Should big tech companies pay a toll to broadband providers?

Fierce Telecom reports

Orange Group CEO Christel Heydemann and Brendan Carr, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), called on technology giants to contribute a “fair” share to broadband infrastructure costs, arguing such companies are driving a need for continued upgrades and have disproportionately benefitted from telecom investments to date. Their comments, made at an event hosted by the Financial Times this week, come as regulators in the U.S., European Union and South Korea weigh rule changes which would force the likes of Alphabet, Amazon, Meta and Netflix to pay telcos for the large amounts of traffic they generate.

Speaking during a keynote, Heydemann questioned whether the current arrangement between telecoms and tech companies is sustainable, noting internet traffic is growing “30 to 40% annually while telecom revenues are based mostly on flat rates.” She added a majority of traffic – 55% – is now driven by just six companies: Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix.

The request was simple…

Heydemann called on the E.U. to implement a “fairer system” in which large traffic emitters pay fees to operators to help pay for network maintenance and upgrades.

This question always brings me back to working for a broadband provider (aka ISP) in the 1990s. There were larger fees for website that got more traffic and really big websites were collocated with our servers so in some ways they did pay more but it wasn’t a lot more.

It is true that providers are the ones making the investment in infrastructure. (Although plenty of government money helps subsidize growth.) And it does seem like the broadband providers are not the ones who are benefiting they way some larger retailers or media companies are.

But there are some slippery slopes when you start asking some people to pay more, especially to make their websites more available. (And it’s more than websites but for simplification of discussion, I’m going to ay website.) It opens the door to a fast track for some website, which by default means others are on a slow track. It gives the companies with money a great advantage.  Another door opens to talking about broadband as a utility, which is another long-lasting discussion. Should we treat the Internet as a utility?
Another angle, should we penalize the websites that encourage greater broadband adoption? Because learning how to stream movies gets a person one step closer to telehealth and that could save everyone money in the end.

Sometimes these new ideas have long roots. It’s often valuable to relook at the suggestions but at least as valuable to look at the old arguments.

Senator Klobuchar joins others to introduce Digital Equity Foundation Act of 2022

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society report

On September 15, U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) in introducing the Digital Equity Foundation Act of 2022. The bill would establish a nonprofit foundation to leverage public and private investments to make progress closing the divides on digital equity, digital inclusion, and digital literacy. As the bill’s sponsors note, Congressionally-established nonprofit foundations have had great success in supporting the missions of various government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the United States Food and Drug Administration, and the National Park Service, and provide a mechanism to leverage public-private partnerships and support innovation. Here we look at the major provisions of the bill.

They outline key parts of the bill:

  1. The Foundation for Digital Equity
  2. Governance
  3. Community Advisory Committee
  4. Strategic Planning and Reporting
  5. Funding

 

LTD Broadband responds to ILSR’s participation in PUC case

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.)

In early September, the PUC asked LTD to share their long form RDOF application. They also invited folks to send comments (by Sep 16) in advance of a prehearing conference call planned for Sep 20. Several folks did response including the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Here’s LTD’s response to ILSR’s offer to act as proposed intervenor…

LTD Broadband, LLC (“LTD”) respectfully objects to the Motion to Intervene filed by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (“ILSR”) because ILSR has not met the standard set forth in Minn. R. 1400.6200. ILSR’s Motion does not make the showings required by that rule, and ILSR has also failed to demonstrate that its alleged interests will not be adequately represented by other parties to this proceeding such as the Minnesota Department of Commerce (“Department”) or the Office of the Attorney General—Residential Utilities Division (“OAG[1]RUD”). Under Minn. R. 1400.6200, subp. 1., a person who desires to intervene in a contested case proceeding must submit a petition that meets four requirements: the petition “[1] shall show how the petitioner’s legal rights, duties, or privileges may be determined or affected by the contested case; [2] shall show how the petitioner may be directly affected by the outcome or that petitioner’s participation is authorized by statute, rule, or court decision; [3] shall set forth the grounds and purposes for which intervention is sought; and [4] shall indicate petitioner’s statutory right to intervene if one should exist.” If the petition makes these showings, it should be granted “unless the judge finds that the petitioner’s interest is adequately represented by one or parties participating in the case.” Minn. R. 1400.6200, subp. 3. ILSR’s Motion fails to make the required showings.

The response is longer but continues in the same theme. This is the tactic that LTD Broadband took in the live meeting at the PUC earlier this year too. They focus on the formalities of the process rather than addressing the issues of the case.

Mediacom brings fiber to Wykoff MN (Fillmore County)

KIMT TV reports

Mediacom Communications says it has finished its expansion of a “company completed its expansion of a state-of-the-art fiber communications network” in Wykoff.

