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.

RS Fiber and HBC form Long-Term Agreement and plan expansions

Great news for folks in the area. It’s always good to hear about folks who are willing to expand fiber to rural Minnesota…

RS Fiber Cooperative (RS Fiber) has announced the formation of a long-term operating relationship with Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), giving RS Fiber the opportunity to meet and expand on the original goals for the project.

 

RS Fiber hired HBC to build and operate the gigabit fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) network when the project was launched three-years ago to bring high-speed broadband to Renville and Sibley Counties. RS Fiber and HBC recently struck a partnership agreement where HBC will provide funding for the continued operation and growth of the network.

 

To build the network, RS Fiber acquired financing through several sources. Many financial institutions deem the construction of broadband networks as high risk, resulting in higher interest rates. After the network is built and customer numbers grow, the lender risk is reduced allowing for more favorable interest rates. This past year, RS Fiber has been working to restructure its high interest loans in an effort to create a longstanding and sustainable Cooperative. The culmination of that work has resulted in an arrangement between RS Fiber and HBC that strengthens their business relationship for years to come and keeps the RS Fiber mission and vision intact.

 

“We knew we had the right vision and great support from the cities and townships in our project area,” said Kevin Lauwagie, Chairman of the RS Fiber Board of Directors. “We have held strong to the commitment we made to our patrons and residents of our region. This relationship with HBC will help us continue to provide advanced services that rural Minnesota deserves.”

 

“This network and RS Fiber’s commitment to rural broadband is right in line with HBC’s vision and values” stated HBC President, Dan Pecarina. “We are committed to small town and rural broadband deployment, so operating this

network with our RS Fiber friends provides the opportunity to advance this much needed service.”

 

RS Fiber has completed construction of gigabit FTTP networks in 10 communities located in Renville, Sibley, McLeod, and Nicollet Counties of west central Minnesota. RS Fiber has also used this rich fiber network to connect to tall structures such as towers and grain elevators to provide high speed fixed-wireless services to the rural areas of the region.

 

RS Fiber currently serves more than 2,200 customers, with plans to rapidly expand its customer base. “Fiber-Optic networks provide more speed, capacity, and reliability and those features will help drive more innovative services to RS Fiber customers,” stated Pecarina.

 

“We are already seeing tremendous economic growth within the RS Fiber communities, like the medical school coming to Gaylord” added Lauwagie, “along with education, telemedicine, and precision agriculture benefits.”

 

RS Fiber will soon be announcing several new service options for customers to enhance their video, telephone, and broadband Internet experience. RS Fiber is also looking to expand its network to bring the benefits of the high-speed broadband to more rural residents and businesses in the region.

Frontier plans to sell assets in three states – Minnesota is not one of them

Frontier announces plans to sell assets

Frontier Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: FTR) today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its operations and all associated assets in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana to WaveDivision Capital, LLC (WDC) in partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners, LLC (Searchlight) for $1.352 billion in cash subject to certain closing adjustments.

Frontier’s operations in these states serve more than 350,000 residential and commercial customers as of March 31, 2019 and account for $619 million of revenue, $46 million of net income and $272 million of Adjusted EBITDA1 for the twelve months ending March 31, 2019. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, with closing anticipated to occur within one year.

“The sale of these properties reduces Frontier’s debt and strengthens liquidity,” said Dan McCarthy, Frontier President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are pleased to have a buyer with extensive experience building and operating advanced fiber-based communications assets in these regions. We will be working very closely with the new owners to ensure a smooth, successful transition for our customers and the communities we serve.”

WDC, headed by broadband entrepreneur Steve Weed, is based in Kirkland, Washington, and brings extensive technical, organizational, and management experience in building and operating residential and business next-generation fiber networks.

“We are excited to be partnering with Searchlight on this opportunity to acquire Frontier’s operations in the Northwest,” said Steve Weed, CEO of WDC, and Founder and former CEO of Wave Broadband. “We have a proven track record of customer satisfaction by providing fast, reliable internet connectivity combined with great service and support. Having grown up in the Northwest, I’m excited to be able to continue to serve my community through this new venture.”

“Searchlight is pleased to have reached this agreement with Frontier,” said Eric Zinterhofer, Founding Partner of Searchlight. “We are excited to partner with Steve and his team, who have an outstanding track record of building best-in-class fiber networks, and who will enable us to accelerate the deployment of superior next generation products for our residential and business customers.”

I wonder what this means to customers in Minnesota. Frontier has had a rough year here in MN with some pretty brutal public testimony on their service and Senators asking the FCC for further investigation. It would be great to think that some of the funds raised would be used to invest in the current network but what it clearly says above is…

sale of these properties reduces Frontier’s debt and strengthens liquidity.

 

Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Summit – Minnesota learns and shares with Top 7 Smart Communities

The Blandin Foundation led a contingency of broadband community people to the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Summit in New York. ICF is a strategy that creates and recognizes communities that do well with the framework. In Minnesota, the Blandin Foundation has adopted (and adapted) the framework and employed it with dozens of rural communities. Each year, ICF names 21 Smart Communities, whittles that down to the Top 7 and then – we got to see the unveiling of the Most Intelligent Community. (Yay – Taoyuan, Taiwan!)

