MN DEED announces 2020 broadband grant recipients – RDOF impacts awards
The Office of Broadband announces the recipients of latest round of broadband grants. Awards of $20 million in state funding led to $45 million total investment for projects. They received 64 applications and funded 39 projects. The announcement is controversial because 10 applications were taken out of the mix because those projects are located in areas that are now potentially eligible for federal funding (RDOF).
2020 Minnesota Broadband Task Force report is out!
Here are the recommendations:
- Continue to fund the Broadband Grant Program at a biennial amount of $120 million from the base budget each year.
- Give the Office of Broadband Development an appropriation of $700,000 per biennium from the base budget.
- Create an Office of Broadband operating annual fund of $1.5 million to promote broadband adoption and use and redress digital inequity.
- Convene a working group comprised of all state agencies relating to broadband construction permitting to streamline the process, both in time to issue the permits as well as the permit application process.
- Investigate greater oversight of railroad facilities by the Office of Pipeline Safety.
Also the Task Force met to talk about their plans for 2021.
Gov budgets $50M for broadband House & Senate look at $120M
Governor Walz released his budget for the next biennium. It includes $50 million for the MN broadband grants – for the first year of the biennium (2022). The MN House introduced a bill for $120 million over the biennium; as did the Senate.
Frontier and CenturyLink “may not” meet CAF II deployment deadlines
The CAF II program awarded funding to the nation’s larger carriers to bring broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. Frontier accepted $283 million in funding annually and CenturyLink accepted $514 million annually. Both have reported that they “may not” have made deployment deadlines for 2020.
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Letter to Editor supports Rep. Rob Ecklund’s and Sen. Tom Bakk’s bid for broadband funding in Minnesota
- Telehealth & 911 Telecom bills introduced in MN House (HF340, HF511, HF515)
- Senator Tom Bakk lists legislative priorities including broadband (International Falls)
- Senator Aric Putnam highlights need for broadband (St Cloud)
- Lunch Bunch on Digital Use and Equity Archive: Share a success story
- MN House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee hears from Telecom folks
- MN House committee discusses $120 million for broadband – hear concern about federal investment
- Annual FCC Broadband Deployment Report – MN fares well for 25/3 speeds
- Rep Tim Lippert lists top DFL priorities – including $120 million for broadband
- MN HF31: $300,000 for telework is introduced
- MN HF14: $120 million for broadband grants is introduced
- MN HF1 Economic Assistance including for broadband is introduced
- Legislative updates around Wadena with political reps includes broadband
- MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: $120 million Broadband Bills Introduced in House, Senate
Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- National Congress of American Indians outlines specific broadband recommendations for Biden Administration
- Business Roundtable has six tech recommendations for Biden Administration
- Telecom industry wants Federal broadband initiatives to support training
- State of Broadband in US (Q4, 2020): tracking access and affordability
- Top Broadband Brass in Biden Administration: Girl Power
- Senators Klobuchar and Smith and 151 others ask FCC to look carefully at RDOF applications
- What are WI and IA doing about broadband? Governors are pledging $200M and $450M
- NDIA Community Call – hot topic is federal funding
- Federal stimulus will help pay internet bills and boost broadband access across Minnesota
- FCC 10th Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report
- FCC Seeks Public Input On New $3.2 Billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
- Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 Update from NDIA
Impact of COVID-19
- Keller and Heckman’s Overview of Broadband Funding Opportunities in the COVID-19 Relief Act
- Federal funds going to telehealth tools to help at-risk native elders
- Rep Deb Kiel (Crookston) will be looking to extend telehealth support beyond COVID
- Minnesota Farm Bureau recognizes COVID’s role in making broadband essential in Minnesota
Local Broadband News
Kandiyohi County (MN) is looking for more fiber in 2021
Senator Klobuchar talks to Northern MN – broadband comes up
Pine and Carlton Counties
Pine and Carlton County residents run into troubles trying to stay connected
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- Feb 2: Women in Ag Network sixth annual conference
- Feb 3: Public Good App House: Apps that Address Food Insecurity
- Feb 4: MN Rural Broadband Coalition Meeting
- Feb 10 Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Feb Topics: Talking with MN Leg
- Feb 12: Deadline to Nominate 2021 Digital Equity Champion!
- Feb 17: 5 Tech4Good Trends for Nonprofits in 2021
- Feb 17: Data as the Foundation for Broadband Planning
- Feb 24 Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Feb Topics: Digital Navigators
- Free WiFi Access Points
- Minnesota speed tests. Time to take a test! OPPORTUNITY (to take a survey!): Community broadband, COVID-19, and economic development
- OPPORTUNITY: ILSR is hiring a Broadband Writer and Researcher
- OPPORTUNITY: NDIA Job Description for Deputy Director
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
Broadband funding is already included and will be expanded in future pandemic and economic stimulus packages. I expect that there will be significant funding linked to both telehealth and distance learning programs. Minnesotans should be getting ready now to win these funds for infrastructure and adoption projects, but I don’t see anyone leading an effort!
For middle mile infrastructure, the Northeast Service Cooperative serves as a model. Schools are linked via a multi-Gigabit network as are local units of government and health care providers. As an open access fiber network, NESC eases competitive entry for small and large broadband providers to deliver Gigabit services anywhere in the region. Thanks to the vision of NESC’s leadership, the project was funded through Obama stimulus programs. The benefits of the network are adding up with untapped exponential potential in future years. Minnesota needs more of this.
The need for and benefits of last mile high-speed connections are now obvious. What was innovative ten months ago is now commonplace, but only for the well-connected. The 25/3 federal standard and 2022 Minnesota goal have been overtaken by the need for multiple video conference feeds. Internet-based health, education, work and social interaction will continue in a post-COVID 19 world. Minnesota broadband providers should be working with social service agencies and health care providers to substitute patient transport costs for fiber networks and broadband subscriptions. Just one quick Google search found evidence that documented a savings of $3823 from one avoided ambulance transfer (Natafgi, Shane, etal. 2018).
We now have multiple regions with nearly 100% FTTH networks from providers like Paul Bunyan, CTC, WCTA, Acira and other cooperatives. There are growing pockets of FTTH from HBC, Arvig, BEVComm, Metronet and other providers. Are schools and health care providers making full use of these network assets, thus making themselves more attractive to new residents and businesses? Cross-sector, public-private regional teams need to create projects that could be funded by the whole alphabet soup of federal agencies for health care, education, workforce development, economic development, and public safety.
The time to do that is now! Anyone going to lead on this?