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.

What are WI and IA doing about broadband? Governors are pledging $200M and $450M

Sometimes it’s helpful to see what the neighbors are doing. It looks like both Wisconsin and Iowa are thinking about boosting their broadband investment – and both cite COVID as a reason for at least emphasizing the issues in rural areas.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports

The governor [Tony Evers] said he would propose nearly $200 million in broadband funding in his 2021-23 state budget, five times the amount included in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 budgets combined.

His 2019 budget allocated $54 million for broadband expansion in the form of grants to service providers, the largest amount in state history, and the $200 million would nearly quadruple that spending.

“We feel confident that the budget will be in good shape and balanced, and that we will be able to move forward with a few initiatives, one of them being broadband,” Evers said in an interview.

KCRG (ACB9in Iowa) reports

In Governor Kim Reynolds Condition of the State Address Tuesday, she pledged $450 million to be spent on expanding high-speed internet.

Reynolds said the pandemic proved how hard it was for rural communities to get access to quality internet services.

“The past year we have learned that we need better internet for virtual learning, and for those of us who have had to work from home,” said Carole Hebl of rural Oxford.

Pine and Carlton County residents run into troubles trying to stay connected

Moose Lake Star Gazette reports

Ryan Stewart’s, Moose Lake High School Principal, image froze on the screens of the Moose Lake School Board. He was making a presentation of a new grading option designed to help students recover their Grade Point Averages after struggling in Distance Learning. His daughter was home from college and also online.

To fix his internet connection problems Stewart needed to pause his presentation and ask his daughter to disconnect from the internet. Internet connection problems are a common one to have in areas around our community, but they make working and learning from home even more difficult.

Willow River Schools have provided mobile internet hotspots to students who are struggling to connect. At their most recent school board meeting school administrators were happy to report that with the recent purchase and set up of 25 additional hotspots all families who requested help connecting were able to receive a device.

The article goes on to provide several helpful tips to improve access by monitoring use and rebooting, helpful but the answer should be at a higher level. And they get to that too with an update of where state and federal funding from broadband stand today…

Rural areas have struggled to gain access to reliable internet connections for years. Legislative projects at both the state and federal level have been working to create a reliable source of internet connection for all. Broadband is simply a way of identifying internet connection to a router or wired connection. Connection to broadband creates the wireless connections within a home or area.

EVENT Jan 20: Commerce Finance and Policy will talk Telecom

From the MN House schedule

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 , 3:00 PM

Commerce Finance and Policy

Chair: Rep. Zack Stephenson
Location: Remote Hearing
Agenda:

AGENDA
Informational Overview – Telecom
*no formal action will be taken*
Testifiers
-Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance
-Dana Bailey, Lumen
-Patrick Fucik, TMobile
-Paul Weirtz, AT&T
Informational Overview – Liquor Laws in Minnesota
*no formal action will be taken*
Testifiers
-Chris Kleman, House Research
This remote hearing may be viewed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp
*NOTE: HTV 1 and HTV 2 will provide live closed captioning. Video archives of meetings streamed on HTV 3, 4, and 5 will have closed captions added. Other reasonable accessibility accommodations may be made with advance notice.
If you have questions about the accessibility of remote hearings or require an accommodation, please contact Jenny Nash at: jenny.nash@house.mn or by leaving a message at 651-296-4122.
This remote hearing is taking place pursuant to Rule 10.01, which you may view here: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/permrule/1001.htm
Any meeting documents will be posted on the House Commerce committee website at https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/Committees/Home/92003
To submit written testimony, please email the Committee Administrator no later than 4:00 pm on Thursday, January 21 at adeline.miller@house.mn

EVENT Jan 20: MN House to discuss broadband bill HF14

Sharing an email from the Committee Administrator…

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 8:30 AM

Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr.
Location: Remote Hearing

Agenda:

This remote hearing is taking place pursuant to Rule 10.01, which you may view here: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/permrule/1001.htm
HF 14 (Ecklund) Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.
This remote hearing may be viewed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp
NOTE: HTV 1 and HTV 2 will provide live closed captioning. Video archives of meetings streamed on HTV 3, 4, and 5 will have closed captions added. Other reasonable accessibility accommodations may be made with advance notice.
If you have questions about the accessibility of remote hearings or require an accommodation, please contact Jenny Nash at: jenny.nash@house.mn or by leaving a message at 651-296-4122.

Bills:
HF14 (Ecklund) – Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.

