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.

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel suggests we crowdsource a broadband map

Today FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel spoke to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She spoke to the need of better mapping to assess the broadband situation in the US and she asked consumers to help identify and map where there is no access to broadband:

“If you’ve not been able to get service, or live in an area that lacks it, help us make a map and write me at broadbandfail@fcc.gov. I’ve set this account up to take in your ideas. I will share every one of them with the agency Chairman—and put on pressure to do something about it.”

A good start to smart cities – smart streets lights

State Tech recently ran an article with a few good ideas for smart city projects. The projects come from big cities – but it seems like there might be a way to adapt them to smaller towns and rural areas too…

From Chicago…

The Chicago Department of Transportation, for example, recently embarked on a $160 million smart street lighting project, much of which will pay for itself. According to a press release from the city, the LED bulbs and IoT-connected devices will be 50 to 75 percent more efficient than traditional lighting methods, meaning the energy cost savings will largely cover the cost of the modernization project.

From Los Angeles…

Meanwhile, Los Angeles, an early adopter of the tech, has equipped more than 80 percent of its streets with connected lights that feature LED bulbs and 4G LTE wireless tech over the last few years. The city is already seeing the benefits of the change.

The city reported a 63 percent savings on its energy bill in the first year with the new lights, and it’s using the connected poles to improve resident cell service, among other benefits.

From Schenectady…

Moreover, in Schenectady, N.Y., city officials have targeted smart street lighting as a foundational element of its overall smart city transformation. As part of a greater smart city initiative facilitated through partnerships with Cisco Systems and GE, the city has upgraded more than 5,000 of its existing streetlights to sustainable LED bulbs, making the entire network accessible through a secure web browser.

Schenectady already sees great energy and cost savings from the upgrade, as well as enhancements to public safety, but it’s looking to expand the role that smart street lights can play even further, Mayor Gary McCarthy said at the Smart Cities Week conference in Washington, D.C., last week.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force October: Cybersecurity

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met today. They had a quick check in with subcommittees on their recommendations for the legislature. Continued funding for the Office of Broadband Development and for grants were popular themes.

Also they heard from Chris Buse from State Cybersecurity. They have a plan to improve security – one bit of advice. The movement to improve cybersecurity starts with better supporting IT.

Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting today

Sorry for the late notice. I’m on my way there. I will try to Livestream on Facebook:

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
October 12, 2017
Minnesota Senate Office Building –Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. –10:10 a.m.                  Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.                 Office of Broadband Development Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.                 Updated Cost to Deploy Broadband
  • 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.                 Report out from Technology/Cybersecurity Subcommittee—Content and Recommendations (Kevin Hansen, chair)
  • 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.                 Report out from Return on Investment Subcommittee—Content and Recommendations (Maureen Ideker and Don Niles, co-chairs)
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.                 Report out from Accessibility and Adoption Subcommittee—Content and Recommendations (Bernadine Joselyn and Shannon Heim, co-chairs)
  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.                Lunch (Capitol basement)
  • 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.                 Setting the Bar: Minnesota’s IT Security Strategic Plan
  • Chris Buse, Assistant Commissioner for Information Security and CISO, MNIT
  • 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.                     Continued Discussion of Task Force Report and Recommendations
  • 2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.                     November Meeting/Wrap-up/Adjourn

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Frontier is going wireless for its CAF 2 commitment

Doug Dawson of CCG reports on Frontier’s decision to build wireless network with their CAF 2 funding…

Frontier Communications just announced that they are testing the use of wireless spectrum to complete the most rural portions of their CAF II build-out requirement. The company accepted $283 million per year for six years ($1.7 billion total) to upgrade broadband to 650,000 rural homes and businesses. That’s a little over $2,600 per location passed. The CAF II program requires that fund recipients increase broadband to speeds of at least 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.

He outlines the good and the bad about the technology…

I have mixed feelings about using federal dollars to launch this technology. On the plus side, if this is done right this technology can be used to deliver bandwidth up to 100 Mbps, but in a full deployment speeds can be engineered to deliver consistent 25 Mbps download speeds. But those kinds of speeds require an open line-of-sight to customers, tall towers that are relatively close to customers (within 3 – 4 miles) and towers that are fiber fed.

But when done poorly the technology delivers much slower broadband. There are WISPs using the technology to deliver speeds that don’t come close to the FCC’s 10/1 Mbps requirement. They often can’t get fiber to their towers and they will often serve customers that are much further than the ideal distance from a tower. Luckily there are many other WISPs using the technology to deliver great rural broadband.

