Mille Lacs unhappy about not getting broadband grant

The Pine and Lakes Echo Journal reports on Mille Lacs not getting a broadband grant…

The denial of a state grant to partially fund a countywide wireless network in Mille Lacs County has officials frustrated, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development did not select the county’s application for broadband funding.

This rejection comes after a year’s worth of studies and public outreach, and county officials said they believed their project received less consideration than some that would impact 100 or fewer residents. The Mille Lacs County project would serve approximately 26,000 residents.

A consulting firm working with the county on the project intends to request information from the state concerning grant selection criteria.

The article captures the frustration that all of the communities that don’t get funding must feel – because applying for broadband funding is an undertaking as the article points out. Many communities will do a feasibility study, public outreach, partnership development and even some engineering planning before applying for funding. Many are good projects but there just isn’t enough funding to meet the need. The difficult thing about the effort is that without ongoing grants, if your community isn’t selected, you don’t know if you’ll get a chance to try again and even if you do, you’ll probably need to update the research and application.

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has recommended ongoing funding for grants – that would ease some of the frustration I’m sure.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Report – what Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mankato Free Press are saying

Yesterday I posted about the latest Minnesota Broadband Task Force report. Today I’m reading about it in various publications. Here’s what people are saying…

Minneapolis Star Tribune – Minnesota task force says $35.7 million needed annually to expand broadband

Minnesota spent tens of millions of dollars expanding high-speed broadband internet in recent years, but nearly $1.4 billion in public and private investment is still needed to get access to all households, according to a state task force report. …

The task force’s goal is to connect all of those households by 2022. The $1.4 billion price tag to meet that goal would be covered by a variety of sources, including federal, state and local funding and private companies.

In November, state officials forecast a $188 million budget deficit over the next year and a half. Given that outlook, the task force’s financial request “is a little daunting,” said Kelliher, a DFLer who once served as speaker of the Minnesota House and now is president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association.

The report is a good conversation starter, said Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls. The next state revenue and expenditure forecast in February will help determine what’s affordable, he said.

“That being said, I think they’re on the right path,” Kresha said of the task force. “Certainly we don’t want to stop the great work we’ve done for rural broadband. And if there [are] any opportunities to continue to expand efforts — whether that’s through policy, funding or innovation — we should do it.”

Mankato Free Press – Broadband Task Force renews push for high-speed access

Bill Otis, president of New Ulm-based NU-Telecom, said rural phone companies like his rely on federal and state grants to help build costly fiber networks.

“We’ve made progress (in adding fiber) but it’s slow without some of the grants. We’ve been involved in grants that allow us to build out to areas that would be economically unreasonable without the grants. And even with the grants, it’s sometimes questionable economically. Getting the fiber out to some of these more remote rural areas can be tough,” Otis said. …

But Otis said those minimum speeds are relatively slow for the growing demands on the internet. “You’d like to say everyone should have 100 (megabits) down and 20 up. And to be perfect you’d have 100 by 100.”

He said that when putting in new lines, having the minimum 25-3 megabit is “underusing your fiber.”

And the demand for more speed is only going to grow as more video content, self-driving vehicles, smart cars, enhanced 911 systems, smart homes and other technology all vie for internet and fiber optic space.

“The projections are for unbelievable, exponential growth in the next five to 10 years,” Otis said.

MN Broadband Task Force recommendations $70 million to meet speed goals (100 Mbps down and 20 up by 2026)

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force has released their annual report. It’s an abbreviated version of usual report as they are gearing up for next year’s report, which unless something changes will be the last.

Here’s the quick take on the status of broadband in Minnesota…

As reported by Connected Nation in October 2017, 88.11 percent of Minnesota households have wireline broadband access available at a speed of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload (25 Mbps/3 Mbps), while 73.45 percent of rural Minnesota households have a wired broadband connection that meets these speeds. Nearly 70 percent (70.04 percent) of Minnesota households have wireline speeds of 100 Mbps/20 Mbps. In rural areas of Minnesota, 52.88 percent of households have access to these speeds. As Minnesota strives to meet its updated broadband speed goals, much work remains.

