Institute of Local Self Reliance announce training to help communities manage broadband deployment

The Institute of Local Self Reliance announce two training opportunities to help community leaders manage broadband deployment. The sessions are well times as investment in broadband is coming in fast and furious. Now is the time to be ready. Here’s a quick look at them:

Announcing the Urban Digital Equity Bootcamp

The program is designed to:

  • Increase knowledge and confidence of participants to allow them to better take action in their communities to achieve digital equity. This includes developing familiarity with key jargon and technologies related to Internet access.
  • Develop diverse cohorts and a larger human network of people sharing local strategies, challenges, and solutions.
  • Demystify Internet technology through hands-on applications and small group learning

Attendees will include a diverse group of stakeholders, from local leaders to activists to the philanthropic community. A key group of attendees would include organizations that already have the trust of frontline communities – groups that understand the importance of digital equity but haven’t had the capacity to address it. In larger communities, multiple events can be tailored to fit the different needs of different neighborhoods.

The primary objective will be building knowledge and trust among local organizations so they can engage in strategic campaigns of digital inclusion. These events will need significant local coordination to be effective.

Announcing the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program

The first Let’s Get Going Broadband Program cohort is scheduled to begin in September. The cost per community is $15,000, and we recommend each community will select 3-5 participants to attend.

See the full program flyer with schedule here [pdf], or below.

It includes:

  • Cohort Building – An opportunity for a local broadband team to join a eight-week cohort with other communities in a customized curriculum to develop expertise in solving broadband challenges and taking advantage of funding opportunities.
  • Trainings – 90-minute interactive webinars  focused on understanding – in a commonly accessible manner – broadband technologies, challenges, and how similarly situated communities have addressed these problems.
  • Technical Assistance – Eight, 2-hour technical assistance sessions rooted in local needs
  • Community Progress Reports and Research – Help in developing an information-gathering project with diverse community stakeholders to define digital inclusion problems.

Contact Community Broadband Networks Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar at deanne@ilsr.org for more details.

Duluth New Tribune opinion piece say government involvement is needed to get broadband to some communities

In an opinion piece in the Duluth News Tribune, Kyle Moorhead, the founder and CEO of Hometown Fiber, counters an earlier opinion piece that didn’t believe the government should be involved with broadband access…

The Progressive Policy Institute’s Lindsay Mark Lewis claimed in an Aug. 10 column in the News Tribune that the government has no place building or operating broadband networks.

His information was outdated.

In fact, the only way many communities will get the internet service they need is through local government involvement.

He gets into the details…

There are good reasons for government to consider ownership.

Fiber optic networks do not need to be complex and expensive to operate, as Lewis asserted. I have municipal networks running successfully for more than 12 years with 99.995% uptime. It costs little to operate these networks.

Fiber itself is inexpensive. Prices have dropped so much in recent years that it is affordable for residential service.

If you design and construct the network as critical infrastructure and not for a quick return on investment, you automatically get a reliable and fast network. Digging and directional drilling are the most expensive parts of a project. That cost is the same whether you’re building infrastructure to last 50 years or 10. Do it once correctly, and it pays for itself.

Networks can meet the business needs of ISPs and their communities. It’s not either/or.

An almost instant response to any new approach is, “But ISPs won’t like it.” Incumbent providers often resist offering customers choice, because it means their geographic dominance in the area could end. On the other hand, an incumbent ISP with failing infrastructure quickly understands this new approach is more profitable than maintaining its own infrastructure. It’s possible to meet an ISP’s needs for an almost instant return on investment and complete control over its internet office technology and operations while ensuring no equipment sharing or outside interference.

Duluth is looking at Open Access Fiber Options with the help of State funding

The Institue of Local Self Reliance reports on Duluth…

Last April, the Duluth Economic Development Authority signed a $65,000 contract with Entrypoint LLC to examine the possibility of building a community-owned fiber network in Duluth. The result: a new Digital Access Master Plan that proposes the city spend $7-9 million to build a pilot open access fiber network in Lincoln Park next year.

“Reliable high-speed internet is no longer a luxury,” Duluth Mayor Emily Larson proclaimed in a recent state of the city address. “It’s an essential utility no less important to our future success than our roads, water, and electricity.”

Under the proposal, 75 percent of the new network would be buried fiber and 25 percent would be microtrenched along public roads. The $7 to $9 million estimated price tag is based on a 60% take rate, short-term interest at 5 percent, and a long-term interest rate of 3 percent for 20 years. The initial pilot project would bring fiber to an estimated 1,900 Duluth residents next year.

“A 60% take-rate may seem aggressive given the strong market position of the incumbent cable operator,” the plan states. “However, the survey data suggests a strong desire among residents and businesses in Duluth to see competition, choice, better pricing, and the reliability of a fiber optic network.”

The plan moving forward…

Last June, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced that the state would be doling out $95 million in broadband expansion grants, with a maximum of $5 million for each potential target community. Another $68.5 million in funding for Minnesota communities is poised to arrive via the American Rescue Plan Act.

