MN House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee hears from Telecom folks

The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee heard from a number of broadband providers and Minnesota League of Cities. It’s a chance for the legislators to learn a little bit about the providers and the type of broadband. Folks talked about what policies would make their lives easier, the investments they had made in Minnesota and their roles in helping during the pandemic. It’s helpful for legislators and I suspect the testifiers become the go-to people for telecom information.

I always think the questions are the most interesting part – because of course I’m better acquainted with what the providers are doing than what the legislators are thinking. Folks asked about 5G, autonomous cars, 911 outages and Internet of Things.

[please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the meeting by moving the cursor that times the video to the left. Hard to guestimate how far to the left as the video gets longer each minute. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

Starting now! Commerce Finance and Policy Info on Telecom.

Speakers include:

  • – Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance.
  • – Dana Bailey, Lumen.
  • – Patrick Fucik, TMobile.
  • – Paul Weirtz, AT&T.
  • – Daniel Lightfoot, League of Minnesota Cities.

*No formal action will be taken. 

Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance.

  • -They put the “wire in wireless”
  • Regulated by MN PUC, Dep of COmmernce, Attorney General and FCC

Dana Bailey, Lumen

  • Formerly CenturyLink
  • POTS has been overshadowed by competition
  • Invested $200M in Broadband in MN
  • Wants to change 237.025

Patrick Fucik, TMobile.

  • Second largest wireless company
  • Goal to provide 97% of US with 5G low band in 3 years
  • Spectrum access makes it possible 80% of MN sites are 5G low band
  • Accelerated #COVID19 programs for students

Paul Weirtz, AT&T.

  • Traffic rose 20% in March (COVID)
  • $125B investment in wired/wireless service in 3 years
  • Launched 5G across MN in 2020
  • Committed to FirstNet

Daniel Lightfoot, League of Minnesota Cities

  • Works on rights of way for cities
  • Tries to allow tech growth AND city authority to manage and be compensated
  • Cord cutting puts PEG at risk

Questions…

Q: What are the problems with 911 outages?
A: They are upgrading to digital 911 
@MNTAnews
A: There were outages with our network. Often issue with weather or equipment @lumentechco

“Networks are moving to IP – why would I need cable unless they are my broadband provider. Thanks and congrats to ramping up via COVID. There were issues with latency but that seems to be fix. IoT creates a drain on the network.” @EricLuceroMN

Q: How can we facilitate 5G? @BarbHaleyMN
A: Let us know city plans so we can react. Make it easy to get permits? @PaulWeirtz
A: Passing the 5G small cell legislation makes it easier. @FucikR

Q: Will there be conflicts with 5G cabinets and autonomous cars? @ElkinsForHouse
A: We are looking at it and we’re going to need open lines of communication. @DFLightfoot

 

MN House committee discusses $120 million for broadband – hear concern about federal investment

The Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy met to hear testifiers and Representative Ecklund talk about HF14, the proposed $120 million for broadband grants (over two years). Everyone seemed on broad with recognizing the need, even the increased need for broadband in COVID and post-COVID world. One concern seemed to be spending state money on broadband without knowing how much federal money will be coming for broadband. The committee expressed interest in meeting again once we did know how much Minnesota would be getting.

This didn’t come up in the meeting but I think it’s helpful to remember that there is an opportunity to maximize use of federal funding with the state grant. We’ve seen that with at least two previous border to border grants. Fish Lake Township and Sunrise Township both grants where the provider (CenturyLink) investing their federal CAF money and the community raised funds to apply for (and get) a state grant. The CAF money only required CenturyLink to build to 25/3 but the state funding required faster speeds (100/2o) and that the connection be scalable to 100/100. State funding can help lift the utility and longevity of any federal investment.

[The permanent video is now in place. please note the link for the YouTube video will change once YouTube archives, the live video – while it’s the live (which will be most of Jan 20), you’ll have to “rewind” to the start of the video by moving the cursor that times the video back to the left. I will change the link when the archive is available but that change might not happen immediately.]

