MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Notes: Sep 2017 – suggestions from rural orgs, wireless technology and plans for the next report

The Broadband Task Force met today. The meeting started with rural representatives coming to the Task Force to ask them to consider six recommendations for the next broadband report:

  1. Fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program
  2. Provide multi-year funding for the Grant Program
  3. Modify the Challenge Process
  4. Remove or Increase the $5 million cap on projects
  5. Increase the match offered by the Grant Program
  6. Emphasize the importance of the Office of Broadband Development

See their full letter.

The Task Force  spoke about a new approach to the next report – one that pares back on content and focuses on recommendations. So maybe there’s a way for the two groups to get together on a report that helps legislators recognize the importance of broadband and need for state funding to actually accomplish border to border broadband.

They also heard from Wireless providers and Microsoft about the future of wireless in bringing broadband to all corners. A point that was emphasized by many is that wireless requires wired. Fiber to rural areas will poise rural areas to take advantage of 5G when it comes. 5G isn’t the answer – it’s a reward for better broadband in rural areas. Finally they heard from services for the deaf and impact on technology advanced on state assistive services.

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

Steve Fenske (MAT) & Vince Robinson bring a letter asking the TF to consider specific recommendations in the next report.

  • Letter for 21 organizations. Thanks for all you do.
  • We wanted to share our thoughts on what we’d like to see in your report.
  • We know its not a budget year.
  • We want to stress the following: Fund the grants – esp for 2 year of the biennium

Vince Robison (MAPCED)

Many of our communities are working on feasibility studies to try to apply for grants. We hope to gain efficiencies by working together. But when we do we run into the $5M gap in the grant. Maybe you can change that cap to accommodate larger groups that want to apply – such as multi-county.

The challenge process with a mulitcounty – means to cross multiple providers – how does a challenge impact a multicounty project. ALSO – with challenge and CAF – we see that we’re creating a checkerboard of service. We understand the motive of the providers – but the problem is that only the hardest to reach areas are left. So we need to look at the 50% match. Sometimes a 50% grants isn’t enough to reach those remote/difficult areas. Can we look at a sliding scale model?

About 5G – we encourage any form of expansion – but we know it will be a long time before 5G is available for us and we can’t wait that long. We’re falling further and further behind. As a state we need to look at a model that lifts all boats.

We hope your recommendations will address these issues.


Q – These recommendations are detailed.

I don’t think we considered that multicounty approaches would be as far down the road – so is there a way to think about how to streamline challenge?

How is the challenger going to serve the whole area – or will they only need to serve portions of the proposed areas. I know they are supposed to do that but we’re not seeing the whole area get filled very quickly.

By having uncertainty with longevity of grants is a problem. Counties spend a lot of money and time on feasibility studies. Only to have to look at future funding and immediate challenges.

Do you prefer the challenge process on the backend? It’s now at the front.

I’m not advacting that approach either. We need more of a base funding to continue to plan. Then we have time to address challenges – rather than to try to fit it into the 60-90 day timeframe.

Yes if we had base funding that would help.

It would also help minimize the slam of proposals that the OBD receives now. We fit in grants that perhaps would have been better submitted in the future.

I am hearing from providers that they need 50 percent. It’s probably because the program has been successful. Could we look at higher grants percentage for unserved?

The issue is that the line between served and unserved are fuzzy. The provider may see one thing while customers experience another.

Underserved areas will quickly become unserved as we approach the 2026 goals and as demand increases.

Office of Broadband Development Update

We had 70 grant requests ftotalling $50.3 million for $20 million in funding

Wireless with Bret Swanson, Entropy Economics

Thinking about how the digital economy will stretch out to the rest of the economy.

5G is a key component of future economy.

5G is a series of networks working to serve needs. (Wireless, spectrum, small cells, fiber)

Traffic comes in two big waves:

  • Boom in mobile video
  • Internet of Things

Video is still the killer app, which will pay for the network and provide the capabilities used for cars, IoT…

So much as changed – so we need to understand that it’s difficult to see how that could happen equitably.

A New Network Architecture

  • Densification with small cells
  • Today 320,000 cell towers/site in US
  • Tomorrow, potentially millions of cells on lamp-posts, utility poles, buildings, neighborhoods, campuses
  • Fiber optics connecting most cells
  • Software defined networks/network function virtualization
  • Using general purpose computing (instead of “telecom equipment”) to move network functions to the cloud
  • Estimate of $275B to build 5G networks in the US

Q – We need to know more about the backbone. For us we need to recognize that wireless is wired too. SO what does that mean for us in terms of what is being put in now? Do we need finer to run the network?

It’s going to mean different things in different places. The pace of deployment will be different in different places – the point is as we build we will get more wireless to more places but we’ll also get more fiber to places because we need fiber for the wireless. I don’t know what that means. BUT over the last 20 years  $1.6 trillion in US. It’s been mostly a success story. IN the next 10 years it will be $260B investment.

