FCC Announces Plan to Launch $9 Billion 5G Fund for Rural America

FCC announces

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit
Pai announced today that he intends to establish the 5G Fund, which would make up to $9
billion in Universal Service Fund support available to carriers to deploy advanced 5G mobile
wireless services in rural America. This major investment in rural America would be allocated
through a reverse auction and would target hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations and/or
rugged terrain. The $9 billion Fund also would set aside at least $1 billion specifically for
deployments facilitating precision agriculture needs.
“5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including
wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than
today’s 4G LTE networks,” said Chairman Pai. “We want to make sure that rural Americans
enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the
Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow.
Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen
across the country. That’s why I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G
Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas and would reserve some of
that funding for 5G networks that promote precision agriculture. We must ensure that 5G
narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that
come from wireless innovation.”
The 5G Fund would replace the planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which would have provided
federal support for 4G LTE service in unserved areas. Pursuant to the Mobility Fund Phase II
rules, wireless providers were required to submit 4G LTE coverage data in order to help the
Commission target federal subsidies to unserved parts of the country. The Mobility Fund
Phase II challenge process gave stakeholders an opportunity to dispute these coverage maps by
submitting speed tests to the Commission. But in a report released today, Commission staff
finds that the 4G LTE coverage data submitted by providers is not sufficiently reliable for the
purpose of moving forward with Mobility Fund Phase II.
Specifically, FCC staff conducted thousands of speed tests to measure network performance
and concluded that the MF-II coverage maps submitted by certain carriers likely overstated
each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground experience in many
The staff report recommends that the Commission terminate the challenge process, audit the
coverage filings of carriers in other proceedings before the Commission, and take additional
steps to make sure that coverage data the Commission and the public rely on is accurate. The
report, which includes additional staff recommendations regarding future collections of mobile
coverage maps, is available here: DOC-361165A1.pdf.
Data files containing the approximately 25,000 speed tests taken by FCC staff and
approximately 20 million speed tests taken by challengers are available for download here:
Chairman Pai praised the work of the agency staff on this investigation and report. “I thank the
FCC’s dedicated staff for their diligence in conducting the investigation that led to this report.
This investigation highlights the importance of drive testing to verify mobile coverage claims.
Staff drove nearly 10,000 miles in the course of conducting speed tests of carrier networks, an
unprecedented effort that provided vital information about the extent of actual coverage on the
ground. Mobile carriers must submit accurate broadband coverage data to the Commission.
Simply put, we need to make sure that federal funding goes to areas that need it the most,” said
Chairman Pai.
The Commission recently created the Digital Opportunity Data Collection and has also sought
comment on how to improve the reliability and accuracy of the data submitted by mobile
broadband providers.

Will your county get paper Census surveys?

The Census folks recently released a map of area that will receive paper copies of the census – along with an invitation to complete the form online. I think it’s interesting because these are the areas that the Census folks are least likely to respond online…

More info from Census 2020

The interactive map illustrates the contact strategy to inform the public and partners of the Census Bureau’s plan to count everyone by geographic location for the 2020 Census. A decade of research and testing has determined the best way to invite everyone to respond to the 2020 Census.

Most households will first receive a letter asking them to complete the census questionnaire online with information about how to respond online or by phone in English plus 12 non-English languages. Areas less likely to respond online, approximately 21.8% of households, will receive a paper questionnaire along with the invitation to respond online or over the phone. Areas assigned to receive a paper questionnaire first have a low self-response rate to the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey (ACS), and have either low internet response rates, high population over age 65, or low rate of internet subscriptions.

Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap (Dec 2019)

People need better broadband
Inc Magazine recently reported that entrepreneurs need better broadband. https://wp.me/p3if7-5DB While the Chronilce of High Education reports that students need broadband too. https://wp.me/p3if7-5Dv

State Policy Issues

Federal Policy Issues

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Cloquet Valley
Jan Keough receives Blandin Foundation Courageous Broadband Leader Award https://wp.me/p3if7-5Do

Fillmore County
MiBroadband launches fixed wireless service in Fountain, Peterson, Spring Valley https://wp.me/p3if7-5EO

Southwest MN Broadband Services looks at closed meetings in the future https://wp.me/p3if7-5DH

Southwest MN Broadband Services receives Courageous Leadership Award https://wp.me/p3if7-5Dk

USI fiber unveils expansion areas for 2020 https://wp.me/p3if7-5Cv

New device makes home-based telehealth easier in MD, SD, ND and IA https://wp.me/p3if7-5ES

MN’s CentraCare Health gets $234K to improve telehealth https://wp.me/p3if7-5Et

Tekne Awards recognizes award-winning MN companies https://wp.me/p3if7-5Eg

Pipestone County
CenturyLink upgrades broadband services around Pipestone County https://wp.me/p3if7-5E9

Red Wing
Neela Mollgaard focuses on capital, culture and talent at Launch Minnesota https://wp.me/p3if7-5F4

Renville & Sibley Counties
RS Fiber gets an international shout out for publicly supported broadband https://wp.me/p3if7-5E1

Mayo Clinic implements telehealth approach for neonatologists https://wp.me/p3if7-5CH

Swift County, Rock County, and Cannon Falls
Swift County, Rock County, and Cannon Falls talk about their Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) activities https://wp.me/p3if7-5DV

White Earth Reservation
New FirstNet Cell site will  support public safety in Northwestern Minnesota near White Earth Reservation https://wp.me/p3if7-5Dy

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. https://wp.me/P3if7-4yG If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to atreacy@treacyinfo.com

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

In this season of gratitude, I am grateful to be able to work with the great team at Blandin Foundation and the many community leaders working to improve broadband across greater Minnesota.  The Leadership Awards presented at the fall broadband conference recognized only the tip of the iceberg of rural broadband leaders.  In almost every successful local initiative, there are multiple leaders working together to bring positive change to their community.  Sometimes one person is honored as the leader, but all good leaders know that this is a limited view of reality.

It takes multiple leaders and many followers to build the momentum necessary to overcome fears, objections and interference from both inside and outside the community.  At a recent meeting of current Blandin Broadband Communities, we heard all the good things happening in these communities, with some credit to the momentum created via the BBC program.  Isaac Newton’s theories in action!  These communities are moving in the right direction led by many cooperating leaders.

If you are looking for a fun way to illustrate this concept at your next broadband meeting, check out one of my favorite TED Talks:

If you want to start a movement in your community, get organized, and apply to be a Blandin Broadband Community.  Look for that application soon.  Call us for assistance!

Blandin Foundation is looking for 4 communities to expand local broadband innovation

Good news, Blandin Foundation will very soon be looking for 4 partner communities for the next round of BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities)…

C. K. Blandin Foundation seeks four rural Minnesota communities to participate in the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) Program. Selected through an application process, BBCs will define their community technology goals, receive planning and technical assistance and have the opportunity to apply for resources to implement resulting projects.
The definition of “community” is flexible and based on local definition. Application can be submitted by an individual city or a group of cities, a county or tribal government, or a self-defined region or community of interest. Applicants should be a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization or unit of government. Preference will be given to applications that demonstrate established or emerging partnerships between multiple organizations and entities, including economic development, education, housing authorities, and health care.

If you’re reading the blog, you might already be well versed in the world of BBCs. IN short, it’s a great opportunity for your community to gather around a desire for better broadband access or use. Here’s a little more info…

Once selected, Blandin Broadband Community teams will receive planning and facilitation support, and the opportunity to apply for a $75,000 program grant to fund multiple locally developed projects that address identified community technology needs. Most funded projects require a minimum cash and in-kind match of 25% (1:3) of total project cost; projects funding primarily equipment require 1:1 cash match. Communities must meet a minimum standard of active, cross-sector community participation to be invited to apply for funds.
In addition, participating communities with significant shortcomings in existing broadband services will receive priority to apply for up to $25,000 to conduct a Robust Network Feasibility Study; this program requires a 1:1 cash match. This study is an optional component of the overall program.  More information on Feasibility Studies can be found here: https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/expanding-opportunity/broadband/robust-network-feasibility-fund-grants/ 
Significant commitment on the part of the Blandin Broadband Communities will be expected and required throughout the 18-24 month project period. 

