Join a roundtable discussion with the Office of Broadband Development

I was fleshing out events to add to the Broadband Calendar and got a little help from my friends at the MN Office of Broadband Development. They have three roundtable discussions planned in the next few months. I wanted to get the word out in case you were on the fence about attending any of these events. ALSO in case you have a colleague or neighbor who is likely to attend the conference and might attend this session if you encouraged them to learn more about broadband…

  • Broadband and Townships – Roundtable discussion on broadband at MN Association of Township’s 2018 Education Conference – Friday, November 16th, Duluth, DECC  – 1:15 – 3:30pm
  • Broadband and School districts – Roundtable discussion on broadband at MN School Board Association’s 2019 Leadership Conference – Thursday, January 17th, 2019 , Minneapolis, Minneapolis Convention Center –  1:30 – 3:00pm
  • Broadband and Counties – Breakout session on broadband at Association of Minnesota Counties’ 2019 Legislative Conference Feb 13-14 – Date and time TBD.

Otter Tail County assesses their broadband future

The Fergus Falls Journal reports on broadband access in the area…

Fortunately for Otter Tail County, there are people who are paying attention to the issue. [Rep Bud} Nornes said, “For the state, people might be surprised to know that we have invested about half a billion in broadband.” Much of this funding has been from grants, particularly at the local level.

Grant Funding

One of the primary grants that has made an impacted Otter Tail County is the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. This program “funds the expansion of broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved,” according to the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development. In 2017, $20 million in funds included from the Legislature was used for the grant program.

Multiple areas in OTC fell under the requirements of the grant. “There is a large chunk of OTC that is underserved or has no availability of fiber,” Wayne Johnson, chair of the OTC Board of Commissioners said. After conducting a broadband feasibility study, it was determined that $380 million would be needed to reach all of OTC with proper internet. It became clear that utilizing grants, such as the Border-to-Border program would be necessary.

Over the past three years, multiple areas of OTC have benefited from the grant program. These areas include Pelican Rapids, Fergus Falls, Battle Lake, Wadena and other surrounding areas. A number of telecommunication businesses in the county received the grants such as Otter Tail Telcom LLC and Arvig.

Local Providers

Two of the largest contributors in getting internet access to OTC, also known as “bringing fiber to the door,” are Park Region/Otter Tail Telcom LLC and Arvig. “Arvig and Park Region Otter Tail Telcom have been awesome,” Johnson said. “Both of them have been outstanding to work with on this.”

Companies who provide broadband typically work within areas called exchanges. “Exchanges are essentially who historically has received some type of subsidy for providing telephone or other telecommunication services,” Nicholas Leonard, director of Tourism and Economic Development for OTC, said. However, “Just because it is somebody’s exchange doesn’t mean that somebody else can’t provide service there,” Leonard said.


Arvig’s marketing director, Lisa Greene, said Arvig has “invested more than $10 million since 2016 in network upgrades and rural expansion projects.” The company provides broadband services to over 70 percent of OTC. Arvig has also received funding from the Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM), as well as the Minnesota Broadband Grant.

Houses have more devices in them now. “Our customer research shows an average of seven devices per household, all competing for the available bandwidth,” Green said. “A lot of what we’ve done to date is to accommodate the bandwidth needs of the increasing number of devices per household.”

She added that the perception has also changed in terms of what people are looking for. “People no longer think of having internet service, they think of having WiFi service,” Greene said. Arvig incorporated a managed WiFi solution that assists customers in having, “the right equipment in place throughout the home/business to maximize coverage throughout the building and help them make the most of their connection.”

Park Region/Otter Tail Telcom LLC

Dave Bickett, GM/CEO of Park Region Telephone/Otter Tail Telcom said that the companies are investing $3-3.5 million every year toward bringing fiber to the door. Specifically, “In 2017, Park Region built fiber to the home in our Vining exchange and are currently building the north half of our Ashby exchange,” Bickett said. “Next year Park Region is slated to complete South Ashby. Other sporadic areas also have fiber to the home available today.”

Meanwhile, “Otter Tail Telcom built fiber to the home on Clay Bank Road, South Wall Lake, Northeast Clitherall Lake, and North Fiske Lake in 2017,” Bickett said. “In 2018 we also built fiber to the home to Red Oak Drive.” The work done by Otter Tail Telcom in these areas was funded by the Minnesota Broadband Grant Program. Rothsay has also seen work done by these companies and Bickett said the rural areas of Rothsay have been completed.

