MN Broadband Task Force Feb 2021 Mtg Notes: Leg updated, Electric Coops and American Connection

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met online today. I have recorded the session below. It requires quite a MacGuvyer setup, which means the sound quality can be less than perfect but here it is. (I’ll post a picture for your amusement.)

They got an update on various bills that have been introduced in Minnesota:

  • HF686/SF1304 – Existing easements held by rural electric cooperatives to be used to provide broadband service authorization
  • HF14/SF22 – Broadband grant program money transfer deposit authorization ($120M from Senate & House)
  • SF945 – Broadband grant program funds transfer- to be heard in Senate on Wed at 3pm
  • SF946 – Broadband grant program funds transfer ($120M plus $50M for unserved areas and requiring less match)
  • SF1186 – Broadband grant program appropriation

Task Force member Brian Krambeer talked about his work at MiEnergy and how and why a electric cooperative might get into proving service. At a high level the answer is twofold: the infrastructure makes providing services easier and their customers want/need it. As he pointed out, providing broadband is a treat; they are bringing services to people who thought they might have to move to get the broadband they need.

The Task Force heard about the work of American Connection a collaboration of 143 organizations (including Land o’Lakes) committed to promoting:

  • Robust investment in broadband at a federal level
  • Federal coordination of that investment working with state and local resources
  • Better mapping

The have done a lot as corporate citizens to get broadband to rural areas, especially during the pandemic. There membership is responsible for 2,900 free hotspots in 49 states. That night look like Land o’Lakes installing a wifi spot in their parking lot for neighbors to access. One of the things that has surprised them is the lack of rural readiness to react to federal opportunities.

Finally the Task Force talked about how they would work in 2021 and the subcommittees that they would form. Many members were interested in being involved in multiple subcommittees – but learned that when too many join any one committee it triggers the need to adhere to open meeting regulations, which means they would have to invite the public in and at least share notes after the fact. The image below outlines their proposed committees and topics based on response form the last meeting.

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