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.

EVENT Dec 13: New Federal Investments in Digital Equity: What Skills Advocates Need to Know

It’s a quick but helpful webinar federal funding for digital equity…

New Federal Investments in Digital Equity: What Skills Advocates Need to Know

Monday, December 13, 2021

4:00-4:30 Eastern Time
Over the past 18 months, National Skills Coalition members have worked hard to educate policymakers on the need to invest in digital skills. Our Digital Equity @ Work campaign has highlighted the importance of holistic digital inclusion investments that help workers not only access the broadband and devices they need, but also to pursue high-quality upskilling and reskilling opportunities.

Now it’s time to celebrate an important victory: The infrastructure bill passed by Congress in November 2021 includes historic, first-of-its-kind funding for digital inclusion, and it’s in part thanks to the advocacy of our network! States will be receiving $2.75 billion in funding under the Digital Equity Act. In this quick 30-minute webinar, you’ll learn about the implications of this new legislation for your state, find out what more needs to be done to achieve digital equity for all workers, and get your top questions answered. You’ll also get a sneak peek at the next chapter of the federal digital equity conversation — coming at the February 2022 Skills Summit. Register now!

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Report

The folks who manage Universal Service and the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) programs just published a report on EBB, the fund established during the COVID pandemic to subsidize broadband access to make it more affordable to households that needed that help. In Minnesota, 76,301 households have signed up for EBB.

Here are some of the other stats…

OPPORTUNITY: Fiber Broadband Assn FBA Launches Fiber Connect 2022 & Calls for Speakers

Maybe we can have Minnesota stories of awesome broadband dominate the stage…

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) today announced its Call for Speakers and a new Proof of Concept (POC) program for Fiber Connect 2022. Fiber Connect 2022, held June 12 – 15, 2022, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, will include several pre-conference workshops, keynotes from industry leaders, policy makers, regulators and influencers designed to provide the tools needed to successfully close the digital equity gap forever. New programming at Fiber Connect 2022 includes sessions focused on public/private partnerships, demand drivers for fiber broadband, innovation, cybersecurity, grant writing and training.

“The recently passed Infrastructure Bill, along with other federal and state programs, will ensure that our industry can get every person connected and close the digital equity gap once and for all,” said Gary Bolton, President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “The FBA’s goal is to ensure our members have the tools needed to fund, design, deploy and deliver fiber broadband services. Our conference team has created exciting opportunities for people to learn, network, make deals and advance the deployment of fiber broadband further.”

Companies interested in submitting proposals to share best practices, innovative use cases, industry perspectives, deployment success stories and examples of community impact can find details, recommendations and submission requirements here: https://www.fiberbroadband.org/page/fiber-connect-2022-call-for-speakers.

Sessions will be curated to showcase the proven role fiber broadband has as a mechanism for community growth and economic development, best practices, innovative use cases and innovation that can drive the market forward. Speakers will be selected from the industry, as well as from its over 250 member companies that include incumbent, regional and rural service providers, cable operators, equipment vendors, system integrators, engineering consultants and other members of the fiber broadband ecosystem.

New in 2022, the POC program is designed to demonstrate the benefits fiber brings to communities as they look to leverage high-capacity services once the digital divide is closed. The program is centered on services that bring both financial opportunity and social good. Companies are encouraged to demonstrate how their products and applications can be used to deliver services to support telehealth, precision agriculture, remote learning/work, emergency and first responder services, smart grid, smart city, smart home and other applications that require the capacity fiber can deliver to have the biggest impact. Companies interested in submitting a POC application can find additional information here: https://www.fiberbroadband.org/page/overview-of-fiber-connect-2022-poc-unlimited-capacity-creates-limitless-possibilities.

“Fiber Connect is where the industry comes together and this year we’re excited to share new insights into public/private partnerships, the creation of the Fiber Connect Deal Zone and the POC program that should serve as a roadmap to offering the types of innovative applications and services that can profoundly change communities and lives,” said Joseph Jones, FBA Board Member and Fiber Connect 2022 Conference Chair. “Fiber unlocks limitless possibilities and Fiber Connect 2022 is the preeminent event for our industry as it looks to showcase the societal benefits that only fiber can deliver.”

