A pre-feasibility study tool to help you understand your broadband options: CN QuickStart

Last week I met up with Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (Community Networks) to talk about a new service/tool they are offering – CN QuickStart. They have partnered with NEO Partners to create a tool that helps communities get a better understanding of what their broadband options are – from a high level. The tool will look at your community and sketch out options for three potential networks: fiber to the home, wireless and hybrid fiber and wireless network. It will include cost estimates and recommendations.

This isn’t meant to replace a feasibility study. It’s sort of a feasibility study precursor. A quick ballpark answer to get a conversation going. The cost for the service is $1,000 plus 40 cents per premise in the study.

I think it’s a great idea and I think you can learn a lot by getting with something like this. Networks can range greatly – but people still want to know how much it’ll be. I’ve often said it’s like asking how much a wedding is. So much depends on whether you’re going to serve brats, wear Vera Wang or fly everyone down to Las Vegas. But talking to someone who knows networks helps a community understand the types of decisions you need to make and the difference those decisions will make.

Blue Earth County investigates broadband with feasibility study

Mankato Free Press reports…

Blue Earth County is set to look into its rural broadband needs after receiving a $25,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation.

The Blue Earth County Board signed off on the grant Tuesday morning. The money will be used for a feasibility study that will identify where broadband access is lacking throughout the county and recommend potential solutions to get rural areas up to speed with other cities.

“We really are trying to get input from the broader community to say, ‘What is the need? How can that need best be met?'” County Administrator Bob Meyer said.

County officials plan to hire telecommunication consultants with Finley Engineering using the grant and county funding to conduct the study later this year. The county also is meeting with local internet companies to see what they would need to expand broadband across the area.

Almost all of Blue Earth County’s internet options meet the state’s immediate high-speed goals — at least 25 mbps downloads and 3 mbps uploads by 2022. Yet only about 14 percent of the county was equipped to handle at least 100 mpbs download speeds and 20 mbps upload speeds.

Every year I look at how each county is doing with broadband deployment. I often see counties that are doing fine today but aren’t working on plans for tomorrow. So it’s exciting to see a county that’s planning for the future!

Lyon County promotes app that test broadband speed

The Marshall Independent reports…

People living in southwest Minnesota know about the challenges of getting a good Internet connection. But in order to help fix the problem, they might need to spread the word about it first. Lyon County officials said this week they’re encouraging people to use a free smart phone app that will help highlight areas of low Internet connectivity across the U.S.

The TestIT app allows users to test their broadband speed with the press of a button, and see how it compares to the national average and minimum standards set by the Federal Communications Commission. The app also collects a snapshot of the test data and location, to show what Internet connectivity is like in areas around the country.

Lyon County Board Chairman Gary Crowley said Wednesday that he’s already tried running the speed test on his own internet connection.

You can learn more about the app and download it from the Lyon County website.

More info on federal broadband maps

The NTIA is working with 8 states on creating better broadband maps; Minnesota is one of those states. It’s good news but I have to admit I hadn’t read too much on what was going to make those maps better. But I learned a little more from Law360 today…

The federal agency charged with leading an expansion of broadband mapping data is treading “new ground” by planning to incorporate crowdsourced information into its outlines, National Telecommunications and Information Administration head David Redl said Tuesday. …

Last week, USTelecom announced a separate pilot that will amalgamate data in Virginia and Missouri from sources like real estate parcels, U.S. postal addresses and crowdsourced coordinates aligned with satellite images to give an address-level picture of which individual properties lack internet access.

The group said it will use the services of model-development firm CostQuest to map both states in this way, and it hopes to hand the system off to the Federal Communications Commission later. Right now, the federal government relies primarily on data that broadband providers submit twice a year through a mechanism called Form 477.

As agencies cooperate to combine existing broadband maps with new inputs, data gathered through private initiatives will also become helpful, Redl said.

“We welcome the work that USTelecom is doing, and we hope they’re going to be willing to share that data with us as a layer to our broadband map,” he said.

