The MN Broadband Task Force Annual Report is now available. Here are their recommendations…
Recommendations – Unserved, Underserved, & Funding
(1.1 & 1.3) The total $180 million Capital Projects Fund allocated to Minnesota from the federal ARPA fund, should be allocated to OBD for funding the Border-to-Border Broadband program over the next 2-3 years to help attain broadband service for all Minnesota residents.
(1.2 & 1.3) Grant funds should first be focused on unserved areas (~171,000 households fit this category), and the definitions of ‘unserved’ & ‘underserved’ should remain unchanged as they highlight the geographic areas not meeting stated goals.
(1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5) Geographic considerations should be factored in when allocating broadband grant funds. A “one-size fits all” grant allocation will not secure service in areas of the state where a fiber/cable option is difficult or impossible:
● Unserved areas of the state that are difficult to reach due to low density, tough geography, etc. should receive a higher % of funding match from OBD to increase build out options for wireline projects/solutions
● The legislature should require all future projects funded by OBD grant dollars be capable of 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload at the time of deployment (irrespective of whether or not a provider offers a service package of 100/100), and meet network reliability requirements in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Recommendations – Mapping and Speed Goals
(2.1-2.3) Minnesota should continue to invest in improving broadband maps
● strive to achieve ISP cooperation in producing address-level or ‘shapefile’ broadband maps (rather than rely on current FCC census block data)
● include eligibility data related to the various federal programs supporting broadband infrastructure development
● OBD is encouraged to incorporate, whenever possible, data from reliable 3rd party ‘crowd-sourced’ maps when determining eligibility for Border-to-Border grants (2.4 & 2.5) The legislature should continue to make the investments from state general funds necessary to ensure that all Minnesotans, regardless of zip code, have access to broadband at speeds that meet state goals. Federal investments should not be seen as a substitute for ongoing state investment
Recommendations – Access, Affordability & Education
(3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6) Provide funding to the Office of Broadband Development to promote broadband adoption and use to redress digital inequity.
(3.2) Fully fund the Telecommunications Access Equity Aid (TEA) program (by raising the funding cap to at least $9 million) in order to allow school districts to equitably procure the internet and network bandwidth needed to fully support digital learning. This
aid program benefits school districts by making access to broadband more affordable by fully funding the eligible costs of the federal E-rate program.
(3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6) Establish and fund a position within the MN Department of Education to provide leadership and support to schools (and families) in areas of digital equity, digital literacy, funding (E-rate, etc.), cybersecurity, instructional technology and
other areas of education technology.
(3.7, 3.8) Given expressed needs from city & county leaders to expand the Lead for MN American Connection Corp fellows program (Americorp/Vista), the state should provide supplemental funding of $225,000 to support work in Minnesota communities on broadband expansion projects (15 more fellows @ $15,000 per fellow)