This afternoon we met with the folks in Nobles County to hear about their Blandin Broadband Community programs. They are focused on a range of projects but I think they have done an especially good job with successful programming for New Americans. Technology has been a connection back to their home countries and technology has also been an excuse to connect with their new neighbors and help build ESL skills.

The community noted that Blandin was instrumental in helping so much of this happen. They are becoming a connected community. Focusing on broadband gave them a place to start – soon after they got going with NEON (Nobles Economic Opportunities Network. Having a place to start really helped get them off the blocks and led to brainstorming and new ideas.

I am happy to share video from the presentations…

And the PPT

And my notes… Read More…

Today they visited with the folks in Redwood County to hear about their Blandin Broadband Community projects. Redwood County is still struggling with broadband issues. They have a feasibility study and have recently completed a market survey so they are working on better broadband. In fact they have two providers that are applying for Minnesota State funds to deploy broadband. But even without the best broadband they have implemented a number of success programs – training for business, training for new computer users, computers distributed to low income households through PCs for People set up with low cost broadband through local providers and more. (I think it’s interesting to hear about the details of MVTV’s reduced rates policy in the PCs for People video below.

A great observation was the idea that you need to give people a good experience. People won’t use broadband if the experience is negative. That’s why the training, equipment and access to quality programs/applications is so important. But that’s quickly followed by the need for broadband to maintain the quality.

I think the PPT they have shared probably gets to the details even better than my notes – but I will also be sharing my notes below. (But I ask for kindness with proofing; we’re on the way to the next stop now and I wanted to get the notes up asap.)

Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 28, 2016

Using broadband boosts offline civic engagement in rural areas

The Daily Yonder recently posted an article on the research of Brian Whitacre and Jacob Manlove on the impact of broadband on civic engagement. What they found was that people who used broadband were more engaged in civic life. It wasn’t enough to simply have broadband available or have access at anchor tenants. People needed to use broadband to see the increase.

Here’s a chart that details the actions that increase based on Adoption (using broadband), Access (availability of broadband) and CAI (access in anchor institutions)…

civic-engagement-2

I have been in many conversations with people about the social impact of technology. I’ve been at the dinner table where all of us were on our phones. I’ve been in situations where I “talked” more to a kid overseas than when she’s at home. It’s fun to see that research indicates that the impact of using broadband is beneficial to civic life.

I couldn’t resist sharing the following clip from the IT Crowd on the impact of “Friendface” in their office – again nice to see that people who are active online continue to be active offline.

Today we met with folks in Renville and Sibley Counties to talk about the broadband projects that were funded through the Blandin Broadband Community programs. We met in the home of the new innovation center – aka future home of the drone obstacle course.

I took pretty good news that I’ll post below and a few videos. The highest level lesson we learned was that being part of the BBC programs served the community well because it gave community leaders (schools, economic development, business, towns and more) a reason to meet on a regular basis. The challenge is to create a new reason to continue meeting as they learned that no one can live successfully in isolation anymore!

Economic Development Read More…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 27, 2016

MN County Rankings for Digital Divide: How does your County rank?

Yesterday I took a look at Minnesota County ranking for broadband access. Today’s it’s a look at County ranking for digital divide. The folks at Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide by county

The DDI is a county-level index score (from 0 to 100) measuring the digital divide. The higher the number, the larger the digital divide. The objective of the DDI is to serve as a descriptive and pragmatic tool for policymakers, community leaders, and residents. The DDI consists of two components: infrastructure/adoption and socioeconomic characteristics.

Three broadband infrastructure and adoption indicators were grouped for the infrastructure/adoption (INFA) component. Data was obtained from the FCC Form 477 and includes percent people without access to 25/3 fixed broadband, number of residential fixed broadband connections per 1,000 households, and average advertised upload/download speeds. A high INFA score implies investments need to be made regarding broadband infrastructure, including improving speeds.

