FCC is moving to new broadband map format, decommissioning old maps

The FCC reports on the decommissioning of their old broadband maps – on Dec 21, 2018…

Since 2011, the National Broadband Map has been a vital tool for consumers, businesses, policy makers, and researchers by providing an easy- to-use and searchable way to find out who is offering broadband, what types of broadband they are offering, and where they are offering it.  But the mapping platform has become dated, as has the coverage data, which was collected through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) State Broadband Initiative (SBI); the last published SBI data set was current as of June 30, 2014.  Based on the age of the data, and the underlying technology, the National Broadband Map and its Application Program Interface (API), will be decommissioned on December 21, 2018.

Recognizing the value of broadband data visualizations, the Federal Communications Commission released a new Fixed Broadband Deployment map in February 2018 to display new data collected by the FCC from carriers on FCC Form 477, which is updated twice annually. Like the old map, the new map provides key information about broadband deployment for consumers, policymakers, researchers, economists, and others.

Looking at the new maps was a reminder to me that they were last updated in 2017. We are lucky in Minnesota to have updates more often.

Minnesota broadband is better than Wisconsin broadband

If I were more of a sports ball person I could probably make a lot more of this story. As it stands, I’ll just say it’s interesting to see what your neighbors think of you. The [Appleton] Post Crescent reports…

Minnesotans have more access than Wisconsinites to fast internet that consumers rely on for everything from schoolwork and jobs to shopping and binge-watching Netflix, new census data show.

Access to broadband internet in Wisconsin is also worse for many poor and rural families, as well as racial and ethnic minorities, according to data that the U.S. Census Bureau calls its first-ever look at internet subscription rates over five years.

The paper is part of the USA Today network. They came up with five findings after looking at state level broadband data…

  1. Wisconsin slightly behind Minnesota, Illinois
    About 78 percent of Wisconsin households had a broadband internet subscription from 2013 to 2017, mirroring the national rate over the period but trailing states to the northwest and south. Minnesota had the highest rate of neighboring states at 80.8 percent.
  2. Minnesota children had more access
    Most children in Wisconsin had access to fast internet in their homes and they had access at higher rates than kids in Illinois, Michigan and the nation overall. But compared with Minnesota’s 90.6 percent, Wisconsin was slightly behind at 87.7 percent.
  1. Fewer subscribers in low-income households
    Why is broadband internet more common in Minnesota than Wisconsin? One factor may be income. Like other Midwest states and the nation overall, access to high-speed internet in Wisconsin varies greatly by household wealth.
    About 93 percent of Wisconsin households with at least $75,000 in annual income had access to broadband from 2013 to 2017. But only half of those households with less than $20,000 in annual income had access.
  1. Fewer subscribers in northern Wisconsin
    Waukesha, Dane, Ozaukee and Calumet counties had the highest rates for households with broadband internet. Mostly northern counties — such as Forest, Clark and Menominee — were at the other end of the spectrum in the state. More than one-third of the homes in those three counties were without broadband.
  1. Fewer African American subscribers
    The racial inequities for fast internet in Wisconsin are larger than in most of the state’s neighbors and the nation overall. While 84 percent of white residents in Wisconsin had access to broadband, just 68 percent of black residents had access. The rates varied for Asian, Latino and Native American residents, too.

Senator Smith says farm bill focuses on expanded broadband

According to the Grand Forks Herald

One feature of the [proposed farm] bill is a Community Connect Program that would help spread broadband access to rural and tribal communities, according to Smith.

“It will help to get funding to rural parts of the country to expand broadband. It’s a really important step and we need to do a lot more to expand broadband,” Smith said.

“Broadband is basically what connects anybody to the 21st century economy, education, healthcare and jobs. I’m really committed to working on this,” she added.

She seems confident that broadband will be a part of the bill…

Smith remained confident that a farm bill will pass that features broadband access expansion; improved renewable energy programs; farmer and ranch assistance networks; and continuing of the federal sugar program.

“Agriculture is not so much a partisan issue as much as it is a regional issue,” she said.

