MN Broadband Task Force September meeting: final report is finalized

The Task Force met today. There are some good notes – and discussion on the CAF II auction. Mostly they went over their final report. Here are the recommendations:

Policy Recommendations:

  1. Fund the Office of Broadband Development through the base budget at levels sufficient for it to meet its statutory mandates and create an OBD operating fund to advance and promote programs and projects to promote broadband adoption and use.
  2. Provide on-going biennial funding of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grants Program at $69.7 million per biennia until the state achieve its broadband speeds goals
  3. Continue to understand the advances in the technology that will drive both the demand for better broadband access and that will enable the delivery if the broadband access to its citizens
  4. Provide direct funding to the DEED for broadband mapping.
  5. Establish a legislative cybersecurity commission, whose scope of work includes: information -sharing between policy-makers, state agencies, and private industry related to Minnesota’s cybersecurity infrastructure, cybersecurity workforce issues and emerging technology to: (a) develop legislative to support and strengthen Minnesota’s cybersecurity infrastructure, and (b) provide input or recommendations related to developing a multi-year strategic plan to secure Minnesota’s IT Environments.
  6. Adequately fund the Telecommunications Access Equity Aid and Regional Library Telecommunications Aid.
  7. Continue a MN Broadband Task Force as a resource to the Governor and the Legislature on the broadband policy with a broad representation of perspectives and experiences, including provider, community business and labor interests.

 

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Catching up with broadband projects in Mountain Iron/Buhl MN: Cool forest education program, new school equipment and feasibility study

Today we’re in Mountain Iron talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. It was especially fun to hear about a cool project in the school, They have a school forest. Through this program, high school students set up cameras and learned how to develop some programming for younger kids (5th grade) to learn more about forestry. They had some other fun things too – you can read more and see the video below. Continue reading

Gubernatorial candidates prepared to invest in broadband

MinnPost reported on a recent debate in Mankato. They focused mostly rural-urban equity issues – and the difficulty in getting all of the major candidates to the rural forums. But tt seems like across  parties and at for those who showed up – broadband is an issue that all of willing to address…

Earlier that day, Walz had unveiled his “One Minnesota Community Prosperity Plan,” which includes a pledge to build out the broadband network with state grants. Murphy this week said she would dedicate any new revenue resulting from the state’s collecting sales tax on internet sales to broadband infrastructure. And Johnson said broadband build out would be one of the few areas where he might suspend his no-new-spending promises.

INFORUM covered the debate and mentioned broadband…

Hours before the forum, Walz announced that if elected, he would launch a One Minnesota Community Prosperity Plan, with city and tribal leaders involved. It would, he said, increase spending on Local Government Aid, infrastructure, broadband and workforce housing.

KSTP covered it too and broadband came up…

“We need to make sure people have access to affordable health care and we’ve got to rein in costs at the same time,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to invest in our schools across the state because we haven’t caught up with 2003 and inflation. We have to invest in roads and bridges and broadband.”

Twice…

The event also centered on other issues facing greater Minnesota including increased broadband, access to child care and protecting agriculture.

Story also ran in Minneapolis Star Tribune. 

Catching up with broadband projects in Chisholm MN: Hotspots everywhere, connected Discovery Center, portal, and hopes for the schools

Back on the road, today we’re in Chisholm talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

Around Chisholm, kids can spend hours on the bus. Hotspots on the buses have been a treat for the students and maybe even more so for the drivers. They recently unveiled an area portal that features a shared calendar and social media feeds from various partners. They upgraded connectivity st the Discovery Center. And it was fun to hear about big plans for remote classes in the school.  Continue reading

MN Broadband Task Force July Meeting: MN broadband reports & draft Task Force report

Today the Task Force met to hear from the Minnesota Broadband Coalition on their recommendations for the Legislature, from the USDA and the potential of the $600 million in federal broadband funding from Bill Coleman on deployment of federal funding (CAF 2) and the impact on reaching Minnesota broadband speed goals and I talked about the community benefits of public investment in broadband.