The Committee heard from several testifier. You can watch above. And I have “tweetable” notes below, which means I Tweeted as I took notes so they are in that format:

“The proposal is $120 million for better broadband is meet the 2022 speed goals of 25/3 and prepare for 2026 speed goal of 100/20” @RobEcklund

The Office of Broadband Development gave a presentation…

Question:

Q: How much will MN get from Fed COVID funding? @GenePelowski
A: $300M total – states will fight for that funding. @mndeed
Q: What’s up with electric cooperatives?
A: Some cops provide service; others do not. It varies. Many deploy fiber; some used fixed wireless
#mnbroadband

Q: Are we on track to meet the broadband goals of 2026? @CedFrazierMN
A: That depends on state funding. 
@mndeed

Q: How do you reach all areas? @DaveLislegard
A: Grants provide extra incentive to serve the areas that are harder to serve. @mndeed
Q: Are there any immediate solutions?
A: We are tech neutral. We’ve seen hotspots for short term

Q: Can someone from industry tell us what we have done? @DebKiel
A: We will have more hearings. But they really stepped up to get students online during #COVID19 @mndeed
Q: If we invest $120M doesn’t that mean taxpayer funding – when fed might do it?
A: That is a concern. I talked to someone yesterday who said we might get a lot @GenePelowski

Q: We need kids to be in school? @RepJoeMcDonald
A: Yes, but telecommuting is not going away even after #COVID19 @JulieSandstede
A: We need broadband in my district @GenePelowski

They also heard from Vince Robinson from the MN Broadband Coalition:
“It’s nice to hear people talk more about how we fund broadband, not why. Livelihoods and lives in rural areas need broadband – work, school, health church.” #VinceRobinson

And from Andrea Zupancich, Mayor of Babbitt and realtor.
“People want to know about access to broadband before they buy a home. Businesses need to have business. Families are now sharing broadband so weak, they cannot do two Zooms at once. The need for broadband will not subside after #COVID19.”

Final comments from Rep Ecklund: Thanks for all. I’m sitting in a rented office because I don’t have adequate access to work at home.

Annual FCC Broadband Deployment Report – MN fares well for 25/3 speeds

The FCC has just released the latest edition of the Annual Broadband Deployment Report

The Federal Communications Commission today
released its annual Broadband Deployment Report, which shows that significant progress has been made to bridge the digital divide. For example, the gap between urban and rural Americans with access to 25/3 Mbps fixed broadband service has been nearly halved, falling from 30 percentage points at the end of 2016 to just 16 points at the end of 2019. Additionally, more than three-quarters of those Americans in areas newly served in 2019—nearly 3.7 million—live in rural areas, bringing the number of rural Americans in areas served by at least 25/3 Mbps broadband service to nearly 83%, up 15 points since 2016. The report showed an
overall decrease of more than 20% in the number of Americans without access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service since last year’s report, from more than 18.1 million at the end of 2018 to fewer than 14.5 million at the end of 2019.

The FCC has determined that they have done a good job…

Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that the FCC determine annually whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans “in a reasonable and timely fashion.” Given the compelling evidence before it, the 2021 report finds
for a third consecutive year that deployment is occurring in a reasonable and timely manner. Nonetheless, the Commission continues its work to close the digital divide with the upcoming 5G Fund auction and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase II auction.

Here’s the summary for Minnesota:

And a look at how those 25/3 numbers look when you add wireless coverage to the mix:

They have a lot of detailed national tables, I’m including a high level look…

And I’ve tried to pull out the Minnesota info. It’s nice to see that Minnesota is well above average for 25/3 but the Minnesota state goal is 100/20!

Deployment of Fixed Terrestrial Fixed 25/3 Mbps and Mobile 4G LTE with a Minimum Advertised Speed of 5/1 Mbps Services By State and County (December 31, 2019)[1]

