Impact of CAF 2 on Minnesota and opportunity for leadership

As originally posted in the Blandin Foundation eNews

The Connect America Fund 2 (CAF2) is a significant federal commitment to broadband in rural Minnesota. CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream have all agreed to accept CAF2 funds totaling almost $500 million dollars over six years. This amount is more than half of what the state broadband taskforce estimated as the minimum cost to meet the current state broadband goal and 20 percent of the way to 100% fiber to the home status. So the CAF2 funding is a big deal with great potential.

The broadband blogosphere is now abuzz with opinions as to whether CAF2 is a positive development. The Blandin on Broadband blog has the FCC CAF2 press releases. Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting has an intriguing post on his blog. I won’t rehash Doug’s column here except to note that his main question is “How well served will consumers feel in five years with networks that have been designed to deliver to the FCC CAF2 standard of 10 Mb down and 1 Mb up?, especially since the FCC has already moved to a broadband standard of 25 Mb/3 Mb?” The CAF2 standard does not meet Minnesota’s broadband goal, set in the Pawlenty administration of 10 to 20 Mb down and 5 – 10 Mb up. Our state goal is now in line for reconsideration.

These state and federal broadband goals have long been surpassed, by a factor of 10 or more, in our metro areas, within most rural community city limits, and in the rural countryside served by broadband cooperatives. Within communities, these service improvements have been driven primarily by competition; in the well-served rural countryside, these services are enabled through smart, consistent support mechanisms available to small providers. Through CAF2, investment will be stimulated by the larger carriers. Unfortunately, if these networks are only improved to deliver 10 Mb/1 Mb, many would say that it hardly seems worthwhile.

There is an opportunity for our Minnesota leadership – from the Office of Broadband Development to the Governor’s Office, with legislative leaders and industry. Together, they should find a way to steer this CAF2-funded network deployment to meet a new, world-class Minnesota broadband standard. By combining CAF2, provider capital, significant Border to Border Broadband funds (general fund or bonding), USDA broadband funds, Universal Service Funds and other sources, we would set Minnesota far ahead globally. The federal broadband plan calls for 100 Mb services; let’s aim for that as a minimum. That network would enable citizens access to any school, any hospital, any government service and unlimited job and entrepreneurial opportunities. Minnesota’s innovation culture would be unleashed. Picture a Time Magazine cover with a group photo of Minnesotans holding up fiber optic cable and devices like northerns on a stringer. Another Minnesota Miracle!

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.

Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.