If the pilot goes well, the city will then decide whether to embrace a full, citywide fiber network at an estimated price tag of between $76 and $80 million.

Assuming the full network were to be built over a 48 month period, the plan predicts Duluth would need to subsidize the network for 14 months. Once the network reaches 21,709 premises, the investment will be paid back by operational surpluses. The plan assumes a $79.9 million network build cost would be funded with debt at a 3 percent interest rate over 20 years.

Duluth pursues Border to Border grant for Lincoln Park

The Duluth News Tribune reports

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson this summer proposed a pilot project to bring faster, more affordable broadband internet service first to Lincoln Park. And last month, as the News Tribune reported, the City Council gave the go-ahead for city administration to apply for a $3.2 million state Broadband Development Grant to help fund the proposal. Councilors expressed discomfort, however, with withdrawing $5 million from Duluth’s Community Investment Trust to help fund the project, which is expected to cost $7 million to $9 million total. If Duluth is successful in securing the requested state grant, there’s confidence in City Hall that there are other financial paths for the pilot project without having to dip into the Community Investment Fund.

Kandiyohi County Commissioners support three Border ro Border grant applications

The West Central Tribune reports…

At Tuesday’s Kandiyohi County Board meeting, the commissioners approved submitting three letters of support toward three broadband projects hoping to be awarded state Border-to-Border grant funds. An update on projects was also given at the meeting.

It took much longer than anyone wanted, but applications for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program through the state Department of Employment and Economic Development are finally being accepted. By the due date of Thursday, at least three of those applications will be coming from Kandiyohi County.

The County has also invested ARPA money…

When the county received its more than $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act coronavirus relief funds, the board made the commitment to earmark around 75% of those monies for broadband. So far, the board has approved allocations to several projects across the county.

Some details…

At Tuesday’s meeting of the County Board, the commissioners approved signing and sending three letters of support to DEED for three different broadband projects. Border-to-Border awards grants of up to $5 million or 50% of the project cost, whichever is less. This year, there is approximately $95 million in funds available, thanks to an influx of cash from both the state’s general fund and from the federal government.

The county’s primary project, which is made clear in the letters of support, is the Kandiyohi County West project, that would bring fiber broadband to 645 locations in Dovre, Mamre, St. Johns and Arctander townships. The project is estimated to cost more than $9.8 million, and the EDC Broadband Committee is asking for $4.5 million from the DEED program.

“We are asking for that full 50%,” said Sarah Swedburg, business development manager with the EDC. “We need every penny that the state can give us.”

Martin County Commissioners support Frontier’s Border to Border application for Fairmont, Northrop and Ceylon

The Fairmont Sentinel reports

The Martin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday heard from Scott Bohler of Frontier Communications, Inc. who asked for a letter of support from the county for the grant application to the DEED- Office of Broadband, Minnesota Border to Border Grant Program.

The proposed project would cover about 500 locations in the Fairmont, Northrop and Ceylon area.

Commissioner Kathy Smith asked if the proposal was brought to the broadband committee. Bohler said the specifics haven’t been presented to them.

The commissioners noted that the city of Ceylon has already received a broadband grant and has been working with Federated on a project. Bohler said they had designed the project based off of the areas that the state program identified as eligible for funding.

There was some back and forth in part because the area in question had already received funding but also because Frontier was interested in covering the city only and the Board wanted the whole area to be covered. In the end, the Board decided to support the project…

Smith asked about the $3.5 million project Frontier did in 2016. Bohler said the expectations have changed from then to now.

Bohler said that the grant needs to be applied for by Thursday this week. Commissioner Elliot Belgard noted that Frontier could apply for it without a letter of support from the county.

“I don’t think supporting it can necessarily be a bad thing. If it’s not worthy we’ll let the committee that decides who gets the grants say it’s not worthy, not us,” said Belgard.

Smith made a motion to approve of the letter of support for Frontier.

Kandiyohi County taking more steps toward the Border to Border grant application

The West Central Tribune reports

High-speed broadband internet expansion continues to be a major priority for the Kandiyohi County Board. The commissioner will receive an update on where projects stand and consider sending out letters of support to be included in the county’s Border to Border grant application.

The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar.

How is Pike Township MN going to get better broadband? Through a letter writing campaign

This post is to help spread the word in St Louis County for a fun event. If you’re outside of St Louis County, this point is to spread the word on a good idea.

The folks in Pike Township are holding a virtual letter writing party to invite residents to write letters to support their Border to Border grant application. They are working with Paul Bunyan Communications. What a fun way to get people involved and excited for broadband. Gone are the days when half the battle was getting the locals excited but never gone is the advantage of a community that is excited to subscribe.

Redwood County residents asked to take a survey and leave a message about broadband

This is a reach out to folks in Redwood County and a possible idea for other counties. Redwood County is working with Arvig on a Border to Border grant. The County EDA has been working on a broadband vision…

Every resident and business in Redwood County will have access to an affordable, reliable, high-speed internet connection delivered by committed community partners skilled in operating and maintaining a successful fiber broadband network.

