PUC public hearing on Frontier – the frustration of a community held hostage by a broadband provider

Last night I attended the Public Utilities Commission meeting taking comments from frustrated Frontier customers. This is one of several meetings the PUC is having across the state. There were about 100 people in attendance. The meeting when from 6:00 until after 9:00. People spoke passionately.

The point that most people made was their frustration at having one choice. Most were in the position where there were no other broadband providers that reached their homes. And it sounds like the service is slow (often less that 1 Mbps) and unreliable. Someone mentioned their connection had cut out 75 times in a 24-hour span. Most were disappointed with customer service and billing issues.

One person mentioned that they opted for satellite instead of Frontier – but they were unhappy with satellite as well. Some used mobile hotspots when they really needed to get online. But others mentioned that hotspots were even an option because they leave/work in a cell dead zone.

People were frustrated because they couldn’t work from home. They could run credit cards in their small businesses. Kids couldn’t do homework. It took 5 hours to watch a movie on Netflix due to buffering. Other were worried because the phone went out when the internet went out – and again many were in cell dead zones. They worried about what they would do in case of emergency. How could they make a call to 911?

Living in the Cities, it’s easy to think that everyone has access. But the videos of this meeting are here as a reminder that not everyone does – and often it’s not their choice.

The PUC is accepting written comments until October 3, 2018.

Great Lakes Connect Conference in Ohio Sep 24-26

Looks like a good conference – close to Minnesota…

Great Lakes Connect Announces Agenda for Premiere Broadband Economic Development Confernece

Fairlawn, Ohio – Today Great Lakes Connect, a new regional conference to be held in Fairlawn, Ohio at its Hilton announced its agenda for the conference later this month.  Following in the footsteps of the popular Western States’ Mountain Connect conference, Great Lakes Connect will quickly become the Midwest’s leading conference dedicated to examining how to harness broadband for economic development, community advancement, and innovation.

The agenda for the conference includes the story of the FairlawnGig network told by Mayor William Roth and Deputy Director of Public Service, Ernie Staten. It’s a story of how one small city that relies on being a destination for business both business professionals and consumers addressed its own broadband shortcomings by investing in building a fiber network on its own.  Considering broadband an “essential infrastructure” for life in the twenty-first century has had amazing results in terms of business attraction, home values, and local innovation.

Additional national voices visiting Northeast Ohio to speak at this conference include:

  • Mignon L. Clyburn, FCC Commissioner, 2009 to 2018
  • Gig Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy
  • John Windhausen, Executive Director, Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB)
  • Jase Wilson, Founder & CEO, Neighborly
  • Aaron Deacon, Founder & Managing Director, KC Digital Drive

Taking place September 24-26, 2018, Great Lakes Connect will serve community leaders and technology companies by:

  • Bringing Midwest community leaders the groundbreaking and unique content they need to make investment decisions
  • Gathering key regional decision makers in the industry together for networking and an exchange of ideas
  • Addressing the geographic-specific-issues of broadband challenges in the Midwest

Great Lakes Connect will feature industry and thought leaders addressing topics not discussed anywhere else along three tracks, including Economic and Community Development, and Emerging Technologies.

Found online at www.greatlakesconnect.org, the agenda for the conference is designed to help communities find a path forward.

“This path forward,” explains co-conference organizer Jeff Gavlinski, “often includes creative solutions in rural areas or bold strategies in urban communities. The conference theme, Creating Intelligent Network Infrastructure to Compete in the Global, is intended to help communities make some tough but smart choices when designing a network to serve their broadband needs.”

Border to Border Broadband Conference Oct 23-24: Learn from the Feasibility Charrettes

An invitation to the upcoming Broadband conference from the Blandin Foundation…

We hope to see you at Border to Border Broadband: Transforming Minnesota, our annual broadband conference, October 23-24 at Madden’s on Gull Lake in Brainerd. This year’s event will showcase and celebrate the transformative power of community passion fueled by high-speed broadband networks.

But not every community has access to high-speed, future-proof Internet… yet.

This year’s conference will feature something never attempted before – completion of a feasibility study in 30 hours! Three community teams will work with world-class community broadband consultants to consider technology choices, partnership options, finance tools and marketing considerations for their community.

The teams have already been selected but you have the option to learn alongside them, as a free agent, and take the information, tools and knowledge back to your own community.

Check out the conference webpage for more details about the “Feasibility Charrette” and the other session options we’re offering this year, including broadband advocacy, calculating the ROI of broadband networks, and demand building and tracking tools. Register today!

Minnesota PUC holding public hearings across MN with unhappy Frontier Customers

MPR reports on the troubles that Frontier customers are having with their broadband service…

Some of Frontier Communications’ unhappy customers have been living with poor telephone, internet and customer service for years.

“Our internet here is horrible, our provider is Frontier,” said Monica King Von Holtum who lives near Worthington in southwest Minnesota. “It’s infuriating.”

Problems with Frontier crop up when her husband also gets on his computer, or maybe a neighbor logs in.

“If I’m literally the only person using the internet, it’s fine,” said King Von Holtum. “As soon as we have one or more people using different devices it just tanks and we can’t get anything done.”

