Country Messenger reports…
Scandia’s efforts to expand high speed broadband service continues in 2022 and 2023. This year’s construction will reach approximately 160 households provided by MidCO. The project is currently underway. The equipment, fiber and other materials are ready to be deployed this summer, completion is expected by late fall.
For 2023 Scandia has allocated $432,000 in local funding for another expansion and requested that MidCO provide a plan for the City’s approval, including outside grant money where possible. Additionally, Scandia has sent a letter supporting Frontier Communications’ grant application to the State of Minnesota. If approved, Frontier’s project would begin in 2023 and be completed by the end of 2024.
The project would provide high speed broadband via fiber to several hundred locations within Scandia that are currently served by slower DSL lines. Scandia’s Internet Action Committee (IAC) has been working since 2020 with the goal of bringing high speed broadband to all of Scandia within five years.
And there’s an event to learn more…
Scandia and MidCo will host the third annual MidCo Day event Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. The first part will take place from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in conjunction with with Scandia’s Farmer’s Market at the Community Center.
Minnesota House of Representatives reports…
The Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) honored State Representative Gene Pelowski (DFL – Winona) with the 2022 Legislator of the Year Award. MREA is the Minnesota statewide association representing 50 not-for-profit, member-owned rural electric cooperatives.
“I want to thank MREA and MiEnergy for this honor, and for their work in ensuring Minnesotans have access to affordable, reliable, and safe electricity,” said Rep. Pelowski. “Their efforts, in tandem with my work at the legislature to secure disaster aid funding and historic broadband investments, ensure communities like ours always have access to the resources they need, and I look forward to continuing that work.”
Rep. Pelowski, who chairs the House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee, oversaw the largest investment in high-speed broadband internet in state history, and authored successful legislation to replenish Minnesota’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account.
Senator Klobuchar reports…
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded $24.9 million in federal funding for infrastructure improvements in Duluth. Specifically, the grant, provided through USDOT’s RAISE program, will revitalize a two-mile section of West Superior Street by replacing outdated utilities systems, expanding broadband connectivity, and building electrical vehicle charging stations.
“Investments in our infrastructure serve as down payments on the long-term economic well-being of our state,” said Klobuchar. “This federal funding will make a real difference for communities in Duluth, enabling critical infrastructure improvements that will strengthen downtown, while helping to replace aging utilities and increasing broadband connectivity for local businesses and residents.”
“Minnesota is paving the way to a clean energy future and this project exemplifies Duluth’s commitment to prioritizing the environment while upgrading the city’s infrastructure,” said Smith. “From installing electric vehicle charging stations to investing in green infrastructure and expanding access to broadband, this project will both make critical improvements to the city’s infrastructure while remaining committed to the future of our planet. I’m glad we’re able to be a partner at the federal level to ensure this project gets done.”
“I am deeply grateful to Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith for understanding the value of this enormous investment in our community,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. “This is a highly competitive grant process – receiving this RAISE grant is a truly monumental achievement and speaks to the commitment our Senators have to Duluth and our residents. This grant will provide critical West Superior Street infrastructure upgrades in the Lincoln Park Business District, along with supporting multimodal transportation: including safer bike and pedestrian access, electric vehicles, and local bus transit. The project will also better connect residents, businesses and visitors via a broadband corridor. Thank you to our city staff and community partners like Ecolibrium3, and especially to Senators Klobuchar and Smith for securing these dollars which will go to work in support of business, residents and visitors.”
These resources will enable a complete reconstruction of the two-mile increment on West Superior Street to incorporate more resilient infrastructure while also modernizing underground utilities, including sewage and stormwater systems, and installing fiber optics to ensure stronger broadband connectivity in the neighborhood.
RAISE grants can be used by communities across the country for a wide variety of projects with significant local or regional impact. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Klobuchar and Smith supported and was signed into law last year, delivered a 50 percent increase in the amount of available funding for the RAISE grants, as well as resources for improving the state’s roads, bridges, public transportation, and water infrastructure.
WCCO-CBS looks at rural broadband in Minnesota. It’s basic information; it’s a tool to use with folks who don’t understand how the Internet works. Also there’s a nice close up of fiber.
Fox21 Duluth reports…
Back by popular demand, the University of Minnesota Duluth will offer telehealth counseling again this school year.
During the pandemic, many schools connected virtually with students. Last year, UMD launched its telehealth program, that offers remote mental health counseling.
Now, the university is bringing it back, after seeing how well-received it was by students.
Virtual, in-person, and hybrid counseling sessions will be available. Free of charge and covered by tuition.
