Blandin Broadband enews: Task Force report is out, preparing for the 2017 legislative session

A recap of news from December…heat-map

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Report
After their final meeting in 2016, the Task Force released their annual broadband report, recommending ongoing annual funding of $50 million for broadband grants and $10 million for the Office of Broadband Development. Local newspapers have been covering the report. Discussions are happening on MPR and AM950 too.

Broadband predictions for MN Legislature
Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith says the administration is interested in continued support for broadband. Representative Garofalo says technology changes and market forces will improve broadband more than government investment. Senator Simonson recognizes the importance of broadband support. Many legislators say broadband needs funding but feel it’s less of a priority than previous years. There are tips for broadband advocates who want to engage legislators.

New Minnesota Broadband Maps
The Office of Broadband Development published a heat map of broadband availability in Minnesota. The map indicates that Statewide availability of broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up is 90.15%, while rural availability within the state is 78.04%.

Changes at the Minnesota PUC
Governor Dayton Appoints Senator Katie Sieben to Public Utilities Commission, Appoints Commissioner Nancy Lange as Chair.

Broadband is Different Market in Urban than Rural Markets
A recent report from the FCC indicates that cable is the dominant broadband in urban areas and DSL is dominant in rural areas. Optimistic predictions for wireless technologies, such as 5G, say faster speeds may be available as early as 2020 in urban areas but with increased cost and limited reach, 5G will not be a major player in rural areas.

Local Broadband News

Arrowhead Region
Arrowhead Region is using telepresence to serve mental health needs

Paul Bunyan Communications CEO Gary Johnson included in Twin Cities Business 100 People to Know

Kanabec County
Kanabec is expecting improvements from CenturyLink but there is some concern about increased speed based on location; Midcontinent has faster speeds in town but not outside city limits.

Lake County
FCC authorizes $3.49 million for Lake County broadband

Mankato Free Press compares Minnesota and Wisconsin broadband policy – to Minnesota’s favor.

Minnesota company makes websites and apps accessible to people with disabilities

Pipestone County
Community leaders in Pipestone meet to talk about the future of broadband in their area.

Region Five
Region Five recently published a 5 year study, including information on $7.72 million invested in Region Five broadband.

St Cloud
An entrepreneur outside of St Cloud cannot get the broadband he needs for his home-based business.

Various Minnesota Communities
Most Mediacom communities in Minnesota will soon have access to 60+ Mbps as they fully deploy DOCSIS 3.1

Upcoming Events

  • Jan 11 – Digital Inclusion Policies and Programs of Local Governments Webinar
  • Jan 26 – MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting
  • Feb 23 – MN Broadband Industry Conference with MN Telecom Alliance & MN Cable Communications Association
  • March 6 – deadline for Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project grants applications due
  • May 16-17 – Net Inclusion 2017: The National Digital Inclusion Summit (St Paul)

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.)


  • Blandin Foundation Broadband Grants: Broadband Innovation and Robust Network Feasibility Fund grant award amounts range from $1,000 to $25,000, and matching funds are required. Grant application deadlines for 2017 are January 6, April 7, June 23 and September 22.
  • Minnesota Office of Broadband Development is looking for a company to do broadband mapping. Proposals due Jan 9.
  • Microsoft offers grants to organizations working to improve affordable internet access. Applications due Jan 31.
  • Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is accepting nominations for the Dot.Org awards

Stirring the Potbill right

This week we have a new year, legislature and MN Broadband Task Force Report.  It will be interesting to see how this report is received by key legislators, especially those charged with determining the future of the broadband fund.  A review of recent newspaper clips is not encouraging.

One legislator stated that broadband is not an important issue in rural Minnesota and “people don’t even know what they are missing.”  This contradicts what I am hearing at community meetings and broadband committees in almost every un- and underserved county.  Increasingly, county commissioners are leading these committees, after recognizing the negative impact of poor broadband service on economic development, housing values and agriculture.  You would not believe that broadband is unimportant to rural people if you read the Paul Bunyan Itasca broadband project Facebook page as new customers sign up for newly available FTTH service.

I also read a comment from a legislative leader about “the future is wireless.”  I readily acknowledge big improvements in fiber-fed fixed wireless services that already meet the 2022 state broadband goal, especially for customers out on the prairie-lands of Minnesota.  Affordable backhaul and long line of sight distances are both required.  Discussions of ubiquitous 5G rural service seems optimistic when some parts of rural Minnesota, especially those far off state highways, lack even 3G service today.

If the future is wireless, the state broadband report is strangely quiet on the topic despite the presence of two wireless providers on the task force.  Clearly the task force strongly supports immediate and long term continuing funding of technologies that can, today, deliver broadband services in rural areas that meet the 2026 100/20 Mb broadband goal.  I strongly agree!

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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