Blandin on Broadband eNews May 2017: Broadband issues at the legislature

A recap of news from April…

The role of broadband feasibility studies
The Blandin Foundation has granted $718,321 to 24 rural Minnesota communities to support the cost of a broadband feasibility studies. It has proved to be an important step toward broadband expansion for many communities, especially those who have had access to funding.

Surveys show Minnesotans think broadband is essential
Minnesota Farmers Union unveiled distillation of 14 conversations in 14 rural communities held spring 2017. Broadband makes the short list priorities.

Minnesota Communities Need Better Broadband
Blandin Foundation President talks about the role of broadband in rural life, “Given Minnesota’s many opportunities and challenges — in economy, healthcare, education, and public life – it is easy to see how access and use of high-speed Internet is essential for progress. Yet absent adequate broadband, existing opportunity gaps across our state will continue to widen.”

Tool calculates cost of broadband
The Minnesota Broadband Coalition creates a tool to help figure out cost of broadband by speed (bit) and usage (byte) to compare providers, technologies and packages.

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting: Business case for broadband
The Task Force heard from practitioners in the field who communities and providers  understand what it will take to deploy broadband in rural areas. They also heard about the economic impact of the rural broadband industry both in rural and urban areas.

Notes from MN legislative session
Currently legislators are discussing funding for the Border to Border grants in Conference Committee as part of the Omnibus Bill for the Job Growth and Energy Finance (SF1937). The Omnibus passed in the House on April 8. After their spring break, the MN Conference Committee compared the House and Senate versions. The House recommends $7 million for broadband grants; the Senates says $20 million. A week later, they decided on loose ends related to Senate/House comparisons They meet again May 1;  those notes may or may not be ready for this newsletter but will be posted on the blog.

Reactions to legislation:

Federal Legislations/Policy Items

Local Broadband News

Iron Range
“Entrepreneurs on Tap” series to connect small Iron Range businesses

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County works on bond sale for Border to Border broadband network

Frontier Communications expands broadband to 8,000 Minnesota Households

Renville & Sibley Counties
Mark Erickson, of RS Fiber, talks to NPR Rural Life on how fiber retains youth or calls them back

One farmer talks about how he uses a synchronous wireless connection in the fields

Rochester looks at municipal network options but holds off on any decisions

Southwest Minnesota
Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group is building “Gigabit Communities”

Twin Cities
MinnPost offers a three-pronged approach to making the Twin Cities smarter through technology use

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

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

According to company press releases, this summer will see the launch of Gigabit (1,024 Mb) services by both Mediacom and Midco in many regional centers and smaller communities in Greater Minnesota.  As a cheerleader for better broadband, I believe that this is great news for the businesses and residents in those communities.  These upgrades rely on a robust middle mile network that can supply multi-gigabit capacity, plus upgrades of electronics to support DOCSIS 3.1 technology.  While some broadband purists will lament the lack of symmetrical upload speeds, the vast majority of home broadband and small business customers will not suffer appreciably with a 25 Mb upload service.

What does this mean for community broadband leaders?  Is the battle won so that everyone can relax?  Hmmm, not yet.  First, ensure that all of the community’s business districts have access to this new service, whether downtown, in a strip mall or in the industrial park.  If not, supporting these new connections through encouragement, market development, or partnership would be a great step.  More broadly, increasing the use of technology by all businesses is necessary – with a focus on business technology assessments, e-commerce classes, shared online marketing strategies, cloud applications and online security. Communities can promote the availability and use of qualified local IT vendors and increase IT training for residents of all ages.  Those who have heard my broadband presentations have heard me use the analogy of an unused exercise machine.  Don’t let your local network be used for hanging laundry!

The other implication of emerging urban and rural gigabit networks is that un- and underserved rural areas are now even further behind in the bandwidth race.  Increasingly in small towns to metro areas, those served with cable modem Internet service have starter Internet at 25 Mb or 50 Mb.  For those served with new CAF2 funded networks, those are likely to be the top available speeds.  Depending on location relative to fiber-fed electronics, many consumers will have something closer to 10 Mb/1 Mb service and many people will still be unserved.  Much of the economic production in greater Minnesota happens outside of city limits – agriculture, forestry, tourism-oriented businesses, home businesses and tele-workers.

So it seems that rural broadband advocates still have plenty of work to do.  To energize your efforts, consider using Blandin Foundation’s Community Broadband Resources program to support your community or regional efforts on infrastructure or adoption strategies.

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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