People seemed to like it…
“Last year we did our initial appointments virtually and then we talked to students about what it was they wanted moving forward. We were a little surprised, we thought that everybody would want to be back in the in-person in the office, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for all people.”
Baribeau-Thoennes went on to say, it’s important to keep virtual options available, especially during the cold, Minnesota months.
“Our no-show rates for appointments went down. Somebody might be like “oh no my car is blocked in and I have to shovel,” and normally they might have canceled the appointment, but now they just call and say can I switch my appointment to virtual.”
There are policy hiccups…
The kicker is — providers can only give services in their licensed state. Meaning UMD students have to be in Minnesota to use the telehealth option.
Yesterday, the FCC announced their rejection of LTD Broadband and Starlink RDOF applications.
A recap at the highest level: LTD Broadband and Starlink qualified for the opportunity to get millions of dollars in federal contracts for broadband. There were questions about their ability to deploy these networks. The communities where they might have deployed networks have been unable to some other funding because of this deal. They have been frustrated for a year and a half. The FCC rejection of these providers means a loss of funding (hundreds of millions) coming to Minnesota BUT it also means these communities are free to find other opportunities.
Mainstreet media in Minnesota has been following the story, that in fairness includes some seriously wonky details. Here are what some of those sources are saying today:
- MinnPost: In an email to MinnPost, Corey Hauer, the CEO of LTD, said company officials are “extremely disappointed in the FCC staff decision.”
“I don’t believe the FCC fully appreciated the benefits LTD Broadband would bring to hundreds of thousands of rural Americans,” Hauer said. “We are continuing to review the letter and are evaluating our next steps.”
FCC spokeswoman Anne Veigle said LTD can file a petition for reconsideration or an “application for review to appeal.”
- Star Tribune: The FCC’s ruling on LTD is “a big deal,” said Brent Christensen, president of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance.
“This is all uncharted territory,” Christensen said. “A lot of us don’t know what is going to happen.”
An FCC spokesman said the locations for LTD’s winning bids will be eligible for other state and federal rural broadband funding programs. The federal government is expected to conduct other subsidy auctions.
- Rueters: The FCC noted that Starlink, a fast-growing constellation of internet-beaming satellites, relies on nascent low-earth orbit satellite technology and had sought funding to provide 100/20 Mbps service to 642,925 locations in 35 states.
“We must put scarce universal service dollars to their best possible use as we move into a digital future that demands ever more powerful and faster networks,” Rosenworcel said. “We cannot afford to subsidize ventures that are not delivering the promised speeds or are not likely to meet program requirements.”
The FCC said the two companies both provided inadequate responses to questions and are not capable of complying with commission requirements.
The Duluth News Tribune reports…
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson this summer proposed a pilot project to bring faster, more affordable broadband internet service first to Lincoln Park. And last month, as the News Tribune reported, the City Council gave the go-ahead for city administration to apply for a $3.2 million state Broadband Development Grant to help fund the proposal. Councilors expressed discomfort, however, with withdrawing $5 million from Duluth’s Community Investment Trust to help fund the project, which is expected to cost $7 million to $9 million total. If Duluth is successful in securing the requested state grant, there’s confidence in City Hall that there are other financial paths for the pilot project without having to dip into the Community Investment Fund.
From the National Digital Equity Center…
The National Digital Equity Center is looking for experienced Digital Skills Instructors to join our team. Applicants for these fully remote positions must be able to meet the following requirements:
- Must have a home office with high speed internet access
- Experience teaching computer skills to adults, preferably in a classroom or online setting
- Comfortable and proficient with the use of Zoom for meetings and instruction
- Strong demonstrated digital literacy/computer skills, especially with Windows 10 and Android devices
- Available for at least 20 hours a week during the hours of 8:30 am to 8 pm EST, Monday through Friday excluding holidays.
- Willing to abide by the National Digital Equity Center’s Code of Conduct – https://digitalequitycenter.org/ndec-code-of-conduct/
- Starting pay: $20.00/hr.
Both half-time and full-time positions are available. Please send a resume and a letter of inquiry to email@example.com.
The National Digital Equity Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities.
Red Lake Nation News reports…
Paul Bunyan Communications and the Red Lake Nation are holding a another sign-up day for the Affordable Connectivity Program, this time on Thursday, August 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake.
This new long-term benefit will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households struggling to afford internet service and provides a discount of up to a $30 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for qualifying households on qualifying Tribal lands.
An update from the Office of Broadband Development…
One hundred and thirty-five (135) applications for the 2022 Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant program were received by the August 4th deadline. The Office of Broadband Development has initiated the challenge process required by Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. 116J.395 subd. 5a) concurrent with its review of the applications. A list of the applications filed and instructions on how to file a challenge, if necessary, are available on our website and under the “2022 Application Process” tab. Any challenges must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:00 p.m. Thursday, September 8, 2022.