State, County or County Equivalent Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/
3 Mbps
% of Pop. with Mobile 5/
1 Mbps
% of Pop. with Fixed & Mobile Pop. Density Per Capita Income ($2018)
Minnesota 5,639,445 97.5% 100.0% 97.5% 70.8 $37,192
Aitkin County 15,886 72.2% 100.0% 72.2% 8.7 $27,646
Anoka County 356,909 99.2% 100.0% 99.2% 843.7 $35,806
Becker County 34,422 94.2% 100.0% 94.2% 26.2 $29,710
Beltrami County 47,182 99.3% 99.5% 98.8% 18.8 $24,781
Benton County 40,887 92.6% 100.0% 92.6% 100.1 $28,566
Big Stone County 4,991 93.5% 100.0% 93.5% 10.0 $30,489
Blue Earth County 67,650 99.2% 100.0% 99.2% 90.5 $28,824
Brown County 25,008 97.8% 100.0% 97.8% 40.9 $30,373
Carlton County 35,871 77.3% 100.0% 77.3% 41.6 $28,117
Carver County 105,081 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 296.6 $45,637
Cass County 29,778 89.7% 100.0% 89.7% 14.7 $29,053
Chippewa County 11,800 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 20.3 $30,168
Chisago County 56,564 92.1% 100.0% 92.1% 136.3 $33,927
Clay County 64,221 98.5% 100.0% 98.5% 61.4 $29,631
Clearwater County 8,817 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 8.8 $26,173
Cook County 5,463 98.5% 92.9% 92.2% 3.8 $32,703
Cottonwood County 11,196 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17.5 $27,209
Crow Wing County 65,055 95.1% 100.0% 95.1% 65.1 $30,900
Dakota County 429,016 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 763.1 $40,441
Dodge County 20,932 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 47.7 $32,795
Douglas County 38,140 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 59.8 $34,547
Faribault County 13,653 98.5% 100.0% 98.5% 19.2 $29,748
Fillmore County 21,067 96.6% 99.6% 96.2% 24.5 $29,440
Freeborn County 30,281 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 42.8 $28,459
Goodhue County 46,340 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 61.2 $33,400
Grant County 5,972 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 10.9 $31,940
Hennepin County 1,265,838 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 2,286.6 $43,976
Houston County 18,600 90.7% 99.7% 90.5% 33.7 $31,453
Hubbard County 21,491 98.1% 100.0% 98.1% 23.2 $29,312
Isanti County 40,591 81.3% 100.0% 81.3% 93.1 $32,008
Itasca County 45,130 94.4% 100.0% 94.4% 16.9 $28,636
Jackson County 9,846 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14.0 $33,358
Kanabec County 16,334 63.2% 100.0% 63.2% 31.3 $27,331
Kandiyohi County 43,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 54.2 $30,217
Kittson County 4,298 71.8% 100.0% 71.8% 3.9 $29,946
Koochiching County 12,229 82.3% 100.0% 82.3% 3.9 $29,051
Lac qui Parle County 6,623 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 8.7 $31,686
Lake County 10,641 91.7% 99.7% 91.6% 5.0 $33,602
Lake of the Woods County 3,740 60.7% 99.4% 60.7% 2.9 $26,526
Le Sueur County 28,871 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 64.3 $32,120
Lincoln County 5,639 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10.5 $28,504
Lyon County 25,474 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 35.6 $30,531
Mahnomen County 5,527 92.8% 100.0% 92.8% 9.9 $20,953
Marshall County 9,336 81.1% 100.0% 81.1% 5.3 $29,670
Martin County 19,683 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 27.6 $31,091
McLeod County 35,893 98.4% 100.0% 98.4% 73.0 $31,723
Meeker County 23,222 96.5% 100.0% 96.5% 38.2 $31,819
Mille Lacs County 26,275 76.9% 100.0% 76.9% 45.9 $26,679
Morrison County 33,384 91.3% 100.0% 91.3% 29.7 $28,792
Mower County 40,061 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 56.3 $29,116
Murray County 8,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11.6 $31,768
Nicollet County 34,274 95.3% 100.0% 95.3% 76.4 $31,225
Nobles County 21,629 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 30.2 $25,554
Norman County 6,375 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 7.3 $28,351
Olmsted County 158,280 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 242.3 $39,667
Otter Tail County 58,746 98.7% 100.0% 98.7% 29.8 $30,846
Pennington County 14,119 98.7% 100.0% 98.7% 22.9 $30,625
Pine County 29,578 67.6% 100.0% 67.6% 21.0 $25,302
Pipestone County 9,123 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19.6 $29,716
Polk County 31,364 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 15.9 $28,856
Pope County 11,247 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 16.8 $32,943
Ramsey County 550,321 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 3,615.5 $34,049
Red Lake County 4,052 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9.4 $29,731
Redwood County 15,170 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17.3 $28,011
Renville County 14,548 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14.8 $31,585
Rice County 66,963 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 135.1 $29,767
Rock County 9,315 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19.3 $30,544
Roseau County 15,164 78.9% 100.0% 78.9% 9.1 $28,049
Scott County 148,995 99.3% 100.0% 99.3% 418.0 $39,952
Sherburne County 97,231 94.0% 100.0% 94.0% 224.6 $34,013
Sibley County 14,865 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 25.2 $30,977
St. Louis County 199,070 89.0% 99.9% 89.0% 31.9 $30,321
Stearns County 161,073 96.2% 100.0% 96.2% 119.9 $29,815
Steele County 36,649 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 85.3 $30,822
Stevens County 9,805 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 17.4 $31,694
Swift County 9,266 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 12.5 $30,208
Todd County 24,661 79.9% 100.0% 79.9% 26.1 $25,848
Traverse County 3,259 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 5.7 $30,553
Wabasha County 21,627 99.4% 99.5% 98.9% 41.4 $33,664
Wadena County 13,682 97.1% 100.0% 97.1% 25.5 $24,864
Waseca County 18,612 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 44.0 $28,067
Washington County 262,419 98.3% 100.0% 98.3% 682.9 $43,789
Watonwan County 10,897 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 25.1 $27,772
Wilkin County 6,207 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 8.3 $32,066
Winona County 50,484 99.9% 99.6% 99.5% 80.6 $28,689
Wright County 138,370 96.2% 100.0% 96.2% 209.2 $34,325
Yellow Medicine County 9,709 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12.8 $29,379

