MN Senate: Small wireless facilities collocation authorization discussion

Today I attended the Senate Committee meeting where they discussion small cell equipment collocation authorization. I’ll include my notes below. If you want the details, the video probably catches more than I did in my notes.

Spoiler alert: they voted to move this onto the Jobs Committee – but it wasn’t nor do I think it will be a slam dunk. They will continue the discussion there – although the Committee really asked all side to work on the issue before the next hearing and it seemed like the implication was that they should with a united approach if they wanted action.

The bill is an attempt to streamline deployment of small cell equipment throughout Minnesota to prepare for 5G wireless. Wireless providers (AT&T was there) are proponents. Cable providers do not support it. Local governments do not support the bill asis because they are the keepers of public property and would like more control over what is going to happen on it. They have concerns with size of equipment, safety of equipment and that one-size solution doesn’t fit all cities.

The Committee wondered if this bill was necessary – because wireless companies are already working with cities to get this done. A bill that created a state-level solution or at least standards would make it easier for the wireless companies.

All sides were happy to continue to work toward a solution – although not universally optimistic given the timeline. And all seemed to feel that if they come up with a solution that makes everyone happy that Minnesota might be the first in the nation to do it.

There was some discussion about moving this to Jobs Committee because jobs and broadband came up and that is the committee where other broadband and job discussions are happening.

I think that will be helpful as a few legislators seemed to think that 5G might be a solution for rural broadband. But I have heard clearly that while 5G will be a great solution for heavily populated areas (being tested in Uptown Mpls now) and downtown areas or a campus that it is not a solution for rural areas.

S.F. 561-Osmek: Small wireless facilities collocation authorization. (Handouts) Continue reading

Pipestone County is looking at regional broadband options

According to the Pipestone County Star

Pipestone County Commissioners are considering working with Lincoln, Murray, Lyon, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties to find out what it would take to provide broadband service to under-served areas of the counties and gauge interest in the availability of such service. …

Pipestone County Commissioners are considering working with Lincoln, Murray, Lyon, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties to find out what it would take to provide broadband service to under-served areas of the counties and gauge interest in the availability of such service.

They are hoping that they can have the same success as Nobles County…

Nobles County is one nearby example of how a study and provision of service could be conducted and funded.

Tom Johnson, Nobles County administrator, said the Nobles Economic Opportunities Network (NEON), received a $25,000 Blandin grant to study broadband needs in the county. The county contributed another $25,000 to cover the 50 percent match requirement of the grant.

The study, conducted by Finley Engineering, estimated that it would cost $20 million to provide service to the under-served areas of the county using 100 percent fiber. It also found a strong desire for service and the likelihood of a high participation rate among rural residents .

Johnson said Frontier and the Lismore Telephone Company reviewed the study. Lismore used the information to develop a plan to provide service to the under-served areas using a fiber/wireless hybrid system that includes a fiber loop throughout the county and several towers. The company received a $2.94 million Minnesota Broadband Grant
and will contribute an equal amount to complete the roughly $6 million project.

Hibbing is making a broadband plan – they want community input on Feb 7

Partially I share this to get folks in Hibbing informed and excited about an upcoming community meeting on broadband; partially I think it’s a great model for other communities. Hibbing is part of the IRBC cohort (described below) but that doesn’t mean communities outside the cohort can’t emulate what they are doing to get citizens engaged and moving on broadband.

The Hibbing Daily Tribune outlines the story…

Hibbing is among six communities in Blandin Foundation’s current cohort of Iron Range Broadband Communities. The intensive, two-year partnership with the foundation is based on advancing local broadband initiatives.

The communities’ efforts are also being backed by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) and St. Louis County, both of which have committed additional resources and funding.

With this designation, the communities will have the opportunity to access up to $75,000 for training, planning and programs, as well as access up to $20,000 for broadband infrastructure planning.

