House moves $15 million for broadband grants, carves out $750,000 for satellite

House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee met to finalize the Omnibus bill. One of the amendments was set to ear mark $750,000 of the proposed $15 million for broadband grants for satellite. (The bill is moved to Ways and Means.)

Video of the meeting is available online. I have pulled out the discussion on broadband…

And notes on the meeting:

Rep Garofalo introduces – 5 percent of appropriation for broadband grants ($750,000) will now be available to consumers purchasing satellite. The grants will offset costs of installation and/or monthly fees up to $900 for access. Only available in unserved territories.

Rep Neu –
Don’t support. I live in underserved area. I have concerns until satellite companies lift data caps. They have caps set at 50 Gig data caps and average family uses 250. That means we have good service for a week – then once we hit the cap out ability to use the internet is “greatly impaired”.

Rep Layman –
Agreed to author the bill for $51 million based on calculations done by the Task Force to tell us what it would take to get everyone broadband. They came up the number we used to request $51 million. We didn’t get that we got $15 million but that’s all that was available to the Committee so we’re grateful. We didn’t include policy changes because we just wanted to reach the goal – funding only. Glad to have bipartisan support.
We have found in NE Minnesota that satellite doesn’t work yet. SO now might not be the time to invest.

Rep Mahoney –
What are we trying to accomplish? How will we know if we have succeeded? We don’t have anyway as this is structured to know if satellites were successful or if users had the same experience Rep Neu has had. Or trouble with reception. How do we know what this buys and how do we know if it worked?

Rep Baker –
We have been trying to maximize state money with private matching funding. How will the satellite match funds? They already have the infrastructure in place? How will our funding extend their reach?
Also I see that part of the satellite grants go to user equipment but many providers already offer free equipment to entice new users.

Rep Metsa –
There are some areas that will never have line access to broadband. We need to be technology agnostic. We need to offer these people the best alternatives. Data caps are in issue with several technologies – cell access and home broadband. I have access from CenturyLnk and MediaCom. CenturyLink is unlimited. We need to address data caps on a higher level – because it’s a benefit to citizens to have access to info.

Rep Barhr –
I support this. It offers options. It’s much cheaper than wired access. There’s nothing in the statute about data caps. So that’s a different issue.

Rep Neu –

Caps are an issue. Mnay other providers offer caps – but they have higher than regular users would meet. You can pay for more for satellite -but it’s very expensive. Moslty costs for satellite range from $100-$150 a month for 50 meg; additional data is $75 per 25 meg. That adds up.

 

Rep Munson –
I support this effort. I used to work for HughesNet. The cap they set is more data than you would need for healthcare, homework. The rest of the traffic is streaming TV-type services. The state shouldn’t subsidize TV – only homework, and healthcare and essential needs. The cost to bring fiber is $6000 – but that was for the low hanging fruit. It would be $12,000 to bring fiber to my house. I use fixed wireless.
Technology is moving quickly.

Rep Baker –
I’m OK with satellite – it’s the carve out of the $750,000 for satellite. I don’t see this going to the customers. It sounds like it will go directly to the business. We don’t want to waste state funding on access that’s already there. Satellite is a good option – we just don’t want it taking away funding for other options.

Rep Anderson –
What will be the cost to administer this grant?

Rep Howe –
I’d love to have satellite work for me. According to the map, it looks like I’m served, but I’m not. There are three houses just out of range. Will we be using the maps to determine who is served/unserved?

Rep Layman –
We should be agnostic in our technology. The current broadband program is agnostic but is firm in speed goals. The state determined that it was worthwhile to reach the speed goals – just not sure satellite does that now.

Rep Garofalo –
This is limited to only those in unserved areas. The people will no hope.
Not opposed to putting in a feedback channel to see how this pilot test is going.
The satellite grant can pay for equipment for offset monthly costs for first year – up to $900. Some providers offer free equipment; some don’t. Or they do but only with 2 year commitment, which can be off putting.
The matching was done on the front end – since they already have infrastructure in place.
Grant is only for first year.
Satellite has been available for 18 months. Viasat is an option. We haven’t even discussed the option of fixed wireless. It is being deployed successfully in Minnesota – where there is line of sight. We are finding that where there’s fiber people are choosing fixed wireless because it’s faster and cheaper. The money is in the ground and people are going for wireless.
This will reach about 1000 households.
Administration costs – we may need to get  fiscal note from Office of Broadband Development or maybe Commerce.

Rep Baker –
Would you consider removing the dollar amount and let the satellite compete with other grant funds? SO that we’re no over or under budgeting.

Rep Garofalo –
It’s only 5 percent of the budget. That doesn’t work because it’s a different set up entirely. The rest of the funding goes to companies; this will go to residents.

Rep Baker –
SO this is for the first 1000 people who call up get funding?

Rep Garofalo-
So long as they were unserved. Not everyone know if they are unserved but there are resources to help them find out. Bothe other

Rep Baker –
Would the OBD have to take those 1000 calls?

Rep Garofalo –
We have good maps. The OBD may need a little bit of funding to administer it.

Rep Baker –
Still can’t support

Rep Davnie –
I’m frustrated with my provider but I live in a part of the state where it snow so I’ve never looked at satellite as a legitimate option. But for reimbursement for installation – the equipment is already free – so are we encouraging providers to charge for the equipment but tell customers to get it reimbursed by the State?

Rep Garofalo –
Some installations are free; some aren’t or require a two year contract which folks might not like.

They vote – it’s close but it passes.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Funding, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards, Policy, Satellite 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.

One thought on “House moves $15 million for broadband grants, carves out $750,000 for satellite

  1. I’ve never met someone who has satellite and is happy. The $750,000 being set aside for the satellite providers bottom line is 75 homes which will not get a fiber to the home upgrade. That’s 75 homes which people will not be able to telecommute from. It is 75 homes which will not be able to utilize a secure VPN. It is 75 homes which will have high latency, low data caps and service which stops working every time it rains.

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