Also, the discussed their final report – starting with a draft each committee contributed to individually. The next meeting with be September 6.

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Blandin Broadband eNews: Reports and questions about federal maps

Border to Border Broadband: Transforming Minnesota Oct 23-24
Join policymakers, economic and community development professionals and community broadband champions from across the state for this annual opportunity to learn, connect and engage. https://wp.me/p3if7-4E8

Is CAF 2 A Good Investment?
The Blandin Foundation releases a report on the networks being built with federal funding (CAF 2) given to large, price cap carriers in Minnesota. Based on field reports, many areas served will not have access to meet state speed goals of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up even after the investment. https://wp.me/p3if7-4E2 https://wp.me/p3if7-4Eh

Learn more at a webinar on Thursday, July 19 from 3-4pm: “Leveraging CAF II Dollars to Bring World-Class Broadband to your Community”  https://wp.me/P3if7-300

Are the Federal broadband maps accurate?
Trade publication, New Food Economy, questions the accuracy and validity of the federal broadband maps, which are instrumental in determining policies and subsidies used to expand broadband access. https://wp.me/p3if7-4Ed

Helping Kids without Broadband
Consortium for School Networking releases a toolkit to help close the homework gaps for kids without broadband. https://wp.me/p3if7-4Eb

National Broadband Listening Sessions Start in Minnesota
Farm Foundation, NTCA, CoBank, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. and USDA held a broadband listening session in Faribault. Minnesota was posited as a model state for supporting rural broadband. Attendees asked questions about CAF 2 funding. https://wp.me/p3if7-4E0 https://wp.me/p3if7-4E4

Daily Yonder features Blandin Case Study
The Daily Yonder features the Blandin’s Case Studies Measuring the Impact of Broadband in Five Minnesota Communities and the formulas used to factor the community return on public investment of broadband. https://wp.me/p3if7-4Dm

Federal Policies – actions and notes

Provider News

Local Broadband News

Crookston
Representative Kiel and Senator Johnson talk about broadband and upcoming listening sessions https://wp.me/p3if7-4Ds

Ely
Ely uses first fiber connection to connect a coworking space https://wp.me/p3if7-4DD

Gibbon
Gibbon celebrates their FTTH connectivity with a new 3D printer on Main Street https://wp.me/p3if7-4DY

Granite Falls
Granite Falls is host to a statewide planning session where broadband becomes a table topic https://wp.me/p3if7-4Ef  https://wp.me/p3if7-4DV

Lake County
NBC draws from Lake County for story of broadband success and cites recent Blandin report https://wp.me/p3if7-4DH

Lake Park
Lake Park citizens tell Senators Utke and Green that they want better broadband and ask about Net Neutrality https://wp.me/p3if7-4DL

Minnetrista
Frustrated citizen in Minnetrista wonders why the city doesn’t have broadband https://wp.me/p3if7-4DT

Northwestern Minnesota
AT&T is investing in northwestern Minnesota https://wp.me/p3if7-4DR

Rock County
Rock County is selected as a Blandin Broadband Community https://wp.me/p3if7-4El

St Paul / Minneapolis
The NDIA ranks worst connected cities: St Paul is #74 and Minneapolis #120 https://wp.me/p3if7-4Dz

Outside News Related to MN

North Carolina
North Carolina sees Minnesota broadband plan as model https://wp.me/p3if7-4Dk

West Virginia
West Virginia is looking to Minnesota (Blandin) research report for path for better broadband https://wp.me/p3if7-4DJ

Wisconsin
Lack of rural broadband is hurting business – reprinted letter from Inter-County Leader https://wp.me/p3if7-4DN

Upcoming Events & Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. https://wp.me/P3if7-4yG If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to atreacy@treacyinfo.com

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

On Minnesota’s broadband maps, far too much of greater Minnesota is still unserved. If you zoom into the map, however, you will see that most towns are considered served, with 100 Mb/20 Mb service available, areas outside cities and towns are not.  Many communities have three wired providers for businesses and key community institutions or community-wide.  That is good news.