Fiber Connect 2022 welcomes Platinum Sponsors ADTRAN, Calix, DZS, Nokia, Plume and Sumitomo; Gold Sponsors 3-GIS, CommScope, Corning, Dycom, Graybar and OFS; and Silver Sponsor Clearfield. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Lucy Green at lgreen@fiberbroadband.com.

To close the digital gap, we need a connectivity baseline, better outreach and continued funding

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society carefully maps out their reasoning for recommending that policymakers keep the following in mind when using the newfound influx of funds to help close the digital gap caused by affordability issues…

To ensure that the market for universal connectivity is well-functioning, policymakers should:

  • Establish a “connectivity baseline” for Lifeline: Having both wireline and wireless data is the norm for a majority of Americans and that is the goal on which policymakers should set their sights. Policymakers should also consider service speeds for plans offered in connection with the Affordable Connectivity Program. Low-income households should not have internet speeds that do not support applications necessary for working from home, distance education or telehealth.
  • Fund outreach and communications: Survey data shows that just 23% of lower-income Americans (as of July 2021) were aware of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, underscoring the need for outreach. The newly passed infrastructure bill allows the FCC to conduct such outreach and the Build Back Better spending bill would allocate $100 million for outreach efforts through the FCC.
  • Provide a reliable funding stream: The current contribution method for the Universal Service Fund is strained. By law, there must be specific, predictable and sufficient Federal and State mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service including Lifeline. The infrastructure bill requires that the FCC develop a plan to reform universal service, that does not diminish its goals while possibly asking Congress to expand them. Funding these goals must be part of this plan.

Also something they mention – we need to make it easy for folks to access the funds they need. I just got a booster shot, an hour ago, because I happened to be at the Mall of America walking with my dad and I noticed they had walk-up shots. This was after my mom spent 30 minutes trying to get me an appointment a national pharmacy; they asked one too many questions and she timed out.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Otherwise the deluge of information on commercial websites and dearth of info on government/community sites combined with everyone’s horror stories on social media clouds ability to see what we need – and getting a shot is easy compared to choosing a broadband solution. We can’t let the paperwork be the barrier.

Federal funding will help MN students get online

KSNI radio reports

Marc Johnson is the executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative and sits on the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. He says the new funding, coupled with the $70 million in broadband spending already approved by the state this year, will be a welcome shot in the arm for rural students. He says during distance learning, getting lesson plans to students who didn’t have good internet access was extremely inefficient. Schools had to send work “back and forth on buses, you know, to kids so that they could paper copies of things.”

Member school districts of the cooperative are Braham, Cambridge-Isanti, Chisago Lakes, East Central, Hinckley-Finlayson, Milaca, Mora, North Branch, Ogilvie, Pine City, Princeton, Rush City, Pine Technical College, St. Francis, and associate member Elk River.

He says the broadband relief takes financial pressure off school districts and families as they “won’t have to spend the money that they’re spending right now on all of these measures to help families that don’t have access.”

OPPORTUNITY: Win a Broadband Master Plan from Connect Humanity and Partners

Muninetworks reports on a fun opportunity

Connect Humanity, in partnership with EntryPoint Networks and Biarri Networks, is giving out five Broadband Master Plans to communities to help bring the digital divide through an initiative they are calling Build Better Broadband. The comprehensive analyses will include everything from surveys of current access, to network design, to financial modeling and risk assessment. Applications are due January 14, 2022. 

Minnesota has a Broadband Office, Task Force, Agency and Fund

Pew has recently updated their database of which states have a broadband office, task force, agency and/or fund. Minnesota remains in a good position having all four. I appreciate the effort it takes to keep current on this info and it’s a good reminder that the source is there and a nice pat of the MN back that we’re in good standing.