Addition after kid reminder – you can test you speed in MN here: https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/checkspeedmn/ 

Grassroots effort to improve broadband maps – give it a try

The National Association of Counties (NACo), Rural LISC and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have created a tool that might create better maps…

National Association of Counties (NACo), Rural LISC and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have partnered to address the critical need for high-speed internet for rural communities across the country. Currently, data indicating broadband availability and speed is reported twice a year by Internet Service Providers. However, there is no mechanism to verify the accuracy of the data, and anecdotal evidence suggests an entire ZIP code is oftentimes marked as “served” with broadband if just one home in the census block has coverage. Outdated broadband mapping techniques limit Congress’ ability to accurately identify and allocate broadband resources across much of America.

In response, NACo, Rural LISC and RCAP developed a mobile app that harnesses grassroots advocacy by empowering individual users to accurately identify areas with low or no internet connectivity. The data will be aggregated to identify gaps in broadband coverage. This information will help guide advocacy for adequate funding and inform decision-making at federal, state and local levels.

Join us in advocating for a stronger and more connected future for small towns everywhere. Follow these four short steps to join the movement!

Step 1:  Locate the iOS/Android App Store on your phone.

iOS App Store

Android App Store

Step 2:  Search for “TestIT” in your mobile app store (see icon below).

Step 3:  Download TestIT mobile app.

Step 4:  Open TestIT mobile app and click “Test Speed Here!”

(Repeat Step 4 as frequently as possible)

That’s it!  For further info, see the press release here, and NACo’s flyer: “Bridging the Economic Divide.”

P.S.  Help spread the word by encouraging friends, family and constituents to join in the effort!

NTIA Partners with MN and 7 other states on improvements to Broadband Map

From National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that it is collaborating with eight states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. The eight states – California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia – will contribute data and other inputs to the map.

“In order to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband, we need a more precise picture of the current services and infrastructure that are available,” said David Redl, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator. “NTIA’s work on an updated map, in partnership with these initial states, will help policymakers around the country make better decisions as they devise broadband expansion plans.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directed NTIA to update the national broadband availability map using its previously developed state partnerships. The initial eight state partners were chosen because they reflect geographic diversity, participate in NTIA’s State Broadband Leaders Network, have active state broadband plans or programs, and were willing to contribute data that can be combined with nationwide data sources to give policymakers a deeper understanding of broadband availability.

NTIA expects to seek participation from additional states, territories and federally recognized tribes that have broadband programs or related data-collection efforts. The initial map will include available nationwide data for every state combined with state-level data from the eight states.

I can’t say for sure, but it seems like having an Office of Broadband Development helps Minnesota take advantage of opportunities like this. Luck favors the prepared.

Le Sueur County moves forward with broadband plan – starting with feasibility support by Blandin Foundation

Le Sueur County News posts a letter to the editor from Barbara Dröher Kline…

Last year, while meeting residents of Minnesota House District 20A as a candidate, I heard numerous complaints about access to high speed broadband.

Also during the campaign, I attended a Region Nine Broadband Summit, learned where there are significant issues in each township as well as learning about solutions. I met with Dr. John King, my Le Sueur County commissioner, to discuss how to move ahead locally.

An expert from the Blandin Foundation presented at the May 15, 2018, Le Sueur County Board meeting, where the board unanimously approved applying for planning resources from Blandin. That application was approved. A group of county residents and county staff met with providers, took a survey, attended an intensive planning conference last fall.

As a result of these efforts, last December, the commissioners approved a contract for a professional feasibility study and we submitted another Blandin application for a $25,000 grant to support the study. On Jan. 29, the grant was approved! I am so proud of how many county residents stepped up to work in the planning process, the responsiveness of county staff and board, and the timeliness of this process. We are now poised to apply for state funding this fall. This IS rural economic development.

If you haven’t, we invite you to complete the survey of your home or business internet capabilities. Find the survey at www.lesueurcounty.org. Put your home and/or business on the planning map to help the consultants identify local needs.