MN Broadband Task Force Dec 2021 Meeting Notes & Video: Editing Annual Report Draft

Today, the MN Broadband Task Force got an update from the Office of Broadband Development and quick lesson on synchronous and asynchronous broadband technologies and then they went through the latest draft iteration of the annual report. I iteration I have is the one they discussed, not post-discussion version but you’ll get a flavor of what they are thinking in it.

Here are a few high level remarks on the draft and the discussion. The format is much easier to digest as a PPT than the old report format. Here’s the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Executive Summary
  • Key Challenges and Concerns
  • Recommendations
  • Economic Impact Inter/Intra Agency Cooperation/Coordination
  • Policy and Statutory Goals
  • Appendixes

There was discussion about speed goals; the Task Force had earlier decided not to recommend an increase in speed goals. There was also a recommendation that the state fund projects that only go to 25/3 under special circumstances. I think that got removed. Some folks felt 25/3 was better than nothing; but others disagreed especially since getting 25/3 might disqualify a community from getting funding for a more permanent solution. There seems to be tension between trying to get something to everyone who needs it versus taking the time to build long term solutions. The discussion reminded me that while in town earlier this week, President Biden implored Minnesotans to use the upcoming in flux of cash to build to help the US become a leader again.

EVENT December 3: MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Agenda

The Task Force meetings are remote and open to all. For folks who don’t want to join via Webex/Teams, I will livestream on Facebook and archive.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
December 3, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Microsoft Teams meeting
Click here to join the meeting
Join with a video conferencing device
mn@m.webex.com
Video Conference ID: 119 694 806 6
Alternate VTC instructions

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from November 1, 2021 Meeting
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. Broadband Technologies and Symmetrical Speeds
    Dave Wolf, CEO, Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Assn.
  • 10:35 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Walk Thru of Draft Report
  • 11:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Break
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Continue Walk Thru of Draft Report and Next Steps
  • 12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, December 20th Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

MN Broadband Task Force asks Governor Walz to expedite and increase request for federal funds for broadband

The MN Broadband Task Force sent a letter to Governor Walz, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, Senator Erin Murphy, and Representative Debra Kiel…

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act funding that Minnesota is slated to receive, there is a Sec. 604
Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund that is intended to be used “to carry out critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).” The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), which is charged with administering this fund, notes on its website that a
purpose of this funding is to “contribute to the Administration’s goal of providing every American with
the modern infrastructure necessary to access critical services, including a high-quality and affordable
broadband internet connection.”
In August 2021, Treasury identified the amount of Sec. 604 funding that would be allocated to each state; Minnesota’s allocation is $180,702,620. In September 2021, Treasury issued guidance as to how the Capital Projects Fund dollars may be used and broadband infrastructure projects were identified as a presumptively eligible use.
In the 2021 Minnesota legislative session, language was passed to fund the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure Grant program with $70 million over the biennium and with that funding coming from the Capital Projects Fund. This decision was made prior to either information being released regarding Minnesota’s total allocation or guidance on allowed uses.
Minnesota is required to apply for this funding by December 27, 2021 and once its application is
approved and an agreement signed with Treasury, the state must submit a Grant Plan and a Program Plan(s) outlining how it intends to use the state’s allocation of $180,702,620. The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband would urge the state to submit its application as soon as possible and once an agreement is in place, file a Grant Plan and Program Plan to use all the funding for the state’s Border-to-Border
Broadband Infrastructure grant program. With prompt approval by Treasury, the Office of Broadband
Development could then open a grant window and approve projects in time to be built, or at least started, during the 2022 construction season. As you are aware, Minnesota’s construction season is shortened due to weather and it is imperative to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
The guidance issued by Treasury indicates that any home or business in Minnesota that does not have a reliable, wireline broadband service of at least 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload is eligible for this funding. The latest data available shows that there are at least 240,000 households in Minnesota without a broadband connection meeting those speeds. Assuming an average cost of $5,527 per location to deliver a broadband service (taken from the Task Force’s 2020 annual report), deploying service to those 240,000 households would require funding of over $1.3 billion. Even assuming the grant portion for that funding is capped at 50 percent as it is under current state law for the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program, funding of $663 million would still be necessary.
While Minnesota has been a leader amongst the states with its Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program having awarded $126.2 million to reach approximately 57,000 locations with broadband service between 2014 and 2020, the state is falling behind. In March 2021, Wisconsin awarded over $24.8 million for 58 projects, in October 2021 Wisconsin awarded $100 million to 83 projects and in early November announced that the next grant window to award another $100 million will open December 1, 2021. In October 2021, Iowa announced that it would make available another $200 million for broadband grants in addition to the $100 million in grants announced in September 2021 as part of its Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program. A few other examples include Missouri announcing it will use at least $400 million for broadband infrastructure; Ohio is using $250
million to improve high speed internet service; Texas Governor Abbott just signed a bill allocating $500
million for broadband infrastructure; and Virginia has plans to use $700 million to provide universal
broadband by 2024.
The pandemic has made clear the need for fast, reliable broadband service to all homes and businesses in the state. Federal funding is available to get that infrastructure deployed. Broadband is the foundational element that is a force multiplier for all other issues. We need it to better address critical challenges and build economic opportunity, competitiveness, and prosperity. The state has in place a
nationally recognized broadband office and grant program. All that is needed is for the Governor and
the Legislature to direct the available federal funding to the Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure grant program so that the real work of building out the infrastructure to meet the state’s broadband
goals can be achieved. The time is now to invest in our communities.
Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.
Sincerely,
Teddy Bekele
Chair, Governor’s Broadband Task Force

