Mediacom Broadband Network to be Gigabit-Ready by Year End

mediacomGood news for many communities! Looks like most Mediacom communities in Minnesota will soon have access to 60+ Mbps – the towns of Cook and Grand Marais are stand-alone networks and are not connected to national/upgrading internet network…

Entire Mediacom Communications Broadband Network to be Gigabit-Ready by Year End

First Major U.S. Cable Company to Fully Deploy DOCSIS 3.1 Gigasphere Technology

Mediacom Park, NY – December 7, 2016 – Mediacom Communications today announced the company’s entire broadband network will be gigabit-capable by the end of 2016. Mediacom will become the first major U.S. cable company to fully transition to the DOCSIS 3.1Gigasphere” platform, the latest generation of broadband technology. As a result, virtually all of the 3 million homes and businesses that Mediacom serves across its 22 state footprint will be able to enjoy speeds that are up to 40 times faster than the minimum broadband definition set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Mediacom was founded on the principle that hard-working families in the smaller cities and towns in our nation’s heartland deserved the same advanced communications services enjoyed in the largest metropolitan areas” said Mediacom’s founder and CEO, Rocco B. Commisso. “Through our $8 billion of cumulative investments over the past 20 years in pursuit of that goal, we have enabled the communities where we operate to successfully bridge the digital divide.”

According to Mr. Commisso, “After the Gigasphere modems became available earlier this year, we accelerated the first phase of our previously announced 3-year, $1 billion capital investment plan so that Mediacom’s customers could begin taking advantage of superfast speeds as soon as possible. This will ensure that the predominantly working-class neighborhoods we serve throughout Middle America are not technologically disadvantaged in today’s global marketplace.”

He added that “I am especially proud that the substantial investments in our rural markets were made despite the heavy-handed and unfair regulatory burdens recently imposed on our company by the FCC and without depending on government subsidies. In contrast to many others who have been willing to deploy broadband in rural areas only if incentivized with loans and grants from federal and state programs, Mediacom has relied totally on private capital. Moreover, unlike some other competitors who offer 1-Gig speeds only in select neighborhoods in their service areas, our 1-Gig service will be accessible to absolutely everyone within the reach of our network, regardless of the size, income-level or other demographics of their community.”

JR Walden, Mediacom’s Chief Technology Officer, remarked that “It has taken a lot of hard work, but less than 10 months from announcing ‘Project Gigabit,’ we will have completed the upgrade of our entire broadband network to the Gigasphere platform. Deployment of this next-gen technology will considerably enhance the consumer experience today and lay the groundwork for multi-Gig capabilities in the future. With our rapid and seamless transition to this new platform, we have set our communities on an accelerated path into the gigabit era.”44

Mediacom’s network enhancements will provide a significant boost to the company’s internet speeds. The company’s new minimum entry level speed for residential customers will increase to 60 Mbps while flagship offerings of 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps will also be available. Moreover, Mediacom will begin rolling out ultra-fast 500 Mbps and 1-Gig (1000 Mbps) products on a market by market basis in the coming weeks.

Mediacom noted that the Gigasphere technology will primarily enhance speeds to its residential and small business customers. Mr. Walden said that “Mediacom Business has already been offering local businesses in our markets our Gigabit+ Fiber SolutionsTM for many years, with scalable services of up to 10-Gig speeds.”

About DOCSIS 3.1 Gigasphere Technology

The cable network is composed of a hybrid of optical fiber and coaxial cable elements, and the specification that enables use of the network for broadband is known as Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS®. Gigasphere is the brand name for products and services that use a technical specification called DOCSIS 3.1, the next generation of DOCSIS services developed and advanced by CableLabs, the U.S. cable industry’s research and development consortium, and its members. DOCSIS 3.1 provides a near-term path toward continued improvement of cable broadband performance, with network capacity of up to 10 gigabits per second in the downstream and up to 2 gigabits per second in the upstream. Equipment vendors are now supplying the necessary components. In January 2016, CableLabs certified the first DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems.

About Mediacom Communications

Mediacom Communications Corporation is the 5th largest cable operator in the U.S. serving over 1.3 million customers in smaller markets primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. Mediacom offers a wide array of information, communications and entertainment services to households and businesses, including video, high-speed data, phone, and home security and automation. Through Mediacom Business, the company provides innovative broadband solutions to commercial and public sector customers of all sizes, and sells advertising and production services under the OnMedia brand. More information about Mediacom is available at

Kanabec County is looking at broadband improvements but is it enough?

