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.

Duluth Tribune support statewide solutions to local small cell equipment collocation

The legislature is discussing a number of broadband-related topics. HF739/SF561 looks at creating a statewide policy to allow wireless companies to put their small cell equipment in public spaces. Right now a provider must work with the local government when they want to collocate equipment and the local government and charges a fee. The providers would like to streamline the process. Minnesota is not the only state looking at the issue – several states are. The last I heard (at a House Committee meeting), the League of Minnesota Cities and providers were trying to find a solution to meet all needs.

The Duluth News Tribune has posted an editorial on the issue…

“The deployment of small cells is one way providers can meet the demands on the network and also prepare for the next generation of wireless technologies called 5G,” Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Ross wrote in February in a letter urging lawmakers to find agreement on new measures. “This legislation will help enhance the wireless networks that Minnesota businesses rely upon to grow their companies and attract new investment.”

“These are the future,” AT&T Minnesota President Paul Weirtz said of small cells in an interview last week with the News Tribune editorial board. “The argument is if we can get some parameters as to how to deploy this over the 854 communities in Minnesota, just some standards around that, it’s going to get those antennas employed sooner. And that’s going to help bring that 5G wireless coverage quicker to Minnesota.”

The parameters the Legislature needs to determine — and, encouragingly, it’s working with providers, the League of Minnesota Cities and others to do so — include how much cities receive in rent, or rates, for small cells on traffic signals and in public right-of-ways. That varies widely right now. In cities in Ohio, it’s $200 per year, for example. In Indiana, cities charge $50 a year, according to Weirtz.

But in Duluth, he said, the reported rate runs $6,000 annually.

Clearly, Internet providers right now aren’t getting the consistent and fair rates they deserve and for which they can plan and with which they can do their work.

“We’re not seeing these rates anywhere else in the country,” Weirtz said of Duluth’s. “The legislation we’re hoping to do would put some common sense around a statewide rate structure. We don’t know what that number is going to be, but, you know, we’re hoping it’s south of $6,000.”

Internet Privacy: what’s in Minnesota’s current internet privacy law?

On March 31, I posted about Minnesota Legislature’s reaction to US Congress’ decision to overturn privacy protections…

In a surprise move, the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday voted to bar internet service providers from selling their users’ personal data without express written consent.

Here is the proposed legislation

1.3    “Sec. 17. [237.417] PERSONAL INFORMATION; PROHIBITION.
1.4No telecommunications or internet service provider that has entered into a franchise
1.5agreement, right-of-way agreement, or other contract with the state of Minnesota or a
1.6political subdivision, or that uses facilities that are subject to such agreements, even if it is
1.7not a party to the agreement, may collect personal information from a customer resulting
1.8from the customer’s use of the telecommunications or internet service provider without
1.9express written approval from the customer. No such telecommunication or internet service
1.10provider shall refuse to provide its services to a customer on the grounds that the customer
1.11has not approved collection of the customer’s personal information.
1.12EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective the day following final enactment.”
1.13Renumber the sections in sequence and correct the internal references
1.14Amend the title accordingly
1.15The motion prevailed. #did not prevail. So the amendment was #not adopted.

But what about existing Minnesota Internet Privacy Statutes? Turns out existing legislation already exists and may already meet the needs – although there is one important change required.

Here’s the crux of that law…

325M.02 WHEN DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION PROHIBITED.

Except as provided in sections 325M.03 and 325M.04, an Internet service provider may not knowingly disclose personally identifiable information concerning a consumer of the Internet service provider.

And definition of Personally identifiable information…

Subd. 5.Personally identifiable information.

“Personally identifiable information” means information that identifies:

(1) a consumer by physical or electronic address or telephone number;

(2) a consumer as having requested or obtained specific materials or services from an Internet service provider;

(3) Internet or online sites visited by a consumer; or

(4) any of the contents of a consumer’s data-storage devices.

Provider can share info when required by law (325M.03) and in a few other circumstances (325M.04)…

325M.04 WHEN DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION PERMITTED; AUTHORIZATION.

Subdivision 1.Conditions of disclosure.