MN Broadband Task Force Nov 2021 – update on regional meetings and draft recommendations

The Task Force heard from Benya Kraus about the regional meetings that led up to the statewide regional meetings. She outlines what folks on the ground were saying and made some recommendations for the state and for the task force to help move broadband forward. Then the task force subcommittees talked about their various recommendations. (You can see them in the draft report.)

It will be interesting to see how the subcommittees compromise on some of the recommendations. At a super high level here are a few topics:

Speed goals: some folks want to change the goal; some do not

  • Unserved/underserved: most folks seem to want to focus on grants for unserved over underserved
  • Geographic distribution: grants need to be evenly distributed based on geography – most folks want to change that
  • Grant match: right now the grant requires a 50 percent match – but as the focus is on hardest to reach places, most folks want to see less match required

Those recommendations would require legislative changes.

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from October 5, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update

  • Hiring 2 positions
  • Capital projects funds – working on getting the application together
  • Looking for answers to FAQs about Capital projects fund – especially waiting to hear about conflicts with RDOF
  • ReConnect funding is open
  • No news on a potential session

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Regional Gatherings Overview – Benya Kraus, Executive Director, Lead for America

An update of the Regional meetings. Some local themes:

  • Bring trusted providers together
  • Explore the broad continuum of public-private partnerships
  • Coordinate a statewide PR campaign on the importance of broadband, similar to the saturation and effectiveness of the veterans billboard strategy
  • Digital Literacy Investment

How can we get there?

  • Cultivate local champions
  • Frequent and digestible funding updates
  • Cross County Coordination on projects
  • Adaptive funding mechanisms that incentivize providers

10:45 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal

Questions/Comments

  • Should we ask providers to measure reliability?
  • We will want to reconcile overlap in recommendations between subcommittee.
  • If we want to change the speed goals, let’s just say it. Although I don’t want to change it. People won’t get service faster if we change the speed goals.
  • If we say broadband needs to be 100/100 or nothing people will get nothing.

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education

Questions/Comments

  • Do we think we should send recommendations straight to the department?
  • Might be nice to include info on what it takes to deploy 100/100 Mbps.

11:45 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding

Questions/Comments

  • We should focus on unserved areas. Other agencies might be looking at the federal broadband dollars.
  • The legislators may balk at future funding – especially if we are asking them to provider “ perrier” style broadband versus tap water variety.
  • We need legislators to make some changes to the grants if we want changes.
  • The state speed goals for 2026 are 100/20 – so maybe that’s the new definition for unserved?
  • We are not going to meet the 2022 speed goals of ubiquitous 25/3
  • We need to remove the caveat that says we need geographic distribution of grant funds – some areas need more – we need legislative change to do that.
  • We’ve seen legislators try to add broadband projects in bills – especially with some suggestions to offer rebates to satellite users. Maybe we need to work with legislators now to get changes that make sense.
  • With pandemic related delays in supplies, we are looking at later build outs no matter what we do.