The second component measures socioeconomic (SE) characteristics that are known to lag in technology adoption: percentage 65 and over, percent population 25 and over with less than high school, and (individual) poverty rate. These were included because counties with a higher SE score are at a higher risk of lagging in technology adoption requiring more digital literacy and technology relevance efforts, which also impact the digital divide along with broadband infrastructure and adoption.

You can download the full list of Minnesota Counties – I thought I’d pull out the top and bottom ten as I did yesterday.

Top 10 Counties (with their DDI score – remember lower is better):

  1. Carver   11.69
  2. Scott      11.87
  3. Washington        14.06
  4. Dakota  15.60
  5. Anoka   16.32
  6. Wright  16.82
  7. Sherburne          17.03
  8. Dodge   20.33
  9. Olmsted               21.12
  10. Hennepin 21.70

It’s worth noting that all of these are listed as Metropolitan Counties, which only one of the lowest ranking counties is listed as Metro (Fillmore).

Bottom 10 Counties (with their DDI score – remember lower is better):

  1. Yellow Medicine               55.89
  2. Redwood            56.22
  3. Lake of the Woods           58.14
  4. Cass       58.67
  5. Fillmore                59.43
  6. Todd      59.62
  7. Becker  61.07
  8. Norman               65.85
  9. Mahnomen        66.72
  10. Aitkin    68.43

The state average was 40.66 with socioeconomic characteristics averaging 59.00 and infrastructure averaging 40.66. Looking at the full report, Minnesota is not at the top or bottom of the DDI list – although Carver and Scott Counties are both listed in the top 10 lowest socioeconomic scores, which means their populations have the least propensity to having characteristics that best match people who are slow to adopt broadband.

The report is a good reminder that expanding broadband, and expanding smart broadband use is a one-two punch. It requires both infrastructure and digital inclusion efforts. We’ve seen that in Minnesota in place like Lac qui Parle County. They received ARRA funding to upgrade most of the county to FTTH but they also made efforts to reach to the far edges of the digital divide while the fiber was deployed. The built demand as they built supply.

ddi

The Office of Broadband Development recently posted numbers on county access to broadband – based on information gathered in July 2016. They tracked access to speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 up, which is the state goal for 2022 and 100 Mbps down and 20 up, which is the speed goal for 2026. (They also posted county maps.)

Here’s a breakdown of the best and worst lists:

Highest percentage of population with access to 25/3

  1. Stevens – at 99.21 at 96.73
  2. Lac qui Parle – at 99.36
  3. Beltrami – at 99.36
  4. Dodge – at 99.37
  5. Freeborn – at 99.44
  6. Clearwater – at 99.58
  7. Ramsey – at 99.75
  8. Steele – at 99.86
  9. Red Lake – at 99.99
  10. Hennepin – at 99.16

Lowest percentage of population with access to 25/3

  1. Mille Lacs – at 47.86
  2. Todd – at 46.01
  3. Traverse – at 45.37
  4. Redwood – at 41.51
  5. Pine – at 40.12
  6. Norman – at 37.67
  7. Kanabec – at 34.04
  8. Marshall – at 33.49
  9. Aitkin – at 27.48
  10. Yellow Medicine – at 20.42

Highest percentage of population with access to 100/20

  1. Ramsey – at 99.39
  2. Lac qui Parle – at 99.36
  3. Waseca – at 98.75
  4. Hennepin – at 98.57
  5. Stevens – at 96.73
  6. Beltrami – at 96.35
  7. Anoka – at 96.10
  8. Steele – at 95.64
  9. Washington – at 94.97
  10. Dodge – at 94.90

Lowest percentage of population with access to 100/20

  1. Marshall – at 9.20
  2. Kandiyohi – at 8.14
  3. Douglas – at 7.68
  4. Becker – at 6.58
  5. Kittson – at 3.46
  6. Todd – at 2.86
  7. Otter Tail – at 1.75
  8. Lyon – at 0
  9. Roseau – at 0
  10. Lake of the Woods – at 0

You can see there are a lot of counties that made one (best or worst) list but not the other.