Deployment of Fixed Terrestrial Fixed 25/3 Mbps and Mobile 4G LTE with a Minimum Advertised Speed of 5/1 Mbps Services By State and County
Segmented by Urban and Rural Areas (December 31, 2019)
[1]

  Urban Areas Rural Areas
County or County Equivalent Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/3 Mbps % of Pop. with Mobile 5/1 Mbps % of Pop. with Both Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/3 Mbps % of Pop. with Mobile 5/1 Mbps % of Pop. with Both
Minnesota 4,128,809 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 1,510,636 91.4% 99.9% 91.3%
Aitkin County 15,886 72.2% 100.0% 72.2%
Anoka County 304,638 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 52,271 96.8% 100.0% 96.8%
Becker County 8,099 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 26,323 92.4% 100.0% 92.4%
Beltrami County 14,985 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 32,197 99.0% 99.3% 98.3%
Benton County 23,708 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17,179 82.3% 100.0% 82.3%
Big Stone County 4,991 93.5% 100.0% 93.5%
Blue Earth County 48,100 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,550 97.3% 100.0% 97.3%
Brown County 15,947 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 9,061 95.7% 100.0% 95.7%
Carlton County 15,761 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 20,110 61.4% 100.0% 61.4%
Carver County 81,185 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 23,896 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Cass County 29,778 89.7% 100.0% 89.7%
Chippewa County 5,681 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,119 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Chisago County 24,580 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 31,984 86.5% 100.0% 86.5%
Clay County 44,115 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 20,106 97.0% 100.0% 97.0%
Clearwater County 8,817 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Cook County 5,463 98.5% 92.9% 92.2%
Cottonwood County 3,993 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,203 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Crow Wing County 23,809 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 41,246 92.5% 100.0% 92.5%
Dakota County 405,337 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 23,679 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Dodge County 9,876 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11,056 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Douglas County 17,037 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 21,103 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Faribault County 2,785 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,868 98.1% 100.0% 98.1%
Fillmore County 1,396 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,671 96.4% 99.5% 95.9%
Freeborn County 16,945 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 13,336 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Goodhue County 24,222 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 22,118 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Grant County 5,972 99.0% 100.0% 99.0%
Hennepin County 1,234,251 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 31,587 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Houston County 7,834 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,766 84.0% 99.5% 83.6%
Hubbard County 3,429 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 18,062 97.7% 100.0% 97.7%
Isanti County 14,717 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 25,874 71.2% 100.0% 71.2%
Itasca County 9,233 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 35,897 93.0% 100.0% 93.0%
Jackson County 2,745 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,101 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Kanabec County 3,351 96.8% 100.0% 96.8% 12,983 54.5% 100.0% 54.5%
Kandiyohi County 23,590 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,604 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Kittson County 4,298 71.8% 100.0% 71.8%
Koochiching County 6,379 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 5,850 64.0% 100.0% 64.0%
Lac qui Parle County 6,623 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Lake County 3,522 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,119 87.7% 99.6% 87.5%
Lake of the Woods County 3,740 60.7% 99.4% 60.7%
Le Sueur County 10,583 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 18,288 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Lincoln County 5,639 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Lyon County 12,829 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12,645 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Mahnomen County 5,527 92.8% 100.0% 92.8%
Marshall County 9,336 81.1% 100.0% 81.1%
Martin County 8,763 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,920 98.9% 100.0% 98.9%
McLeod County 18,996 96.9% 100.0% 96.9% 16,897 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Meeker County 7,848 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 15,374 94.7% 100.0% 94.7%
Mille Lacs County 7,454 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 18,821 68.0% 100.0% 68.0%
Morrison County 8,853 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 24,531 88.4% 100.0% 88.4%
Mower County 25,277 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14,784 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Murray County 8,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Nicollet County 24,434 96.1% 100.0% 96.1% 9,840 93.2% 100.0% 93.2%
Nobles County 12,281 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,348 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Norman County 6,375 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Olmsted County 127,419 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 30,861 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Otter Tail County 15,213 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 43,533 98.2% 100.0% 98.2%
Pennington County 8,835 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,284 96.6% 100.0% 96.6%
Pine County 3,091 96.7% 100.0% 96.7% 26,487 64.1% 100.0% 64.1%
Pipestone County 3,706 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,417 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Polk County 15,820 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 15,544 99.0% 100.0% 99.0%
Pope County 11,247 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Ramsey County 549,150 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 1,171 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Red Lake County 4,052 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Redwood County 4,260 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,910 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Renville County 14,548 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Rice County 48,679 98.6% 100.0% 98.6% 18,284 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Rock County 4,224 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,091 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Roseau County 2,424 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12,740 74.9% 100.0% 74.9%
Scott County 121,055 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 27,940 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Sherburne County 53,225 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 44,006 87.4% 100.0% 87.4%
Sibley County 14,865 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
St. Louis County 124,539 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 74,531 71.6% 99.9% 71.5%
Stearns County 98,473 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 62,600 90.7% 100.0% 90.7%
Steele County 25,120 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11,529 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Stevens County 4,995 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 4,810 98.3% 100.0% 98.3%
Swift County 2,818 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,448 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Todd County 4,876 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,785 74.9% 100.0% 74.9%
Traverse County 3,259 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Wabasha County 7,501 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14,126 99.1% 99.3% 98.3%
Wadena County 4,363 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,319 95.8% 100.0% 95.8%
Waseca County 9,205 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,407 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Washington County 218,979 98.8% 100.0% 98.8% 43,440 95.8% 100.0% 95.8%
Watonwan County 4,276 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,621 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Wilkin County 2,899 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 3,308 99.3% 100.0% 99.3%
Winona County 33,069 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17,415 99.7% 98.9% 98.6%
Wright County 90,431 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 47,939 89.4% 100.0% 89.4%
Yellow Medicine County 1,596 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 8,113 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