12:10 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Next Steps for Subgroups and Draft Report

12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, December Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

What are thoughts on sending a letter to the Governor asking to tap into the $180 million in federal funding for broadband?
The decision is to do it

 

EVENT Nov 1: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting

I will plan to attend and I will livestream. Everyone is welcome to attend the actual meeting and there’s always time for public comment – but sometimes it’s easier to view on Facebook.

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 1, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Click here to join the meeting
Join with a video conferencing device mn@m.webex.com
Video Conference ID: 115 972 031 9
Alternate VTC instructions

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from October 5, 2021 Meeting
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  Regional Gatherings Overview – Benya Kraus, Executive Director, Lead for America
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal
  • 11:10 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.  Break
  • 11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding
  • 12:10 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Next Steps for Subgroups and Draft Report
  • 12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, December Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

 

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting Oct 2021: Ag, Feder funding and policy recommendation brainstorming

Today Task Force heard from a farmer in the field who spoke about how he used technology and broadband on his dairy farm. He used fixed wireless and wasn’t sure of his speeds but he did remember that looked at boosting them when someone needed to have access to 50 Mbps down and 10 up to work from home at Mayo Clinic.

Dianne Wells gave an update on Office of Broadband Development and the what’s happening with various federal funding programs. There are two concerns for folks. First, state grant funding is reliant on the state getting Capital Project Funds. It seems likely that they would but the process is taking a long time and in the meantime, folks without access are suffering. Another concern is the uncertainty surrounding RDOF areas – communities in areas where RDOF is looking to fund someone to provide broadband but where the community isn’t confident in the FCC’s choice. Sounds like the FCC is indicating that those communities to reapply for funding through the state. If they state chooses them, then they can check back to see if there’s a conflict with RDOF grants. The feds don’t’ want to fund the same area twice – I think it’s a matter or which federal funding might go through first – but I’m reading a lot into it.

Next the Task Force reported back on subcommittees’ recommendations. I think the conversations moving forward will be interesting.  On group is pushing for faster speed goals and moving forward to expectations. Another group is looking to hold back speed goals and funding until only (and all of) the least served communities will get funding. There was talk about lowering the expectations for these communities.

See more complete notes… Continue reading

EVENT Oct 5: Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Monthly Mtg

I will plan to livestream for folks – but all are welcome at the meeting too..

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
October 5, 2021 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Click here to join the meeting
mn@m.webex.com
Video Conference ID: 111 135 161 7
Alternate VTC instructions

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from September 15, 2021 Meeting
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development (OBD) Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.  The Importance of Broadband to Agriculture with Mike Johnson, Trailside Holsteins
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Overview of Treasury Guidance for Capital Projects Funding (OBD)
  • 11:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Mapping and Speed Goal
  • 11:20 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Break
  • 11:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Accessibility, Affordability and Education
  • 11:50 a.m. – 12:10 a.m.  Subgroup Update/Topic Discussion: Un/Underserved and Funding
  • 12:10 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Next Steps for Subgroups
  • 12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, November Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

 

MN Broadband Task Force Sep Meeting: Education acerbated needs and creative tech solutions during pandemic

Today the MN Broadband Task Force heard from folks who work to help families and children get and use the technology they need – especially in these times of distance and hybrid learning. They also heard from folks involved with Blandin Foundation Accelerate!, a program that supported and recharged some of the least served communities in Minnesota. (Blandin in looking for a new cohort of Accelerate communities!)

