About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

Minnesota’s HF 2919 – bill to support telehealth moves to Health and Human Services Finance

A bill to support telehealth has moved from the Committee on Health and Human Services Reform to the Committee on Health and Human Services Finance. One of the key factors in using telehealth has been the ability for healthcare facilities to get paid for that work – as they would an onsite visit. It sounds like this might address some of those concerns.

Here’s the update from Reports of Standing Committees and Divisions

Schomacker from the Committee on Health and Human Services Reform to which was referred:

  1. F. No. 2919, A bill for an act relating to health; allowing community health workers to provide telemedicine services; eliminating the medical assistance limit for certain telemedicine encounters; amending Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 62A.671, subdivision 6; Minnesota Statutes 2017 Supplement, section 256B.0625, subdivision 3b.

With the recommendation that when so amended the bill be re-referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services Finance.

The role of broadband in Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide

The National League of Cities recently released a report on Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide. The digital divide was calling out as a major indicator of disparity…

In all states, urban areas outpace their rural counterparts in broadband access. States with overall higher levels of broadband access also have more significant urban-rural digital divides, underscoring the importance of extending affordable broadband to rural areas.

There port had this to say about broadband…

Nationwide, 10% of Americans do not have access to broadband, with rural areas experiencing significantly greater access challenges. In a world dominated by online communications, this digital divide severely limits rural residents’ access to online job application and employment opportunities, online higher educational and training opportunities, public school learning, research opportunities, healthcare and government services. The digital divide also limits rural areas’ capacity to grow and attract businesses and retain and attract residents.

Urban-rural divides in broadband access are inversely related to the percent of state population without access to broadband. This means that as overall state access increases, so too does the divide in access between urban and rural areas. Broadband access tends to cluster in urban areas because it is a guaranteed market for private providers, unlike less densely populated rural areas. Even in rural areas where broadband is available, it is often much more expensive, leading to gaps not only in access, but also in adoption.

There are no states in which rural areas have more people with access to broadband than urban areas. Overall, rural communities have 37% more residents without broadband access, as compared to their urban counterparts. Alaska has the most significant digital divide, with a gap of 62%, meaning that rural areas in Alaska have 62% percent more people without access to broadband than the state’s urban areas. Massachusetts has the narrowest digital divide, with rural areas having only 8% more people without broadband access than urban areas (see Map 2).

States with the narrowest urban-rural digital divide that have the highest proportion of population with broadband access include New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland and Massachusetts (see appendix data table 2). States with the most significant urban-rural digital divides and most significant lack of high-speed Internet access include Wyoming, Alaska and Oklahoma.

Although Massachusetts performs well regarding broadband access, the state was actively seeking private sector companies to provide high-speed service to underserved areas. The extensive capital expenditures needed to build broadband networks and a requirement that they connect 96% of homes and businesses in the town, however, hindered the interest of those companies. The state agreed that for underserved communities, instead of requiring providers to service 96% of the town immediately, it would consider projects that would plan reach this goal over time. This small adjustment was enough to gain interest of several businesses that are now competing for projects in rural communities.

Some communities are also exploring municipal broadband, which means that local government pays for all or part of the access. A 2018 Harvard University study found that community-owned broadband networks provide consumers with much lower rates than their private-sector counterparts. Not all local governments, however, are able to provide municipal broadband services. In 2017, the National League of Cities identified 17 states that preempt, or don’t allow, their cities or towns to create public broadband services. These include some states with lower than average broadband access and more significant rural disadvantages, including Arkansas, Alabama and Nebraska.

Broadband access is a factor in education attainment…

State education attainment levels tend to be higher in states that do a good job managing their levels of digital divide. In other words, the more access to broadband, the greater proportion of people able to attain education.

Broadband access is a factor in prosperity…

States with greater growth in their contributions to national GDP have stronger employment growth and wage growth. Prosperity growth also links back to the digital divide. Those states with greater digital divides between urban and rural areas experience greater divides in prosperity growth that disadvantage rural communities. This finding corroborates a McKinsey global study on the economic impact of the Internet that found that increases in Internet access strongly correlate with increases in real per capita GDP.

The also highlighted the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant program as a way to improve broadband in rural areas.

