MN Broadband Task Force Aug 2022: tour of OBD mapping tool

The Broadband Task Force met this morning. They got updates from the Office of Broadband Development and a tour of their online interactive mapping tool. They also heard from Scott Marquardt from the Southwest Initiative Foundation. He noted that the top concerns in his area are: housing, childcare and broadband.

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 13, 2022 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Economic Development and Broadband Deployment in Greater MN
Scott Marquardt, Southwest Initiative Foundation

  • Pre-pandemic: our biggest issues by far: housing childcare and broadband
  • We have the largest number of Business loans ever, which means businesses want to expand. Broadband can foster economic activity.
  • Suggested reading IEDC How Economic Developers are Expanding Broadband Access
  • Site selection is important to our communities and broadband is an important aspect of site selection.
    • 51 percent of site selectors said their businesses are looking to move from cities to suburbs and rural areas – but they need broadband, childcare and housing.
    • 83 percent found remote access was important in site selection
    • Our 10 year plan is not possible without broadband investments
  • We will miss the work of the Blandin Foundation in the Broadband world – hopefully other sources can help meet the need

Q: What kind of businesses are getting loans?
A: Great diversity – from manufacturing to hospitality, barber shops, social enterprises and more.
Q: Any creative community partners?
A: ABE, church community…

10:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Bernadine Joselyn, Outgoing Member of Task Force
Blandin has decided to sunset their broadband work and eliminated the programs. It has been important to be in a position to know what’s happening on the frontlines. Blandin has done a good job setting up tools and infrastructure that help build better broadband. As a Task Force, we’ve seen changes – we know the importance of ongoing investment. Now that the State have funding coming in, the Task Force needs to make sure we maximize public investment for the long term. As a State we need to be ambitious in our aspirations.

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Office of Broadband Development
Diane Wells, Deputy Director

  • They have $95M for grants and got requests totally $192M – that may sound low but that’s in part because we have a $5 million cap and will only cover up to 50 percent; challenges are due Sep8
  • BEAD application is in. We hear from NTIA is going to be closer to $650 million. But the guestimate to get broadband to everyone is $5575 per household for 297,000 unserved homes – that means $1.6billion
  • Digital Equity plan – we have about a year to do that. Hannah Buckland has been hired as Digital Equity Lead
  • Capital Project Funding is still out there – it will include the low density pilot project and line extension program
  • Executive Director hiring is in process – we’re hoping September

Q: BEAD sounds like there will be a lot of regulatory reporting – any feedback?
A: No. We’re looking more at working with Treasury first. And we’re probably a year out from anything happening with BEAD.
Q: With the funding – any thought of running more than one program per year
A: Yes, we will roll out second round ASAP
Q: When do you think you’ll hear from NTIA about digital equity?
A: After late September

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Minnesota Broadband Map
Jennifer Frost, Grant Administrator, Office of Broadband Development
Jenn gave a tour that you can watch in the video
Q: Are we worried about the proposed FCC maps?
A: There is a place on our maps where people can verify an address and report anomalies.

11:45 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. Affordability and Adoption Sub-Group
Met Aug 19. Talked about funding issues. Recognized the importance of hearing from Hannah Buckland. We want to make everyone aware of the broadband they have and how to make the best use. How can we support Hannah? Trying to find a way to fill in the space left by Bernadine. We talked about the Affordability programs and how to get the word out. We’d like to learn more about telehealth. How can providers work with digital equity folks?

11:50 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. Funding, Mapping and Usage Sub-Group
Have not met. But while on the road, I heard a lot of questions about broadband. There’s some concern about FCC mapping and funding criteria.

11:55 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Update
Teddy Bekele, Chair, Minnesota Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
They’ll be using the same writing process as last year for the annual report.

12:15 p.m. – 12:20 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, September 29 Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

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 (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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