Congrats to Hannah Buckland, MN Office of Broadband Development’s New Digital Equity Lead

The Office of Broadband Development reports…

 OBD is excited to announce that we have a new staff person joining our team to lead the state’s digital equity efforts. Hannah Buckland is coming to us from the Minnesota Department of Education where she is a State Library Program Specialist responsible for administering several of MDE’s grant programs for libraries. Hannah has also served as Director of Library Services at Leech Lake Tribal College, worked on the 2020 census to ensure libraries were prepared to assist patrons in completing the online census form, and was an appointed member of the Dayton Administration Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees at Knox College (Galesburg, Ill.) and University of Pittsburgh, Hannah came to Minnesota for the Leech Lake Tribal College job and has put down roots by purchasing a home in St. Paul. You might see her cat, Lentil, on Zoom calls. In her free time, Hannah likes to travel across the country to hike and camp. Welcome, Hannah!

Hannah is an excellent selection. She has experience on the frontlines and in the planning seat. And a librarian is always a good choice!

Dates for future MN Broadband Task Force monthly meetings

The news is brief but valuable if you like to attend…

2022 Upcoming Meetings

Meetings are virtual. Instructions for joining will be at the top of the agenda documents.

  • July 13
  • August 29
  • September 29
  • October 24
  • November 17
  • December 5
  • December 19

MN Border-to-Border Broadband Applications FAQs

From the MN Office of Broadband Development…

Border-to-Border Application Frequently Asked Questions

Border-to-Border Broadband Application FAQs have been added to the Broadband website.

A reminder that June 23 is the Pre-Application Outreach deadline (only two weeks away).  If you plan to submit a grant application, this outreach must be done by June 23.

Required Pre-Application Outreach to Other Providers

Minnesota law 116J.395, subd. 5(9) requires that an application include evidence that no later than six weeks before submission of the application the applicant contacted, in writing, all entities providing broadband service in the proposed project area to ask for each broadband service provider’s plan to upgrade broadband service in the project area to speeds that meet or exceed the state’s broadband speed goals in section 237.012, subd. 1, within the time frame specified in the proposed grant activities. The application is also to include the broadband providers written responses. This means that the required notification to other providers must be completed by June 23, 2022 for an application to be submitted by the last day of the filing window of August 4, 2022. This requirement is in statute and cannot be waived; an application that does not contain the necessary information will not be considered for funding.

OPPORTUNITY: MN Office of Broadband Development seeks Executive Director

The job is now open

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is the State of Minnesota’s principal economic development agency. DEED’s mission is simple: to empower the growth of the Minnesota economy, for everyone.

Our state’s economy is diverse and dynamic, enriched by creative entrepreneurs, established Fortune 500 companies, and a hard-working labor force that brings the Minnesota values of hard work and integrity to work every day. The unique role of DEED is to empower businesses and workers to grow our economy by building partnerships, planning for long term growth, and creating opportunity for workers from all backgrounds and experiences.

We are driven to find talented and innovative public servants, motivated by the opportunity to serve businesses, people, and the greater good. At DEED you will join a diverse team, inspired by challenging work and united by shared values that guide our work every day.

At DEED we live our values by; focusing on the customer, communicating early and often, seeking solutions, creating inclusion, encouraging new ideas, and being gracious.

Apply before June 28. Salary range is roughly $90,000-130,000. Lots of good folks already work there.

Gov Walz signs agriculture funding bill – including funding for broadband

WCCO reports

 Gov. Tim Walz signed an agriculture funding bill Thursday that includes drought relief for farmers, investments in rural broadband and support for beginning farmers.

The Legislature passed the bill Sunday in the closing hours of the 2022 legislative session. …

And the bill includes over $200 million to support further broadband development in rural Minnesota.

“As farmers grapple with extreme weather, costs of modernization, and unforeseen events like avian influenza, this bipartisan bill helps to address some of the most urgent issues facing our agricultural producers,” Walz said in a statement.

MRBC Legislative Update: Money for broadband through Drought Relief, Agriculture, and Broadband Omnibus Bill (HF3420)

From the Minnesota Broadband Coalition…

Broadband Update
The Legislature approved $210 million for broadband expansion as part of the Drought Relief, Agriculture, and Broadband Omnibus Bill (HF3420). Members of the House and Senate appointed to the conference committee negotiated a compromise on a mix of state and federal funds, with most funding allocated to the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.

