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 Broadband Task Force Report – what Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mankato Free Press are saying

Yesterday I posted about the latest Minnesota Broadband Task Force report. Today I’m reading about it in various publications. Here’s what people are saying…

Minneapolis Star Tribune – Minnesota task force says $35.7 million needed annually to expand broadband

Minnesota spent tens of millions of dollars expanding high-speed broadband internet in recent years, but nearly $1.4 billion in public and private investment is still needed to get access to all households, according to a state task force report. …

The task force’s goal is to connect all of those households by 2022. The $1.4 billion price tag to meet that goal would be covered by a variety of sources, including federal, state and local funding and private companies.

In November, state officials forecast a $188 million budget deficit over the next year and a half. Given that outlook, the task force’s financial request “is a little daunting,” said Kelliher, a DFLer who once served as speaker of the Minnesota House and now is president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association.

The report is a good conversation starter, said Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls. The next state revenue and expenditure forecast in February will help determine what’s affordable, he said.

“That being said, I think they’re on the right path,” Kresha said of the task force. “Certainly we don’t want to stop the great work we’ve done for rural broadband. And if there [are] any opportunities to continue to expand efforts — whether that’s through policy, funding or innovation — we should do it.”

Mankato Free Press – Broadband Task Force renews push for high-speed access

Bill Otis, president of New Ulm-based NU-Telecom, said rural phone companies like his rely on federal and state grants to help build costly fiber networks.

“We’ve made progress (in adding fiber) but it’s slow without some of the grants. We’ve been involved in grants that allow us to build out to areas that would be economically unreasonable without the grants. And even with the grants, it’s sometimes questionable economically. Getting the fiber out to some of these more remote rural areas can be tough,” Otis said. …

But Otis said those minimum speeds are relatively slow for the growing demands on the internet. “You’d like to say everyone should have 100 (megabits) down and 20 up. And to be perfect you’d have 100 by 100.”

He said that when putting in new lines, having the minimum 25-3 megabit is “underusing your fiber.”

And the demand for more speed is only going to grow as more video content, self-driving vehicles, smart cars, enhanced 911 systems, smart homes and other technology all vie for internet and fiber optic space.

“The projections are for unbelievable, exponential growth in the next five to 10 years,” Otis said.

House Commerce Committee Republicans Lay Out Principles for Broadband Infrastructure

I am borrowing entirely from the Benton Foundation’s summary of recent activities by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), introduced a series of resolutions laying out principles for broadband infrastructure:

  • H. Res __ introduced by Subcommittee Vice Chairman Leonard Lance (R-NJ), to direct broadband infrastructure funding toward areas that are currently unserved.

  • H. Res __ introduced by Rep Bob Latta (R-OH), to ensure federal policy treats all broadband providers in a technology-neutral manner, applying consistent rules that support innovation.

  • H. Res __ introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), to ensure wireless broadband infrastructure funding preference for states that support small cell siting reform, helping ease the permitting process in communities across the country.

  • H. Res __ introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), to ensure Federal, state, and local tax, regulatory, permitting, and other requirements are coordinated and reconciled to maximize the benefits of broadband investment.

MN Office of Broadband Development is hiring

Great people, great mission…

Job Class: Grants Specialist Coordinator
Working Title: Broadband Grants Administrator

  • Who May Apply: Open to all qualified job seekers
  • Date Posted: 01/10/2018
  • Closing Date: 01/16/2018
  • Hiring Agency/Seniority Unit: Employment and Economic Development
  • Division/Unit: Broadband Development
  • Work Shift/Work Hours: Day Shift
  • Days of Work: Monday – Friday
  • Travel Required: Yes
  • Salary Range: $24.32 – $35.91/hourly; $50,780 – $70,980/annually
  • Classified Status: Classified
  • Connect 700 Program Eligible: Yes

Job Summary

The purpose of this position is to develop, promote, implement, provide technical assistance for, evaluate and report on state and/or federally funded financing programs of the Office of Broadband Development. The Office develops and administers programs designed to achieve high quality broadband access for all Minnesotans and to support and promote the skills necessary to adopt and use broadband tools for economic, educational, health, and institutional benefits.  Programs administered include the following:

  1. Border-to-Border Infrastructure Grant Program which provides state financing for DEED approved broadband infrastructure expansion projects.
  2. Supporting and maximizing Minnesota entities participation in federally-funded broadband infrastructure programs.
  3. Digital literacy, broadband adoption and use programs.

Minimum Qualifications:

Bachelor’s Degree in Planning, Community and Economic Development, Political Science, Public Administration, or related to broadband AND two (2) years of professional grant management experience involving evaluating, administering, accounting for, training and/or monitoring of grants proposals, grant agreements, or grant recipients.

