About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

Sytek deploys 100 miles of fiber to server Morrison County and looks at the ReConnect Broadband grant to continue

Brainerd Dispatch reports

Sytek, a telephone and internet provider located in Upsala, was awarded a Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grant in 2020 and has since placed 100 miles of fiber, extending service to 300 additional homes.

“I am thrilled to hear that Sytek is working hard with the resources available to provide broadband service to hundreds of additional homes in our community,” said grant supporter Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, in a news release. “I look forward to supporting their bid for additional grants to extend service to more rural homes in the future, and I thank them for doing hard work to ensure Central Minnesota residents have the resources they need to support local students, employees, and businesses.”

Sytek will be seeking an additional grant from the Reconnect Broadband program, which would allow them to serve up to 1,000 more homes in rural Minnesota.

Chaska County Commissioner asks – What if county had 100% fiber broadband?

Carver County Commissioner Matt Uderman asks his neighbors to think about FTTH (via SW News Media)…

What if Carver County was the first county in Minnesota with 100% fiber broadband?

Nearly 15% of America (as of 2018), and an estimated 11% of Carver County don’t have high speed access. Compare that to 99.6% of U.S. households that have complete plumbing and effectively 100% with access to electricity.

Broadband access (or lack thereof) has created a digital divide that impacts economic, social, health and educational outcomes. Some call broadband fuel for ‘digital prosperity’ and the bridge of physical infrastructure and social infrastructure — others simply say access is necessary in today’s world.

‘Broadband For All’ undoubtedly would be a significant selling point for current and future residents, businesses, overall economic development, closing of educational connectivity and access gaps, reduced digital seclusion/loneliness and associated health implications, closing of rural/city digital divides, access to telehealth (think more convenient care for grandma and grandpa while living independently and a click away from medical assistance), the fostering of future competition (and eventually even better pricing), attracting top work from home talent free to work wherever they choose, and more.

What do you think? I invite your thoughts on pursuing bringing broadband fiber to the entire county and the overall impact personal, professional and social impact.

Benton Institute offers concise info on the Affordable Connectivity Program

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society has done a nice job detailing the Affordable Connectivity Program from angle of provider and recipient, or at least to help a recipient. I remember working a Reference Desk and working with patrons to try to figure out how to sign up for various government programs; it’s not as easy as it looks and that’s while I was sitting in the warm library getting paid. It’s nice to have something that outlines the details. 

Here’s the high level info but the value in the document is the level of detail and which detail depends on what you need…

Broadband providers will receive up to $30/month (or up to $75/month if the household is on Tribal Land[1] or in a “high-cost” area) for providing service to low-income households. Broadband providers pass on those savings to low-income subscribers. If the provider offers and the consumer picks a plan that regularly costs $30/month or less, the consumer will receive that service for free until Affordable Connectivity Program funding ends. (With more than $14 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program allocated in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and approximately half of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program funding rolled into the new program, the benefit should be available for years to come.) The service can be standalone broadband or a bundle of services including broadband, telephone, texting, and the rental fee on the equipment that makes the service possible (like a modem).

The government will also give a broadband provider up to $100 if a household purchases one of the provider’s connected devices (laptop, desktop, or tablet computer). The consumer can be asked to pay no more than $50 and no less than $10 for the device. A household can only buy one of these discounted devices and there is no discount on smartphones. A connected device must be Wi-Fi enabled and support video conferencing. A device cannot be limited to use with any specific service provider and a provider may not require consumers to obtain an program-supported device in order to enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

As in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, the FCC sets no minimum service standards for internet service offerings that are eligible for Affordable Connectivity Program support. The FCC says only that the service must include a broadband connection that permits households to rely on these connections for the purposes essential to telework, remote learning, and telehealth.

Sen Klobuchar talks broadband with Reps from Nobles, Cottonwood, Watonwan, and Brown Counties

The Worthington Globe reports…

Senator Klobuchar met with representatives from Nobles, Cottonwood, Watonwan, and Brown County to get updates on their communities and hear about their infrastructure needs.

Broadband was a priority…

Among the key issues discussed during the meeting were water and road infrastructure, broadband access and workforce shortages. As part of the infrastructure bill, $65 billion has been allocated for broadband assistance, which Klobuchar stated will mean “hundreds of million of dollars for Minnesota.” The bill also includes funding to build out broadband to reach schools, libraries, healthcare centers.

“We’ve got 42 million Americans including 144,000 rural Minnesotans without high speed (internet),” Klobuchar said, addressing the commissioners. “And it’s a problem that I know you have in your counties.”

Governor Walz budget includes $170 million for broadband

Governor Walz unveiled his budget yesterday, it included $170 million for broadband…

Finish Broadband Statewide

The Walz-Flanagan budget invests $170 million to finish the job of bringing border[1]to-border broadband access to all Minnesotans. Over the past two years, the need for high-speed, high-quality broadband has grown dramatically. Through the past several years of the state’s border-to-border broadband program, about 93% of Minnesota households have reliable broadband. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s investment, which would remain a competitive matching fund grant program, would finally pave the way for achieving the state’s goal of providing every Minnesotan with reliable broadband.