An Internet service provider may disclose personally identifiable information concerning a consumer to:

(1) any person if the disclosure is incident to the ordinary course of business of the Internet service provider;

(2) another Internet service provider for purposes of reporting or preventing violations of the published acceptable use policy or customer service agreement of the Internet service provider; except that the recipient may further disclose the personally identifiable information only as provided by this chapter;

(3) any person with the authorization of the consumer; or

(4) as provided by section 626A.27.

The proposed and existing legislation are not exactly the same – but similar enough that the authors and committees may consider going back to the original and modifying if necessary. I’m not a lawyer, so the details often get by me. But I do know online marketing. The proposed legislation feels like an opt-out policy – similar to getting an email that says “reply if you don’t want to get more emails from us”. The existing legislation feels like opt-in – similar to getting an email that says “reply if you want to get more emails from us”. My impression probably speaks more to the need for the policy than actual legislation but I do know that the existing legislation has a lot of details that may prove useful to deploying the spirit of the proposed legislation. It’s seems like a mashup may be beneficial.

Here’s the important change, the existing law seems to defer to federal legislation. Clearly if the goal is to maintain privacy they will want to change that…

NOTE: Chapter 325M, as added by Laws 2002, chapter 395, article 1, section 9, is effective March 1, 2003, and expires on the effective date of federal legislation that preempts state regulation of the release of personally identifiable information by Internet service providers. Laws 2002, chapter 395, article 1, section 11.

Rural broadband editorial from Duluth on cost, speed, and the frustration of data plans

The Duluth News Tribune recently posted an editorial from Jan Keough and her personal experience with satellite living north of Duluth…

My personal experiences with satellite tells me this may not be a universal answer. Cost, speed, and the frustration of data plans make satellite Internet less available and less useful in rural areas than wired services.

I live 20 miles north of Duluth. No wired Internet via DSL, cable, or fiber optic is available in our township. Internet is possible through fairly poor mobile (one cell tower with a weak signal), fixed wireless from the electric cooperative (tower), and satellite via two providers. I used to get Internet from one of those two providers but switched to fixed wireless largely because of cost and reliability. With satellite, the signal can be lost when ice and snow fall on the dish.

Both providers in our area offered plans with speeds of 25 megabits per second with data plans up to 50 gigabytes per month for $129 and $110, respectively. The service reaches us but is very expensive; and latency, upload speeds, and data plans are problematic.

Some friends had to deal with serious illness this past winter, with months of treatment and recovery from surgery. That meant more time working and convalescing from home and up to three people trying to access their satellite Internet at the same time to work via Skype, to connect with family, and to watch Internet movies. Simultaneous use slowed down everyone, and they ran through their “unlimited” monthly data plan halfway through the month; then the satellite service ramped down to effectively block a reasonable connection for a couple of weeks until the data plan renewed.

This situation is not unusual. Multiple users simultaneously using multiple Internet video or other intense systems is common for families with schoolchildren, at family gatherings, for small businesses, and at local community centers. Internet video is becoming very data-intensive, with high-definition video common for gaming and certain software, eating both speed and more and more data. The “Internet of things” is real. Home-based monitoring tools are now common in thermostats, refrigerators, pet minders, medical monitors and more. And that’s on top of telecommuting, video connectivity, music streaming, gaming and other data-intensive activities. Many people use the Internet to access television networks. While 25 megabits per second may be a sufficient speed now, it won’t be long (a year or so?) before it isn’t enough for personal and business use, and cost-effective data plans are inadequate.

Can satellite deliver 100 megabits per second at a reasonable cost by 2026, which is Minnesota’s border-to-border goal? Satellite Internet may bring fast broadband to rural areas, but it is very expensive and data plans are easily exceeded; satellite Internet at the higher speed and data plans are far more costly than offerings in urban areas.

Wired systems like DSL and, especially, fiber optic offer far more affordable access to broadband and can be scaled to vastly higher speeds to meet the needs of families and businesses well into the future.

Wired infrastructure is expensive to build, but so was rural electrification. Private-public funding (leveraged by Minnesota broadband grants) and technology partnerships are capable of bringing modern and scalable broadband Internet to everyone, even in rural areas.

With satellite Internet, rural folks are at a great disadvantage, especially where cost, uploads and latency matter. That’s in health care, education, and business operations, as examples. Satellite may not be the short- to medium-term panacea in rural areas.

Like electricity and roads, wired Internet is needed across our state to ensure that everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable, world-class broadband networks that enable us to thrive in our communities into the future.

