The Post Bulletin reports…
On Monday, Harmony Telephone Company announced that construction will begin next week on its $2.5 million fiber installation in the city of Harmony. The company-funded project builds upon the federal and statewide push for expanded access to broadband internet, especially in rural areas.
Local policymakers chimed in…
Minnesota Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, also spoke to local companies’ initiative to expand their broadband offerings in his district.
“MiEnergy and Harmony Telephone and AcenTek have been very aggressive, and we actually have done quite some work in getting this broadband in to people,” Davids said.
However, Fillmore County has some catching up to do.
“Fillmore is only at about 33%,” Wells said of the county’s broadband coverage. “Fillmore and Mower: They’re the two that stand out in that southeast corner that are behind the other counties in the state. But we’ll get there.”
There is State and Federal funds…
And there’s great interest in getting there — Wells said her office will soon distribute $95 million in combined state and American Rescue Plan Act funding to finance broadband expansion projects, and through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Minnesota will receive at least $100 million to put toward broadband access.
But Harmony is not using any…
Though the Harmony fiber project is not funded with state or federal dollars, Huffman said public-private partnerships such as ARPA are helpful for developing broadband access in more rural parts of southeast Minnesota.
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.
Paul Bunyan Communications reports…
Paul Bunyan Communications has partnered with Fiber Homes, the nation’s first fiber internet search service that provides home buyers, renters and realtors with access to fiber internet availability information down to the address level.
Fiber Homes’ free portal through www.fiberhomes.com makes it easy to find homes that meet their internet needs and allows sellers to market their listings as “certified fiber homes,” which can increase the property’s value.
“Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. People should know if a home they are purchasing has reliable internet. We’re excited to deliver this critical information through Fiber Homes. Through their easy to use, free portal at fiberhomes.com anyone can now find out instantly if a home or business is connected to our all-fiber optic gigabit network the GigaZone,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
An invitation from the NTIA…
Join NTIA’s Middle Mile Grant Program Project Portion Webinar
Title: Internet for All Webinar Series: Project Portion of the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program Application
Date: Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Time: 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM ET
Description: This webinar will provide an in-depth look at all the parameters that proposed projects must meet under the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. This webinar will provide applicants with technical assistance and prepare them to write high-quality applications. The Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program provides $1 billion in funding for this vital part of our nation’s high-speed network and will reduce the cost of bringing high-speed internet to unserved and underserved communities.
Press release from Mediacom…
Officials in Lakewood Township and St. Louis County announced a new public-private partnership with Mediacom Communications that will result in the construction of a 60-mile fiber-optic network offering ultra-high-speed fiber broadband services to homes and businesses throughout Lakewood Township.
The fiber-to-the-premises project will make broadband internet service with symmetrical, Gigabit speeds available to over 1,200 existing homes and businesses throughout the township.
The total project will cost approximately $3.7 million. St. Louis County is allocating $345,000 through Broadband Grant dollars towards the project and Lakewood Township is providing an additional $50,000 of its ARPA dollars. Mediacom is supplying the remaining $3.3 million with
its own private capital. Construction of the 60-mile fiber-optic network will start this month and is expected to take two years. Most of the network will be placed underground.
“For Lakewood Township residents and businesses this is a monumental opportunity. Access to reliable and economically feasible broadband for Lakewood Township residents and businesses has become a necessity for access to education, employment, health care and livelihood” said
Lakewood Township Board Supervisor and Board Chair Diane Holliday-Welsh.
“In Lakewood Township it is estimated that 95% of our Township is unserved or underserved.
This opportunity with St. Louis County and partnership with Mediacom significantly reduces the Lakewood gap. On behalf of Lakewood Township, we applaud the intentional focus of the St. Louis County Planning Department, County Board, Commissioner Keith Musolf (rep. Lakewood)
and each Commissioner on resolving the underserved and unserved broadband issue across the County,” said Holliday-Welsh.
“Mediacom is working on multiple fronts to close the digital divide, and we’re proud to make this investment to benefit residents in Lakewood Township,” said Mediacom Area Operations Director Jason Janesich. “Local leaders in the township and St. Louis County have prioritized the need for all residents to have access to reliable and affordable broadband, and their commitment to a public-private partnership will meet that need with an extensive, fiber-to-thepremises network offering gigabit-speed broadband.”
Fairmont Sentinel reports…
The Ceylon City Council has given Federated Broadband, a division of Federated Rural Electric Association (REA), approval to install fiber internet for the city’s residents. When the project is completed Ceylon will have some of the best internet access in Martin County.
CEYLON– The Ceylon City Council has given Federated Broadband, a division of Federated Rural Electric Association (REA), approval to install fiber internet for the city’s residents. When the project is completed Ceylon will have some of the best internet access in Martin County.
Funding for fiber installation comes from a Community Development Block Grant worth nearly one million dollars from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which in turn was funded by the federal CARES Act. The grant money means residents who live within the city’s municipal boundary can receive free residential fiber installation.
