MN PUC broadband update – is consumer protection is the next essential piece of the Minnesota model?

Today the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) heard from key players about what’s happening with broadband nationally and locally…

Broadband Updates from

  1. Broadband and Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Updates (15 min) – Diane Wells, Manager, Office of Broadband Development – Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
  2. Future for Broadband Expansion (5-10 min) – Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation
  3. Trends in Voice Telephone Subscriptions (5-10 min) – Katherine Blauvelt, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Energy Resources

Diane gave a great outline on the history of broadband funding and the blue print of funding coming in now and likely in the future. Bernadine spoke about the many assets Minnesota has to help deploy and support better broadband. Katherine had charts that showed the decline in wireline phones (landlines and VoIP) and increase in wireless phones.

There were a lot of examples of what has gone well and a few criticisms were shared – about the CAF and RDOF processes. CAF speed goals were too low and the FCC only worked with folks they knew. RDOF short form did not gather enough information and the long form doesn’t address capacity of a provider to be successful. With more money coming in for broadband than we’ve ever seen there’s a strong desire to do things right and that might mean greater local oversight.

There was also discussion on various modes of broadband – wired, wireless, cable, satellite, DSL… It’s confusing, especially to the consumer. Someone lifted the definition to “connection”. People don’t care how it gets done, they care about connection and they care about quality. It seemed like there is an opening for a group like the PUC to step in to help with some of the local oversight, especially with their strong focus and tradition on the needs of the consumers. (I didn’t realize that the PUC used to oversee highways, beef and wheat!)

Maybe consumer protection is the next essential piece of the Minnesota model and making the most of the investment that’s about to happen here.

A couple of years ago, the PUC held a number of listening sessions for Frontier customers. They only regulate phones but they let folks talk about internet too because it is hard for the consumer to separate the services. I was at a few of those meetings, I don’t think they could have stopped them with their stories either way. Today a Commission was remembering the frustration in those rooms and musing that there is nowhere to go with broadband complaints. There really isn’t but maybe it’s time!

Blandin shared the following with the PUC members to view in their own time…

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 (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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