Jan is active with the Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative.

Conference Committee on Omnibus that includes broadband budget: April 24

Two bits of news here. First, legislators are meeting on Monday (April 24, 2017) at 12:30 to discuss the Omnibus bill that includes broadband funding. Second, the following legislators will be in on the discussion:

The bulk of the meeting will be spent going through the two versions of the bill – but it also includes agency testimony. I will try to attend or at least watch from home (if possible) and distill just the broadband sections.

Here’s the announcement:

Monday, April 24, 12:30 PM – Room 1100 Minnesota Senate Building

Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance

Chair: Rep. Pat Garofalo

Alternate Chair: Sen. Jeremy Miller

Location: Room 110 Minnesota Senate Bldg

Note:

Conference Committee on SF1937, Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill
Conferees: HOUSE – Garofalo, Newberger, Hoppe, O’Neill, Mahoney; SENATE – Miller, Osmek, Dahms, Anderson P, Champion
Senator Miller will Chair the meeting
Agenda
Walk-through of side-by-side and spreadsheet followed by agency testimony.
Documents will be posted as soon as they are available.

 

MN Broadband Task Force April 2017: Making the business case for broadband

The Task Force heard from folks in the field who slice and dice the numbers to help people understand what it will take to deploy broadband in rural areas. They heard from Mark Mrla of Finley Engineering about his work on broadband feasibility studies. When ordered by a rural community, many feasibility studies in Minnesota have become like a work plan. Communities use it to approach providers (directly or through and RFP) and many have then gone on to seek (and get) state broadband funding. ComQuest spoke about their broadband modeling tool that helps communities and providers build scenarios for business case development. They can alter variables to predict outcomes. Dusty Johnson from Vantage Point talked about the economic impact of the rural broadband industry on rural and urban areas.

They also heard from Minnesota economic developers (Cheryal Hills, Executive Director, Region 5 Development Commission, Sheila Haverkamp, Executive Director, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation and Kristi Westbrock, COO, Consolidated Telecommunications Co.). Kristi works with the local CTC but their surveys on the impact of their network indicates that she’s an economic developer too.

They also got a legislative update.

It was an interesting discussion. Continue reading

2017 MHTA Spring Conference: May 9

Always a good conference. Some topics are pretty industry specific but the policy stuff is interesting to a wider audience and the trade show is great…

Be sure to save the date for our 2017 MHTA Spring Conference, coming up on May 9!

Each year MHTA hosts a gathering of 700 science and technology leaders and professionals that highlights local companies, their breakthroughs and the people behind them.

We’re holding the conference at a new venue this year: the Minneapolis Depot Renaissance. We will be featuring more than 15 breakout sessions in addition to our keynote speakers. Conference tracks will focus on digital transformation, cybersecurity and Minnesota’s leadership in the next wave of innovation.

Exhibit space is also returning to the conference for the first time in a few years! If you are interested in speaking, submitting an idea, sponsoring, or exhibiting at Spring Conference let us know by contacting organizers at news@mhta.org.

We’re also excited to announce that Neel Kashkari, President of Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, will be one of our keynote speakers! Kashkari is the 13th president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. He was born and raised Ohio and first worked as an aerospace engineer. Later he attended the Wharton School of Business and covered the technology security sector for Goldman Sachs. Ten years ago the Secretary of the Treasury tapped Kashkari to administer the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) during the financial crisis. Kashkari is currently a voting member of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting panel.

REGISTER HERE

EVENT DETAILS
Tuesday, May 9, 2016
7:00 am – 5:30 pm

Minneapolis Depot Renaissance Hotel
225 3rd Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Tell us how much you pay per bit and byte for your broadband.

Last week I wrote about Minnesota Broadband Coalition’s cool tool that helps determine the price of broadband by speed (bit) and data usage (byte). Here’s a quick visual reminder:

Today Jim Hickle from Gigabit Minnesota sent me info on their numbers:

I think Jim had a good idea of sharing the info. I want to invite other providers to do the same. The Coalition has a broadband cost analysis spreadsheet that you can use to calculate the unit cost of your broadband.  Email it to me (atreacy@treacyinfo.com).  Or complete this form with the info you have. I’ll compile all submissions  and we can share a more complete picture of comparative broadband pricing.