Roundtable Broadband Conversation With U.S. Senator Tina Smith in Kandiyohi County

Approximately 30 people showed up today for the roundtable discussion with Senator Smith hosted by Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar EDC. The crowd included elected officials, policy makers, providers and broadband leaders. It was a nice balance of questions and answers from everyone in the room. Top concern was making it easier and quicker to get enough funding into the hands of those who could and would build long lasting broadband to the area.

Here are scattered notes (asis) from the session…

Senator Smith has been coming to talk about broadband in Kandiyohi County since she was Lt Governor.

Some CARES funding wen to broadband. The American Rescue Plan brough $2.8 billion in Minnesota; $70 million went into the MN.

Infrastructure bill $65 billion for broadband – including a minimum of $100 million for broadband.

USDA ReConnect has $1.5 billion in broadband grants and loans; they are trying to simplify the process.

$8.3 million in ARPA; committed to spending money on broadband for unserved and underserved. We want to use ARPA funding for match with the Border to Border grants. We applied for NTIA grant – but competition is tight.

We are trying to figure out if we can use wireless to get state funding because it doesn’t scale to 100/100. We are also concerned about the supply and demand issue even if we do get funding. If we are all trying to build out at the time, will we run out of supplies?

It would ne nice to have funding come through the OBD; they do a good job and we know their process as opposed to trying to complete so many applications and audits from different entities.

We are concerned with Stafford Act – we want to use various grants to match with other grants.

We are very frustrated with RDOF process. It would be nice to get the FCC to decide quickly. And/or it would be nice to have a first-served process – the first provider to actually get funding and start building gets permission in stead of thise process where people can in effect “call dibs” on certain areas.

Another concern is that LTD is in line to get funding for FTTH but they only promote satellite in our area. Satellite does not work in our areas – especially when it rains.

A few years ago, CTC tried to build FTTH with a border to border grant in county – but they need to get customer buy in and TDS campaigned their customers not to sign up. Unfortunately that meant no upgrades for the area.

We need policies that help providers work together.

The trouble with making rules that make it difficult to qualify or apply for federal funding is that means people don’t apply and then the policymakers think there is no need.

Why should we be OK with good enough broadband in rural areas?

The FCC needs be reviewed and updated to meet needs of new technology.

Starlink doesn’t work in our area – especially in the rain.

Providers would like to see federal funding get funneled through the Office of Broadband Development. That would mean an application and process that has become standard for many providers.

Providers would like to see streamlined permits especially for things like environmental studies. If another providers has recently done a study, it doesn’t make sense to do another.

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, Policy 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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