Frontier prepares for bankruptcy, regrets failure to install enough fiber

Ars Technica reports…

As Frontier Communications moves closer to an expected bankruptcy filing, the ISP told investors that its troubles stem largely from its failure to invest properly in upgrading DSL to fiber broadband.

 

They also report on the plan for recovery. It looks like they are planning to get FCC funding…

While things are bleak now, Frontier says it has a plan to improve performance in the long run. The presentation for investors said Frontier intends to “transform the business from a provider of legacy telecom services over a primarily copper-based network to a next-generation broadband-service provider with long-lived fiber-based infrastructure.”

Frontier recently hired a new CEO, former Dish executive Bernie Han, to lead a turnaround attempt. Though Frontier has failed to prevent customer losses, company leadership apparently believes a restructuring, more investment, and better management would help the ISP compete more effectively against cable and fiber ISPs. Frontier said its potential market is “an attractive investment with opportunity for capital deployment” and that its “undermanaged assets” pose an opportunity. The board of directors is likely to change significantly after bankruptcy, the company said.

After a restructuring, Frontier says it intends to “invest in high-return” fiber-to-the-home upgrades, and fiber expansions “for wireless and wholesale customers.” Frontier said it has identified about 3 million households “with attractive economics for new fiber builds.”

Frontier said it intends to get a slice of Federal Communications Commission funding that can be used to upgrade rural-broadband networks. With Frontier’s customer service also a problem, the company said it hopes to reduce subscriber losses with improvements to the installation process, equipment functionality, and customer service in general.

 

EVENT Today 11am: Senate COVID 19 Working Group 11am (virtual) – agenda looks interesting

I mentioned this meeting the other day but the agenda is out and it looks interesting for those of us interested in broadband…

Working Group facilitated by the MN Senate through Zoom. Limited public testimony will be taken. Email andrew.eilers@senate.mn by 5 p.m. Thurs-Apr 2. Include your name and organization, if applicable. Once you are registered you will be provided with the Zoom Mtg ID and a password. Testimony will be limited to 2 minutes or discretion of the chair. Participation thru Zoom is capped at 100. Public may view livestream coverage on the MN Senate’s facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/MNSenate/

Agenda:
Update from MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED),
Commissioner Steve Grove

Covid -19 impacts on business
– Laura Bordelon, MN Chamber of Commerce
– Mandy Wroolie, Minisota Play Café
– Forest Cyr, MN Nursery and Landscape Association
– Janet Leonard, Styles on Cliff Inc.
– Joel Vikre, Vikre Distillery

Global View of Jobs and Economy, Dr. Neel Kashkari, Minneapolis Federal
Reserv

 

Looking at the attachments, I’ll pull out their most salient points…

MNCOGI (MN Coalition on Government Info) …

MNCOGI extends its thanks to the members of the Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group for the adoption of remote technology to facilitate the recent meetings of this body. Our thanks also go out to the Senate staff involved with the logistical and technical undertakings necessary to conduct such remote hearings. MNCOGI would specifically like to highlight the public testimony feature of these remote hearings, and we would encourage the Senate to: 1. Adopt remote meeting/hearing protocols (with contemporaneous public access via the internet) across all Senate committees during the duration of the pandemic emergency, and; 2. Include a public testimony feature in all such meeting and hearings

Minnesota Employment Services Consortium (MESC) and WorkforceNext (WFN)…

[one of five recommendations] Provide technology capacity funding to existing grants to address major equity challenges for low-income people and communities of color, which already have the lowest levels of digital access. Specifically to provide participants access to affordable computers and internet access for distance training and other employment services.

Minnesota Hospitality. I’m going to include a screen shot of their letter so you can see how prominent their one tech remark is…

There is no telework option for this industry.

Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers…

Another major concern is that a large number of the small business clients that MCCD and our members work with are sole proprietors who are unable to collect unemployment. Furthermore, while many small businesses are figuring out new ways to engage with customers, many do not have access to reliable internet or the technology needed to be connected to their peers and their primary clientele. Although we are thankful that the State has provided emergency assistance programs, many of our small business clients will face difficulty pulling together the financial documents needed to apply for emergency loans and assistance programs.

Recommendation from Group of Nonprofits…

Allow distance interactions and telehealth engagements. All grants and contracts must be revised to provide flexibility for remote delivery of services. Many contract requirements currently prevent this from occurring and/or are not billable services.

EVENT April 9: Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar – Community Broadband Surveys

As the need for better broadband everywhere becomes more evident every day, are you – as an elected official, government staff or concerned citizen – wondering how to get your community or county on the right path to fixing the problem?  Would you like a better understanding of how to organize your area, select the right technology, attract the right project partners and obtain the necessary project, including grants, funding?  The Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar Series is for you.