The opportunity…

The Hibbing cohort will do that at a Broadband Community Vision Session from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the Hibbing Community College (HCC) dining room. The session is open to the public, but an RSVP is required. …

The vision session will include a short presentation on the overall project and its current state. After gathering feedback, attendees will be broken down into smaller groups based on areas of interest.

“We have about 50 people planning to attend so far,” said Fedo, while highly encouraging RSVPing. “We really want the various sectors of the community to be represented.”

Once priorities and potential projects are identified, the cohort will have a handful of opportunities over an 18-month time period to apply for grants that help meet those priorities.

Regional Broadband Study being discussed for Murray, Pipestone, Lincoln, Lyon, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties

According to the West Central Tribune

Concerned that rural areas of the county could be left behind, the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners informally expressed interest this week in being part of a six-county broadband feasibility study. …

Finley Engineering of Slayton has offered to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of bringing broadband service to unserved rural areas in the six counties. The information will be developed for the individual counties, but by participating as a larger group, the costs for the study will be lower, according to information from Peg Heglund, Yellow Medicine County administrator.

Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties are looking at joining Murray, Pipestone, Lincoln and Lyon counties in the study.

The counties do not know what the study will cost at this point. The commissioners will need to formally approve being part of the study once the cost is known. The county is also seeking a possible Blandin Foundation grant toward its cost, according to Antony.

The commissioners noted that some neighboring counties, including Lac qui Parle, Swift and Kandiyohi, have recently seen success in obtaining grant funds toward projects to bring broadband service to unserved rural areas.

The article include a comment from a Commissioner that I thought was particularly astute…

“If we drop this thing, guys, we’re going to be an island in 10 years and (people will) look back on this thing and say what were they doing?” said Commissioner Ron Antony during discussions at the board’s meeting Tuesday in Granite Falls.

Pope County working on broadband survey to measure broadband need and interest

According to the Pope County Tribune

Not everyone in Pope County has access to high-speed Internet, and county officials are working to improve that access and to provide faster speeds in all areas of the county.

The first step in that effort is to determine what areas of the county are lacking access and speed and what residents would like to see improved.  A Pope County Initiative group, headed by Information Technology Director Donna Martin, is currently working to improve Internet access for everyone in the area.  And, to measure the current level of interest in higher speed Internet access, the team is conducting a survey, which is being mailed to every household in the county.  The survey is  designed to get opinions on current and needed Internet access and seeks responses.

Residents have two ways to complete the survey.  They can fill out and return the mailed survey, which should be arriving at residences this week.  Or, residents can complete the survey online by going to http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3155201/New-Survey.  The survey only takes a few minutes to complete, but Martin said she would like to get a high percentage of county residents to complete the survey.  “That’s why we are mailing it to every residence and business in Pope County,” she said.  Those who are mailing back the survey are asked to use the enclosed “dots” to seal two sides of the brochure and attach the postage also provided.  There is no cost to the resident to mail the survey back.

The results of the survey will help the county in its efforts to secure a grant that will help pay for a feasibility study, and, it is hoped, will ultimately result in state or federal funding to increase access and Internet speeds for the entire county.

New maps of US municipal FTTH networks – including three in Minnesota

Gotta love a hometown tool! The folks at Community Networks (Institute for Local Self Reliance) just published a map of citywide, municipal, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks across the US with more info on each network – including info on the three in Minnesota: Monticello Fibernet, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Systems (SMBS) and WindomNet.

muni_2016_12_ftth_citywide_map

I’m not going to say Minnesota is well above average – but we’re not below average either.

Digital Learning Day in February 23 – tools to help plan

Just wanted to share this for teachers, digital inclusion folks and any of us who might want to plan…

Digital Learning Day 2017 is right around the corner! On February 23, 2017, teachers and students from around the country will participate in the nationwide celebration highlighting great teaching and demonstrating how technology can improve student outcomes. Will you join them?

Interested, but not sure what to do? Visit our interactive lesson plans page for ideas and inspiration.

If you’re planning to participate, add your event to our map! Then visit our graphics page to help spread the word about your event.

Add Your Event