Broadband Conference: Final Notes

Reflections from the 2014 Minnesota Broadband Task Force from Bernadine Joselyn…

The UpTake was terrific in helping to livestream and archive the broadband conference. Dave Peters was also there from Ground Level, he wrote about the SNG Report and the public private partners conundrum.

FCC to invest $2 billion in broadband for schools and libraries

We just learned a little bit about this at the Minnesota Broadband Conference – I’m just going to share the FCC press release here…

The Federal Communications Commission announced today the agency will invest an additional $2 billion over the next two years to support broadband networks in our nations’ schools and libraries. This represents a doubling of investment in broadband and will connect 20 million students in at least 15,000 schools to high-speed Internet access.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “This investment is a down-payment on the goal of 99 percent of America’s students having high-speed Internet connections within five years. As we consider long-term
improvements to the program, we will take immediate steps to make existing funds go farther, significantly increasing our investment in high-speed Internet to help connect millions of students to the digital age.”

Funding for new investments in high-speed Internet will come from reprioritizing existing E-Rate funds to focus on high-capacity Internet connectivity, increasing efficiency, and modernizing management of the E-Rate program. “We will take a business-like approach to the management of the program, identifying opportunities to improve the ways funds are deployed and streamlining the process for schools and libraries,” Chairman Wheeler said.

Established in 1996, E-Rate provides $2.4 billion to schools and libraries annually for communications services, and has helped connect virtually all U.S. schools and libraries to basic Internet.

The additional support will be targeted to address the most urgent Internet upgrade needs of schools and libraries. Today only about half of E-Rate funds go to true high-speed Internet connections.

Last summer, the Commission began a proceeding to explore ways to modernize the E-Rate program. In November, Chairman Wheeler launched a top to bottom review of the program to examine how E-Rate can better meet the 21st century connectivity needs of schools and libraries.

The new investment in broadband will be one element of a comprehensive approach to modernizing E-Rate. The FCC will also streamline the application process, increase transparency, and provide more
assistance to schools and libraries to help them lower the prices they pay. In addition, the FCC will ramp up oversight and enforcement within the program to ensure every dollar that is intended to reach a school or library gets there.

The E-Rate program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company under the direction of the FCC. Specifically, USAC is responsible for processing the applications for support,  confirming eligibility, and reimbursing service providers and eligible schools and libraries for the discounted services. USAC also ensures that the applicants and service providers comply with the E-Rate rules and procedures established by the Commission.

MN Broadband Conference: Applications

From the Agenda:

MN Broadband Conference: Business and Economic Development

From the Agenda:

MN Broadband Conference: Broadband Infrastructure Development

From agenda:

MN Broadband Conference: Digital Inclusion

From agenda:

  • Digital Inclusion Building Blocks, Sam Drong, PCs for People
  • Digital Literacy: Bridges to Career and Academic Success for Low-skilled Adults, Jen
    Vanek, DEED
  • Digital Literacy for New Americans, Fatima Said, Project FINE
  • Broadband Provider Digital Inclusion Programs: Lifeline, Tom Simmons,
    Midcontinent Communications

Broadband Conference: Dinner and Presentation by Theater for Public Policy

Tuesday night we had a very fun improv show from Theater for Public Policy. They listened to the issues, trends and debates on broadband during the day and treated us to skits based on what they heard at night. I captured just a couple minutes of their show…

Broadband Conference: Workgroups on improving broadband

In this session, attendees met in small group and reported out. We’ve captured the report out…

Small Group Discussions – Summarize up to three key ideas from your table discussion – to inform policy making to advance broadband in Minnesota.