MRBC Update: Governor Announces Broadband Funding

From the MN Broadband Coalition…

Governor Proposes $170 Million in New Broadband Funding

Gov. Tim Walz outlined a portion of his 2022 supplemental budget plan this afternoon which includes $170 million for the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program. The funds are in addition to the $70 million from the Capital Projects Fund that lawmakers allocated last year in the biennial budget.
“To continue growing Minnesota’s economy, we must invest in the people who made it strong in the first place,” said Governor Walz. “By investing in workforce development, cutting taxes for the middle class and working families, lowering costs, and expanding access to resources like technical education and high-speed broadband, we will improve economic prosperity across the state and grow the workforce we need to compete.”
“The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is very pleased that Gov. Walz has proposed this historic investment in broadband funding,” said Jay Trusty, Chair of the Coalition. “Closing the digital divide is one of the most pressing issues of our time and this investment help will level the playing field for rural communities across the state.”
State economists projected a nearly $8 billion budget surplus in December. Legislators will return to Saint Paul on January 31 to begin the 2022 legislative session and decide how to divvy up the massive influx of revenue, in addition to other pressing items.
There is no news yet on if or how the state will spend the remaining $110 million Capital Projects Fund allocation it is set to receive from the U.S. Treasury as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Treasury guidance was issued this fall and made clear the funds should be used for broadband connectivity projects. The Coalition has asked legislators and the governor’s administration to direct those funds to the Border-to-Border fund.

Ookla speed ranks MN mobile speeds 6 and MN fixed broadband speeds 39

Ookla has just released United States Median Speeds from December 2021. You can dig into the report to see which providers seem to provide the fastest service; I mostly looked at the high level.

Mobile speed rankings: Minnesota ranks 6.

Fixed Rate. Minnesota ranks 39.

Succinct notes on Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities from Common Sense

How do you wrap up some of the largest broadband funding opportunities ever into a concise, pretty easy-to-use format? Use very small print. But thanks to the hard work from Common Sense Media and the ability to zoom in on a PDF, that information is a ton more accessible in one place. They look at the practicalities of:

  • Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
  • American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
  • Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (CA
  • Other Broadband ProgramsA21)

Cloquet (MN) is asking residents to take broadband survey and speed test (Carlton County)

Pine Knot News reports…

Cloquet schools superintendent Michael Cary spoke about how important reliable and affordable high-speed internet is for today’s students. The Cloquet Broadband Committee is asking residents for a few minutes of their time to complete a survey about their internet service. Local business people and public officials gathered Wednesday morning to talk about the need for reliable high[1]speed internet in today’s world, and how the pandemic has exposed some of the deficits in the city of Cloquet

Here’s more info on the survey…

Thanks to the selection of the city of Cloquet as a Blandin Broadband community, the city has more resources now to evaluate needs and options to improve service within city limits. But they need more information from residents and businesses about their access to the internet: cost, reliability, speed and more. The information gained will help guide the city and community leaders on opportunities to explore ways to improve broadband services. That’s where the survey comes in. Through Jan. 31, the city is reopening its broadband survey at https://www.goctc.com/cloquet for individuals and businesses within the eastern Cloquet city limits. A map puts the borders of eastern Cloquet at Kinden and West St. Louis River roads to the north, Crosby Road to the east, Moorhead Road to the south and Pinewood Drive and the St. Louis River to the west. Scanlon is not included, nor is the Fond du Lac Reservation, which will be rolling out its broadband fiber to all residents within the FDL Reservation territory, including the western municipal city limits of Cloquet. Those without internet access can get assistance with completing the survey at the Cloquet Public Library. Anyone who completes the survey will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad. People can test upload speeds at this website: https://broadband.ramsmn.org/mn-rural-broadband-coallition%5B1%5Dinitiative.

Kandiyohi County and Willmar Economic Development Commission continues with broadband advocate Connie Schmoll

West Central Tribune reports

With broadband expansion opportunities continuing to be made available for communities in Kandiyohi County, Connie Schmoll, who has been working on a contract basis for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission since May 2021, doesn’t want to leave her job undone.

“It has been my honor and privilege to continue working on broadband,” Schmoll said. “It is a necessary infrastructure and it is needed to continue economic development.”

The EDC’s Joint Operations Board agreed at its meeting Thursday to extend Schmoll’s contract for an additional three months, until the end of March. The contract extension will cost the EDC approximately $9,100.

“I think this is worth every dime,” said Aaron Backman, EDC executive director.

I’m sharing this for several reasons. First, to congratulate Connie, who does a great job. Second, because it’s important to recognize that being a broadband advocate can, and probably should be, a paid position. Some communities are lucky and they have engaged providers. Where that isn’t the case, the community benefits greatly from an engaged leader who looks into the options, who works with policymakers and educates the residents. An investment in a broadband leader is an investment in the community, especially as more funding is bring invested in broadband deployment.