President Biden visits MN and encourages investment in infrastructure that will make us a leader

MN Public Radio reports

In his first trip to the state as president Biden said U.S. infrastructure used to be the best in the world, but that it’s been slipping. He said the $1.2 trillion measure will change that.

“We’re going to help America win the competition for the 21st Century,” Biden said. “We’re getting back in the game.”

You can see his speech (I’ve started it where he spokes most about broadband) below…

President Biden seemed to observe a few things – first that now is a time to focus on regaining leadership by investing this unprecedented investment. We need to build back better. We can’t just build what to the specs we have, we need to improve because modern times require and will continue require increased broadband speeds. He notes that we used to be top ranked in global infrastructure; we are now 13. We need to turn it around and that means aim high and act.

EVENT December 3: MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Agenda

The Task Force meetings are remote and open to all. For folks who don’t want to join via Webex/Teams, I will livestream on Facebook and archive.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
December 3, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Microsoft Teams meeting
Click here to join the meeting
Join with a video conferencing device
mn@m.webex.com
Video Conference ID: 119 694 806 6
Alternate VTC instructions

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from November 1, 2021 Meeting
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. Broadband Technologies and Symmetrical Speeds
    Dave Wolf, CEO, Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Assn.
  • 10:35 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Walk Thru of Draft Report
  • 11:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Break
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Continue Walk Thru of Draft Report and Next Steps
  • 12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, December 20th Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

MN Broadband Task Force asks Governor Walz to expedite and increase request for federal funds for broadband

The MN Broadband Task Force sent a letter to Governor Walz, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, Senator Erin Murphy, and Representative Debra Kiel…

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act funding that Minnesota is slated to receive, there is a Sec. 604
Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund that is intended to be used “to carry out critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).” The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), which is charged with administering this fund, notes on its website that a
purpose of this funding is to “contribute to the Administration’s goal of providing every American with
the modern infrastructure necessary to access critical services, including a high-quality and affordable
broadband internet connection.”
In August 2021, Treasury identified the amount of Sec. 604 funding that would be allocated to each state; Minnesota’s allocation is $180,702,620. In September 2021, Treasury issued guidance as to how the Capital Projects Fund dollars may be used and broadband infrastructure projects were identified as a presumptively eligible use.
In the 2021 Minnesota legislative session, language was passed to fund the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure Grant program with $70 million over the biennium and with that funding coming from the Capital Projects Fund. This decision was made prior to either information being released regarding Minnesota’s total allocation or guidance on allowed uses.
Minnesota is required to apply for this funding by December 27, 2021 and once its application is
approved and an agreement signed with Treasury, the state must submit a Grant Plan and a Program Plan(s) outlining how it intends to use the state’s allocation of $180,702,620. The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband would urge the state to submit its application as soon as possible and once an agreement is in place, file a Grant Plan and Program Plan to use all the funding for the state’s Border-to-Border
Broadband Infrastructure grant program. With prompt approval by Treasury, the Office of Broadband
Development could then open a grant window and approve projects in time to be built, or at least started, during the 2022 construction season. As you are aware, Minnesota’s construction season is shortened due to weather and it is imperative to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
The guidance issued by Treasury indicates that any home or business in Minnesota that does not have a reliable, wireline broadband service of at least 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload is eligible for this funding. The latest data available shows that there are at least 240,000 households in Minnesota without a broadband connection meeting those speeds. Assuming an average cost of $5,527 per location to deliver a broadband service (taken from the Task Force’s 2020 annual report), deploying service to those 240,000 households would require funding of over $1.3 billion. Even assuming the grant portion for that funding is capped at 50 percent as it is under current state law for the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program, funding of $663 million would still be necessary.
While Minnesota has been a leader amongst the states with its Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program having awarded $126.2 million to reach approximately 57,000 locations with broadband service between 2014 and 2020, the state is falling behind. In March 2021, Wisconsin awarded over $24.8 million for 58 projects, in October 2021 Wisconsin awarded $100 million to 83 projects and in early November announced that the next grant window to award another $100 million will open December 1, 2021. In October 2021, Iowa announced that it would make available another $200 million for broadband grants in addition to the $100 million in grants announced in September 2021 as part of its Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program. A few other examples include Missouri announcing it will use at least $400 million for broadband infrastructure; Ohio is using $250
million to improve high speed internet service; Texas Governor Abbott just signed a bill allocating $500
million for broadband infrastructure; and Virginia has plans to use $700 million to provide universal
broadband by 2024.
The pandemic has made clear the need for fast, reliable broadband service to all homes and businesses in the state. Federal funding is available to get that infrastructure deployed. Broadband is the foundational element that is a force multiplier for all other issues. We need it to better address critical challenges and build economic opportunity, competitiveness, and prosperity. The state has in place a
nationally recognized broadband office and grant program. All that is needed is for the Governor and
the Legislature to direct the available federal funding to the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program so that the real work of building out the infrastructure to meet the state’s broadband
goals can be achieved. The time is now to invest in our communities.
Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.
Sincerely,
Teddy Bekele
Chair, Governor’s Broadband Task Force