The fourth of ten webinars – Community Broadband Surveys – over the next five weeks is April 9 at 9 am CDT.  Join Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting, Tom Johnson, County Coordinator for Nobles County and Nancy Hoffman, Executive Director of the Chisago County EDA/HRA as they talk about best practices in designing, implementing and interpreting community broadband surveys.

  • Doug has operated a number of ISPs and is a highly regarded community broadband consultant. Understanding the marketplace – who wants the service, what will they pay and who is the competition – is a critical requirement for successful broadband projects.  Doug will provide an overview of the entire survey process, including discussing the importance of the survey questions, the different ways to implement and promote the survey and results analysis.
  • Tom Johnson will talk about their experience in survey implementation in Nobles County and how the results led to successful broadband deployment. Tom will discuss the value in having key stakeholders participate in and promote the survey.
  • Nancy will explain the different survey approaches used to build community support for broadband and to attract broadband provider interest to invest in Chisago County.

Click here to complete the week two pre-webinar survey. Your responses will help inform the presentations and kick-off the Q&A.
Handouts:
Week Two Worksheets.
Corning Fiber Optics
Next Century Cities Toolkit (or download the PDF)
WISPA Graphic
Broadband Now
Maine Broadband Institute Guidebook 

Join us by clicking here https://zoom.us/j/308862200 or typing 308 862 200 into the Zoom mobile app.

EVENT April 7: Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar – Broadband 101

As the need for better broadband everywhere becomes more evident every day, are you – as an elected official, government staff or concerned citizen – wondering how to get your community or county on the right path to fixing the problem?  Would you like a better understanding of how to organize your area, select the right technology, attract the right project partners and obtain the necessary project, including grants, funding?  The Blandin Broadband Leadership Webinar Series is for you.

The third of ten webinars – Broadband 101 – over the next five weeks is April 7 at 9 a.m. CDT.  Join Carl Meyerhoefer of Calix and Tim Johnson of MVTV Wireless as they share their expertise in helping to create and spread a shared broadband vision in their area.

  • Carl will provide an overview of fiber optic networks, including technology choices between passive optical networks (PON) and Ethernet and considerations in deciding whether to bury fiber or hang it from existing poles. He will also inform attendees about the prospective benefits of publicly owned networks to support future innovation.
  • Tim will discuss the various flavors of wireless technologies, including information on the varying capabilities of different radio spectrum in terms of bandwidth and distance. He will also discuss about the prospective impact of 5G in rural areas.
  • Together, they will talk about the mutuality of fiber and wireless technologies so as to connect people in a variety of ways for various purposes.

Click here to complete the week two pre-webinar survey. Your responses will help inform the presentations and kick-off the Q&A.
Handouts:
Week Two Worksheets.
Corning Fiber Optics
Next Century Cities Toolkit (or download the PDF)
WISPA Graphic
Broadband Now
Maine Broadband Institute Guidebook 

Join us by clicking here https://zoom.us/j/308862200 or typing 308 862 200 in the Zoom mobile app.

Minnesota Health Insurers Announce Plans for Coverage of COVID-19 Testing and Treatment

PR Newswire reports…

The Minnesota Council of Health Plans announced today that Minnesota’s nonprofit health plans are voluntarily waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 in-patient treatment for enrollees as part of a framework to support and protect the health of Minnesotans amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

And telehealth is part of their 4-step solution…

  • Testing. Health plans do not want cost barriers to prevent Minnesotans from receiving appropriate testing for COVID-19. …
  • Treatment. To the extent permitted by law, health plans are now waiving cost sharing for in-network COVID-19 hospitalization on fully insured, individual and group health plans through May 31, 2020. …
  • Network Adequacy and Out-of-Network UtilizationMinnesota health plans are working closely with the Walz administration to consistently verify that their provider networks are up to date and are adequate to handle an increase in utilization, and that relevant processes are in place when requests for out-of-network utilization are received.
  • Telemedicine. Minnesota’s health plans encourage anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) or who has potentially been exposed to the virus, to seek health care in a manner that minimizes the potential exposure of others, which might include first calling a provider or utilizing telehealth services. Telemedicine is an effective care-delivery method that allows patients to visit providers without exposure to potential risk of infection.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield/Blue Plus of Minnesota
  • HealthPartners
  • Hennepin Health
  • Medica
  • PreferredOneUCare

Hosting a Zoom event? Learn how to guard from the goonies!

