Minnesota Office of Broadband Development bills – HF1255 / SF1128


Last Wednesday Legislators heard about bills to establish an office of broadband in both the House (1255) and Senate (1128). Unfortunately due to some time on jury duty, I wasn’t able to attend the sessions and the archives aren’t yet available online but I thought I’d at least look at both bills. (Both were discussed last week at the TISP Forum.)

The House Bill (1255) was introduced by Representative Johnson on March 5. The last action was March 14 – to do a committee report, pass it and send to Government Operations.

Here’s the short description: Office of Broadband Development established in the Department of Commerce and duties assigned; and Department of Transportation required to post a database on its website, and reports required.

Here are some details:

Fiber Database – A place where the Department of Transportation will post upcoming construction projects – updated annually. Details will include location, start and end dates, nature of construction. Local governments, utilities are encouraged to post info too. Providers may sign up to get updates. This shall reside on the Department of Transportation website.

I think this was already in the works. It seems like it might helpful to get buy in from a wider audience to encourage greater collaboration – but I understand that so long as broadband is a competitive commodity, not a utility, that probably won’t happen.

Reports – Increases current reporting requirements to include suggestions for policies as well as a report on the state of broadband expansion.

Definitions – They revert to the “FCC definition of broadband,” which is currently slower than the Minnesota Broadband goal. (FCC uses 4 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up; Minnesota is shooting for 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up.)

Office of Broadband Development – create an office at the Department of Commerce to become the go-to people for broadband in the state: perform broadband planning for the state, work with public and private parties to develop a standard access and use policy, encourage cost-effective broadband access and greater use of broadband, coordinate efforts to meet the 2015 broadband goals, keep an eye on what’s happening in other areas, on the federal level and look at security and redundancy.

Reporting – the annual reporting, currently the responsibility of the Broadband Task Force has been extended to include some analysis, predictive modeling and legislative updates. The bill also suggests a second report that, it sounds like, really sets out recommendations to improve access to and use of broadband – including training and reaching out to mobile users

Broadband Infrastructure Development – The office will strive to work with local government, department and agencies to create a smooth path to deploy fiber. Dig once is mentioned specifically.

The Senate Bill (SF1128) was introduced on March 7 by Senator Schmit. Last action was March 14, to pass as amended and re-refer to State and Local Government.

The Long Description: Establishing and providing for the office of broadband development in the department of commerce to improve broadband within the state; requiring the department of transportation (DOT) to post on the DOT web site a list of construction projects; requiring the office to coordinate broadband infrastructure development in collaboration with the departments of commerce and transportation; requiring an office report.

Here are some details: (Note the bills are quite similar, I’ll just try to call out the differences here.)

Office of Broadband Development – Again calls for the establishment of an office. The director here will be appointed by the Governor; other staff may be hired if necessary. Again the goals are similar but this version specifically calls out working with commissioners of Commerce, DEED and Transportation. (Ironically not a mention of a website in the first engrossment, although it is mentioned in the description.)

Appropriation – $500,000 for both 2014 & 2015.

It will be interesting to see what happens moving forward.