MN Broadband Task Force Meeting notes: finalizing annual report

Today the MN Broadband Task Force met to tie up loose ends of the upcoming report. They talked a bit about updating the projected cost to get broadband to everyone in Minnesota. With lots of caveats, they came up with a number of $5,527 per passing or a total of almost $1.4 billion to reach all of the unserved households. Again lots of caveats in that math – but it seems to fall in line with the earlier project (from 2010?) that it would cost $1-3 billion to serve unserved areas. Here’s the discussion:

The upcoming report will be an abridged version of earlier reports.

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

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development Update

OBD update

Still working hard to get through applications. Trying to get grant decisions done by the end of the month. BADC is taking up a lot of time and that work will extend to January.

Update on Broadband Confernece from Bernadine

  • We had 8 learning stations from the OBD projects. Heard from projects from different parts of Minnesota doing different things.
  • Theme of the project was partnering. Kevein Edberg talked about value-led corporations. NTCA talked about cooperatives.
  • We released the case studies from 5 communities in rural Minnesota. Lots of videos, stories and looking at ROI.
  • Recognized Danna’s award from NATOA.

From Shannon Heim

  • Keynote speaker was very good – Roberto Gallardo.
  • Roberto has created a Digital Divide Index award.

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Discussion of Updated Cost to Deploy Broadband

We’ve been discussing this at the last two meetings.

Danna looked at unserved households –

  • Households without wireline 25/3 – 252,000
  • Average cost per passing from grant projects – it’s messy
  • Looking at first 3 rounds of awards – $5527 per passing (we didn’t include wireless info)
  • Looking at numbers from 1 wireless project available – per passing cost is much lower
  • Adoption rate for wireless is very different from wired projects – but we only have one wireless project
  • Looking at ACAM in MN – cost per passing is $4000 – $14000. (There’s operations and CAPEX costs in there.) But it does suggest that the numbers we’re seeing in the grant proejcgs are in the ballpark.
  • The ODB projects don’t have operations costs tied to them.
  • OBD grants are more suburban then rural and the ACAM projects are more rural. Projects farthest from the population density are less likely to be CAF projects.
  • SO the back of the envelope number for getting broadband to Minnesota is $1.4 billion
  • But we’re getting to the hardest/most expensive places to reach – however costs for wireless are coming down so there’s some balance.
  • We should try to figure out how CAF/ACAM fits in here – especially since that looks like a multi-year ask from the State
  • CenturyLink got $54 million per year for 7 years – how does that fit in?
  • We need to look at all potential funds – but this can be a benchmark.
  • “There’s work to be done and we all have a part to play.”
  • A number is hard because it changes so quickly – except that legislators like to see numbers.
  • Should we add 10 percent for contingency?
  • Or do we use the per passing cost?
  • Looking at the numbers it’s reasonable to see that most households can afford that cost per passing.
  • We need to look at the ROI.
  • At Sjoberg – we’ve found that even in areas with older folks – the next generation is saying get the broadband because you can’t sell without it.
  • Also there will be needs for upgrade and aiming for the future. Especially because some areas are putting in basic services that won’t meet the 2026 goals.
  • From the provider aspect – the biggest thing is getting the wire to the home – an upgrade is an easier decision because you already have a customer
  • We need to show that this is an investment – not a cost.
  • What is the increased tax revenue from improvements?

10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Subcommittee Review of Draft Report

They discussed the draft of the report in small groups. I have the draft they started with bot limited notes on the suggested changes.

11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch (Capitol basement)

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Full Task Force Discussion of Report

  • Pg 5-6 – everyone is OK
  • Pg 7 – everyone is OK
  • Pg 8 – map
  • Pg 9-11 – do we define rural area? There is an operating definition and we’ll add it.
  • There’s a chart comparing served areas – the 10/5 is higher than 25/3 BECAUSE the upload is higher.
  • Maybe in the future we can add key facts from key maps – bullets instead of paragraph
  • It would be nice to add map of school districts.
  • OBD gets a minor fall update – so we need to get most current
  • Pg 12 – Bernadine can bring together stories from the conference and use Jane’s list of learning stations.
  • Need to watch that we be cleat that the stories of the grant communities.
  • Bernadine will also put together statistics on ROI of program for callout boxes.
  • We need to get a # to include for recommendation for funding.
  • Pg 13 – Keep a focus on OBD
  • Consider reordering points – we need to make clear all of the tasks of the OBD. Need to add work in education.
  • Pg 14 – will the TF be offering a number of recommendations? Thought we were going to focus on OBD and Fund. Replacing the callout box with something like
  • “through the funding of the B2B grant we could support broadband a transportation, emergency communications and ERS…” Except we need to be careful about making people think of Firstnet funding since AT&T is doing that.
  • SO maybe talk about the need for broadband funding with attaching a recommendation.
  • Pg 15 – take off infrastructure recommendation
  • If we don’t recommend something related to education – maybe we could add an editorial from Marc Johnson at ECMECC
  • We don’t’ want to say this is the last report

December will be the last meeting for Steve Lewsader (CWA)

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