Minnesota’s Mark Erickson on promoting Community Broadband in a Trump-Era

CLIC (Coalition for Local Internet Choice) ran an open letter from RS Fiber’s Mark Erickson giving hope to community network proponents in a President Trump world….

In very rural Sibley county, in Minnesota, where I live, the vote was nearly 3 to 1 in favor of Donald Trump.

Our incumbent Republicans were re-elected with ease.

Yet in this very conservative county, 10 city councils and 17 of 21 rural townships have come together to support putting their tax dollars at risk to build a fiber optic network to everyone in those communities and to all area farms. (By means of an update, the four townships that voted not to participate in the project have indicated they might want back into the project.)

I don’t even find it ironic that in the middle of this Trump heartland the overwhelming majority of voters believe broadband is so important that it transcends local, state and national politics.

Why? Because they get it. They understand they will need bigger and better broadband to survive and grow.

And this isn’t the situation only in Minnesota…

In Maine, as in Minnesota, when people realized providers are unable to make the necessary investments in their communities, they began to advocate for solutions that involve local government.

Like rural voters across the nation, they understand the only real way to ensure timely (in their lifetime) access to ultra high speed broadband networks is to take the initiative and make something happen.

I am convinced that sentiment is common throughout under- and unserved rural America.

Let’s take the opportunity this sea change in national leadership presents and raise our voices even louder about the need for effective solutions to what I believe is a growing rural broadband crisis.

Candidates on broadband in MN Senate district 12

Running for Senate District 12 the incumbent, Senator Westrom had this to say about broadband…

Making sure rural broadband is available across the state is another priority of his if re-elected.

“It is the electricity of today where the state can be a partner in the area where you don’t have the business space,” he explained. “Farmers and small business owners can be anywhere when they transact business over the web and that’s a great job engine and economic development tool, frankly for rural Minnesota to have strong broadband,” Westrom said.

His competition, Russ Hinrichs says this…

Improving the rural broadband infrastructure would also benefit farmers and resident in greater Minnesota.

Local MN politics and broadband: what candidates say

I’ve been trying to save some of these articles until I could post a few. And my goal here isn’t to investigate the different stances on broadband but to catalog what has been mentioned in the various local publications.

If broadband is important to you – you should consider asking your candidates how they feel about broadband spending, speeds and uses! And if you see a story I missed, please feel free to sen it my way and I’ll add it to the list. Thx!

Senate District 6: Sen. David Tomassoni vs Skeeter Tomczak

The Duluth Tribune mentions broadband in their endorsement of Tomassoni

Continued investment in pushing broadband deeper into rural Minnesota is also supported by Tomassoni. The state already has been doing a pretty good job, he said.

“We’ve been told that in order to do it, we’re going to need well over a billion dollars, but … we did put $35 million in last year, and the year before $8 million, and the year before $20 million. So we’re getting some money involved in it, and much of the investment is coming up here. We actually got the first broadband grant up here in northern Minnesota,” Tomassoni said. “Rural broadband is akin to the electrifying of rural Minnesota or rural America. … I hear from people all the time in the townships how they would like to start businesses and how their kids are going to school and not able to get the services that they need” without broadband.

Senate District 21: Senator Matt Schmit  vs Mike Goggin

When asked about stimulating job growth, Senator Schmit brings up broadband:

For many parts of Greater Minnesota, broadband Internet access can reduce limitations of time and distance to allow for home-based businesses and teleworking to flourish, for distance learning, retraining, and job applications to be more fruitful, and for opportunities in telemedicine and precision agriculture to improve our health and environment.

Broadband comes up in a few article on the District 21 race – in the Red Wing Republican Eagle,

Senate District 21 and Minnesota House District 21A and 21B

An article on an election forum in the Kenyon Leader mentions broadband…

Bayley likened broadband to rural electrification – necessary to level the playing field and keep outlying areas of the state competitive. Schmit, who has focused considerable energy into broadband development in the state, said it is an important issue in day-to-day life. He cited distance learning, precision farming, tele-health and business development as being dependent upon broadband.

Drazkowski, Haley and Goggin downplayed the need for state intervention in broadband development, favoring private enterprise and federal funding. Drazkowski said the government keeps raising the bar for what is acceptable broadband service. Haley questioned the need for everyone to have high performing internet access, including schools.

House District 1B Candidate profile on Mike Moore…

I served on Crookston’s RiverView Hospital’s Board of Directors, and its Foundation for the maximum nine year term. I created “Computers for Our Community” in the Thief River Falls area and brought expanded broadband development to the District.

