About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

MidCo applying for MN broadband grants for fiber from Randolph to Wanamingo

According to the Kenyon Leader

With Midco submitting an application to the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grant program, council passed a resolution of support. Boulton said Midco plans to run broadband fiber from Randolph to Wanamingo and is looking for 50 percent matching funds from the grant.

RS Fiber Announces Faster Wireless Broadband Speeds and Expanded Coverage

Good news from RS Fiber…

Winthrop, MN – RS Fiber has announced it will be offering a second level of broadband speed and expanding coverage area of its wireless broadband service, RS Air.

Company officials say a download speed of 50 Mbps will be available to RS Air customers. This is an enhanced option from the 25 Mbps currently offered for the rural broadband service. The 50 Mbps speed is currently available to 90% of the wireless broadband service area.

Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), the operator for the RS Fiber Network, has served high speed broadband wireless service of 50 Mbps in its own HBC markets for the past year. Following a period of testing in the RS Fiber network, the service became available in August.

HBC President & CEO, Dan Pecarina, states that this speed increase will be of great value customers.

“Our mission at RS Fiber is to bring the best service possible to our customers whether that is Gigabit service from the fiber optic network in town or broadband wireless to the most rural areas of the townships we serve. With more households using more devices, this speed increase option will make it easier for the kids to do their homework at night and for mom and dad to get their online work done too.”

The coverage area of RS Air will also increase with the addition of several new towers. Toby Brummer, RS Fiber General Manager, said that the availability of RS Air service depends on the signal levels received from the tower to the home or business.  He said anyone interested in RS Air wireless broadband service should call (800) 628-1754 to schedule a site check to see if RS Air service is available at their location.

MN Broadband Task Force: Fixed wireless, satellite, CAF and MN grant challenge process

Today the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met; the topics of the day were fixed wireless and satellite. It was interesting to hear from the various vendors. In short they got an update on what’s going on with fixed wireless and then a demo of satellite. (There was public feedback in the form of letters that came in from rural satellite users.)

I think most folks in the room would agree that this is the B-side of broadband. (There might not be agreement on whether they will stay on the B-side.) These are the folks that are interested in serving rural areas and/or in playing the role of competitor to an incumbent provider. We heard dismay at how CAF money is being spent on expanding slower connections – rather than upgrading services. The presenters attract customers who have slow connections and whose providers have said they have no plans to upgrade. They see the frustration and are able to capitalize on it by offering service that they say is better.

One red flag was a discussion on the CBRS (citizen band radio spectrum) and fear that the government may sell that public property to the highest bidder. A bidder that may choose to not use the spectrum. The problem is that can keep the competition away – leaving community members with limited choice for broadband.

Folks were also talking about the grant challenge process for the MN broadband funds in light of what’s happening in Kandiyohi County. (I will try to get more details on what’s going on there.) The issue is that a grant applicant must inform an incumbent (or nearby) provider if they intend to seek funds to upgrade service. Then the incumbent/nearby provider has a chance to challenge. One issue is that even if they don’t challenge – they know competition is coming, which means they can make just enough changes to make it difficult for the newcomer to the area. (Discussion at 3:30 in video below.)

Lots of interesting discussion….

 Here are more detailed notes… Continue reading

Broadband grants are catalyst for broadband in remote areas of Minnesota

The FedGazette has taken a deeper drive into broadband access in Minnesota. They recognize that it’s difficult to make a business case to service rural areas…

Such speeds often require an optical fiber connection, but it’s difficult for telecom firms to justify laying expensive fiber infrastructure in sparsely populated places. “There are areas where you just can’t make a business case to provide broadband,” said Brent Christensen, CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance, a trade association.

And they recognize the need for government support…

Over the past two decades federal, state and local governments have intervened in telecom markets to bring high-speed internet service to unserved or underserved areas.

More than any other district state, Minnesota has striven to extend the reach of broadband. The Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, administered by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), has dispensed $65 million to internet providers over the past three years to support broadband projects across the state. By subsidizing the upfront cost of broadband infrastructure in areas still off the broadband map, the grants have helped to make high-speed internet service available to nearly 26,000 households and more than 3,100 businesses around the state.

But despite coverage gains under the program, a yawning urban-rural broadband gap remains. And this spring the Minnesota Legislature cut the Border-to-Border program by over 40 percent, allocating $20 million for the next round of grants (applications are due in September) and nothing for next year.

The cuts represent another swing of the pendulum in a national debate about the role of government in fostering broadband development. Are taxpayer-funded grants, loans and other subsidies the best way to ensure that rural residents aren’t bypassed by the information superhighway?

The Border-to-Border program is a case study of what can be accomplished with a modicum of state funding—and the challenges of overcoming long-standing barriers to broadband deployment in rural areas.