DEED Launches Tool to Measure, Report Broadband Access

From DEED – please check it out, help them get the speeds right across the state!

ST PAUL – The Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, located within the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), today launched a new tool that will allow Minnesotans to test, map and report various broadband internet speeds across the state. is a benchmarking tool designed to gather information about the high-speed internet consumer experience in Minnesota. By answering a few questions and running a speed test, the input captured will help create a better overall picture of broadband in the state.

“The Minnesota Office of Broadband Development is charged by law with measuring and monitoring broadband internet access levels throughout the state,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “This tool will increase our understanding of the consumer experience to ensure we are making smart investments. We urge the public to report on the type and speed of internet they are buying for their homes and businesses.”

“As high-speed internet service plays an increasingly important role in all aspects of maintaining economically and socially healthy communities, can help identify where the state has robust and competitive service available and also areas where consumers believe more attention may be required to meet the needs of Minnesota both today and into the future,” said Danna MacKenzie, executive director of the Office of Broadband Development.

The maps generated by the tool will be displayed for the public as well as incorporated into information that is provided annually to the governor and legislature.

All internet speed test results vary due to factors including time of day, number of devices connected and bandwidth consumed during a test. These factors will be taken into consideration when analyzing results.

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website or follow us on Twitter .

Nebraska is looking at Minnesota’s broadband maps

The Public News Service (in Nebraska) is talking about rural broadband and the need to better track rural broadband. They  lift up Minnesota as a state that is making some strides in the right direction…

He points to policies adopted by Minnesota to ensure all residents are covered from border to border, largely relying on public-private partnerships.
Hladik says those efforts, which involve more accurate maps, show that multiple stakeholders working together can ensure coverage when profit margins are too slim for the private sector to get the job done.
“We can’t sit back and expect the state government to solve this for us,” he stresses. “It also can’t be only the provider.
“Frankly, the cost incentive is not there for the provider to extend service to every household in Minnesota or every household in Nebraska.”
Hladik says mapping is likely to be a prominent issue in the next legislative session, and he expects to see a measure introduced to help Nebraska get a better picture of the barriers to expanding broadband access to all of its residents.

Minnesota Broadband County Ranking for speeds of 25/3 for 2018

The latest County Broadband Maps are out. I am hoping to start with the annual county profiles soon, where I track where each county is and what’s been happening in terms of broadband expansion, increase use or even just chatter. Today I’m just looking at the county ranking using a table that tracks estimated Availability of Wireline Broadband Service by County in the State of Minnesota – Areas Served by at Least 25 Mbps Download/3 Mbps Upload. So we’re just tracking to the 2022 speed goals, And the data is dated from March, 2018

Highest percentage of population with access to 25/3

  1. Red Lake – 99.99% ranks 1
  2. Rock – 99.93% ranks 2   
  3. Ramsey – 99.84% ranks 3
  4. Swift – 99.64% ranks 4  
  5. Clearwater – 99.58% ranks 5
  6. Beltrami – 99.40 % ranks 6
  7. Stevens – 99.22% ranks 7
  8. Hennepin – 99.18% ranks 8
  9. Big Stone – 98.91% ranks 9           
  10. Anoka – 98.87% ranks 10 

Lac qui Parle, Dodge, Freeborn and Steele fall off the list from 2016. The counties in bold are new to the list.

Lowest percentage of population with access to 25/3

  1. Martin –  56.38% ranks 78
  2. Renville – 55.06% ranks 79
  3. Lincoln – 53.44% ranks 80
  4. Murray – 51.00% ranks 81
  5. Marshall- 50.84% ranks 82
  6. Lake of the Woods- 50.47% ranks 83
  7. Yellow Medicine- 46.91% ranks 84
  8. Aitkin – 45.68% rank 85
  9. Fillmore – 45.02% ranks 86
  10. Pine- 42.84% ranks 87 *

Mille Lacs, Todd, Traverse, Redwood, Norman fall off the list from 2016. The counties in bold are new to the list.

Or you can download the entire list in Excel.