According to the Kanabec County Times

Rural communities in Minnesota fed up with cave-man-like internet speed will soon get a technological boost to improve their web experiences. Telecom provider Century Link has already started the process of bringing Kanabec County up to speed. Thanks to major funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Connect America Fund (CAF), it will use “$500 million a year for six years” to wire underserved communities in 33 states.

They are hoping the change comes quickly…

Century Link said, it “will bring high-speed internet services to more than 114,000 rural households and businesses in Minnesota over the next six years”.

Marc Johnson, Executive Director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Consortium, said of the anticipated high-speed internet, “We’ve been continuing to work with Century Link. Our hope is we influence them to build our area first because they are doing this in phases around the state. We happen to be one of the first areas getting service through this program.”

But there is also some concern at the rate of improvement…

That’s Century Link’s new fiber-optic installation, one of the main technological ingredients that will allow homes to experience a more reasonable connection. Then again, you have to define the words reasonable and fast. Century Link will offer speeds of “at least 10 Mbps (megabits per second) download and 1 Mbps upload to locations in FCC-designated, high-cost census blocks.”

While that bandwidth will be a huge improvement for those with no wired internet options, it’s still below the FCC’s definition of broadband which is 25Mbps download / 3Mbps upload.

It sounds like improvements will be felt most in the towns, not the outskirts…

Century Link explained that internet speed is dependent on the distance from your home to the fiber-optic equipment. So in general terms, your internet will be faster but not the fastest and where your home or business is positioned will determine the bliss or disappointment of your internet speed.

Midcontinent Communications advertises up to 200 Mbps down / 20 Mbps up, but not outside the city limits of Mora and Ogilvie right now. Midco says it will launch Gigabit service sometime in 2017. For the rest of Kanabec County, internet options are limited to the choice of one cable provider or satellite. On the outskirts of Ogilvie, for instance, some homes are nowhere near cable connections, leaving residents with expensive options. One satellite provider locally offers up to 12 Mbps download speed for $150/month. Plus there’s inherent latency (delay) with such a wireless signal because it is literally going up to space and back. Customers in these underserved areas may also spend $100-$200 a month on cell phone data to operate from a hot spot.

Pipestone County is working on better broadband

In mid-November, community leaders in Pipestone County met to talk about the need for broadband in their area. According to the Pipestone County Star

Pipestone County is part of that unserved and underserved rural America, and the lack of connectivity creates challenges that can limit economic development, quality of life and growth.

“We are restricted with what we can do to improve our facility with automation because of our service,” said Chad Magnuson, manager of Simplot in Hatfield.

The ag retailer, as with many in rural Pipestone County, has only DSL service available. Magnuson described it as slow and intermittent with outages and downtime. As the company improves its facilities and services, they’ve buried fiber on the property past the incoming line. But there’s nothing connecting that fiber to the rest of the world.

“Our challenge is, we need fiber buried to the location,” he said.

The meeting was well attended…

That assistance last week took the form of community meetings, the one for Pipestone County held at the Emergency Services Building on Monday evening. About 20 people showed up, with several sharing the difficulties and challenges of life without reliable and fast internet service.

“It’s clear people are suffering without broadband,” Coleman said.

Sharon Hanson, Pipestone County administrator, said they not only heard from businesses and agri-businesses like Simplot, but from parents and grandparents who live in the technological ‘black hole,’ from educators and students who find it difficult to participate with online classes, and from home-based businesses that rely upon connectivity.

Then the meeting was followed up a couple weeks later with a strategic planning meeting where the decision was made to make broadband part of their plans…

Short-term action steps
•Determine what amenities are desired
•Identify where economic opportunities can be increased
•Communicate state and city incentives to potential businesses
•Facilitate community conversations
•Develop a steakhouse

Mid-term action steps
•Repurpose the Central School property
•Create a new industrial park
•Increase broadband access
•Engage Minnesota West to provide workforce training
•Expand community trails

Long-term action steps
•Develop a better solution for the Senior Center
•Have a visual/arts center in the existing Senior Center
•Develop a plan and funding for Main Street retail

Blandin Broadband e-News December 2016: Community broadband moves forward

A recap of posts from November…BBC Map

Broadband 101: Bits vs Byte and A-CAM

With new communities and new policymakers, BoB will be focusing on some expository pieces, such as the difference between bits and bytes and A-CAM, the smaller providers’ CAF (Connection America Fund) options.

Broadband saves $11,000 a year

The Internet Innovation Alliance releases annual research indicating that households with broadband can save $11,219 annually; that includes the average cost of broadband.

