MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Oct 2021: Ag, Feder funding and policy recommendation brainstorming

Today Task Force heard from a farmer in the field who spoke about how he used technology and broadband on his dairy farm. He used fixed wireless and wasn’t sure of his speeds but he did remember that looked at boosting them when someone needed to have access to 50 Mbps down and 10 up to work from home at Mayo Clinic.

Dianne Wells gave an update on Office of Broadband Development and the what’s happening with various federal funding programs. There are two concerns for folks. First, state grant funding is reliant on the state getting Capital Project Funds. It seems likely that they would but the process is taking a long time and in the meantime, folks without access are suffering. Another concern is the uncertainty surrounding RDOF areas – communities in areas where RDOF is looking to fund someone to provide broadband but where the community isn’t confident in the FCC’s choice. Sounds like the FCC is indicating that those communities to reapply for funding through the state. If they state chooses them, then they can check back to see if there’s a conflict with RDOF grants. The feds don’t’ want to fund the same area twice – I think it’s a matter or which federal funding might go through first – but I’m reading a lot into it.

Next the Task Force reported back on subcommittees’ recommendations. I think the conversations moving forward will be interesting.  On group is pushing for faster speed goals and moving forward to expectations. Another group is looking to hold back speed goals and funding until only (and all of) the least served communities will get funding. There was talk about lowering the expectations for these communities.

See more complete notes…

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from September 15, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update

  • The OBD has RFP due Oct 27.
  • They are looking to hire for 2 positions
  • They have been going through the Treasury’s take on Capital Project Funds

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  The Importance of Broadband to Agriculture with Mike Johnson, Trailside Holsteins

  • Broadband makes it easier to spend time with family
  • Cow manager uses an ear tag to monitor cows
  • Dairy comp is like a customer management database for cows – tracks all interactions
  • Use a tool to track milk quantities and temperature
  • Mile program helps feed cows
  • Barriers to use include broadband and cost
  • A neighbor needs 50/10 to work from home at Mayo Clinic

10:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Overview of Treasury Guidance for Capital Projects Funding (OBD)

  • Will fund 100/100 for most areas
  • There’s a loophole to allow for 100/20 when 100/100 is difficult
  • Affordability is q requirement
  • Communities in RDOF areas *may* be eligible for fed capital project funds managed by State BUT the FCC will have final word on whether funds conflict

11:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal

  • Continue to fund maps
  • Work with providers to get better maps
  • State funded crowd-souring maps
  • Border to Border grants should fund programs ready to go at 100/100 – not just scalable.
  • Money for broadband adoption
  • Redress supply chain shortages with bulk buying or training a new tech workforce

11:20 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Break

11:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education

  • Broadband maps aren’t accurate
  • We need statewide leadership in education tech at MDE
  • Invest in adoption – such as digital navigators
  • Broadband funds for schools as expenses are continually increasing
  • Make gov websites more access (ADA)

11:50 a.m. – 12:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding

  • Currently 140,000 unserved locations
  • Keep the state speed goals the same until everyone has caught up
  • Only fund unserved areas
  • Forget about geographic distribution of funds
  • Get ride of the scalable to 100/100 requirement
  • Give less money to communities that choose wireless solutions

12:10 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Next Steps for Subgroups

12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, November Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

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