EVENT Jan 15: NDIA Community Call – hot topic is federal funding

NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) hosts two Zoom calls a month that are open to the public on the first and third Fridays of the month. I just got a little sneak peek at what tomorrow’s call is going to be like. If you’re interested in federal funding for broadband expansion (deployment and adoption!), I recommend you join the call tomorrow at noon (MN time).

And if you want to hit the round running (or get a preview of what happens on the call, you can check out the archive from their call on Dec 23, which includes an overview of the bill. (Video on the call below.)

OPPORTUNITY: Nominate 2021 Digital Equity Champion!

The deadline is Feb 12, 2021

Named for Charles Benton, the founder of Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, NDIA created the awards to recognize leadership and dedication in advancing digital equity: from promoting the ideal of accessible and affordable communications technology for all Americans to crafting programs and policies that make it a reality.

NDIA will present two awards: the Digital Equity Champion Award will recognize an outstanding individual who has made a difference in the field of digital equity, while the Emerging Leader Award will acknowledge an up-and-coming digital inclusion practitioner. Awards will be presented during NDIA’s Net Inclusion webinar.

Award Criteria

To be successful, nominees should exhibit:

  • Sustained commitment to digital inclusion programs, practices, and/or policy work,
  • Applied innovative approaches to addressing and solving problems,
  • Extensive use of data and evaluation to shape digital inclusion programs and share best practices,
  • Demonstrated leadership in his/her community, and/or
  • Collaboration that can be scaled and replicated.

Sen Klobuchar talks with Southwest MN leaders about COVID leaders, such as better broadband

The (Worthington) Globe reports

As U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar looks toward providing continued COVID-19 relief to Americans through proposed legislation, she sought feedback Friday from four Minnesota mayors — including three from southwest Minnesota.

Worthington’s Mike Kuhle, Luverne’s Pat Baustian and Pipestone’s Myron Koets all participated in a call with the senator, during which she asked them to outline their communities’ economic and public health needs. Also in attendance was Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes.

Broadband was on the shortlist…

In addition to aid for small businesses and greater vaccine access, other community needs include help acquiring technology for education and broadband expansion, Kuhle told the senator.

Baustian added that Rock County was the first Minnesota county to secure border-to-border broadband, and that move has proven to be an asset during pandemic distance learning.

Klobuchar noted that any infrastructure bill that doesn’t include broadband is unlikely to pass.

Federal stimulus will help pay internet bills and boost broadband access across Minnesota

I have written about this funding earlier; the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Carla Green spends about six hours a day on her computer, studying for her GED, selling custom scents and doing other work.

Green, 26, has been struggling to pay $60 a month for wired internet service in her International Falls apartment — something she needs to make a better life, she says.

So she reached out to a local community action program for help and is waiting to get a provided hotspot, which she hopes will be fast and reliable enough for her school work.

Recognizing the millions of households in Green’s situation, Congress designated emergency help for families to acquire and keep internet service in the latest federal COVID-19 relief package.

The $900 billion stimulus includes $7 billion for broadband and network infrastructure initiatives, including $3.2 billion for emergency help with monthly bills for service. Rural areas, tribal governments and other underserved populations will benefit as well.

Here are some of the details on the programs that directly support current customers…

In the stimulus package, about $3.2 billion is slated to help financially struggling households with up to $50 a month for internet service (or $75 per month for those on tribal lands) with payments going directly to the service providers. Those eligible could include households with children on free and reduced school lunches, Pell Grant recipients or the recently unemployed, according to an analysis by the alliance.

The Federal Communications Commission, which is tasked with figuring out how to administer the program, is taking public comment through Feb. 16.

Details on deployment investment…

In addition, $300 million will go to expand broadband in rural areas. In Minnesota, about 17% of rural homes do not have wire line internet service with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, and are considered “unserved.”

About $65 million will go to improve the accuracy of broadband availability maps — one of several measures U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has advocated as co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus.

And the impact of COVID on the digital divide and vice versa…

As more business has gone online during the pandemic, it has widened the divide between those who have internet and those who don’t, he said, prompting those without internet to pay bills and make purchases in person.

“How can you limit your exposure to the coronavirus when you have to go everywhere for everything?” Meyer said.

Perhaps most importantly, the pandemic made internet access even more of a necessity for school and work, too, when millions of students and employees were sent home for distance learning and working.

Federal funds going to telehealth tools to help at-risk native elders

WCCO News reports that more than $500,000 from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund will be used to provide equipment and technology to at-risk native elders…

The Minnesota Department of Human Services announced that home health care tools are being sent to Native American elders to help keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the DHS said blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and other technology that supports telehealth and behavioral health visits are currently on their way to native elders in communities around Minnesota.

