eNews: MN Monthly Recap: MN Legislature likes broadband, Feds like Broadband, all about coordination

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)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Impact of COVID-19

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative gets state grant to serve Farm Island Lake (Aitkin County)

Alexandria Lakes Area
Congrats to Alexandria Lakes Area in MN – recently named to Smart21 Communities of 2021 from ICF

Baxter
Baxter City Council will look at broadband issues during future workshop session

Beltrami, Lake Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties
FirstNet Network Expands Across Minnesota to Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties

Bemidji
Bemidji Ranked 8th Best Work-From-Home City by PC Magazine

Chisago County
Senator Mark Koran Applauds Broadband Expansion in Chisago County

Cook (City)
A look at how RDOF impacts the State Grant-funded project in Cook MN

Cook County
Northeast MN is a recruitment hot spot with beauty and broadband

Fond du Lac
Recent report on history and status of broadband in tribal areas includes Fond du Lac

Hutchinson
Hutchinson to benefit from MN Broadband grant (McLeod County)

Le Sueur County
Hear the frustration when RDOF trumps MN Border to Border grants in Le Sueur County MN

Lynd
Lynd MN getting better broadband through Woodstock’s MN Broadband grant (Lyon County)

Rice County
Two projects in Rice County get MN State grants – RDOF impact in other areas may have helped them

Rochester
Google is opening an office in Rochester MN to be close to the Mayo Clinic

Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties
Scott County Project gets MN State grant to serve part of Scott, Rice and Dakota Counties

Thief River Falls
Rep Fischbach visits Thief River Falls – talks about importance of broadband (Pennington County)

Upper Minnesota Valley
UMVRDC members say broadband is Number two issue for the area

Wilkin County
Senator Klobuchar talks to schools near Wilkin County MN about the broadband issue, especially during pandemic

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Part One

For rural community broadband champions, pursuing better broadband has never been more complicated.  Factors that currently have me thinking, if not stumped include:

  • RDOF
    • 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?
  • Starlink
    • 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?
  • DSL
    • 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.

Part Two

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!

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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