Dakota County (MN) Commissioner Slavik to serve on national broadband task force

I mentioned this the other day – but always happy to celebrate a Minnesotan doing national broadband work. With a thanks to Dakota County for the heads up…

Dakota County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Slavik has been appointed to a national task force that will study the lack of reliable broadband internet access and make recommendations to improve connectivity. Slavik is one of four Minnesota county officials on the National Association of Counties’ task force that includes 36 members from 21 states.

The task force was established following the release of a report by NACo and partner organizations earlier this year that found that 65 percent of U.S. counties experience the internet at speeds below a minimum standard, and 77 percent of rural counties operate below the standard.

The task force will focus on challenges facing rural communities and other underserved areas.

Slavik represents townships and rural communities in Dakota County’s District 1 as well as the cities of Farmington and Hastings. Many areas of Dakota County lack commercial broadband access and reliable internet connectivity, affecting businesses, government, schools and residents.

Improving broadband connectivity has been a priority for Dakota County. The Dakota Broadband Board is a partnership of the county, the Dakota County Community Development Agency and 10 cities within the county. The board manages and expands public-owned telecommunications fiber, and is working with commercial network and internet service providers to provide service to underserved areas.

“I hope to share our successes with others on the task force and help find solutions to improve access here in Dakota County and elsewhere,” Slavik said of his task force appointment.

Lack of reliable broadband can be a major barrier for students learning remotely, residents seeking medical consultation by video and business owners with online transactions. Without access to high-speed internet, many rural communities — and even pockets in urban areas — are isolated and left behind. A 2018 study conducted by Microsoft concluded that 19 million rural Americans do not use broadband, largely due to a lack of access.

“Our new task force will examine the intersection of public and private sector efforts to deploy broadband networks and create a blueprint for local governments to help bridge the digital divide,” said task force co-chair J.D. Clark, a judge in Wise County, Texas.

MN House 22B candidate Lynn Herrick lists broadband as a top priority

Montevideo American News posts candidate profiles, including one for Minnesota House 22B candidate: Lynn Herrick, who lists broadband as a top priority…

If you are elected, what would your top priority be for the 2021 state legislative session?

My two biggest priorities are broadband internet and accessible healthcare. This pandemic has demonstrated how much our region is dependent on better internet. After six years of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Program, there should be better internet for all of us. We need to better support this as it is essential for families, schools, governments, farms and businesses. The other priority is affordable insurance. Often times small businesses owners are offering insurance to their limited number of employees that have large deductibles or copays. This is what the business owners are doing to keep cost down for the business and employees, but often the insurances are not being used because of the high cost to the employees. That needs to be fixed especially in this time of COVID.

Rep Sundin promotes better broadband as a priority for MN State House 11A

WDIO has been reporting on many Minnesota Elections. Today they report on the race for Minnesota state House district 11A between DFL incumbent Mike Sundin and his republican challenger Jeff Dotseth. Sundin mentions broadband is a priority…

The district covers portions of St. Louis county, Carlton county, parts of Pine county and certain precincts in Sturgeon Lake. We heard from DFL incumbent Mike Sundin and his republican challenger Jeff Dotseth.

Incumbent Mike Sundin says that broadband concerns are going to be a topic of prioritization.

“As far as projects we need to address and issues we need to address moving forward, I think broadband is going to be a critical issue that we deal with,” says Sundin. “Certainly expansion of broadband throughout the state is very, very necessary. Not only for schools but for tele-medicine and any communication that’s critical for the elderly.”
Republican challenger Jeff Dotseth highlighted the importance of mining efforts in the region.

Senator Tina Smith champions increased in investment in telehealth

Senator Tina Smith has a letter to the editor in The Hill, detailing the need for another round of COVID19 telehealth funding…

Unfortunately, by July, the funds were depleted after being distributed to hundreds of providers in 47 states and Washington, D.C. That’s why earlier this month, I joined with Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to introduce the bipartisan COVID-19 Telehealth Program Extension Act to invest an additional $200 million so that many more providers can deliver telehealth services during the pandemic. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) have also introduced a bipartisan House companion bill.

This new funding is especially needed now, as we enter the cold winter months with the country experiencing a significant surge in infections and deaths.

As I’ve tracked the success of the FCC’s telehealth program in my home state of Minnesota, providers of all sizes — from the Mayo Clinic to a small rural tribal provider — tell me how valuable it has been for their patients in overcoming barriers to getting the care they need during this pandemic.

One senior clinical psychologist said telehealth has been “transformative,” by eliminating transportation as a barrier to seeing a doctor. She told me that “among my patients, the mere thought of having to take multiple modes of transportation to access health care is enough to cease the pursuit of care.” Transportation is an especially acute problem in rural areas, where patients often have to travel long distances for services, with very few public transportation options available.

Another Minnesota provider told me that telehealth has allowed her “to reach more patients, while providing the same level of care.” Still another said their clinicians were able to use telehealth services to increase patient contacts, resulting in a 38 percent drop in their “no-show” rates for appointments over two months.

