State speed goals and mapping are important – especially in Infrastructure Packages if states allocate funds

Fierce Telecom reports

Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler argued incumbent cable operators are in prime position to scoop up federal broadband funding and have little to fear from potential overbuild activity.

Speaking about the looming congressional infrastructure package during a New Street Research event, Wheeler acknowledged each state will have discretion over how to allocate the broadband funding allotted to them, leaving some uncertainty about what their priorities in terms of speeds and access technology will be. However, he asserted incumbent operators are best positioned to help close the digital divide.

Wheeler said the idea that there are “massive areas of virgin unserved territory” in the U.S. is a “myth” and instead the reality on the ground is that there are “pockets of served areas surrounded by unserved.”

The article goes on to focus on the advantage that incumbents (or at least existing) providers will have. I am interested in the emphasis on state discretion. To highlight the highest need in the short term, to find the pockets of unserved areas, we need continual and granular mapping. To make the best investment for the long term, we need state speed goals that meet the needs of the next generation as well as for today.

FCC announces some RDOF winners – in MN that’s Farmers Mutual Telephone Company

FCC announced 466 RDOF winning bids. The only winner announced in Minnesota was Farmers Mutual Telephone Company. Here’s the announcement

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids identified in Attachment A of this Public Notice.

For each of the winning bids identified in Attachment A, we have reviewed the long-form application information, including the letter(s) of credit and Bankruptcy Code opinion letter(s) from the long-form applicant’s legal counsel.  Based on the representations and certifications in the relevant long-form application, we authorize support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

We will also soon post a state-level summary under the “Results” tab on the Auction 904 webpage at https://www.fcc.gov/auction/904/round-results.  The summary will provide for each long-form applicant included in this Public Notice:  1) the total support amount over 10 years and total number of locations that the long-form applicant is being authorized for in each state, 2) the total number of locations to which the authorized support recipient must offer the required voice and broadband services for each performance tier and latency in each state, and 3) the eligible census blocks included in the winning bids that are being authorized in each state.

Here are some of the details for the Farmers Mutual bids:

Winning bid MN-073-1801002

  • 26 locations
  • $21,054.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801001

  • 2 locations
  • $ 7,626.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801003

  • 6 locations
  • $ 2,294.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802001

  • 119 locations
  • $ 216,152.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802002

  • 37 locations
  • $ 166,258.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803001

  • 39 locations
  • $ 152,096.00

Winning bid MN-073-1803002

  • 78 locations
  • $ 177,172.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803003

  • 25 locations
  • $ 17,170.00 over 10 years

No word on LTD.

US Senator introduce Legislation for device vouchers program to close the digital divide

An interesting proposal to help get devices into the hands that need them; Sen McEachin reports

Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced the Device Access for Every American Act to ensure more Americans can afford connected devices. The bicameral legislation would authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a program to administer up to $400 vouchers for low-income Americans to purchase laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.

Millions of households across the nation lack access to connected devices. While computer access is nearly ubiquitous amongst high-income households, 40% of low-income adults lack a desktop or laptop computer. Additionally, 4.4 million households with students lack consistent access to a computer.

“Laptops, tablets, and other connected devices are indispensable in our increasingly digital world. Many students’ homework assignments now require laptops, more employers are exploring telework models, and more doctors’ offices are migrating toward telehealth services as the new standard of care,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated this need and underscored the stark disparities that currently exist in our country. For too many low-income Americans, prohibitive costs pose unnecessary challenges and hardships for them and their families. I am proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, along with my colleague, Senator Warnock, to improve access to these vital devices, connect millions of American households, and help close the digital divide once and for all.”

“It is nearly impossible to get by without access to a laptop or tablet—especially after a year of adjusting to virtual learning, working, and more,” said Sen. Warnock (D-GA). “For that, I am incredibly proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, which ensures that every American – regardless of income or zip code – has the ability to participate and thrive in our increasingly digital economy. This legislation also ensures students stay on track, especially following a year of learning loss, with the necessary devices at their disposal.”

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

Recommendations for reforming universal service to keep it around longer!

