MN Broadband Task Force October Meeting Notes: Lessons from libraries and speed goals

Yesterday at the Minnesota Broadband Task Force, the task force members heard about broadband in the libraries. I think there are some lessons to be learned from the libraries (in the spirit of full disclosure I was a librarian and have a Master’s degree in Library and Info Science). Libraries do a good job gathering stories and have data ready for legislators when it comes time for funding. Also they have worked a deal where federal and state funding work together to optimize opportunities for patrons.

The Task Members talked a bit about the report they will be writing in the next few months but the real discussion centered on updating the broadband speed goals.

Draft language for speed goals was introduced…

Minnesota defines broadband as an always-on internet connection with advertised speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. By 2020, all homes and business will have affordable access to service that meets this minimum speed. Also by 2020, at least 80% of MN households and businesses will have access to at least one provider of broadband with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload.

Spirited conversation ensued. Below is a video of the discussion, the audio is the best I could do.

Read on for more complete notes from the meeting. I am hoping to get PowerPoints from more presenter to share and will add them when/if I do. Continue reading

Advice for broadband-seeking communities – be prepared, be vocal: MN State Bar Association Forum

Today I attended the MN State Bar Association Communications Annual Forum. It’s always an interesting event, perhaps because the technical and wonky people are pretty plain spoken and the policymakers are pretty frank.

I have my full notes below but wanted to start with a few highlights:

  • There was a general recognition from the policymakers that broadband lost momentum in the Legislature. Too many people thought greater funding for next year was a forgone conclusion. To stop that from happening people need to contact their representatives early and often. (Think of your representative as your lobbyist!)
  • The Broadband Task Force is going to focus on changing the speeds goals and helping schools optimize e-rate funding.
  • We need to do more teaching to policymakers and others. Technology can be difficult to understand – we need to make the nuances accessible. (For example wireless connections require wired infrastructure.)
  • A basic question came up – is broadband a utility? It’s difficult to promote it as a utility and promote competition.

Continue reading

Minnesota Broadband Task Force June Meeting: Introductions and new members

I didn’t attend the Broadband Task Force yesterday, but I did get notes to share. And I’ve been to a few meetings so I fleshed it out a little. The meeting is the first for the latest iteration of the Task Force. A couple of bright spots include – the added focus on broadband availability and the interest in redressing state speed goals, which were defined more than a few years ago now.

The meeting opened with introductions of Task Force members. You can see list of members; about half are new, especially when you know that one of the new really served as substitute for a former member most of the time.)

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who remains Task Force Chair, gave an introduction to the Task Force, including a history and talk on their mandate. I’ll borrow from the Task Force website to fill in…

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband develops policies to promote the expansion of broadband access throughout Minnesota.

The task force is responsible for developing an action plan to identify and correct disparities in access and adoption of broadband in all Minnesota communities, with a goal of ensuring that homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses have access to the technology and information resources they need.

The goal is to focus on broadband access, adoption and affordability. One bright spot is the addition of affordability to the shortlist. Again having been to a lot of meetings, I can tell you that affordability often comes up but few groups have resigned to take it on I think it part because affordable can be subjective. I heard someone in a meeting in Chisago Lakes correct himself and change “affordable” to competitive. I think that was an astute correction.

The spoke about who was the audience for the work of the Task Force:

  • Governor
  • Legislature
  • Other policy makers

These are the folks who read the reports generated by the Task Force and it seems like th Task Force gets the opportunity to speak to/with these groups on various occasions.

Danna MacKenzie gave and introduction to the Office of Broadband Development. Again I’ll borrow from the website to flesh out the answer…

Border-to-border high-speed Internet access is the goal throughout Minnesota. The Office of Broadband Development helps Minnesota residents understand broadband options available.

The OBD is a resource to Task Force. For example, Jane Leonard is drafting white papers on the economic impact of BB to MN’s economy. It’s due out in the fall and could help inform the Task Force report and recommendations.

They reviewed the 2015 work plan.

The recognized 2015 priorities:

  • 1) Make new recommendation for new speed goals for MN (TF will address at July meeting , and pick up discussion at Sept TF mtg)
  • 2) Set goals for K-12 connectivity

The Task Force will again do much of their work in sub-committees and members will figure out which committees they would like to join before the next meeting.

Advice to the MN Broadband Task Force from Teresa Kittridge

The new Minnesota Broadband Task Force members were unveiled earlier this month. It looks like a good group of smart people and I think we will see exciting things – but I figure everyone can use a little advice, so last week at the Broadband Conference I got advice from a few more folks including Teresa Kittridge of MNREM.

Advice to the MN Broadband Task Force from Jack Geller

The new Minnesota Broadband Task Force members were unveiled earlier this month. It looks like a good group of smart people and I think we will see exciting things – but I figure everyone can use a little advice, so last week at the Broadband Conference I got advice from a few more folks including original Task Force Member, Jack Geller.

Advice to the MN Broadband Task Force from Chris Mitchell

I’ve been gathering advice for the newly names Minnesota Broadband Task Force. Not everyone with good advice is a former Task Force member. I’ve been able to talk to a few other smart people as well, such as Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Locally based, Chris is a national figure in the field of municipal/community networks. We weren’t able to meet for a video – but Chris was kind enough to send some advice in writing for the new Broadband Task Force…

Any community that has the willingness to invest in itself should have that right. There is no reason for the state to prefer that massive out-of-state companies will  build better networks than the communities themselves. The community has a much greater incentive to invest today and
tomorrow
 in modern technologies. Whereas private companies are looking for handouts to serve places like Sibley County, Sibley County is just looking for the state to get out of the way.

Requiring a 65% referendum for a community to build its own network is ludicrous — and it is Minnesota law. We are the only state in the nation with a supermajority requirement for a community to build essential infrastructure. I have been closely following a community broadband battle in Longmont, where their massively successful referendum campaign got 60% of the vote — a loser in Minnesota. Despite absolutely no support from any local leaders, Comcast was able to get 40% support by simply outspending the grassroots community broadband movement $300,000 to $5,000.  In modern elections, such a referendum is a barrier, not a barometer of
public sentiment.

Removing this barrier to local authority for community broadband will not bring border to border broadband — many communities simply do not want to take on the responsibility of building a next-generation networks — but it will certainly bring us closer, and it will bring much better networks to those communities that are willing to step up and invest in themselves.

Advice to the MN Broadband Task Force from Brent Christenson

If you’ve been reading the blog lately, you’ve probably picked up that I’ve been collecting advice for the newly named Minnesota Broadband Task Force. It’s a testament to the effort and previous task forces that busy people have been so generous with their time. We’ve heard from Mike O’Connor and a conversation with Rick King and JoAnne Johnson.

I was also able to catch up with Brent Christenson, who, like JoAnne, served are the original and second Broadband Task Force. I was able to meet with Brent in New Ulm. I think he offers good advice both as a former member but also as someone who is out on the frontlines talking to providers on a daily basis.