MN Broadband Task Force: Fixed wireless, satellite, CAF and MN grant challenge process

Today the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met; the topics of the day were fixed wireless and satellite. It was interesting to hear from the various vendors. In short they got an update on what’s going on with fixed wireless and then a demo of satellite. (There was public feedback in the form of letters that came in from rural satellite users.)

I think most folks in the room would agree that this is the B-side of broadband. (There might not be agreement on whether they will stay on the B-side.) These are the folks that are interested in serving rural areas and/or in playing the role of competitor to an incumbent provider. We heard dismay at how CAF money is being spent on expanding slower connections – rather than upgrading services. The presenters attract customers who have slow connections and whose providers have said they have no plans to upgrade. They see the frustration and are able to capitalize on it by offering service that they say is better.

One red flag was a discussion on the CBRS (citizen band radio spectrum) and fear that the government may sell that public property to the highest bidder. A bidder that may choose to not use the spectrum. The problem is that can keep the competition away – leaving community members with limited choice for broadband.

Folks were also talking about the grant challenge process for the MN broadband funds in light of what’s happening in Kandiyohi County. (I will try to get more details on what’s going on there.) The issue is that a grant applicant must inform an incumbent (or nearby) provider if they intend to seek funds to upgrade service. Then the incumbent/nearby provider has a chance to challenge. One issue is that even if they don’t challenge – they know competition is coming, which means they can make just enough changes to make it difficult for the newcomer to the area. (Discussion at 3:30 in video below.)

Lots of interesting discussion….

 Here are more detailed notes… Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting – Aug 16 in St Paul

I plan to be there. I plan to take notes and record/livestream technology and broadband permitting…

Governor’s Broadband Task Force
August 16, 2017
Minnesota Senate Office Building –Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155

10:00 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. –10:10 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comment
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Fixed Wireless Panel
    • Tim Johnson, MVTV Wireless
    • Paul Hess, Advantenon
    • Dave Giles, Invisimax
    • Steve Schneider, Bug Tussel Wireless
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Lunch (Governor’s Dining Room–basement of the Capitol on tunnel level)
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Satellite Demonstration
    • Megan Kueck, Manager, State and Local Affairs, Satellite Communications and Broadcasting Association
  • 1:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Wrap-Up, Discussion of September Meeting, Adjourn
  • 1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Subcommittee Work Time

MN Broadband Task Force July 2017 – telehealth saves money and lives

Yesterday the MN Broadband Task Force met at the new Essentia Hospital in Sandstone. It’s a beautiful location with a fiber connection symmetrical 100 Mbps connection. And they’re making good use of that connection saving money and making lives better.

I have video of most of the meeting. We learned a lot about telehealth – but there were a few details that stuck out for me.

  • More people in rural areas come to health care facilities with a stroke. Treatment has traditionally been slower for them. Every 15 minutes a patient with a stroke goes untreated the situation becomes more dire. Telestroke technology (and promotion of it) cuts that time and helps people get better.
  • Hospitals don’t just share images faster with faster broadband – they share more, giving a fuller view of any problem.
  • There aren’t enough healthcare professionals – especially specialists – to go around in rural areas. Telehealth provides an opportunity for one specialist to serve many facilities.
  • Communities in rural areas without broadband are envious of communities with cooperatives because they feel they would get better service. Communities are worried that broadband expansions paid for with CAF 2 (federal) funding will leave some communities with worse infrastructure for longer periods. They are especially worried about upload speeds. (CAF 2 funding only requires a provide to expand/upgrade to 10/1 service. And really 4/1 service is some areas.)
  • Minnesota does not allow for bonding for technology (software or hardware) but perhaps there’s an opening to discuss bonding for broadband.


