Border to border broadband grant (HF3002) discussion in committee meeting March 20

Here are the details. I’ll be there taking notes (at least for the broadband discussion)…


Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

3:00 PM to 4:45 PM

10 State Office Building

Committee Chair:

Rep. Pat Garofalo


Overview of Minnesota utility and energy prices and historical trends

HF2867 (Quam)
Workforce Development Board membership terms prescribed.
HF3002 (Garofalo)
Border to border broadband grant program eligibility modified.
HF3760 (Wagenius)
Public school district grant program to install solar energy systems established, and money appropriated.

HF3232 (O’Neill)

Solar energy incentive program modified.
HF3763 (Layman)
Douglas J. Johnson economic protection trust fund use limited.

Overview of Minnesota utility and energy prices and historical trends

The role of broadband in Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide

The National League of Cities recently released a report on Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide. The digital divide was calling out as a major indicator of disparity…

In all states, urban areas outpace their rural counterparts in broadband access. States with overall higher levels of broadband access also have more significant urban-rural digital divides, underscoring the importance of extending affordable broadband to rural areas.

There port had this to say about broadband…

Nationwide, 10% of Americans do not have access to broadband, with rural areas experiencing significantly greater access challenges. In a world dominated by online communications, this digital divide severely limits rural residents’ access to online job application and employment opportunities, online higher educational and training opportunities, public school learning, research opportunities, healthcare and government services. The digital divide also limits rural areas’ capacity to grow and attract businesses and retain and attract residents.

Urban-rural divides in broadband access are inversely related to the percent of state population without access to broadband. This means that as overall state access increases, so too does the divide in access between urban and rural areas. Broadband access tends to cluster in urban areas because it is a guaranteed market for private providers, unlike less densely populated rural areas. Even in rural areas where broadband is available, it is often much more expensive, leading to gaps not only in access, but also in adoption.

There are no states in which rural areas have more people with access to broadband than urban areas. Overall, rural communities have 37% more residents without broadband access, as compared to their urban counterparts. Alaska has the most significant digital divide, with a gap of 62%, meaning that rural areas in Alaska have 62% percent more people without access to broadband than the state’s urban areas. Massachusetts has the narrowest digital divide, with rural areas having only 8% more people without broadband access than urban areas (see Map 2).

States with the narrowest urban-rural digital divide that have the highest proportion of population with broadband access include New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland and Massachusetts (see appendix data table 2). States with the most significant urban-rural digital divides and most significant lack of high-speed Internet access include Wyoming, Alaska and Oklahoma.

Although Massachusetts performs well regarding broadband access, the state was actively seeking private sector companies to provide high-speed service to underserved areas. The extensive capital expenditures needed to build broadband networks and a requirement that they connect 96% of homes and businesses in the town, however, hindered the interest of those companies. The state agreed that for underserved communities, instead of requiring providers to service 96% of the town immediately, it would consider projects that would plan reach this goal over time. This small adjustment was enough to gain interest of several businesses that are now competing for projects in rural communities.

Some communities are also exploring municipal broadband, which means that local government pays for all or part of the access. A 2018 Harvard University study found that community-owned broadband networks provide consumers with much lower rates than their private-sector counterparts. Not all local governments, however, are able to provide municipal broadband services. In 2017, the National League of Cities identified 17 states that preempt, or don’t allow, their cities or towns to create public broadband services. These include some states with lower than average broadband access and more significant rural disadvantages, including Arkansas, Alabama and Nebraska.

Broadband access is a factor in education attainment…

State education attainment levels tend to be higher in states that do a good job managing their levels of digital divide. In other words, the more access to broadband, the greater proportion of people able to attain education.

Broadband access is a factor in prosperity…

States with greater growth in their contributions to national GDP have stronger employment growth and wage growth. Prosperity growth also links back to the digital divide. Those states with greater digital divides between urban and rural areas experience greater divides in prosperity growth that disadvantage rural communities. This finding corroborates a McKinsey global study on the economic impact of the Internet that found that increases in Internet access strongly correlate with increases in real per capita GDP.

The also highlighted the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant program as a way to improve broadband in rural areas.

Broadband grant program appropriation (HF 3527) introduced in the MN House

According to the MN House daily list of introduction of bills

Layman; Baker; Ecklund; Sundin; Neu; Poston; Lueck; Considine; Metsa; Lien; Marquart; Howe; Murphy, M.; Gunther; Rarick; Heintzeman; Bliss; Hamilton; Kiel; Olson; Sandstede; Murphy, E.; Kresha; Schultz; Poppe; Johnson, C.; Haley; Backer and Mahoney introduced:

H. F. 3527, A bill for an act relating to telecommunications; appropriating money for the broadband grant program.

The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.

Here is the text of that bill..

A bill for an act
relating to telecommunications; appropriating money for the broadband grant



$51,480,000 is appropriated in fiscal year 2019 from the general fund to the commissioner
of employment and economic development for deposit in the border-to-border broadband
fund account under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396. The appropriation must be used
for grants and the purposes specified under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.

MN Senate Jobs & Economic Growth – Broadband Update March 5

Today the Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy met; they heard from the Office of Broadband Development, Minnesota Broadband Task Force and Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. Below are video and notes from the sessions…

Monday, March 5, 2018 – 01:00 PM
Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy
Chair: Sen. Jeremy R. Miller
Room 1150 Minnesota Senate Bldg.
Agenda: Update on Broadband

Danna Mackenzie (Office of Broadband Development) on the broadband update:

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Question: Sen Goggin

I live in an underserved areas – are you looking at the difference between what customers are billed versus the speeds we get?
Right now we gather stories but broadband is not regulated. We use our mapping tools to see if any of the federal funding is meant to come into the area. The FCC is also working on a tool that will track federally funding improvements.