OPPORTUNITY: Applications open for 2022 Lead For Minnesota Fellowship

More info from Lead for America

Lead For Minnesota (LFMN) is a state affiliate of the national non-profit, Lead For America (LFA).  The Lead For Minnesota Fellowship is a launching pad for a lifelong commitment to public service in a community that Fellows call home. This begins with a one-year AmeriCorps Service term where Fellows are placed within a local organization (e.g. nonprofit, government, service-minded organization) to serve in a full-time, paid position addressing critical community challenges. Fellows can renew their fellowship for an additional one-year term, or receive support while pursuing the next step in their civic leadership journey. 
During the Fellowship, all Fellows receive five weeks of leadership and community-building training from leading partners that have previously included the Harvard Kennedy School, Urban Rural Action, and the UNC School of Government. Additionally, Fellows conduct a community Listening Tour to better understand the local landscape of challenge and possibility. Fellows have the option to build on their listening tours by creating a project they lead, called a Community Venture, to address those challenges.
Altogether, Fellows build lifelong relationships with their cohort and mentors and join the hundreds of changemakers in the LFMN + LFA nationwide network. At the conclusion of the fellowship, Fellows have access to LFMN + LFA’s graduate school scholarship partners and can receive support from LFA to continue their locally-rooted impact. What is the Lead For Minnesota Fellowship (Applicant-led)?
Lead For Minnesota has two different fellowship tracks: applicant-led and pre-confirmed placements. The applicant-led process can be thought of as a “create your own” fellowship opportunity. Candidates apply to serve any community in Minnesota where they have a strong connection and have a deep passion for the type of change they want to create. If selected, LFMN works with you to secure a local organization to host your fellowship.
However, it should be noted that even if you apply to be an applicant-led Lead For Minnesota Fellow, you can still be a part of a Challenge-Based Track. For instance, if you apply to serve in Minnesota to work on public health, you can gain the added training and experience of being a member of Lead For Minnesota and our Public Health Equity Corps. To clarify, your Fellowship Type (Applicant-Led or Host-Led) doesn’t limit which Fellowship Pathway you join.

OPPORTUNITY: Nominate a Digital Equity Champion!

Shared from the NDIA listserv...

Friends, the Benton Digital Equity Champion awards are now open for nominations!

Who should you nominate?

  • Yourself
  • Someone in your org
  • Someone you nominated in the past (maybe this is the year for them to win!)
  • Anyone who is an Emerging Leader OR Champion for digital inclusion
  • More than one person

Why?

  • This is the biggest honor in digital inclusion in the US
  • Winners get big recognition for their digital inclusion work – at Net Inclusion conference, on NDIA platforms, and from the Benton Institute.

Nominate someone today >

MN Rural Broadband Coalition Membership Renewal and Next Meeting December 15!

