MN Broadband Task Force May 2018 meeting notes: Updates, Cyber Security, Education Superhighway and Blockchain

Today the Broadband Task Force got updates from the Office of Broadband Development and on the legislative activity. They discussed plans for the final report. They also heard from experts on cyber security at the State, the Education Superhighways (nice update on e-rate and impact on Minnesota Schools) and a presentation on bitcoin and blockchain.

Full notes: Continue reading

West Central promotes MN border to border state grants at the Capitol

The Wadena Pioneer Journal reports…

West Central Telephone’s President Bruce Kinnunen and General Manager/CEO Chad Bullock recently participated in legislative visits in St. Paul with the Minnesota Telecom Alliance for their annual Day on the Hill event. Kinnunen and Bullock visited with Senator Paul Utke, District 2, Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, District 8 and Representative John Poston, District 9A while at the state capital.

There were 50 participants at Day on the Hill representing 25 telecoms including West Central Telephone. The Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Minnesota Cable Communications Association held a Legislative Reception that was well attended. Attendees included 30 House members and 11 Senators.

The focus of this year’s Day on the Hill meeting was on the Border to Border Broadband grant program, and its successful efforts to continue broadband mapping and assisting with other state agencies to help reduce the time it takes to deploy broadband.

Next MN Broadband Task Force meeting – May 10 in St Paul

The MN Broadband Task Force is meeting tomorrow. I will plan to be there to take notes. Here are the details…

Department of Employment and Economic Development
James J. Hill Conference Room
332 Minnesota St., Suite E200
St. Paul, MN 55101
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Introductions, approval of minutes, public comments

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

10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Discussion of Task Force Annual Report Structure and Timeline

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  Cybersecurity Update from Minnesota IT Services

  • Johanna Clyborne, Commissioner, Minnesota IT Services
  • Aaron Call, Chief Information Security Officer, Minnesota IT Services

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Education Super Highway

  • Jeff Kang, Greer Ahlquist and Madeline Zdeblick

2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. An Introduction to Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

  • Stephanie Stoudt-Hansen

2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Wrap-up/June Meeting Plans

Nobles County: an inside look at a broadband feasibility study

Telecompetitor recently posted a profile of Nobles County and their journey toward better broadband…

To fix this situation, Nobles County set out on a public-private partnership journey, that would eventually involve the state of Minnesota, the Blandin Foundation, Finley Engineering, and Lismore Cooperative Telephone Company. Finley Engineering was honored to be selected by Nobles County to support this effort and help bring quality broadband to their community. The end result aims to eventually provide a state-of-the-art fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network that will bring ultrabroadband service to the citizens, farms, and businesses that dot Nobles County. This Minnesota community is well on their way in achieving this vision.

So they set out to learn more with a feasibility study…

The Blandin Foundation, a Minnesota-based private foundation, advocates for strong rural communities and provides funding to help meet that mission. Nobles County applied for and won grant funding from Blandin to perform a rural broadband feasibility study for their community. The Blandin Foundation provided one-half of the cost of the feasibility study, with Nobles County providing the rest in matching funds. Nobles County turned to Finley Engineering to begin that process and with their partners, Finley performed a study to determine how to bring broadband to this community in need. The result of that study identified a feasible plan to build a fiber ring throughout the county and begin bringing broadband to unserved and underserved communities through a hybrid FTTP and fixed wireless access network. Results of this study were presented to potential providers, including Lismore Cooperative Telephone, who partnered with Nobles County to fund, construct, and operate the hybrid fiber and fixed wireless network. Besides performing the feasibility study, Finley Engineering was selected to complete a State of MN broadband grant application, and engineer and oversee construction of the network.

That helped to set them up for a broadband grant…

The state provided $2.9 million in matching grant funding to contribute to the construction of the fiber portions of the network. Nobles County contributed a $1 million grant and a $2.5 million loan to the cause and Lismore committed to also invest in the construction of the network. The total budget for the project was about $6.5 million. The goal includes building the fiber ring and laterals to tower sites, providing a hybrid fiber and fixed wireless access initially, but eventually providing FTTP service, funded in part from the fixed wireless service revenues.

What did they learn?

All stakeholders in the project report are pleased with the progress so far. There are some key lessons learned from this evolving project. They include:

  • Initial feasibility studies are crucial, and Nobles County cited working with professional fi rms like Finley Engineering and their partners as an important critical step.
  • There are many partners and stakeholders involved in a project like this and open and transparent communication throughout all steps is vital to success noted Nobles County officials.
  • Involving the community early on played an important role in success factors. Nobles County enlisted local community members to participate in the early studies, surveying community members about the need for broadband.
  • Fixed wireless access technology has vastly improved and it is now a very viable technology to bring quality broadband to unserved and underserved rural communities.
  • Grant money and other support funding mechanisms are required to bring quality broadband to very rural communities.

Text for latest version of the broadband grants in the MN House

Here’s the latest text of the House version of the broadband grant bill taken from the Journal of the House (88th Day – Monday, April 30, 2018). Starting with the details on the funding (the additions are underlined)…

Subd. 3.Broadband Development  0   15,000,000

(a) $15,000,000 in fiscal year 2019 is for transfer to the border‑to‑border broadband fund account in the special revenue fund established under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396 and may be used for purposes provided in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.  This appropriation is onetime and is available until spent.  Of this appropriation, up to three percent is for costs

incurred by the commissioner to administer Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.  Administrative costs may include the following activities related to measuring progress toward the state’s broadband goals established in Minnesota Statutes, section 237.012:
(1) collecting broadband deployment data from Minnesota providers, verifying its accuracy through on-the-ground testing, and creating state and county maps available to the public showing the availability of broadband service at various upload and download speeds throughout Minnesota;

(2) analyzing the deployment data collected to help inform future investments in broadband infrastructure; and

(3) conducting business and residential surveys that measure broadband adoption and use in the state.