House District 9: Meg Litts vs John Poston Vye

In an article that profiles both candidates, Litts is quoted…

Passing tax and transportation bills within the first 30 days of the session is my priority so that the lives and livelihoods of our district are supported. I will work to adequately fund high speed broadband initiatives to ensure access and equity to information and resources as viable competitors in the global marketplace. I will listen to the voters of 9A to hear their concerns and get their input on proposed bills. Next, I will work collaboratively across the aisle in order to ensure that we are moving forward to get the job done in a timely manner.

House District 15: Rep Sondra Erickson vs Chilah Brown

The Mille Lacs County Times profiles Chilah Brown…

I will support proven economic development initiatives, including the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund, to bring good-paying jobs to communities. I will support all efforts to fully fund broadband access to all corners of the state as businesses need access to high-speed internet to be able to compete.

They also profile Rep Erickson…

For industry to want to locate in any rural area of the state, the legislature needs to repeal cumbersome regulations that pose barriers to create a business; reduce or repeal the statewide business property tax; find ways for rural Minnesota to take better advantage of funding partnerships provided by DEED; and improve broadband access.

House District 22: Rep. Rod Hamilton vs Kirby Kruse

In an endorsement for Hamilton, the Daily Globe recognizes Kruse’s attention on broadband…

He [Kruse] sees his top priorities, if elected, as “better schools, better roads and bridges, tax reform and broadband,” according to the candidate questionnaire he completed for this newspaper.

Senate District 25: Senator Dave Senjum vs Dale Amorosia

In an article about the race, Amorosia is quoted…

“I think some of the critical issues are transportation funding, education, I think rural broadband, those are just some of the issues,” Amorosia says. “You could also make a case for social justice as well as the skyrocketing healthcare and childcare costs.”

Also found a profile of Amorosia in the Post Bulletin that mentions broadband.

 

House District 27A: Rep Peggy Bennett vs. Gary Schindler

The Post Bulletin outlined the race

While Bennett frequently repeats research from what we suspect are conservative sources rather than independent studies, she has shown a willingness to break with her party. She voted against business interests to increase regulation on children’s sleepwear, but more importantly she broke with Republicans to support increasing the threshold of service for expanding rural broadband services.

The Austin Daily Herald also notes Bennett’s support of broadband.

House District 27B: Rep Jeanne Poppe vs Dennis Schminke

In an article highlighting both candidates, Poppe mentioned support of broadband…

Other key investments including upgrading transportation, expanding broadband and making sure there is workforce housing. She added it is critical to make sure workers are paid a living wage and business owners can make a living.

House District 28B: Rep Greg Davids vs Thomas Trehus

An article outlines the race and mentions Trehus…

Trehus said his core campaign issues have remained focused on strengthening rural towns, schools and small farms through investments in education and infrastructure, including both traditional road and bridge funding and newer strategies, like expanded broadband.

House District 30B: Rep Eric Lucero running vs Margaret Fernandez

When asked about what they would do for small businesses, Ms Fernandez mentioned broadband a few times including…

We need to reprioritize spending to support small businesses as we look to reform healthcare, wages and employee benefits. There are two more issues that Minnesotans need to address. They are transportation and broadband. …

Broadband is another value we as Minnesotans need to decide if we value growth. Do we want our small businesses to compete on the state, national and global level? Do we value education for rural areas and want a future educated work force? Where I work we always say, “you have to invest in something for it to be successful.” If we as a state want to continue to be successful we have to invest in ourselves. We have a 2 billion dollar surplus. There is no reason we can’t invest in tomorrow.

House District 54B: Rep Denny McNamara vs Don Slaten

In a profile of candidate Don Slaten, the Hastings Star Gazette mentions broadband…

If we are fortunate enough to have a surplus, I would lower property taxes for farmers; our farmers are feeling the pinch due to falling commodity prices. I would pay down the debt so we save needless interest payments. I would support educational funding for smaller class sizes and pre-K. I would support greater funding for broadband for out-state Minnesota, which is an issue in parts of our district.

House District 58B: Rep Pat Garofalo vs Vagts

The Northfield news outlines info on both candidates; It an interview with Marla Vagts, she mentions broadband…

My top priority is to get broadband to the entire district. This is interfering in education, preventing commerce, and stifling any entrepreneurial opportunities in a large part of our district. Internet has become like electricity once was, it’s a need and we’re leaving our rural people behind by not giving them the same options as people in town.