In pre-Internet days, I managed the state’s business retention and expansion (BRE) program; training and assisting community teams to interview businesses, identify key issues and provide assistance to spur growth of investment and employment.  Today, tech use would be a key BRE element, not only for businesses, but also checking up on chambers of commerce, schools, health care providers and local governments.  As people make decisions on where to live and invest, a town lacking in apparent tech savvy will lose out to places with a tech edge.

For many towns, lack of broadband service can no longer be an excuse for not keeping up with tech trends.  Seek out partnerships to promote available broadband and tech support services.  Convene institutional leaders to create and pursue a shared vision of tech adoption, for tech-based economic development leadership.  If broadband access is still an issue, due to capacity, price and/or reliability, use these same leaders to work intensively on this issue as well as utilization.

Need to know how to get started?  Blandin’s recent case study on broadband ROI https://tinyurl.com/yafjlu9r is a rich resource illustrating what five smart communities are doing to promote a tech workforce and organizational innovation.  They are successfully branding themselves as high tech rural places. These efforts are increasingly inclusive and sustainable.  The Intelligent Community Forum (www.intelligentcommunity.org) has a treasure trove of information on the global competition for people and investment.

My advice: Follow suit or get left behind!

Lyon County Broadband Feasibility Study: hybrid fiber and wireless solutions are economically viable

With funding from the Blandin Foundation, Lyon County worked with Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting on a study that would look at if and how the county might take on bringing better broadband to all corners of the county.

Here’s the executive summary of the Lyon County Broadband Feasibility Study – check out the full study for greater details and next steps…

Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting submit this report of our findings and recommendations for the feasibility of finding a broadband solution for those parts of the county without broadband today. The county is typical of many rural counties where a substantial part of the county has or will soon have good broadband, including fiber, while other parts of the county have little or no broadband. This disparity in broadband coverage is already harming those portions of the county without broadband and you can expect those areas to suffer lower housing prices and become places where families and business don’t want to be located.

Our study area looked at the feasibility of bringing broadband to the parts of the county that are not expected to have fast broadband to homes and businesses over the next few years. The areas served today by Woodstock Communications already have fiber. Minnesota Valley Telephone plans to build fiber in their exchange. Marshall and Tracy are served by two cable companies with fast broadband. Finally, Midcontinent Communications got a grant this year to improve broadband speeds in Taunton, Minnesota and Ghent. That leaves a study consisting of the rural areas served today by CenturyLink and Frontier Communications including the towns of Green Valley, Cottonwood, Amiret, and Florence. We also looked at scenarios that build fiber to Balaton and Lynd, even though Woodstock Communications has requested grant funding to build fiber to those towns.

The studies looked at two scenarios—building fiber to the study area and building a hybrid combination of wireless technology and fiber. The wireless network designed by Finley is intended to supply at least 25 Mbps download to rural homes in the county, which is a significant improvement for those without good broadband today. Some customers will be able to get even faster speeds on the wireless network.

However, we know the county’s goal is to eventually have fiber everywhere and so implementing a wireless network would not be a permanent solution. All of the broadband trends in the country show that the amount of bandwidth needed by a typical home will keep growing, and at some time in the future a wireless network would become obsolete in the same manner that has happened in the past with dial-up and DSL broadband.

We view the hybrid fiber and wireless solution and a great first step towards improving broadband. This option would bring fiber immediately to about a third of the rural homes in the county, including the towns of Green Valley, Cottonwood, Amiret, and Florence. And the fiber constructed for this scenario is a first step in getting fiber closer to everybody in the county. We think a reasonable business plan is to start with the hybrid option and extend fiber to everybody over time.

Our analysis shows that it is not economically feasible to build fiber everywhere in the rural parts of the county using the existing Border-to-Border grant program—the 50% grant matching in that program is not enough to create a sustainable network. However, the hybrid fiber and wireless solutions all look to be economically viable.

The report discusses the next steps the county needs to take after digesting the results of this study. These include such things as looking for a partner to bring broadband to those areas without it today. The goal would be to have a partner by next year to be ready for future state grant funds.