Good math news for Round Two ARRA applicants

I thought the last batch of Round One ARRA award announcements might be the last. It looks as if that suspicion has been confirmed. According to Telecompetitor (and thanks to Ann Higgins for passing it on), that was the last batch of Round One awards.

Also according to Telecompetitor…

The nine new grants bring the total value of awards made by the NTIA in Round 1 to $1.2 billion. Considering that the NTIA was charged with awarding a total of $4.7 billion in two funding rounds, that leaves more than half for the second round.

So that’s good news for anyone who’s in the hopper for Round Two funding. First – there’s more money to be spent. Second, fewer folks have submitted applications.

According to my own tally, this is how Minnesota did:

  • Total loans: 31,939,636
  • Total grants: 87,438,857 ** however that includes 47,778,669 in funds that go to multi-state projects; so 39,660,188 is going more directly to Minnesota

HickoryTech is expanding

Mankato-based Hickory Tech is expanding to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota. According to the HickoryTech web site

The network expansion to Sioux Falls and Fargo will add 350 fiber route miles to HickoryTech’s existing 2,400 fiber route miles. These initiatives are evidence of the company’s commitment to grow its Enventis business services and provide cost-effective, high-capacity fiber-based solutions.

They have also been increasing “the capacity of its network between Minnesota and Des Moines, Iowa and is investing in local fiber infrastructure in Des Moines to grow its Enventis business services.”

So it will be interesting to see the growth pattern. They are also hoping to expand or deepen their connections in Minnesota. HickoryTech/Enventis applied for $16.8 million in ARRA broadband grants to extend its middle mile fiber-optic network connecting community anchor institutions across Minnesota to an advanced high capacity broadband network.

Breakfast with Adelstein

Given a chance, what would you say to a top federal policy maker about rural broadband? I had my chance at the Broadband Properties Summit this week in Dallas with USDA Rural Utilities Services Administrator Jonathan Adelstein. I first saw him in the elevator and he asked me what I wanted to hear from him during his keynote. I asked him how we will get broadband to the countryside surrounding RBOC-served communities that have been CLEC’d by smaller independent companies who have cherry-picked the significant customer base in the town but are unable to overbuild the countryside. He told me that this was too hard of a question! As we got off the elevator, I saw that he was heading to the restaurant for breakfast alone. I overcame my natural shyness and asked him if I could join him and he welcomed me to his table. What followed was a very interesting discussion (at least for me!).

He was a very good questioner. We talked about the marvel of cooperatives as a model for rural broadband development. We talked about the appropriate scale for this type of cooperative development and whether new cooperatives could make it economically today as start-ups. Necessary scale versus local control – how does one find that balance. As Minnesota’s telecommunications providers get larger through acquisitions (CenturyLink purchasing Embarq and Qwest, growing independent telcos like ACS, Iowa Telecom and New Ulm Telephone), will the connection to the local community remain a priority?

The Broadband Properties Summit includes a focus on the business linkages between real estate development and telecom services. Telecom providers like ATT and Verizon pay real estate developers commission when tenants sign on with these providers. This got me thinking about if there was any real differences between an apartment building and a community? If communities are actively working to boost broadband adoption and subscriptions for community economic vitality, what is the proper role between communities and their providers on broadband promotion initiatives? I will be meeting with Minnesota’s telecom providers to discuss this very topic as we prepare to implement the Blandin Foundation’s MN Intelligent Community NTIA BTOP program.

Twin Cities Going 4G?

Thanks to John Schultz for the heads up on a recent article on 4G in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Race is on again in Twin Cities for faster wireless networks).

According to the article, there may be some good news for folks in the Twin Cities…

To keep up, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint are or soon will be installing faster, higher-capacity 4G (fourth generation) networks in the Twin Cities. By late this year or early in 2011, they will make Web browsing by phone as fast as using a wired connection.

There are some serious unknowns that might postpone any real celebration. We don’t know the price of the subscription and we don’t know the prices of the new 4G-enabled phones/devices. But it’s coming and that’s good news. The benefits of 4G included faster browsing, which is always better but also added functionality – such as videoconferencing and greater online interactivity.

