Minnesota ranks top state to raise a family

This news was too good not to share. WalletHub was just named Minnesota the best place to raise a family. No surprise to me with three girls! To be fair they don’t mention broadband or internet but reading through their categories, it was easy for me to see the impact broadband would have on each:

Family Fun – OK we only ranked 13. I have a family blog that alone should rank us higher than that. (To be fair, we were more obviously fun when the girls were little.) But especially when the girls were little, broadband helped us find fun. I scanned local calendars for fun things on a regular basis – from Winter Carnivals to art openings to pumpkin carvings. You name it, if we had an afternoon off, we could find fun. Also we used the internet to see things we’d never go see. Question about the Sphinx? We’ll look it up. For some families, gaming may be an issue or feature – and Paul Bunyan has shown us how fun and profitable that can be with their annual Gaming Contest. Not for us – but it has been a ticket into finding unusual activities.

Health & Safety – Access to remote healthcare – be it doctor emails or actual video visits has been a game changer, especially as a parent. And I’m a parent in a city. I can’t imagine the time savings not bundling up kids for every sneeze when the doctor is 10 miles away. Also portals make it easy to manage regular visits and payments. Telehealth use increased seven-fold in Minnesota between 2010-2015, and use continues to grow. But it also helps with healthier lifestyles. Many of us use devices (fitbits and others) to maintain healthy habits. And of course using the internet for quick fixes for getting out splinters or getting gum out of hair is a day saver too.

Education and Child Care – My kids have used broadband for assignments starting almost in kindergarten. In Kindergarten we used it to extend learning. But by second grade one was using Khan Academy for extra math support. They have all created and uploaded videos for class assignments. All have been required to access, complete and turn in assignments online. The youngest has created (on her own) online quizlets to help her with mock trial. Broadband is all but required for basic education but it is key for extending a student’s reach beyond formal education. (Last year, Blandin hosted a webinar on broadband and the homework gap.)

Affordability – Studies show that homes with broadband see an annual economic benefit between $1,850 and $10,500. And home buyers will pay seven percent more for a home with gigabit service; people wouldn’t pay that if they didn’t think there was a return on investment in education, healthcare or fun for their families.

How many Minnesotans lack broadband? Maybe 409K, maybe 3M

Last month, I wrote about the discrepancies between FCC and Microsoft broadband mapping. The FCC tracks access based on info from providers. Microsoft looks at internet speeds of people using the company’s software and services, like Office software, Windows updates, Bing searches and maps, and Xbox game play.

Just this week, Microsoft made their interactive maps available to the public. They enable users to drill down to data at the county and congressional district levels. Each map allows a user to hover over an area to reveal granular broadband availability data and compare the FCC’s Form 477 data on broadband availability to Microsoft’s data measuring where Americans are using broadband at 25 Mbps speed.

Below is a screenshot but as you can see the FCC map indicates that broadband is not available to 409,000 people where the Microsoft maps says 3 million do no use broadband. The FCC maps defines broadband as 25 Mbps up and 3 Mbps down. The Microsoft maps only mention download speed of 25 Mbps.

Laws and Policies Affecting Broadband Access in Minnesota

The Network for Public Health recently posted a report on State Laws and Policies Affecting Broadband Access in Eight Northern Region States – including Minnesota.

Here is what they say specifically about Minnesota. Because tables don’t always transfer well here, I’ve manipulated the format a little but not the content…

Minnesota

Broadband Definition

  • “Broadband” or “broadband service” means any service providing advanced telecommunications capability and Internet access with transmission speeds that, at a minimum, meet the Federal Communications Commission definition for broadband. MINN. STAT. § 116J.39

State Leadership Body/Initiative

  • The Office of Broadband Development
    The Office of Broadband Development is established to serve as the central broadband planning body for the state and shall remain in existence until the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development certifies that the state has met the broadband goals established in MINN. STAT. § 237.012. MINN. STAT. § 116J.39
  • State Statutory Goals
    It is a state goal that all Minnesota businesses and homes have access to highspeed broadband by 2022, among other goals. MINN. STAT. § 237.012

Statutory Funding
Border-to-Border Broadband Fund

  • Administration. The border-to-border broadband fund is administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. MINN. STAT. § 116J.396
  • Eligible Expenditures. Grants may be awarded under this section to fund the acquisition and installation of middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure that support broadband service scalable to speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and 100 megabits per second upload. MINN. STAT. § 116J.395
  • Eligible Applicants. Eligible applications for grants include: (1) an incorporated business or a partnership; (2) a political subdivision; (3) an Indian tribe; (4) a Minnesota nonprofit organization; (5) a Minnesota cooperative association; and (6) a Minnesota limited liability corporation. MINN. STAT. § 116J.395

