Call Goes Out for MN Broadband Task Force

Minnesota’s governor is putting the call out for the next iteration of the Minnesota broadband task force:

Governor Dayton Charges Taskforce with Expanding Broadband Access Statewide

August 25, 2011

Today, Governor Mark Dayton issued Executive Order 11-27, establishing the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband and continuing his commitment to strengthening our state’s infrastructure and fostering a strong business climate.   The Task Force will be charged to expand broadband access in Minnesota.  Dayton’s stated goal is “border-to-border” high-speed internet and cell phone access throughout Minnesota.

Governor Dayton also directed the Minnesota Department of Commerce to create a Broadband Development Office and convene a subcabinet of agencies to work on statewide broadband policies.

“Our state’s history of economic success has shown us how vital a solid infrastructure is to building a strong business climate.  Broadband access is an important part of that 21st century infrastructure,” said Governor Mark Dayton.  “Broadband accessibility is an issue that is critical to growing our state’s economy – particularly in Greater Minnesota.  As long as there are inequities in access to broadband in Minnesota, we will see those same inequities reflected in our schools, hospitals, and businesses.  This task force will give our state an action plan for identifying and correcting these disparities so that Minnesota can compete and thrive in a global economy.”

We will be focused on concrete ways to build broadband for Minnesota’s homes and businesses,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “By working together, we will ensure that we set the best possible foundation to meet Minnesota’s broadband needs and goals.”

The task force will be made up of 15 members, to be appointed by Governor Dayton through the open appointments process.  Members of the taskforce will represent a balance of broadband interests, including consumers, business and residential users, educational and health care institutions, telephone and cable companies, wireless providers as well as metro and rural local units of government. The Governor will designate a member to serve as chair of the task force.

Minnesota Public Radio gave some background:

“Everything is on the table,” from legal changes to money, says Commerce Department Commissioner Mike Rothman. “The real goal is to state concrete action items.”

Task force members will look at the federal money that has come into the state for broadband expansion, what communities are doing without federal money, how state law affects those efforts and more, he said.

“The administration is committed to moving forward and working with Minnesotans to make sure we have the infrastructure.”

I noticed that the Forum‘s Capital Chatter blog picked up on the rural plug in the press release.  MPR talked to our friend and all-around smart guy Dr. Jack Geller, founding director at Minnesota’s Center for Rural Policy and Development, now teaching up north:

There was some unhappiness over the makeup of last year’s task force. Some thought there wasn’t enough rural representation and some thought it was overly freighted with representatives of big providers like Frontier, AT&T and Qwest.

Jack Geller, director of the federal Economic Development Administration center at the University of Minnesota, Crookston and a member of the original task force, said, however, his biggest concern has been the lack of willingness to think about policy changes or using public resources to get to the state goals.

Not much point talking about infrastructure if we’re not going to do anything about it?  Blandin on Broadband blog noted the next steps to expect:

The announcement on the open appointments will happen right after Labor Day (Sep 6) and will be posted on the Secretary of State site. I encourage smart, interested folks to apply.

In the Executive Order are some new items too. The Governor is asking the Task Force to report in on the state of broadband in the State by the end of the year (including “opportunities to coordinate with federal, state and local agencies!”) by the end of the year but also to “develop a Minnesota Broadband Plan outline” by the end of January 2012.

Connect Minnesota will be able to help considerably with the report on how things are – but it’s still a *very* tall order for the time allotted. Luckily the original Minnesota Task Force report provides a strong base upon which to build.

Hm, wonder if I’m “smart” and “interested” enough to apply? Stranger things have happened.


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