Minnesota gets ARRA Broadband Mapping Funds

The official word is out. Today the NTIA announced the next round of mapping grants. They awarded grants to Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Here’s the word on the Minnesota funding:

Minnesota: NTIA has awarded Connected Nation approximately $1.2 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities over a two-year period and almost $500,000 for broadband planning activities over a five-year period in Minnesota, bringing the total grant award to approximately $1.7 million. Connected Nation is the designated entity for the state of Minnesota.

A quick reminder – each state was asked to recommend one mapping project. Minnesota recommended Connect Minnesota’s proposal. I’m hoping to talk to Connect Minnesota about the project after the holidays. They are usually very accommodating with more info.

Mapping debates on Connected Nation continue

The Washington St Journal ran an article on the Connected Nation maps. The big sticking point is that Connected Nation has ties to big telecommunications providers. There have been problems with their maps. Small providers claim they aren’t represented on the maps. Communities claim that their broadband access is overstated.

Mostly I avoid the debate – because I’m used to working with the hand I’m dealt and Minnesota has been dealt Connected Nations maps. Last fall, Connected Nation was hired to map broadband access in the state. They came out with preliminary reports in February indicating that 92 percent of the state has broadband.

It was interesting to see how often the CN maps came up in the paragraphs written by Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force members. Some questioned their results; other quoted them. At the end of the day, I think the legislators will pay attention to the report, because they’ve paid for it.

I did find it interesting (in the WSJ article) that Kentucky seems to have become less and less enamored with CN.

Also while referring to the Kentucky report, WSJ said that, “Connect Kentucky says its maps include data from more than 300 Internet providers and disputes it left smaller carriers off its maps.” I spoke to CN last winter and they told me that there were about 100 providers in Kentucky. So, 300 seems strange. I remember the number because they were expecting to talk to 225 providers in Minnesota – that number was changed to about 100 – the reason being that apparently once they looked at the list many ISP were merely resellers, subsidiaries or different names for other companies. So I understood that change – but I don’t understand this discrepancy.

March 20 Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Task Force Meeting Minutes

Today’s meeting felt collegial. The healthcare folks did a great job. I think the afternoon speaker (who presented variations on the Connect Minnesota maps) spurred a lot of good conversation relating to the maps. From the outside it seem like people were really in synch and that compromises were being made in an effort to really start working together. Or maybe it’s not right to say that there were compromises – but that everyone was able to rise above their individual concerns to start building a plan together.

Here are the regular notes from the Broadband Task Force meeting… Continue reading

Mapping Presentation from Connected Nation

Brent Legg from Connected Nation was good enough to send me the presentation he gave on the Minnesota broadband mapping last week. I wanted to make sure to share it here.cn-map-presentation

On a slightly related note, The NY Times recently ran an article (Why Spend $350 Million to Map Broadband?) addressing concerns about the proposed $350 million pegged in the economic stimulus proposals. As the article says, “Deep inside the stimulus bill that passed the Senate Tuesday is an allocation of up to $350 million for making a “nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service capability and availability in the United States.”

I think the author makes some good points. First, if they’re going to spend money on such a map, they should also create a provision that requires providers to participate in any surveys. Second, that info provided by providers should be made public – not just in the aggregate. (Geoff Daily just wrote a good piece on this too.)

If the government is willing to put money into broadband, it makes sense to create policies that reflect that public investment.

Connect Minnesota – the Broadband Maps are Here

The broadband maps of Minnesota have been unveiled! This afternoon I got a sneak preview of the maps from the folks at Connection Nation (CN) – specifically from Brent Legg, Wes Kerr and Chip Spann. Connected Nation has been hired by the State to map access to broadband across Minnesota. The maps are being created to help the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force make recommendations to the Legislature regarding a vision for broadband access in Minnesota.

I have a brief video clip from our meeting; I tried to catch the introductory key points. (I’m hoping to get the presentation they gave too and will post it when I can.)

According to the data collected (mostly from providers) 92 percent of the state is covered with broadband – as defined by greater than 768 Kbps download speeds. The 8 percent that is not covered comes to about 150,000 households or 418,000 people. Although participation by providers was not mandated by the State, CN heard from 98 providers of the estimated 225 providers in Minnesota, however it sounds as if they had heard from the largest providers. That being said they are working to get more data. Continue reading