Extensive knowledge of federal and state laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures with the ability to effectively interpret and communicate those to grant recipients.

Professional experience working with training and workforce issues, including but not limited to business and economic development issues, instructional design and methods, labor market data and employment projections, accrediting standards, industry certifications, training resources, federal poverty guidelines, strategic planning, finance, and marketing.

Working knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles, financial training to understand financial statements and records and have the training and/or ability to analyze both corporate and municipal financial statements, audits, forecasts, budgets, and demographics

Preferred Qualifications:

Relevant experience and familiarity with the broadband industry in Minnesota or another state.

Additional Requirements

Resumes of all applicants to this posting will be evaluated against the Minimum Qualifications stated above.  If your skills match the required skills for this position, the department may contact you.  Employee reference checks will be conducted on all finalists.  This may include a review of documentation related to job performance.  It includes contact with the applicant’s current and/or former employers.

A Criminal Background Check will be conducted on all finalists for this position.  A criminal conviction will not automatically remove you from consideration for employment.

When the position requires travel and the applicant drives a state owned or leased vehicle, a driver’s license and record check will be conducted.
Application Details

Why Work For Us

GREAT BENEFITS PACKAGE! The State of Minnesota offers a comprehensive benefits package including low cost medical and dental insurance, employer paid life insurance, short and long term disability, pre-tax flexible spending accounts, retirement plan, tax-deferred compensation, generous vacation and sick leave, and 11 paid holidays each year.

How to Apply

Click “Apply” at the bottom of this page. If you are unable to apply online, please contact the job information line at 651.259.3637.

For additional information about the application process, go to http://www.mn.gov/careers.

Contact

If you have questions about the position, contact Jolene Blaser at jolene.blaser@state.mn.us

MN Broadband Task Force recommendations $70 million to meet speed goals (100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026)

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has released their annual report. It’s an abbreviated version of usual report as they are gearing up for next year’s report, which unless something changes will be the last.

Here’s the quick take on the status of broadband in Minnesota…

As reported by Connected Nation in October 2017, 88.11 percent of Minnesota households have wireline broadband access available at a speed of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload (25 Mbps/3 Mbps), while 73.45 percent of rural Minnesota households have a wired broadband connection that meets these speeds. Nearly 70 percent (70.04 percent) of Minnesota households have wireline speeds of 100 Mbps/20 Mbps. In rural areas of Minnesota, 52.88 percent of households have access to these speeds. As Minnesota strives to meet its updated broadband speed goals, much work remains.

Their recommendations…

This report contains two recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature:

  • Provide $71.48 million in on-going biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, until the state achieves its broadband speed goals.
  • Provide the Office of Broadband Development with $500,000 on-going biennial funding and maintain the existing partnership with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, until the state achieves its broadband speed goals.

I want to highlight the first recommendation because the recommendation in the report itself is different from what is in the press release. Here’s the recommendation as stated in the press release:

  • Provide $71.48 million in on-going biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, until the state achieves its broadband goals. This funding amount, which accounts for federal funding through the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF II) and the FCC’s Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM), would provide service to the 252,000 Minnesota households that currently lack Internet service at the state’s speed goals of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

The big difference is that the press release only alludes to the 25/3 speed goals (with a goal date of 2022). The state also has a speed goal of 100/20 by 2026. The state funding has required networks to be scalable to higher speeds; the federal funding does not.

Here’s the text from the statute:

It is a state goal that (1) no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second; and (2) no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.

The difference is a big one – especially since the future of the Task Force is uncertain. The statute leaves room for 25/3 being a stepping stone, not a resting place for broadband speeds.

And a look at state versus rural status…

Webinar Jan 11 (today): Broadband Under the Community Reinvestment Act

A Federal Reserve webinar today (Jan 11) from 2-3:00 CST…

Just as broadband access plays a critical role in our lives, access to broadband has become critically essential in community development—education and workforce development, health, housing, small business development and access to financial services. The ability to access the internet is an important tool for workers to use to find and keep jobs in both urban and rural markets. Broadband access lags in many population segments, including low-income and rural communities.

Under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), infrastructure investment includes facilitating the construction, expansion, improvement, maintenance or operation of essential infrastructure or facilities for health services, education, public safety, public services, industrial parks or affordable housing. Broadband is included as a form of infrastructure investment—an essential community service.

This Connecting Communities webinar will highlight possible opportunities for financial institutions to receive CRA consideration and take advantage of new opportunities to help close the digital divide across communities and improve economic stability.

Speakers include:

  • Jeanne Milliken Bonds, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
  • Jordana Barton, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
  • Adrian Franco, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Chelsea Cruz, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Yolanda Davila, BBVA Compass

President Trump’s broadband infrastructure plan – long of streaming the process, short on specific new funds

The White House reports on the Presidential Executive Order on Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America…

To implement this policy and enable sustainable rural broadband infrastructure projects, executive departments and agencies (agencies) should seek to reduce barriers to capital investment, remove obstacles to broadband services, and more efficiently employ Government resources.