Their recommendations…

This report contains two recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature:

  • Provide $71.48 million in on-going biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, until the state achieves its broadband speed goals.
  • Provide the Office of Broadband Development with $500,000 on-going biennial funding and maintain the existing partnership with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, until the state achieves its broadband speed goals.

I want to highlight the first recommendation because the recommendation in the report itself is different from what is in the press release. Here’s the recommendation as stated in the press release:

  • Provide $71.48 million in on-going biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, until the state achieves its broadband goals. This funding amount, which accounts for federal funding through the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF II) and the FCC’s Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM), would provide service to the 252,000 Minnesota households that currently lack Internet service at the state’s speed goals of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

The big difference is that the press release only alludes to the 25/3 speed goals (with a goal date of 2022). The state also has a speed goal of 100/20 by 2026. The state funding has required networks to be scalable to higher speeds; the federal funding does not.

Here’s the text from the statute:

It is a state goal that (1) no later than 2022, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second; and (2) no later than 2026, all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.

The difference is a big one – especially since the future of the Task Force is uncertain. The statute leaves room for 25/3 being a stepping stone, not a resting place for broadband speeds.

And a look at state versus rural status…

Minnesota Broadband Task Force – final edit of annual report

The Task Force met today to do the final edit of their MN Broadband Task Force report. I have notes on the specifics below. It helps to follow along with the penultimate draft (Part 1 & Part 2). The focus remains on getting ongoing funding for the Office of Broadband Development and for the Broadband grants – until the state speed goals are met.

Here are their recommendations:

  • Provide $71.482 million in ongoing biennial funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, until the state achieves its broadband speed goal.
  • Provide the OBD with funding at $250,000 per year in ongoing funding, until the state achieves its broadband speed goal.

The next step is making the changes discussed and moving this toward getting published.

Continue reading

MN Broadband grant recipient AcenTek breaks ground in Lanesboro

According to Community Networks at the Institute for Local Self Reliance

On September 22nd, Fillmore County and local telecommunications cooperative representatives participated in a groundbreaking event to mark the start of building a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in the rural town of Lanesboro, Minnesota.

Fiber To The Unserved

Lanesboro is located in Fillmore County about 50 minutes southeast of Rochester. The small rural town covers 1.3 square miles with a population of 755. Forty-one percent of households in Fillmore County are “unserved” as defined by both the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and the FCC, which defines “broadband” as 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. Fillmore County residents and businesses are one small group of a large segment of rural America without access to high-quality connectivity. The FCC reported in 2016 that 39 percent of rural residents don’t have access to broadband, but actual numbers are much higher because incumbent reported mapping tends to overstate the reality.

Fortunately, rural cooperatives are picking up the slack where national incumbent ISPs are failing to deploy high-quality Internet infrastructure. Local telecommunications cooperative, AcenTek, will build the FTTH infrastructure. The network will connect 431 unserved households, 42 unserved businesses, and one community anchor institution (CAI) in the rural Lanesboro area, including Whalan, Carrolton Township, and Holt Township. The FTTH project is expected to reach speeds of 1 gigabit upload and download.

Funding FTTH

In January 2017, AcenTek received a $1.78 million grant from the Minnesota Border-to-Border Development Program administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting Nov 2 – agenda

I plan to attend. I will take notes and stream via Facebook here.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 2, 2017
Minnesota Senate Office Building –Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155
10:00 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. –10:10 a.m. –  Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Discussion of Updated Cost to Deploy Broadband
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Subcommittee Review of Draft Report
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch (Capitol basement)
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Full Task Force Discussion of Report
  • 1:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.                     December Meeting/Wrap-up/Adjourn

Minnesota Broadband Task Force October: Cybersecurity

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met today. They had a quick check in with subcommittees on their recommendations for the legislature. Continued funding for the Office of Broadband Development and for grants were popular themes.

Also they heard from Chris Buse from State Cybersecurity. They have a plan to improve security – one bit of advice. The movement to improve cybersecurity starts with better supporting IT.

Continue reading