  • $50 million general fund for Border-to-Border ($25 million in FY23 and $25 million in FY24).
  • $60.7 million ARPA Capital Projects Fund (must be spent by 2026).
    • Up to $30 million for a low-density pilot program:
      • Increased state match to 75% and grant cap to $10 million.
      • Report back to the Legislature by 12/31/2023 on impact of match and cap changes.
    • Up to $15 million for state broadband mapping.
    • Up to $15 million for a line extension pilot program.
    • Any unused funds for the above three categories revert to the Border-to-Border fund.
  • $50 million ARPA Capital Projects Fund left unallocated by the Legislature for Governor Walz to spend within the bounds of Treasury guidelines.
  • Ensures all funds the state receives from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ($100m+) will be deposited in the Border-to-Border Grant Program for future infrastructure grants.

The conference committee wrapped up their report on Saturday, May 21, and the House promptly passed the legislation a few hours later, 69-64. The Senate took up the bill on Sunday, May 22, and passed it 66-1. The bill heads to Governor Walz for his signature. The general fund appropriation means the Office of Broadband Development will issue an RFP for infrastructure grants as soon as possible, with the intention of getting some projects completed during the 2022 construction season. The additional general fund and federal money brings long-term stability to a popular program that has been hampered by intermittent funding since its inception.

Office of Broadband Development Overview and Broadband Funding Streams

I’m sure I’ve posted several iterations of this presentation in the past – but it’s so helpful. I’ll do it again. Yesterday, the Office of Broadband Development presented to the Dakota Broadband Board with info on available and upcoming funding streams for broadband.

Session Daily reports on Broadband presentation to House committee

I posted about the Office of Broadband Development presenting to the MN House Industrial Education and Economic Development Committee yesterday, but fun to see it front and center of the Sessions Daily today…

Speedy and stable internet connections allow students to learn remotely, patients to visit with doctors using telemedicine, and commerce to continue.

That technology is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During these extraordinary times, the need for digital equity and high-speed internet access for all Minnesotans has never been more apparent,” said Angie Dickison, executive director of the Office of Broadband Development in the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

In a presentation to the House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday, she noted that not all parts of the state have equal access to high-speed broadband internet connections, making coping with the pandemic more difficult.

Office of Broadband Development presents to MN House Committee – hearing a sense of urgency!

It was a quick meeting today. Policymakers asking good questions with a theme of how can we get money to the unserved folks most quickly. There are clearly a few folks on the committee who are frustrated with their own home access. That may help ignite a fire under everyone – especially as most legislative meetings seem to be remote this year. There is a plan to recycle HF14 (via Rep Rob Ecklund) to get money for broadband. Next step might be getting presentations from the providers; maybe they’ll hear from the communities too.

The MN House Industrial Education and Economic Development Committee got a presentation (House Industrial Ed Broadband Update_DEED) from the Office of Broadband Development on Broadband. They outlined the actions they have taken to get federal funding.

  • Capital Projects Funds – hope to hear by end of month. Will run grant program once they hear – with $70M going to border to border grants.
  • 240,000 houses do not have broadband in MN (speeds 100/20 Mbps); 224,000 of those are in non-metro areas. These numbers are likely low.

Q & A:

  • Why did MN only apply for $70M – although could have gone for $180M. The Legislature only appropriated $70M but there is a chance for more?
  • What about ARPA? How much and where was spent at local level? Not sure – but folks are used it. We will share more when we have it.
  • Is there a timeline for spending federal funds? Until end of 2026
  • Do we have manpower to spend federal funds? Treasury will likely be flexible since worldwide there are supply chain and labor issues.
  • Are we trying to expand broadband to expand to those who don’t have it expeditiously? Yes
  • Who is helping unserved areas? Office of Broadband Development will be reaching out on federal opportunities
  • I want to see every communication made to unserved areas – the ones who are truly unserved, like my area.
  • What has been the impact of RDOF? Treasury says Office of Broadband can award Border to Border funds if the provider doesn’t have an enforceable contract at the time.
  • How much to get broadband to everyone? The areas left are most expensive. We can look into it.
  • What is Walz’s Broadband Budget? $170M of state general funds – spent over at least 3 years. Also budget to get more staff on DNR to help with permitting.
  • What is timeline for opening border to border grants? We are set up; we just need approval
  • If we had appreciated funds in 2021, could you have spent them? Yes

EVENT Feb 2: Broadband at MN House: Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy

From the House Session and Committee Schedule

Wednesday, February 2, 2022 , 8:30 AM

Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy

Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr.
Location: Remote Hearing
Agenda:

Presentation from the Office of Broadband Development on the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.