Broadband Day on the Hill: April 12th, MN State Capitol

A message from the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition

Please join the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition and your fellow broadband advocates from across the state for our Day on the Hill event! The Day on the Hill provides you with an opportunity to participate in St. Paul for a day of broadband advocacy and networking with colleagues and legislators.
It is a great chance for you to speak with legislators directly about why increased access to broadband will improve the lives of Minnesotans. We are planning a full day (agenda below) of activities, including meetings with your legislators and connecting with fellow broadband advocates. It’s sure to be an exciting and dynamic day. Click on the Register Now link to confirm your participation.
Date: Thursday April 12, 2018
Time: 8 am to 4 pm
Location: L’Etoile do Nord Vault Room (B15), MN State Capitol
Registration fee: $25 (includes morning coffee and pastries, lunch and afternoon refreshments)
Register Now!
Draft Agenda

  • 8:00-8:45am Registration, coffee (Vault)
  • 8:45-9:00am Welcome, legislative update, overview of day, legislative tips (Vault)
  • 9:00-10:30am Policy Panel (Vault) – Key legislators will be invited to provide perspective
  • 10:30am Legislative Meetings (State Office Building and Minnesota Senate Building)
  • 12:00pm Box Lunches (Vault)
  • 12:00pm Senate Floor Session (Time subject to change)
  • 1:00pm Continued legislative meetings
  • 3:30pm House Floor Session (Time subject to change)
  • 4:00pm Wrap Up, thank you (Vault)

Why (and how) do we need to close the digital divide?

There is a new Digit Divide report out of Purdue University (Digital Divide in the US) authored by Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., Lionel J. Beaulieu, Ph.D. and Indraneel Kumar, Ph.D. Folks who attended the Fall Broadband Conference will recognize Roberto’s as the keynote speaker – where we got a little glimpse at this report and a very solid explanation of the DDI (Digital Divide Index), which the team uses to measure broadband availability as well as socioeconomic indicators that characterize the digital divide. They use that to compare communities on either sides of the digital divide and the impact that lack of technology and technology-savvy as had on the communities.

As the authors comment – the digital divide is the most critical issue of the 21st century – so this report sets out to talk about why it’s so critical and how we can close the divide.

Why do we need to close the digital divide?

  • Job and establishment growth between 2010 and 2015 was substantially lower in counties with the highest digital divide; establishments with paid employees declined in counties with the highest digital divide while establishments with no employees barely grew.
  • Digital economy industries—one of the fastest growing group of industries in the nation—and associated jobs increased overall and across all DDI quartiles between 2010 and 2015.
  • Digital economy establishments—of which 57 percent were nonemployers—increased in the nation and across all digital divide categories. In fact, the largest percent change in digital economy establishments between 2010 and 2015 took place in counties with the highest digital divide.

It’s worth noting and demonstrating with the table below that while there may have been growth in digital economy industries and establishments in all areas – the areas with higher digital divides saw less growth that the areas that were better connected.

Investment in infrastructure and digital inclusion efforts reaps benefits in the forms of greater industry and establishments.

So – how can we make that happen? The authors offer a couple of suggestions…

  • Economic and community development efforts need to be refined to target and support digital economy entrepreneurs that are emerging throughout the nation. Robust strategies should not only focus on updating broadband infrastructure, but also on increasing awareness and digital literacy knowledge to effectively leverage and maximize these technologies.
  • Collaboration among key local and regional assets—schools, libraries, nonprofits, Extension Services, local economic development organizations, regional planning commissions, think tanks, faith-based among others—should be strengthened. This will ensure that local and regional resources will be working in tandem to tackle the digital divide problem in high need areas of the country.

Wondering where your county sits on the DDI scale? Roberto was kind enough last fall to run reports for us for all of Minnesota Counties. So you can see for yourself!

Free Webinar April 18 on Building Better Broadband for Cities and Counties!

Looks like an interesting session with several Minnesota stories…

Are broadband bandwidth and reliability problems plaguing your town or city due to:

  1. Low population density and hence reluctant investment by major carriers?
  2. Environmental issues that drive up the cost of replacing old, overloaded infrastructure?
  3. Restrictive permitting processes that prolong approval processes?

CJIS GROUP invites you to join Mark Mrla of Finley Engineering, Tom Johnson of Nobles County, Minnesota and Mark Erickson formerly of the City of Winthrop, Minnesota, to learn how two jurisdictions addressed these issues with innovative methods to dramatically improve broadband services to their constituents.