Another unknown is plans for 4G in rural areas. However I happened to be talking Mark Hamilton from TTM yesterday. They have an ARRA application in (Round Two) to build middle fiber that would support 4G; other projects such as Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group could also help with 4G in rural areas.

Impressions from Dallas: What I heard at the Broadband Properties 2010 Summit

Bill Coleman and I are in Dallas this week to participate in the Broadband Properties 2010 Summit, “Toward a Fiber-Connected World.” We came to hear from federal NTIA and RUS officials about the FCC’s new National Broadband Plan and also to touch base with others in the Rural Telecommunications Congress’s Broadband Forum. Here are some highlights from the well attended and lively meeting:

Joe Savage, President of the Fiber to the Home Council, shared an overview of fiber deployments world-wide. Founded in 1991, FTTH Council focuses on eliminating barriers to FTTH deployments in America. He reported that the FTTH Council has spawned two “sister councils” – in Europe, and the Asian Pacific. Today, the US has 18 million homes passed with fiber and 8 million subscribers. Europe has 3 million subscribers and Asia Pacific 30 million. That said, the North American market is the fastest growing; subscriptions have doubled in the past two years and are projected to reach 200 million by 2013. South America is seen as the market next best positioned for growth.

We also heard from Rob Curtis, who has been working hard on the development of the National Broadband Plan in his capacity as Director of Network Strategy and Deployment for the FCC. Rob told us his research team has determined that a total of 14 million Americans in 7 million housing units currently do not have access to broadband, as defined by the goals of the new National Plan of 4 Mbps per second down, and 1 Mbps up. His team has calculated the cost of closing this gap to be $24 billion. Continue reading

Gov signs Minnesota broadband bill

The message is short, but sweet…

The Minnesota Broadband Bill was signed into law Monday (April 26, 2010) by Governor Pawlenty.

And just for the archive, here is the text that was presented to the Governor according to the Minnesota Session Law site

CHAPTER 277–H.F.No. 2907
An act relating to communications; setting state goals for the deployment and speed of high-speed broadband; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 237.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. [237.012] BROADBAND GOALS.
Subdivision 1. Universal access and high-speed goal. It is a state goal that as soon as possible, but no later than 2015, all state residents and businesses have access to high-speed broadband that provides  minimum download speeds of ten to 20 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of five to ten megabits per second. Subd. 2. State broadband leadership position. It is a goal of the state that by
2015 and thereafter, the state be in:
(1) the top five states of the United States for broadband speed universally accessible to residents and businesses;
(2) the top five states for broadband access; and
(3) the top 15 when compared to countries globally for broadband penetration.
Subd. 3. Annual reports. The commissioner of commerce must annually by February 10 report on the achievement of the goals under subdivisions 1 and 2 to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with primary jurisdiction over telecommunication issues. The report on goals under subdivision 1 must be made through 2015.

More ARRA money in Minnesota

Yesterday, the NTIA announced more ARRA award recipients from Round One. Idaho was a big winner this time around with three funded projects. Minnesota was part of a multi-state project submitted by One Economy Corporation. Here’s their project description…

Multiple states: One Economy Corporation: $28.5 million sustainable broadband adoption grant with an additional $23 million applicant-provided match to implement a comprehensive program of computer training, wireless Internet access, broadband awareness marketing, and online content and applications to residents of 159 affordable and public housing developments and low-income communities in 50 cities and towns across 31 states and the District of Columbia.
States impacted by this grant are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.

I don’t know if this is the last Round One announcement that the NTIA will be making – but this week I have been trying to track applications at all related to Minnesota and One Economy was the one application I noted as not listed as funded or unfunded. So I suspect that this is the last announcement that will have a direct impact on Minnesota.

The other applications announced today include the following:

Idaho: Digital Bridge Communications: $1.9 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $466,000 applicant-provided match to bring affordable wireless broadband service to rural, underserved communities in Cassia County, Idaho, including the towns of Albion, Burley, Declo, Malta, and Oakley. The project would expand Digital Bridge Communications’ existing network by adding five towers, 46 miles of new fiber, and a nine-mile microwave link. The project also proposes to offer speeds of up to 3 Mbps using both fixed and mobile wireless technology, as well as directly connect approximately 25 community anchor institutions at no charge.