Following a grant contract with the DHS, the Native American Community Clinic in south Minneapolis and the Northwest Indian Community Development Center in Bemidji are distributing the infection prevention tools.

FCC 10th Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report

The FCC has released the most recent Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report. It presents perspectives on empirical performance for data collected in September and October 2019 from the following fixed Internet Service Providers:

  • CenturyLink
  • Charter Communications
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Comcast
  • Cox Communications
  • Frontier Communications Company
  • Mediacom Communications Corporation
  • Optimum
  • Verizon
  • Windstream Communications

I’m just including a few of the table highlights…

Most Popular Advertised Service Tiers

Weighted average advertised download speed among the top 80% service tiers offered by each ISP

The ratio of weighted median speed (download and upload) to advertised speed for each ISP.

The ratio of 80/80 consistent median download speed to advertised download speed.

Weighted average advertised upload speed among the top 80% service tiers offered by each ISP.

EVENT: Jan 14 (6 pm): Lack of Broadband in Suburban and Rural Areas: A Community Conversation

An invitation to a NineNorth event…

January 14, 2021, 6 p.m.
Lack of Broadband in Suburban and Rural Areas: A Community Conversation

In March of 2020, many of us migrated into our homes, turned on our laptop and began working remotely. Schooling migrated online, business meetings online, our social lives online. What about people who don’t have access to internet, specifically broadband access? How has the pandemic effected their ability to work and connect?  What can our communities and agencies do to include our distant neighbors into the social circles of an online community?
This program will be speaking to a panel of policy and broadband professional to provide us insight to broadband build outs in rural areas, or lack of, and why.

TO ATTEND THIS FREE ZOOM WEBINAR, REGISTER HERE:   NINENORTH COMPASS

PANELISTS

ANNA BOROFF – Executive Director, Minnesota Cable Communications Association

BERNADINE JOSELYN – Director of Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation

NATHAN ZACHARIAS – President, Zacharias Government Relations

DANA HEALY – Moderator  (Executive Director, NineNorth)

Burnsville not interested in sharing public fiber with private parties

A lot of times, broadband gets built as a public-private partnership. It feeds into the dig once ethos – of put as much fiber as you can info the ground at once. So a public agency might share the “pipe” with a private partner and each gets so many strands of fiber. Dakota County has done a lot of this with the idea that local government can support broadband for end users but through partnerships with private providers, they don’t need to serve the end users. The Dakota Broadband Board (DBB) works on leveraging such opportunities.

It looks like Burnsville is interested in doing things differently. Council Member Dan Gustafson has been the Burnsville seat DBB for two years. But recently the Burnsville City Council voted to replace Gustafson with Council Member Cara Schulz as the council’s representative to the DBB. The reason is because a majority of the Burnsville City Council do not support the public-private sharing of broadband.

The Sun This Week reports

The replacement reflects a long-running policy dispute on the council over the direction of a board formed in 2017 to efficiently manage cities’ individual fiber networks and support broadband expansion.

[Burnsville City Councilmembers] Schulz, Kealey and Workman oppose using excess capacity on the publicly owned “I-net” linking government buildings and utilities as a “C-net” that private Internet service providers can lease.

“Through these partnerships, additional businesses and residents throughout Dakota County can be served, and communities can pursue future economic development opportunities,” the board says on its website.

Burnsville “may be headed off the DBB” because the board is pursuing the C-net, Kealey said during Tuesday’s council meeting. The council’s majority position is “quite different from what it might have been five years ago or four years ago.”

Here’s the view of sharing infrastructure…

In a post-meeting interview, Gustafson said the council originally joined the board — an initiative of the county’s Community Development Agency — knowing that part of its mission was economic development through access to high-speed broadband not uniformly available throughout the county.

C-net lease availability could attract new Internet and content providers to serve residents and businesses and foster competition, Gustafson said.

“The three of them don’t want that to happen,” he said. “They want to keep the incumbents in place.”

The city would collect a lease fee and the community would get better service, he said.

And the view of NOT sharing infrastructure…

In a post-meeting interview, Schulz said federal law is the barrier to competition, and C-net leases paid by private providers would be heavily subsidized because of the public cost of maintaining the fiber network.

Eagan, which didn’t join the county broadband board, lost “millions” on its own C-net, Schulz said.

In the years since the board formed under a joint powers agreement, the county has gained access to other funds it can use to run fiber to areas without high-speed service, she said.