The company says this makes Wykoff one of nearly 200 Gigabit broadband communities Mediacom serves across Minnesota.

The details…

Construction began in early summer 2022 with a build-out of nearly five files of fiber optic lines reaching 235 local homes and businesses.  Mediacom says it privately funded the $435,000 costs to build and activate the Wykoff fiber network in order to provide local residents with substantially faster internet service options.

The rest of Fillmore County…

Mediacom says its high-speed internet services are now available in Fillmore County in Canton, Chatfield, Fountain, Lanesboro, Mabel, Peterson, Preston, Rushford, Spring Valley, and Wykoff.

Turns out broadband at speeds of 25/3 is too slow for business

Coming as a surprise to no one who uses the Internet, the US Government Accountability Office reports that broadband at 25 Mbps down and 3 up is likely too slow for business…

In a 2021 report, GAO found that some small businesses lack access to broadband, but may benefit from federal programs that fund deployment in rural areas. A nationally representative survey by Amazon and the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center found approximately 20 percent of rural small businesses were not using broadband, with about 5 percent using a dial up connection. Small businesses likely benefit from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) funding to expand broadband deployment. For example, at the time of the 2021 report, FCC had awarded $19.7 billion since 2014 through components of its high-cost programs, and estimated it had served 9.1 million business and residence locations. Both FCC and USDA have also helped increase broadband speeds in rural areas. For example, USDA’s rural broadband deployment program, ReConnect, is mostly funding projects that propose to build fiber, which is generally associated with the fastest speeds available.

Much of the literature GAO reviewed suggests that FCC’s current broadband minimum benchmark speeds—25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading and 3 Mbps for uploading—are likely too slow to meet many small business speed needs. For example, a 2019 USDA report stated that as technology advances and volumes of data needed to manage agriculture production grow, speeds above of 25/3 Mbps will likely be needed. In July 2022, the FCC Chairwoman announced a proposal to increase the benchmark to 100 Mbps for download and 20 Mbps for upload.

Small Business Administration (SBA) officials told GAO that their agency supports broadband access for small businesses, especially for those in rural areas, through partnerships with organizations and federal agencies. For example, SBA partners with national organizations that offer technical assistance and training to small businesses on a variety of topics, including how to use broadband to support their business.

I recognize that it’s important to do the research to provide a point, but it feels like they should be looking at 100/20 or 100/100 not 25/3. Often the research impacts funding and funding is more forward-looking than 25/3.

Nextlink Internet and Tarana enter Minnesota rural broadband market with fixed wireless

Business Wire shares a press release from Nextlink Internet and Tarana…

Nextlink Internet and Tarana announced today their formal collaboration toward large-scale improvements in the US broadband landscape. The companies are partnering to bring reliable, low-latency gigabit broadband service to an extensive set of under- and unserved communities and rural regions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. The team expects to expand service to hundreds of rural counties over the next several years, covering over a quarter million households.

Nextlink is using Tarana’s G1 platform to compete in local markets with fiber providers, taking market share with rapid deployment of fast, affordable broadband service. Nextlink is also using the platform to go above and beyond its regulatory commitments, delivering 500 Mbps service where it was obligated to deliver 100 Mbps service. Finally, Nextlink plans on utilizing a combination of fiber and gigabit fixed wireless to meet its RDOF obligations. Tarana is uniquely positioned to help Nextlink deliver on all of those promises.

It seems like maybe they are capitalizing on the changes/opportunities with LTD Broadband’s situation with their RDOF plans. Here’s more info on both…

About Nextlink

Nextlink Internet is a rural-focused provider of high-speed internet and phone services, investing over $1 billion in unserved and underserved communities with its fiber and wireless infrastructure. As an active participant in public-private partnerships to close the digital divide, Nextlink is working to rapidly connect thousands of additional homes, businesses, and anchor institutions in rural areas and small communities across 11 states. For more information visit: nextlinkinternet.com.

About Tarana

Tarana is on a mission to accelerate the deployment of fast, affordable internet access to the world. With a decade of research and more than $400M of investment, the Tarana engineering team has created a unique next-generation fixed wireless access (ngFWA) technology instantiated in its first commercial platform, Gigabit 1 (G1). G1 delivers a game-changing advance in broadband economics in both mainstream and underserved markets, using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. G1 started production in mid-2021 and has already been installed by over 120 service providers globally. Tarana is headquartered in Milpitas, California, with additional research and development in Pune, India. Visit www.taranawireless.com for more on G1.

