issue. We heard a national policy top icon this. We heard from more local experts on technology – VoIP and beyond.
  • The signals coming out of DC indicate that these issues will be coming up – from the national and state perspective. We are respecting the things we heard – we know that more is coming up. This might help us determine what policy makes sense.
  • Next year the TF may want to take a deeper, longer look at some of the technology issues.
  • The OBD does monitor technologies.

Onto Definitions

5G – strike was the expectations. It’s not balanced with other definitions. And the role of 5G is unknown for rural areas.

Let’s use the Newtown Technology Dictionary for all definitions – for next year.

Need to update the CAF definition.

Detailed Descriptions of Technologies Used to Deploy Broadband

Can we tank this and defer to another source?

Let’s use the Newtown Technology Dictionary for all definitions – for next year.  But keep it for this year.


  • Can we recognize that the difference in service in rural/urban or densely/no-densely populated have difference access?
  • But what is rural?

The let’s say DSL has range limitations – but does the distance from node really matter?

We could do more editing for next year. We had the same info last year. We don’t want to spend more time on this.

As our group knowledge of the technology is growing.

In the interest of time – we need to leave it asis even as many people find this is outdated.

Next steps:

  1. Vote on who agrees
  2. Last edit
  3. Last check through
  4. Send to DEED to approve
  5. Print and electronically publish it

Motion to accept and approve the 2016 broadband report as amended.

Unanimous report!

January Meeting – Jan 5, 2017

  • Invite legislators
  • Do planning sessions in smaller groups
  • Hope to have report from OBD
  • Mapping Sessions

Let’s keep thinking of place, people, topics for 2017.

OBD report

Just realized a new map. No awards to announce yet. Would be nice to talk about maps in the future. They are part of the planning for the National Digital Inclusion conference planned for St Paul in May.

There is a soft launch of broadband subsidies and we are looking at that. There are at least 3 other state agencies involved with the launch.

DEED have site selector databases. Broadband connectivity has been played down in that work – we are hoping to boost that and we’re beefing up info on industrial parks with connectivity.

Question – can the OBD help subsidize business parks?

DEED has a tool that might work for that. But it might not be a perfect fit. Maybe meeting with those folks who help create a perfect fit.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s