Meeting documents will be posted on the Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance & Policy committee webpage: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/Committees/home/92020
CA: Owen.Wirth@house.mn
CLA: Urszula.Gryska@house.mn
This remote hearing is taking place pursuant to Rule 10.01 and may be viewed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp
All events are closed-captioned.
To provide feedback on digital accessibility of meeting information, please submit comments through the Minnesota Legislature Accessibility & Usability Comment Form. If you require an accommodation, please contact John Howe at: John.Howe@house.mn or by leaving a message at 651-296-3208. Please do not contact him with questions about the substance of the meeting agenda. To learn more about requesting an accommodation, please visit the FAQs for Disability Access.

NOW OUT! 2021 Annual Report from the MN Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

The MN Broadband Task Force Annual Report is now available. Here are their recommendations…

Recommendations – Unserved, Underserved, & Funding

(1.1 & 1.3) The total $180 million Capital Projects Fund allocated to Minnesota from the federal ARPA fund, should be allocated to OBD for funding the Border-to-Border Broadband program over the next 2-3 years to help attain broadband service for all Minnesota residents.
(1.2 & 1.3) Grant funds should first be focused on unserved areas (~171,000 households fit this category), and the definitions of ‘unserved’ & ‘underserved’ should remain unchanged as they highlight the geographic areas not meeting stated goals.
(1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5) Geographic considerations should be factored in when allocating broadband grant funds. A “one-size fits all” grant allocation will not secure service in areas of the state where a fiber/cable option is difficult or impossible:
● Unserved areas of the state that are difficult to reach due to low density, tough geography, etc. should receive a higher % of funding match from OBD to increase build out options for wireline projects/solutions
● The legislature should require all future projects funded by OBD grant dollars be capable of 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload at the time of deployment (irrespective of whether or not a provider offers a service package of 100/100), and meet network reliability requirements in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Recommendations – Mapping and Speed Goals

(2.1-2.3) Minnesota should continue to invest in improving broadband maps
● strive to achieve ISP cooperation in producing address-level or ‘shapefile’ broadband maps (rather than rely on current FCC census block data)
● include eligibility data related to the various federal programs supporting broadband infrastructure development
● OBD is encouraged to incorporate, whenever possible, data from reliable 3rd party ‘crowd-sourced’ maps when determining eligibility for Border-to-Border grants (2.4 & 2.5) The legislature should continue to make the investments from state general funds necessary to ensure that all Minnesotans, regardless of zip code, have access to broadband at speeds that meet state goals. Federal investments should not be seen as a substitute for ongoing state investment

Recommendations – Access, Affordability & Education

(3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6) Provide funding to the Office of Broadband Development to promote broadband adoption and use to redress digital inequity.
(3.2) Fully fund the Telecommunications Access Equity Aid (TEA) program (by raising the funding cap to at least $9 million) in order to allow school districts to equitably procure the internet and network bandwidth needed to fully support digital learning. This
aid program benefits school districts by making access to broadband more affordable by fully funding the eligible costs of the federal E-rate program.
(3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6) Establish and fund a position within the MN Department of Education to provide leadership and support to schools (and families) in areas of digital equity, digital literacy, funding (E-rate, etc.), cybersecurity, instructional technology and
other areas of education technology.
(3.7, 3.8) Given expressed needs from city & county leaders to expand the Lead for MN American Connection Corp fellows program (Americorp/Vista), the state should provide supplemental funding of $225,000 to support work in Minnesota communities on broadband expansion projects (15 more fellows @ $15,000 per fellow)

EVENT Dec 20: MN Broadband Task Force meeting to discuss final draft of annual report

I will attend and will livestream via Facebook – although folks are welcome to attend directly as well. I don’t have the most recent draft of the report to share but I have the previous version. There were a few things that people might find concerning – like opening the door to using state grants for projects that only meet 25/3 requirements or emphasis on unserved.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

December 20, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Join with a video conferencing device

mn@m.webex.com

Video Conference ID: 117 952 458 6

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Or call in (audio only)

+1 651-395-7448,,771759466#   United States, St. Paul

Phone Conference ID: 771 759 466#

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10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.                Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from December 3, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update

10:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Walk Thru of Draft Report

11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.  Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  Continue Walk Thru of Draft Report

12:00 p.m. – 12:15 p.m.  Discuss Next Steps

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, 2022 Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

Oct 2021 MN County Ranking for gig speeds. How does your county rank?

The Office of Broadband Development has released the county broadband maps and numbers; the data was collected by October 2021. For archival reasons, I’ll do three different posting looking at:

Turns out the gig ranking is where all of the excitement is in terms of change in ranking. I’ll paste the numbers below but they’re available in a spreadsheet too. It’s worth nothing that the top county shows 99.59 percent of households have access to Gig access; the bottom 10 counties have less than 1 percent coverage.

