MN Broadband Task Force meeting: penultimate meeting on the 2020 annual report

Today the MN Broadband Task Force heard from the third subcommittee (Economic Development and Digital Inclusion Subgroup) on their version of the Task Force report – it was a continuation of the last Task Force meeting . This subcommittee has three primary recommendations:

  1. Continue Minnesota’s Border to Border state broadband grant program and fund it from the base budget.
  2. Create an Office of Broadband operating annual fund of $1.5 million to promote broadband adoption and use and redress digital inequity.
  3. Update Minnesota’s broadband speed goals to 100 Mbps/100 Mbps symmetrical service by 2028.

They also had a series of secondary recommendations that lift of recommendations from other committees when their recommendations relate to increasing access/availability of broadband technology or tools.

There was little conversation about the first recommendation or the secondary recommendations. There was discussion about the second goal. There seems to be concern that the Office of Broadband Development might not have staff time for the added work – but the work is already mandated in their job description and the OBD came up with the number. There was quite a bit of discussion on the third recommendation, which led to a discussion on RDOF that I will likely pull out for a separate post over the weekend. The top concerns (on speed, not RDOF) seem to be that houses that currently don’t have 25/3 will be left behind if the speed goal is changed and that policymakers will be confused if the speeds are changed. The counter seems to be that the households that have 25/3 are being left behind too – especially as impacted by COVID and that broadband development is, by its nature, a goal that moves as technology improves.

I took notes as best I could – but as usual, I had to take them on paper since my computer and phone are used to record the session:

What does ConnectMN do and how does that differ from what OBD might do?

  • It is an initiative, not a foundation. It’s private funding not public
  • It would be nice to have ongoing support
  • Public support is important in deployment and adoption to reach

Will there be enough OBD staff to tackle adoption?

  • They are already tasked with adoption
  • OBD came up with the budget

Should we make 100/100 a new speed goal?

  • We could plan to research this next year.
  • We don’t want to lose sight of the people who don’t have 25/3

Maybe the issue isn’t the speed but the symmetry

  • We should be taking baby steps when increasing the broadband speed. I don’t need it at my home. Although others might.
  • The retired grandpa doesn’t need symmetrical broadband

ABOUT RDOF

  • RDOF was a major fail for Minnesota. One company won big but they don’t have a proven track record for fiber.
  • Now that RDOF funding has been pledged for certain areas, those areas will not qualify for other funding. Now that RDOF funding has been pledged other providers will not want to compete in those areas. Subsequently there will be areas that will not be served.
  • We need to raise awareness of the impact of the RDOF awards to policymakers. With RDOF and CAF, promises have been made that will likely not be kept.
  • In Minnesota, the OBD keeps a check and a balance on the grant projects. We need similar for federally funded projects

Should we make 100/100 a new speed goal?

  • We don’t need to try to be a national leader.
  • Why don’t we focus on getting to ubiquitous 25/3 then tackle the faster speeds.
  • Funding is already aiming at 100/100
  • The need today is different from what it was when past speeds were set and the need tomorrow will also be different. Don’t we want to aim goals for future needs?
  • If we are moving away from the 25/3 goals – what does that do for families with that speed (or slower) now? Regardless of the goals, they are stuck with access that isn’t adequate.
  • The MN Model subcommittee had created equations assuming that RDOF would get the state closer to speed goals, we need to reassess those in terms of what the costs will now be to the State to get ubiquitous coverage.
  • We need to set a 3-bell alarm on the problem of the RDOF award.
  • All of us (providers I assume given speaker) are looking at LTD and wondering what will happen.

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