MN Public Broadband Alliance Meeting – video and notes


Yesterday MN Public Broadband Alliance hosted a meeting on broadband with the following topics:

  • Partnerships, Where to find Partners, Structures
  • Wireless Capabilities/Hybrid Systems
  • Grant Overviews
  • Financing Options
  • Economic Development and Broadband
  • Legislative Update and Questions

You can watch the sessions below

Or check out by scattered notes…

Partnerships, Where to find Partners and Structure

Jeff O’Neill – Monticello

Found partners – Doug Dawson & HBC

Designed project – from finance, operations and what will it look like

We underestimated response from the incumbents – they dropped prices. That was good for consumers but not as good for the city network. We didn’t get the take rates we needed. SO we got a subsidy from the liquor store fund.

The project and partnerships worked well.

Eventually went through another RFP to get a company to help run the

business- went with Arvig.

Advice: You can get help from partners

Mark Birkholz – Arvig

Nice project – the infrastructure was already in the ground. NO need to find capital – just operations.

Legal counsel said it shouldn’t look like we were leasing.

We run it like we own it.

City receives revenue. We have fixed expenses.

Present on project quarterly.

2015 – $332,000 loss

Moved to a revenue again within 6 months.

We can maximize people, we get better deals with things like video

NO one has 60 percent of the market


  • You need to find what you really need.
  • A story always sounds good but you need the math too.
  • Know that people who have broadband are not willing to subsidize people who don’t have access. And people who don’t have access aren’t willing to pay more than people who do have it.
  • Don’t do video if you don’t have to

Question – how many houses per mile do you need to break even?

To be within $20-25,000 per fiber mile build – you need that to break down to a few thousand dollars per house.

Joe Buttweiler – CTC

Potential contracts:

We build it, we run it

We lease from the city/community

We buy out the network

A 50 percent grant doesn’t build a rural area

Partners are important – especially for MN State Broadband grants

Uses crowd-fiber to aggregate need in a community

Question: What is maximum take rate?

80 but that’s not the norm.

Wireless Capabilities/Hybrid Systems

Steve Herman – Access Network

Pros – easy to install


Single physical access point for customer

Requires line of sight

Question – how do you determine how many people you can serve?

We go 5 to 1 – some providers go as high as 20 to 1.

Average rental cost per tower?

$4-500/month from a provider – try to leverage what we can.

Mark Erickson – RS Fiber

Initially thought it’d be all fiber but soon learned

Operate exclusively in the 5 gigahertz band

Range is 4-5 miles line of sight

Grant Overviews

Diane Wells – OBD

The plan is to disperse funds through a single funding round using the formula they have used in previous years.

We are expecting a very competitive grant process this year.

Timeline – assuming approval by May 20

  • Scoring criteria posted by July
  • Applications due mid-Sept
  • Announcements made by the end of 2019

JoAnne Johnson – MPBA

On the federal $600M

  • $200M for grants
  • $200M for loans
  • $200M for hybrid

Only available in areas where 90+ percent do not have access to 10/1
Deadline for grants in May 31 (need 25 percent match)  – great place to look for more funding

Finance Options

Mark Erickson – RB Fiber

“Are taxpayers paying back broadband bills? Yes – BUT – People are saving more on their broadband bill than they are paying for taxes to repay community broadband loans.”

Nancy Hoffman – Chisago County

“What would you do with better broadband Chisago County?

  • 31% would start a business!
  • 34% would telecommute
  • 45% would use it for education”

“In Chisago County are people seeing 25/3 access after CAF upgrade?
No. More like 4/1”

Worked with some communities to use MN Grants to leverage better speeds from CAF funding.

Economic Development and Broadband

Bill Coleman – CTA

Intelligent Community segments:

  • Broadband
  • Knowledge workers
  • Advocacy
  • Digital inclusion
  • Innovation
  • Sustainability

Broadband is necessary but not sufficient – you need to use it to get value!

Micah Myers – GraNet

Build a fiber network of government buildings.

We got creative and built up $500,000 on the network in last 5 years but was able to do it with partnerships, not cash.

Legislative Update and Questions

Nancy Hoffman – MN Broadband Coalition

They held a day on the hill – it went well

Diane Wells – OBD

HF2208 – funding for grants and coworking spaces & language related to Net Neutrality & there’s question about whether it would be applicable in grants. Also there’s something about communities getting telecommuter

Grant to MT Iron fiber – no seen in recent versions

Grant to Scandia that would only require 25 percent buy in – had a second reading in House and Senate

SF628 – education consortia – trying to get telecom equity funding raised. Some policy changes were made. There were trying to provide more to sand alone schools.

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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