I’m including the whole table of counties too. I know it won’t fit well into the blog here. I’ll do my best but you can also get the Word Doc, which makes it easier to manipulate the data to meet your needs.

Rank at 25/3 goal County Percentage served with 25/3 or better Percentage served with 100/20 or better
86 Aitkin 27.48 11.51
18 Anoka 97.56 96.10
58 Becker 69.41 6.58
8 Beltrami 99.36 96.35
32 Benton 87.61 14.28
57 Big Stone 70.12 70.12
29 Blue Earth 88.35 55.60
21 Brown 95.92 72.89
66 Carlton 62.74 52.32
14 Carver 98.51 81.04
62 Cass 66.92 34.07
53 Chippewa 72.28 24.45
65 Chisago 65.25 65.45
38 Clay 83.15 74.13
4 Clearwater 99.58 73.41
23 Cook 94.50 94.46
69 Cottonwood 60.52 19.24
31 Crow Wing 87.78 33.13
15 Dakota 98.47 64.18
6 Dodge 99.37 94.90
50 Douglas 75.10 7.68
40 Faribault 81.77 49.13
72 Fillmore 59.00 44.11
5 Freeborn 99.44 94.59
34 Goodhue 87.46 60.33
47 Grant 75.73 39.93
10 Hennepin 99.16 98.57
54 Houston 72.23 65.08
35 Hubbard 87.42 46.43
75 Isanti 53.52 49.29
45 Itasca 78.92 76.35
59 Jackson 68.90 68.90
84 Kanabec 34.04 26.07
46 Kandiyohi 77.25 8.14
63 Kittson 65.62 3.46
60 Koochiching 68.60 68.55
7 Lac qui Parle 99.36 99.36
24 Lake 94.32 94.32
76 Lake of the Woods 50.61 0
28 Le Sueur 90.39 82.78
74 Lincoln 54.27 40.00
52 Lyon 72.37 0
55 Mahnomen 71.95 13.03
85 Marshall 33.49 9.20
73 Martin 55.64 54.06
12 McLeod 98.58 56.92
13 Meeker 98.58 38.13
78 Mille Lacs 47.86 47.07
51 Morrison 74.13 28.83
22 Mower 94.78 90.20
77 Murray 50.47 41.65
36 Nicollet 86.10 54.54
48 Nobles 75.69 59.25
83 Norman 37.67 20.52
17 Olmsted 97.75 34.00
70 Otter Tail 59.34 1.75
26 Pennington 91.78 9.63
82 Pine 40.12 37.37
43 Pipestone 79.36 44.54
27 Polk 90.78 80.89
67 Pope 62.73 24.33
3 Ramsey 99.75 99.39
1 Red Lake 99.99 48.01
81 Redwood 41.51 34.37
71 Renville 59.27 50.43
16 Rice 97.93 48.85
61 Rock 68.17 66.32
68 Roseau 62.16 0
20 Scott 96.10 88.38
49 Sherburne 75.40 28.02
56 Sibley 71.27 51.01
39 St. Louis 82.72 38.78
33 Stearns 87.58 38.01
2 Steele 99.86 95.64
9 Stevens 99.21 96.73
44 Swift 78.95 30.41
79 Todd 46.01 2.86
80 Traverse 45.37 45.37
37 Wabasha 83.59 61.70
30 Wadena 88.23 45.69
11 Waseca 98.75 98.75
19 Washington 96.52 94.97
64 Watonwan 65.26 64.58
42 Wilkin 80.84 80.84
25 Winona 92.13 81.17
41 Wright 81.17 29.26
87 Yellow Medicine 20.42 19.28

 

According to Fierce Telecom

CenturyLink said that as it extends broadband services to rural areas via the FCC’s CAF-II program, it can attract a larger amount of customers that reside in 1.2 million homes with 10/1 Mbps speeds.