But it is fiber and it sounds like smart providers will build with fiber.

Q – what are trends with market success and failure?

We are at the front end. We have deployed 5G in urban areas – and some suburban areas but mostly serving 4G.

Our experience with broadband – people we skeptical about the need for 3G with their flip phone – but then the smart phone came about. We will find ways to make use of new capacity – 4K, VR, industrial use.

Market failure

5G will extend access to markets that are unserved. BUT we will still need gov support to reach marginal areas. There will always be a need to reach a little farther.

Where does US stand in relation to rest of the world?
There’s a story that the US is falling behind. Most of those stories were wrong.
Those reports measures in broadband per capita. Key problem is that US has slightly larger households  – so we need to look at penetration is connections per household. This studies looked at household size – not broadband. I measure data traffic per user and household. US leads the way in use.  Our coverage capacity and speed is good. I don’t have state specific data.

I do have Akamai data. [Here is his report:]

Today licensed specific is 544 megahertz – we have plenty that have not been deployed. In the future – specific channels will deliver 544 megahertz.

Economic Impact

  • Slow growth over the last decade means today’s US economy is nearly $3 trillion smaller than we might have expected in 32007
  • We estimate faster productivity growth in the physical economy could boost annual output growth in physical economy
  • Physical makes up 70 percent of economy but only invests 30 percent in digital
  • Digital invests 70 percent – and have seen a great ROI
  • We need physical to make some investment to also reap higher ROI.

One example – huge boom in natural gas due to shale. It’s been an info story. The new 3D modeling allowed us to figure out where to get shale.

People are worried that automation will be bad for employment. BUT industries that use technology have had faster job growth – NOT less.

Q – Any info on education?
There’s  section in our productivity report on it. Education, like healthcare, can benefit from technology.

“…The next phase [of broadband development] will focus on ubiquity, latency, reliability , application diversity and security.

11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. AT&T Update on 5G Andy Sackriter(?) from AT&T

We’re talking about 5G evolution – the assets we’re putting in the ground now will serve 5G where they need it.

People geek out on speed – but latency is a huge component too.

The standards should be out by 2018.

We’re doing studies in 4 cities – we’re seeing Gig and latency 3 milliseconds.

25,000 percent data growth in 10 years

What we seeing greater need for video, VR, augmented reality

Because the superbowl will be here, we will be doing lots of testing.

What about rural areas? Won’t you need a lot of equipment?

If the assumption is that every square inch needs high speed.

We serve rural areas.

We use low frequency to serve customer farther away.

There’s a capacity piece – but there’s also an application need (demand).

There’s a piece of 5G that peer to peer. We work with John Deere – much of their work is now automated but it’s peer to peer not via the public internet.

[Much of Andy’s talk is image/diagram dependent – so I’ll lead folks to the video – rather than try to capture it.]


  • Driverless cars, connected cities, AR/VR. Remote healthcare Iot
  • Low latency demands will push real-time communication to the edge
  • Non-real-time demands must be centralized and virtualize
  • Network transformation is more essential than event
  • Creativity and solid engineering will be required to make NR practical and deployable
  • Current RAN architecture must transform to meet the needs for the increased flexibility

Q – for low latency and high reliability – is fiber still best?
Yes for backhaul. We are doing trails with broadband over power lines. We have been able to deliver gig speeds without touching the power lines.

It gives us an option in areas where we aren’t the incumbent.

Q- could you do a remote operation with 5G?

Q – We talk about fiber – it’s what we are about. We try to convince people that OBD needs for funding. We get push back from people who say 5G is coming. But both of you have said we need more fiber. DO you think we should continue to focus on border to border broadband? Or should we scale back?

AT&T says the state should embrace the all technologies. If we expand to other areas – Andy and Brent’s customers will make more money. We will rent fiber from them. We are customers and competition.

It’s my job to education legislators about the technology and application.

Q – Could wireless exist without a wired connection? No.

A lot of people think 5G is only for cities. But I have capacity triggers in Virginia, Willmar to make sure current customers get service they need. I’m doing design for small cells in Virginia – so it will be easy to lift to 5G when available. But that’s an area where there’s a market.

Technology is ever changing. I hear that 5G doesn’t have capacity now – but I see the opportunity. What is the right recommendation to make now?

Some folks believe that 5G won’t have the capacity. FTTP will.

But it’s not either/or. The spectrum isn’t available for 5G now. The standard isn’t there.

Wired and wireless will both be used.

Cable providers have been big deployers of small cell. Wireless nodes are like a precursor to 5G.

Fiber deployment is critical to Minnesota for backhaul.

Last mile – wireless can handle that. I would let application and demand dictate the business case.