Hand outs from the day:

TF Connected MN MN Broadband Task Force_09.15.21 Final
TF MilleLacs slides broadband task force 9.15.21
TF Online Learning Update – 9-2021

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force July 2021: Automated Vehicles and interactive broadband maps

The MN Broadband Task Force got an update from the MN Office of Broadband Development. Because new funding for grants will be coming from federal sources it sounds like funds will not be released in 2021. The also heard from the State Connected & Automated Vehicles Office and their need for fiber. CAVX is interested in partnering with the Task Force to get better info and better fiber throughout the state. Finally they heard from CNS about their interactive broadband maps.

Continue reading

EVENTS TODAY: MN Broadband Task Force & Blandin Lunch Bunch

A reminder to check out the Task Force meeting this morning and then join us for a late Lunch Bunch to talk about it…

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversations or lunch bunch sessions. This month the second Lunch Bunch, which focuses on Digital Use and Inclusion, falls on the same day of the MN Broadband Task Force meeting. The Task Force goes from 10am to 12:30 pm. The Lunch Bunch goes from noon to 1pm. So I had an idea. I propose that folks join me at the Task Force (when you can) and that we meet for Lunch Bunch after.

The Task Force holds space at the end of each meeting for public comments. They almost never get comments but I think they would be well served by hearing from folks on the frontlines who need better broadband. So if you have a story to share – I especially invite you to join me in the meeting. If you are interested in watching but not being seen, I livestream the meetings on Facebook too.

Once the Task Force meeting ends, I will pop into the Lunch Bunch meeting and Mary Magnuson has kindly offered to hold open that space until I get there. And I figure we can talk about the Task Force meeting and/or anything related to the Task Force. Over the years I have attended most of the Task Force meetings through the many iterations of the group.

Register now!

EVENT July 28: MN Broadband Task Force July Meeting

The MN Broadband Task Force is meeting next Wednesday. It is open to the public and there is always time for public comment. I will be livestreaming via Facebook too for folks who don’t want to join the meeting…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
July 28, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
ZoomGov meeting
Join on your computer or mobile app
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
(669) 254-5252
Meeting ID: 161 491 0984
Passcode: 258350

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from June 14, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  OBD Update

  • Angie Dickison, OBD Executive Director
  • Diane Wells, OBD Deputy Director

10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Connecting Minnesota: MnDOT’s Fiber Optic Partnership Study

  • Kristin R. White, Executive Director, Connected & Automated Vehicles Office (CAV-X)

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. CNS Broadband Operations Map Demo

  • Paul Solsrud, Product Manager, Cooperative Network Services, LLC

11:50 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.   Subgroup Updates

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, September Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

 

MN Broadband Task Force June 2021: broadband and people with disabilities, Emergency Broadband Benefits and MN Leg Update

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force met. They heard from Arc Minnesota on the impact of broadband (good and bad) on people with autism and other disabilities. They also heard from someone from the FCC on the ins and outs on the Emergency Broadband Benefits. They got an update on broadband in the MN legislature, combined with a comment at the end meeting on federal funding. The concern is that funding for MN grants has moved from Ag bill to Infrastructure bonding. The good news is that the Senate has greatly increased their proposed budget for broadband. The bad news is that is likely a starting/bargaining place. The other bad news is that changes in federal policy and lack of specificity in eligible households may create a conflict between what MN and the Feds are doing.

Full notes:

Legislative Update

Today is first day of special session. Workgroups have met behind closed doors. It’s been slow. End of fiscal year is June 30.

Broadband has been confusing. They kept the Office of Broadband Development budget in Ag and program budget (grants) is now in infrastructure. The OBD budget is pretty much set but the grant funding is still in play. Senate wants to put $179 million (entire infrastructure budget) into broadband.

Q: What about the need for majority votes?
A: Not sure how that plays out when this is federal funds into bonding.

Broadband is bipartisan so the hope is that this is something they will push through.

Q: Should the Task Force send a letter?
A: Good point.

PRESENTATION

Presentation by Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer, The Arc Minnesota and Maren Christenson, Multicultural Autism Action Network/Arc Minnesota Board of Directors

We address the needs of kids with autism, who often come from families without a lot of resources .Access to broadband is a big part of providing services.

One big barrier for our clients is stigma.