  • Lack of information to make informed decisions
  • Create a baseline or minimum requirement beyond 10 MB
  • Demonstrate impact to use as a baseline to legislators and communities
  • Bb being the great equalizer – importance of – central service – utility of equal importance to others – why isn’t there a rural bb REA?
  • Unaware of the issues / problems w/service coverage
  • Erase barriers for economic reasons – declaration of emergency around bb (like propane)
  •  Money drives everything and money follows vision
  • Accountability message is powerful –
  • More effective when we find consistent messages for all to buy into
  • Bb a problem of managing expectations – no longer a luxury
  • Affordability is an issue
  • Gov’t can fund where there’s market failure; remove barriers
  • Need funding to put technology into place – desire and need is there.
  • Local gov’t control would get things done
  • Fiber should be considered infrastructure. Should be regulated / controlled
  • What is the fair market price? Should there be assistance offered?
  • Providers and local gov’ts need to come together to provide the services under mutual agreements
  • Define public / private model – funding for small ISPs
  • Increase in funding for low income access; increase in awareness
  • Hold providers accountable – money wasted
  • Are we driving too much money in this too quickly? Should we look at other technologies in rural communities
  • Dig once! Conduit buried
  • Improve language in current laws ex: ability to bond for bb projects
  • Leverage local partnerships to provide funding
  • Bonds at state level are not allowed on reservations – we need to find a way to work together to embrace our neighbors
  • Regulatory issues changed to allow local municipalities to do bb
  • Telework creates jobs – funding to increase awareness and create telework sites.
  • Delivering internet signal via power lines.
  • Funding is the key – transformative and transitional technology
  • Public/private partnerships – long term low interest funds to help providers build
  • Lakes region – how do you build fiber to cabins where folks aren’t there half the year? Fee? Fiber to a point then wireless?
  • Fed – connect America project – look at deeper funding – work at coordinating the regulatory process
  • State gov’t set this as a priority – even provision of this service

Videos from the session:

Panel – Rural Minnesota Speaks: Report Out from Legislators’ Broadband Listening Tour

Moderated by Senator Matt Schmit

[Full video of the panel will be posted as soon as available]

Notes from the session – including brief notes from the panelists and questions.

David Collins (Park Rapids) – they have been trying to be a squeaky wheel in Park Rapids to get broadband. Didn’t get ARRA funding. They have several providers. Competition makes a business case tough in town – and very tough in outlying areas. Changes in USF/CAF. There is an unleveled playing field. It would be nice to have better equality. We’d like to partner with the state – maybe a Minnesota USF would help.

Marc Johnson (ECMECC) – Marc just wrote a great series on education and rural broadband. He works with ECMECC – a collaboration of schools and libraries in Central MN that allows them to get better broadband in aggregate. Broadband is required to access commonplace tools – electronic textbooks, YouTube and more. These tools can be cheaper than print. Now we have to make resources available online and off to accommodate the large number of students who don’t have access at home – due to access AND affordability.

Kelly Hinnenkap (Annandale) – The incumbent in Annandale has not been interested in improving broadband connectivity in the area. They did a recent feasibility study which indicated that 93-95% of business and residents were interested in changing providers; 86% wanted the city to get involved with improving access.

Daryl Kallevig (Aitkin County) Few providers in the area (local, CenturyLink, Frontier) and the larger providers are not super communicative. The medical home is a team of healthcare workers that will focus on chronically ill people – using a lot of remote monitoring.

Jody Reisch (Rock County) – Bought a gorgeous house in Rock County  – didn’t even think to ask about broadband. Going through data caps in 7 days – not gaming or watching video but working!

Terri Lenz (Goodhue County) – Crowdsourced an article on broadband areas. Newspaper has 700 likes – 670 read the story on broadband; 30 people commented. It’s an issue that makes a different in people’s lives!

Rep Sheldon Johnson – We need a push from the public to demonstrate how important broadband is.

Rep Ron Kresha – founder of Golden Shovel – We have so many different models of growth across the country. We need to keep Connect MN funded. Need a balance for public and private. The sales tax for telecom hurt business. We need to fund content providers.


What else needs to happen to have an ideal world?

A: We forget that there are people who have to pay for services and that when we buy something globally, our local vendors lose out.

A: Accountability is a big issue. Lack of regulations can be a problem. If we have issues with the phone we can call the PUC – with broadband there’s no one to call

How can we get all parts of the government to work together?

