Second looks at the Minnesota Broadband Ranking
In April we took a look at how local broadband proponents can use the Minnesota Broadband Rankings:
- What can we learn from 2020 MN Broadband County Rankings
- County Broadband Profiles and County Rankings as tools for Preparing for broadband grants
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)
- Senators Duckworth and Bruce Anderson talk about passing Agriculture, Broadband, and Housing bill
- MRBC Update: Senate Passes Broadband Package ($110 million)
- MRBC Update: House Passes Broadband Funding
- MN House passes Agriculture Omnibus with only $25 million for broadband
- MN House says $25M for broadband MN Senate says $110M
- MRBC gives CALL TO ACTION: House Lowers Broadband Funding to $25 Million
- $100 million for broadband in MN House became $25 million
- MRBC Update: Legislature Returns Tomorrow, Where Does Broadband Stand?
- Jayesun Sherman running for State Representative in SW MN – broadband makes his shortlist
- How Minnesota can prepare for Digital Equity Act funding
- House and Senate Republican Commerce Committee Leaders Share Broadband Program Priorities with NTIA
- Wisconsin Governor sees that the devil is in the details of Broadband funding policies
- Wisconsin wary of giving state funding to big broadband providers who already have federal funding
- Three data points to help plan for IIJA broadband funding
- Ready or not applications for state broadband funding are open May 16
- Average US Pay TV Customer Is Paying $204 a Month for Broadband and Video Entertainment
- FCC announces latest RDOF winners including Halstad, Red River Rural Telephone and Wikstrom in MN
- Collocating broadband and powerlines study in MN seems positive
- FirstNet, Built with AT&T is Connecting More First Responders Across Minnesota
- The US is quietly paying millions to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine, contrary to SpaceX claims
- How at the MN CAF II funded providers doing with deployments? It varies
- Broadband over copper will not be retired before the end of the decade
- Amazon launching satellites for “fast, affordable” broadband
Local Broadband News
Cloquet Broadband Committee recommends partnership with CTC
Dakota County Broadband Survey – take it or learn from it
Duluth hires EntryPoint to look at fiber open access models
Hennepin County and Minnetrista partner for Midco Broadband Expansion
Hutchinson Area Leaders meet with DEED to talk broadband (McLeod 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 looks at $300,000 of ARP funding for broadband
Le Sueur County Broadband Fair – well attended, good questions and tour of local wellness center
Lincoln County students learn about downsides of Internet and Social media
Fiber coming to Mankato, North Mankato and Eagle Lake (Blue Earth, Nicollet, and Le Sueur counties)
Willmar City Council looking at fiber to industrial park with VIBRANT
Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources
- EVENT May 24-25: Telehealth Everywhere hosted by gpTRAC
- EVENT July 26: Midwest Peering Summit
- RESOURCE: The Institute for Local Self Reliance creates Digital Equity Fact Sheet Series
- RESOURCE: Helpful Instructions to Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program
- OPPORTUNITY: MN Broadband Coalition looking for new lobbyist at end of session
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!