MN Broadband Task Force meeting April 2020: video and notes on mapping, COVID, legislative updates

Today they MN Broadband Task Force met virtually. They heard from Senator Smith on the federal funding for broadband (CARES). They heard from Anna Read from Pew Research on their State of States and Broadband report. They heard from Kristi Westbrock at CTC about how life is going for the local provider during the COVID quarantine. They got updates from the three task force subgroups. If I had to pick a couple of random highlights:

  • Anna talked about two things that seemed to help broadband projects: having people dedicated to broadband and revising speed goals.
  • Kristi mentioned that upload speeds have increased since COVID demonstrating their importance for doing work, school and health from home. She also noted that their busy times have shifted to 10am to 2pm and that while they used to start network maintenance at midnight, they now start at 2am because people are now active online until 2am. (So relieved to learn that may family isn’t alone – none of us are sleeping!)
  • Nearly everyone mentioned great concern with the status of broadband mapping. They are notoriously incorrect. Providers and customers agree on this, which is a problem when funding is based on the maps. It was suggested that the State invest in mapping before the RODF applications are closed to ensure that all qualified areas in MN show up as qualified. I think if MN did that they would have a model to show to the rest of the US!
  • At the end of the meeting the Task Force discussed the current MN legislative activity on broadband. Listen to get details but the quick take – House and Senate have bills. Both are being discussed in meetings this week. They will likely hammer out differences in Committee – differences include where the funding comes from.

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