Blandin Broadband eNews: Broadband activity throughout Minnesota Monthly Recap

Border to Border Broadband: Transforming Minnesota Oct 23-24
Join policymakers, economic and community development professionals and community broadband champions from across the state for this annual opportunity to learn, connect and engage. https://wp.me/p3if7-4E8

Different Approaches to Rural Broadband in MN
The City Pages features RS Fiber, Windomnet, Paul Bunyan and Lake Connections as rural broadband providers that have come up with innovative ways to get local residents the bandwidth they need. https://wp.me/p3if7-4Jh

Minnesota Providers Get Funding for Smart Grid Projects
USDA awards $43.7 million in funding for rural smart grid projects. Three Minnesota providers receive loans through the project. https://wp.me/p3if7-4J2

Broadband Connects America Shares Five Rural Broadband Principles

  1. Funding should be simple and allocated directly to infrastructure needs, not directly to last-mile carriers.
  2. Closing the rural digital divide will require a combination of approaches that reflects the complexity of the challenges of deploying broadband to rural America.
  3. Deployment should be focused on achieving tangible, affordable universal service to all rural Americans rather than allocated based on profit per population density.
  4. Restoring net neutrality is essential to closing the rural digital divide.
  5. Rural Americans’ access to high-speed internet should not be disadvantaged because of geography. https://wp.me/p3if7-4IR

Minnesota PUC Favors Charter by Calling VoIP an Info Service
A new court ruling found that Minnesota’s state government cannot regulate VoIP phone services offered by Charter and other cable companies because VoIP is an “information service” under federal law. https://wp.me/p3if7-4Iw

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Approves Penultimate Report
The Task Force put the final touches on their annual reports. Here are their policy recommendations:

  1. Fund the Office of Broadband Development through the base budget at levels sufficient for it to meet its statutory mandates and create an OBD operating fund to advance and promote programs and projects to promote broadband adoption and use.
  2. Provide on-going biennial funding of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grants Program at $69.7 million per biennia until the state achieve its broadband speeds goals
  3. Continue to understand the advances in the technology that will drive both the demand for better broadband access and that will enable the delivery if the broadband access to its citizens
  4. Provide direct funding to the DEED for broadband mapping.
  5. Establish a legislative cybersecurity commission, whose scope of work includes: information -sharing between policy-makers, state agencies, and private industry related to Minnesota’s cybersecurity infrastructure, cybersecurity workforce issues and emerging technology to: (a) develop legislative to support and strengthen Minnesota’s cybersecurity infrastructure, and (b) provide input or recommendations related to developing a multi-year strategic plan to secure Minnesota’s IT Environments.
  6. Adequately fund the Telecommunications Access Equity Aid and Regional Library Telecommunications Aid.
  7. Continue a MN Broadband Task Force as a resource to the Governor and the Legislature on the broadband policy with a broad representation of perspectives and experiences, including provider, community business and labor interests. https://wp.me/p3if7-4Il

Local Broadband News

Cass Lake and Leech Lake Reservation
Areas of the Leech Lake reservation and Cass Lake served by Paul Bunyan Communications now have access to Gigabit Internet speeds via fiber network. https://wp.me/p3if7-4I6

Delano
A family in Delano learns that Xbox works much better with faster broadband from CenturyLink https://wp.me/p3if7-4Ie

Fond du Lac
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa start a broadband provider https://wp.me/p3if7-4Jjhttps://wp.me/p3if7-4IP

Iron Range
Iron Range’s Aaron Brown speaks on the promise of broadband, including some upcoming meeting dates to help the dream come true https://wp.me/p3if7-4J8

McGregor
Becky Lourey speaks to Frontier service at PUC meeting in McGregor https://wp.me/p3if7-4J0

Minnesota
AT&T invests over $1 billion in Minnesota since 2010 https://wp.me/p3if7-4Ir

Pipestone County
Woodstock Communications expands coverage in Pipestone County https://wp.me/p3if7-4IC

St. Cloud
CentraCare Health Awards $324,000 grant for rural telehealth services in Minnesota https://wp.me/p3if7-4It

Sibley & Renville Counties
RS Fiber Renville County broadband grant project on track for June 2019 completion https://wp.me/p3if7-4J4

Worthington
MVTV Wireless helps out Frontier customer after PUC meeting https://wp.me/p3if7-4IV

Wyoming
PUC public hearing on Frontier showcases the frustration of a community held hostage by a broadband provider https://wp.me/p3if7-4IE

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. https://wp.me/P3if7-4yG If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to atreacy@treacyinfo.com

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

The toughest decisions that rural places have often come early in the broadband discussion process.  They are not technical questions, but rather policy choices around balancing the business case with equity considerations.  Sometimes these decisions are made with little or no discussion or even recognition of the long term impact.

The first decision is: “Are we determined to provide everyone in our area with quality broadband services?  If the answer is “yes”, the next decision is “Will everyone have the same level of service?” and finally deciding, “How soon?”  These decisions are generally based on the average cost per passing or service connection.  Where costs in town are somewhere in the $3000 per household range, the cost per rural household can be over $10,000.

When public good and economic development are the primary objectives and the local leadership is deeply committed to broadband, decision-makers are more likely to push for fast and widespread network deployment.  This is best illustrated in places like Rock and Swift Counties where leaders made decisions to get new fiber connectivity to all unserved areas fast.  The RS Fiber project built fiber to the cities and deployed rural wireless services with plans to deploy ubiquitous fiber to the farm.  Pope County stimulated countywide wireless deployment for immediate broadband improvement.

The alternative is to consider partial solutions and expand broadband in an opportunistic fashion.  We see this strategy as either pure private sector development or sometimes supported by public-private partnerships.  Areas around lakes or golf courses, clusters of homes around country crossroads, and homes and businesses along existing fiber routes are the most likely areas most likely to see this deployment.  While this progress can be celebrated by those newly served, the remaining unserved areas become less and less attractive as the cost per passing skyrockets and the low ROI discourages both private and public sector funders.

I strongly encourage community broadband leaders to have this discussion early in the process with key leaders as you determine your strategies.  Quick easy wins based on partial deployment can be welcome, but may leave the most financially challenging parts of your community permanently behind.  Is that OK?

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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