And detail the impact of state…

The Border-to-Border program has proved a catalyst for rolling out broadband in remote areas of Minnesota by covering part of the upfront cost and thus reducing the price paid by subscribers. Often a state grant is the capstone of a financing package drawn from multiple sources, public and private—the final piece that elevates a rural project from pipe dream to reality.

Without such support the price of broadband service in many rural areas would be “exponentially higher,” said Gary Johnson, CEO of Paul Bunyan Communications, a telecom cooperative in northern Minnesota.

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Mountain Iron: Building townships websites, feasibility study and computers

We had an opportunity to visit with Mountain Iron today to hear about their broadband projects. They are part of the Iron Range Broadband Communities project (IRBC). Here are the notes on the projects that they have been working on and will be continuing to work on in the upcoming months…

Local Government Websites

  • Great Scott and Kinney townships are an opportunity to build websites. Great Scott Township is working on a draft website.

PCs for People – we have had two requests for PCs from local families.

  • Buhl Senior Center might be a good place for PCs. They currently get fixed wireless through Access. They are hoping for computers.
  • Some areas are limited because they don’t have broadband access and are unlikely to get access soon.
  • Schools might do training locally and use PCs as a draw to attend tech training and give computers to senior centers. Or maybe give computers to the Seniors directly.
  • Maybe look at giving out computers in late September

Costs to bring NESC fiber (through a provider) to various community locations:

  • Buhl Fire Hall $11,400 – they are probably hooked up with Access but would like computers to do some training
  • Buhl Senior Center $11,3000
  • Cornerstone $26,600
  • YMCA $5,800
  • Mountain Iron Senior Center $8,5000
  • Mountain Iron Library $280
  • Kinney (guestimate is $30,000 are requires state permit to pass 169) Kinney wants a community center.

Oct 31 is the unofficial stop construction date in the area – due to frozen ground.

Wifi on School buses

  • Apparently someone has talked to other schools districts (Chisholm) but they no longer work at the school. So it’s a matter of picking up the pieces and reassembling.
  • NESC does help with cooperative bidding for school, city agencies… So that might be helpful with various projects. (SO instead of going directly through CDW you can get s discount through NESC.)

Feasibility Study

  • They are working on a feasibility study and it’s going well.
  • They will be looking at which students can’t get access at home – due to lack of service and/or computer.
  • Done a preliminary draft out based on costs per household using mapping of what already exists and what is the condition of area (stone version farmland)
  • Working on three school districts south of 169 – based on where fiber exists and where the need is greatest (unserved areas with population density) to maximize impact
  • Trying to leverage NESC infrastructure – even inviting provider collocation
  • Difficulty of entering some areas is the $30,000 a mile build out where fiber currently isn’t.
  • Trying to build a god foundation upon which to build.
  • The feasibility study is two part – one focused on a Border to Border grant application for 2017 – and a broader look at the whole area.
  • We are looking at fiber to the home because we haven’t had a great interest with local providers.

MN Broadband Task Force Meeting – Aug 16 in St Paul

I plan to be there. I plan to take notes and record/livestream technology and broadband permitting…

Governor’s Broadband Task Force
August 16, 2017
Minnesota Senate Office Building –Room 2308
95 University Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55155

10:00 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.

  • 10:00 a.m. –10:10 a.m. Introductions, Approval of Minutes, Public Comment
  • 10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development Update
  • 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Fixed Wireless Panel
    • Tim Johnson, MVTV Wireless
    • Paul Hess, Advantenon
    • Dave Giles, Invisimax
    • Steve Schneider, Bug Tussel Wireless
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Lunch (Governor’s Dining Room–basement of the Capitol on tunnel level)
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Satellite Demonstration
    • Megan Kueck, Manager, State and Local Affairs, Satellite Communications and Broadcasting Association
  • 1:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Wrap-Up, Discussion of September Meeting, Adjourn
  • 1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Subcommittee Work Time

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin says People are talking about broadband

The Grand Forks Herald reports…

The leader of Minnesota’s Democrats said Friday he and supporters are optimistic they can rebuild the party despite large losses in the 2016 election.

“Oftentimes after a tough election losses, people are sort of hanging their heads and wondering what is next and waiting for the next election,” Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said during a visit to the Herald. “What I’ve found as I travel the state is so much energy. People are not waiting for the next election. They are already out there talking to voters. They are already out there fighting. To me, that is a sign of good things to come.”

In a tour of cities, Martin stopped Thursday in East Grand Forks to speak with local political supporters. Topics ranged from proposed cuts to crop insurance by the Trump Administration to trade deals and border issues to access to broadband.

Minnesotans are still interested in broadband, because it’s still an issue in rural area. Politicians are hearing that from the front-lines.