In 2015, CenturyLink accepted $500 million in the second phase of the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF-II), enabling it to deliver broadband services to about 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states over the next six years.

By accepting the 33 CAF II statewide offers, CenturyLink will be able to deliver up to 10/1 Mbps to locations in FCC-designated, high-cost census blocks that today can get at best between 1.5 to 3 Mbps speeds.

But is that good news good enough? Can you run a business with a 10/1 connection?I have three kids. Can three kids do homework with a 10/1 connection? How does that compare to their cohorts in areas that are better served?

Well rising tides lift all boats. It turns out that as the hard-to-reach areas get upgraded to 10/1, other areas will get better service too…

“There will be ancillary benefits to the build as well,” Ewing said. “As we get out to those areas, we’ll be installing fiber, which allows us to increase speeds along the way to potential customers.”

That sounds like the digital gap will remain. And while it’s great to see the increases in unserved areas, it won’t feel very fast for long, especially if the neighbors in town are in a position to get much faster speeds as part of the CAF 2 upgrade. I think of it in terms of my kids. With 10/1 they can watch a lot of video (for school and entertainment) with a faster connection, they can upload a lot of video, which is a pretty popular homework assignment at our schools.

It seems like with the expected increase in penetration that CenturyLink could consider greater investment in speeds. Or they could work with the community to form a partnership that allowed the local community to help increase the investment for higher speeds as they are doing in Sunrise Township. That is a model that I think is worth watching! I hope it goes well for both sides so that CenturyLink and other communities are open to trying it again.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 24, 2016

Kandiyohi County moves forward with broadband grant plans with CTC

According to Willmar Radio

Kandiyohi County is going ahead with plans to apply for a five million dollar grant to expand high speed internet in underserved or un-served areas of the county. County Commissioner Harlan Madsen says they are seeking a grant through the State of Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband fund, and if they get it, Madsen says the county will borrow 5 million dollars to match it…

…Consolidated Telephone Company of Baxter-Brainerd will use the 10 million dollars to install high-speed internet to around 1700 homes in an area north of Willmar, in the Lake Florida-Norway Lake region…

Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 22, 2016

Annandale gets fiber ahead of schedule from Midco

Good news for Annandale from Midco

Advanced internet, cable TV and phone services are now available to more than 2,600 homes and businesses in Annandale. Today, Midco announced that infrastructure construction is complete, bringing fiber-optic broadband to the city five weeks ahead of schedule. And last week, the company welcomed its 500th customer in Annandale.

Based on their website here are the services they are offering…

Midco built approximately 292,000 feet – more than 55 miles – of infrastructure in Annandale. The resulting high-capacity network delivers the technology backbone to support the people and businesses of Annandale for years to come.

Midco’s standard service speeds run as high as 200 megabits per second – faster than what’s traditionally been available in Annandale. By the end of 2017, Midco will upgrade its system to offer 1 gigabit speeds across its entire service area.

And a reminder on the history of broadband in the area…

Midco’s entry in the Annandale market ends the city’s multiyear attempt to provide a broadband alternative for the small Minnesota community. Annandale’s efforts to improve its broadband service became statewide news during the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions, as city officials and businesses testified about the crippling effect that unreliable service had on local businesses.

In August 2015, Midco announced it would build out services in Annandale. Construction began in April 2016. In June, the first services were turned on for the first neighborhoods.

Last night I combed through the agenda for the Broadband Properties conference on Broadband and Economic Development scheduled for October 18-20. It’s in Minneapolis this year and I was pleased to see a lot of Minnesota projects and people on the lineup. bbc-main

The conference is for folks involved or interested in Public Private Partnerships to deploy or use broadband networks – so planners such as policymakers, community leaders, broadband providers (especially local and independent), cooperatives and users such as folks in administration of schools, healthcare and economic development. There are three tracts: two focus on economic development and one on community toolkits, which are tools to help engage the community in a broadband effort.

