MN Broadband Task Force Sep Meeting: Education acerbated needs and creative tech solutions during pandemic

Today the MN Broadband Task Force heard from folks who work to help families and children get and use the technology they need – especially in these times of distance and hybrid learning. They also heard from folks involved with Blandin Foundation Accelerate!, a program that supported and recharged some of the least served communities in Minnesota. (Blandin in looking for a new cohort of Accelerate communities!)

Hand outs from the day:

TF Connected MN MN Broadband Task Force_09.15.21 Final
TF MilleLacs slides broadband task force 9.15.21
TF Online Learning Update – 9-2021

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting Continue reading

EVENT Sep 15: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting (topic: education)

The meeting is virtual; I plan to attend and will livestream – although the meeting is open to the public and you too can join directly…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

September 15, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Join with a video conferencing device

Video Conference ID: 111 512 968 3

Alternate VTC instructions

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting

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

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. MN Department of Education Online/Distance Learning Presentation
Jeff Plaman, Online and Digital Learning Specialist

10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.  East Central MN Rural Broadband Panel
Heidi Steinmetz, Kanabec County Economic Development Director;
Lezlie Sauter, Pine County Economic Development Coordinator;
Beth Gruber, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Director of Planning & Community Engagement

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Partnership for a ConnectedMN (Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation)
Anne Hoyt Taff, Associate Vice President of Community Impact
Dustin Moretz, Community Initiatives Program Manager

11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ECMECC Digital Navigator Project
Marc Johnson, ECMECC
Dihanna Fedder, Digital Navigator, Pine City Public Schools

12:00 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Subgroup Reports

12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, October Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

EVENT July 28: MN Broadband Task Force July Meeting

The MN Broadband Task Force is meeting next Wednesday. It is open to the public and there is always time for public comment. I will be livestreaming via Facebook too for folks who don’t want to join the meeting…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
July 28, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
ZoomGov meeting
Join on your computer or mobile app
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
(669) 254-5252
Meeting ID: 161 491 0984
Passcode: 258350

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from June 14, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  OBD Update

  • Angie Dickison, OBD Executive Director
  • Diane Wells, OBD Deputy Director

10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Connecting Minnesota: MnDOT’s Fiber Optic Partnership Study

  • Kristin R. White, Executive Director, Connected & Automated Vehicles Office (CAV-X)

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. CNS Broadband Operations Map Demo

  • Paul Solsrud, Product Manager, Cooperative Network Services, LLC

11:50 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.   Subgroup Updates

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


Office of Broadband Development on $70 Million to Border to Border Broadband Grant Program

The Office of Broadband Development outlines some of the details of the $70 million the legislature recently approved for broadband…

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program funds the expansion of broadband service to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved. The grant program was created in Minn. Stat. 116J.395 in 2014. The legislative focus of this grant program is to provide state resources that help make the financial case for new and existing providers to invest in building broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state.

The Border to Border Broadband Grant Program has historically been funded with state general fund revenues. State funding enabled OBD to open the grant application period within 30 days of the appropriation being authorized.  In the 2021 Special Session, the legislature has directed DEED to submit an application to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for $70 million of Minnesota’s capital projects fund allocation under Public Law 117-2 (the American Recovery Plan Act) to fund the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program over the next two fiscal years. The preliminary guidance from Treasury, as well as the legislative appropriation language, indicates that there will be a state application required to be submitted to Treasury for the state to access this funding. There will also be federal standards regarding how the funding can be used which are not yet known. Once Treasury has issued further guidance and clarified the application process, OBD will be able to provide more information regarding the FY22 Border to Border Broadband Grant Program’s anticipated timeline, application, and requirements.

OBD intends to follow state law guidelines for the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program, while building in any measures necessary to comply with federal requirements associated with use of the capital projects fund for the FY22 grant round. If you are not familiar with the state grant program, you may want to review the information on the OBD website at Broadband Grant Program / Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development ( until further information is available.

Please continue to visit the Office of Broadband Development website to stay up to date on the Border to Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program.