 

 

 

 

Broadband making the local candidate debates (Senate District 21 & House 21A)

Local political candidates for the office of Minnesota Senate District 21 and Minnesota House District 21A held a political forum last week. According to The Kenyon Leader, here’s what happened related to broadband…

Bayley likened broadband to rural electrification – necessary to level the playing field and keep outlying areas of the state competitive. Schmit, who has focused considerable energy into broadband development in the state, said it is an important issue in day-to-day life. He cited distance learning, precision farming, tele-health and business development as being dependent upon broadband.

Drazkowski, Haley and Goggin downplayed the need for state intervention in broadband development, favoring private enterprise and federal funding. Drazkowski said the government keeps raising the bar for what is acceptable broadband service. Haley questioned the need for everyone to have high performing internet access, including schools.

A voice for broadband is a voice for rural: Gary Evans on Senator Schmit

The Winona Daily News recently ran a little to the editor from Gar Evans supporting Senator Schmit’s standing as a rural-supporting senator based on his work with broadband…

In fact, Sen. Schmit’s bipartisan broadband efforts were one of the highlights of this past legislative session, during which critical funding was secured for continued expansion of rural broadband access for thousands of the approximately 20 percent of Greater Minnesota homes and businesses that currently lack it. This successful effort likely was the greatest accomplishment of the 2016 legislative session — and Sen. Schmit led the charge!

For these efforts, Sen. Schmit has been recognized as a “Legislator of Distinction” by the League of Minnesota Cities for three straight years; he’s one of two state senators to earn such consistent recognition.

It’s a good reminder to ask candidates about their views on broadband if broadband is important to you!

Hillary Clinton outlines tech priorities: what it means to broadband adoption and deployment

Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton unveiled her Initiative on Technology and Innovation [I took some liberties with formatting]…

Today, Hillary is announcing a Tech & Innovation Agenda with five key parts.

  • First, her plan will leverage technology to create good-paying jobs on Main Street—through new commitments in computer science and STEM education, support for entrepreneurial ecosystems, and other policies to build the human capital pipeline.
  • Second, her plan will deliver high-speed broadband to all Americans, hook up public places like airports and stations—and enable them to offer free WiFi—and lay the groundwork for the next generation of the mobile internet and the Internet of Things.
  • Third, her agenda will ensure America remains the global leader in technology, by promoting more high-tech exports and ensuring the free flow of data.
  • Fourth, her plan will establish rules of the road to support innovation—rules that foster healthy competition, reduce barriers to entry, and effectively protect intellectual property—while safeguarding privacy and security.
  • Fifth, her plan will make our government smarter, more efficient, and more responsive, using new technologies to deliver real results for the American people.

Her plan includes everything from greater funding for STEM, entrepreneurial startup funds, lead international joint tech governance and promote cyber security. For the purposes of this blog, I thought it would make sense to pull out the sections that very directly address broadband adoption and deployment. (Although I really like the idea of integrating technology into difference sectors and different sectors into the tech arena.)

INVESTING IN WORLD-CLASS DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Hillary believes that high-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity for economic success and social mobility in a 21st century economy. Despite considerable progress and private investment in the last eight years to close the digital divide, there remains work to be done. Millions of American households, particularly in rural areas, still lack access to any fixed broadband provider,[15] around 30% of households across America have not adopted broadband (with much higher levels in low-income communities),[16] and American consumers pay more for high-speed plans than consumers in some other advanced nations.[17] For years, Hillary has fought to deliver connectivity to all Americans. As President, she will finish the job of connecting every household in America to high-speed broadband, increase internet adoption, and help hook up anchor institutions so they can offer free WiFi to the public. Hillary will also take action to help America widely deploy 5G technology—the next generation wireless service that will not only bring faster internet connections to underserved areas, but will enable the Internet of Things and a host of transformative technologies. Hillary will:

