Recent reports from Akamai indicate that Minnesota is not achieving world class broadband speeds or access. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Legislature is hesitant to provide incentives or create a broadband fund to increase deployment. They are however looking at an Office of Broadband Development; questions remain on the appropriate place for the Office.
In the last month, the Blandin on Broadband blog highlighted several stories on policy, business and impact of broadband:
- The Legislature learned more about telecommunications enforcement authority, tariffs, alternative regulation plans, obsolete provisions and plans to meet with FCC plans for 2019 (HF 985/SF 584). No action has been taken on the bill.
- The Legislature is looking at an E-Government Advisory Council (SF804) to improve online government information services to citizens and businesses. (They are also looking at State procurement and solicitation provisions modifications.)
- The House Taxes Committee met and quickly dismissed features that might relate to providing funding for broadband. Anything in HF1686 related to fiber was dismissed once the legislators realized that this amendment might conflict with other policies. Legislators were not in favor of the broadband development grant program (HF389); due perhaps to the tenuous connection between pre-paid phones and broadband more than the fund itself.
- Senator Klobuchar spoke about unlocking cell phones so that consumers can switch providers without steep penalties and the importance of enforcing call completion regulation to ensure that rural areas receive calls from all providers.
- North Dakota passes legislation exempting telecommunications equipment purchases from the sales tax, creating an incentive to high tech firms to invest in North Dakota’s communications infrastructure. An editorial in the Grand Forks Herald suggests that ‘Minnesota not step backwards if it wants to attract modern business and the jobs it creates.’
- The Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC) posted their recent feasibility study. It indicates that residents in town have better access to broadband than residents in small communities or living on the outskirts of communities.
- Monticello extended the statute of limitations on legal claims bondholders can file against the city (related to FiberNet broadband network), striving to reach a resolution with the temporary agreement, set to expire June 1, 2013.
- Lake County breathed a sign of relief as half of their ARRA-funded fiber network is complete and the incumbents who have opposed the network seem to have backed away from the project.
- Some progress has been made toward better broadband in a group of townships north of Duluth known as the Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative – mostly in terms of encouraging local collaboration and awareness.
- Thanks to a $498,328 from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, portable Interactive Television (ITV) systems will be placed in 36 elementary schools within Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative’s grant Wide Area Network (WAN), providing advanced educational opportunities for more than 9,000 K-6 children.