If you have any questions, please contact our office at 651-259-7610 or via email at email@example.com.
From the FCC…
The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is rejecting the long-form applications of LTD Broadband and Starlink to receive support through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program. The Commission determined that these applications failed to demonstrate that the providers could deliver the promised service. Funding these vast proposed networks would not be the best use of limited Universal Service Fund dollars to bring broadband to unserved areas across the United States, the Commission concluded.
“After careful legal, technical, and policy review, we are rejecting these applications. Consumers deserve reliable and affordable high-speed broadband,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “We must put scarce universal service dollars to their best possible use as we move into a digital future
that demands ever more powerful and faster networks. We cannot afford to subsidize ventures that are not delivering the promised speeds or are not likely to meet program requirements.”
“Starlink’s technology has real promise,” continued Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “But the question before us was whether to publicly subsidize its still developing technology for consumer broadband—which requires that users purchase a $600 dish—with nearly $900 million in
universal service funds until 2032.”
In the initial auction results announced December 7, 2020, LTD Broadband won $1,320,920,718.60, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (Starlink) won $885,509,638.40.
Although LTD was a relatively small fixed wireless provider before the auction, it was the largest winning bidder in the auction, submitting winning bids in 15 states. Subsequently, it failed to timely receive eligible telecommunications carrier status in seven states, rendering it ineligible in
those states for support. Ultimately, the FCC review concluded that LTD was not reasonably capable of deploying a network of the scope, scale, and size required by LTD’s extensive winning bids.
Regular readers will know this is bittersweet news. LTD was awarded the opportunity to apply for $311 million to deploy fiber in Minnesota. On the one hand, this is $311 million that is unlikely to come back to Minnesota in the same way. On the other hand, many people were suspect with LTD’s ability to meet what they proposed. In Minnesota, the MN PUC recently agreed to look into revoking LTD’s credentials here; these credentials were required to get RDOF money. The FCC had previously proposed fining LTD for violating requirements.
Le Sueur County News posts an update of what’s happening with broadband plans in the county since they last applied for MN State Border to Border grants and were disqualified because they were in an area where LTD Broadband had subsequently been awarded an opportunity to apply for federal (RDOF)…
After two years of being walled off from state broadband dollars, Le Sueur County is reviving efforts to bring high speed internet to nearly 250 rural households.
At the July 26 Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners meeting, Broadband Initiative Coordinator Barbara Droher-Kline announced local internet service provider Bevcomm would be seeking a Border-to-Border grant to expand high speed internet service to 152 homes in Montgomery Township 89 homes in Lexington Township and 6 homes in Sharon Township.
Le Sueur County agreed to dedicate $350,000 toward the project with Montgomery, Lexington and Sharon townships compensating the county $1,500 per home in their respective territories.
The county has attempted to lift the project off the ground since September of 2020. Back then, Bevcomm requested $300,000 in matching funds from the county to build a $1.6 million fiber optic network providing 1 Gbps speeds to 239 homes.
The network was to build off of Bevcomm’s existing fiber optic network, constructed in partnership with Le Sueur County and a $2 million Border-to-Border grant in 2020.
I’ve been seeing an increase in articles on telehealth these days and they usually report that access to technology increases comfort and use of telehealth and that leads to easier access to healthcare – for doctor and patient. Rheumatology Advisor reports…
For patients to participate in telehealth encounters, they have to use a number of proprietary, health system-specific portals and platforms. That can be challenging for many older adults and minority groups. Effective virtual care depends on digital fluency, meaning they need to be able to engage in all aspects of digital technologies, from accessing the internet to navigating telehealth applications and performing basic troubleshooting. Many people cannot do this, creating significant barriers to care and telehealth disparities for a large segment of the population.
Boston researchers say the technology has the potential to reduce health disparities, but it also is exacerbating structural inequities. “Telehealth is here to stay, and has the potential to actually improve care outcomes, enhance the patient experience, reduce costs, and address health care inequities,” said Rebecca G. Mishuris, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and Chief Medical Information Officer of the Boston Medical Center Health System in Massachusetts. “This, of course, will only be realized if we can address equity in engagement with telehealth, and fully incorporate it into a holistic care delivery model that employs both virtual and in-person care.”
Some of the numbers…
At her institution, which is a safety net hospital, 21% of Black/African American patients, 20% of Hispanic/Latino patients, and 22% of White patients reported lacking access to a connected device with a camera or microphone. The study on telehealth disparities, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, also showed that 67% of White patients opted to schedule their telehealth visits by video compared with only 60% of Black and Latino patients.