eNews: MN Monthly Recap May 2022: Legislative updates & County ranking usages

Second looks at the Minnesota Broadband Ranking

In April we took a look at how local broadband proponents can use the Minnesota Broadband Rankings:

MN Broadband Task Force April 2022 notes: Funding Options

In April, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force learned about broadband funding opportunities coming up in the months ahead.

Many Minnesotans thankful for broadband – many still need it

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Cloquet
Cloquet Broadband Committee recommends partnership with CTC

Dakota County
Dakota County Broadband Survey – take it or learn from it

Duluth
Duluth hires EntryPoint to look at fiber open access models

Hennepin County
Hennepin County and Minnetrista partner for Midco Broadband Expansion

Hutchinson
Hutchinson Area Leaders meet with DEED to talk broadband (McLeod County)

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County spends almost $500,000 on ARPA on broadband in Hawick and around Long Lake

Greater Minnesota Partnership visits Kandiyohi County to talk about rural needs – such as broadband

Lakeville
Lakeville looks at $300,000 of ARP funding for broadband

Le Sueur
Le Sueur County Broadband Fair – well attended, good questions and tour of local wellness center

Lincoln
Lincoln County students learn about downsides of Internet and Social media

Mankato
Fiber coming to Mankato, North Mankato and Eagle Lake (Blue Earth, Nicollet, and Le Sueur counties)

Willmar
Willmar City Council looking at fiber to industrial park with VIBRANT

Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

The opportunity for great broadband all across Minnesota – Border to Border – is upon us due to federal funding.  The question for us all is “Are we prepared to maximize the long-term value of these pending investments?”  Personally, I don’t think so.  Instead, I fear that the state will continue to fund seemingly random projects with little regard for a systematic approach to the goal.

When I work with communities – whether tribal governments, counties, economic regions or townships – time is invested in coming to consensus on community vision, and then developing strategies to achieve that vision. Vision and strategy elements might include symmetrical services, affordability, reliability and customer service.  Communities are also focused on having at least one provider that is ready to be a great community and economic development partner.  I have seen time after time where these compelling visions and smart strategies have resulted in countywide fiber to the home networks that provides a platform for long-term community vitality.  Or, at a minimum, a planned approach leading to significant progress towards the vision.

There are many states that are actually taking the lead in broadband planning and development.  Recent examples include a 38-county consortium in California that is partnering with Utopia to build a rural open-access fiber network.  Vermont is all-in on Communications Union Districts.  New Mexico is partnering with community-focused broadband providers on a statewide broadband network (MN already has this through the Aurora network assembled by community-oriented providers).  These are great examples of state leadership which we have not seen here in Minnesota.  The Governor’s Broadband Task Force Report focuses on almost exclusively on maps and grant details with no regard to vision.  Frankly, when I hear about the “Minnesota broadband model”, I am thinking that we have a Model T rather than a state-of-the-art Tesla.

Minnesota has created and relied on an inconsistently funded broadband grant program as its primary broadband development strategy.  The approved grants cover the gamut in terms of geographic size and amount, thus leaving pockets of adjacent, unserved residents with no promise of improved service in the future.  In the last funding round, projects with projected upload speeds of 20 Mbps were funded which are guaranteed to not meet tomorrow’s needs.

Minnesota’s application to the US Treasury for the Capital Funds has not been made public, but I assume it mirrors the current Border to Border Grant Program.  The upcoming BEAD application process represents the last, best chance for Minnesota to develop a broadband vision and strategy that helps Minnesota achieve the vision created through a collaborative process at the 2015 Minnesota Border to Border Conference: “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable, world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”  The BEAD application process is a great opportunity for Minnesota to use the BEAD process to update this vision AND develop smart strategies to achieve the vision.  Community broadband champions know what’s best for their communities and regions and have great ideas on how to achieve the vision often accumulated through years of effort.  Let’s not miss this opportunity!

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN 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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