The line-of-sight issue is a big one and this technology is a lot harder to make work in places with lots of trees and hills, making it a difficult delivery platform in Appalachia and much of the Rockies. But the technology is being used effectively in the plains and open desert parts of the country today.

And why this may not be best use of federal funding…

I see downsides to funding this technology with federal dollars. The primary concern is that the technology is not long-lived. The electronics are not generally expected to last more than seven years and then the radios must be replaced. Frontier is using federal dollars to get this installed, and I am sure that the $2,600 per passing is enough to completely fund the deployment. But are they going to keep pouring capital into replacing radios regularly over time? If not, these deployments would be a sick joke to play on rural homes – giving them broadband for a few years until the technology degrades. It’s hard to think of a worse use of federal funds.

There are people who do wireless well. If federal funding is going to be spent on wireless, it’s too bad it can’t be shifted to those folks who make it their business to serve rural areas well with wireless solutions.

Broadband can be brutal in Burnsville – a report from the front lines

Sometimes I hear from folks in the field who are frustrated. Today’s letter comes from David Gustafson in Burnsville. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to be remote to be offline – and what sufficient (or insufficient) broadband can mean for productivity…

I have lived south of the Minnesota river since 1967 and have been actively engaged in the technology field since the late 1950s. I have seen some great changes take place, from the early data links operating at 50-100 baud using some of the earliest modems to the very high speed connections that we have today. There are many small communities that have absolutely great connectivity, much, much better than we have in many parts of the metro area.

I presently live in Burnsville, just slightly north of the Ridges hospital. For internet service, I have but two choices. Both are abysmal providers. My cable service was terrible and I could never get the “on demand” feature to work properly. I cancelled their service and had Dish installed to meet my needs. This works very well, except during heavy rains or snow falls, when I revert to local “over the air” for local service. This service is combined with internet and 2 lines of phone access for slightly over $300 per month. It is guestimated that the internet portion is around $55 per month. This is their advertised “high speed internet service”, their premier offering and is supposedly rated at 25 down and 2 mbps up. I have never achieved those numbers. It is a 2 line bonded ADSL service. Typically I get about 15-16 max down and around 1.1 up. This afternoon, I had a 500 mb file to upload to the WETRANSFER.com site and it took over an hour to upload. This is absolutely inexcusable in today’s world.

Although I am retired, I am on the board of a national organization and must move a lot of large files (300-600 megabits) on a regular basis. With speeds of only 1 mbps up, it takes forever and a day to deal with large files. And of course this same situation is fairly common throughout Minnesota. There are a lot of folks in our state who do volunteer work, operate businesses at home, or other types of activities that are very dependent on the ability to transfer files as efficiently as possible. At a very minimum, we should be shooting for 100/100 speed as a minimum throughout our state. To do otherwise, is to short change our citizens. By their very nature, files are getting larger and larger and we really need to keep up with the times. We need fast internet at affordable prices. The present business model for most of our providers is not achieving this goal. We have turned into a nation of excuses for not doing things. We need to turn that around and start doing things that really contribute to the overall betterment of our country.

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force is set to end its tenure after next year. This might be a good time for the legislator to start thinking about who is going to speak for the citizens, who is going to make broadband speeds recommendations once their gone.

Assessment of Blandin Community Broadband Program using the Mountain of Accountability Framework (2015-2016)

I’m pleased to share the assessment of Blandin’s broadband work looking at the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities – the Assessment of Blandin Community Broadband Program using the Mountain of Accountability Framework (2015-2016).

This assessment of the 2015-2016 cohort of ten Blandin Broadband Communities and associated broadband-related activities was written by staff as part of the foundation’s overall efforts to build an assessment system that answers the basic question: “What do we need to know to do better?”

The report looks at the work of Blandin (related to broadband), including the following program components include:

  • Community Broadband Resources (technical assistance)
  • Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) partnerships
  • Annual Border to Border Broadband conferences
  • Webinar series
  • Convenings
  • Broadband grants
  • Minnesota Broadband Coalition policy work
  • Blandin on Broadband blog

And goes on to look at the impacts of these efforts at the following levels:

  • Individual persons
  • Individual grants/projects/events
  • Individual businesses/organizations/institutions (schools, health care facilities, local governments, etc.)
  • Communities
  • Regions
  • Statewide
  • National