I’m going to paste the entire email from the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. If you’re not a member, you should consider it if broadband is important to your organization…

It’s time to renew your membership for 2022!
We need your help to advocate for and secure consistent public and private investments to support broadband access for all Minnesotans. As you know, the MRBC is the voice at the Capitol for broadband, particularly for the connectivity needs of the rural and underserved areas of our state. Your financial support is essential in ensuring this voice is heard. We truly hope you’ll consider becoming a Sustaining Member of the coalition so that we can meet our annual budget needs of approximately $60,000. In addition, we need volunteers to enhance the work of the Coalition by serving on committees that strengthen that work. Please see the attached document that details your membership and volunteer opportunities.
Download 2022 MRBC Membership Form
Each of you play an important role in achieving our vision of border to border broadband. Our bipartisan and statewide advocacy efforts since our inception have led to over $200 million dollars in legislatively approved funds to support Border-to-Border Broadband grants for infrastructure.  Yet there are still rural Minnesotans who remain unserved by basic broadband service and not every Minnesotan has access to quality, reliable, and affordable broadband. Our work is far from done. We need to continue to advocate for Minnesotans until our vision is achieved. Your investment will help maintain and strengthen the continued success of MRBC’s diverse multi-sector coalition.

Save the Date!
MRBC Meeting
December 15, 2021
9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Via Zoom
Meeting ID: 865 0500 2903
Passcode: MRBC
One tap mobile:
+13126266799,,86505002903#,,,,*074816# US (Chicago)
+19294362866,,86505002903#,,,,*074816# US (New York)
Dial by your location:
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 865 0500 2903
Passcode: 074816
Find your local number
Agenda Coming Soon!

Heavy lobbying anticipated as agencies figure out infrastructure bill

The Hill reports…

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is enshrined into law, but the lobbying over its implementation is just getting started.

Specifics on broadband…

Meanwhile, internet service providers (ISPs) are expected to aggressively lobby the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as it crafts new internet rules under the infrastructure bill’s $65 billion broadband expansion plan.

The relatively tiny agency has six months to develop a proposal that will require recipients of federal broadband funding to provide a low-cost broadband option and encourage states to explore alternatives to dominant ISPs such as coops, nonprofits and municipalities.

The NTIA will have the final say as to what kinds of speeds and prices providers must offer. An aggressive broadband plan could hurt the bottom line of ISPs that have long operated in underserved communities without any competition.

“The language in the legislation offers a baseline of requirements that need to be met, and it provides some flexibility to the agencies to interpret just how far they can go,” said Greg Guice, director of government affairs at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that advocates for increased access to affordable high-speed internet.

“Competition, affordability, speed, reliability, resiliency — with all of those things there is some flexibility, and ISPs would like to keep them at a minimum level,” he added.

States will play a key major role in implementing the broadband rules. That’s another lobbying avenue for ISPs, which successfully pushed more than a dozen states to adopt rules limiting or blocking municipal broadband networks.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), meanwhile, is tasked with creating regulations requiring ISPs to disclose their network performance, data collection and other key factors to customers. The FCC must also craft rules that prevent ISPs from discriminating on customers based on the a region’s income or demographic characteristics.

President Biden coming to Rosemount to talk about Infrastructure bill

WCCO TV reports

President Joe Biden is scheduled to stop in the Twin Cities this week to discuss the federal infrastructure package.

According to the White House, the president is slated to be in Rosemount on Tuesday, where he will visit Dakota County Technical College to discuss how the infrastructure package will help Minnesotans and create good-paying jobs.

Per the Minnesota DFL, the bipartisan infrastructure package will bring billions of dollars to the state, including $4.5 billion for highway programs, $302 million for bridge replacement and repair, $100 million for broadband coverage in greater Minnesota, and $680 million for water infrastructure.

The last time Biden visited Minnesota was in the final days of his 2020 presidential election campaign. Biden won Minnesota with 52.4% of the vote.