 

Rep Tim Lippert lists top DFL priorities – including $120 million for broadband

KYMN 95.1FM in Northfield reports…

With the state legislative session in full swing, Democrat Representative Todd Lippert said the DFL has some top priorities for the year, including emergency housing assistance, broadband distribution, education funding, and childcare grants.

“Among those top priorities is emergency housing assistance. We want to provide $50 million for emergency housing grants, make sure the eviction moratoriums extend until the end of the peacetime emergency to make sure that people have a roof over their heads. Broadband distribution is a key concern, obviously, so we have $120 million for broadband. That’s going to be enough to connect 155,000 Minnesota households that still need access to high-speed broadband, and that’s enough to get that done. We want to be supporting our schools, supporting students to help them catch up with learning lags that may have happened or extra expenses that school districts have incurred. And childcare grants are something else that will be very important.”

National Skills Coalition shares examples, data and meaning of digital skills in workers and the workplace

Thank you to Amanda Bergson-Shilcock from the National Skills Coalition for sharing her presentation, American Workers’ Digital Skills: What the data tells us. The presentation includes:

  • Examples of digital skills in the workplace
  • Data of US Workers’ foundational digital skills
  • What the data means
  • How we can connect the dots for policymakers

The presentation was given in June so COVID is part of the picture, which is important since COVID has changed nearly everything we do – and some of the changes are likely here to stay.

I don’t want to be a spoiler but it includes great examples like how KFC created a VR (virtual reality) escape room to train new employees. You can’t escape until you demonstrate the correct 6-step chicken frying process. There are lists of OSHA-approved construction training online – designed for tablets and smartphones. There’s AR (augmented reality) training for Boeing assembly workers – turns out fewer mistakes than with tradition or traditional-online training.

Where we are sitting with digital skills is not great – 13 percent of those surveyed had no digital skills and 18 percent had limited skills. Those percentages varied by industry; 18 percent of hospitality workers had no digital skills. Their jobs are among the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Working from home becomes a lot more difficult without digital skills. Even if you could sew, bake, fix cars or do something else skilled offline – you’d almost need to promote online to get work during the pandemic.

A surprising statistic – 20 percent of workers with no digital skills are supervisors. That is putting the supervised workers and the employer at risk as I assume someone without digital skills would be hesitant to adopt new technologies. (There are exceptions; I remember a farmer near retirement who hired a young, precision ag expert to learn the ropes as the current team retired out.)

The thing that wasn’t surprising to me is that lack of digital skill impacts all demographics – in other words, there are “kids” without digital skills too. Being able to text without looking or post an Instagram picture is not how they assess digital skills. Everyone needs to learn digital skills. Some pick them up more quickly than others – but no one is born knowing how to add bullet points to a document. Not surprising is the greater gap seen with workers of color and/or immigrants. Structural racism helps drive digital skills gaps.

The presentation is interesting and easy to browse through. If you don’t have people in your life without digital skills or if the only ones you have are long past retirement, it’s easy to think the issues is smaller than it is.