Telehealth also eases the fears of those with preexisting health problems, by allowing them to avoid the risk of visiting a hospital or clinic during the pandemic. And, for parents who lack childcare, it allows them to get health services without the burden of having to arrange for their children’s care while they see their provider in person.

Investing in Telehealth Beyond the Pandemic

As a member of the Senate Health Committee, I’ve championed telehealth because it’s proving to be an important tool in closing some of the most significant gaps in patients’ access to health care services. And it can continue to serve as a lifeline and address social determinants of health, not only during this pandemic, but into the future.

Rep Sandstede promotes a push for broadband expansion

Duluth News Tribune offers a candidate guide for Minnesota House District 6A, a race against Robert Farnsworth and Julie Sandstede. Sanstede mentions broadband as a priority…

Economic recovery for families and small businesses will be my priority. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! I will work to accomplish this by collaborating with colleagues on both sides of the aisle for an expansion of grants and loans to businesses available through the state and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. I will push for an expansion of broadband and connectivity services in the region to draw in new businesses and provide opportunity for those working from home.

NACo Forms Broadband Task Force – including 4 Minnesotans!

The National Association of Counties (NACo) announces

National Association of Counties (NACo) President Gary Moore today announced the formation of a broadband task force. The task force, comprised of nearly three dozen county government officials from across America, will study the lack of reliable broadband with a particular focus on the challenges facing underserved communities.

A report, titled Understanding the True State of Connectivity in America, released by NACo and partner organizations earlier this year, found that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. counties experience the internet at speeds below minimum standards set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with that number even higher in rural America, where 77 percent of counties operate below the FCC standard.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting families and businesses, the need for reliable high-speed internet is more acute than ever,” said Task Force Co-Chair Craig Rice, a Montgomery County, Md. council member. He noted that many people are attending school and working from home. Individuals and families are relying on the internet for remote health care and conducting transactions through e-commerce.

“Our new task force will examine the intersection of public and private sector efforts to deploy broadband networks and create a blueprint for local governments to help bridge the digital divide,” said Task Force Co-Chair J.D. Clark, the county judge in Wise County, Texas.

Local governments often face state-imposed limitations to expanding access to broadband connectivity. In 22 states, local governments are restricted from making investments in broadband infrastructure networks. NACo is working to pass federal legislation that would remove those barriers and expand broadband access.

Lack of reliable broadband is a major barrier to socioeconomic opportunity, education, health and overall quality of life. Without access to high-speed internet, many rural communities – and even pockets in urban areas – are isolated and left behind. A 2018 study conducted by Microsoft concluded that 19 million rural Americans do not use broadband, largely due to a lack of access. For these small communities, broadband can serve as a lifeline, connecting students to online degrees and connecting sick patients to medical consultation that is locally unavailable.

High-speed internet is also consistently identified as a top challenge facing small businesses in rural America and stifles entrepreneurship by limiting the ability of individuals to take on independent work. In this economy, broadband is critical to building resilient and future ready communities.

See the full list of broadband task force members here. To explore all of NACo’s broadband resources, visit www.naco.org/broadband.

Here are the members from Minnesota:

  • Terry Ocaña​
    IT Director, Chippewa County, MN​
  • Hon. Mike Slavik​
    Commissioner, Dakota County, Minn.  ​
  • Hon. Rich Sve​
    Commissioner, Lake County, Minn.  ​
  • Hon. Tarryl Clark​
    Commissioner, Stearns County, Minn.​

MN House 16B candidate Mindy Kimmel supports broadband

Montevideo American News features candidate profiles, including a feature on Mindy Kimmel, who is running for MN House 16B. She mentions broadband as a tool to promote economic development…

How as a state representative would you work to promote economic development?

Economic growth starts with supporting businesses and individuals in getting back to work. The smart approach includes ensuring rapid COVID testing is available as well as necessary protective equipment to keep workers safe. The Coronavirus pandemic highlighted many of the challenges that have been present for years. Lack of high speed broadband internet has prevented many students from distance learning and their parents from being able to work from home. Tying health insurance to employment resulted in those who were laid off losing the insurance for their families. I will work hard to ensure everyone has affordable healthcare regardless of employment status.

In race for District 6A in the Minnesota House of Representatives: Rep Sandstede promoted better broadband

Julie Sandstede and Rob Farnsworth are running for District 6A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Sandstede is the incumbent. WDIO reports on a recent look at both candidates. Rep Sandstede mentions broadband as a priority…

She said she decided to run for re-election because the work is not done. She wants to build out broadband to attract telecommuters to move north.

“We saw just a tremendous investment with Cliffs when they purchased Arcelor, and I think that there’s an opportunity with the Essar site, the Nashwauk site, to do some work there to bring some jobs in,” she said. “But we really need to be diversifying, we need to be inviting people. And it isn’t going to be big companies all the time. It could be smaller businesses.”

Dakota County (MN) Board District 7 election: Mary Hamann-Roland supports broadband

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press outlines candidate profiles for a number of election, including Dakota County Board, where Mary Hamann-Roland is running against Chris Gerlach. Hamann-Roland mentioned broadband as a top priority; Gerlach responses were not available.