A: Danna MacKenzie is in place at the Office of Broadband Development; that should help.

A: As legislators we need to back off the OBD.

A: You need to challenge local government too – we should be working with providers as we do with road if we are looking at this as infrastructure.

Preconference Session: A Comprehensive Community Approach to Broadband

From the agenda…

Facilitated by Bill Coleman, Community Technology Advisors

In a rapid-paced and interactive session, the following topics will be addressed: Broadband Infrastructure; Digital Inclusion; Broadband-based Economic Development; and Broadband Applications. This session will prepare both broadband beginners and experts to better participate in the conference, especially the policy discussions on Tuesday afternoon. Attendees will also receive a free FTTH guide from the FTTH Council.

Folks are asking about glossary for acronyms –

Minnesota Broadband Conference ~ Border to Border Broadband: A Call to Action

feb 2014 Conf logoI know I’ve mentioned it before – but I think the conference is going to be really, really good! And there’s an added pre-conference sessions:

Bill Coleman will facilitate a pre-conference session “A Comprehensive Community Approach to Broadband” from 1:00 pm to 2:45 pm.  There is no additional fee to attend this session.

In a rapid-paced and interactive session, Bill will cover these topics: Broadband Infrastructure; Digital Inclusion; Broadband-based Economic Development; and Broadband Applications.  This session will prepare both broadband beginners and experts to better participate in the conference, especially the policy discussions on Tuesday afternoon.  Attendees will also receive a free FTTH guide from the FTTH Council.

Register Today!!!

Close your eyes and imagine your life without access to the Internet. Consider what it would be like not to know anything about how or why to use an Internet-connected computer. This may feel like a bad dream, but unfortunately it is the reality for far too many Minnesotans.

Last week the St. Cloud Times featured “stories of frustration” from Annandale residents about inadequate broadband connectivity in their community. These stories “underscore the need to aid areas lacking quality broadband service,” wrote the Times, quoting state Senator Matt Schmit. Similar meetings elsewhere in greater Minnesota have uncovered comparable stories describing the effect of poor broadband access across communities – on property values, small business growth and quality of life.

The need is great and the time is now. A flood of organizations, from across the state, have joined in the call for this conversation to occur now. Be a part of it at the statewide conference, Border to Border Broadband: A Call to Action, February 4-5 in St. Paul.

Your voice, as community leader and Minnesotan, is needed. Gain knowledge, share stories and build coalitions. Shape, spread and amplify a strong and convincing message to help move Minnesota forward into the dream-come-true state of Border to Border Broadband.

Visit the conference website for more information and registration.

Sponsored by: Arrowhead RDC, Association Minnesota Counties, Connect Minnesota, Economic Development Association of MN, FTTH Council, Greater Minnesota Partnership, Headwaters RDC, Initiative Foundation, League of Minnesota Cities, MN Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators, MN High Tech Association, MN Rural Education Association, MN Rural Health Association, Northland Foundation, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, Region Five Development Commission, Region Nine Development Commission, Resilient Region Virtual Highway Taskforce, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Southwest Initiative Foundation, Southwest RDC, West Central Initiative

Upcoming Broadband Conference: Cool Tools Room

I am excited to be part of the planning committee for the February Broadband conference: Border to Border Broadband: A Call to Action. I’m looking forward to conversations on practice, policy and progress and something new…

This year we are adding a fun, inspirational corner to the conference space. A place for attendees to check out cool stuff that’s happening in the online world – Google Glass for example. We are looking for hands-on or easily demonstrated tools to excite attendees. If you have a cool tool you’d like to showcase, please let us know. Tools don’t have to be gadgets; websites and big ideas are welcome too – with the caveat that we are really looking for experiential opportunities. As an added bonus, the Cool Tools Room will also have a Cool Tools Crew of college students to provide tech support to anyone wanting advice or lessons on how to better use cool tools they already own – such as smartphone or other devices.

I would personally be interested in apps that people are using in the field – be that the farming, healthcare, education or other field. I’d love to experience things that impress my kids and/or inform my next cocktail party conversation!