Stop three on day one of following Senator Klobuchar’s staff around Minnesota as they hear from folks about their situation and needs for broadband, infrastructure and housing.
I’ll post the whole meeting but only take notes on broadband issues.
While previous meeting seemed to have one spokesperson for broadband, Aitkin had a couple including Stacy Cluff from Mille Lacs Energy.
Here are some of the comments interspersed through the conversation, which bounced quite a bit from transportation to broadband:
If the state hadn’t supported broadband, we wouldn’t have the level of access we have. We need that for transportation too.
Broadband is being built through subsidies. The federal subsidies (CAF II) do not meet the speeds we need. Resident areas are upgraded and the residents don’t notice the difference.
The federal standards of 10/1 are too low. We’ve seen some cooperatives build to a much higher standard – it’s made a big difference.
Also one problems we have are the areas that are underserved. The Unserved areas qualify for upgrades the underserved areas don’t. But people aren’t able to run their businesses with lower broadband. Sometimes the connections go down and then they can’t take credit cards.
Reliability is a problem. We have a restaurant in the area that experiences outages. They can take the credit card but they can’t process until they get back online, which means bad credit cards slip through the cracks.
And the problem isn’t necessary in the school – it’s the student’s home 2 miles away.
We need the state grants. As a provider, we’ve applied and we’ve received it and it’s made a big difference. It’s expensive to reach these homes in remote areas.
There’s a tax law for cooperatives saying if you get 80% of your incomes comes from nonmembers, it will impact the tax status. That can make it hard for nonmembers.
Senator Klobuchar has been big on dig once. Has that been a problem?
We use it all of the time. Broadband investment outpaces highway construction. We get applications to put fiber into roads that frankly, we’d like to replace.
When local companies get the broadband grants – there is frustration when a new line goes where another already exists.
Maybe we need to pass a phone bill – that enforces am open access model.
Although sometimes those are trunk lines with no real branches leading out.
We’re worried about duplication.
We chuckled about the idea of a kid having to hold their phones near the window to get a broadband connection. We would have loved for it to be that simple back in the day. We had to use broadband during off-peak hours, which meant we suggested kids set an alarm and do homework at 2am.
Broadband should be treated as a utility. It took me a while to accept that – but I’m there now. It can’t be a political football. It can’t be just for the rich or urban. Everybody needs it.