MN Legislature looks at funds for Broadband Grants
The House has a bill to fund the Border to Border grants at $120 million for the biennium. The Senate has three bills related to broadband funding: one for $120 million for grants, one for $150 million ($30 million for unserved areas) for grants and options for lower match requirements and a bill for $50 million for mapping. The Governor has mentioned $50 million in 2022 for broadband grants.
MN Broadband Task Force: Leg updated, Electric Coops and American Connection
The Task Force learned about recent broadband bills in Minnesota, electric cooperatives and American Connection, a collaboration that promotes broadband investment at the federal level. They also talked about subcommittees, which take responsibility for leading the effort to set recommendations in the annual report.
State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Senator Goggin supports funding to expand high-speed internet access in Greater Minnesota
- Senator Rich Draheim pushes for expanded rural broadband
- Senator Mark Koran pushes for expanded rural broadband
- MN legislature introduces bill that allows developers to bypass App Store billing
- Sen. Rarick pushes for expanded rural broadband
- MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: February Budget Forecast and More
- Mankato Free Press looks at various Broadband bills and issues
- MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: Senate Hears Broadband Bills
- New Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity support policies, including broadband
- MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: Broadband Bills at the Legislature
- MN House introduces two bills to expand coverage of telehealth (HF1411 and HF1412)
- MN Senate introduces SF1253 a bill to prohibit social media bans
- Minnesota customer (and Communications Workers of America Local 7270) ask PUC to hold Frontier accountable
- R Street gives Minnesota a B for broadband
- How LTD Broadband plans to meet RDOF requirements
- MN House: Bill introduced to limit screen time for young kids HF570
- Sen Westrom introduces MN Broadband grant bills: $120M for biennium (SF945 & SF946)
- MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: Additional Broadband Funding Bills Introduced in Senate
- Could Amnesty Program for Over-Zealous RDOF Winners help rural Minnesota?
- MinnPost on the Broadband situation at the MN Legislature: COVID boosts need for speed
- Bill extending Rural Electric Coops easements to broadband introduced in MN House (HF686)
- Federal Reserve Bank tells MN Legislators to work on vaccinations, child care, broadband and wages
Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)
- Christopher Ali outlines broadband options for rural areas
- How can Minnesotans get in line for the new federal broadband discounts? Let’s figure it out together
- FCC adopts federal broadband discount program: up to $50/month, $75/month on tribal lands and $100 for device
- Broadband, phone and affordability report finds that monthly costs can be 10 percent of budget
- House Republicans introduce legislation to ban on municipal broadband in the US
- Senator Klobuchar thinks there may be more federal funding for broadband even beyond pandemic
- Study shows digital needs of women experiencing homelessness
- The 411 on the proposed Sec. 230 rewrite (trying to rein in social media)
- Senator Klobuchar Introduces Sweeping Bill to Promote Competition and Improve Antitrust Enforcement
Impact of COVID-19
- MN Dep of Human Services reports on increased telehealth in 2020 and lessons learned
- HealthPartners surpasses 1 million video visits in MN since COVID-19 began
- COVID relief for emergency rental assistance – broadband relief is acceptable use
- Minnesota Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment Report (including COVID impact)
- College students need broadband and connection with teacher
- BCBS extend telehealth coverage through 2021
- Report shows MN one of few states with telehealth insurance payment parity
- Do data caps during a pandemic make the case for symmetrical broadband?
- Senators Klobuchar & Capito Introduce Legislation to Increase Seniors’ Virtual Connection to Health Care and Community Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic
Local Broadband News
Beltrami, Lake Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties
FirstNet Network Expands Across Minnesota to Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties
Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties
Scott County Project gets MN State grant to serve part of Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties
Upper Minnesota Valley
UMVRDC members say broadband is Number two issue for the area
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- EVENT Mar 4: K&H Telecom Series: How to Take Advantage of Recently Enacted Broadband Grant and Subsidy Programs, and What’s on the Horizon
- EVENT: March 10 Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch – Infrastructure, Benefits of publicly-owned broadband networks
- EVENT: March 24 Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch – Digital Use & Equity
Smart tactics for cities, suburbs and town (Get a sneak preview from local experts at Smart North)
- EVENT Wednesdays: Net Inclusion 2021 Webinar Series
- EVENT(April 21-22): Rural Assembly Everywhere: The Road to Repair
- OPPORTUNITY: Libraries without Borders need a Technology and Design Manager
- OPPORTUNITY: Regional leaders gather to imagine a broadband-fueled economy
- OPPORTUNITY: Dakota Broadband Board RFI for broadband support
- OPPORTUNITY: MN Safe Learning Survey
- OPPORTUNITY: Red Wing Ignite E1 Ignite Cup 2021
- OPPORTUNITY: Smart North looking to help MN communities be smarter
- OPPORTUNITY: Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector – sign up to get on the list
- OPPORTUNITY: Bemidji’s 218 Relocate campaign calls and rewards new telecommuters to the area
- OPPORTUNITY: Governor’s Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles
- (Past Event) Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Digital Navigators: Archive
- (Past Event) February Broadband Infrastructure Lunch Bunch-“Talking with Legislators” notes
Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman
For rural community broadband champions, pursuing better broadband has never been more complicated. Factors that currently have me thinking, if not stumped include:
- Will the winning RDOF bidder be approved by the FCC?
- If yes, what will their buildout schedule look like till 2027?
- Will they build-out the adjacent non-RDOF areas?
- Will Starlink maintain the 100 Mb+ speeds once they move from beta to large customer numbers?
- Will they be able to deliver, as promised, to 300 Mb and beyond?
- How will low-income households afford $500 or more in upfront costs?
- Will other DSL providers follow ATT’s lead and phase out DSL services?
- Will the majority of rural DSL customers ever see widespread speeds that support multiple users?
We should know more about some of these questions soon; other will emerge more slowly.
The 1996 Telecom Act was supposed to spur competition, but we are going backwards. In many communities, from affluent suburbs to small rural communities, residents are effectively subject to the services, pricing and responsiveness of an unregulated monopoly provider. Community leaders need to decide whether this is that a good thing.
The costs to build a fiber infrastructure in a community are low for a 30-year asset. Community broadband advocates should analyze the multiple options for creating community-owned networks and promote them to elected officials. Locally-owned networks serve the community as their first priority.
We are going to talk public ownership models at our Blandin Lunch Bunch on March 10 at noon. Sign up here: https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/broadband/blandin-community-broadband-program-webinar-series/ . We will discuss at least a couple models. Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance will join the conversation.
Ammon ID (https://www.ammonfiber.com) is building and maintaining its own fiber network where residents now have their choice of Gigabit providers for $49.50 per month. Chattanooga TN (https://epb.com/home-store/internet) offers a Gb for $68 per month and solved its pandemic-magnified digital divide issue by simply providing free 100 Mb Internet to 28,000 students. A new study documented a $2.69 billion long-term benefit from Chattanooga’s fiber network.
We will also talk about the mixed experience of Minnesota’s publicly owned broadband networks (wonders and warts!), including Southwest MN Broadband, the Cities of Windom and Monticello and Scott and Lake Counties. And, maybe a bit on how new and expanded cooperatives might accomplish the same goals. Join us!