CenturyLink deploys FTTH to Fish Lake Township

The Post Review reports…

More than 900 residents and businesses in Fish Lake Township now have access to fiber gigabit internet speeds up to 1,000 Mbps due to investments from CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Fish Lake Township, as well as a $1.8 million grant from Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program.

CenturyLink is delivering Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technology in Fish Lake Township as part of its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) program and its commitment to meet the broadband needs of residents and local businesses in Minnesota.

“From telemedicine to students doing homework, broadband access is essential to our everyday life,” said Sen. Mark W. Koran, R-North Branch. “I’m proud to have supported and continue to support the Border to Border grant program that enabled this partnership with CenturyLink and Fish Lake Township. This fiber to the home broadband expansion brings 21st century access to the businesses and households in our area.”

“CenturyLink knows that life is powered by connections and that communities benefit from fiber internet speeds,” said Dan O’Connell, CenturyLink senior director, Northeast region. “The state broadband grant program, coupled with CenturyLink’s local investment, is a great example of the public and private sectors working together to provide connectivity that helps meet our customers’ personal and business needs.”

For more information or to order gigabit service, residents can contact Darren Larson, CenturyLink retail sales, at (612) 412-5113 or at darren.larson@centurylink.com.

For existing CenturyLink customers, our policy is to cover the cost of the first 700’ and the customer would pay excess construction charges for the difference between the first 700’ and the actual length of the drop – this is being waived through March 31.

For new customers, we charge excess construction for the entire drop regardless of length and is not subject to being waived.

Broadband expansion in Lincoln County through Woodstock

The Marshall Independent reports…

An expansion of broadband Internet possibilities in Tyler is scheduled to take place this year.

The community will be offered city-wide broadband service through Woodstock Communications. It will become part of the company’s efforts to use 21st century fiberoptics and wireless networking on behalf of rural southwest Minnesota communities.

Woodstock Communications General Manager Terry Nelson said the concept of city-wide service for Tyler has been on the drawing board for the past several years.

The upcoming project will resemble existing city-wide Woodstock networks in Westbrook and Balaton. They are one component of an expansion process that has also included targeted broadband service to schools, hospitals and other organizations. …

Woodstock Communications plans to install infrastructure for Tyler city-wide broadband during 2019, with a service start-up scheduled to begin in December.

Woodstock will have some competition…

Woodstock will become the third provider to offer Internet plans to Tyler residents. The others are Frontier Communications and Mediacom, both of which rank in the top 10 of all providers in terms of total nationwide subscriptions.

The article also includes interesting histories of several providers in the area.

Fiber Broadband Association Releases Study on Rapid Fiber Growth in North America

Earlier this month the Fiber Broadband Association released a study on fiber. Here are  the key findings:

  • In 2018, fiber surpassed DSL to become the second most common connection for home internet in North America after cable.
  • In the United States, fiber now passes 41 million unique homes in the United States and connects 18.6 million homes. This is a 17% increase in homes passed by fiber since 2017.
  • In North America, fiber now passes nearly 60 million homes and connects 23.8 million.
  • Canada leads North American fiber deployment, with 19% growth in homes marketed in 2018 alone.

I thought this was interesting – in part because I drive from St Paul to Winnipeg a few times a year and I can tell you – that stretch of Canada is pretty rural…

“The fiber industry is on fire,” said Lisa R. Youngers, President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “Fiber holds the key for next generation connectivity, from 5G to smart cities to the Internet of Things. This research and analysis helps keep the industry, consumers, and policymakers informed about our Association’s progress towards a better connected future. I am excited to work with our industry partners to keep up this momentum in 2019.”

Lake County accepts $8.4M bid for Lake Connections from Pinpoint Holdings

Lake County News Chronicle reports…

The Lake County Board of Commissioners has awarded the highest bid, $8.4 million, for Lake Connections, the county’s municipal broadband project, during a meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18, in Two Harbors.

The highest successful bid was the best and final offer from Pinpoint Holdings Inc. in Cambridge, Neb. The board unanimously accepted the resolution to accept the bid; Commissioner Rick Hogenson was absent.

Pinpoint was selected from the final four bidders, which also included Mediacom Communications Corp., Cooperative Light and Power Association and Hanson Communications.

Mediacom’s best and final offer of $8.25 million was selected as the backup bid in the event Pinpoint doesn’t close the sale.

And a little background…

In 2010, the board received a $56 million loan and $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service to construct the network. Over three years, more than 1,200 miles of a fiber network was built in Lake County and parts of eastern St. Louis County. Most of the network was completed in June 2015.