OBD has also prepared a Grant Application Template for communities to use as a resource if they are considering using Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for broadband infrastructure.

MRBC Update: Senate Tucks Broadband Funding into Jobs Omnibus Bill

An update from the MN Broadband Coalition…

Senate Tucks Broadband Funding into Jobs Omnibus Bill
The Minnesota Senate amended the Jobs and Economic Development Omnibus Bill on Monday, June 21 to include $70 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. As we have said in this space before, the Legislature’s final weeks are fluid, and nothing is a sure thing until the vote is completed on a bill. Such is the case with broadband funding this week.
Legislative leadership’s plan for broadband was to include it in a bonding bill. However, as the special session has progressed, Senate leadership became less confident in the prospects of a bonding bill meeting the supermajority threshold necessary to pass the House. Since regular budget bills require a simple majority, they decided to add the broadband funding to the Jobs Omnibus Bill. For those keeping score at home, this is broadband’s third home this year: agriculture, bonding, and now jobs.
The Senate took up the Jobs bill Tuesday, June 22 and eventually passed it 45-21.
We do not know what the House will do with this bill or if the Jobs bill will be the final home for broadband this year. Regardless, the funding is agreed upon by the House, Senate, and Governor and we are optimistic they will not leave Saint Paul without funding it. Leaders have said they want to have the budget closed up by Friday. The state will officially shut down on July 1 without a budget, but various aspects of state government—including campground reservations, state employee layoffs, and road construction projects—will start winding down by the end of this week if the Legislature doesn’t act. They have lots of incentive to get the job done! We will keep you updated.

EVENT Today (3pm): HF8 (Sundin) Agriculture and Broadband Budget Omnibus

Just got notice on this meeting. One quick note – this is to discussion funding the Office of Broadband Development NOT the Border to Border grants. Those have been moved to infrastructure. Depending on …

AGENDA – Ways and Means Committee – Monday, June 14, 3:00PM (or 1 hour after floor session adjourns, whichever is later) – Remote Hearing by Zoom


-HF13 (Lillie) Legacy Fund Budget Omnibus

-HF8 (Sundin) Agriculture and Broadband Budget Omnibus

Info on broadband is on the final page of the bill language…


21.15 The sumsshown in the columns marked “Appropriations” are appropriated to the agency​

21.16 and for the purposes specified in this article. The appropriations are from the general fund,​

21.17 or another named fund, and are available for the fiscal years indicated for each purpose.​

21.18 The figures “2022” and “2023” used in this article mean that the appropriations listed under​

21.19 them are available for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, or June 30, 2023, respectively.​

21.20 “The first year” is fiscal year 2022. “The second year” is fiscal year 2023. “The biennium”​

21.21 is fiscal years 2022 and 2023.​


21.23 Available for the Year​

21.24 Ending June 30​

21.25 2022​ 2023​ $​ 350,000​ $​ 350,000​



21.28 $350,000 each year is for the Office of​

21.29 Broadband Development.

Depending on when it actually starts, I suspect I won’t be able to attend but here’s the info…

Meeting documents will be posted on the House Ways and Means Committee website at

Public Viewing Information:

This remote hearing will be live-streamed via the House webcast schedule page:

MN Broadband Task Force June 2021: broadband and people with disabilities, Emergency Broadband Benefits and MN Leg Update

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met. They heard from Arc Minnesota on the impact of broadband (good and bad) on people with autism and other disabilities. They also heard from someone from the FCC on the ins and outs on the Emergency Broadband Benefits. They got an update on broadband in the MN legislature, combined with a comment at the end meeting on federal funding. The concern is that funding for MN grants has moved from Ag bill to Infrastructure bonding. The good news is that the Senate has greatly increased their proposed budget for broadband. The bad news is that is likely a starting/bargaining place. The other bad news is that changes in federal policy and lack of specificity in eligible households may create a conflict between what MN and the Feds are doing.

Full notes:

Legislative Update

Today is first day of special session. Workgroups have met behind closed doors. It’s been slow. End of fiscal year is June 30.

