Fergus Falls Daily Journal reports…
Leaders in Otter Tail County are putting together their main legislative priorities to bring to the Minnesota Legislature in St. Paul. The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners outlined funding priorities and announced their legislative priorities.
The priorities set by the commissioners are to expand broadband infrastructure, asking for funding of the Broadband Development Grant Program.
“Everything runs on broadband now,” OTC Board Chair Dough Huebsch said. “It is very important to have fast internet to attract workers and families to OTC. Whether it is working from home, farming or doing homework, it is becoming vital for every household to have a fast internet connection. In the less populated areas of the county it is less appealing, for providers to make the investment in fiber, because of the low number of subscribers. In the past, we subsidized electricity and phone service as necessary needs. Broadband is in that category now and we need to work together to find solutions.”
Broadband expansion along with other economic growth is a main focus for the OTC Board.
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…
- “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
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
- 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
“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.
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!
Brookings recently released a fascinating report on countering the geography of discontent. They outline and detail the economic changes to area based on uneven spread of digital technology…
However, in the 1980s, that long-standing trend began to break down as the spread of digital technology increasingly rewarded the most talent-laden clusters of skills and firms.
As the economy changed, convergence gave way to divergence, as a fortunate upper tier of big, dense metropolitan areas (the top 2 percent of U.S. communities based on measures of growth and wages) began to consistently grow faster than the median and least-prosperous cities.
Techy town flourished and smaller towns or the rural spaces between towns suffered. (There are some awesome examples of areas that bucked this trend, but on the whole we see it here in Minnesota.) This has created a deep divide in the country – not only manifesting in technology and economy…
As a result, few can now deny that the geography of America’s current economic order has brought economic and social cleavages that have spawned frightening externalities: entrenched poverty, “deaths of despair,” and deepening small-town resentment of coastal cosmopolitan elites. It is baleful realities like these that caught many politicians, academics, and journalists off guard in 2016 as they poured through post-election red-blue maps. In a very real way, the 2016 election of Donald Trump represented the revenge of the places left behind in a changing economy.
The question they post is how to balance this inequity….
Therefore, we favor a third approach to regional policy, something akin to what scholars Simona Iammarino, Andrés Rodriguez-Pose, and Michael Storper call “place-sensitive distributed development.” This approach assumes that regional equity won’t occur without economic development but that excessive imbalances between regions can jeopardize such development. Our place-sensitive strategy seeks to mitigate uneven development by ensuring economic growth occurs in a wider swath of regions.
What might place-sensitive distributed development look like in practice? To give a sense, we suggest five examples of the kinds of strategies that would help—three that focus on ensuring more regions have the assets and capabilities to flourish, and two more that suggest what specific regional development initiatives might look like. Here’s a look:
- Ensure businesses in lagging regions have access to capital. The pullback in small business lending following the financial crisis has hit less densely populated parts of the country particularly hard. Efforts to improve data on small business performance can help banks lower the transaction costs of extending small loans while innovations in financial technology can help create a secondary market for them and reduce risk. Boosting alternative, non-bank sources of capital, such as venture capital funding, can also help support regional economic growth.
- Reduce gaps in broadband. Large gaps in broadband service and subscriptions have put businesses and workers in less densely populated areas at a huge disadvantage. Policy proposals should focus on connecting more people and encouraging greater subscription rates in places already endowed with broadband.
- Identify “growth poles” that can support regional growth. While it may be inefficient to “save” every left-behind small city or rural community in the U.S., targeted federal policy aimed at strengthening 10 or so promising mid-sized centers of advanced industry activity would bring more growth to some communities adjacent to many more lagging towns and rural areas. Federal investment in these “growth poles” will put more communities on a path toward self-sustaining economic growth.
- Help Americans move to opportunity. The federal government should expand the availability of financial support for individuals who want to make long-distance moves to places promising greater economic opportunity. At the same time, federal policy should encourage states and localities to relax zoning restrictions and construct new housing units to increase the supply of affordable housing. For those who wish to stay in their communities to live but not necessarily to work, state and local governments could provide a subsidy for workers commuting to adjacent communities.
Sprint has recently posted a new “5G Explainer” all about the wonders of 5G. Here are the areas they cover:
The site is interesting and it will explain the technology but it doesn’t talk too much about the impact of 5G in rural areas. Here’s what they say about coverage…
Up until now, network coverage strategies were optimized for one primary use case: people with smartphones, moving around.
But in a world where every milk carton, motorcycle, park bench and parking space has a sensor and a transmitter, coverage presents a different range of challenges.
Today, users might experience places – even in cities – where the network doesn’t reach. But imagine you’re running a service that delivers parcels to moving targets – customers who are on the move. What happens when the network can’t reach your vehicles or your customers – even for a moment?
5G will rise to new coverage challenges by combining new technologies in new ways. Smaller antennae in massive arrays will make a single base station act like many. Beamforming techniques will focus data streams at specific users, tracking them as they move – even bouncing signals off walls to maintain the connection.
The bottom line: the coverage benefits 5G delivers will extend the power of the network to far more users, devices, IoT sensors and connected vehicles.
So think about what happens if your IoT implementation can manage a million more devices than your biggest competitor’s.
On the surface it’s just more sensors. But once you start capturing all that data and feeding it to your algorithm, you’ll be generating better answers to your customers problems faster than you can say ‘network effects’.
They talk about ubiquitous coverage but mention only cities when the ability to reach devices seem to have a real potential for farms too.
The impact of 5G will be amazing but only for the areas that have access. The areas that don’t have access may find themselves in a deep divide.
The University of Virginia is looking at the benefits of precision agriculture…
Sitting in the cab of a combine harvester on a soybean farm in Wells, Minnesota this summer, University of Virginia assistant media studies professor Christopher Ali was amazed as he looked down at the dashboard.
Using GPS, the harvester could, in real time, map, monitor and record massive amounts of data – such as crop yield and soil moisture levels – which would let a farmer know exactly which rows required attention.
“It was the coolest thing,” Ali said. “The capabilities were just incredible.”
But those benefits are only possible where there is adequate broadband…
Unfortunately, the vast majority of farmers in the Midwest aren’t able to utilize this “precision agriculture” technology because they don’t get high-speed internet, according to Ali. He said companies don’t want to put in fiber optic cable – considered the gold standard – because of its great expense.
And public policy isn’t supporting increased broadband…
Ali said the U.S. offers $6 billion in subsidies to telecommunications companies for the purpose of installing rural broadband, but the funds aren’t making their way out to the farms.
“We’re giving CenturyLink $500 million a year for the next six years, and CenturyLink has announced that they’re not going to upgrade their network,” Ali said. “They’ll roll out what they have, which is copper wire, but they won’t upgrade to fiber and that stinks.”
But there are efforts within the cooperatives…
“Co-ops are the unsung heroes of rural broadband,” Ali said. “They don’t need the return on investment that the giant companies need because they don’t have shareholders to satisfy. They have community members to service. And I think because they don’t need a 20 percent profit margin, they’re able to take a few more risks. Wouldn’t it be great if public policy could help these co-ops leverage or mitigate some of the risk?”