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.

More on FCC funding – going to Yellow Medicine County

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. The West Central Tribune reports…

Internet provider Midcontinent Communications is in line to receive more than $3 million in funding over 10 years from the Federal Communications Commission to expand the reach of broadband internet to more properties in five local counties.

Yellow Medicine County alone will get $2.349 million in funding, to bring broadband to approximately 440 locations, according to a news release from the FCC. Other counties on the list include Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Meeker and Renville counties. All totaled 931 new properties will be served by broadband in the five counties.

More on FCC funding – going to Stearns County

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. St Cloud Times reports…

The Federal Communications Commission authorized funding Monday that will help expand broadband in Stearns County over 10 years, according to a release.

The commission approved more than $28 million to help expand broadband in Minnesota, and providers will start receiving funds later this month.

Midcontinent Communications will receive $719,916 in funding over 10 years to expand services in Stearns County, according to the release.

The funding will help 280 locations gain access to broadband. Across the state, the funding will expand service to more than 10,000 homes and businesses.

Case Study on WISPS (Midco) also serves as a broadband primer

The Global Cities Challenge (GCTC) program is a collaborative platform for the development of smart cities and communities, led by National Institute of Standards and Technology, a bureau of U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies. It looks like one outcome of the challenge is a paper on WISPs (wireless internet service providers) – mostly on Midco.

I won’t go into the case study too much but there are elements that serve as an easy-to-read primer that would be helpful to anyone new-ish to the broadband world or anyone who need to help someone better understand the impact or broadband. Fr example, the new report gives a quick snapshot on the different broadband options…

Broadband connectivity can be provided by a variety of technologies. Each platform can offer unique attributes to meet specific needs. Wired networks boast security and resilience; fiber optics are often referred to as “future proof,” referring to the ability to increase capacity by adding electronic components at the physical ends of the fiber. Fixed wireless networks (described more fully in the Midco case study below) allow fiber providers to “edge out” their fiber connectivity by deploying fixed wireless equipment on local grain elevators, water towers, commercial towers, tall buildings, etc. and then backhauling that traffic to the fiber network. At the same time, mobile wireless technologies are necessary to support critical applications “on the move.” Mobile and fixed broadband services work in concert to provide comprehensive access to critical applications that support rural economic development, education and health care. As noted by the FCC, fixed and mobile broadband services, while not full substitutes for each other, are each “important services that provide different functionalities, tailored to serve different consumer needs.”4 The FCC has concluded that consumers require access to both wired and mobile services.5 However, even where a predominantly wireless solution may be a preferred solution due to terrain or other factors, wireless networks at their core require a wired infrastructure to convey traffic.6 Properly drafted policies can account for the need for both wired and wireless technologies, and can provide much-needed connectivity to rural America.

It then goes into detail on the impact on various aspects of life – healthcare, work , economic development and more. And of course you can learn a lot more about fixed wireless in the report. BUT sometimes I think these quick intros that provider very high level descriptions can be super useful.

Become a mobile hotspot lending pilot for Mobile Beacon – apply before Sep 30

Great opportunity from Mobile Beacon for those who qualify…

Mobile Beacon works hand-in-hand with community organizations to create digital inclusion programs that provide the internet to the people that need it most. Together, we help connect people to this vital tool to improve their lives.

Clearing the Runway for More Digital Inclusion Programs

You can be a part of this life-changing work. We know that local community anchor institutions understand the evolving needs of their communities best. That’s why we’re offering the Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit to help you create programs that will really take off.

When you become one of our pilot sites, you’ll have access to the full Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit which includes:

  • 25 donated 4G LTE mobile hotspots
  • FREE unlimited EBS 4G LTE mobile broadband during the pilot program
  • 25 donated laptops

That’s an estimated value of $10,000!

Do you have a brilliant idea for maximizing affordable, high-speed and mobile internet to serve the people in your community?

How to Apply

Pilot applications should have a clear focus on how mobile, high-speed internet will make a tangible change for the people you serve. Provide as much detail as you need to explain what you plan to do and how you will measure your impact.

The application deadline is Monday, September 30, 2019.

What is served? Are we serving to survive or thrive?

The Observer recently published a letter to the editor from an investigative reporter for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance Foundation. He doesn’t agree with Senator Warren’s broadband proposal, which he describes…

“I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford,” she wrote.