Broadband has been confusing. They kept the Office of Broadband Development budget in Ag and program budget (grants) is now in infrastructure. The OBD budget is pretty much set but the grant funding is still in play. Senate wants to put $179 million (entire infrastructure budget) into broadband.

Q: What about the need for majority votes?
A: Not sure how that plays out when this is federal funds into bonding.

Broadband is bipartisan so the hope is that this is something they will push through.

Q: Should the Task Force send a letter?
A: Good point.


Presentation by Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer, The Arc Minnesota and Maren Christenson, Multicultural Autism Action Network/Arc Minnesota Board of Directors

We address the needs of kids with autism, who often come from families without a lot of resources .Access to broadband is a big part of providing services.

One big barrier for our clients is stigma.

Programmatic Values:

  • Human and Civil Rights
  • Self-Advocacy and Self Direction
  • Equity and Belonging
  • Racial and Disability Justice

Broadband Access and the Disability Community

  • Education
  • Healthcare and quality
  • Neighborhood and built environment
  • Social and community context
  • Economic stability

Online tools (such as Zoom meetings) have made things more accessible for some people, depending on disability and broadband access.

You might think that most people with people disabilities live in the Twin Cities. Percentage-wise that isn’t true and comparing maps you can see there are some areas with low broadband and high disability percentage.

Policy Recommendations

  • OBD job opportunities for people with disabilities
  • Interagency collaboration
  • Representation for people with disabilities on Task Force
  • Broadband grants – consider weighting grants based on work with people with disabilities
  • K12 Connect Forward Initiative
  • Grants to Supplement tech access
  • Ongoing tech support


FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Presentation by Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

What is EBB? (Learn more: It can mean:

  • $50/month subsidy for broadband – but paid to provider
  • $75/month subsidy for broadband on tribal area
  • $100 one-time discount for computer if you buy through your provider
  • (reduced bill for customer not a check)

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?

A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

How long will this continue?

  • Until the funds run out OR six months after the Dep of Health decide the pandemic is over



  • Working on plans for an in-person meeting.
  • Heard from Chris Mitchell
  • Going to hear from Community Broadband Access Network


  • No recent meetings (although some met in May)
  • Looking for a speaker from industry – guy from Lumen didn’t work out
  • Paul Solsrud with talk about CNS mapping tool


  • Nothing new to share


  • They have maybe found someone to write the next task force report.
  • The July agenda is set

Biden made recommendations on America Rescue Funds. At first it looked good for broadband. But not they are focus on households without “reliable access to 25/3” and there’s no real definition for this. AND combine that with the movement at State level of funding from Ag to bond infrastructure – and we’re in danger of having funding get lost in the red tape.

July agenda

  • CNS (mapping)
  • Dep of Transportation (IoT)

EVENT June 14: MN Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

Everyone is welcome and they always leave room for public comments. I plan to livestream on Facebook too…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

June 14, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

ZoomGov meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Or call in (audio only)

(669) 254-5252

Meeting ID: 161 548 9756

Passcode: 543376

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from May 24, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Legislative Update by Deven Bowdry, DEED

10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Presentation by Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer, The Arc Minnesota and Maren Christenson, Multicultural Autism Action Network/Arc Minnesota Board of Directors

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Presentation by Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

11:50 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Subgroup Updates

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

Minnesota State CIO looks at MN broadband tools

Governing covers a presentation from CIOs from Colorado, California and Minnesota about how each state is handling broadband. Tarek Tomes (MN CIO) answered questions about Minnesota.

Which department addresses broadband?

In Minnesota, broadband efforts are housed within the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Tomes explained, given the inextricable link between access to connectivity and the overall economic health of the state. “[Having] broadband in economic development is ideal because the connection between what happens in the economy and broadband access is so intertwined,” he said. Minnesota IT Services, led by Tomes, does run MNET, Minnesota’s Network for Enterprise Telecommunications, a statewide network that provides connectivity for state agencies, localities, schools and health-care institutions .

Is there State investment in broadband?

In Minnesota, Tomes described the “border-to-border grant program.” Established in 2013, Tomes said it has supported more than $120 million in broadband development in the state. He also pointed to Minnesota’s broadband task force as important to taking a big-picture look at what funding opportunities will work best for which part of the state.

