Kandiyohi County moves forward with broadband engineering study

West Central Tribune reports…

Kandiyohi County is taking fresh aim at a long-sought goal of widening the availability of high-speed internet service, especially to neighborhoods that remain unserved or underserved.

The County Board voted Tuesday to help fund an engineering study that will examine the feasibility of bringing broadband to rural homes and businesses in Dovre, Mamre and St. Johns townships.

The ultimate goal is another shot at grant dollars from the border-to-border program of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The article also give a little history…

The county and the Economic Development Commission had high hopes two years ago when the state Office of Broadband Technology awarded a $4.9 million grant to help develop broadband in rural northern Kandiyohi County. But the project struggled to reach fruition and was abandoned in the summer of 2017 after the county’s broadband partner, Consolidated Telecommunications Co., withdrew its participation, forcing the county to forfeit the grant money.

“It was so close and it didn’t happen,” said Larry Kleindl, county administrator.

It was a setback but advocates for local broadband never gave up, he said. “We agreed we weren’t going to quit. … We’re trying to find the tool and the mechanism to do this.”

What’s different this time is that the proposed project has multiple partners — the three townships, Kandiyohi County and telecommunications provider Arvig — willing to take the lead. The proposed service area is also more geographically compact.

AcenTek Improves Time to Revenue for New Services by Simplifying Operations with Calix AXOS

For the most technical in the crowd, or folks on the very front lines, Calix reports…

Calix, Inc. (CALX) today announced that AcenTek has deployed AXOS GPON as it expands gigabit broadband throughout its service area spanning Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa. With AXOS, AcenTek has radically accelerated its deployment capabilities of next generation services while automating and simplifying operations to enable its network to scale. The AXOS E7-2 Intelligent Modular System and SMx Services Management Connector enable AcenTek to use a common operational service model, regardless of the physical technology layer supported or access network deployment location. AXOS SMx allows AcenTek to dynamically drive operational process automation, decreasing time to market for new service introductions, shortening OSS integration timelines and markedly improving subscriber experience. Additionally, with the real-time network troubleshooting capabilities of the AXOS Diagnostics Toolbox, AcenTek can maintain an always on network at a dramatically reduced operational cost.

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!