Stop two, day two on a road trip with Senator Klobuchar’s staff talking about broadband, infrastructure and housing. As with other stops, there are about 25 people in the room. There was representation from Leech Lake reservation. There are interested residents, someone from Paul Bunyan and lots of county/government workers.
I have archived the whole meeting in video (lots of affordable housing talk) but I kept the notes to broadband…
Steve Howard from Paul Bunyan jumped in:
We have used state grants and they have been a help.
USDA has Reconnect; we elected to not reapply because the regulatory barriers were too high. We don’t have lawyers on staff we’d need to go through it all. Rumor has it more money will be made available on that soon. But it will still be hard to apply give the regulatory details.
We could look at cable franchising rules at state/local level. The problem is that cable rules are from 1980s. Being able to offer cable TV service helps us when we go into a community. But some communities make offering with local cable too expensive. The FCC just made it a little easier for us – but it could be easier.
We looked at working in Hibbing. There is a municipal network. Mediacom is in the area. To get permission to offer cable in the area we’d have to serve the entire city – we only want to serve rural areas. It’s a roadblock that hurts us and the rural folks who aren’t served.
Dig Once – might need to be cautious. It sounds great. BUT in rural areas we don’t typically use it. For us – blasting fiber through existing conduit is about the same cost for us as laying the fiber ourselves. Mandatory dig once would be rough. We don’t’ always want to use it and we don’t necessarily want to build for our competitors.
From the folks from Leech Lake:
We have clinics on the reservation that require telehealth services – 10 years ago we entered an agreement with AT&T to get access to our towers to serve areas. (They paid for tower; we leased the land.) It was innovative but not sure it’s a long terms solution. We’d like to see homegrown wireline services.
Telehealth services on the reservation means – from one clinic to another. But it would be nice to see more telehealth services ta home. It is a draw for real estate from people looking to move into the area or even for people who want to stay in the area.
We hear of people who want to stay in the area, in their homes but a family member needs access to remote healthcare.