EVENT April 5: Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Meeting

I will attend and plan to livestream on Facebook. Here are the details from the Office of Broadband Development

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband April 5, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Or call in (audio only)

+1 763-317-4323,,746852807#   United States, Plymouth

Phone Conference ID: 746 852 807#

Find a local number | Reset PIN

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from March 16, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Update on 2021 Legislation (Deven Bowdry, DEED)

10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Update and conversation with U.S. Rep. Angie Craig

10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  LTD Broadband – RDOF Introduction with Corey Hauer (Invited) and Haley Tollefson (Confirmed)

11:00 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Break

11:10 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. 2020 Network Performance -The Shift to Home and the Impact to Networks with William Check, SVP, Science & Technology and CTO, NCTA and Matt Tooley, VP of Broadband Technology at NCTA

11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.                Subgroup Reports

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.                Public Comment, Other Business, May Meeting Plans, Wrap-up such as May meeting-specific questions/topics for State Demographer? Also presentation by Fixed Wireless Panel planned.

MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: Senate Hears Broadband Bills

An update from the MN Rural Broadband Coalition…

Senate Hears Three Broadband Funding and Policy Bills
Saint Paul, Minn.—The Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee heard SF 22, SF 946, and SF 1186 during its meeting today. You may recall our summary that was sent out earlier this week that outlined the bills currently moving through the legislative process.
Three of those bills were heard today:

  • SF 22 (Bakk) Broadband Funding
    • $120 million, biennial ongoing funding
  • SF 946 (Westrom) Broadband Funding + Unserved Targeting
    • $120 million, biennial ongoing funding
    • $30 million, biennial targeted to unserved areas
    • Projects that must go through an underserved area to get to unserved area would qualify
    • State match may be up to 55% if 10% comes from a non-state entity.
    • Language from last session/special sessions
  • SF 1186 (Draheim) Mapping Changes + Funding
    • Annual mapping contract, must collect data from “wired and wireless” providers, make maps public by April 15, annually.
    • $50 million, biennial one-time funding
    • Unserved only
    • “Must not be used in areas scheduled to be built out through federal assistance”

The Coalition submitted a letter to the committee outlining our testimony and position on the three bills. (you can read that letter here) We wrote in support of SF 22 and SF 946. We could not fully support SF 1186 because of the clause that prevents the state from investing in areas that are scheduled to receive federal assistance. We know that federal programs have not always met the high standards that the Border-to-Border Program has in place, particularly when it comes to broadband speeds.
All three bills were laid over for possible inclusion in a forthcoming committee budget bill.
We want to thank all three bill authors for continuing to keep broadband front-and-center at the Legislature as well as Sen. Torrey Westrom for dedicating time in his committee to hearing the bills. The next step is the February Revenue Forecast which will be revealed Friday morning (2/26). We will find out what the state’s finances look like and get a better idea in the coming weeks what the state budget will look like. Stay tuned for an update at the end of the week.
HF 686, Electric Cooperative Easements Bill Heard in House
Rep. Rob Ecklund’s bill that would allow electric cooperatives build broadband network on existing electric easements was heard today by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee. The bill was updated by the author to include several provisions, including clauses that require property owners along the easement to be notified by mail and allow for up to six months for property owners to take legal action against cooperatives over the easement.
The bill was laid over by the committee so that stakeholders could continue to work on their differences and come to an agreement on the bill.

MN Broadband Task Force Feb 2021 Mtg Notes: Leg updated, Electric Coops and American Connection

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met online today. I have recorded the session below. It requires quite a MacGuvyer setup, which means the sound quality can be less than perfect but here it is. (I’ll post a picture for your amusement.)

