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.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Releases Annual Report

The Broadband Task Force report is out. Below the press release, I will post links to notes on the meetings the Task Force held in 2016 if you want a flavor of how they come up with the recommendations…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Releases Annual Report

~Report contains policy recommendations, including ongoing biennial funding of $100 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program~

ST. PAUL – The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband released its annual report today, which includes recommendations for Gov. Mark Dayton, the Legislature and other policymakers to consider during the 2017 legislative session.

The recommendations outlined in the report are aimed at ensuring every Minnesotan has access to broadband and the ability to use it. The recommendations include $100 million in ongoing funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grand Development Program and $10 million in operating funds for the Office of Broadband Development, located within the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

“Last year, we made strides with the largest investment in the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program to date, but we know there’s more work to be done to achieve our goal of broadband access for every Minnesotan,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. “Broadband plays a vital role in connecting people to health care, education and the global economy. The recommendations in our report will continue to move us closer to the border-to-border broadband access we need to succeed now and into the future.”

“Our goal is to make high-speed broadband accessible to every home, school, business and community in the state, particularly in Greater Minnesota,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “This is an important tool that will not only improve the quality of life of all Minnesotans, but will be an investment in the future economic development of our state.”

The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, created by the Legislature in 2014 and initially funded at $20 million, provides funding to build the state’s broadband infrastructure and promote broadband access in unserved and underserved areas of the state. The grants provide up to a dollar-for-dollar match on funds, not to exceed $5 million for any one project, and are distributed to qualified entities.

Minnesota’s universal broadband access and speed goals, updated in the 2016 legislative session, specify that all businesses and homes should have access to high-speed broadband services at a download speed of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second by 2022. These speeds are in alignment with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition of high-speed broadband.

By 2026, the recently adopted state speed goals provide that all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second. Ongoing funding to support the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is critical to incent providers to build to these new and faster state speed goals, especially in the most rural areas of Minnesota.

The Task Force recommendation to allocate $10 million in operating funds to the Office of Broadband Development recognizes that specific and targeted policies and programs can effectively aid the adoption of broadband and assist in deployment.

Additional policy recommendations include:

1. Take action to promote and communicate “dig once” policies

  1. Establish a legislative cybersecurity commission for the purpose of information sharing, monitoring workforce issues, and supporting and strengthening infrastructure
  2. Continue to monitor advancing telecommunications technologies
  3. Amend building codes to require that multi-tenant housing units funded with public dollars deploy cabling that supports easier management of broadband connectivity
  4. Build computer donation partnerships between state agencies and community-based organizations that get computers into the hands of those who need them
  5. Modify the state Telecommunications Assistance Program to better align with the national Lifeline program to subsidize the cost of broadband service for low income households
  6. Support continued funding of Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA)
  7. Fully fund Telecommunications Access Equity Aid

The full report can be found here.

Task Force meetings:

2016 MN Broadband Task Force final draft is approved

Today the MN Broadband Task Force met for the final time in 2016. They combed through the latest iteration of their big report and approved the final version. They didn’t make a lot of changes from the earlier version. The big news remains the same – “$10 million for the OBD and $100 million ($50 million per year for the biennium) for grants.”

There was a lot of tension between the provider representatives and the community representatives – but there were a few points of agreement too.

One umbrella issue is the tension between what is currently available in some communities (with low population density) and compared to what is available (or may soon be available) in more densely populated areas. To illustrate –apartments in Uptown Minneapolis are part of a pilot test of mmWave fast wireless (I saw 700 Mbps speeds) – while people living between towns near St Cloud are having trouble getting the connections they need to run home-based businesses.

This tension emerged when discussing  the definition section of the report. Details like – how fast is DSL? – were not easy to answer, and there’s good reason for it. Searching for “how fast is DSL?” on Google, here’s a blurb from the first result (pretty similar to other results)…

Additionally, actual DSL speeds vary between households. Factors affecting DSL speed include:

  • Quality of the phone line at your residence. Neighborhoods with better copper wiring can achieve somewhat faster DSL speeds.

  • Length of the phone line between the residence and the phone company hub (often called “central office”). DSL technology is “distance sensitive” because its performance decreases significantly as you get further away from this hub.

  • Service glitches. While normally a constant, DSL speed can suddenly drop if the service provider has technical difficulty with their network. Speeds should return to normal after a few minutes or hours.

Note – no actual speeds given. People may know how fast their DSL is or isn’t – and the range of speeds is almost as extreme as difference in cost between eloping and marrying reigning monarch (or Kardashian). Averaging out the speed/cost doesn’t help. If you live next to the phone company and they have fiber to the node with DSL to your house, you will have a great connection. If you live on the outskirts or out of town, your speeds will not be good.

In my experience people in rural areas, especially those on the outskirts, understand this phenomenon better than we do in the city – because it doesn’t impact us.  They live it and you’ll hear stories of people who go home (or go to work) to download large files or upgrade software because they live/work on the wrong side of the DSL distance demarcation for quality service.

The same issue comes up with other technologies too. It’s really not that anyone is wrong – just that the answers are not simple and are not the same for each location. So what’s the right answer? The Task Force, feeling the pinch of the deadline, decided to use the same definitions they used last year and work to make it better for the next report.

Read on for full notes and video… Continue reading

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting Notes: request $100 million for grants and $10 million for Office of Broadband Development

The Task Force met today to hammer out their report. The different committees had submitted their section drafts to John Dukich (from MHTA) to combined them, select recommendations to include and write portions of the report to meet the need. Today they met to modify/approve his draft in their committees then read the report together for any edits or modifications.

Then they met to discuss recommendations, including how much to request for the Office of Broadband Development budget and future grants. After much heated debate they agreed to recommend $10 million for the OBD and $100 million ($50 million per year) for grants.

The debate was about how much to request for grants. Some folks felt that with an expected dip in the State budget that $100 million would be more palatable than the $200 million request last year. Others felt that the outstanding need demanded more funding. It was surprising that many of the providers at the table were most vocal about wanting the lower amount, especially since it seems that the money would likely be invested in their industry.

Here’s the copy of the draft report; you can see video of much of the meeting below.


And here are my notes…  Continue reading

November 2 Minnesota Broadbdand Task Force agenda

I plan to attend and take notes…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 2, 2016
Minnesota Senate Office Building-Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155

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.  Update from the Office of Broadband Development (OBD)
  • 10:30 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.  Task Force Review and Discussion of Draft Report Content
  • 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Lunch
  • 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Task Force Discussion of Policy Recommendations
  • 2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.  Task Force Discussion on Finalizing Report—What and Who
  • 2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Wrap-up, Plans for December Meeting, Adjourn