MN Broadband Task Force final meeting: Legislative update, details on federal funds, hopes for future

Today was the final meeting of this iteration of the MN Broadband Task Force. There was a lot of gratitude for everyone involved and a hope that efforts to get broadband broadband to everyone continues. There is a concern that policymaker and community leaders think that the federal funding will provide a fix to everyone. But it’s not enough money and that money is still years away.

Full notes:

Welcome, Task Force Introductions, and Approval of Minutes from February 22 meeting – Teddy Bekele, Chair, Minnesota Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

Welcome from Comcast – Kalyn Hove, Regional Senior Vice President, Midwest Region

  • 1000 employees in MN – serve nearly 1 million customers
  • Working on digital equity
  • 200 tech makeover for small businesses and supporting businesses in need
  • Set up lift zones for folks to access broadband during COVID
  • $473 million invested in broadband in MN in last 4 years

Q: What is your footprint in MN?
Our footprint is mostly in the TCs. We’re recently branched to Minnetonka. We primarily focus on our own footprint. We don’t serve the Iron Range but hopefully with the federal funds you will find someone who will.
Q: Has there been a change in offering since COVID?
We do offer FTTH. We mostly install 10G fiber. There’s always new play. We had 13 competitors 5 years ago and now there are 72.

10:15 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. Legislative Update – Deven Bowdry, Government Relations Coordinator for DEED

Broadband is not likely to pass as a stand alone. It is part of the Ag Omnibus. Now we wait for Senate, House and Gov to come to an agreement. Details in the slides below or online.

10:20 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. Office of Broadband Development Update – Bree Maki, Executive Director

  • We have been going to meetings in various regions (regional township meetings)
  • We have collateral you can use with your constituents
  • We are looing to hire more people – soon looking of 4 new people
  • 1700 people have applied for Line Extension – soft deadline in May. Also these folks may or may not qualify but it’s nice to see people getting engaged. We update our maps every week so it’s a change for providers to find pockets to potentially filled
  • We are looking at Border to Border grant applications now. We had 20 applications for $80 million
  • Task Force applications for the next iteration are still open

Info from Hannah Buckland

  • They have 98 Digital Connection Committees registered – that will form basis for State digital equity plan
  • They had 70 applications for grants

Q: Region 9 wants to know if there will be regional meetings or conferences?
We’re trying. They will be at Region 9’s annual meeting

Q How is the grant prioritizing going?
We’re in the challenge process now – then staff needs to go through ranking. Hoping for late spring announcements.

Q: Any challenges with FCC maps?
We have submitted one challenge and working with Connected Nation

10:40 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. NTIA update – Tom Karst, Federal Program Officer, Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth

  • On June 30 – they will use FCC maps to figure out how much money each state gets
  • Oct 2027 – funding must be spent
  • There’s a preference for fiber – but room for other options when fiber isn’t available
  • Match 25 percent is minimal – in kind match helps

Q: What’s happening with individual map challenges?
Nation-wide there is a decent amount of challenges. Just because a challenge is rejected, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been challenged.

Q: Bois Forte got $19.8 M grant – when will they be released?
Not sure.

11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. National Skills Coalition Digital Equity Presentation – Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Senior Fellow, National Skills Coalition

Q: Are employers willing to build skills?
Some will; some won’t.

11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. “Around the Table -Thoughts of Wisdom” from the outgoing Task Force members

Comments in aggregate

  • Productive to have one goal
  • Productive to have subcommittees
  • Disappointed to didn’t get more funding
  • Mourning the loss of Blandin Foundation support
  • Need to collect personal stories
  • Need to improve task force diversity
  • Need better onboarding of new members
  • There’s still a lot of work to do
  • The struggles in rural MN are real
  • Don’t give up – keep up the work
  • Glad to branch out to use but need to remember access too
  • Help people understand what’s being done
  • Sad that the Broadband Coalition less active
  • Missed having a day on the hill
  • There’s a rural-urban divide
  • More state money has gone into broadband in the last 3 years
  • Recommendation to have a blend of online or offline only meetings
  • Let’s do one more call out to the Legislature – we cannot lose a construction season – or two!

2 thoughts on “MN Broadband Task Force final meeting: Legislative update, details on federal funds, hopes for future

  1. Unfortunately the task force is not able to convince the legislature to meet the goals it set for itself in 2010. Then today we hear Tom Karst tell us the BEAD Program will connect everyone by 2027, what a laugher.

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