MSBA staffer provides broadband update at Leadership Conference

MSBA’s Denise Dittrich (MSBA Associate Director of Government Relations) and Danna MacKenzie (Executive Director of the Minnesota Office of Broadband) led a round table discussion called “Broadband: The Education Super Highway” on Friday, January 15, during the MSBA Leadership Conference in Minneapolis to provide school leaders with some basic facts about the state of broadband in Minnesota — both at the household level and for K-12 schools.

Here are some highlights from their round table presentation:

  • In 2010, Minnesota set a statutory broadband speed goal of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 5 Mbps upload to all homes and businesses by 2015. We did not hit that goal. Currently, 89 percent of households have access at that speed — however that number drops to 75 percent for rural areas.
  • In response, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $30 million to provide Border-to-Border Broadband Grants to unserved areas of state.
  • The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband has recommended $200 million to this incentive grant program for FY 2016-17.

In 2013, the Legislature charged the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) with measuring K-12 connectivity and reporting needs. After looking for existing sources for the data, the state officials realized this data does not exist, so they engaged Education Super Highway (www.educationsuperhighway.org) to assist in the process of pulling the information together and making preliminary assessments. The Education Super Highway’s data and conclusions are concerning for policymakers.

  • Lower-end bandwidth needs to include online testing and basic Internet use while our school are moving toward media-rich applications which will require high capacity infrastructure.
  • Minnesota should set a broadband goal to align with the FCC broadband goals of Internet access of 100 Kbps per student/staff by 2014 and 1 Mbps per student/staff by 2018.

When measured against these goals Minnesota schools are falling behind. According to the Education Super Highway analysis:

  • 22 percent of districts are not meeting 2014 Internet access goals
  • 80 percent of districts are not meeting 2018 goals
  • 26 percent of Minnesota schools need upgrades to fiber

Their report points out what we know, some schools pay more than others — this is an affordability issue. School districts in Minnesota pay on average $10 Mbps, but top quartile districts are able to access their service at $2.50 Mbps. Most likely it is smaller schools paying more.

The Education Super Highway study presents some challenges for our schools. Broadband is not a “nice to have” it is a “need to have” for today’s classroom and a 21st century workforce. The Minnesota School Boards Association supports border-to-border broadband so all kids have affordable access to high-speed broadband at home and school.

The Education Super Highway’s findings provide a starting point for the state to secure affordable and equitable access to high-speed Internet service to meet the needs of today and the demands of the future.

Visit www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/PDFs/BroadbandTheEducationSuperhighway.pdf for the full presentation by Denise and Danna.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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