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July Broadband Task Force in Luverne – notes from a provider

Last month the Broadband Task Force met in Luverne. They heard from Alliance Communications and SDN. (I posted notes from the meeting last month.) SND posted their notes from the meeting (including video). It’s always nice to have another view. Here’s a snippet…

Gov. Mark Dayton’s Broadband Taskforce visited Luverne on June 28. It heard from Alliance Communications on how the Garretson, SD, -based company serves rural Minnesota residents thanks to a $12.8 million Border-to-Border Broadband state grant and an additional $1 million Rock County grant.

The taskforce also heard how the Southern Minnesota Broadband (SMB) partnership doing business as SDN Communications interconnects six Minnesota and one northern Iowa independent telephone companies to improve connectivity and long-term economic viability for the region.

SDN account executive Ryan Dutton works from his home office in Blue Earth, Minn. He told the committee a personal story about how these projects are economic drivers for rural America.

“I know a lot of my peer group who grew up in Faribault County would come back to Faribault County if there were jobs and opportunities to do so,” Dutton said. “I think home offices with broadband infrastructure might be one of the real drivers in the next decade to maintain the intellectual investment [the communities] make in the young people to have them come back.”

Minnesota Broadband Task Force: A deep look into grant funding FTTH Rock County

Yesterday most of the Task Force made the long drive to meet in Rock County – the southwestern corner of Minnesota. The Rock County team was very generous with sharing the details of their FTTH project, which received a Round One Border to Border grant. Details include financial details. Here are just a few I thought were interesting (some learned on the bus tour, some during their formal presentation):

  • Cost per mile $23,652
  • Cost per customer (1100) $11,417
  • ROI – 9.51 years
  • Take rate – 80 percent
  • 15 percent of drops were to non-home, non-business sites (Internet of Things to be!)

We also got a tour of the area and heard from folks who have benefitted from the project. I hope the audio is good enough. While I enjoyed all of the tours – one striking point came from the local radio station. They had been paying $2000/month before the fiber install;  now they pay $85/month for a much better connection.

The ROI above is from the cooperative that did the work (Alliance Communication). It would be so interesting to find a way calculate the community ROI – a line item budget reduction from $2000 to $85 is pretty amazing.

Here are full notes and videos: Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force meeting June 28 (tomorrow) in Luverne

I’m on the road to Luverne now. If you get in the car you can join the meeting too. Or I’ll take notes and post.

Here’s the agenda…

Governor’s Broadband Task Force
June 28, 2017
Herreid Board Meeting Room – Rock County Courthouse
204 East Brown Street
Luverne, MN 56156

10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. –10:15 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comments
  • 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Alliance Communications – Rock County Broadband Alliance Grant Project Overview
  • 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Project Impact Statements:
    • Dr. Richard Morgan (medical)
    • Eric Sandbulte, John Deere Implement (farm/ag)
    • Bill Rolfs, Network Administrator Pipestone Veterinarian Systems
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Working Lunch – Report Outs by Subcommittee
  • 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Project Impact Statements – Site Tours
    • KQAD Radio Station – Steve Graphenteen, General Mgr.
    • Skattum Confinement Systems – Brad Bergman, General Mgr.
    • Hills-Beaver Creek Schools – Todd Holthaus, Superintendent
    • Jim Veldkamp, Farm/Livestock Operation
  • 3:00 p.m. Adjourn

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting: Digital Inclusion

Today the Broadband Task Force met at SPNN (St Paul Neighborhood Network), home to CTEP, which manages a number of tech-focused AmeriCorps members. What they really got was a partial sneak preview of next week’s national Net Inclusion conference.

They heard about tools such as the Northstar Digital Standards, CTEP Portal for online digital inclusion lessons, storytelling classes and tools and stories of success. They also got a taste of what it’s like to be on the far end of the digital divide when they tried to write a resume on their smartphone or learn how to knit in Spanish. Fun projects that successfully made the point that digital inclusion is hard when it’s entirely new to you, the language may be new and you may or may not be a motivated learner. There are some smart cookies on the Task Force – but very few future knitters at least not after their 5-minute lesson today.

There was also a legislative up – in the video below.

Continue reading