Are there tools that residents can use?
Not currently. It’s what we’re tracking what’s happening with the FCC. California is also working on a tool.

Question – Sen Simonson
In the past we’ve talked about wireless. Will wireless be able to meet 100/100 goal?
Yes – wireless technology will get there at some point for some situations. MN has a lot of different topography/topology et al. So wireless may not work everywhere. Types of wireless have different characteristics – for example it can’t always go through leaves.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher (MN Broadband Task Force and MN High Tech Association)

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Question –  Sen Goggin

Workforce availability –Has there been talk about getting trained people in rural Minnesota to help get this done?
There are two barriers: supply side issue of components needs to deploy (fiber for example) and skilled labor. We haven’t heard as much about problems getting labor force. We are seeing some of this in any technical area where we have close to zero unemployment

Question – Sen Simonson

Let’s talk about math – the estimate we have here ($71 million) assumes that there’s a willing partner in each area without a partner willing to match 50 percent. How can we address that?
This is rough math. We had several people in the room. There are some areas that will be much more expensive to reach. We have to think about the highest cost areas. We may need to look at wireless options – but even for wireless you need a fiber backbone. There are private solutions that are emerging.

Nancy Hoffman (MN Rural Broadband Coalition)

Thanks for the efforts for the MN Broadband Grants. There are many members in the Broadband Coalition. Funding the grant is important to the coalition because broadband is important to rural areas. We request that the legislature fund the grants at $51.48 million. There is difficulty for the communities when the funding is precarious – it means people have to shuffle quickly to complete applications in with little notice.

In Chisago we got a grant to work with CenturyLink. Households report that they are paying half their monthly broadband bills, which makes up for the bonding they pay back in taxes. It worked so well we were able to do a similar deal with Fish Lake Township. If we had more advance warning, we could work with more communities. We now have 1.5 communities served; we just need 7.5 more done!

Rep Garofalo introduces changes to MN broadband grant program – removes “unserved” from grant program language

On Thursday (Feb 22), Representative Garofalo introduced

  1. F. No. 3002, A bill for an act relating to broadband; modifying eligibility for the border-to-border broadband grant program; amending Minnesota Statutes 2016, sections 116J.39, subdivision 4; 116J.394; 116J.395, subdivisions 1, 5, 6. The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.

You can see the proposed changes online; it impacts the eligibility for the border-to-border broadband grant program.

Here are the proposed changes:

Remove “unserved areas” from the definition by removing the following:

(start line 3.15) (i) “Unserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack 
access to wire-line broadband service, as defined in section 116J.39.

And remove the term/idea from the following (I’ll make the deleted terms bold below):

(start line 3.19) A grant program is established under the Department of
Employment and Economic Development to award grants to eligible applicants in order to
promote the expansion of access to broadband service in unserved or underserved areas of
the state.


(start line 3.25) An applicant for a grant under this section shall provide
the following information on the application:

(1) the location of the project;

(2) the kind and amount of broadband infrastructure to be purchased for the project;

(3) evidence regarding the unserved or underserved nature of the community in which
the project is to be located;


(start line 4.18) Subd. 6.

Awarding grants.

(a) In evaluating applications and awarding grants, the
commissioner shall give priority to applications that are constructed in areas identified by
the director of the Office of Broadband Development as unserved.

Added at 2 pm:

Gulp – I just realized I missed one change:
(starting line 3.12) In the definition second of Underserved – “wireline” is removed:
“Underserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses
lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second
download and at least 20 megabits per second upload.

That is important too. The MN Broadband Task Force has been hearing from wireless providers lately.

Public-Private Partnership is working with Sunrise Townships, CenturyLink & MN State Grant

Sunrise Township worked with CenturyLink to get a Minnesota broadband grant. They have been one of the projects to watch – and now there’s a great video that tells their story, which goes into details (like cost of bonding to households – pay back will be roughly $100 a year!) and benefits.

Next MN Broadband Task Force Meeting at Feb 8

I plan to attend and take notes. I will also livestream it if I can and will post here.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
February 8, 2018
State Capitol, Room 316
75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard
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. Update from Office of Broadband Development
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. CenturyLink: Super Bowl Technology Investment Update – Jesse Sullivan, CenturyLink
  • 10:35 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Q&A/Discussion—CenturyLink: Super Bowl Technology Investment Update
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:05 a.m. AT&T: Super Bowl Technology Investment Update
  • Paul Weirtz , AT&T State President
  • Andy Sackreiter, Director of Engineering, AT&T Minnesota/ Northern Plains
  • 11:05 p.m. – 11:15 a.m. Q&A/Discussion—AT&T: Super Bowl Technology Investment Update
  • 11:15 a.m. – 11:35 a.m. Comcast: Super Bowl Technology Investment Update – Chris Hanna, Engineer, Comcast Business Services
  • 11:35 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Q&A/Discussion—Comcast: Super Bowl – Technology Investment Update
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Lunch
  • 12:15 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. LTD Broadband presentation – Corey Hauer, LTD Broadband
  • 12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.  LTD Broadband presentation discussion
  • 1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. 2018 topic discussion/work plan
  • 1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. Workgroup formation/meeting
  • 2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Workgroup report back to Task Force
  • 2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Next meeting and wrap-up