Top Ten Gig Counties

County Percent ranking last year
Ranking
Clearwater 99.59 1 5
Beltrami 99.23 2 1
Stevens 96.79 3 2
Cook 94.5 4 3
Red Lake 93.85 5 6
Lake 93.23 6 4
Pennington 92.86 7 46
Lincoln 88.88 8 45
Steele 86.73 9 11
Olmsted 80.56 10 33

Worth noting that all of these are rural counties! Big congrats to the new counties on this short list, especially to Pennington, Lincoln and Olmsted.

I hear policy makers talking about ways to use public funding to build networks only required to get to speeds of 25/3 and I think about the deepening divide between those areas and these counties. These counties, especially given rural standing, make the case that we can aim higher.

Bottom Ten Counties

County Percent ranking Last year Ranking
Benton 0.79 78 73
Anoka 0.13 79 75
Faribault 0.09 80 80
Isanti 0.06 81 79
Pine 0.01 82 86
Kanabec 0 83 82
Martin 0 84 84
Mille Lacs 0 85 85
Ramsey 0 86 81
Washington 0 87 76

There’s not much change in the bottom list. Harder to go lower than 1 percent. But it’s interesting to look at the counties on the list. Ramsey County ranks third for access to 100/20 and lands 86 for Gig access. Anoka is number 11 with access to 25/3 and number 79 here.

Looking at these reports for several years, I’ve seen the leap-frogging that can happen when a community is focused on (or limited or funded) to a specific speed. Usually I’ve seen it with access to 25/3. A community aims and succeeds and they are top of the game for a limited time. More recently we’ve seen that those “successful” communities become ineligible for funding for improvement. The thirst for broadband is ever increasing with new applications and post pandemic reliance on remote access. The once successful communities get left behind like the Little League baseball player who stops practicing. I think the top of the Gig chart are the communities that are ready.


County Percent ranking
Clearwater 99.59 1
Beltrami 99.23 2
Stevens 96.79 3
Cook 94.5 4
Red Lake 93.85 5
Lake 93.23 6
Pennington 92.86 7
Lincoln 88.88 8
Steele 86.73 9
Olmsted 80.56 10
Kittson 80.13 11
Lac qui Parle 79.23 12
Winona 76.09 13
Wadena 75.89 14
Grant 71.99 15
Jackson 68.84 16
Itasca 67.64 17
Dodge 65.96 18
Wabasha 65.86 19
Freeborn 65.15 20
Marshall 55.33 21
Goodhue 54.73 22
Hubbard 54.15 23
Big Stone 52.94 24
Cottonwood 50.2 25
Houston 49.76 26
Mahnomen 49.14 27
Rock 47.94 28
Rice 47.52 29
Swift 47.52 30
Morrison 44.24 31
Sibley 43.92 32
Crow Wing 42.54 33
Polk 40.95 34
Norman 40.7 35
Pope 39.91 36
Scott 39.06 37
Roseau 36.59 38
Todd 36.06 39
Carver 34.8 40
Becker 33.9 41
Douglas 32.35 42
Cass 31.28 43
Fillmore 26.94 44
Renville 26.93 45
Waseca 26.12 46
Wilkin 26.04 47
Mower 25.1 48
Lake of the Woods 22.81 49
Otter Tail 20.76 50
Watonwan 18.58 51
Hennepin 17.62 52
Nicollet 17.47 53
Clay 17.12 54
Chippewa 15.86 55
Aiktin 15.58 56
Nobles 14.96 57
Traverse 14.57 58
Pipestone 12.85 59
Stearns 12.31 60
Meeker 10.72 61
Wright 9.59 62
McLeod 8.81 63
Chisago 7.7 64
Koochiching 7.51 65
Lyon 7.11 66
St. Louis 6.97 67
Redwood 6.47 68
Le Sueur 5.16 69
Dakota 4.96 70
Murray 4.66 71
Brown 4.01 72
Carlton 4.01 73
Sherburne 3.6 74
Blue Earth 2.79 75
Kandiyohi 1.73 76
Yellow Medicine 1.25 77
Benton 0.79 78
Anoka 0.13 79
Faribault 0.09 80
Isanti 0.06 81
Pine 0.01 82
Kanabec 0 83
Martin 0 84
Mille Lacs 0 85
Ramsey 0 86
Washington 0 87

Source: Connected Nation, Oct. 2021.

Oct 2021 MN County Ranking at speeds of 25/3. How does your county rank?