What are WI and IA doing about broadband? Governors are pledging $200M and $450M

Sometimes it’s helpful to see what the neighbors are doing. It looks like both Wisconsin and Iowa are thinking about boosting their broadband investment – and both cite COVID as a reason for at least emphasizing the issues in rural areas.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports

The governor [Tony Evers] said he would propose nearly $200 million in broadband funding in his 2021-23 state budget, five times the amount included in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 budgets combined.

His 2019 budget allocated $54 million for broadband expansion in the form of grants to service providers, the largest amount in state history, and the $200 million would nearly quadruple that spending.

“We feel confident that the budget will be in good shape and balanced, and that we will be able to move forward with a few initiatives, one of them being broadband,” Evers said in an interview.

KCRG (ACB9in Iowa) reports

In Governor Kim Reynolds Condition of the State Address Tuesday, she pledged $450 million to be spent on expanding high-speed internet.

Reynolds said the pandemic proved how hard it was for rural communities to get access to quality internet services.

“The past year we have learned that we need better internet for virtual learning, and for those of us who have had to work from home,” said Carole Hebl of rural Oxford.

EVENT Jan 20: Commerce Finance and Policy will talk Telecom

From the MN House schedule

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 , 3:00 PM

Commerce Finance and Policy

Chair: Rep. Zack Stephenson
Location: Remote Hearing
Agenda:

AGENDA
Informational Overview – Telecom
*no formal action will be taken*
Testifiers
-Brent Christensen, MN Telecom Alliance
-Dana Bailey, Lumen
-Patrick Fucik, TMobile
-Paul Weirtz, AT&T
Informational Overview – Liquor Laws in Minnesota
*no formal action will be taken*
Testifiers
-Chris Kleman, House Research
This remote hearing may be viewed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp
*NOTE: HTV 1 and HTV 2 will provide live closed captioning. Video archives of meetings streamed on HTV 3, 4, and 5 will have closed captions added. Other reasonable accessibility accommodations may be made with advance notice.
If you have questions about the accessibility of remote hearings or require an accommodation, please contact Jenny Nash at: jenny.nash@house.mn or by leaving a message at 651-296-4122.
This remote hearing is taking place pursuant to Rule 10.01, which you may view here: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/permrule/1001.htm
Any meeting documents will be posted on the House Commerce committee website at https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/Committees/Home/92003
To submit written testimony, please email the Committee Administrator no later than 4:00 pm on Thursday, January 21 at adeline.miller@house.mn

EVENT Jan 20: MN House to discuss broadband bill HF14

Sharing an email from the Committee Administrator…

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 8:30 AM

Chair: Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr.
Location: Remote Hearing

Agenda:

This remote hearing is taking place pursuant to Rule 10.01, which you may view here: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/permrule/1001.htm
HF 14 (Ecklund) Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.
This remote hearing may be viewed via the House webcast schedule page: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp
NOTE: HTV 1 and HTV 2 will provide live closed captioning. Video archives of meetings streamed on HTV 3, 4, and 5 will have closed captions added. Other reasonable accessibility accommodations may be made with advance notice.
If you have questions about the accessibility of remote hearings or require an accommodation, please contact Jenny Nash at: jenny.nash@house.mn or by leaving a message at 651-296-4122.

Bills:
HF14 (Ecklund) – Broadband grant program money deposit transferred.

Sen Klobuchar talks with Southwest MN leaders about COVID leaders, such as better broadband

The (Worthington) Globe reports

As U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar looks toward providing continued COVID-19 relief to Americans through proposed legislation, she sought feedback Friday from four Minnesota mayors — including three from southwest Minnesota.

Worthington’s Mike Kuhle, Luverne’s Pat Baustian and Pipestone’s Myron Koets all participated in a call with the senator, during which she asked them to outline their communities’ economic and public health needs. Also in attendance was Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes.

Broadband was on the shortlist…

In addition to aid for small businesses and greater vaccine access, other community needs include help acquiring technology for education and broadband expansion, Kuhle told the senator.

Baustian added that Rock County was the first Minnesota county to secure border-to-border broadband, and that move has proven to be an asset during pandemic distance learning.

Klobuchar noted that any infrastructure bill that doesn’t include broadband is unlikely to pass.

Federal stimulus will help pay internet bills and boost broadband access across Minnesota

I have written about this funding earlier; the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Carla Green spends about six hours a day on her computer, studying for her GED, selling custom scents and doing other work.

Green, 26, has been struggling to pay $60 a month for wired internet service in her International Falls apartment — something she needs to make a better life, she says.

So she reached out to a local community action program for help and is waiting to get a provided hotspot, which she hopes will be fast and reliable enough for her school work.