It’ll be a fun chance to hear what’s happening in the region – but I’m especially proud that we get to showcase what’s happening in Minnesota. There are a couple of Minnesota-only sessions:

The Role of Government Networks in Economic Development
In this session, members of the MN Public Broadband Alliance will share their local economic development best practices and successes that they have acquired from years of experience. The Alliance shares resources and expertise to help every interested community with effectively leveraging public dollars in broadband networks into effective engines for both community and economic development.

  • JoAnne Johnson – Executive Director, MN Public Broadband Alliance
  • Gary Shelton – County Administrator, Scott County, MN
  • David Asp – Network Collaborative Engineer, Dakota County, MN
  • Jeff Dahna – General Manager, WindomNet, MN

Highly Effective Digital Literacy and Training Programs

Young people inherently understand the fun side of technology; a really effective digital literacy program helps digital natives go beyond using technology as toy to using technology as tool. Learn how to make technology useful and keep it fun through creative internships, summer app camps, virtual reality and letting kids take the lead in closing the digital divide.

  • Charles Hilliard – Fond du Lac Reservation Ojibwe School
  • Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva  Community Technology Empowerment Project
  • Randy Johnson – Red Wing Ignite Rural Intern Program
  • Chuck Olsen – Visual (Virtual Reality) Minneapolis MN

And a number of Minnesota speakers peppered throughout…

  • Kevin Beyer, General Manager, ACIRA (Advanced Communications in Rural America) – talking about Public-Private Partnerships
  • Brian Bissonette at Paul Bunyan Communications – talking about how to Market the Value of fiber and Unlocking the Investment
  • Don Boeder, Mayor, City of Gaylord, MN – on the Mayor’s panel, perhaps to talk about the Medical school looking to move to Gaylord with their fiber plans
  • Bill Coleman at CommunityTechnologyAdvisors.com – leading a talk on Working With The Economic Development Community
  • Neela Mollgaard Executive Director, Red Wing Ignite – joining Bill to talk about promoting innovation with rural fiber
  • Eric Lampland at Lookout Point Communications – leading a talk on Case Histories of Successful Local Fiber-based Economic Development
  • Mark Erickson, EDA Director , City of Winthrop, MN – joining Eric to talk about the success of RS Fiber
  • Erik Gronvall from Commscope – leading a discussion on If At First You Don’t Succeed: Managing Expectations and Ensuring Persistence
  • Travis Carter from US Internet – joining Erik to talk about customer engagement and support in Minneapolis
  • Bernard Gulachek, CIO at University of Minnesota – talking about How Higher Education is Driving Economic and Workforce Development
  • Jim Hickle at Velocity Telephone, Inc./Gigabit Minnesota – talking about Why Fiber Matters and Why Velocity Chose All-Fiber
  • Dan Pecarina at, Hiawatha Broadband Communications will also talk about Why HBC Chose All-Fiber
  • Matthew Huddleston at Lake County, MN – talking about Developing the Business Case by Organizing the Community
  • Danna MacKenzie at MN Office of Broadband Development – talking about Successful State and Regional Efforts to Foster Fiber-Driven Economic Development
  • Christopher Mitchell Director, Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self-Reliance – talking about How Far Have We Come, and What Must We Do Next? and joining the experts panel
  • Kevin Morgan Chief Marketing Officer, Clearfield – talking about Developing the Business Case: Part 3 – Demand Aggregation: Justifying the Investment
  • Senator Matt Schmit – talking about Making Your Legislature an Ally
  • Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith – welcoming the crowd
  • Shannon Sweeney, Associate, David Drown Associates, Inc. – talking about What You Really Need to Know About Financing
  • Jim Baller, President, The Baller Herbst Law Group – we’re going to claim Jim, one of the organizers of the event even though I think DC would like to claim him too
Posted by: Ann Treacy | September 21, 2016