The conference highlights the Top 7 communities and the various aspect and outcomes of the ICF framework. Our contingency learned a lot and I think it was very inspiring. But we didn’t come empty-handed. We brought our own stories of success and we brought the rural perspective. It was fun to show off the hard work of so many Minnesota communities and we certainly raised the Minnesota Broadband Profile.

My aha moment came when we met with John Jung, co-founder of ICF and keynote speaker at the MN Fall Broadband Conference. He mirrored the focus on people that many presenters had also mentioned. It’s about how people can use technology but also about making sure they are resilient and flexible. He talked about how the goal of ICF is prosperity. So where ICF succeeds it can change policy. It allows a community to make decisions based on abundance, not scarcity.

Bernadine Joselyn and Bill Coleman each participated in a session:

You can read more complete notes… Continue reading

Gov Walz sign the Ag, Rural Dev and Housing budget – including funds for broadband

The Albert Lea Tribune reports…

Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday signed the Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing budget in a ceremonial signing with representatives from all sectors of agriculture in attendance.

The budget bill was part of several bills passed out of the Legislature during a special session May 24. Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), chairwoman of the House Agriculture and Food Finance Committee and chief author of the bill, attended the signing.

And mentions the investment in broadband…

A lack of reliable, high-speed broadband internet service remains a significant barrier for many of Minnesota’s communities, making it difficult for students to learn and for small businesses to compete. The final bill includes a $40 million investment in the state’s border-to-border broadband program, delivering rural communities access to the internet speeds they deserve.

This has been seen by many in the ag industry as a necessary step in giving farmers and small businesses equal footing in being able to remain competitive.

“I think broadband is really important to try and get to remote parts of the state that don’t have access to broadband and high speed internet,” Poppe said. “But, there are people in the House that say, ‘no, we now have satellites going into space, we don’t need to put things in the ground.’

The Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus also wrote about the signing…

On Tuesday, Senator Bill Weber (R-Luverne), chair of the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee, was present as Governor Tim Walz ceremonially signed the agriculture budget into law.

“I was glad to be present as the governor signed this bipartisan legislation into law,” said Senator Weber. “This bill is a result of bipartisan cooperation and prioritizes farm families and development across Greater Minnesota. At a time where farm income is on a multi-year decline, this bill includes investments in programs that aim to expand markets and improve bottom lines while recognizing the struggle to make ends meet.”

FCC authorizes $166.8 million in funding over the next decade; $3.3+ million for MN Projects

The FCC reports

The FCC today authorized $166.8 million in funding over
the next decade to expand broadband to 60,850 unserved rural homes and businesses in 22 states, representing the second wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding this month.

Here are the projects authorized in Minnesota…

Minnesota: Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 315
Support /10 Years: $1,313,543

Minnesota Garden Valley Telephone Company
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 95
Support /10 Years: $880,346

Minnesota West Central Telephone Association
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 532
Support /10 Years: $611,934

Minnesota Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 209
Support /10 Years: $552,330

 

EVENT ALET: Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting June 18

Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
NEW TIME!  10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
League of MN Cities – Boardroom
145 University Avenue West – St. Paul, MN 55103
Agenda:
Introductions
Session Overview
Interim Plan/Next Session
Organizational Future
Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.
Feel free to extend this invitation to other interested stakeholders.
Reminder: All dues paying members are able to vote at this meeting.

Sanford-TytoCare and Best Buy partner to bring more telehealth service to the home

Home Healthcare News reports…

TytoCare — which recently announced a retail relationship with Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and also has multiple health system partnerships across the country — is just one example of telehealth’s steady evolution.

With its U.S. operations based in New York, TytoCare is the maker of an FDA-cleared telehealth device capable of carrying out a long list of medical tests in the home setting, including comprehensive heart and lung evaluations, as well as ears and throat checkups.

Through the company’s software platform, that biometric data can then be sent to the company’s health care provider partners, whose physicians can subsequently diagnose and even treat patients’ conditions remotely.

Here’s what it means to the consumer…

TytoCare’s consumer-focused telehealth product — TytoHome — is available to Best Buy shoppers for roughly $300, with virtual visits conducted by American Well’s LiveHealth Online costing less than $60 each.

But more than 50 health care organizations have teamed up with TytoCare by using its enterprise-focused offerings, branded as TytoPro and TytoClinic.

And the health care facilities…

The Sanford Health system includes 44 medical centers, 482 clinics, more than 200 senior living facilities, providing health care services across parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Its flagship home health division — Sanford Home Health — provides services in and around the Sioux Falls area, in addition to Luverne, Minnesota.

“With the exam capabilities this device has, I could see potential use cases being follow-up on post-surgical patients or chronic disease management,” Crabtree said. “I think that could fit with our home care population.”