That plan entails creating an Office of Broadband Access within her planned Department of Economic Development, which would manage an $85 billion federal grant program. Warren’s plan calls for cooperatives, non-profit groups, tribes and state and local governments to get that money. The plan would bar private providers from having access to any funding.

The grants, which would cover 90 percent of each project’s cost, would go toward fiber infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas, though the state-to-state definition of the term makes that a tricky proposition.

The article caught my eye because he compares Warren’s proposal to the Minnesota model…

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts recently found large discrepancies in how states define those terms. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance Foundation (TPAF) previously reported on how Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Fund deems an area receiving download speeds of less than 100 megabits per second (mbps) as underserved and an area receiving less than 25 mbps as unserved. A state broadband task force member chided those metrics, telling TPAF they inflated the numbers for poor internet accessibility. (For reference: in 2015, the FCC increased its broadband standard from 10 mbps to 25 mbps. Internet speeds between six and 10 mbps are generally fast enough to stream a high-def  video.)

Warren calls for grant recipients to connect every home in their application areas, with at least one plan offering symmetrical 100 mbps speeds and a discount plan for low-income customers.

The TPAF article on the MN model is two years old. One unnamed naysayer from within the Task Force doesn’t represent the general feel for the approach. The MN model has been lauded and replicated (sometimes modified) by several other states. It is worth nothing that MN does and has given grants to larger providers.

One of the key parts of the MN model is that broadband is seen as an economic development tool. As such, the plan is to invest to see a return on that investment (and we have seen one) not just to see broadband for broadband’s sake. That approach of looking at broadband as an investment, not just a cost has worked in Minnesota. We track several stories of how broadband improved businesses and communities in our report on ROI – but one very recent example is Red Wing Ignite, a community we looked at for the report. They just got $750,000 in federal grants to support further innovation.

It’s a weird analogy but barely adequate broadband is like giving someone fish. Yes, they can access email and maybe even watch Netflix. But real broadband is like a fishing pole. Now you can innovate!

FCC says $28.5 million for rural broadband in MN

WCCO reports

The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday it will provide $28.5 million in broadband funding to rural households in Minnesota.

The FCC says the money will benefit more than 8,000 homes and businesses in Minnesota that are currently unserved. The funding, which providers will begin receiving in late August, will be distributed over the next 10 years. The announcement comes as the fourth wave of support from last year’s Connect American Fund Phase II auction.

“In Minnesota, this round of funding takes yet another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to nearly 8,100 unserved rural homes and businesses,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said.

The FCC says providers must build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses within three years. Buildout must increase by 20% in each year afterward, and should be completed by the end of the 6th year.

Counties receiving the most funding include Yellow Medicine, Polk, Traverse, Mower, Marshall, Freeborn, Blue Earth and Kittson.

Washington Post on broadband maps and federal funding for large providers

The Washington Post published an editorial on what needs to be done to get everyone online at adequate speeds. They start with the maps…

IT’S EASY TO say all Americans should be able to use the Internet in the 21st century, which is probably why several leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have done just that. It’s much harder to say how to get there.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a detailed plan this week on getting the country connected, and she is far from alone in her ambition: Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all want the same thing, though perhaps on different terms. They’re right. The Internet today is a necessity, and America’s smaller towns and communities are in trouble if their people can’t get online. But more than one-quarter of the rural population and almost one-third of those on tribal lands can’t access minimum-speed broadband.

Almost everyone, even on both sides of the aisle in Congress, seems able to agree on the need to fix the maps first. Even that one-quarter number may dramatically underestimate how many Americans are stuck offline. That’s because the Federal Communications Commission relies on coverage reports from industry, and carriers have incentive to exaggerate their reach. The system also marks areas as large as hundreds of square miles as serviced even when only a single household has access, and companies are instructed to indicate where they could easily offer broadband rather than where consumers actually use it. All that needs to change.

And move onto working (or not working) with large, commercial providers…

Then there’s the who. Large providers have channeled existing grants into offering service at inadequate speeds, partly because those grants allow them to. Ms. Warren would prohibit for-profits entirely from receiving the $85 billion in subsidies she hopes to offer for affordable broadband deployment, in favor of subsidizing municipalities and community cooperatives. Shifting the focus to local actors is smart — and state rules that prohibit towns and counties from building their own networks need to go. But the government may get more bang for every buck by upping requirements and accountability for everyone rather than keeping some out altogether.