What would your top priorities be if elected?
Promote economical broadband development through collaborative public/private partnerships for reliability & speed: Tele-Education, Telemedicine, Telework, Tele-services. Prioritize people-focused transportation, including safe pedestrian and bicycle corridors. Champion parks, trails & open green space for well-being & quality of life.

Senator Smith’s broadband history: bills and letters sponsored

I love when people send me updates! (That is a thinly veiled invitation to others, candidates, communities and vendors, to send updates too.) Earlier this week, I got a nice recap of Senator Tina’s Smith’s broadband history…

Here are a few things that Senator Smith has been working on.  You can also check her website for more details.

https://www.smith.senate.gov/search/node?keys=broadband

 

Senator Smith Bills Introduced

  • FCC Telehealth Program Funding – $200 million to reimburse healthcare providers for telehealth-related equipment and services.

Bills Senator Smith Cosponsored

  • Library Stabilization Fund Act of 2020 – $2 billion to help libraries expand educational resources (internet, devices, services) during the pandemic.
  • Keeping Critical Connections Act – $2 billion to reimburse small telecoms who voluntarily continue serving customers who are unable to pay their bills.
  • Emergency Broadband Connections Act – $8.8 billion to provide low- or no-cost broadband service for low-income families and laid off workers.
  • CARES Act – $25 million for telemedicine and distance learning in rural areas.
  • CARES Act – $100 million to expand broadband networks in rural areas.
  • CARES Act – $50 million for grants to museums and libraries ($225k granted to St. Paul Public Library, $200k granted to Weisman Art Museum).

Letters Senator Smith Cosponsored

  • Urged the FCC to provide connectivity directly to student homes during the pandemic.
  • Urged the FCC to coordinate with USDA to raise awareness about existing government subsidies that help low-income households afford broadband.
  • Urged the FCC to expand and improve low-income subsidies during the COVID-19 emergency.

Justice Department Sues Monopolist Google For Violating Antitrust Laws

Minnesota is not one of the state mentioned but I found this interesting. I have been buying Google ads for close to 20 years. I remember when AltaVista did it better and how the transparency changed when they disappeared.

The US Department of Justice reports…

Today, the Department of Justice — along with eleven state Attorneys General — filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms. The participating state Attorneys General offices represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives.  Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the Internet — for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people,” said Attorney General William Barr. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized the Department’s review of online market-leading platforms to ensure that our technology industries remain competitive.  This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist.”

“As with its historic antitrust actions against AT&T in 1974 and Microsoft in 1998, the Department is again enforcing the Sherman Act to restore the role of competition and open the door to the next wave of innovation—this time in vital digital markets,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.

As one of the wealthiest companies on the planet with a market value of $1 trillion, Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide. For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States and has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising.

As alleged in the Complaint, Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring that Google be set as the preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide and, in many cases, prohibiting preinstallation of a competitor. In particular, the Complaint alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search service.
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.
  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.
  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior.

Duluth News Tribune endorses Sen Rarick – broadband is a factor

Duluth News Tribune reports on the race between Rep. Jason Rarick and DFL challenger is Michelle Lee of Moose Lake for Minnesota Senate District 11…

A high priority for Rarick — “since the day I was elected” — has been expanding high-speed internet access into rural Minnesota. He helped alter a state grant process to prioritize unserved and underserved areas and is working now with the city of North Branch on a pilot project to create a wireless service the city could then lease out.

“These last nine months have proven just how needed (broadband) is,” said Rarick, who lives in Brook Park, Minnesota, about nine miles southwest of Hinckley. “If our rural areas are going to stay vibrant, that’s something, going into the future, that we absolutely need.”

EVENT Nov 20: Minnesota Broadband Coalition Strategy Session

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Save the Date!
Minnesota Broadband Coalition Strategy Session

Friday, November 20, 2020
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Via Zoom
This meeting will  include a professional facilitator to help us develop a cohesive strategy for the organization moving forward.  Agenda coming soon!
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 974 7436 8831
Passcode: 564934
Join by phone:
Meeting ID: 974 7436 8831
Passcode: 564934
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/abeMvqZnAp

Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.

Candidate/Rep Ecklund promotes broadband as a state priority for House District 3A.

WDIO reports

Republican Thomas Manninen — a law student is challenging Democratic incumbent Representative Rob Ecklund — a labor union leader and for his spot in House District 3A.

District 3A includes Cook, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis Counties. It is one of the largest districts in the state.

Ecklund said one of his main priorities heading into the election is advocating for broadband internet access.

“I view broadband as probably the next economic engine of Northeast Minnesota. We have everything it takes that people want to live here. Taxes are low, we have the waters, we have the lakes, we have the trails. We have everything in terms of assets, so I’m going to continue—if I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected—continue being an advocate for greater broadband internet in the state of Minnesota. It should be like rural electrification back in the 1950’s,” Ecklund said.

Manninen, on the other hand, said one of his main priorities heading into the election is ending Governor Walz’s shutdown.