It’s been amazing to see people improvise in so many ways in our new world. For example, moving meetings online with tools like Zoom. I’ve attended a bunch, I’ve hosted a few – and I’m leading a webinar on How to Use Zoom on April 8. (It’s going to be a great chance to kick the wheels, speak or share your screen if you haven’t been active on Zoom yet!)

Unfortunately some of the proverbial bad guys have also found a way to wreak havoc in online meetings. I have heard of several meetings that have been cancelled or cut short due to trolls – or what I’ve heard called Zoom Bombers – jumping in being chaotic, disruptive, inappropriate and hateful. Luckily Zoom has a few recommendation to keep the baddies at bay…

  • with the email they were invited through, they will receive this message:

This is useful if you want to control your guest list and invite only those you want at your event — other students at your school or colleagues, for example.

  • Lock the meeting:It’s always smart to lock your front door, even when you’re inside the house. When you lock a Zoom Meeting that’s already started, no new participants can join, even if they have the meeting ID and password (if you have required one). In the meeting, click Participants at the bottom of your Zoom window. In the Participants pop-up, click the button that says Lock Meeting.
  • Set up your own two-factor authentication:You don’t have to share the actual meeting link! Generate a random Meeting ID when scheduling your event and require a password to join. Then you can share that Meeting ID on Twitter but only send the password to join via DM.
  • Remove unwanted or disruptive participants:From that Participants menu, you can mouse over a participant’s name, and several options will appear, including Remove. Click that to kick someone out of the meeting.
  • Allow removed participants to rejoin:When you do remove someone, they can’t rejoin the meeting. But you can toggle your settings to allow removed participants to rejoin, in case you boot the wrong person.
  • Put ‘em on hold:You can put everyone else on hold, and the attendees’ video and audio connections will be disabled momentarily. Click on someone’s video thumbnail and select Start Attendee On Hold to activate this feature. Click Take Off Hold in the Participants list when you’re ready to have them back.
  • Disable video:Hosts can turn someone’s video off. This will allow hosts to block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate gestures on video or for that time your friend’s inside pocket is the star of the show.
  • Mute participants:Hosts can mute/unmute individual participants or all of them at once. Hosts can block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate noise from other participants. You can also enable Mute Upon Entry in your settings to keep the clamor at bay in large meetings.
  • Turn off file transfer:In-meeting file transfer allows people to share files through the in-meeting chat. Toggle this off to keep the chat from getting bombarded with unsolicited pics, GIFs, memes, and other content.
  • Turn off annotation:You and your attendees can doodle and mark up content together using annotations during screen share. You can disable the annotation feature in your Zoom settings to prevent people from writing all over the screens.
  • Disable private chat:Zoom has in-meeting chat for everyone or participants can message each other privately. Restrict participants’ ability to chat amongst one another while your event is going on and cut back on distractions. This is really to prevent anyone from getting unwanted messages during the meeting.

CenturyLink Donates $25,000 to PCs for People

Big news from PCs for People and CenturyLink…

The COVID-19 pandemic is making the need for equitable access to technology essential across the nation. Families desperately need computers for home learning, access to telehealth, tools for newly laid-off individuals, and access to the world during a time of extreme isolation. PCs for People is uniquely positioned during this unprecedented time to help low-income individuals obtain affordable technology.

“The need to digitally connect our underserved communities is more vital than ever.  The incredible donation of $25,000 from CenturyLink will make an immediate impact for those needing computers during these extreme circumstances.” – Tina Stennes, PCs for People National Communications Director.

CenturyLink, a technology leader, is making computers even more accessible with a generous $25,000 donation to PCs for People. This donation will immediately impact 500+ individuals with financial assistance towards the purchase of a desktop computer.

“At CenturyLink, we see the important role connectivity plays in our everyday lives, from students completing their homework to employees getting their work done on time when they can’t be in the office”, said Stephanie Calhoun, CenturyLink vice president, talent management. “We are proud to provide this donation to support PCs for People’s mission to help Americans in need stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

To support current social distancing requirements, CenturyLink is also covering the cost of shipping so individuals and families can have their computers shipped directly to their homes. To be eligible, you must meet PCs for People’s eligibility requirements, provide documentation, and live in a market served by CenturyLink. To apply for assistance, please go to https://www.pcsforpeople.org/centurylink/

Computer packages include (cost will be $20 for individuals after financial aid is applied); 17” monitor, keyboard, mouse, power cords, Windows 10, LibreOffice, antivirus software, 1-year hardware warranty, and free shipping.

CenturyLink has been a long-time partner of PCs for People. The company has recycled over 300 computers and 1,000+ pounds of e-waste using PCs for People’s secure IT Asset Disposition and recycling services.