Flights in and around the US are disrupted due to 5G roll out and concerns over adjacent spectrum

I think broadband is life changing. I’m also terrified to fly. So I’ve been watching the issues with American airlines and 5G roll out with one eye closed. The concern is that the 5G spectrum is very close to the spectrum that airlines use and older planes may not handle the potential interference well, as NPR reports

Rapport says the wireless carriers need more and more radio spectrum to carry more and more bits to our smartphones. The Federal Communications Commission auctioned off radio spectrum to the wireless carriers a big chunk of the “C” band of radio spectrum for about $80 billion in 2020. The segment of the spectrum in the “C” band purchased by AT&T and Verizon happens to sit right next to the frequencies used by radio altimeters in aircraft.

“The radio altimeters on our aircraft determine not only the height above the ground … as we come in for a landing or we’re taking off, but they’re tied to many other systems in our aircraft,” said Joe DePete, head of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance.

Altimeters are critical for pilots to use during bad weather when visibility is poor. Pilots like DePete worry that strong 5G signals from cellphone towers placed close to airport runways could interfere with the radio altimeters.

“The issue is that some of the older planes and older aircraft equipment that were built maybe 30 or 40 years ago do not have very good band pass filters. They don’t have very good filters on their receivers,” says Rappaport.
It’s similar to the way that CB radios would sometimes interfere with old TV sets, before cable and digital signals, according to Rappaport.

The roll out was delayed for a week or so, and now has been modified to avoid areas near airports but that has not convinced everyone that it’s safe, as Bloomberg reports

Airlines around the world are adjusting their schedules and aircraft deployments for flights to the U.S. over fears that a 5G rollout by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. near American airports could interfere with key safety systems.

Dubai’s Emirates said it will suspend flights to several U.S. cities, including Chicago, Newark and San Francisco, while Japan Airlines Co. and ANA Holdings Inc. said they won’t fly their 777 jets to and from the U.S. mainland after a warning from Boeing Co. about how the model’s altimeter will be affected.

OPPORTUNITY: Department of Commerce Seeks Internet of Things Experts for New Advisory Board

US Department of Commerce reports on an opportunity for anyone interested in  Internet of Things (IoT). It would be great to see some Minnesota names on the list…

The U.S. Department of Commerce seeks qualified nominations for a new Internet of Things Advisory Board to advise the recently established Internet of Things Federal Working Group. The advisory board will include a wide range of stakeholders outside of the federal government with expertise relating to the Internet of Things (IoT). …

Among other topics, the board will advise the federal working group on matters including the identification of any federal regulations, programs or policies that may inhibit or promote the development of IoT; situations in which IoT could deliver significant and scalable economic and societal benefits to the United States; IoT opportunities and challenges for small businesses; and any IoT-related international opportunities for the U.S. Full details on the board’s activities are provided in the Federal Register notice.

The board will consist of 16 members representing a wide range of stakeholders outside of the federal government with expertise relating to the Internet of Things. Board members will serve two-year terms.

Nominations should be made according to guidance provided in the Federal Register notice and are due by Feb. 28, 2022. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will provide administrative support to the advisory board, and information on board activities can be found on the NIST website.

FCC announce latest RDOF winners including Midcontinent and Windstream in Minnesota

The FCC announces

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids identified in Attachment A of this Public Notice.

For each of the winning bids identified in Attachment A, we have reviewed the long-form application information, including the letter(s) of credit and Bankruptcy Code opinion letter(s) from the long-form applicant’s legal counsel.  Based on the representations and certifications in the relevant long-form application, we authorize and obligate support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

Here are the awards in Minnesota

Midcontinent Communications
Census blocks: 680
Locations: 5,978
Total Award: $4,327,175

Windstream Lakedale
Census blocks: 257
Locations: 2,909
Total Award: $6,548,974.10

Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) partners with Aitkin County to expand better broadband

Aitkin Age reports

Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) has announced that MLEC fiber internet will become available for more customers.

In partnership with Aitkin County, MLEC is bringing fast and reliable fiber internet service to 565 homes. The project area includes the townships of Idun, Pliny, Rice River, Seavey, White Pine, Williams and the city of McGrath. MLEC will, once again, work with Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) on the construction of this project and expand the MLEC fiber internet network.

The $4,823,654 grant is a part of the Small Cities Coronavirus Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG-CV). The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) awarded $34,656,956 in grants to 15 Minnesota cities and counties across the state.

As part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Minnesota received a special allocation to address community needs to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the funding will be used for broadband improvement projects. Other uses will include housing assistance, food shelf assistance, retrofitting buildings and commercial rehabilitation projects.

Continue to watch for updated information on Facebook and MLEC’s website. For more information on MLEC fiber internet, call 218-429-0433 or visit www.mlecmn.net/fiber. Project area maps, internet plans and service agreements can all be found online.