New ReConnect grants: three include MN communities

USDA reports

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is awarding $502 million in loans and grants (PDF, 221 KB) to provide high-speed internet access for rural residents and businesses in 20 states. The funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and providing reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for all. USDA is making the investments through the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet in the coming months, including funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

Three of the grants include communities in Minnesota

Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association
Loan: 12,556,772
Grant: $12,556,772
This Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the home network. This network will connect 3,597 people, 80 businesses and 458 farms to high-speed internet in Freeborn County in Minnesota. Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs

Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association
Loan: $3,275,879
Grant: $3,275,879
his Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 1,595 people, 32 businesses, 101 farms, and one educational facility to high-speed internet in Morrison, Stearns, and Todd counties in Minnesota. Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program by providing low-income consumers who qualify up to $30 monthly service credit

Spring Grove Communications
Loan: $5,707,048
Grant: $5,707,048
This Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 983 people, 42 businesses, and 122 farms to high-speed internet in Allamakee and Winneshiek counties in Iowa and Houston County in Minnesota. Spring Grove Communications will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs

Representative Dave Lislegard asks MN PUC to revoke LTD Broadband’s ETC designation

I’ve been tracking what’s happening with MN PUC looking into revoking LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation (get background). The latest development is that Representative Dave Lislegard sent a letter to the MN PUC…

I’m writing to encourage the Public Utilities Commission to revoke LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation and to expedite the proceeding.

Greenwood Townships trying to secure broadband funding with CTC

The Ely Timberjay reports on the Greenwood Township Town Board meeting…

Supervisors are still working on securing funding for a broadband project, and are pursuing a couple of different grant opportunities and working with CTC, a broadband provider.
“We were told to apply for as many grants, concurrently, as possible,” Chairman Sue Drobac said, noting that in case two applications were successful, they would only need to accept one of them.

MN Broadband loses an amazing champion in Alex Weego

I am sad to share the news of the passing of Alex Weego. Alex has been a broadband champion for Todd County for more than 20 years. Alex was a stalwart and cheerful face in the crowd at annual broadband meetings, regional events and often hosting meetings in his community. Mary Magnuson and I wanted to share our thoughts. We were both always delighted to see his name on a registration list. We knew it would be a friendly meeting. Alex had interesting stories about broadband and more.

Alex was never afraid to ask the good question. Because broadband is a layered topic, it sometimes took me a minute to see where his questions were heading but they were heading somewhere practical. He understood broadband, or lack thereof, from the frontlines and his questions helped me better understand the policy implications. I will miss his questions and smile.

From Mary:
I remember Alex from the Get Broadband days, our very first broadband grant program. He was always kind, thoughtful, and conscientious. He recognized that broadband (among other things) was important to the future of his community and region, and he stuck with it. In fact, he was instrumental in establishing a Todd County team that participated in our last Accelerate! cohort just last year. He will be missed.

 

Mediacom brings fiber to 235 locations in Wykoff (Fillmore County)

ABC New 6 (Rochester MN) reports

Mediacom Communications announced on Tuesday that they completed installation of a new broadband fiber communication network in Wykoff.

The company says they built nearly five miles of fiber optic lines with gigabit internet services now available to 235 homes and businesses in the Fillmore County town.

Construction began in early summer.

Mediacom says they privately funded the $435,000 costs to build and activate the Wykoff fiber network.

The investment was made to provide local residents with substantially faster internet service options.

“Mediacom chose to make this investment to offer Wykoff residents the super-fast internet services we deliver to customers in other Fillmore County communities and throughout much of Minnesota,” said Mediacom Operations Director Zach Raskovich. “Gig Internet provides a large amount of bandwidth to a home network – allowing multiple users to surf, stream, download and game at the same time.”

According to Mediacom, Wykoff now joins the ranks of nearly 200 Gigabit broadband communities Mediacom serves across Minnesota.

Three new FirstNet Cell sites launch in MN: Deer River, Ely and Gary

AT&T reports on three new FirstNet Cell site. Here’s the info on each, starting with Deer River

First responders in Northern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located south of Deer River on Great River Road near Skunk Lake and the Mississippi River.

This new site will provide coverage when traveling along Great River Road (County 65 NE) and Minnesota State Highway 6 west of Grand Rapids in Itasca County. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

In 2021, we added a new site in Togo near George Washington State Forest in Itasca County. In addition, AT&T has added new cell towers in Itasca County to enhance mobile broadband coverage and help give residents, visitors and first responders faster, more reliable wireless service. These sites are south of Bigfork near Maple Lake and north of Bovey by Lower Balsam Lake.

Ely

First responders in Northern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located on the Echo Trail just north of Ely near Twin Lakes and Everett Lake.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along the Echo Trail in the remote wilderness of northeastern Minnesota. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

This is the third FirstNet site in St. Louis County and the second on the Echo Trail. In 2021, we added a new site on the Echo Trail northwest of Ely near Meander Lake and Lake Jeanette State Forest – one of the first primarily powered by solar in the Midwest region. This site along the Echo Trail provided coverage to first responders who battled the Bezhik wildfire in May of 2021 just a few miles south of the tower. We also added a new site in 2021 in the Kabetogama State Forest near Kjostad Lake and west of Buyck.

