Notes from Industry Broadband Networks Conference: Connections that Matter

Today I attended the Broadband Networks Conference hosted by Minnesota Cable Communications Association, MN Telecom Alliance, AT&T, Comcast and others. It is an industry look at broadband policy and includes local legislators, national viewpoints and stakeholders.

I tried to take pretty complete notes, which I’m going to post below with minimal proofing – mostly because I have to catch up with legislative happening and county profiles. The bird’s eye view a few themes emerged:

  • Minnesota is focused on broadband. Legislators understand it’s important and ubiquitous coverage will require state support. It’s a matter of how much support is available.
  • Rural areas without broadband will be left behind. People will not move to areas without broadband.
  • People are talking about 5G. The legislation related to 5G is the small cell access to public rights of way. National speakers recognized that 5G will be great for downtown areas and college campuses but not a solution rural areas.
  • There is interest in modernizing broadband-related regulation – such as how VoIP is handled, call completion.
  • National politics are a wildcard at this point. Everyone is hopeful that investment in infrastructure will include investment in broadband – although the timing is uncertain. Industry seems happy with the new FCC Chair – especially in terms of Net Neutrality.

Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting: Mapping, grant challenges & MN Telephone Assistance Program

Today I attended the MN Broadband Task Force meeting. I recorded (via Facebook Live) most of the meeting. But I also took notes, OBD (Office of Broadband Development) kindly shared PPTs and I have the handouts.

The high level take on the meeting:

Border to Border Challenge Process

There are still some concerns on the Border to Border challenge process. Mostly there is concern that the threat of a challenge may be discouraging some communities from applying. That means fewer applications which may falsely signal to policymakers a diminished interest in funding.

Communities hoped that rules could be altered to force challengers to provide address level data on projects used in the challenge process. Some folks are discouraged that the penalties for challengers not fulfilling upgrade promises are minimal. BUT it sounds like the OBD worked to make sure challenges were legitimate and minimized impact on projects.


Connected Nation will begin new maps soon. They will use data from Dec 31, 2016. New maps will be out in April. Also Diane Wells gave a nice tour of maps available on the OBD website. (I use the maps often!)

MN Telephone Assistance Program (TAP)

TAP provides low income households $3.50/month to subsidize telephone access (not broadband!). Part of the rule is that TAP cannot provide more funding than Federal assistance (Lifeline). Lifeline’s subsidies for telephone access are decreasing as they are now covering broadband as well. By 2021, Lifeline will provide no support for telephone access, which means TAP will also provide no support. That will be a hit to low income household.

Legislative Update

There was a legislative update – look below for more info. Continue reading

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Feb 21: St Paul MN

I plan to attend the meeting tomorrow and will take notes – but it’s always good for the Task Force members to hear from the public if you have something to say…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
Stassen Office Building,
Conf. Room 2000,
600 North Robert Street,
St. Paul, MN 55146
February 21, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)
  • 10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Update on Legislative Items
    • Bill Introductions
    • Testimony
    • Broadband Days on Hill (Feb. 22 and March 15)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.                 Discussion of 2017:
    • Meeting topics
    • Committee structure/chairs
    • Suggested meeting locations
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.                Lunch
  • 12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Lifeline Presentation
    • Tracy Smetana and Mike McCarthy from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Follow-up to Coalition Letter of 10/3/16
    • OBD Challenge Process Explanation
    • Laura Ziegler, LMC
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  Brief Mapping Overview
  • 2:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Wrap-up, discussion of March meeting

Hennepin Geo:Code 2017 March 4-5

I know this is too far for most readers to attend – but I liked the idea of it.

Join us for Geo:Code 2017
Join Hennepin County and Open Twin Cities for one of the most important civic technology events in the Twin Cities: Geo:Code 2017.

Saturday, March 4 and Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Geo:Code 2017 is a series of open data workshops and conversations to connect people who live, work, and govern in Hennepin County. The sessions at Geo:Code are submitted by you. Whether you’re new to a topic or an expert, submit an idea for a session when you register!

Register for Geo:Code

There are two tracks this year: County Camp (a community-led conference) and, as in years past, Code Space for an open hackathon. Participants are welcome to participate in either or both tracks and to switch between tracks during the weekend.

So what’s a Geo:Code – here’s a video that gives more info. Note: it’s not just for coders!

Webinar Feb 15: Leveraging National Data to Jumpstart Your Broadband Plan

Thought folks might be interested…

BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations

Topic: Leveraging National Data to Jumpstart Your Broadband Plan

Date: Wednesday, February 15 from 2:00-3:00 p.m., Eastern Time.

Overview: The U.S. Census Bureau, NTIA, and FCC collect and make publicly available data about Internet availability, subscriptions, and usage. This webinar will do a “deep dive” into federal datasets, including the FCC Form 477 filings from broadband providers that show broadband availability, speed and technology, and NTIA’s Digital Nation data, which represents the largest comprehensive national household survey on computer and Internet use. We’ll also highlight how the BroadbandUSA Connectivity Initiative will leverage this data as part of its online assessment tool. Hear from the experts, ask your questions, and learn how to access and use these datasets to help your broadband Internet needs assessment and planning efforts.


  • Steven Rosenberg, Chief Data Officer, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Rafi Goldberg, Policy Analyst, Office of Policy Analysis and Development, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Robert Ballance, Presidential Innovation Fellow, Lead Architect, Connectivity Initiative Application


  • Karen Archer Perry, Senior Policy Analyst, BroadbandUSA
  • Emy Tseng, Senior Policy Analyst, BroadbandUSA


Webinar Archive: How to be Effective at the Capitol

Here are notes, PPTs and video from the webinar today. Thanks to those who presented and attended…

Free Blandin Webinar: How to be Effective at the Capitol
Thursday, February 9, 2017 03:00 PM

A growing rural coalition puts broadband near the top of their legislative priorities.  We are striving to make broadband the top priority for all of the many different rural stakeholders – schools, cities, townships, counties, economic developers, health care providers – the list goes on – because broadband is essential for all of these groups to be successful in accomplishing their mission.

How can all of rural Minnesota join together to push adequate broadband funding through the legislative process?  Listen to the advice from our panel of experts that have been successful with other rural initiatives, whether on education, trails, agricultural issues or bicycles.

Our panel:

  • Judy Erickson – Trails and Tourism
  • Dorian Grilley – Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
  • Joe Gould – Minnesota Rural Education Association
  • Thom Peterson – Minnesota Farmers Union

Broadband Intro at Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy

Today I attended the Informational Hearing on Broadband at Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy. The Senators heard from a few people, including many from the rural frontlines about broadband in their community.

The speakers were in favor of continued support of the Office of Broadband Development and the Border to Border Broadband funds. They were hoping that the grants could be changed slightly to help cover a larger percentage of a project (u to 70 percent) because there are areas in the state where with even a 50 percent match, a provider would have a difficult time with return on investment.

A few speakers had issue with the challenge process and wanted to find ways to encourage funding from providers beyond the CAF/ACAM funding, which might only upgrade connections to 10 Mbps down and 1 up.

I livestreamed the meeting; the archive – minus one small hiccup – is posted below.

And following are my notes… Continue reading