In June 2017, the county entered into a deferral agreement with RUS for principal and interest on the condition the county sell the network to a private company or entity. Two months later, the county executed a memorandum of understanding with RUS in which RUS agreed to accept to the sale price of Lake Connections in full satisfaction of the county’s debt for construction of the network.

When the deferral agreement was executed, the county owed approximately $48.5 million on the RUS loan.

This means the federal government stands to lose approximately $40 million on the broadband project.

I wrote about Lake County and the impact of better broadband in the community a year ago. Using a pretty conversation formula, we figured out the annual economic benefit for broadband in the community was $13.7 million, which means in less than 3 years the community will have seen an economic benefit of more than $40 million. Now I recognize that that benefit won’t go to the federal government. BUT it does help realize the cost to the community of not investing.

Home buyers will pay 7 percent more for a home with Gigabit service

Corning reports

Today, home buyers are shopping for more than just curb appeal. They’re looking for a quality internet connection. When you’re in the business of attracting new residents and keeping existing ones satisfied, you can’t deny that the value of reliable broadband connectivity at home is real.

Did you know …

  • High-speed broadband can increase the value of your home by 3.1%

  • Homes with Gigabit broadband sell for about 7.1 % more than similar homes with slower connections

Frustration with broadband providers in Orr, MN

The Timberjay posted an editorial of frustration written about the broadband providers’ lack of investment in last mile broadband. They note the state support middle mile technology but ask the state to take a closer look at what’s happening or not happening to get the homes and businesses connected…

There’s just one problem. We’ve forgotten to install the on and off ramps. The city of Orr, as we report again this week, has at least three separate fiber optic cables running right through town, but no one can get Internet. We report on the frustration of two local business owners in Vermilion Lake Township, who have fiber running right past their businesses, but who still must operate on Internet speeds that barely allow them to navigate the web— and that’s when their service is actually functioning.

The missing link in all this has been the corporately-owned service providers, companies like Frontier and CenturyLink, which have failed to uphold their role in the process. Bringing real and reliable broadband connectivity to rural Minnesota is, in theory, supposed to be a public-private partnership. The state or federal government provides the backbone of the system, while the local service providers like Frontier and CenturyLink are supposed to build the on and off ramps so local residents can begin to tap into that information superhighway that runs past their door.

While we’ve been critical of Frontier Communications in the past, the company has, at least, begun to make some upgrades to allow faster speeds in some parts of the region than have been available before. We’ll give credit where it’s due. It’s been a much more frustrating experience for customers of CenturyLink, such as those who live in Orr, given the company’s near-abandonment of parts of its service territory in northern Minnesota.

A partnership can only work when all the partners are willing to pull their weight. We certainly don’t want to discourage the Legislature from investing in bringing fiber to our region. The backbone is a critical part of the solution. But it has to be paired with strict and enforceable commitments by the local service providers to utilize that backbone to bring the level of service now possible to homes and businesses in our region. These service providers are regulated utilities and the Legislature needs to start addressing the lack of investment and follow-through that we’ve seen from some of them. If the Legislature can’t or won’t use enforcement mechanisms, they should explore incentives to encourage other providers to do the job. Ely is currently working with Brainerd-based CTC to facilitate fiber connections to downtown businesses. Orr is now turning to Back40 Wireless for a similar project, using a wifi signal. These are all hopeful developments which should be provided financial support where needed.

If CenturyLink or Frontier can’t do the job, the state should provide the resources needed to enable such organizations to expand the reach of their service.

Blue Earth County Board talks about expanding broadband

The Mankato Free Press reports

The Blue Earth County Board already has a New Year’s Resolution: kickstart efforts to bring more broadband options and data fiber connections to the area.

Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg called on county officials Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a future public-private data fiber partnership as recent data show Blue Earth County is lagging in internet connectivity.

Stuehrenberg said during a board meeting Tuesday he was concerned only about 14 percent of the county was equipped to handle at least 100 mpbs download speeds and 20 mbps upload speeds. While 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 — Stuehrenberg and other commissioners believe the county needs to have better internet access if it wants to continue growing and attracting more economic development.

“It’s kind of disheartening to hear that in Mankato and Blue Earth County, we don’t have the same ability to get internet service as some of those smaller communities,” Stuehrenberg said.

I applaud the forward-looking vision. They are brainstorming some ways to make it happen…

Stuehrenberg suggested future highway reconstruction projects include installing fiber to help offset connection costs in rural areas. Yet he and other commissioners said it will ultimately be up to area internet providers to use and maintain fiber networks.

The county finished installing fiber infrastructure around Mankato and nearby cities over the last two years, according to County Administrator Bob Meyer. He said county officials have been in preliminary talks with internet providers to expand broadband access throughout the county.