St Louis Park slowly but surely builds a fiber network

St Louis Park was recently featured on the Community Broadband Network Podcast. It’s interesting to hear how they have moved forward to build a fiber network that is sure to make buying a place in new buildings in town an easier call. Here’s an intro from Community Broadband Networks – but it’s worth the listen to the podcast too…

In one of our longest episodes, we discuss how Saint Louis Park started by partnering with other key entities to start its own fiber network, connecting key anchor institutions. Years later, it partnered with a firm for citywide solar-powered Wi-Fi but that partner failed to perform, leaving the community a bit disheartened, but in no way cowed.

They continued to place conduit in the ground wherever possible and began striking deals with ISPs and landlords that began using the fiber and conduit to improve access for local businesses and residents. And they so impressed our previous podcast guest Travis Carter of US Internet, that he suggested we interview them for this show.

Clint Pires has learned many lessons over the years and now we hope other communities will take his wisdom to heart. Well-managed communities can make smart investments that will save taxpayer dollars and drive investment in better networks.

Good news from the USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing in 18 projects in 16 states to use communications technology to expand access to health care, substance misuse treatment and advanced educational opportunities.

And that includes one project from Minnesota

Grand Meadow Independent School District 495 receives $115,692 to replace telecommunications equipment to enhance academic services available to rural students. More than 2,700 students are expected to benefit from this interactive video conferencing project.

Doug Dawson (POTs and PANs) recently wrote about AT&T’s plans to spend CAF 2 funding on extending its current network. I nearly said “upgrading” but the point is that they aren’t upgrading, they are extending the network to areas that didn’t have it before but not upgrading…

So it looks like AT&T will use the CAF II money to upgrade cell sites to LTE (something they were certainly going to do anyway). They also might build a few new rural cell sites and build some fiber to feed them. Finally, they will buy the customers the LTE receivers. My guess is that they are going to have a very hard time showing that they spent all of the CAF II money and so I expect some overinflated reporting of CAF II costs to the FCC. But these upgrades are far less costly than the rural DSL upgrades being contemplated by CenturyLink and Frontier.

AT&T promises that the bandwidth will meet the 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up speeds required by the FCC’s CAF II order. They also promise that there will be no monthly data caps smaller than 150 gigabits, also a threshold set by the CAF II rules. They have not yet specified specific prices, but say that prices will be at ‘market rate’ for broadband.

Even though we’ve seen this coming, this is a giant disappointment. Already today a 10/1 Mbps connection is inadequate for a large percentage of households. Cisco recently published statistics showing that the average home in the US today wants 24 Mbps to meet their needs, just a hair under the FCC definition of broadband. Cisco predicts that by 2020 that the average household demand is going to grow to 54 Mbps. That means the 10/1 speeds are going to feel really slow even by the end of the CAF II period ending in 2021.

I’ve heard worry about this sort of incremental improvement in communities. People in the impacted areas are happy to see better speeds than they have – but for how long? Doug points out that these changes may stick around for a long time…

These upgrades will improve broadband in the affected areas, but only by a small amount. Some residents in these areas today can get very slow DSL, under 1 Mbps. There are also numerous WISPs operating in the area offering speeds under 5 Mbps. And everybody always has the option of satellite broadband, which is universally disliked due to the latency and data caps.

The really bad news for these areas is that this upgrade is going to be in place for a long time. The FCC is probably not going to think about the CAF II areas again until well past the end of the CAF timeline, perhaps not until 2025.

It’s kind of like buying the crappy dishwasher for the home you thought you were going to leave and then having to use it for 10 years. It seems better than washing by hand, except after a while you really have to wash the dishes pretty well before you run the cycle. So it’s really not that much better.