  • Close the Digital Divide: Hillary will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the internet, committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs.  She will deliver on this goal with continue investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), and by directing federal agencies to consider the full range of technologies as potential recipients—i.e., fiber, fixed wireless, and satellite—while focusing on areas that lack any fixed broadband networks currently. Hillary also backs the FCC’s decision to extend Lifeline support to broadband, and she will work to connect this policy with community-based programs that help citizens with enrollment, offer digital literacy training and expand access to low-cost devices.
  • Launch a “Model Digital Communities” Grant Program: By leveraging the $25 billion Infrastructure Bank she plans to establish, Hillary will create a new competitive grant program to give cities, regions, and states incentives to create a “model digital community.” The end goal is simple: encourage localities to undertake actions that foster greater access to high-speed internet for their residents at affordable prices–whether through fiber, wireless, satellite, or other technologies. Regions would come forward with proposals, and grants would be awarded based on impact assessment. Qualifying proposals might seek to:
  • Reduce regulatory barriers to the private provision of broadband services: Localities may seek to stimulate more investment by current or new service providers by streamlining permitting processes, allowing nondiscriminatory access to existing infrastructure such as conduits and poles, pursuing “climb once” policies to eliminate delays, or facilitating demand aggregation.
  • Coordinate the development of broadband infrastructure with other municipal services: Localities may seek to develop information and maps about existing infrastructure and pursue “dig once” policies, where the development of broadband infrastructure (i.e., dark fiber) is coordinated with the development and maintenance of other municipal infrastructure and joint trenching is enabled where appropriate.
  • Develop public-private partnerships for broadband: Hillary will explore ways that targeted uses of the Infrastructure Bank could favorably change the economics of private capital investment in existing or new broadband networks. This approach opens the door to upgrading networks, filling gaps in underserved areas, and new models of public-private partnerships, such as in Huntsville, Alabama and Westminster, Maryland.
  • Connect More Anchor Institutions to High-Speed Internet: To fully realize the benefits of the internet today, people need a “continuum of connectivity”—the ability to get online in their homes and offices, but also in schools, libraries, transit systems, and other public spaces. Over the last few years, the E-rate program, launched under President Bill Clinton and updated under President Obama, as well as the BTOP program, have brought ultra-speed, fiber-optic broadband to schools and libraries nationwide. Hillary will expand this concept to additional anchor institutions by investing new federal resources. This would enable recreation centers, public buildings like one-stop career centers, and transportation infrastructure such as train stations, airports, and mass transit systems, to access to high-speed internet and provide free WiFi to the public.
  • Deploy 5G Wireless and Next Generation Wireless Systems: America’s world-leading rollout of 4G wireless networks in the first half of this decade has been a success story for policy-makers, industry, and American consumers. The Obama Administration played a key role by repurposing spectrum and auctioning licenses, as well as by making new spectrum available for unlicensed technologies. Hillary will accelerate this progress and help foster the evolution to 5G, small cell solutions, and other next-generation systems that can deliver faster wireless connections. Widely deployed 5G networks, and new unlicensed and shared spectrum technologies, are essential platforms that will support the Internet of Things, smart factories, driverless cars, and much more—developments with enormous potential to create jobs and improve people’s lives. Hillary will:
  • Reallocate and Repurpose Spectrum for Next Generation Uses: Hillary will enhance the efficient use of spectrum by accelerating the process of identifying underutilized bands, including ones now used by the federal government, that can become more valuable under revised regulatory regimes. She will focus on the full range of spectrum use policies—including new allocations for licensed mobile broadband, as well as unlicensed and shared spectrum approaches. She believes that creative uses of shared/non-exclusive uses of spectrum could unleash a new wave of innovation in wireless broadband technologies and the Internet of Things, much as WiFi did in the first generation of digital services.
  • Foster a Civic Internet of Things through Public Investments: Hillary will dedicate federal research funding to test-bedding, field trials, and other public-private endeavors to speed the deployment of next generation wireless networks and a civic Internet of Things. Governments around the world are already investing billions of dollars in developing and commercializing 5G technologies, and Hillary wants American companies to lead the world in wireless innovation. Her investments will aim at using advanced wireless and data innovation to drive social priorities in a range of areas, such as public safety, health care, environmental management, traffic congestion, and social welfare services.

 

How could the 2016 election impact Net Neutrality?

Last week I wrote about the latest Net Neutrality news – US Court of Appeals leaned toward Net Neutrality when they called broadband a utility. Some folks were happy. Some were not. Few folks thought this was the sound of the fat lady singing. Brookings recently published an article that draws out a few potential scenarios for what could happen next. The perspective I found most interesting was – how will the election this fall have an impact…

Electoral outcomes in November could change legislative prospects or further foreclose them, depending on how many House and Senate seats each party holds in the next Congress. Here, the best scenario for opponents of the new status quo would be the election of more Republicans to Congress and Donald Trump to the presidency. Unlike President Obama, President Trump might sign legislation modifying net neutrality rather than veto it with no possibility of having that veto overridden. President Trump could also appoint a new FCC Chairman, creating a Republican majority that could nullify the DC Circuit’s net neutrality decision.

But if Hillary Clinton emerges victorious instead, any legislative or FCC reversal becomes highly unlikely, since Secretary Clinton is on record as favoring the net neutrality approach of the current FCC. In turn, her election could raise the stakes for a final Supreme Court decision, which could occur two or three years from now if the appellate process runs its course and the Court returns to nine sitting justices.