“What we don’t want, is we don’t want the city in competition with businesses to provide something that businesses provide,” Schulz said. “We’re not going to suddenly get into selling clothes, either.”

The C-net was “just an idea that didn’t get done before it was outdated,” Schulz said. The concept is outdated “both in technology and where we’re at with infrastructure,” she said.

OPPORTUNITY (to take a survey!): Community broadband, COVID-19, and economic development

Craig Settles, broadband researcher and advocate, and the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) are looking for economic development professionals to take a survey on broadband, COVID and the economy. Can you help? DO you want to give your two cents worth? The survey closes January 28. Here’s more info…

Please tell us about the state of local broadband after COVID-19 hit?  National policymakers – and IEDC – want to know about initiatives, policies, or programs in your community that possibly influence broadband’s impact on local economies during this pandemic.

When COVID-19 forced everyone home, was broadband ready? Telehealth took center stage, but did supporting technologies and local healthcare keep up? How did distance learning affect the digital divide in education?
We know your time is valuable and thank you in advance for sharing your insight and knowledge. This survey takes just a few to complete. To make things easy, the survey resumes right where you stop if you are interrupted.

This survey’s deadline is 11:59 PM (PST) January 28. Shortly afterwards, IEDC will share the final survey results and analysis report with you. Your input helps guide broadband policy as well as drive broadband access nationwide.
International Economic Development Council greatly appreciates you taking time to give us your feedback!

OPPORTUNITY: ILSR is hiring a Broadband Writer and Researcher

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (Community Networks) is hiring

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a national nonprofit working to empower communities by striking at the roots of monopoly power. We use in-depth research, reporting, and data analysis to work with communities as well as produce influential reports and articles. Our analyses are frequently featured in national news media and sought out by policymakers. We work closely with a broad range of allies to move these ideas and policies.

ILSR is looking for a Broadband Writer/Researcher within the U.S. to join a growing team within ILSR focused on ensuring all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access. This person will work with Sean Gonsalves and Ry Marcattilio-McCracken to develop research as well as create short- and long-form content focused on improving Internet access both in urban and rural areas. This might seem like a dry and technical issue, but it is a vibrant and exciting field that is also one of this generation’s biggest equity and justice challenges.

They are mostly located in Minnesota but looks like the position is open to remote workers. They are good folks. I bet it’s an interesting job. Learn more.

North Idaho internet provider blocks Facebook, Twitter for customers who want to block them

I know this isn’t Minnesota but this was concerning news from KARE 11

A North Idaho internet provider, Your T1 WIFI, confirmed it is blocking Facebook and Twitter from its WIFI service for some customers due to censorship claims.

Your T1 WIFI provides internet services to North Idaho and the Spokane area.

The move comes after Twitter and Facebook banned President Trump from their platforms due to incitement of violence and undermining the transition of power to President elect Joe Biden.

The social media sites banned the President due to violations of their terms of service. Because Twitter and Facebook are private companies, their bans on the President do not violate the First Amendment, which protects speech from being limited by the government.

Your T1 WIFI’s actions, however, could violate Washington state’s Net Neutrality law.

Your T1 WIFI said it decided to block Twitter and Facebook after the company received several calls from customers about both websites.

Without irony, the ISP is blocking those site because they don’t think they have the authority to censor…

In an email posted to Twitter by a customer, Krista Yep, the company says it was fielding calls from customers asking that the service not display the sites on the internet, and that they didn’t want their children to be able to access them.

“Our company does not believe a website or social networking site has the authority to censor what you see and post and hide information from you, stop you from seeing what your friends and family are posting,” the email reads. “This is why with the amount of concerns, we have made this decision to block these two websites from being accessed from our network.”

Apparently they got complaints and decided to block Facebook and Twitter. Then they got complaints about blocking the sites and now you can have it either way. The article says two-thirds of customers asked for Twitter and Facebook to be blocked.

There is concern that this may be illegal…

While Your T1 WIFI says they acted in response to censorship, the company’s actions could also be considered censorship. In addition, they may violate Washington state’s Net Neutrality law, which states that internet providers may not manipulate access to content.

The law contains the following language:

A person engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service in Washington state, insofar as the person is so engaged, may not:
(a) Block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, subject to reasonable network management;
(b) Impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of internet content, application, or service, or use of a nonharmful device, subject to reasonable network management; or
(c) Engage in paid prioritization

A spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division was “taking a look at the matter.” Brionna Aho, a spokesperson for Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said he takes enforcement of the net neutrality law “very seriously.”

It highlights the importance of broadband competition. What if this was the only provider if your area?