The Office of Broadband Development has released the county broadband maps and numbers; the data was collected by October 2021. For archival reasons, I’ll do three different posting looking at:

Top 10 Commentary

The speed goal for 2022 is ubiquitous access to speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 up. Rankings are posted below but also available as a spreadsheet. The good news is that the top 9 counties have more than 99 percent covered. There has been little change in the top 10 counties since last reporting.

Bottom 10 Commentary

The bad news is that the bottom 10 have less than 70 percent coverage. The bottom ranking is also pretty similar with one exception: Isanti went from 78.8 percent coverage to 59.75 coverage this year, which drops them from 66 to 84 ranking. This is because of a change from census block data to more granular data from CenturyLink. (Both CenturyLink and Charter/Spectrum went with more granular reporting and that has had an impact on numbers.)

Biggest Changers

A couple of counties saw big movement. Faribault went from 35 to 17 rank – although the percentage of coverage didn’t increase much, the competition for those with over 90 percent coverage is close. That’s a good sign! Redwood went from 73 to 62. Again, a little percentage gain can mean a lot. Like Isanti mentioned above, a few counties lost percentage and ranking – possibly due to the change from census block to location reporting. Those counties with greatest change in rank include: Rice, Sherburne, St Louis, Wright, Stearns and Swift. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t reflection a change in coverage as much as a correction/change in reporting.


County percent ranking
Red Lake 99.99 1
Ramsey 99.95 2
Rock 99.93 3
Lac qui Parle 99.84 4
Clearwater 99.72 5
Beltrami 99.43 6
Lincoln 99.33 7
Pennington 99.24 8
Stevens 99.22 9
Hennepin 98.97 10
Anoka 98.23 11
Big Stone 98.22 12
Swift 97.72 13
Dakota 97.48 14
Washington 96.45 15
Hubbard 96.36 16
Faribault 96.32 17
Wadena 95.88 18
Grant 95.35 19
Cook 94.50 20
Olmsted 94.48 21
Clay 93.80 22
Lake 93.34 23
Scott 93.29 24
Houston 92.65 25
Polk 92.55 26
Cass 92.48 27
Itasca 92.38 28
Sherburne 92.25 29
Carver 92.11 30
Otter Tail 91.50 31
Becker 90.29 32
Benton 89.74 33
Rice 89.58 34
Stearns 89.10 35
Winona 88.59 36
Steele 88.22 37
Douglas 88.20 38
Mower 87.51 39
Wright 86.72 40
Crow Wing 86.68 41
Freeborn 86.62 42
Kandiyohi 86.54 43
Roseau 85.84 44
Dodge 84.84 45
Brown 84.66 46
Nobles 83.74 47
Lyon 83.57 48
Nicollet 83.40 49
Mahnomen 83.24 50
Wilkin 83.02 51
Chippewa 82.93 52
Pope 82.73 53
Blue Earth 82.48 54
St. Louis 81.95 55
Pipestone 81.52 56
Martin 81.45 57
McLeod 80.56 58
Goodhue 80.32 59
Kittson 80.20 60
Norman 79.43 61
Redwood 78.90 62
Marshall 77.90 63
Watonwan 77.17 64
Waseca 76.36 65
Koochiching 75.94 66
Chisago 75.86 67
Le Sueur 75.59 68
Lake of the Woods 75.18 69
Morrison 74.67 70
Meeker 74.42 71
Wabasha 73.90 72
Cottonwood 73.80 73
Renville 73.48 74
Todd 72.94 75
Mille Lacs 70.53 76
Fillmore 70.35 77
Jackson 69.33 78
Traverse 67.87 79
Aitkin 62.36 81
Sibley 67.32 80
Carlton 62.07 82
Yellow Medicine 61.90 83
Isanti 59.75 84
Murray 57.83 85
Pine 46.01 86
Kanabec 36.41 87
Source: Connected Nation, Oct. 2021.

 

EVENT Nov 1: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting

I will plan to attend and I will livestream. Everyone is welcome to attend the actual meeting and there’s always time for public comment – but sometimes it’s easier to view on Facebook.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 1, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Click here to join the meeting
Join with a video conferencing device mn@m.webex.com
Video Conference ID: 115 972 031 9
Alternate VTC instructions

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from October 5, 2021 Meeting
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Regional Gatherings Overview – Benya Kraus, Executive Director, Lead for America
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal
  • 11:10 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.  Break
  • 11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding
  • 12:10 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Next Steps for Subgroups and Draft Report
  • 12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, December Meeting Plans, Wrap-up