“The average speed in Ceylon is about ten megabytes. The top speed that’s coming in will be one gig. Think about this; let’s look at a megabyte as one mile per hour. If you have a thousand megabytes that’s one gigabyte. Imagine going ten miles an hour, now you’re able to go a thousand miles an hour,” said Ceylon Mayor John Gibeau.
Some detail on initial steps…
The city council vote to approve approximately $4,700 for CEDA to submit a grant application on behalf of the city was split with Gibeau casting the tie-breaking vote. The application was submitted in July of 2021 and in August the city was awarded $983,105 for broadband improvement. After the grant was awarded the city began the process of planning its expansion and selecting a contractor to install the fiber optic system.
The city initially considered contracting with Federated Broadband or LTD Broadband, before selecting Federated.
Mankato Free Press reports…
A local broadband company is hoping to take advantage of historic funding to help rural residents south of Courtland.
For the first time ever, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has been able to draw from multiple sources to increase its broadband grant funding, making it the largest amount of this kind of funding they’ve been able to award.
Now, New Ulm-based broadband provider Nuvera Communications is hoping the extra cash will help those in need.
Nuvera President and CEO Glenn Zerbe said one of the main targets for this funding, should it be awarded, would be about 90 to 100 homes south of Courtland.
“We’d be building fiber to their residence, so down their street and at their request from their street to their home at no charge,” he said.
They are hoping for $5 million and have county support…
Zerbe said in a normal year, the company receives between $1 million to $2 million in funding. He said the company is hoping to be awarded at least $5 million this year.
On Tuesday, Nicollet County commissioners voted to approve a letter of support for the grant application, which Zerbe said Nuvera will officially submit in the coming weeks. The letter helps show community interest in the process.
Zerbe said the “supersized” grant helps the company reach more people.
CBS3 Duluth reports…
Broadband access in Duluth has been an ongoing headache for many residents and business owners.
Now, city leaders are working on a plan to address the problem.
They are going to pursue Border to Border funding…
“The City of Duluth is looking and proposing to City Council to go and seek some border to border grant funding to do a pilot project of fiber internet access here in Lincoln Park,” Nygren said.
Fiber internet access is faster than what is currently offered in Duluth — cable and satellite.
“Fiber is the difference between using a fire hose to get your internet access versus somebody’s garden hose,” said Nygren.
The plan doesn’t increase taxes.
Funding would come from grants, the community investment trust fund and a few other sources.
Minnesota Telephone Alliance and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association jointly filed with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, asking them to revoke the ETC status for LTD Broadband. The petition stems from LTD being the winner in the RDOF auction in Minnesota to receive $311 million to bring broadband to 102,000 passing in the state. In the RDOF filings, LTD promises to build fiber-to-the-premise. The petition contends that LTD can’t make the financial commitments to fulfill the RDOF pledge.
- The PUC invited comments on the petition until June 1, 2022; earlier this month, I annotated those comments. The reply period is ended June 8. Here’s a look at what came in (links below go to their full responses):
- Chippewa County – they support a proceeding to consider revoking the ETC status. Chippewa is in an area impacted by situation. In 2017, they did a feasibility study that indicated it would cost $15 million to get broadband to residents. They are worried that costs will go up and because LTD would be given 10 years to complete the project, they are concerned that residents will be left unserved/underserved for years and they are concerned about the loss of economic opportunity during that time. Also, they have tried to connect with LTD and failed. They “have lost faith that LTD can fulfill their promises.”
- MN Attorney General Keith Ellison – The original comments from the AG supported a proceeding and recommended that LTD share their long form. The reply addresses specific issues that LTD and others made in their earlier comments. I’ll pulling out the ones that I think are most salient to a wider audience. They point out that ETC forms are in flux and suggest that supports a proceeding to look at ETC status and to look at it separately for RDOF and CAF II funding (another pool of federal funds). They recommend that the PUC sees LTD’s long form application for RDOF award but also recommend strict confidentiality. The long form should help the PUC determine capacity. If LTD is turned down during a proceeding, the AG feels the proceeding is moot.
- MN Telecom Alliance and MN Rural Electric Association – As expected, MTA and MREA still support the proceeding. They mention other incidents where LTD has been called out unfavorably. They also highlight the tone of LTD’s comments; they relied on technicalities to stop the proceeding rather than address their ability to meet requirements for ETC designation. They also question, in detail, the legitimacy of LTD’s specific concerns. They are generally in agreement with earlier comments from folks who generally support moving forward with the proceeding; although they feel like the proceeding is important regardless of the RDOF award because the federal folks look to state agencies to know the people and the territories.
- LTD – As expected, LTD disagrees with most of the commenters. They claim that the commenters bring nothing new to the table. They assert that the commenters are not addressing the question at hand – whether a proceeding makes sense procedurally. but rather are commenting as if it has. They also do not want to be singled out and feel if their ETC designation is being questioned, so should everyone else’s. They maintain that if the ETC is revoked, it opens a door where competitors could start similar proceeding with other ETCs.