Programmatic Values:

  • Human and Civil Rights
  • Self-Advocacy and Self Direction
  • Equity and Belonging
  • Racial and Disability Justice

Broadband Access and the Disability Community

  • Education
  • Healthcare and quality
  • Neighborhood and built environment
  • Social and community context
  • Economic stability

Online tools (such as Zoom meetings) have made things more accessible for some people, depending on disability and broadband access.

You might think that most people with people disabilities live in the Twin Cities. Percentage-wise that isn’t true and comparing maps you can see there are some areas with low broadband and high disability percentage.

Policy Recommendations

  • OBD job opportunities for people with disabilities
  • Interagency collaboration
  • Representation for people with disabilities on Task Force
  • Broadband grants – consider weighting grants based on work with people with disabilities
  • K12 Connect Forward Initiative
  • Grants to Supplement tech access
  • Ongoing tech support

PRESENTAION

FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Presentation by Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

What is EBB? (Learn more: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit) It can mean:

  • $50/month subsidy for broadband – but paid to provider
  • $75/month subsidy for broadband on tribal area
  • $100 one-time discount for computer if you buy through your provider
  • (reduced bill for customer not a check)

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program?

A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

How long will this continue?

  • Until the funds run out OR six months after the Dep of Health decide the pandemic is over

SUBGROUP UPDATES

Yvonne:

  • Working on plans for an in-person meeting.
  • Heard from Chris Mitchell
  • Going to hear from Community Broadband Access Network

Nolan:

  • No recent meetings (although some met in May)
  • Looking for a speaker from industry – guy from Lumen didn’t work out
  • Paul Solsrud with talk about CNS mapping tool

Paul:

  • Nothing new to share

Updates:

  • They have maybe found someone to write the next task force report.
  • The July agenda is set

Biden made recommendations on America Rescue Funds. At first it looked good for broadband. But not they are focus on households without “reliable access to 25/3” and there’s no real definition for this. AND combine that with the movement at State level of funding from Ag to bond infrastructure – and we’re in danger of having funding get lost in the red tape.

July agenda

  • CNS (mapping)
  • Dep of Transportation (IoT)

MRBC Legislative Update: Special Session Broadband Funding

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Legislature Convenes Special Session
The Minnesota Legislature convened its first Special Session of 2021 on Monday, June 14, at the Capitol in Saint Paul. There is a lengthy list of things legislators need to accomplish, including the constitutionally mandated two-year budget and other priority items like an infrastructure (bonding) bill, police reform measures, various policy bills, a tax bill, and the governor’s emergency powers extension. The state will enter a government shutdown if a budget is not passed by July 1. If this seems like a lot to tackle in two weeks, you’re right. However, leaders expressed optimism this week that they believe the job can be done.
Broadband in the Bonding Bill
Funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program was moved from the Agriculture Committee to the Capital Investment Committee. Legislative leaders said after the regular session ended that the funding will be in the bonding bill and would come from the Capital Projects Fund given to the state through the federal American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress earlier this year. The agreement at the end of the regular session was $70 million over the next two years. A bonding bill requires a supermajority vote in both chambers, so it is more difficult to pass.
Note: Even though the funding is in the bonding bill, the money will not come from state bonds. It will simply be an item within the bonding bill.
We expect House and Senate Capital Investment Committee Chairs will exchange offers several times during the next two weeks, so funding levels and location may change! However, we believe broadband is in the strongest possible position to receive a significant investment.
Call to Action
Keep an eye out for a Call-to-Action letter-writing soon. We will send this out via the Coalition list sometime this week. So, be prepared to have your organization’s members write and call their legislators and the governor about why broadband funding is so important!

EVENT June 14: MN Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

Everyone is welcome and they always leave room for public comments. I plan to livestream on Facebook too…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

June 14, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

ZoomGov meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Or call in (audio only)

(669) 254-5252

Meeting ID: 161 548 9756

Passcode: 543376

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from May 24, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Legislative Update by Deven Bowdry, DEED

10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Presentation by Alicia Munson, Chief Program Officer, The Arc Minnesota and Maren Christenson, Multicultural Autism Action Network/Arc Minnesota Board of Directors

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Presentation by Dave Savolaine, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, FCC

11:50 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Subgroup Updates

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, July Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

MN Broadband Task Force Mtg May 2021 Notes: Fixed Wireless & State Demographer

Today the Task Force heard from a panel of Fixed Wireless providers. They spoke about advanced in wireless technologies and the range of customers they have. The also heard from Susan Brower, State Demographer. We learned that the state is growing but at a slower rate and that growth is uneven. There’s more growth in urban areas.

