MN Broadband Task Force Nov 2021 – update on regional meetings and draft recommendations

The Task Force heard from Benya Kraus about the regional meetings that led up to the statewide regional meetings. She outlines what folks on the ground were saying and made some recommendations for the state and for the task force to help move broadband forward. Then the task force subcommittees talked about their various recommendations. (You can see them in the draft report.)

It will be interesting to see how the subcommittees compromise on some of the recommendations. At a super high level here are a few topics:

Speed goals: some folks want to change the goal; some do not

  • Unserved/underserved: most folks seem to want to focus on grants for unserved over underserved
  • Geographic distribution: grants need to be evenly distributed based on geography – most folks want to change that
  • Grant match: right now the grant requires a 50 percent match – but as the focus is on hardest to reach places, most folks want to see less match required

Those recommendations would require legislative changes.

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from October 5, 2021 Meeting

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

  • Hiring 2 positions
  • Capital projects funds – working on getting the application together
  • Looking for answers to FAQs about Capital projects fund – especially waiting to hear about conflicts with RDOF
  • ReConnect funding is open
  • No news on a potential session

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Regional Gatherings Overview – Benya Kraus, Executive Director, Lead for America

An update of the Regional meetings. Some local themes:

  • Bring trusted providers together
  • Explore the broad continuum of public-private partnerships
  • Coordinate a statewide PR campaign on the importance of broadband, similar to the saturation and effectiveness of the veterans billboard strategy
  • Digital Literacy Investment

How can we get there?

  • Cultivate local champions
  • Frequent and digestible funding updates
  • Cross County Coordination on projects
  • Adaptive funding mechanisms that incentivize providers

10:45 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal

Questions/Comments

  • Should we ask providers to measure reliability?
  • We will want to reconcile overlap in recommendations between subcommittee.
  • If we want to change the speed goals, let’s just say it. Although I don’t want to change it. People won’t get service faster if we change the speed goals.
  • If we say broadband needs to be 100/100 or nothing people will get nothing.

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education

Questions/Comments

  • Do we think we should send recommendations straight to the department?
  • Might be nice to include info on what it takes to deploy 100/100 Mbps.

11:45 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding

Questions/Comments

  • We should focus on unserved areas. Other agencies might be looking at the federal broadband dollars.
  • The legislators may balk at future funding – especially if we are asking them to provider “ perrier” style broadband versus tap water variety.
  • We need legislators to make some changes to the grants if we want changes.
  • The state speed goals for 2026 are 100/20 – so maybe that’s the new definition for unserved?
  • We are not going to meet the 2022 speed goals of ubiquitous 25/3
  • We need to remove the caveat that says we need geographic distribution of grant funds – some areas need more – we need legislative change to do that.
  • We’ve seen legislators try to add broadband projects in bills – especially with some suggestions to offer rebates to satellite users. Maybe we need to work with legislators now to get changes that make sense.
  • With pandemic related delays in supplies, we are looking at later build outs no matter what we do.

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

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

What are thoughts on sending a letter to the Governor asking to tap into the $180 million in federal funding for broadband?
The decision is to do it

 

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