- Department of Commerce – they support a proceeding to consider revoking the ETC status and referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings with discovery, witnesses and LTD’s long form application. They note that rules have been changed for Border to Border funding; last time communities in areas that might receive RDOF finding were disqualified from state funding; this year they are only disqualified if the funding has been decided (enforceable commitment).
The St Cloud Times reports…
“We’ve never had a year where we’ve used less broadband than a year prior,” said Ernesto Falcon, senior legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF is a nonprofit focused on “defending civil liberties in the digital world.” Its mission is “to ensure that technology supports freedom, justice, and innovation for all people of the world,” according to its website.
If a provider plans for people to use more data every year indefinitely, they have to ask what they need to build to stay ahead of that demand for as long as possible with the infrastructure they have, Falcon said. That’s why he sees fiber, which is faster and capable of handling dramatically more bandwidth than previous options, as the answer. And its capacity for faster upload speeds is part of fiber’s appeal.
And tells the local story…
About one-third of all the areas Perham-based telecommunications and broadband provider Arvig serves across Minnesota have fiber internet, Senior Manager of Plant Operations Brett Christiansen said. It’s a pretty equal distribution between the three forms of delivery forms, with the other two being copper cables and coaxial cables.
However, Arvig hasn’t installed copper or coax in the ground for a few years, Christiansen said. Fiber is more scalable and requires less maintenance work.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “If you want to be a competitor in any network, you have to have a go-forward fiber strategy.”
Annually, Arvig is installing 1,000 miles of fiber optic to support new and current customers and has more than 14,500 miles of fiber in the ground.
“We’re trying hard to get our areas covered,” Christiansen said.
St Cloud Times tells the story of an unhappy fiber customer (Jake Soenneker) in rural Sherburn County. Jake wanted better broadband. He championed an effort to make it happen, talking to his neighbors and getting them to sign petitions. He spoke to providers to get something going …
According to Soenneker, Sherburne County eventually reached out to him, followed by Perham-based telecommunications and broadband provider Arvig. He was involved in many discussions, which Soenneker said he came out of with the understanding that the neighborhoods would have symmetrical-speed fiber internet, meaning the upload and download speed would be the same. He went door to door again and gathered more than 20 letters of support for getting better internet service in the area.
He and the community were successful…
In August 2020, Sherburne County entered an agreement with Arvig to install conduits along a few county roads in Clear Lake Township and Becker Township. The county would allow Arvig to use the conduits at no cost with the understanding that Arvig would provide free internet service and some phone service to several county buildings. The contract specified that the internet service provided to the county would be symmetrical at 100 mbps.
The problem is that Jake thought he’d be getting symmetrical service and he isn’t. In the contract with the County, Arvig specifies that speed for County customers (county building et al) will be a minimum of 100 Mbps symmetrical but the contract doesn’t get into services that Arvig might provider to residents.
This is an example where a label similar to the nutrition labels in food would be helpful – something that spells out in no uncertain terms what the customer is getting and paying. The customer being the county and/or the resident. Also here are comments from the St Cloud article on various views…
- Arvig Senior Manager of Plant Operations Brett Christiansen confirmed Arvig’s infrastructure is capable of providing symmetrical speed to homes. But Arvig does not offer symmetrical internet to residential customers, Arvig Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lisa Greene said, “primarily because customers don’t use it.” She said the company reserves that bandwidth for its business customers.
- Ernesto Falcon, senior legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said it’s “pretty typical” to expect symmetrical service from fiber internet. EFF is a nonprofit that works to “to ensure that technology supports freedom, justice, and innovation for all people of the world,” according to its website. Asymmetrical internet service — different speeds for upload and download — is a remnant of the cable-dominant era. In newly-installed infrastructure, there is no additional burden on a company to provide symmetrical speeds to customers, he said. … However, Falcon also said that it’s not fair to assume your internet will be symmetrical if you only see one speed listed on the contract. It’s typical for companies to list a download speed and not the upload speed. Greene said it’s typical for upload speed to be about 10% of download speed.
- Arvig’s residential customers are provisioned up to 1 gigabyte download speed and up to 100 Mpbs download speed….
After six months of back and forth with Arvig and being initially told he could upgrade his bandwidth, an Arvig employee told him via email that the company does not provide symmetrical fiber under residential plans. Arvig offered him the option to pay for an “enterprise plan” to receive symmetric service, which Soenneker said was quoted to him at more than $1,000 a month.
- Soenneker has communicated with both the county and the attorney general’s office throughout this process as well. An analysis Arvig prepared in response to Soenneker’s complaint filing with the attorney general’s office said Soenneker’s bandwidth use was 656% more than the second-highest user and 1,233% higher than a hospital system that is their fourth-highest user.