MN Broadband Task Force Meeting: Mapping, grant challenges & MN Telephone Assistance Program

Today I attended the MN Broadband Task Force meeting. I recorded (via Facebook Live) most of the meeting. But I also took notes, OBD (Office of Broadband Development) kindly shared PPTs and I have the handouts.

The high level take on the meeting:

Border to Border Challenge Process

There are still some concerns on the Border to Border challenge process. Mostly there is concern that the threat of a challenge may be discouraging some communities from applying. That means fewer applications which may falsely signal to policymakers a diminished interest in funding.

Communities hoped that rules could be altered to force challengers to provide address level data on projects used in the challenge process. Some folks are discouraged that the penalties for challengers not fulfilling upgrade promises are minimal. BUT it sounds like the OBD worked to make sure challenges were legitimate and minimized impact on projects.

Mapping

Connected Nation will begin new maps soon. They will use data from Dec 31, 2016. New maps will be out in April. Also Diane Wells gave a nice tour of maps available on the OBD website. (I use the maps often!)

MN Telephone Assistance Program (TAP)

TAP provides low income households $3.50/month to subsidize telephone access (not broadband!). Part of the rule is that TAP cannot provide more funding than Federal assistance (Lifeline). Lifeline’s subsidies for telephone access are decreasing as they are now covering broadband as well. By 2021, Lifeline will provide no support for telephone access, which means TAP will also provide no support. That will be a hit to low income household.

Legislative Update

There was a legislative update – look below for more info. Continue reading

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Feb 21: St Paul MN

I plan to attend the meeting tomorrow and will take notes – but it’s always good for the Task Force members to hear from the public if you have something to say…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
Stassen Office Building,
Conf. Room 2000,
600 North Robert Street,
St. Paul, MN 55146
February 21, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)
  • 10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Update on Legislative Items
    • Bill Introductions
    • Testimony
    • Broadband Days on Hill (Feb. 22 and March 15)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.                 Discussion of 2017:
    • Meeting topics
    • Committee structure/chairs
    • Suggested meeting locations
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.                Lunch
  • 12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Lifeline Presentation
    • Tracy Smetana and Mike McCarthy from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Follow-up to Coalition Letter of 10/3/16
    • OBD Challenge Process Explanation
    • Laura Ziegler, LMC
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  Brief Mapping Overview
  • 2:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Wrap-up, discussion of March meeting

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Notes and Video: Planning for 2017

This morning I attended an abbreviated Task Force meeting. They spoke about upcoming legislation, to a couple of legislators and talked about plans for 2017 meetings, committees and streamlining the report writing.

I’ll post video here and follow with notes..

Update from Office of Broadband Development

  • We announced the awards from the third round of the grants.
  • 42 awards announced

The focus on a practical basis was unserved – most of the underserved locations were included in a larger project.

  • 62 – applications
  • $55M – total request
  • $34M – total awards
  • $40.3M – total match
  • 18,989 locations served
  • 18,370 – currently unserved locations
  • 568 – underserved locations
  • Challenges submitted – 44
  • Number of challengers – 13
  • Number of projects challenged – 28
  • Numbers of challenges results in non-funding 6

Reasons to challenge:

  1. Services exist
  2. Services are planned
  3. Construction is underway.

A mapper has been chosen for the next round of maps.

Estimated goal number: 209,000 households do not have access to 25/3 broadband.

OBD is looking at Sunrise township, Mill Lacs Electric and fiber/wireless hybrid.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on the Hennepin County project

Update on the education awards: 12 school districts (our of 33 applied) each received about $50,000 to deploy wireless programs in their school – for wireless routers to check out for home use and/or outfitted buses with wifi networks.

Some schools have had trouble with filter and security measures – maybe Blandin can help us since they have funded projects that have solved these issues.

Legislative Update:

Governor has suggested $60 million in funding ($30M per year)

Working on prevailing wage issues – the problem is that there isn’t a good fit for contractor who work on fiber and the types of hours they work. (projects funded with more than $250,000 state funding need to adhere to prevailing wage)

Working on the ability to place wireless equipment on agriculture preserves. Normally no commerce-type items can be placed on such land.

Governor suggestions $74 million on cyber security

Talking about future meetings

  • 5G – what can it do and how is it being deployed?
  • Where are we with IoT?
  • Large scale rural deployments (county and larger). How publicly traded companies
  • ROI for communities that got funding and those who didn’t?
  • TAP – and changes to TAP
  • Education superhighway and new K12 initiatives
  • Cybersecurity
  • Update from emergency services and use of the Internet (Public Safety)
  • E-911 – and text to 911
  • Connect Nations on Adoptions
  • FCC participants in ACAM programs – Arvig is one of the largest users of ACAM in the country.
  • Planning a road trip

Let’s try to start writing the report earlier this year. The committee work was really helpful last year and made the report writing much easier. Choosing topics/speakers that feed into the final report will be helpful.

Last year’s committees:

  • Adoption & Affordability
  • Emerging technologies
  • Accessibility

New ideas for committees

  • Regulation and policy change
  • Get economic impact of funded projects
  • Public safety – cyber security focus for a year
  • How broadband replaces what landlines used to do

Let’s look at 5G first -there’s a small cell bill right now and we might get called to testify.
Maybe we could look at FirstNet 911 first.

