MN House Agriculture Finance and Policy hear about broadband and see the 2022 Broadband Task Force Report

Today the MN House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee heard presentations by the Office of Broadband Development and an overview of the Governor’s Broadband Task Force Annual Report. (You can access a better video archive of the meeting on the MN House site.)

Bree Maki spoke on what’s happening with the Office of Broadband Development. Teddy Bekele spoke about the work of the MN Broadband Task Force and their most recent annual report.

Here are the questions for the Office of Broadband Development

Q: how did you leverage federal funds?
A: With line extension and low population. We’ve always used MN funds in the past. There is an opportunity to use more federal funds. WE don’t know the allocation yet.

Q: Do we need legislation to allow better than 50 percent match?
A: yes

Q: Line extension is designed for unserved – how can they get online to register?
A: We accept paper applications and posting in local papers. WE has 540 applicants at the end of 2022.

Q: Digital equity goal is thrive – who judges?
A: WE need people to be able to use technology. We are looking to partner with folks who are doing the work.

Q: WE have $167 million to broadband to invest … how much business can the industry handle that?
A: We have providers who have been working with communities for years. They know the needs; they are ready. And rumor has it, the supply chain is opening up.

Q: Do you have numbers on grants and manufactured home communities?
A: no. But we recognize the importance.

Q: Is there a special plans for reaching manufactured home parks?
A: We are trying to be inclusive. WE have brought housing authorities into our plan.

Q: There are 540 line extension applications – how are they prioritized?
A: WE do a review every 6 months and try to match applicants with willing providers.

Q: Broadband in rural areas can be expensive  … wouldn’t satellite be a better option? I know there’s a long waiting list. Can we help people jump the queue?
A: We are technology neutral.

Q: What about metro areas? How do you reach low income neighborhoods? In a rural area I saw broadband get deployed in an Amish area and they’ll never use it. So how about urban areas?
A: We are trying to get a gauge on better maps. We do state mapping and there’s an FCC map.

For the Task Force

Q: what’s the makeup of the Task Force?
A: it is selected by the Governor and they try to keep it diverse.

Q: What about the 50 percent match? What would be a better match?
A: We’d like to give latitude to the OBD to make the judgement on a case by case basis.

Q: Are we past the turf war battle?
A: Minnesota is big with collaboration, including cooperatives. So there are more than the traditional options. It takes us all to work together. Yes there is opportunity for competitive markets.

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