Preemptive/Restrictive Laws Regarding Municipal Broadband

Procedural Barriers

  • A municipality seeking to construct a new exchange where an exchange already exists shall not be authorized to do so unless 65 percent of those voting thereon vote in favor of the undertaking. MINN. STAT. § 237.19
  • The council of a municipality shall have the power to improve, construct, extend, and maintain facilities for Internet access and other communications purposes, if the council finds that: (i) the facilities are necessary to make available Internet access or other communications services that are not and will not be available through other providers or the private market in the reasonably foreseeable future; and (ii) the service to be provided by the facilities will not compete with service provided by private entities. MINN. STAT. § 429.021

Other

“Dig Once” Efforts

  • The Office of Broadband Development shall, in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and private entities, encourage and coordinate “dig once” efforts for the planning, relocation, installation, or improvement of broadband conduit within the right-of-way in conjunction with any current or planned construction, including, but not limited to, trunk highways and bridges. MINN. STAT. § 116J.391

Fiber Collaboration Database

  • The purpose of the fiber collaboration database is to provide broadband providers with advance notice of upcoming Department of Transportation construction projects so that they may notify the department of their interest in installing broadband infrastructure within the right-of-way during construction in order to minimize installation costs. MINN. STAT. § 161.462

Creation of Broadband Deployment Maps

  • The Office of Broadband Development shall oversee the creation of state and county maps showing the availability of broadband service at various upload and download speeds throughout Minnesota. MINN. STAT. § 116J.397

I see that they have the 2022 state speed goals but have missed the 2026, which are 100 Mbps down and 20 up.

The report also provides some easy ways to compare us with our neighbors; we’re not number one.

Also they frame broadband from a healthcare perspective, which is helpful in making the case that broadband is a solution to other problems – not a problem in and of itself…

Lack of broadband access at home can serve to exacerbate disparities in other social determinants of health, such as by limiting educational and employment opportunities. Lack of broadband access can limit online educational opportunities for students living in rural and underserved areas. With online curricula and resources being increasingly part of the educational experience, this puts many rural students at a significant disadvantage. Lack of broadband access can also limit employment opportunities. It may be difficult to draw businesses to communities lacking broadband access, and job-seekers also face logistical challenges in looking for work or applying for jobs online.

Connectivity also plays an important role in healthcare. In addition to accessing clinical services online via telemedicine, individuals can learn about health topics online, access their electronic health records, and learn about programs and opportunities to improve their health. Individuals without broadband access at home may not be able to take full advantage of these opportunities for remote care and health promotion.

 

Fiber Broadband Association Releases Study on Rapid Fiber Growth in North America

Earlier this month the Fiber Broadband Association released a study on fiber. Here are  the key findings:

  • In 2018, fiber surpassed DSL to become the second most common connection for home internet in North America after cable.
  • In the United States, fiber now passes 41 million unique homes in the United States and connects 18.6 million homes. This is a 17% increase in homes passed by fiber since 2017.
  • In North America, fiber now passes nearly 60 million homes and connects 23.8 million.
  • Canada leads North American fiber deployment, with 19% growth in homes marketed in 2018 alone.

I thought this was interesting – in part because I drive from St Paul to Winnipeg a few times a year and I can tell you – that stretch of Canada is pretty rural…

“The fiber industry is on fire,” said Lisa R. Youngers, President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “Fiber holds the key for next generation connectivity, from 5G to smart cities to the Internet of Things. This research and analysis helps keep the industry, consumers, and policymakers informed about our Association’s progress towards a better connected future. I am excited to work with our industry partners to keep up this momentum in 2019.”

Minnesota is top 10 in State Technology & Science Index – but slipped from number 8

It’s good news but our ranking is going the wrong way. So cautiously good news. Minnesota ranks number 8 on the STSI ranking. Here’s more on the STSI…

The State Technology and Science Index (STSI) endeavors to benchmark states on their science and technology capabilities and broader commercialization ecosystems that contribute to firm expansion, high-skills job creation, and broad economic growth. It aims to capture a state’s innovation pipeline. The index looks ahead, assessing the foundation on which future growth will build and focusing attention on the elements of a knowledge economy that will help states adapt to economic change.

 

And what they say about Minnesota…

Minnesota drops one spot to end up eighth on the 2018 STSI. After a strong performance in 2016, Minnesota’s score decreased by 6.47 points to 63.11. The state dropped two places on the RDI to land at 21st. Minnesota also ranks 21st on the RCI in this edition of the STSI, a five-rank drop from 2016. Minnesota increased one rank on the HCI to fourth, while the state dropped to seventh from fourth on the TSW sub-index due to decreases in the concentration of computer, engineering, and science-related occupations. Minnesota dropped three ranks to 18th on the TCD.

The state has been focusing on creating a workforce to support the growing high-tech sector.  The statewide College Occupational Scholarship Pilot Program for STEM-related degrees is one such program, and in conjunction, Minnesota has built eight IT Center of Excellence facilities to focus resources on education and internship programs. These eight centers provide a pathway for entering the high-tech workforce, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, expanding the high-tech workforce through diversity recruitment, and providing K-12 grades with a tech-related curriculum.23

Minnesota is also making efforts to expand access to broadband internet. Currently, Minnesota has 69 percent of households with broadband internet, ranking 19th in the nation. One estimate puts a $1.4 billion price on the infrastructure needed to connect the remaining 31 percent of households in the state.24 If Minnesota can provide statewide high-speed internet access, this could generate longterm economic benefits by connecting its population to opportunity through modern infrastructure development. By providing the necessary education, workforce, and infrastructure as the knowledge economy develops, Minnesota should be competitive in the long run.