She’s supposed to get 6 megabits per second of data. But that hardly ever happens. Sitting at her computer, she demonstrates with an online internet speed test just how bad things can get.

And they customer service…

The PUC has heard from lots of unhappy customers. It’s received more than 400 comments and complaints about Frontier. One telephone customer said service drops out regularly, sometimes for as long as a week. An internet customer said Frontier’s service record shows the company lacks “common decency.” Another calls the company’s high-speed internet service “worse than dial-up.”

The PUC will be holding public hearings this Fall…

The PUC has heard from lots of unhappy customers. It’s received more than 400 comments and complaints about Frontier. One telephone customer said service drops out regularly, sometimes for as long as a week. An internet customer said Frontier’s service record shows the company lacks “common decency.” Another calls the company’s high-speed internet service “worse than dial-up.”

Many customers, like Joe and Monica King Von Holtum of Worthington, feel stuck.

“That makes me wish that maybe there was some competition out here,” said Joe King Von Holtum.

He said their only other internet options, like a satellite service, are unaffordable.

Here are the dates (according to the PUC calendar):

  • Ely September 4, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. – Vermilion Community College
  • McGregor September 5, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. – McGregor Community Center
  • Wyoming September 12, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. – Wyoming City Hall
  • Slayton September 25, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. – Slayton Public LIbrary
  • Lakeville September 26, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – Lakeville Heritage Center

MN Farmfest Gubernatorial, US Senate and Congressional Candidate forums – all include questions on broadband

I had a great time attending Farmfest today. I attended to watch the Gubernatorial debate. There was one question on infrastructure:

 

All five candidates were there: Tim Walz, Tim Pawlenty, Lori Swanson, Jeff Johnson and Erin Murphy. Two candidates took the opportunity to specifically talk about rural broadband. Lori Swanson likened broadband to electricity and said that we need to invest in it. Erin Murphy mentioned her plan to use the newly approved online sales tax to invest in broadband; that will be $100 million or more a year.

I thought folks might also be interested in the question plans to make MN stronger.

I watched the U.S. Senate and Congressional Candidate forums from the comfort of my own home.

You can see the entire Senate Forum on the Farmfest site. There was one question on broadband and everyone said it was important to rural areas. People talked about it as a utility, expressed a need at more and faster broadband and talked about the need to continue public and private investment. Here’s that portion of the forum:

You can also see the Congressional Forum online. That forum included: Collin Peterson, Dave Hughes, Tom Emmer, Ian Todd, Angie Craig, Carla Nelson, Jim Hagedorn and Dan Feehan. (Jason Lewis had a conflict).

They also had one question broadband – and those asked felt that broadband was important for rural areas.

Farmfest – candidate debates happening this week

One of my favorite events for finding out how candidates (and rural voters!) feel about broadband is Farmfest! It’s happening this week August 7-9 in Redwood Falls.

If you’re around, you should go and if you care about broadband, you should ask. You can find the whole schedule online. I have heard some very impassioned speeches and questions from attendees in the past.

Here are the events where I think they are most likely to talk about broadband…

TUESDAY, AUGUST 7
10:30 a.m. – U.S. Senate Candidate Forum 

Candidates:

  • S. Senator Tina Smith (D)
  • State Senator Karin Housley (R)
  • Richard Painter (DFL)
  • Bob Anderson (R)
  • Nick Leonard (D)

Ag Leader Panel:

  • Kevin Paap, President, MN Farm Bureau
  • Gary Wertish, President, MN Farmers Union
  • Kirby Hettver, President, MN Corn Growers Assn.
  • Mike Petefish, President, MN Soybean Growers Assn.
  • Greg Boerboom, President, MN Pork Producers Assn.
  • Mike Landuyt, Pres.-Elect, MN State Cattleman’s Assn.

1:15 p.m. – Congressional Candidate Forum on Agriculture and Rural Issues

First District:

  • Jim Hagedorn (R)
  • Carla Nelson (R)
  • Dan Feehan (D)

Second District:

  • Angie Craig (D)

​Sixth District:

  • S. Congressman Tom Emmer (R) – Incumbent
  • Ian Todd (D)

Seventh District:

  • Congressman Collin Peterson (D) – Incumbent
  • Dave Hughes (R)

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8 
10:30 a.m. – Minnesota Governor Candidate Forum

Candidates:

  • Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R)
  • Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R)
  • S. Congressman Tim Walz (DFL)
  • Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (DFL)
  • Minnesota State Representative Erin Murphy (DFL)

Moderators:

  • Dave Lee, WCCO Morning Host
  • Blois Olson, WCCO Political Analyst
    (WCCO-AM is the Exclusive Radio Station of the Gubernatorial Forum at Farmfest 2018.)

THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
10:30 a.m. – U.S. Senate Candidate Forum

Candidates:

  • S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) – Incumbent
  • Minnesota State Representative Jim Newberger (R)
  • Rae Hart Anderson (R)

Ag Media Panel:

  • Janelle Ateyo, Tri-State Neighbor
  • Dick Hagen, The LAND
  • Randi Kallas, Agri News
  • Peter Scharpe, MN Farm Guide

I am planning to attend for the Gubernatorial Debate. If I can livestream, I will. I will take notes regardless. (And I might have to hang for the Pig Races, immediately following.)