And a place for Redwood County residents to engage. Folks are invited to take the broadband survey or send in their personal message about broadband need.  It’ll be a great accompaniment to their grant application as well as providing insight into need.

Thomson Township pledge ARPA funds for Border to Border applications in Carlton County

The Pine Journal reports

Thomson Township supervisors made a resolution of support and pledged $187,500 to two broadband initiatives in the area during a meeting Thursday, July 21.

The two initiatives include a Mediacom broadband expansion and joining the Cloquet broadband project, both of which are applying to secure state funding for their projects.

Leah Pykkonen, the township’s deputy clerk, presented the Mediacom proposal to the board and explained its benefits.

According to Pykkonen, the project would cover 420 homes in the northern part of the township and connect to the existing infrastructure.

They will be using ARPA funds…

Town Clerk Rhonda Peleski said the township has $565,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and some of it could be allocated for broadband expansion. …

After some deliberation between board members, they agreed on pledging $150,000 to the Mediacom project.

The Cloquet broadband project, which the supervisors also pledged support to, has a smaller scope for the township as it would only cover 92 homes.

With that in mind, Paulson said it would make sense to give the project 25% of the funding, $37,500, as it would be closer to an equal share compared to the number of homes covered with the Mediacom project.

Kandiyohi pursuing a Border to Border grant for areas north and west of Willmar

KWLM in Willmar reports om the progress of Kandiyohi’s Border to Border grant…

Local economic development officials are applying for state money for a broadband expansion project on the western side of Kandiyohi County. Sarah Swedberg, Business Development Manager with the Willmar and Kandiyohi County EDC says if approved, the grant money will be used to lay down lines to improve internet access in an area north and west of Willmar.

If you live in in the area, you are invited to send letters of recommendation to be included in the application, which is due August 2.

Sherburne County and Arvig partner of Border to Border grant applications for Haven Twp., Clear Lake Twp. and Elk River.

Patriot News reports

After 15-minute discussion last Tuesday, the Sherburne County Board Tuesday approved three grant applications by Arvig for broadband projects in Haven Twp., Clear Lake Twp. and Elk River.

Arvig has requested to partner with Sherburne County on 2022 State of MN Border to Border Broadband program applications. 

The grants are $666,406 for the Haven Twp. project, $192,477 in Clear Lake Twp. and $217,060.50 in Elk River. The board passed a resolution of commitment of 30% contribution for each project. Should Arvig be awarded any of the grants by the state, the county’s contribution (using ARPA funds) would be $499,804.50 for Haven Twp., $144,357.75 for Clear Lake Twp. and $162,795.38 for Elk River.

The projects would serve a total of 254 homes for the three projects combined.

The board tabled its decision on proposed broadband projects in Santiago Twp. and Becker Twp. until August. 

Otter Tail County invests $2.8 million of ARPA funds on broadband

Perham Focus reports

Otter Tail County commissioners have pinpointed how to spend about half of the $11.4 million allocated to the county via the American Rescue Plan Act.

During the County Board meeting on Tuesday, July 12 resolutions on fund allocations were reviewed. The funds come with stipulations, such as to decrease the spread of the virus, replace lost revenue for governmental entities, economic stabilization and to address public health challenges.

Here’s the broadband related investment…

  • $2.8 million (or technology) will go to technological infrastructure, such as broadband access expansion. It was noted the improvements in the county would also utilize state and federal sources.
  • $150,000 was earmarked for funding a jobs portal for three years. The strategy supports efforts to attract new employees and by doing so support businesses in the county that provide a living wage.

Duluth approved digital access master plan and State broadband grant application

Broadband and broadband funding has been a hot topic in Duluth these days, as WDIO reports, it sounds like some decisions were made this week..

The Duluth City Council considered several broadband related resolutions during a meeting Monday evening.

The council did approve resolutions approving the city’s digital access master plan and also approved a resolution which will allow the city to submit an application to the state for a $3.2 million development grant.

However, the council decided to send back to administration a resolution that would establish up to $5,000,000 from the Community Investment Trust Fund to support the Duluth open Access Fiber Pilot Project.

More information on all three resolutions can be found here.

Arvig and Redwood County seek a Border to Border grant for better broadband

Telecompetitor reports

Regional provider Arvig and Redwood County, Minnesota, have agreed to work together on a $4.4 million public-private partnership to bring fiber to eight cities in the county.

The linchpin of the project will be approval of an application for a $1.3 million grant that Arvig and the county will make to the State of Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grant program.

That funding would be supplemented by $1.2 million from Arvig and a local match of $1.9 million from the county. The county’s contribution will be money secured through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

If the Border to Border grant is received, the project will bring 1 Gbps connectivity to residential customers and 10 Gbps service to businesses in Belview, Clements, Morgan, Seaforth, Vesta, Wabasso, Walnut Grove and Wanda. More than 1,870 structures will be served, which represents about 30% of Redwood County residents.

If it goes forward, the Arvig public-private partnership project would be completed in June, 2025.