 

And as you can see broadband lifts up dips in rankings in other areas.

More info another highlight, the College Occupational Scholarship Pilot Program…

Minnesota started its College Occupational Scholarship Pilot Program in 2016. A college graduate from Minnesota’s class of 2016 had an average of $31,915 in student debt. The scholarship covers four semesters at any community college for students pursuing STEM degrees. Minnesota ranks No. 4 (HCI) and No. 7 (TSW), and by making active efforts to reduce the cost of education, the state has more potential to improve. The cost reductions will only help those who are pursuing STEM degrees, which means that graduates should enjoy a wage premium if they land related employment.74 The focus on STEM degrees should add to the percentage of recent science and engineering graduates, who currently make up 16.07 percent of Minnesota’s recent B.A. graduates.

 

Key ingredient in digital readiness? Digital resourcefulness and utilization!

Roberto Gallardo has a new research report on Gauging Household Digital Readiness. I spend a ton of time focused on access – but as a librarian, I have been worried about readiness (information has morphed into digital) for decades. Access is a piece of digital readiness but as Roberto points out – it only a piece.

Here are the key findings from the report…

  • Regarding device & internet access, nonmetro respondents relied more on their smartphones and mobile data to connect to the internet compared to their metro counterparts. They also had slightly higher device performance issues as well as more extended downtime periods with their internet access. Despite these disadvantages however, they connected to the internet as frequently and with diverse devices as their metro counterparts. In the end, nonmetro did have a lower DIA score compared to metropolitan respondents.
  • Regarding digital resourcefulness and utilization, metro respondents had a slightly higher and statistically significant score but overall had similar digital resourcefulness levels as well as number and frequency of internet uses as nonmetro. On digital resourcefulness, while both metro and nonmetro respondents felt electronic devices made them more productive, a higher share of nonmetro respondents needed help setting up new electronic devices as well as finding it difficult to discern online information as trustworthy. Likewise, the share of nonmetro responses was higher compared to metro in all three statements regarding online echo chambers. On internet utilization, both metro and nonmetro households used the internet on average 11 different ways (out of 25 listed) at least once monthly. As expected, households relying more on mobile data (50 percent or more of the time over the past year) had a lower internet utilization.
  • Regarding internet benefits and impact, there is ample room for growth. A higher share of respondents saved money online compared to earning money regardless of metro status. More than four-fifths of respondents did not make money online gauged by selling, freelancing or renting. In addition, about twelve percent of respondents, regardless of metro status, saved money online regarding healthcare. Less than ten percent of respondents obtained a promotion due to online educational credentials, but nonmetro households had a higher share compared to metro. Lastly, a little more than one-fifth of respondents (metro) secured a job due to the internet over the past year, while less than fifteen percent of nonmetro did.
  • Regarding the digital readiness index score, metro households had a higher score (5.2) compared to nonmetro (4.5), leaving ample room for improvement given 10 is the highest score. More interestingly, when it comes to digital readiness a metro-nonmetro divide was not as large and surpassed by income and occupation differences.
  • Lastly, the dimension that yields more bang for the buck regarding improving digital readiness is digital resourcefulness and utilization after controlling for specific socioeconomic characteristics. On the other hand, of the three dimensions analyzed, internet benefits and impact had the lowest score. In other words, the impact of the internet on households—as measured by this study—is lagging. This implies that focusing on improving digital literacy and skills is critical to ensure the benefits of internet continue to accrue to households.

I am most excited by the final point – the focus on digital resourcefulness and utilization. Because that’s when technology changes from being a challenge to a solution. It’s like the change in grade school, when kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. A world opens up! You need to have access, you need to have devices that work – but that’s technology. A big enough check will take care of that. Resourceful and utilization is all people.

It is interesting to see what people do online based on their location…

 

Also interesting to see who saves money and who makes money online. Non-metro people seem to make less money freelancing; I wonder how much of that is attributed to Uber/Lyft. Whereas non-metro households earn more in rent. Maybe that’s Air B&B – certainly that could be true in some of Minnesota’s lake areas. Non-metro households also report greater savings with online healthcare.

Some factors I’m sure reflect the difference in rural/urban areas and some reflect the difference in people who choose to live in one or the other.

On top of  being an interesting look at what people do online I think this report does help propose some options to encourage greater use. First non-users can see how much is to be gained by moving some activities online but also digital inclusion professionals can focus on getting beyond that learning to read stage to encourage greater satisfaction and stronger desire to learn more. It reminds me of one of my favorite digital inclusion activities – the scavenger hunt. Get people to travel the city of town using online apps and other tools for prizes. Encouraging resourcefulness and utilization!