Here’s the whole lineup including some of Susan’s slides:

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from April 5, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Update on 2021 MN Legislation Deven Bowdry, DEED

Session ended May 17 with no action. But Senate, House and Gov agreed on $70 million over biennium for broadband – not sure if it’s State of Federal funding yet. Funding will not be included in Sen Westrom’s Ag bill. They passed a policy-only bill with nothing related to broadband. It will likely become an infrastructure bill. Spreadsheets expected May 28; June 4 bill language is due; Special session is June 14 – with all new bill numbers.

10:15 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Fixed Wireless Panel – Luke Johnson, Broadband Operations Manager, Meeker Cooperative Light & Power – VIBRANT Broadband Terry Nelson GM/VP, Woodstock Communications Mary Lodin, CEO/Partner and Jay Mankie, CTO/Partner, Genesis Wireless, Tim Johnson, Operations Manager, MVTV Wireless

Questions:

Can fixed wireless provide symmetrical services?
Only at lower speeds 10/10, 20/20 even 50/50 but not up to 100/100

How much is fixed wireless?
$39.95/month to 99.95 – we really need to average $50 per customers to remain sustainable.
We have 300-400 people who only use email; we have others that seem to stream constantly.
Folks can get 25 Mbps for $35/month.
Woodstock has a service that starts at $24.95/month. It’s a legacy from a Moose Lake municipal service and it’s mostly seniors who only email. No streaming.
If we want symmetrical speeds we have to go with fiber.
If someone wants a light package we can serve northern areas but the trees make it difficult. They try to map accordingly.
Costs can be high for end users – and sometimes we need to go to them to help pay for those costs and people do it – especially with fiber? Do people really need FTTH or do the hybrid solutions work.
It might be helpful to have a “bank” of funds to help offset some of these installation costs for folks who need it.

How has COVID impacted demand?
Many people now know they can work from home and many of them will continue working from home. That might not be the case with students.
Evening hours are the busiest for most providers. They built the network for those nighttime peaks; so we were ready for the shift to day time use. For most, they got new customers and upgraded existing customers.
Learned that we need to deploy quicker in rural areas. They were installing 7 days a week. They’re still seeing growth and people are not getting the lower packages; the buy at higher levels.
Sometimes you can get around obstacles.

How can we help you?
What about a program that helps upgrade existing customers? Rather than introduce a faster competitor, but look at who is the incumbents and how can the State help make them faster. Especially in areas where you might have 4 customers per square mile. The customer is there – we just need to upgrade.
Need better education. Wireless had gotten a bad rap – and there are good ways and bad ways to build it. The new technology is a very good solution.

How many residents actually need a Gig – we have to quick chasing these numbers. Getting to 100/100 with today’s technology is difficult but providers feel they can get there in the future. Not sure about higher speeds.

Cost to build a tower:
In Meeker $120,000
300 ft tower $100-175,000
And there’s a 50 percent increase in steel costs

How do you deal with businesses in range but out of line of sight?
We work with them – taking down trees or extending existing towers.

11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower

Minnesota had growth but it has slowed, as has the US growth. Our population is getting older. (More people living longer than babies born.) Most growth is in 7-metro counties and up the Highway 94 core. IN rural areas – there’s not as much growth but these areas are not quickly emptying out. It’s more of a stability that most people think.

In rural areas – we are seeing population declines, albeit modest decline. It has picked up in some areas in the last decade. Entirely urban areas are growing.

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, June Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

What are we going to do with RDOF? Can we get the legislature to look at the problem of RDOF closing the door on so many communities that night have qualified for Border to Border grants and are now left in the lurch.