Congrats to Danna Mackenzie appointed new BDAC member

Good news for Minnesota, the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) and Danna Mackenzie, Director of the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development. FCC Chairman Pai recently appointed Danna to serve on the BDAC.

The FCC reports

In addition, the Chairman has appointed Danna Mackenzie, a member of the BDAC’s Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers working group, to serve on the BDAC as a representative of the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development. Ms. Mackenzie will also serve as one of the Vice Chairs of the Harmonization working group (along with David Young). “I am pleased that Danna will be joining the full BDAC and will serve as one of the Vice Chairs of the Harmonization working group,” said Chairman Pai. “She is taking on this important responsibility at a critical time for the BDAC as the Harmonization working group resolves differences between the State Model Code and Municipal Model Code to ensure that the model codes are harmonized with each other and with the BDAC’s prior recommendations. I know Danna will do a great job.”

He also appointed BDAC member David Young to serve as Vice Chair of the BDAC.

Why Governor Dayton vetoed the bill that included broadband grants

Here’s the letter from Governor Dayton on why he vetoed the supplemental bill, which meant not funding the Border to Border Broadband Grants. Broadband isn’t mentioned in the letter; the broadband funding is unfortunate collateral damage of a larger decision. I suspect we will hear many theories about the approach of/from both the Legislature and the Governor. It will be interesting – but in the end, the broadband funding was not passed and the reason doesn’t seem to relate to broadband.

The Office of Broadband Development continues to receive praise from all sides. Other states are looking to replicate their work. I think it’s important for proponents in and out of Minnesota to know that this move does not reflect on the Minnesota’s program – nor does it reflect the views of the Governor or Legislature on broadband – both have been vocal in their approval of the idea and funding in the past.

Dear Madame President:
May 23, 2018
I have vetoed and am returning Chapter 201, SF 3656, the omnibus supplemental budget bill.
Repeatedly over the past several months, I implored the Legislature to send separate bills on Minnesotans’ most urgent priorities. We agreed that we must reform elder care, address the opioid epidemic, and ensure safe schools for our children. Yet instead of coming together to find shared solutions to these critical issues, you have deposited them into a 989 page budget bill, with 51 policy provisions, which I oppose. This legislative gamesmanship was terrible, and I will not sign the result.
Despite efforts over the past several months to strengthen existing elder abuse laws, this bill fails to meet the expectations of a large number of lawmakers and of the
coalition of nearly every consumer advocacy organization in the state working to stop elder abuse. This legislation does not ensure that there will ever be licensure or
protections for assisted living or dementia care. It provides no private rights of enforcement for elderly and vulnerable adults who suffer preventable hmm or even death at a long-term care facility. It fails to provide even the basic public right of action protections for elderly people being evicted from their care setting and residence. In fact, advocacy groups believe changes made in this bill would actually make current law less protective. This failure is unacceptable.
The bill also does far too little to combat the opioid epidemic plaguing our State. Several months ago, I proposed investing over $12 million annually in high impact strategies to treat and prevent opioid abuse, funded through an Opioid Stewardship Fee that would hold partially accountable the pharmaceutical companies, who created this deadly epidemic. Instead, this bill spends only $7 million in FY 2019 and about $10 million in FY20/21, entirely from the General Fund. Not one penny is ascribed to the drug companies, through either a “penny-a-pill” or a licensing fee. Evidently, the industry’s 32 lobbyists and whatever promises they made outweighed the interests of the people of Minnesota.

The bill does not support a comprehensive approach and instead provides onetime grants and a small rate increase to providers. There is no funding targeted to communities of color or tribal communities that have been devastated by this crisis. The disparities between tribal communities and communities of color and white residents are the highest in the United States. You could have and should have done more.
Included in this enormous bill are workable responses to problems that I sincerely hoped would become law: school safety and HAVA funds. I was sincere in my oft-stated
desire to work with you and make these provisions become law. However, you knowingly prevented their enactment by inserting them into a bill, containing policies and agency budget cuts that I had said I would not sign.

I made my objections to this bill very clear throughout the Session. My Administration sent you over 100 detailed letters  throughout the session, carefully explaining my concerns with each of the proposals.
This terrible bill and the resulting veto are your creations. Never have I seen a legislative session so badly mismanaged, less transparent, and more beholden to monied special interests.
For the above reasons, I have vetoed this bill.
Mark Dayton