Among other actions, the executive branch will continue its implementation of section 6409 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-96)(“section 6409”), which requires, among other things, that the General Services Administration (GSA) develop a common form and master contract for wireless facility sitings on buildings and other property owned by the Federal Government.  These documents enable the Federal Government to process wireless facility siting requests more efficiently and will also provide additional predictability regarding the availability of locations for asset installation to installers of wireless broadband facilities.

Sec. 2.  Reviewing Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities on Federal Real Property.  (a)  Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Administrator of General Services (Administrator), in coordination with the heads of Federal property managing agencies, shall evaluate the effectiveness of the GSA Common Form Application for use in streamlining and expediting the processing and review of requests to locate broadband facilities on Federal real property.

(b)  As part of this evaluation, the Administrator shall determine whether any revisions to the GSA Common Form Application are appropriate and, to the extent consistent with law, shall begin implementation of any such revisions.

(c)  In furtherance of section 6409, all applicants and Federal property managing agencies shall use the GSA Common Form Application for wireless service antenna structure siting developed by the Administrator for requests to locate broadband facilities on Federal property.  Federal property managing agencies shall expeditiously review and approve such requests unless an approval would negatively affect performance of the agency’s mission or otherwise not be in the best interests of the United States.

(d)  Within 180 days of the date of this order, and on a quarterly basis thereafter, all Federal property managing agencies shall report to the GSA regarding their required use of the Common Form Application, the number of Common Form Applications received, the percentage approved, the percentage rejected, the basis for any rejection, and the number of working days each application was pending before being approved or rejected.  Each report shall include the number of applications received, approved, and rejected within the preceding quarter.

(e)  Ninety days after the date of this order, and on a quarterly basis thereafter, the Administrator shall prepare and provide to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) an aggregated summary report detailing results from the reports submitted under subsection (d) of this section.  Not later than 1 year from the date of this order, the Administrator shall recommend to the Director improvements to the Common Form Application needed to further the purposes of this order.

Benton provided a summary…

The Trump administration is eyeing multiple “work streams” to help speed along broadband deployment, the National Economic Council’s Grace Koh told reporters: easing the permitting process on federal lands; letting towers built on federal lands also include infrastructure from telecom companies; and using dark fiber agencies have deployed to help rural providers through interconnection agreements. “We’ll also look at funding sources,” Koh added, noting the existence of “funding sources for both broadband deployment and adoption scattered across the federal government” and a plan to look at “how we can coordinate those funding sources and bring them together in order to get the maximum effect for the subsidy.” But senior administration officials weren’t prepared, when asked later in the call, to say the degree to which the Trump White House aspires to close the digital divide or provide a dollar estimate for what the administration may be interested in spending.

Telecompetitor recognizes that new funding is not specified…

Some stakeholders may have been hoping to hear about new funding for broadband. But Trump did not say anything about that. One of Trump’s first actions after he was elected president was to seek input on infrastructure initiatives that might spur U.S. economic development. At that time, various stakeholders suggested that broadband should be part of any such plans, and Republican FCC commissioners noted that if funding were made available for broadband, it should be administered through the Universal Service program – a program that currently faces a budget shortfall.

But although Trump said today that “necessary funds” would be available to rebuild crumbling rural infrastructure including roadways, railways and waterways, he made no reference to funding for broadband.

And while the rural task force report also highlights the important role that broadband can play in rural America, report recommendations do not discuss broadband funding other than a suggestion to “assess the efficacy of current programs.”

Broadband prices hikes expected – but will that be from all providers?

Digital Music News reports…

At least three major ISPs have already announced significant price hikes for 2018.  News of the increases come just days after the FCC voted to roll back net neutrality protections. …

Just this morning, Karl Bode of DSLReports caught wind of numerous increases at mega-ISP Comcast.  But that is simply the latest in a string of planned increases by the likes of Cox, Frontier, and even DirecTV and Dish Network.

In all cases, these are increases for essentially the same services, with Bode noting that American will be stuck paying ‘significantly more money for the same service in the new year’.  In many cases, the changes are padded into existing bills, with most consumers failing to see the changes.

You can check out the article for specifics on the increases.

I’ve heard from other providers that they have no plans to increase rates. It will be interesting to see what happens. And now I’m going to plug the idea to crowdsource benchmark prices today to track increases – by asking folks to report what they currently pay for service from their provider. I heard from a few folks – but not many and not from customers of local independent and cooperative providers. Providers are welcome to send me the info too.

It would be nice to give a nod to those who don’t raise prizes and be aware of those who do.