They got an update on various bills that have been introduced in Minnesota:

  • HF686/SF1304 – Existing easements held by rural electric cooperatives to be used to provide broadband service authorization
  • HF14/SF22 – Broadband grant program money transfer deposit authorization ($120M from Senate & House)
  • SF945 – Broadband grant program funds transfer- to be heard in Senate on Wed at 3pm
  • SF946 – Broadband grant program funds transfer ($120M plus $50M for unserved areas and requiring less match)
  • SF1186 – Broadband grant program appropriation

Task Force member Brian Krambeer talked about his work at MiEnergy and how and why a electric cooperative might get into proving service. At a high level the answer is twofold: the infrastructure makes providing services easier and their customers want/need it. As he pointed out, providing broadband is a treat; they are bringing services to people who thought they might have to move to get the broadband they need.

The Task Force heard about the work of American Connection a collaboration of 143 organizations (including Land o’Lakes) committed to promoting:

  • Robust investment in broadband at a federal level
  • Federal coordination of that investment working with state and local resources
  • Better mapping

The have done a lot as corporate citizens to get broadband to rural areas, especially during the pandemic. There membership is responsible for 2,900 free hotspots in 49 states. That night look like Land o’Lakes installing a wifi spot in their parking lot for neighbors to access. One of the things that has surprised them is the lack of rural readiness to react to federal opportunities.

Finally the Task Force talked about how they would work in 2021 and the subcommittees that they would form. Many members were interested in being involved in multiple subcommittees – but learned that when too many join any one committee it triggers the need to adhere to open meeting regulations, which means they would have to invite the public in and at least share notes after the fact. The image below outlines their proposed committees and topics based on response form the last meeting.

 2020 Broadband Task Force Meeting: Plans for 2021

The group heard from the Office of Broadband Development about the MN state grants announced yesterday and sources of federal funding. Then they talked about topics they wanted to address throughout the year.

Big topics:

  • The 2020 Broadband Task Force Report is out.
  • The Governor’s budget includes $50 million for broadband grants in year one.
  • The Office of Broadband Development announced grant recipients yesterday.

You can watch the archive – again, I have quite the MacGyver setup to make this happen so please overlook imperfections in the video and notes taken on an old computer below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Notes from the day Continue reading

The 2020 Minnesota Broadband Task Force report is out!

The 2020 Minnesota Broadband Task Force report has been posted on the Office of Broadband Development website.

Here’s a quick take from the Executive Summary:

Minnesota’s approach to broadband infrastructure development and deployment is regarded by many as best in class and considered as a model to follow. The key components that make it so successful are the Border to Border grant matching program, the mapping capabilities, the realistic and forward-looking internet speed goals, and the Office of Broadband Development (OBD). To maintain the leadership position Minnesota has created for itself, the Task Force has evaluated the effectiveness of the program and recommends a number of adjustments to ensure continued progress and guarantee that all Minnesotans have access to adequate broadband service in this new digital age.

The Broadband Grant Program should maintain priority on the 157,000 unserved households as they are unlikely to get service without the grant program. After careful review of the estimated cost to serve those households and applicable federal programs, the Task Force has found that it would be best to continue to fund the Broadband Grant Program at a biennial amount of $120 million. The State should fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program as a part of the base budget each year to ensure continued progress unhindered by surpluses or deficits which have caused inconsistent funding. The Task Force has also determined that all future awards and expenditures must be on service that meets or exceeds the 2026 speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

And the recommendations:

  • Recommendation #1 Continue to fund the Broadband Grant Program at a biennial amount of $120 million from the base budget each year and ensure that all future expenditures must be on service that meets or exceeds the 2026 speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
  • Recommendation #2 The Taskforce recommends the Office of Broadband Development receive an appropriation of $700,000 per biennium from the base budget. That figure is OBD’s estimate of funding needed to maintain current operations.
  • Recommendation #3 Create an Office of Broadband operating annual fund of $1.5 million to promote broadband adoption and use and redress digital inequity.
  • Recommendation #4 Given the condensed construction season in Minnesota, it is critical that permits are issued promptly. The state should convene a working group comprised of all state agencies relating to broadband construction permitting to streamline the process, both in time to issue the permits as well as the permit application process.
  • Recommendation #5 There needs to be more oversight of railroad facilities by the Office of Pipeline Safety. Railroads need to be required to locate their own facilities and need to be encouraged to issue permits promptly.