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.

Rep Lueck urges folks around Aitkin to seek Border to Border broadband grants

Brainerd Dispatch reports…

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, on Friday encouraged qualified organizations to apply for Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant funding designed to expand internet access in unserved and underserved areas of rural Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Office of Broadband Development will accept grant proposals until 4 p.m. Sept. 13. The Legislature provided $20 million during the 2019 session for this round of grant funding.

It’s good advice.

FCC Approves Priority Window For Tribes To Expand Broadband

CBS reports on tribal access to licenses…

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a priority filing window for tribes to obtain licenses that could boost internet service in rural communities.

The commission voted 3-2 Wednesday in favor of the filing window for federally recognized tribes.

The 2.5 Ghz-band of spectrum largely is unassigned in the U.S. West and is seen as key to expanding 5G access.

The licenses could help tribes establish or expand broadband coverage in underserved areas. Tribally owned entities, including colleges and universities, also would be given priority for licenses.

Exhibit at or Sponsor the MN Fall Broadband conference: Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work?

We’re starting to get excited for the Fall Broadband Conference!  Have you been wondering how you could get more involved with the conference? There are opportunities for sponsorship or to become an exhibitor.

The conference is always well regarded. Generally, 125-150 community leaders come to learn more about broadband-fueled strategies.

Sponsor ships start at $1,000 and exhibitors at $500. Learn more.

US House Ag meeting on broadband Archive – rural areas need gig access

Earlier today the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit (Committee on Agriculture) met to hear about: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband“. I’m pleased to report that two Minnesotans were there to tell the story in our state – Neela Mollgaard at Red Wing Ignite and Dave Hengel at Greater Bemidji.

All of the speakers shed a light on what better broadband and supporting locals to better use that broadband make a difference in a rural community.

Here’s the meeting:

And access to Dave and Neela’s written testimony.

[Update July 15, 2019]

Rural Minnesota Cooperatives Partner to Connect Aitkin County

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently highlighted the FTTH project in Aitkin County

The lakes and forests of Aitkin County in northern Minnesota make it an ideal location for a vacation home, but poor connectivity has historically limited days spent at the cabin to weekends and holidays. However, a new partnership between Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) and Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) is making it possible for families to extend their trips up north by connecting lakeside cabins with high-speed Internet access.

The two co-ops are working together to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, XStream Fiber, that will bring fast, reliable broadband access to homes and businesses in MLEC’s service territory. MLEC hopes that the improved connectivity will benefit the local economy by encouraging seasonal residents, who make up more than 40 percent of the cooperative’s membership, to stay in the region for longer.

It’s a tale of collaboration with the cooperatives working together spurred by a network created with support from a Minnesota broadband grant…

CTC’s role in the partnership is to provide network connectivity, Internet backhaul, and backend support while MLEC manages billing, marketing, and other subscriber services. The cooperatives coordinate technical support calls, with MLEC handling basic issues itself and pushing higher level problems to CTC. The electric co-op owns all of the fiber infrastructure within its service territory.

The Xstream fiber might not have made it into the ground the $1.76 million Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant that MLEC received in 2016.

House Agriculture Subcommittee on Broadband July 11 in DC

The House Agriculture Committee is having a Subcommittee hearing this Thursday, July 11th on rural broadband: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband.” Looks like the meeting starts at 9am (MN time) and there’s a link for the livestream

Thursday, July 11, 2019 – 10:00AM

1300 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C.

Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee Hearing

RE: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband”

The story of Minnesota’s state broadband funds past, present and future from Matt Schmit

Recently, the Daily Yonder posted an article by (former Senator) Matt Schmit on Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband grants, specifically the history of the legislation (which he authored) that made it happen in 2014…

The first bill, which created the grant fund, focused on improving service in unserved areas while not ignoring the underserved; achieving technology neutrality while requiring scalability of all state-funded deployments to 100 Mbps /100 Mbps speeds; and encouraging meaningful partnerships among various entities, such as local communities, tribal governments, incumbent and competitive providers, and rural cooperatives.

He mentions the obstacles…

At each turn, we overcame these obstacles, but not without consequence. Concerns over statewide prevailing wage mandates on public funding in rural markets led to a bipartisan exemption in state law, a tweak to the program that has worked well and enhanced program purchasing power. A desire to improve service in underserved areas inspired a small carve-out for targeted investment but to date has produced scant proposals. An infusion of new federal CAF dollars and an interest, however idealistic, in coordinating scarce public resources and leveraging federal funding to maximum benefit led to a challenge process that has failed to push incumbent CAF recipients to provide more competitive service.

And remembers a plan that didn’t work…

As beneficial as Minnesota’s Border to Border program has been, I remain convinced that my other bill was the better bill – and far more likely to inspire greater impact. The bill’s overarching goal was to facilitate local and regional cross-sector collaboration and partnership by introducing new public financing tools to the rural broadband conversation. After all, if lack of private investment capital for scarcely populated service territories remains the fundamental challenge underlying broadband service gaps, this bill sought to address the problem head on.

Intended to provide new tools for local and regional solutions, the legislation clarified and enhanced local bonding authority, enabled creation of regional broadband districts to strengthen cooperatives and public-private partnerships with new taxing authority, and provided a critical source of non-state match funding for state grant program applicants.

Dramatically mischaracterized by one industry lobbyist as the “most radical legislation ever introduced in Minnesota,” the bill never even received a hearing.

And makes some recommendations going forward…

At the same time, the broadband grant program would benefit from a few upgrades. First, multiyear base funding, preferably through a dedicated source that limits its exposure to general fund competition, would provide more stability to the program. Second, a reconsidered incumbent challenge process would help achieve the intended purpose of pushing CAF recipients to invest in better technology and offer faster speeds. Third, new tools and clear authority for local and regional entities to raise non-state funds to match a state grant or forego state funding altogether would improve rural broadband providers’ access to capital.