Recognizing the millions of households in Green’s situation, Congress designated emergency help for families to acquire and keep internet service in the latest federal COVID-19 relief package.

The $900 billion stimulus includes $7 billion for broadband and network infrastructure initiatives, including $3.2 billion for emergency help with monthly bills for service. Rural areas, tribal governments and other underserved populations will benefit as well.

Here are some of the details on the programs that directly support current customers…

In the stimulus package, about $3.2 billion is slated to help financially struggling households with up to $50 a month for internet service (or $75 per month for those on tribal lands) with payments going directly to the service providers. Those eligible could include households with children on free and reduced school lunches, Pell Grant recipients or the recently unemployed, according to an analysis by the alliance.

The Federal Communications Commission, which is tasked with figuring out how to administer the program, is taking public comment through Feb. 16.

Details on deployment investment…

In addition, $300 million will go to expand broadband in rural areas. In Minnesota, about 17% of rural homes do not have wire line internet service with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, and are considered “unserved.”

About $65 million will go to improve the accuracy of broadband availability maps — one of several measures U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has advocated as co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus.

And the impact of COVID on the digital divide and vice versa…

As more business has gone online during the pandemic, it has widened the divide between those who have internet and those who don’t, he said, prompting those without internet to pay bills and make purchases in person.

“How can you limit your exposure to the coronavirus when you have to go everywhere for everything?” Meyer said.

Perhaps most importantly, the pandemic made internet access even more of a necessity for school and work, too, when millions of students and employees were sent home for distance learning and working.

FCC 10th Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report

The FCC has released the most recent Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report. It presents perspectives on empirical performance for data collected in September and October 2019 from the following fixed Internet Service Providers:

  • CenturyLink
  • Charter Communications
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Comcast
  • Cox Communications
  • Frontier Communications Company
  • Mediacom Communications Corporation
  • Optimum
  • Verizon
  • Windstream Communications

I’m just including a few of the table highlights…

Most Popular Advertised Service Tiers

Weighted average advertised download speed among the top 80% service tiers offered by each ISP

The ratio of weighted median speed (download and upload) to advertised speed for each ISP.

The ratio of 80/80 consistent median download speed to advertised download speed.

Weighted average advertised upload speed among the top 80% service tiers offered by each ISP.

Burnsville not interested in sharing public fiber with private parties

A lot of times, broadband gets built as a public-private partnership. It feeds into the dig once ethos – of put as much fiber as you can info the ground at once. So a public agency might share the “pipe” with a private partner and each gets so many strands of fiber. Dakota County has done a lot of this with the idea that local government can support broadband for end users but through partnerships with private providers, they don’t need to serve the end users. The Dakota Broadband Board (DBB) works on leveraging such opportunities.

It looks like Burnsville is interested in doing things differently. Council Member Dan Gustafson has been the Burnsville seat DBB for two years. But recently the Burnsville City Council voted to replace Gustafson with Council Member Cara Schulz as the council’s representative to the DBB. The reason is because a majority of the Burnsville City Council do not support the public-private sharing of broadband.

The Sun This Week reports

The replacement reflects a long-running policy dispute on the council over the direction of a board formed in 2017 to efficiently manage cities’ individual fiber networks and support broadband expansion.

[Burnsville City Councilmembers] Schulz, Kealey and Workman oppose using excess capacity on the publicly owned “I-net” linking government buildings and utilities as a “C-net” that private Internet service providers can lease.

“Through these partnerships, additional businesses and residents throughout Dakota County can be served, and communities can pursue future economic development opportunities,” the board says on its website.

Burnsville “may be headed off the DBB” because the board is pursuing the C-net, Kealey said during Tuesday’s council meeting. The council’s majority position is “quite different from what it might have been five years ago or four years ago.”

Here’s the view of sharing infrastructure…

In a post-meeting interview, Gustafson said the council originally joined the board — an initiative of the county’s Community Development Agency — knowing that part of its mission was economic development through access to high-speed broadband not uniformly available throughout the county.

C-net lease availability could attract new Internet and content providers to serve residents and businesses and foster competition, Gustafson said.

“The three of them don’t want that to happen,” he said. “They want to keep the incumbents in place.”

The city would collect a lease fee and the community would get better service, he said.

And the view of NOT sharing infrastructure…

In a post-meeting interview, Schulz said federal law is the barrier to competition, and C-net leases paid by private providers would be heavily subsidized because of the public cost of maintaining the fiber network.

Eagan, which didn’t join the county broadband board, lost “millions” on its own C-net, Schulz said.

In the years since the board formed under a joint powers agreement, the county has gained access to other funds it can use to run fiber to areas without high-speed service, she said.