Telecom Industry in MN has $900 million impact

The Hudson Report looks at economic impact of the rural broadband industry. They found the impact in Minnesota was $911.3 million; of that $279.1 million went to rural areas and $632.2 million to urban.

MN Border to Border Grants

Communities sent in their applications for broadband funds. The Office of Broadband Development received $70 million in requests, which is twice the allocated $35 million. Incumbent providers had until November 7 to lodge any challenges to the requests in their area (or nearby area).

Minnesota is Number One for Internet Usage

According the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 83.1 percent of Minnesotans, or 4,307,850 households, used the internet. That makes us number one.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force to recommend $100 million

The Task Force met to comb through the latest iteration of their annual report. After a heated debate they agreed to recommend $10 million for the OBD and $100 million ($50 million per year) for grants.

Local Broadband News

Carlton County
Carlton County recognizes Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion.

Central Woodlands
Central Woodlands (a self-defined community that spans portions of Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Pine and Aitkin counties) recognize Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion.

Chisago County
Chisago County recognizes Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion.

Local news covers Blandin Foundation’s recent trip to Chisago County to learn more about broadband projects.

Dakota County
Whitetail Woods Park in Dakota County has wifi at speeds of 40-60Mbps – for many good reasons.

Iron Range
The IRRRB and Blandin Foundation work together to support six Iron Range communities expand broadband. The new communities met at the end of November. Local news sources covered the good news.

Laporte, Becida and Solway
Fiber comes to Laporte, Becida, and Solway through Paul Bunyan Communications.

Lake County
CTC to manage Lake Connections Broadband

Martin County celebrates BBC participation
Martin County recognizes $86,600 of Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion

The University of Minnesota is home to a nonprofit that helps gamers get into the business of gaming.

AT&T deploys mmWave to Uptown apartment buildings, bringing fast connections via fixed wireless from building to building.

Nobles County
Nobles County recognizes Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion

Red Lake Nation
Red Lake Nation one of the first reservations to get a Gig; thanks to Paul Bunyan

Redwood County
Redwood County recognizes $90,848 of Blandin investment to support local broadband expansion

Sibley County
Sibley County’s Mark Erickson talks about how to promote community broadband in a Trump Era.

Southern Minnesota
Hurricane Electric and Neutral Path Communications are collaborating to bring dark fiber to light in Rochester, Minneapolis, Mankato Belle Plaine, LaSalle and Windom.

Southwestern Minnesota
Lincoln, Murray and Pipestone Counties are working together to improve broadband. Broadband coach Bill Coleman spoke to each community in November.

Spring Grove
Spring Grove gets a nod for their work in telemedicine in a report from Foundation for Rural Service and the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative

Upcoming Events

  • Nov 10 –Webinar Archive: Census 2020: The Count Starts Now
  • Dec 13- Webinar on how to Nominate a Digital Inclusion Leader for Next Century Cities and Google Fiber Award
  • Dec 15 – Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting
  • March 6, 2017 – deadline for Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project grants applications due

Looking for more events? Check out TechDotMN’s calendar Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)

Stirring the Potbill right

Recently I read Doug Dawson’s blog post ( on the branding efforts of rural broadband providers. At the same time,  I was doing presentations on the Intelligent Community framework which includes Advocacy as one of six elements. In this framework, Advocacy deals with a community’s messaging to its own residents and to the outside world – in essence, a community brand.

What is your community’s brand?  Is it tied to the past or the future?  What assets are you promoting? How do you differentiate your community from other Minnesota communities or the countless other communities around our country and the world.  After all, all communities are competing for talent and investment. Why stay?  Why choose to come?

Dawson makes a very important point in his blog…a brand must be true or it will ring hollow.  It seems to me that as communities pursue new brands based on broadband, technology and innovation, these brands must have a future orientation that emphasizes the pursuit of progress with ready examples of strategies and projects.

So, my advice… if your community is in the midst or considering a branding initiative, consider an emphasis on people power, rather than the more standard geographic feature or heritage.

The GigaZone Comes to Laporte, Becida, and Solway

Good news…gigazone



The GigaZone Comes to Laporte, Becida, and Solway

One of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the United States continues to grow;

Now available to more than 27,000 locations in northern Minnesota


(Bemidji, MN) (December 5, 2016) – Paul Bunyan Communications has announced that for the first time, the GigaZone has come to Laporte, Becida, and Solway along with additional areas of Bemidji. As a result of continued upgrades to the Cooperative’s all-fiber optic communications network over 3,100 more locations now have access to GigaZone services including Internet speeds up to a Gigabit per second.


“We continue to make great progress on upgrading our network to incorporate even more members into the GigaZone and over the next several months we’ll be activating the GigaZone in even more areas.  I’m very proud of all the hard work our cooperative has put in so far as we put our membership and region at the forefront of the very latest in communication networks.  We will continue to do as much as we can to bring the GigaZone to all our members and the communities we serve as fast as we can.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.


The GigaZone is currently available to over 27,000 locations including all of the cooperative’s service area of rural Park Rapids, Lake George, Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids, LaPrairie, most of Grand Rapids, Red Lake, Cohasset, Ponemah, Turtle River, Laporte, Tenstrike, Little Rock, Becida, Redby, Puposky, Solway, and areas of Bemidji.


Paul Bunyan Communications recently mailed out information to the new locations that are now in the GigaZone and the cooperative has an online map available at showing the active areas of the GigaZone as well as those areas that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.


“If you are wondering when the GigaZone will reach you, the online map of the active areas and plans for this year is a great resource.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.


GigaZone service options include unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit.  Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited long distance service.  All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.


Most current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds.  To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.


Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.  The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Service up to a Gigabit per second, digital and high definition television services, Smart Home services, digital voice services, and more.   Service availability depends upon location, some restrictions may apply.

Hibbing and Chisholm are new Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities

I’ve written about the Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities a few times – especially since we all met up last week. It’s nice to see the Hibbing Daily Tribune pick up the good news too…

Hibbing and Chisholm were among the six selected for an intensive, two-year partnership with the foundation to advance local broadband initiatives.

Aitkin County, Bois Forte Reservation/Orr/Cook, Ely and the Mountain Iron-Buhl area also became Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC).

“We are excited about this partnership and the chance to help both businesses and residents with their technology and broadband needs,” said Lory Fedo, president/CEO of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber made the application to Blandin and will lead the effort in Hibbing.

They note challenges in the area and ways that broadband might help in HIbbing…

In the application, the chamber identifies three main challenges, with the first being leveraging broadband to improve the business community. …

A second challenge is education. A number of small business owners are not utilizing basic and accessible tools, which could enhance customer experience, assist them in gaining new customers and increase customer retention. …

And like most rural areas, broadband access in underserved areas and underrepresented populations continues to be a major challenge.

And Chisholm…

Each of the partners identified a struggle with communicating to larger segments of the population, at times, needing to reach the entire community and surrounding area.

The committee also pointed out the connection between broadband infrastructure and creating, attracting and support of “knowledge workers.” At present, the community relies on the school district, HCC and its larger businesses for workforce training.

Broadband allows helps seniors stay in their homes longer

The Foundation for Rural Service and the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative published an issue on Aging in Place and the Role of Broadband as part of their Rural Telecom Educational Series.

Here are some fast facts that make telemedicine compelling…

  • Almost 13 percent of Americans are 65 years or older. By 2030, that is expected to be 19 percent – that’s nearly one in five people.
  • AARP found that nearly 90 percent of Americans 65 or older want to stay in their homes for as long possible.
  • Nearly  4 percent more rural seniors are in nursing homes than their urban counterparts
  • According to the National Rural Health Association, only 10 percent of physicians practice in rural America despite the fact that nearly one-fourth of the population lives in these areas.

What does telehealth look like?

Telemedicine can be further classified into three  main categories: 1.  store-and-forward. Medical information—typically in the realm of dermatology, radiology, or pathology— is sent to a doctor or specialist for analysis; this does not require the simultaneous presence of physicians and patients. 2.  remote monitoring. Doctors remotely check a patient’s vital signs and caregivers are alerted to falls or wandering. 3.  interactive services. These involve concurrent interactions between patient and doctor. Services could comprise telephone and email exchanges, as well as live video connections between the two parties.

Where is Minnesota a leader?

Spring Grove Communications, a telephone cooperative in Spring Grove, Minn., is just starting to explore plans for telemedicine because it recently completed a two-year fiber-to-the-home project. “We’ve got fiber to the home to every house in our service area, and that covers 100 square miles,” explained Craig Otterness, general manager and chief executive officer, noting that telemedicine would be  a good fit. “This is a town of 1,400 and most are elderly.”

And the business case for looking into telemedicine…

Research firm IDC agreed that telecom providers would be smart to capitalize on the telemedicine industry, particularly the residential-based side of the business. “The total addressable market in home telehealth in the United States will grow to 60.3 million households in 2015,” IDC stated. According to a recent report from Kalorama Information, a health care market research firm, the market for remote patient monitoring technologies will grow from $6 billion in 2011 to more than $18 billion by 2014.