A multi-million dollar farm needs broadband – even if it’s only 2 people!!

There are more than 50 bus in MN focusing on #IoT (Internet of Things)

Microsoft White Spaces Presentation (by video) with Sid Roberts, Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative Team

Microsoft wants users to be able to take advantage of cloud computing. Here’s a link to their paper:

“Our partnership-based model delivers products, solutions, and nosiness models designed to enable billions more customers to affordability get online applications and services.”

  • We work on Internet Access and Energy access
  • We are part of the commercial side of Microsoft

Working on

  • 12 projects
  • 12 states
  • 12 months
  • Using TV White Spaces
  • 2 million rural Americans connected by 2022
  • We aren’t a telecom provider and we don’t aspire to be one. We want to work through public private partnerships
  • We make info and tools available royalty free
  • We can help with partnerships

Q – In selected state, do they have grant programs or good data collection for mapping? We think we have good mapping in MN.
No. It’s not hard for us to find where rural areas are. Lack of mapping isn’t holding us up.

What do we need to do to get more rural folks online?

  • We need to go to all areas
  • Working with classic network design
  • Choose partners

Q – We work with a range of partners – how do you fit in with a state broadband task force?
From policy recommendation – we all knowing we need to close the digital divide. The issue isn’t technology – it’s funding. So advocating for funding is helpful.

Q- How are you coming with FCC and getting three channels?
We have a good line of site

  • 1st channel – pretty certain
  • 2nd channel 37
  • 3rd channel 6 Megahertz – working on it

Update on Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program for Communications Impaired with Sarah Maheswaran, Department of Human Services

Talking about the TED program – telephone equipment distribution. Giving TTY phones to folks who need them and setting up the MN Relay service.

Get funding from Commerce – via customer phone bills. Don’t use the General fund.

We did two studies based on changing technology.

  • Broadband isn’t accessible in rural MN
  • Affordability is an issue – for cell & broadband

We looked into what discounts are available for phone and broadband.

We serve low income – but more generous than other discounts.

Is TED the right program to provide discount? How can we modernize?
Right now we do long term loan of equipment.
Helping with fees is a new process for us.

We serve fewer people as people get rid of their landlines – but the devices are analog. They don’t work with broadband.

We know people use wireless – we get funding from wireless surcharges. We do amplified cell phones.

We realize we need to work on blue tooth enabled equipment.

Other programs are distributing tablets and smartphones.

We piloted a distribution of ipads/iphones.

Deaf people use video phones or caption phone – they have replaced TTY. But they require better broadband.

We serve 500-1500 people – the number decreases because better technology and universal equipment.

Annual budget $1.7 million

CableLabs Presentation (Video)

DOCSIS 3.1 revitalizing the cable discussion

Next evolution is full duplex DOCSIS – with 10Gig access up and down.

Cable has updated customers throughout the last few years.

WiFi carries about half of all traffic. Cable is largest WiFI provider in houses and out.

Half of our members offer mobile too/

5G will use higher frequency spectrum – which means higher speeds for shorter distance.

Task Force Discussion of Final Report

Let’s use this report to really focus on policy recommendations. Especially since we’ll be winding down next year.

Next year let’s take what we’ve done into a report on looking back and going forward – the capstone report.

We have a proposed outline:

All of the content should directly support at least one recommendation. That means leaving out some content from meetings.

Committees could report on items but we won’t make a recommendation based on XXX

We are likely to say nothing about 5G in this report.

We will pare this way down.

Will we have time to talk about recommendations.

Future look is important – maybe for next time.

Talk about investment – maybe for next time.

We need to go back to our recommendations  – pare down to the most important.

The recommendations that come up should reflect what the TF has heard. SO that might impact the recommendations.

We need to focus on top priorities,

Maybe we can work on lobbying strategies.

Maybe we can focus our recommendation on the core ones? Does that mean OBD and Fund?
More money, permanent funding

It is an election year – maybe a recommendation could lead to some good questions.

We should focus work on supplemental funding this year. Leave permanent request for the budget year.

DO we want to dig into the specifics of the grant?

If we want to change the percentage of grants we should make it for unserved areas only.

But is this about economic development or social justice?

There are reasons that people need better broadband.

As a provider (MVTV) I want to go into areas where there aren’t any people. Border to border isn’t going to happen. The investment isn’t there. CAF wasn’t there 10 years ago. USF was – but it has been changed so CenturyLink gets money to go where maybe it doesn’t make as much sense for them to go. Does CL want to go to Lincoln County to serve one person?

MVTV got better backhaul to allow for 80Mbps vs 40Mbps from a state grant. To reach more people we need more cells.

Let’s take a break and come back when we find out what is the number of served, unserved and underserved areas.

What do we do about the next goal? Leave it for the next task force?

October Meeting/Wrap-up/Adjourn

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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