Rep Baker

  • If we get out work done the private sector can do what they do.
  • Spoke to Ways & Means and get folks on board.
  • I like the 2-year approach but we’re not mentioning numbers yet.
  • I understand that $60M would help boost fiber.
  • Spoke to Garofalo already – thanked him for his support for Greater MN and help keeping the topic relevant.
  • So much more work to be done.
  • What can we do to make it more efficient for the office?
  • How can we get more miles (of broadband) for the money?
  • I want to be a champion. Been talking with Kresha and an approach. We have some telecom issues we need to work out.

What makes a difference with your colleagues?

  • Show us the results – outcomes
  • Testimonials – from city officials
  • What is going on with telemedicine?
  • What’s going on with education?
  • Efficient spending of money
  • Working with CAF 2 funding with friends at CenturyLink

Rep Johnson

  • This is a good bipartisan topic.
  • I express my strong support.
  • Leveraging works.
  • Governor proposed $30M/30
  • Sen Simonson – proposed $100M
  • We may need to be tweaking of current process – maybe in terms of challenge process.
  • Need to make sure there’s sufficient operating funds.
  • Working with MNIT – need to work on cyber security. It’s an increasing issue. State of MN is very concerned.
  • Computer donations are good
  • Need to publicize low cost programs – like that from Comcast.
  • Computers at the libraries are getting used – esp by kids of color. Need library access!
  • Used to ride a school bus to school for an hour a day – glad to see bus time being used well with broadband.
  • IN regards to transportation – we need to prepare for driverless cars.
  • Regulatory reform – need to find compromise work with Andy Shriner (CenturyLInk) last year on some regulation.
  • Need to balance regulation of industry with consumer protections
  • Small cell wireless – rights of way is an issue.
  • Need MTA and local telecom companies need to talk to their representatives – that would be helpful

Maybe it would be helpful for Baker & Johnson t talk to Freshman legislators about broadband. We have 25-30 people that we could talk to about it.

CONCERNS:

A concern with the challenge process is that there isn’t much accountability for incumbents

Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting Jan 26 9:30 to noon

I will be there taking notes. I assume the meeting is cut short due to the fact that the Committee on Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy will be hearing from Minnesota broadband providers. I will plan to attend that session too. (It starts at 1:00.)

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
January 26, 2017
DEED—James J. Hill Conference Room
1st National Bank Building
332 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

  • 9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD):
    * Border to Border Broadband Grant Awards
    * 2017 Legislation
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Discussion of 2017:
    * Meeting topics
    * Committee structure/chairs
    * Suggested meeting locations
  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Legislative Panel
  • 12:00 p.m. Adjourn

Post Bulletin says we need a broadband voice in the legislature

The Post Bulletin recognizes the loss of Matt Schmit – one of the loudest voices for broadband in the 2016 legislature – and asks that someone else step up…

The fact that voters opted to replace one of the state’s leading voices for rural broadband doesn’t lessen the need for funding.

The state’s task force on rural broadband has once again pointed to the need for aggressive funding, $110 million over the next two years.

Unfortunately, these recommendations have led to political wrangling rather than being heeded as means to support economic growth in the state. In recent years, former Sen. Matt Schmit has been Southeast Minnesota’s loudest voice on the topic.

We need a local legislator to step up and take his place.

They add the benefits broadband can bring to the community…

A 2016 Hudson Institute study noted rural broadband supported more than $100 billion in e-commerce nationally in 2015. That’s people in outlying communities doing business elsewhere. It’s giving local customers and businesses the chance to actively engage in the statewide economy on a daily basis.

The need exists, and the benefits are real. Now, we just need voices to help continue spreading the message.

Legislators think “broadband is not a high priority” for Minnesotans in 2017

According to InForum

A new report says $100 million in state money is needed every two years to help expand broadband high-speed internet throughout Minnesota, but rural lawmakers have said relatively little about it leading up to the 2017 Legislature.

In a series of Forum News Service lawmaker interviews before the session, none brought up the issue. When asked, rural legislators said more state aid is needed, but there was a feeling that the issue is less of a priority than in past years.

Getting enough money to expand broadband will be tough, “given the fact that there are other issues that get more attention,” Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, said when asked.

The senator said that broadband is not a high priority for the general public when compared to improving roads and spending money on other issues.

“In some of our rural communities, you don’t know what you are missing if you don’t have it,” he said.

Local media picks up on Broadband Task Force: Wahpeton Daily, Hometown Focus, Politics in Minnesota

I will try to condense the media mentions of the Task Force report – especially when the stories are similar and based off the press release sent out by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Today I noticed articles in:

There was one difference in the stories – the Hometown Focus and Politics in Minnesota each mention the two-phase speed goals in Minnesota: ubiquitous access to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up (25/3) by 2022 and 100/20 by 2016. Wahpeton only mentions the 2022 goal, which I think is worth mentioning because while the 2022 goals would make Minnesota competitive by 2016 standards (25/3 is the current definition of broadband according to the FCC), I think 2026 goals aim at helping Minnesota be more competitive in the future.