Idaho: Digital Bridge Communications: $980,000 broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $246,000 applicant-provided match to bring affordable wireless broadband service to rural, underserved communities in Jerome County, Idaho, including the towns of Barrymore, Falls City, Greenwood, Haytown, Hunt, Hydra, Jerome, McHenry, and Sugar Loaf. The project would expand Digital Bridge Communications’ existing network by adding three towers, 15 miles of new fiber, and two microwave links. The expanded network intends to offer speeds up to 3 Mbps using both fixed and mobile wireless technology, as well as directly connect approximately 25 community anchor institutions at no charge.

Idaho: Digital Bridge Communications: $1.4 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $340,000 applicant-provided match to bring affordable wireless broadband service to underserved communities in Twin Falls County, Idaho, including the towns of Buhl, Burger, Clover, Deep Creek, Fairview, Filer, Godwin, and Hansen. The project would expand Digital Bridge Communications’ existing network by adding eight towers, three miles of new fiber, and nine microwave links. This expanded network intends to offer speeds up to 3 Mbps using both fixed and mobile wireless technology, as well as directly connect approximately 25 community anchor institutions at no charge.

Kentucky: City of Williamstown, Kentucky: $535,000 broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $134,000 applicant-provided match to deploy a high-speed fiber-to-the-home broadband network to unserved and underserved communities south of its existing network in Corinth, and north of its existing network to areas of Grant and Owen counties in northern Kentucky. The project intends to offer broadband speeds up to 10 Mbps and directly connect the three municipal organizations within the service area – Corinth City Hall, the Corinth Water District, and the Corinth Volunteer Fire Department – free of charge. In addition, the project expects to offer broadband Internet access for local consumers, including approximately 680 households and 20 businesses, and spur economic growth and job creation in the region.

Oklahoma: Pine Telephone Company, Inc.: $9.5 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $2.4 million applicant-provided match to deliver affordable wireless broadband service to underserved areas of Southeastern Oklahoma, including the Tribal lands of the Choctaw Nation and its 10 counties. The project intends to directly connect 20 community anchor institutions, including Choctaw Nation agencies, public schools, public safety agencies, fire and police departments, and a health clinic. The project’s last mile network plans to offer broadband speeds ranging from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps to as many as 7,000 households and 75 businesses.

Puerto Rico: Critical Hub Networks, Inc.: $25.8 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $6.7 million applicant-provided match to provide fast, affordable broadband connectivity for last-mile Internet service providers and underserved areas of Puerto Rico, including of the islands of Culebra and Vieques. The project plans to purchase a 10 Gbps undersea fiber-optic cable directly connecting to Miami and deploy more than 180 miles of terrestrial middle-mile microwave network using 11 towers. The network will offer speeds from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to anchor institutions, including more than 1,500 K-12 schools, and local Internet service providers.

Virginia: Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative: $19 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $5 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed affordable broadband services to 15 underserved counties and the cities of Emporia and Franklin in South Central Virginia by expanding and enhancing its existing high-speed broadband and voice communications wireless network. The BIT Wireless project intends to offer wireless broadband at speeds of up to 10 Mbps to as many as 100,000 households, 14,800 businesses, and 800 community anchor institutions. In addition, the project will promote broadband adoption by discounting the cost of the equipment necessary to subscribe at home.

Washington: Public Utility District of Pend Oreille County: $27.2 million broadband infrastructure grant with an additional $6.8 million applicant-provided match to bring high-speed, affordable broadband to underserved areas of Pend Oreille County in northeastern Washington State, which borders Idaho and Canada. The proposed fiber-to-the-premises network would deploy approximately 526 miles of fiber-optic cable to deliver last-mile broadband Internet services and facilitate critical network redundancy in this rural area. The project plans to offer affordable, high-speed broadband access to as many as 3,200 households, 360 businesses, and 24 community anchor institutions.