Sometimes rural broadband policy gets a little wonky. So I find it’s helpful to start with the consequences policy or the why should I care. Telecompetitor recently ran a story on the potential impact of the FCC’s ruling on business data services. Here’s a glimpse of why you might care based on comments from others…

  • The Ad Hoc Telecommunications Users Committee estimates that BDS prices would have been 22% lower in markets that were de-regulated prematurely if de-regulation had not occurred. A compromise proposal from Verizon and competitive carrier association Incompass calls for a 15% reduction in BDS costs in those areas.

  • Colleen Boothby, a representative for The Ad Hoc Telecommunications Users Committee, cited what she called a “stunning” study of the e-rate program that covers some of a school’s broadband costs. The study, conducted by an e-rate consulting firm, found that often schools received only one very high bid in response to broadband proposals and that those bids often came from competitive carriers. Digging into it, however, the study found that prices sometimes were high because the competitive carrier was buying the underlying access from the incumbent which represented 95% of the total price quoted.

And here’s a little bit on the question at hand…

The FCC is considering whether to impose price controls on BDS providers in areas that the commission previously deemed to be competitive, but which BDS purchasers say are not competitive. BDS purchasers include business and government users of data services, including schools and libraries, as well as carriers and others. The FCC business data services decision could call for decreasing BDS pricing in markets where costs have increased since the markets were deregulated.

And the details…

Although wireless carriers sometimes build their own backhaul networks, Katz estimates that at least 50% of the time they lease connectivity from another carrier – and in the majority of cases, it’s the incumbent local carrier. According to an analysis of BDS data collected by the FCC, 73% of locations are served by a monopoly BDS provider and 97% by no more than two providers, Katz said. When there are only two providers, the cost of BDS services drops only about 10%, according to Katz.

Backhaul costs represent almost 30% of a rural wireless carrier’s total network costs and 6% of a wireless carrier’s opex, according to the Telecom Advisory Services study. Analyzing historical data, the Telecom Advisory Services study found that 85% of regulator-mandated cost reduction in carrier operational expenditures (opex) could instead be used for capital expenditures (capex).

The study looked at the impact of various levels of price reduction under three different scenarios – one in which a carrier spends 2.25% of opex on backhaul, another in which that number is 4.3% and another in which that number is 6%. Levels of price reduction studied included 10%, 20% and 30%. Results showed that a carrier spending a relatively low 2.25% of its opex on backhaul and getting just a 10% reduction in BDS costs could have an additional $40,000 for its capex budget.

Last night I attended the township meeting in Sunrise Township to discuss the next steps for their better broadband plan. Spoiler alert – the residents are going to work on a petition to get 50 percent of the 532 households in CenturyLink territory to say they are interested in bonding for $500,000. That money along with CenturyLink using CAF 2 funding will be used as match for a Minnesota Border to Border grant application.

They are interested in using a subordinate service district bond, which means only the houses that qualify for the service will play back the bond. The payback will be around $100/year for each household.

The town board agreed to continue with the grant application.

CenturyLink says they are excited to work on the project. If the funding doesn’t come through they still will use CAF 2 funds in the area to do fiber to the node – but with fiber to the node they will also coil fiber at intervals (650 ft) to streamline a FTTH upgrade in the future or to allow someone to upgrade themselves – although the cost of the individual upgrade will be on the customer. (That seems like a step to scalability to me. Although there wasn’t a promise of that next step without grant funding.)

Good news – the partnership seems strong, the local residents are invested (there were at least 50 people at the meeting, not bad for community of 532 homes) and they are willing to work to demonstrate public interest in the project. Also – with CenturyLink as a partner, it seems they will fly by the challenge process.

Bad news – CenturyLink doesn’t serve the whole township; Frontier is the other local provider they apparently did not respond to invitations to discuss such a partnership.

Lessons – The subordinate service district bond seems like a good way to have only households that experience the upgrade pay back the loan. The petition cannot be internet-based.

Read on or watch the videos for more info…

Read More…

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