The application isn’t yet available – but soon it will be and Blandin wanted to give a heads up. It’s a great time to contact your local partners about potential interest. The deadline will likely be early 2020 -and luck favor the prepared. With any luck, I’ll be posting more info and a link to the application in a week or so. In the meantime, starting those minds to thinking!

Neela Mollgaard focuses on capital, culture and talent at Launch Minnesota

It’s always fun to see a friend in the news – for doing well. Neeela Mollgaard, former head of Red Wing Ignite, was involved in the Blandin Broadband Communities program for Red Wing and was on the MN Broadband Task Force. So she’s pretty well known with the Blandin broadband team. I was delighted to see her move to Launch Minnesota; Neela was recently highlighted in Finance and Commerce

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced in August that Neela Mollgaard, founder of the Red Wing Ignite entrepreneurship group, is the inaugural leader for Launch Minnesota. A public-private partnership created by the Legislature this year, Launch Minnesota offers grants, mentorship resources and other assistance to the end of making Minnesota a top-five state for startups.

They asked questions about her background…

Q: You came here from Red Wing Ignite. What led you to start that program, and what did you do there?

A: I was really fortunate to be part of a small grassroots effort back in 2012. Our city had gigabit broadband, and we had just received a 2012 National Partnership with US Ignite, which is a nonprofit that was funded by the White House and the National Science Foundation. I worked for about a year as a volunteer, trying to bring the vision to reality, and then in 2013, I threw my name in the hat to lead that organization. We created Red Wing Ignite as a model really for rural innovation, and feel proud that it has received national attention.

And her future…

Q: As you’re standing up this new program, what are some of your goals in the first year?

A: Our three goals that I’m focusing on are capital, culture and talent. For capital, I want to increase access to capital through grants and private investors. We’ve just launched our innovation grants to increase capital to startups, and then also working to increase private investors with the angel tax credits and other ways. Regarding our talent, our goal is to provide education to increase the knowledge needed to start and scale startups in Minnesota.

Then the third goal is really trying to foster a collaborative culture to simplify the navigation of resources to save our startups time, which is a valuable resource. We want to make sure that startups know where they can go to plug in when they have an idea, and on that whole roadmap from idea to launch, what organizations and individuals are there to help them along the way.

3D Printing builds beaks, fins and tails for wildlife

OK, this isn’t strong on broadband, but I always like to share something fun over a holiday weekend and I just love this. Roaring Earth reports…

Each of these animals survived horrific injuries and were left without the means to eat, drink, or walk. Thankfully, dedicated caretakers and 3D printing technology have provided them with the means to start new lives with cutting-edge prosthetics. Scroll down to check out these amazing creatures!

And then goes on to tell the story of an elephant, bald eagle, sea turtle, toucan, duck, dolphin and more had their lives made better with 3D printing. It’s worth a quick look at the article for some happy pictures.

Science Kits for Public Libraries Grant Application deadline January, 19, 2020

Big tip for libraries (or potential library partners!!) from the Minnesota Library Association…

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Science Kits for Public Libraries (SKPL) Grant is offering up to $2,000 in funding to public libraries in the Midwest for the creation of circulating math and science collections). The grant seeks to be a catalyst for educating students about how math and science are used for the benefit of humanity and to provide seed money for the creation of a science kit collection that will make a lasting impression on the community.

Past grants have allowed several Midwestern libraries to develop science kit circulating collections and give students access to prepared experiments and science materials that they might not encounter in the traditional classroom. Additionally, these libraries have created educational programs that allow students to conduct experiments at the library with the guidance of a librarian. This is a program of IEEE-Region 4 .

Visit http://www.sciencekitsforpubliclibraries.org for application forms, grant criteria and to learn about the successes of past grant recipients. Send your completed application to:

Dr. Douglas De Boer, P.E, IEEE-Region 4 SKPL Grant Application Chair Science Kits for Public Libraries project Douglas.DeBoer@Dordt.edu