SHLB Coalition, INCOMPAS, and NTCA, with support from Public Knowledge recently released a report on Reforming Universal Service Contributions Mechanism, which could also be called – how to save Universal Service and help keep more online at all incomes. They look at some options…

To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the pro[1]gram’s future. At the request of INCOMPAS, NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, this report analyzes several options for FCC reform of the current status quo that have been pending in FCC rulemakings dating back to the early 2000’s: (1) modifying the current revenues-based contribution methodology to assess broadband internet access service revenues, (2) assessing connections, or (3) assessing telephone numbers.

They make recommendations…

Reforming the current revenues-based system to include broadband internet access service revenues is the preferred approach, both as a matter of policy and ease of implementation. Doing so would reduce the contribution factor to less than 4%.

First, it is appropriate as a matter of public policy to assess broadband internet access service revenues because all four programs in the USF promote universal broadband. The revenues from broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all. This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.

Second, broadband internet access service revenues are expected to be stable in the future, with the potential for some modest growth. This would stabilize the funding mechanism and stop the death spiral in the current USF contribution methodology.

Third, it is a solution that can be implemented more quickly than the alternatives. It would be far less uncertain than seeking congressional intervention and can be done by the FCC pursuant to its current statutory mandate. FCC reform of the USF contribution mechanism now is an important first step in stabilizing the current system.

Fourth, there is a significant advantage to retaining the current revenues-based system because most of the revenues reported to the FCC for USF purposes come from publicly traded companies that are audited and subject to stringent financial

reporting standards for their revenues. This external financial scrutiny would provide an additional level of assurance that the metric used to assess USF contributions is accurately reported.

Fifth, assessing both broadband internet access service and voice services removes the incentives of providers to arbitrarily allocate revenues from bundled services to one service and not the other. This creates an inequitable situation where some end users continue to pay into USF, while others do not, yet everyone benefits from the positive network externalities of universal connectivity made possible from the four USF programs that support broad[1]band-capable networks and service.

Reform of the current system of financing universal service is long overdue. The FCC has sought comment multiple times on various permutations of the options analyzed in this report and has the ability to move forward to assess broadband internet access service revenues without congressional action. The rapid increase in the contribution factor over the last decade and potentially in the future puts the stability of the entire USF at risk. While other proposals to help finance universal broadband may warrant further examination, the FCC should reform the current contribution methodology now to assess broadband internet access service revenues.

FCC will study cost of landlords’ broadband deals

Yahoo News reports

The Federal Communications Commission wants to learn whether deals between landlords and internet service providers raise prices for apartment dwellers as part of the Biden administration’s push on increasing competition in the economy.

Why it matters: Despite cities having more competition among broadband providers, those in apartment buildings can be stuck with one provider because of the arrangements.

Driving the news: A senior agency official told Axios the FCC on Tuesday will begin seeking comment on the impact certain practices have on tenants, including:

  • Revenue sharing agreements in which the landlord takes a percentage of the revenue an internet service provider receives, incentivizing the landlord to steer tenants to that provider.

  • Exclusive wiring agreements that involve a landlord saying only one internet provider can use a building’s wires to provide service.

  • Exclusive marketing agreements where only one company can market its services in the building.

Residents in urban areas don’t realize that there are residents and whole communities in rural area that no real competition for broadband provider. And if they do they think somehow only one provider has permission to serve a certain area. I think these deals with landlords are the closest an urban experience gets to understanding rural. They aren’t any federal rules prohibiting other providers from serving an apartment building but the landlord has made deals (and sometimes they are exclusive) that makes it much easier for one provider. The same way the state or federal funding may make it easier for one provider to enter a rural market.

The result is the same – it promotes a lack of competition.

FCC announces second ECF application window; $5.137 billion requested in first window

An announcement from the FCC…

The FCC announced  that requests for $5.137 billion in funding to support 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections were received during the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program’s initial filing window.  The window, which closed August 13, 2021, attracted applicants from all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia – including schools and libraries in both rural and urban communities seeking funding for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.  Additional information about the demand at the state level can be found here.

In view of outstanding demand and the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the FCC will open a second application filing window for schools and libraries to request funding from the roughly $2 billion in program funds remaining for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.  The second window will open on September 28 and run until October 13.  Eligible schools and libraries will be able to apply for financial support to purchase eligible equipment and services for students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs.

ECF Demand: Minnesota

  • Amount Requested for Equipment: $50,636,008.93
  • Amount Requested for Services: $12,232,818.32
  • Total Funding Requested: $62,868,827.25

Telehealth in MN – how to find it, what insurance pays for, how to get it

The UpTake has a useful article on the how-tos and some of the whys of telehealth policy during/because of COVID. It might be helpful to folks you know (or you) but also I think it’s helpful as a policymaker or community leader to think about telehealth from the perspective of the patient or provider.