Final Meeting of Gov Dayton’s MN Broadband Task Force

Today was the last meeting of third iteration of the MN Broadband Task Force. The first Task Force (under Gov Pawlenty) had the onerous task of creating something from nothing. They came back with recommendation to create legislation that would set a goal for broadband connectivity and the means of measure it. This latest iteration upgraded those speed goals and encouraged the institution of both the Office of Broadband Development and Minnesota Broadband grant program. The Task Force does not work in a vacuum, we have some dedicated providers, engaged legislators and the Blandin Foundation who have kept the broadband fires burning but the the Task Force has been in instrumental creating what people are calling the Minnesota Model for how to be broadband right.

At the meeting there was clearly momentum to continue to down the path for better broadband and continue with a new Task Force for the new Administration. There was much praise of Danna Mackenzie and Diane Wells at the Office of Broadband Development. And there was a focus on the 2022 goals of ubiquitous broadband coverage at speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. And while that goal is clearly breathing down our neck, the 2026 goals of 100/200 are already nipping at our heels too.

During the meeting the State surplus of $1.5 billion was announced – at another meeting. It would be nice to see some of that go into broadband. The Task Force was sketching out a three-year plan to cost of $70 million per biennium to meet half of the need (assuming 50 percent match from private or local funders) to get to the 2022 goals. It would be awesome to see us leapfrog those goals and dive straight into our future with an eye on 2026 goals!


Four MN communities launch into better broadband with the IRBC

A couple weeks ago, I shared the announcement of the four new IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities). They will be working with the Blandin Foundation broadband team to better use broadband locally to help build demand and build the communities. Today they met to launch the programs and I was on hand. The day is an introduction to the program – they will create a team, vision and plan over the next few months. That will culminate into grant proposals and they will spend 18 months deploying, assessing and iterating plans.

They also talk about what success of the program would mean to them. I was lucky enough to attend the session and record those goals. My favorite line (a little misquoted) is – our community is at a crossroad. We could be terrible or great. Broadband will make us great.

And one community was kind enough to meet for a follow up:

It will be fun to watch their projects progress.

Final MN Broadband Task Force meeting Dec 6

Sorry for the late notice – but the last MN Broadband Task Force meeting in Dec 6

Here’s the info:

Administration Building
Room 116B (first floor, off main lobby)
50 Sherburne Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55155

  • 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. – Introductions, approval of minutes, public comments
  • 10:20 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. – Update from Office of Broadband Development
  • 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  – Sen. Eric Pratt, Chair, Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Policy and Finance Committee & Rep. Tim Mahoney, Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division (Invited)
  • 11:00 a.m. – 1:45 a.m. – Final Comments/Thoughts from Task Force Members
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  – Joanna Dornfeld, Chief of Staff, Governor Mark Dayton
  • 12:15 p.m. – Adjourn

Task Force members are invited to attend lunch hosted by the MHTA at the Downtowner Woodfire Grill, 253 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102 following the meeting.

Telehealth increases sevenfold in MN between 2010 and 2015

Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

The popularity of telemedicine has soared among Minnesotans in the past decade, with urban dwellers seeking the convenience of routine care online and rural residents videochatting with distant doctors for everything from prescription refills to psychiatric sessions to cancer consults.

A first-of-its-kind report used a Minnesota database of health insurance claims and found that the number of telemedicine visits increased sevenfold from 2010 to 2015. The study is part of a special edition of the influential journal Health Affairs that assesses the national impact of telemedicine — a broad term to describe billable patient care that isn’t provided face to face, including online queries and videoconferencing.

There is a difference in how telehealth is happening in rural and urban areas…

Most of the increase was in virtual visits by privately insured patients in metro areas, who used online portals such as VirtuWell to receive routine care for sore throats and skin rashes.

Such visits accounted for only 20 percent of the 11,113 telemedicine visits in Minnesota in 2010, but 60 percent of the 86,238 visits in 2015.

Patients in rural areas used telemedicine more to connect with doctors in other communities — either to avoid long drives for routine checkups or to get second opinions from specialists, the data showed.

Duluth-based Essentia Health has videoconferencing in every one of its clinics in northern Minnesota. Patients in International Falls, for example, can connect remotely with doctors in seven different specialties, including psychiatry and cardiology.

And there’s room for growth…

Telemedicine accounts for less than 1 percent of all patient care visits, but the local study suggests continued growth. Abraham noted that her research did not assess the effectiveness of virtual vs. in-person visits, just the numbers of them.