Today the MN Broadband Task Force met to get general updates from Office of Broadband Development and Legislature. There is clearly a concern that there are not strong advocates at the legislature despite the $276 million set in Governor’s budget. Hearing about the federal funding, it is clear that it will not come quickly but there are opportunities for local communities to get involved. For example, Region 9 is looking at hosting a broadband conference for their community.
Next meetings are Feb 22 and March 27.
Here are details.
10:00 a.m. – 10:05 a.m. – Welcome, Task Force Introductions, and Approval of Minutes from December 19 and December 22 meetings
10:05 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. – Legislative Update by Deven Bowdry, DEED
- Governor recommendation is $138Million per year for the biennium
- Bree and/or Teddy have presented to various Legislative committees
- No broadband bills yet
- Lots of new bill makers (Ecklund is gone; broadband in new committee) – so people have questions about mobile vs fiber and what speeds mean
Q: Will there be a day of the hill?
There was a one for the providers – but not others.
MN Broadband Coalition is not in a position to do a day on the hill; apparently we had a bill due but we’re trying to move forward. We need to convene a meeting. We’d like to at least have a lobby day.
10:10 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. How Can the Task Force Advocate for Broadband Funding at the Legislature? – Nathan Zacharias, Technology Policy Analyst, Association of Minnesota Counties
Tips for lobbying
- Have a factsheet (map of availability with quick facts, available federal funds, speed goals, suggested funding level)
- Get testimony and/or write letters
- Work with committee chairs when you can – also vice chairs and minority leads
Q: Can we look for better than 50 percent match? Can we figure out how much of property tax is going into Border to Border funds already?
Some folks don’t have enough of a tax base to match grants.
10:40 a.m. – 10:50 a.m. – Office of Broadband Development Update by Bree Maki, Executive Director
- Border conference 242 people in person and 193 online (registered)
- We heard from past three Task Force chairs
- We will be doing a survey to see if folks want another conference knowing that we’re missing another conference planner
10:50 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Line Extension Program Update by Bree Maki
- $15 million
- People can apply online or via paper to report their unserved address
- 856 applicants so far (in 3 months) – 53 are businesses
- Trying to connect with providers
- We think we have funds for about 600 line extensions
Q: Any consideration of accelerating the process?
Not with all of the other things are happening. For example some addresses may be served from recent grant recipients.
Q: Le Sueur is the project partner for this project. We have a lot of fiber in the ground but it’s middle mile. How can we as a county engage with the process? DO we need to rely on vendors? Can we get the addresses?
People have to register themselves. Getting the word out there is most important. We can’t share personal address info.
Q: Is the map available on the website?
Q: Is there any thought to recommend to legislature to improve on the $5 million cap and 50 percent match?
The low density pilot project is still being tested. We reach capacity even with 50 percent match so we’re hard to push on that. There is an interest in going to a $10 million cap and it sounds like folks are talking about it. There are a lot of unknowns.
An Analysis of last year’s applications to see how much of state funding was property taxes.
Association of Townships is working on this.
11:00 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Border-to-Border Grant Program Update by Diane Wells, Deputy Director, Office of Broadband Development
- Awarded $100M to 62 projects in December 2022 – leverage was $152M
- Opened the latest round of grants ($42M in ARPA and $25M State), pre-applications were due Jan 19 – applications due March 2 – hope to announce awards by late Spring
- 25-30 projects are still open
- BEAD funding – working with $5M planning grant. Five year plan due July 2023. Each state will receive at least $100M. Goals: 1: reach unserved, reach unserved, get Gig to anchor institutes. Some indication that we might get $650M total (so another extra $550M; we should know mid-June.)
- First 20 percent of funding might not be released until mid-2024. There will be 4-years for implementation.
Q: ON the maps … just heard there were one million locations added to maps? Has Connected Nation been able to see anomalies? I know of locations that are misrepresented.
Availability of service is best known by person at that location. So we asked folks to report anomalies. The FCC used a fabric developed by Costquest – one option we have is to use them to try to sync with them or we have decided to work with local source to build a map. That will help us challenge. Some providers have reported to the FCC using different methods. Without the fabric in place first, we’re at a disadvantage. We didn’t do a bulk challenges of addresses but it looks like those who did were rejected.
Q: In Le Sueur we made a push to improved maps – but we’re having trouble even getting surveys done online because the broadband is poor.
The OBD staff is all remote and many rural – they are acutely aware of issues. We hope to get more engaged to document in five year plan.
11:10 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break
11:20 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Digital Equity Update – Hannah Buckland, Digital Equity Program Lead, Office of Broadband Development
- Digital Equity Act – not BEAD – Due Nov 30, 2023 – then we send in a noncompete application.
- There are 15 aspects we need to address in the capacity grant application.
- There are opportunities for communities to get involved and for communities to get funding to get involved.
11:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. Input from Governor’s Task Force Members
Q: What can we do to push the issue at the legislature?
We could be at the legislature. Talk to legislators.
11:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, Future Speakers for February 22 and March 27, 2023 Meetings, Wrap-up