How does insurance coverage for telehealth work in Minnesota since the pandemic…

Minnesota has been following the federal recommendations for COVID-19 emergency telehealth coverage since March 2020, including requiring that insurers cover telehealth sessions at the same rate as in-person appointments. At the time this article is written, clients’ homes are still considered an appropriate originating site for telehealth appointments.

This means that your insurance company should continue to cover your telehealth sessions at this time, and you would have the same out-of-pocket expense as if you had come to the office in person. It also means that your insurance will not require you to travel to an approved originating site.

Currently, Minnesota’s emergency telehealth coverage is tied to the federal state of emergency. Coverage is ongoing, as the pandemic is ongoing. States that have made changes to these policies have given a minimum of 30 days notice, and providers have a responsibility to be attentive to these regulations. As changes occur, providers will give their clients as much notice as possible about how this might impact their treatment and options for services.

How does it work for telehealth work for providers…

The state of Minnesota requires that clinicians submit a statement indicating that they are qualified to provide telehealth services. This is something that clients do not need to do, and the therapist has the responsibility to take this step prior to providing telehealth services.

What if my provider is not in MN…

Since before the pandemic began, licensure requirements for mental health professionals have been based on the client’s physical location at the time of service. This means, as a therapist, I must be licensed where my client is when they check in for a telehealth session.

Previously, Minnesota had allowed out-of-state providers to offer telehealth services to Minnesota residents due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. This has been important for those living near boarders who had received in-person services in another state but now needed to be seen from home for safety reasons. However, this reciprocity is no longer in effect.

This means that providers in South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin now need their clients to either come in person to the office or use an approved originating site across the border based on that state’s guidelines.

How can I get the services I need…

If you are uninsured, Walk-In Counseling Center continues to offer telehealth services in Minnesota, and Open Path Collective offers a national therapist directory to help individuals find low-cost therapy services.

If you have insurance, you can reach out to your insurance company to see which Minnesota providers are paneled with your plan. You can ask questions about which services are covered and whether you have to meet a deductible or will have a copay for each visit.

EVENT Sep 13: Deleting the Broadband Affordability Divide with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel

From the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIAA)

Deleting the Broadband Affordability Divide:
A Virtual Chat with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel

featuring a virtual discussion with FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and IIA Co-Chair Kim Keenan, along with founding IIA Connected Roundtable participants:

  • Joi Chaney, Executive Director of National Urban League’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy
  • Dr. Dominique Harrison, Director of Technology Policy for the Joint Center
  • Rosa Mendoza, Founder, President and CEO of ALLvanza

Monday, September 13th
10:00 a.m. ET

Ten years ago, policies to close the digital divide focused exclusively on connection. But we now know that the broadband adoption gap is approximately three times larger than the availability gap. Right now, the Federal Communications Commission is taking action to ensure that all Americans can afford to connect to the internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband availability and access for all Americans since 2004, invites you to hear leaders from top social justice organizations engage in a conversation with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel about the success of the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program and what lessons learned can be applied to modernization of the Lifeline Program. Acting Chair Rosenworcel and the Connected Roundtable will explore:

  • What the FCC did to fuel the surge in sign-ups for the EBB and whether similar strategies would increase the Lifeline participation rate from just 26% of eligible households;
  • How long the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s $14.2 billion allocated for an Affordable Connectivity benefit program, which is an extension of the EBB, might last before it runs out;
  • How local governments, private companies, community institutions and advocacy organizations can support the FCC in its mission to bridge the broadband affordability gap;
  • What Lifeline reforms could make the program a viable long-term solution to the broadband affordability challenge.

Update on MN PUC’s vote to move forward with inquiry into Frontier investment plan

Speed Matters providers an update on MN PUC’s plan with Frontier…

Last week, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MNPUC) voted 5-0 to proceed with an inquiry into Frontier’s investment plans in Minnesota, including the meaning of the company’s proposed “virtual separation” and its impact on service quality. During Frontier’s bankruptcy approval process, CWA urged the MNPUC to focus on how the company has decided to apportion its network and workforce investments across its geographic footprint as part of its “virtual separation” exercise, and what impact this will have on Minnesota customers. CWA believed that ensuring full transparency into the company’s network and workforce investment plans in Minnesota is crucial to ensuring that Frontier devotes the resources and maintains the workforce levels necessary to ensure quality service over the long-term.

“Everyday I see the impact of Frontier’s lack of investment in Minnesota among my members. In 2019, I had 100 Frontier members in my Local. That number has been cut by a third to 66 just in the last two years,” said CWA Local 7970 President Mark Doffing at the MNPUC public hearing. “This is despite the ongoing pandemic and the increasing reliance of our customers on the services Frontier provides. Areas that used to be covered by six to eight technicians are now being handled by two. The workload this has placed on my membership is overwhelming and unsustainable.”

Frontier committed to the Virtual Separation analysis as part of an agreement with a group of hedge funds and private investors who became its largest shareholders following Frontier’s emergence from bankruptcy. Since that agreement was disclosed as part of the bankruptcy process, Frontier has sought to re-define the term and ignore its original meaning by claiming that Virtual Separation is only an “accounting exercise.” In its investor update on December 15th, 2020, Frontier announced a new “Modernization Program” which outlined fiber investment focused overwhelmingly on a specific list of states, fulfilling the goals of the “Virtual Separation” program under a new name. Minnesota was notably absent from that list of states. Frontier has since announced a new strategic initiative for expanded fiber deployment but has yet to identify the states that will be targeted to receive this investment.

Essentia Health in Duluth gets nearly $1 million from FCC for telehealth

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today approved an initial set of 62 applications for funding commitments totaling $41.98 million for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program.  Health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, including those previously unfunded in Round 1, will use this funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.  The FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program supports the efforts of health care providers to continue serving their patients by providing reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to enable telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to health care has proven to be not only a national issue, but also a local issue, and it is imperative that every community is given the tools to access this care as safely and effectively as possible.  The FCC is committed to ensuring that every state and territory in the United States receive funding as part of this program,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “The FCC took action earlier this year to establish a system for rating applications in Round 2, factoring in the hardest hit and lowest-income areas, Tribal communities, and previously unfunded states and territories.  Now even more doctors and nurses in every corner of our country can establish or expand telehealth services to support patients and their families.”

This first set of awards will go to applications that qualify for the equitable distribution step, as required by Congress and outlined in the FCC’s rules, to ensure nationwide distribution of funding to health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.  This step funds the highest-scoring applications in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia plus the second highest-scoring application from the states and territories that did not receive funding in Round 1, if multiple applications were submitted from those areas.

Round 2 is a $249.95 million federal initiative that builds on the $200 million program established as part of the CARES Act.  Now that funding has been committed to the highest-scoring applications from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, the next funding awards will commit funding to the highest-scoring applications, regardless of geography, until at least $150 million has been committed.  The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau will then announce an opportunity for all remaining applicants to supplement their applications, as required by Congress.  After all remaining applicants have the opportunity to supplement, the remaining program funding will be committed.

Here’s the Minnesota recipient…

Essentia Health in Duluth, an integrated health system in Minnesota, serving patients in the upper Midwest, was awarded $981,204 to support the acquisition of remote monitoring devices and video carts with peripheral cameras and stethoscopes/EKGs for care during the pandemic, and to increase wireless broadband coverage at eight clinics to allow for additional space for telehealth patients.

Rep. Angie Craig talks about rural broadband investment

Ag Week reports

[U.S. Rep. Angie] Craig is one of the eight members who was appointed this summer to the Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth. She said her job on the committee is to focus on rural communities, and she believes the best way to do that is to great good job opportunities for rural communities and make long-term investment in rural infrastructure.

Broadband was a hot topic…

“We’ll look at the issues fresh in today’s day and context,” said Craig. “A lack of broadband in some areas, as well as some of the consolidation that we’ve seen in farming.”

Craig said the committee will be able to put forward policy solutions that “hopefully will help lead to greater economic growth in rural America”. Rural broadband infrastructure is high on her list of priorities, and she said she’s “optimistic” that Congress is going to pass an infrastructure bill.

“There’s $65 billion in broadband investment in the Senate version of the bill, but personally I think it needs to be closer to 80 billion, if we’re going to get 99% of the country all the way to high speed internet,” said Craig. “But there’s going to be a massive investment — certainly the largest investment that I have seen in my lifetime.”

Anecdotally, Craig said rural areas are starting to hear more about the real estate industry shifting to their communities, where plenty of land can be developed.

“They’re saying that people are looking to get a little further out from cities, after the public health crisis of the pandemic has caused a lot of people to reevaluate their lives,” she said. “You could conceive a day where if you have broadband in every community, and you have an e-commerce business, you could live anywhere.”

FCC data shows growing fiber, need for upload

C|Net reports

Every six months, the Federal Communications Commission releases updated data on the respective coverage of every internet provider in the US. That includes coverage maps as well as metrics on the types of technologies being used, the number of customers that fall into each provider’s footprint, and the specific upload and download speeds available to those customers, should they choose to sign up. The latest update went live just last week, and brings the database up to date as of June 2020.

I have picked out the charts and notes they share that I think are most interesting…

Percentage of US Population covered by each ISP

  • by the nature of their technology, satellite providers cover a lot.
  • Starlink isn’t on the horizon yet – but this is from June 2020

Percentage of Provider’s Footrpint with access to FTTH

  • Fiber is increasing
  • The problem is that it isn’t available everywhere — for the most part, providers have focused on building out fiber networks in population-dense regions around America’s major cities, leaving rural internet customers out of the mix.

Percentage of provider footprint with access to each (upload) speed via technology

  • Of all of the internet providers that offer service to at least 10% of the US population (including satellite providers omitted from this chart), Verizon is the only one that offers upload speeds faster than 25Mbps to a majority of its customers.
  • upload speeds from most providers remain much slower than most customers would probably like. That’s largely because fiber is really the only mode of home internet capable of hitting triple-digit upload speeds, and as mentioned earlier, fiber is far from universally available.

Minnesota requests almost $63 million from FCC’s n Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it has received requests for $5.137 billion to fund 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections as part of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The first filing window, which closed August 13, 2021, attracted applications from all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia – including schools and libraries in both rural and urban communities seeking funding for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. In view of outstanding demand and the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the FCC will open a second application filing window for schools and libraries to request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them – and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities. This funding is an important down payment in closing the Homework Gap so that all children, regardless of their circumstances or where they live, have access to the tools they need to succeed,” said acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “The pandemic highlighted like never before the difference a reliable internet connection can make in a student’s education, and we want to make sure that as many schools and libraries can apply for support this school year. The need is there, and the opening of a second application window reflects that. Together with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in American students and households, so more Americans can connect, communicate, and more fully participate in modern life.”

The FCC will open the second application filing window to provide support for the current school year in light of outstanding demand, including applications that were filed after the close of the initial application filing window, and resource challenges some schools faced with a summertime application filing window. Moreover, the rise of the Delta variant means off[1]campus connectivity remains vital to ensuring students, school staff, and library patrons can engage in remote learning as they face challenges and uncertainty amidst the ongoing COVID[1]19 pandemic.

During the second application filing window, which will run from September 28 to October 13, eligible schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase eligible equipment and services for students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs. The acting Chairwoman has long made closing the Homework Gap a priority during her tenure at the Commission. Recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 17 million children struggling without the broadband access they need to fully engage in remote learning.

For the first application filing window, the FCC set a target to review and issue decisions for 50% of workable applications within 60 days of the close of the application filing window and 70% of workable applications within 100 days of the close of the application filing window. The funding is available for the purchase of laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need, and is available to support off-campus leaning, such as homework, even if schools have returned to full time in-person instruction.

Minnesota requested: $62,868,827.25

Sen Tina Smith on Impact of Major Federal Investments in Broadband in MN

This morning, Senator Tina Smith, MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, Hennepin County Board Commissioner Marion Greene and Tonica Abdur Salaam, Co-Founder and Head of JJ Legacy Schools, discussed the impact of state and federal funding in Minnesota, Hennepin County and specifically North Minneapolis. They specifically spoke about American Rescue Plan & Senate-Passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and state funding including the Border to Border Broadband grants and CARES grants through MN DEED.

Sen. Smith said that broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century and believes that Minnesota will receive a minimum of $100 million from the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill for its effort to connect 157,000 households currently without service. All speakers recognized that digital equity is necessary for rural and urban areas to thrive in Minnesota – and it’s not only about access. People need access to high speed broadband at home but they also need devices and skills to use it.