MN House will meet about broadband on March 11

I plan to attend, take notes and livestream…

Monday, March 11, 2019 at 12:45 PM

Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski
Location: 10 State Office Building
Agenda: 

HF7 (Ecklund) Broadband Grant Program Money Appropriated.

Bills:

  • HF7 (Ecklund) – Broadband grant program money appropriated.

MN Senate Committee Meeting on Broadband Feb 27

I plan to attend, to livestream and take notes…

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 – 3:00 PM

Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance
Chair: Sen. Torrey N. Westrom
3 p.m.
Room 1150 Minnesota Senate Bldg.
If you wish to testify on behalf of any bill, please contact the committee administrator at kyle.berndt@senate.mn or 651-296-5968. Testimony may be limited due to time constraints. Additional items may be added to the agenda.
Agenda:
Call to Order
Office of Broadband Governor Budget Overview
S.F. 9-Koran: Broadband grant program appropriation.
S.F. 1231-Draheim: Broadband grant program appropriation.
S.F. 807-Ruud: Mountain Iron economic development authority fiber optic broadband network extension appropriation.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Governor Budget Overview
Adjournment

Spending on rural broadband likely to bipartisan support in MN budget

The Bemidji Pioneer reports…

So while lawmakers spend the next three months entrenched in debates over hiking taxes and where taxpayer dollars would best be spent, proposals for expanding broadband to rural Minnesota, growing access to child care and boosting state funds aimed at making schools safer could be folded into a final budget later this year with little fuss.

“Those are a couple areas where I think we can find some common ground,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The bipartisan areas of agreement came as welcome news for groups hoping for additional state funding this year. Broadband development supporters last year saw dollars aimed at expanding access to high-speed internet in rural Minnesota get vetoed as part of an omnibus spending bill.

This time around, they said they’re feeling optimistic.

“I think it gives us a really strong position going into the end of the legislative session,” Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition spokeswoman Judy Erickson said, pointing to bills that would boost funding for broadband expansion. “I think we have good momentum.”

Broadband project completed in Fish Lake event Feb. 18

Chisago County Press reports…

About 13 months ago the news everybody was excited about, in Fish Lake Township, was the DEED broadband grant awarded for extending internet high capacity and high speed fiber services throughout the township.  The project has now been completed,  and residents are invited to a “ribbon cutting” next week to celebrate the grassroots effort instrumental in making this happen.  The official project completion is being commemorated at Fish Lake Township Hall, Monday February 18, at 9 a.m.
Internet  provider,  CenturyLink, will have a local representative at the hall until 11 a.m. to assist with questions and customer sign-up.
Township property owners with very large lots can find out more about a special waiver now, for “dropping” the service in cases where more than 700 feet of individual serviceline is needed.  Ordinarily there’s a surcharge when the distance is greater than 700 feet for fiber off the rural main trunk to the connection.
Fish Lake Township officials and activist residents first surveyed township property owners about three years ago, to measure their interest in improving internet.  After receiving a positive response, the committee structured a cooperative project using township funds (approximately $500,000), partnering with CenturyLink, which successfully applied for state broadband program aid and which had also received CAF-II congressional funding for this township-wide project.  (Stories in Press Sept 2, 2017 and Dec. 5, 2017.)
Chisago County Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director Nancy Hoffman said she is currently working on two more township-based internet enhancement efforts but they are in very early stages and she preferred to not say more.
“I am happy to work with any township or government that wants to figure out how to bring faster, more reliable service to their community.”
This broadband project will provide one gig per second service, which exceeds Minnesota’s Year 2026 goal for broadband capability.

Overview of the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant for MN House Committee: Notes & Video

Today the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division learned about the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant. They heard from:

  • Office of Broadband Development, Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Minnesota Telecom Alliance
  • Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition

I have notes below, handouts and a video. Everyone was very pleased with the history of the grants and the Office of the Broadband Development as recognized by many as the Minnesota Model. Legislators had questions – some were very specific, some were indicators that a 101 session was a good start. Everyone seemed very positive.

Steve Grove – New Commissioner at DEED, has worked at Google & Amazon. Appreciates the need for broadband for innovation. Recognizes the much praised Minnesota broadband Model.

The Governor has budgeted $35M per year. That will help us reach the 2022 – 25/3 access goals but we need to look at the 2026 – 100/20 goals too. It will get increasingly difficult to get the far end of the digital divide.

Question: What is the definition of service? And how do we decide if it gets to all corners? My daughter bought a house near Rochester. She has bad access. My office near Rochester gets better access. And the Mayo must get better yet.
A: This is why government gets to get involved. There are market failures and we need a check and balance for private companies.

Danna Mackenzie – you bring out a good point and this proposal won’t likely help because you are talking about the underserved and we have emphasized access to unserved. In Rochester we look to competition.

Question (Sandstede): this is an equity issue, especially for students. We have students who don’t have access. Sometimes we have buses that stop at the end of their route to let kids access the bus wifi longer. This isn’t just an economic development issue.
A; Yes – education is an economic development tool

Danna Mackenzie, Director for the Office of Broadband Development

At least two schools in MN are using digital distance days today to minimize making up snow days in June.

What makes up the MN Broadband Model:

  • Speed goals
  • Mapping
  • Office of broadband development
  • Grants

Question (Layman): Looks like a good year for broadband. What was the impact of having no funding last year?
A: We couldn’t make new investments. We had awarded all available funds previously but that means we had 70 projects happening. We talked to providers about projects in the pipeline and they are there. There will likely be more projects than budget.

Question (Layman): Will there be a broadband task force?
A: The governor is still working out details. It is under consideration.

Question (Anderson): What does scalable mean?
A: What we purchase is cable of providing that level of service, although it doesn’t need to provide that level service right away.

So will the projects be more expensive to be scalable?
A: That language hasn’t changed so I don’t think so. We will see more expensive projects because we are focusing on the least (often hardest) to serve.

What happens when a big business won’t provide adequate service and a smaller company wants to come in?
A: There are no rules or laws if someone wants to overbuild. But there are federal subsidies that the incumbent provider may be able to access – but the second provider wouldn’t.

Q: Who will be responsible for the network?
A: The State won’t own the network. We partner with third parties who will own the networks. We grant them up to 50% capital expense. They must demonstrate financial stability.

Q: What about datacaps?
A: There are a range of scoring metrics – a more robust service would score higher. We also look at affordability.

Mary (KM Telecom MTA Member)
They received two MN broadband grants.
The grant leverage local and state funds. It encourages collaboration between provider and community.

Brent Christensen MTA
Giving a broadband 101
This program has worked for 4 years.

Anna Borroff – MN Cable Association
Providers work to get better access

Question (Brand) My constituents need better broadband to sell their homes.

Question (Gunther) Who invests in broadband? Big telcos? Small companies?
A: Everyone. CenturyLink has done some; townships; small companies. We spent a lot of time on the front end getting this right, and now people use it.

Brian Krambeer (My Energy, My Broadband, MN Broadband Coalition)
70+ orgs
We want base funding for broadband grants. We support continued funding.

Question (Percell) Do people pay to connect once they can access broadband?
A: Yes – a minimal change

Rep Kresha introduced HF 1137 – $100 million for broadband funding

The Brainerd Dispatch reports…

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, authored a bill, H.F. 1137, that would provide $100 million to improve high-speed internet access for unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Kresha has been a strong proponent of broadband expansion throughout his first six years in the House and has successfully authored previous legislation to fund Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program, according to a new release.

Here’s more info on the bill: