MN House Job Growth Budget – $7 million for broadband grants for one year only

Earlier today I posted the Senate budget for broadband ($10 million a year for 2 years). Now I have the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee posted proposed budget today.

Here’s what they have for broadband: Broadband (HF1618 Baker/HF841 Sandstede) (Border to Border Grants)

  • FY 2018 – $7 million
  • FY 2019 – 0
  • FY 2020 – 0
  • 2021– 0

They budget $250,000/year for the Office of Broadband Development from 2018-2021.

Both the Senate and the House are far from the $50 million a year proposed by the MN Broadband Task Force and the $30 million a year proposed by the Governor.

MN Senate Jobs Omnibus Budget Spreadsheet – Broadband Grant funding through FY 2018-19

I try to follow what’s going on at the State in terms of funding for broadband. Yesterday I ran across the Senate Jobs Omnibus Budget Spreadsheet. There are a couple of interesting items related to broadband.

  • The Governor’s proposed appropriation for Border to Border grant for 2018-19 is $60 Million ($30 million per year) with $500,000 ($250,000 per year) for the Office of Broadband Development
  • The Senate’s proposed appropriation for Border to Border grant for 2018-19 is $20 Million ($10 million per year) with $500,000 ($250,000 per year) for the Office of Broadband Development
  • Neither have proposed funding for the grants for FY2 20-21
  • Both have proposed funding of $500,000) ($250,000 per year) for the Office of Broadband Development for 2020-21

Boreal Corps Goes to the Minnesota State Capitol! A guest post from sixth grader Sammie Garrity

I am pleased to share Sammie Garrity’s notes from last week’s Broadband Day on the Hill. I met Sammie briefly at the event. She’s very bright and did a great job speaking at the press conference at the event. That’s all I’ll say as she tells the story herself below – and does a great job!

Boreal Corps At the Capitol’s Broadband Day On The Hill

By Sammie Garrity, Boreal Corps Editor
Grade 6, Great Expectations School, Grand Marais
Last updated: Saturday March 18, 6:59 a.m.

ST. PAUL, March 15, 2017 – Fast wireless connections and highspeed internet are modern services many people take for granted—we do in Cook County because we have broadband installed. But we’re unusual. Actually, most people in Minnesota do not have broadband (see slide show map above) or internet service they consider fast or reliable.

That was the point made over and over Wednesday at the Minnesota State Capitol during the state’s first-ever workshop focused on finding solutions to providing world-class internet service to everyone in Minnesota, no matter where they live, big city or “middle of nowhere,” as several panelists gave as an address. It was called “Broadband Day on the Hill,” sponsored by the Minnesota Broadband Coalition. ​

At right: Cook County residents at the Capitol in St. Paul. Danna McKenzie of Grand Marais, executive director of the Office of Broadband Development, walks through the Senate tunnels to the March 15 broadband hearing room with Boreal Corps Editor Sammie Garrity of Lutsen.


Minnesotans are divided on the answer. But some at the March 15 workshop thought a simple 50-50-50 formula is best:

·50mb download

·50mb upload

·For $50 a month

·​No data caps

Not Just Nice, Necessary
The problem of access to good internet service is especially bad in rural Minnesota. As  State Senator Thomas Bakk (DFL-Cook) put it: “These metro kids have such an advantage over rural kids with the internet resources they have.” Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith agreed. In the opening meeting she said, “It’s a matter of fundamental fairness. Highspeed, reliable internet is not just nice to have, it’s necessary.”

All sorts of people are affected by slow data speeds and limited bandwidth, according to panelists. There is a:

·graphic designer in Ely whose job suffered because she couldn’t upload large design files to clients

· a resident of Chisholm who considered moving because it was too frustrating to do her hobby of online gaming with slow internet connections

· a doctor who had to sit in his car outside of a McDonald’s to connect to the restaurant’s internet to read medical journals

·kids near Warroad who Lt. Gov. Smith said stayed on the school bus even after it reached their bus stop because it had wireless, which they needed to finish their homework because their homes didn’t have internet. “Imagine if kids in Edina or Eden Prairie had to stay on a bus to finish their homework…It’s just not fair,” she said.
Why Boreal Corps?
As editor of Boreal Corps, (the new kids’ digital media team of, I was invited to talk on a panel to explain how Cook County kids in grades 4-12 are using a new Blandin Broadband Innovation Grant that just received to actually create a newspaper: we use broadband to be creative and to connect our community.

​This is a new message for legislators to hear – how kids really can do important work with the internet. We’re not just all about social media, playing games or listening to music. In the language of Wednesday’s Broadband on the Hill, we’re about “uploads.” Boreal Corps kids make stories and art that we upload to the internet. The internet serves our stories and art back in “downloads” to readers. We do this by using our imaginations, education, curiosity and digital media skills we are learning at We are not just “downloaders” playing games or watching videos and Snapchats that other people make.

When I visited The Capitol, mostly everybody had the same thing to say: “We need internet and broadband for our work, and ourselves and for our kids’ education.”  Some noticed a regular dip in service at around 3 p.m. when kids got home from school and everyone jumped on the internet and there wasn’t enough bandwidth to support all that use.

Fixing the Problem
Legislators in Minnesota are trying to fix this problem. One bill was introduced asking for $100 MILLION to make sure every community has the fiber optic cable and other systems needed to support highspeed internet connections like ours in Cook County. But legislators said it’s a hard problem because there are so many competing needs in the state for money. Sen. Bakk put it this way: “There is not a very good solution to the problem— there is a huge fight about how to meet the needs of the un-served and the underserved.” Rep. Rob Ecklund agreed, and said many people are working on a solution.

“No Bar” Lake
The realistic dollar amount of what broadband projects are probably going to get is, $30 MILLION in each of two years, 2018 and 2019 (total of $60 MILLION). That’s what Danna Mackenzie wanted, so a total of $60 MILLION in two years. To that, I say, “YOU GO GIRL!!!” And same to everyone else helping. All of them want “border to border” broadband internet in Minnesota as a way of giving everyone a fair chance to be connected.

At the meetings, wireless and fiber optics and copper cable were all debatable subjects. Some people said wireless won’t ever work well in northern Minnesota communities like Cook County where all the things we love are in the way of reliable wireless signals– hills, trees, lakes, rivers, rock cliffs, snow.

One woman who lives on Bar Lake said they call it “No Bar Lake” because their internet service is so weak. “Clear line of sight is everything,” she said.

One question came up that really struck me as interesting: “How can we encourage private investment in rural communities?” A panelist answered this question with a statement he had made before in the conference:  “In 30 days something incredible in going to be available with Minnesota internet.” He also said lawmakers should give higher priority to businesses that use broadband to demonstrate and promote economic development.

Kids Should Visit the Capitol
​When I met with Sen. Bakk (District 03) and Rep. Ecklund (District 3A), Mr. Bakk told a story of the time when 125 sixth graders came to the Capitol and sat in on some sessions. At the time, lawmakers were passing a bill to make fourth of July sparklers legal. Mr. Bakk was standing in the middle of the Rotunda when he asked the kids, “How many of you have held a sparkler before?”

​He said that every hand went up.

He then proceeded to tell them, “Then you all broke the law! Until now, lighting sparklers were illegal in Minnesota.”

He recalled that a little girl raised her hand and asked, “Have you ever broken the law?”

Learn more! More to come soon at!  Also, we just got a shout out from an organization called Growth & Justice. Thanks G&J! They are working on fairness in internet access at the legislature by urging improving broadband service for all Minnesotans–you can read download their priorities at the Capitol below.

Better broadband helps Minnesota continue to be a state that works

The Grand Forks Herald recently ran an Op Ed from former Senator Matt Schmit on legislative priorities (infrastructure) that would lift of rural Minnesota. Legislators need to work together regardless of party or location and here’s what he said about broadband…

For many communities throughout Greater Minnesota and families living outside city limits, reliable connectivity to the information superhighway is just as important as paved highways. But more than 20 percent of rural Minnesota homes and businesses lack access to broadband and thus, the global economy.

This challenge is analogous to the need for rural electrification throughout the American heartland a century ago. Imagine life today without electricity. Broadband and its many applications for economic competitiveness and quality of life are no different.

Broadband is essential for home-based business and teleworking, distance learning, telemedicine and precision agriculture, not to mention an ever-increasing number of applications in everyday life.

Minnesota’s nation-leading Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program addresses a market failure—in this case, a situation where private investment capital is limited while consumer demand is strong, though not geographically concentrated.

In its first three years, the matching grant has funded 10 projects in northwestern Minnesota and has helped extend connectivity throughout the state to an estimated 25,000 homes and businesses and hundreds of community anchor institutions, including libraries, schools and hospitals.

It’s a great example of how smart public investment partnered with private sector or service cooperative know-how can make a real difference.

Broadband is the great equalizer for economic competitiveness and quality of life in Greater Minnesota. The 2016 Legislature recognized this fact and doubled its prior investment in the grant fund.

Now, the 2017 Legislature has a chance to build momentum around Minnesota’s proven approach to extending the reach of broadband.

Minnesota Broadband on the Hill Day: 80+ citizens 40+ legislators

More than 80 people joined the Minnesota Broadband Coalition at the Capitol earlier today. It started with a breakfast with Lt Governor Tina Smith, a panel with Legislators and a press conference. I was impressed with the substantive discussion. People want broadband. People need broadband.

Folks were talking about how much money would be available for Border to Border funds. It was nice that there was no discussion on whether or not to fund the fund – just talks about how much. The amount bandied about ranged from $100 million to $30-35 million a year – for two years or even on an ongoing basis. Representative Garofalo announced that there would be a big announcement in 30 days related to broadband – but didn’t give details. We heard stories of great success and stories are great need. It’s really punctuated the point – broadband is a game changer. Communities with broadband thrive and those without it feel the pain.

Legislative Panel

First Part of Press Confernece

*Note we had some interruptions with the live video. We’re not broadcast quality … yet!

After the sessions, rural community members met with their legislators – more than 40 legislators participated. A lot of a good conversation happened.

And starting soon (5:00) there’s a reception at the Rathskller in the basement of the Capitol.

Here are notes from Mark’s Erickson’s portion of the press conference…

Broadband Day on the Hill Remarks

Good morning. Thanks to everyone for coming.

I’m here today to talk about the importance of ultra-high-speed broadband, what challenges RS Fiber had in bringing the project to fruition and to talk about the need for public funding to grow more fiber networks.

There have been several transformative technology changes during the past 150 years. From railroads, to electricity, to radio and TV, computers, medicine and transportation, to name a few, the pace of change has been constant and unrelenting.

The big one in the 20th Century was electricity. When Nicholas Tesla perfected alternating current in the late 1800s, he unwittingly changed the world forever.

But it was the growth of electrical distribution networks to communities and farms in rural America that really provided the fuel for innovation and growth. The electrification of Rural America was a seminal moment in the history of this country.

Today we are challenged to find a way to grow a fiber network with the same potential to lift rural communities from their second class technology status to full partners.

The ten communities and 17 townships in the RS Fiber Cooperative project worked collaboratively to not just find a way to construct a fiber network but to develop new learning opportunities for education, new health care delivery models, new ways for people to live independently longer and to grow new businesses and business opportunities.

The RS Fiber network is the most important economic development and quality of life tool we have today in Renville and Sibley counties.

The fiber to the home and farm network will not just put us on par with our city cousins, it will vault us ahead of larger cities with respect to access to nearly unlimited amounts of bandwidth for years, if not decades, to come.

We had our share of challenges when we started work on the network late in 2008.

We spent the first 18 months talking with our phone and cable providers urging them to work with us to build the network. We even suggested a partnership that would have us pay for the network while allowing them to operate and eventually own it.

Our primary concern wasn’t ownership, it was access.

Interestingly when we decided to move forward as a collaboration of cities and counties we faced very little opposition from our friends and neighbors as we began to educate them.

The story of fiber to the home is easy to tell. The information is overwhelmingly positive.

In more than 100 public presentations, we told an honest and sincere story about how fiber can be a game changer in rural communities. We didn’t disrespect our providers and we acknowledged the risk that comes with building a brand new network that will have to compete with existing networks.

As we told our story, people quickly realized that the real risk in the project was to do nothing.  If we had decided to wait for the providers to affect change, our children might be having the same conversations in 10 years.

And the reason for that isn’t because the providers don’t care about their customers or Rural Minnesota, because they obviously do.

Providers need the financial nudge offered by the State Broadband grant program to be able to maintain their profitability while making the necessary higher cost investment.

The state of Minnesota leads the nation in many respects through its active involvement and financial support for next generation networks.

I have attended scores of broadband conferences across the nation during the past 15 years and talked with literally hundreds of people from many states and I can honestly report most, if not all, are envious of what we are doing here in Minnesota.

The Office of Broadband Technology is an outstanding example of a government agency that works in a very impartial and efficient manner to get the job done. The office needs to be funded.

The state broadband grant program has provided about $65 million to the cause since it was created. We all appreciate the financial support provided by our elected representatives we should be spending more.

We need to fund the fund in an amount that will meet the current demand being shown by rural communities, counties and providers.

I support the $100 million figure put forth by the governor’s Broadband Task Force.

Fiber networks are the electrical networks of the 21st Century.

If we want to truly improve the lives of all Minnesotans, then we need to find a way to construct a Border to Border fiber optic network capable of providing everyone a symmetrical gigabit connection to the Internet and to each other.

Thank you.

Klobuchar, Capito Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Measure the Economic Impact of Broadband on the U.S. Economy

News from Senator Klobuchar…

Klobuchar, Capito Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Measure the Economic Impact of Broadband on the U.S. Economy

Accurate, reliable data on the economic impact of broadband is a valuable tool for policymakers and business leaders; Many research institutions, state broadband offices, and trade associations have highlighted the need for this data

The Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act would require the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, to conduct a study of the effects of broadband deployment and adoption on the U.S. economy
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus, have introduced bipartisan legislation to measure the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy. While the federal government measures the economic impact of many industries, it does not produce current, reliable statistics on the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy. Accurate, reliable data on the economic impact of broadband is a valuable tool for policymakers and business leaders and many research institutions, state broadband offices, and trade associations have highlighted the need for this data. The Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis to conduct a study of the effects of broadband deployment and adoption on the U.S. economy.

“Broadband is a great equalizing force for creating jobs, leveling the playing field, and increasing opportunity,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help provide us with the reliable, publicly available economic data we need to make informed decisions about expanding broadband, connecting our communities, and keeping us competitive in an increasingly digital world.”

“Broadband connectivity has the power to unleash jobs and fuel economic growth throughout the country, especially in rural areas like West Virginia. This legislation will provide the data needed to measure the benefits of broadband accessibility and the importance of investing in critical broadband infrastructure. I’m proud to join with my partner on the Senate Broadband Caucus to introduce a bill that will help bridge the digital divide in the areas that need it most,” Capito said.

In conducting this analysis, the Secretary will consider job creation, business headcount, online commerce, income, education and distance learning, telehealth, telework, agriculture, population growth, population density, broadband speed, and geography. The Secretary may consult representatives of business, including rural and urban internet service providers and telecommunications infrastructure providers; state, local, and Tribal government agencies; and consumer and community organizations.

Other original cosponsors of the bill include Senators Angus King (I-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and John Boozman (R-AR), who are the other co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus, and Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), both members of the Senate Broadband Caucus.

This legislation is supported by Connected Nation, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, CTIA, and WIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association.

House Committee Meeting notes on broadband: funding, VoIP and small cell equipment

I just left the MN House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance to hear about broadband topics. I am going to leave my notes pretty rough – but I have the videos to post. The discussion on small cell equipment placement is actually on break now. They will have three more testifiers at 7:30 and unfortunately I am unable to attend.

Here are the topics:

  • HF1665 (Kresha)
    Voice over Internet protocol service and Internet protocol enabled service regulation prohibited.
  • HF739 (Hoppe)
    Small wireless facility collocation provided.
  • HF1618 (Baker)
    Broadband grant money transferred.
  • HF841 (Sandstede)
    Broadband grant program funding provided, and money appropriated.

Here are my notes (I was able to get some written notes and where I could I included them) – otherwise I’m afraid they’re rough but if I don’t get them up now it won’t happen until tomorrow night… Continue reading