Gary

First responders in northwestern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located near Gary and just west of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota’s Red River Valley region.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along State Highway 200 and State Highway 32 in Norman County. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

NTIA improves the Federal Broadband Funding Guide

The NTIA reports

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working to expand access and increase connectivity across the U.S. through the Internet for All effort by increasing awareness of federal funding available for closing the digital divide.

As part of that mission, NTIA released an update to the Federal Funding site, which serves as a comprehensive, “one-stop shop” of resources for potential applicants seeking federal broadband funding.

The site includes broadband funding opportunities and information on more than 80 federal programs across 14 federal agencies. Programs include funding opportunities for high-speed internet-related activities such as planning, infrastructure deployment, and digital inclusion.

Program types include direct grants, loans, indirect support, and discounts for industry, state, local, and Tribal governments, schools, libraries, and other community institutions that are interested in expanding and improving broadband access. Visitors to the website can search for programs by agency, program purpose, and eligible recipients. In response to user feedback, the site contains information on a number of new program fields, including:

  • Matching Requirement
  • Complementary Federal Funding Option
  • Speed/Technical Requirement for Broadband Infrastructure
  • Criteria for Eligible Recipients
  • Grant Beneficiaries

Additionally, the high-speed internet-related Program Purpose field was narrowed down to three options to reflect the broadband program purposes included in NTIA’s ACCESS BROADBAND Report.

Notably, the site features many new programs, including those that were funded through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law including the Department of Commerce’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD), Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure, and Digital Equity Act programs.

EVENT Sep 20: MRBC IIJA/BEAD Broadband Funding Webinar

Looks like a great event from the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition…

At our last meeting, we discussed having a meeting to talk more about the future activities of the Coalition.  Bill Coleman volunteered to create an online event where we can discuss how the Coalition can bring the rural voice to the Office of Broadband’s IIJA/BEAD planning process.
This event is scheduled for TOMORROW – Tuesday, September 20 from 9:00 – 11:00 am and will include guest experts from around the nation as well as opportunity for small group discussion and reporting.   Details on how to join the meeting are below.
The current line-up includes:

  • Adrianne Furniss – Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
  • Peggy Schaffer – former head of the Maine Broadband Office
  • Doug Dawson – CCG Consulting
  • Brian Ford – NTCA.

If you have ideas for guest experts, please let Bill know at bill@communitytechnologyadvisors.com.
Agenda
9:00am Welcome – Jay Trusty, Chair, MN Rural Broadband Coalition
9:05am Quick overview of the IIJA Timeline/Planning Process, Adrianne Furniss, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
9:15am Expert Panel – Key considerations for community-focused broadband
9:45am Breakout discussions on key topics
10:15am Small group reporting to the large group
10:40am Prospective role of MN Rural BB Coalition in IIJA process/Ensuring effective community voice (facilitated discussion by Bill Coleman)
10:55am Closing – Jay Trusty

Meeting Information:
Topic: IIJA/BEAD Broadband Funding Webinar
Time: Sep 20, 2022, 09:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 882 3489 1525
Passcode: 834949
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White House looks at Digital Asset and consumer protection

The White House releases the first-ever comprehensive framework for responsible development of digital assets. (Did you know 16 percent of adult Americans have purchased digital assets?) I’m going to borrow the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society recap…

Digital assets present potential opportunities to reinforce US leadership in the global financial system and remain at the technological frontier. President Biden’s March 9, 2022 Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets outlined the first whole-of-government approach to addressing the risks and harnessing the potential benefits of digital assets and their underlying technology. Agencies across the government have worked together to develop frameworks and policy recommendations that advance the six key priorities identified in the Order:

  1. Consumer and Investor Protection –  issuing guidance, increasing enforcement resources, and aggressively pursuing fraudulent actors.

  2. Promoting Financial Stability – collaborating with financial institutions to bolster their cybersecurity capabilities and neutralize emerging strategic risks.

  3. Countering Illicit Finance – monitoring the development of the digital assets sector and working to expose and disrupt illicit actors.

  4. US Leadership in the Digital Assets Sector – leveraging US positions in international organizations to set standards for the digital asset sectors.

  5. Financial Inclusion – exploring a US Central Bank Digital Currency that enables access to a broad swath of US consumers.

  6. Responsible Innovation – developing a Digital Assets Research and Development Agenda and encouraging innovation in US-based, digital assets firms.