“What we don’t want, is we don’t want the city in competition with businesses to provide something that businesses provide,” Schulz said. “We’re not going to suddenly get into selling clothes, either.”

The C-net was “just an idea that didn’t get done before it was outdated,” Schulz said. The concept is outdated “both in technology and where we’re at with infrastructure,” she said.

North Idaho internet provider blocks Facebook, Twitter for customers who want to block them

I know this isn’t Minnesota but this was concerning news from KARE 11

A North Idaho internet provider, Your T1 WIFI, confirmed it is blocking Facebook and Twitter from its WIFI service for some customers due to censorship claims.

Your T1 WIFI provides internet services to North Idaho and the Spokane area.

The move comes after Twitter and Facebook banned President Trump from their platforms due to incitement of violence and undermining the transition of power to President elect Joe Biden.

The social media sites banned the President due to violations of their terms of service. Because Twitter and Facebook are private companies, their bans on the President do not violate the First Amendment, which protects speech from being limited by the government.

Your T1 WIFI’s actions, however, could violate Washington state’s Net Neutrality law.

Your T1 WIFI said it decided to block Twitter and Facebook after the company received several calls from customers about both websites.

Without irony, the ISP is blocking those site because they don’t think they have the authority to censor…

In an email posted to Twitter by a customer, Krista Yep, the company says it was fielding calls from customers asking that the service not display the sites on the internet, and that they didn’t want their children to be able to access them.

“Our company does not believe a website or social networking site has the authority to censor what you see and post and hide information from you, stop you from seeing what your friends and family are posting,” the email reads. “This is why with the amount of concerns, we have made this decision to block these two websites from being accessed from our network.”

Apparently they got complaints and decided to block Facebook and Twitter. Then they got complaints about blocking the sites and now you can have it either way. The article says two-thirds of customers asked for Twitter and Facebook to be blocked.

There is concern that this may be illegal…

While Your T1 WIFI says they acted in response to censorship, the company’s actions could also be considered censorship. In addition, they may violate Washington state’s Net Neutrality law, which states that internet providers may not manipulate access to content.

The law contains the following language:

A person engaged in the provision of broadband internet access service in Washington state, insofar as the person is so engaged, may not:
(a) Block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, subject to reasonable network management;
(b) Impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of internet content, application, or service, or use of a nonharmful device, subject to reasonable network management; or
(c) Engage in paid prioritization

A spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division was “taking a look at the matter.” Brionna Aho, a spokesperson for Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said he takes enforcement of the net neutrality law “very seriously.”

It highlights the importance of broadband competition. What if this was the only provider if your area?

MN Rural Broadband Coalition Update: $120 million Broadband Bills Introduced in House, Senate

From the MN Rural Broadband Coalition…

$120 Million Broadband Bills Introduced in House, Senate
Saint Paul, Minn.—Legislators supporting broadband expansion wasted no time getting broadband funding bills introduced this session. Bills for $120 million per biennium in ongoing funding were introduced in the House by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-Int’l Falls) and in the Senate by Sen. Tom Bakk (I-Cook). These bills align with the Coalition’s top legislative priority to get $120 million—$60 million per year—in the upcoming biennial budget.
HF 14  was referred to the Industrial Education and Workforce Development Committee. It has several coauthors including Reps. Julie Sandstede (DFL-Hibbing), Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko), Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), and Heather Keeler (DFL-Moorhead). SF 22 was referred to the Housing Committee. Sen. David Tomassoni (I-Chisolm) is the coauthor on the Senate bill.
The ongoing restrictions at the Capitol make collecting signatures for a bill much more difficult than it normally would be. We expect to see more legislators sign these bills, including Republicans, in the coming days and weeks. The next step is hearings in the appropriate committees for each bill. Stay tuned for more updates as they move through the process.

MN SF22: $120 million for broadband grants is introduced

The MN Office of the Revisor reports

SF22 is introduced: Broadband grant program money transfer deposit authorization by Senators Bakk  and Tomassoni.
It is Referred to Housing Finance and Policy

And more details

A bill for an act
relating to telecommunications; transferring money for deposit in the broadband
grant program.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. BROADBAND GRANT PROGRAM; TRANSFER.

$60,000,000 in fiscal year 2022 and $60,000,000 in fiscal year 2023 are transferred from
the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for deposit
in the border-to-border broadband fund account established in Minnesota Statutes, section
116J.396, subdivision 1, for the purposes specified in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396,
subdivision 2.

EFFECTIVE DATE.

This section is effective the day following final enactment.

A similar bill (HF14) was introduced in the Minnesota House today too.