Topics addressed will include:

  • Funding through Public-Private Partnerships and Multi-jurisdictional cooperative agreements
  • Fundamentals of feasibility studies – when do you need them, what do they cost and what do they deliver

Network design and build considerations in difficult physical and economic environments


What: Building Better Broadband for Cities and Counties
When: Apr 18 2018 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM (EDT)

Register Now!

The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America? Nearly $1.4 trillion

The Foundation for Rural Service recently published a report – A Cyber Economy: The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America. They surveyed 1,200 user to answer a few questions:

  • How frequently do U.S. consumers use the internet for various transactional purposes—shopping, checking their bank accounts and investments, paying bills, etc.?
  • To what degree do those transactions end up driving actual spending?
  • What is the estimated dollar amount that can be attributed to internet-based transactions?
  • With respect to U.S. urban and rural markets, where does that economic activity occur?

Here are their key findings

  1. Internet usage among urban and rural consumers was largely similar.
  2. Rural consumers are responsible for more than 10.8 billion internet-driven transactions annually out of a total of 69.9 billion annual internet-driven transactions, representing 15% of all internet-driven transactions.
  3. Internet-driven transactions drive nearly 50% of United States gross domestic product (GDP) or $9.6 trillion annually. These transactions are estimated to grow to over 65% by 2022 to $14 trillion annually.
  4. The estimated value of rural online transactions is nearly $1.4 trillion—14% of all internet-driven transactions, or 7% of the U.S. nominal GDP.

It’s an interesting report – who buys what where online. There’s a lot to check out – one interesting note – the market for online transactions and spending is growing…

What’s up with e-rate? Some schools are waiting months for answers!

E-Rate just celebrated its 20th birthday. The National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training held the party, where they talked about the history of the program. Here’s the quick answer on what the E-Rate is…

The E-Rate is part of the federal universal service program, a support mechanism that was created in 1934 to ensure that rural consumers had affordable phone service. Championed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives and authorized under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, E-Rate provides public and private schools and public libraries with deep discounts on broadband, Internet access services and internal Wi-Fi.  In order to meet growing demand for E-Rate support, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) increased E-Rate’s annual funding cap to $3.9 billion in 2014. E-Rate funds are not appropriated, but are fees collected (along with other universal service programs) from consumer phone bills.


The FCC had published a report on the recent success of E-Rate in 2017; that report has since be removed from the FCC’s website but here’s a high level look at the success (from an article that outlines the highs and lows of E-Rate) …


According its January 2017 report, the FCC’s modernization push enabled some 77% of school districts to meet the minimum federal connectivity targets by the end of 2016; just 30% had met those requirements in 2013. (That is, Internet speeds of 100 Mbps per 1000 users.) During the same period, the cost that schools paid for Internet connectivity fell from $22 to $7 per Mbps.

Having worked in libraries and schools and having heard many presentations on E-Rate (from MN Task Force meetings, webinars and other) what I’ve always heard is that the process is cumbersome but the funding made a difference in getting schools online. It seems though that the program may be hitting a bumpy road. The Morning Consult posted an editorial from Evan Marwell is the founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway…

Two-hundred forty-five days. School districts are waiting this long for the Federal Communications Commission to make decisions on the fate of funding to bring fiber connectivity to their classrooms. That’s 65 days longer than the average school year. And for Woodman School in rural Montana, it means another school year that students must be bused to a neighboring district for assessments because high-speed internet access is not an option. No school should have to wait that long to provide basic educational opportunity for its students. In January, education organizations recognized the 20th anniversary of E-rate—the FCC program that has connected 39 million students to the broadband they need for the jobs of tomorrow. We’ve come a long way, but we also need to address the emerging red tape that is stalling our students’ learning progress. Unless there is a focused commitment to make sure schools can proceed with planned fiber projects, nearly 750,000 students — mostly in rural areas — will be left on the wrong side of a digital divide, disconnected from the same learning opportunities as students in other regions. These learning opportunities were once luxuries in classrooms, but they are now vital for college and career readiness. Already, 50 percent of jobs require some digital skills. By the end of the decade, 77 percent will require technological skills. Our students will not be ready for what tomorrow brings if we don’t equip their schools with the broadband infrastructure they need. We made it a priority to strengthen the E-rate program six years ago. The program was modernized for the broadband needs of today. And now, we need USAC to finish the job. [USAC is the organization that manages Universal Service Programs for the FCC.