Data provided by a broadband provider under this subdivision is nonpublic data under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.02, subdivision 9.  Maps produced under this subdivision are public data under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03.

(b) Of the amount appropriated in paragraph (a), $750,000 is for grants to satellite broadband providers under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.395.

And details about definitions, which really amounts to details about satellite and satellite providers…



Section 1.  Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 116J.394, is amended to read:


(a) For the purposes of sections 116J.394 to 116J.398, the following terms have the meanings given them.

(b) “Broadband” or “broadband service” has the meaning given in section 116J.39, subdivision 1, paragraph (b).

(c) “Broadband infrastructure” means networks of deployed telecommunications equipment and technologies necessary to provide high-speed Internet access and other advanced telecommunications services for end users.

(d) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of employment and economic development.

(e) “Last-mile infrastructure” means broadband infrastructure that serves as the final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the end-use customer’s on-premises telecommunications equipment.

(f) “Middle-mile infrastructure” means broadband infrastructure that links a broadband service provider’s core network infrastructure to last-mile infrastructure.

(g) “Political subdivision” means any county, city, town, school district, special district or other political subdivision, or public corporation.

(h) “Satellite broadband equipment” means a satellite dish or modem installed at a broadband user’s location in order to receive broadband service from a satellite broadband provider.

(i) “Satellite broadband provider” means an entity that provides broadband service by means of wireless signals transmitted between communication stations orbiting the earth and satellite broadband equipment installed at a broadband user’s location.

(j) “Satellite dish” means a parabolic aerial installed on a building exterior that receives signals from and transmits signals to a satellite broadband provider’s satellite communication station orbiting the earth.

(k) “Underserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line broadband service at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and at least 20 megabits per second upload.

(i)(l) “Unserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line broadband service, as defined in section 116J.39.

EFFECTIVE DATE.  This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Sec. 2.  Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 116J.395, subdivision 2, is amended to read:

Subd. 2.  Eligible expenditures.  (a) Grants may be awarded under this section to fund the acquisition and installation of:

(1) middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure that support broadband service scalable to speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and 100 megabits per second upload.; and


(2) satellite broadband equipment installed on the premises of a broadband user located in an unserved area that can support broadband speeds of at least 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload.

(b) Grants may be awarded under this section to fund monthly satellite broadband service charges for a period of 12 months for a subscriber whose satellite broadband equipment has been partially funded by a grant under paragraph (a), clause (2).

EFFECTIVE DATE.  This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Sec. 3.  Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 116J.395, subdivision 5, is amended to read:

Subd. 5.  Application contents.  An applicant for a grant under this section shall provide the following information on the application:

(1) the location of the project;

(2) the kind and amount of broadband infrastructure or satellite broadband equipment to be purchased for the project;

(3) evidence regarding the unserved or underserved nature of the community in which the project is to be located;

(4) the number of households passed that will have access to broadband service as a result of the project, or whose broadband service will be upgraded as a result of the project;

(5) significant community institutions that will benefit from the proposed project;

(6) evidence of community support for the project;

(7) the total cost of the project;

(8) sources of funding or in-kind contributions for the project that will supplement any grant award;

(9) 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, subdivision 1, within the time frame specified in the proposed grant activities;

(10) the broadband service providers’ written responses to the inquiry made under clause (9); and

(11) any additional information requested by the commissioner.

EFFECTIVE DATE.  This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Sec. 4.  Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 116J.395, subdivision 7, is amended to read:

Subd. 7.  Limitation.  (a) No grant awarded under this section may fund more than:

(1) 50 percent of the total cost of a project.under subdivision 2, paragraph (a), clause (1);

(2) 50 percent of the total cost of satellite broadband equipment installed at user locations, up to $300; or

(3) $600 in monthly satellite broadband subscription charges.

(b) Grants awarded to a single project under this section must not exceed $5,000,000.

EFFECTIVE DATE.  This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Broadband bill moved forward in House

Ways and Means discussed broadband (HF4289) on Friday; it moved forward with the rest of HF4289. In the end, the bill was included in HF4009 and will be discussed on the House Floor.

I have pulled out the video (from the two-hour meeting) that relates to broadband. Rep Baker wanted to bring up wireless and the need to map wireless access in the future – that was withdrawn with a promise from Baker to raise it next year. And the Commissioner of DEED thanked the Committee for funding and asked them to consider more should more funding become available. Rep Garofalo notes that all new money ($15 million) went to broadband…

MN Senate Bill for broadband funding includes grant priority for net neutrality projects

The latest version of the MN Senate Omnibus supplemental budget bill reads

Subd. 3. Broadband Development-0-15,000,000

$15,000,000 in fiscal year 2019 is for deposit  in the border-to-border broadband fund account in the special revenue fund established  under Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396. This is a onetime appropriation. In awarding  grants, the commissioner must give priority to projects that include broadband providers  who commit to adhere to net neutrality principles.

The addition of net neutrality principles passed on Thursday (April 26) Senate Floor Amendment …


1.1Senator Latz moved to amend S.F. No. 3656 as follows:
1.2Page 48, line 21, after the period, insert “In awarding grants, the commissioner must 
1.3give priority to projects that include broadband providers who commit to adhere to net 
1.4neutrality principles.
1.5The motion prevailed. #did not prevail. So the amendment was #not adopted.