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.

Lake County gets 4 bids for their fiber network

The Lake County News Chronicle reports

The Lake County Board of Commissioners learned four entities submitted bids for Lake Connections, the county’s municipal broadband project.

The initial bidding period ended Nov. 2 with Lake Partners, Hanson Communications, Mediacom Communications Corp. and Cooperative Light and Power (CLP) in Two Harbors submitting bids, along with a $100,000 deposit, for the network. They will have the opportunity to submit a “best and final offer,” according to the terms of the sale set by the county and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS).

The County received federal ARRA funding (loan ($56M) and grant ($10)) to build the network in 2010. After ups and downs that network was mostly completed in 2015. IN 2015, the County invested another $15 million and the FCC awarded a grant of $3.5 million.

The article continues…

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.

The county board is reviewing the bids, according to County Administrator Matt Huddleston, and specific bid information was not provided. Since there were fewer than five bids, Pinpoint Holdings Inc. in Cambridge, Neb., will also have a chance to make a final bid for the network.

In late July, Pinpoint offered $3.5 million for the network in an initial bid that set the baseline price for the network.

Two bidders, Mediacom and CLP, have conflicted with the network in the past.

The deadline for bids is Nov 29; the County is scheduled to make a decision on Dec 11.

Arvig Extending Fiber Network from Forest Lake to Duluth and the Involta Data Center

Good news from Arvig for people in the path of this upgrade…

Arvig, a Minnesota-based broadband service provider, is extending its fiber network from Forest Lake to Duluth and the Involta Data Center. This project will expand Arvig’s service for commercial businesses in the area, increase wireless backhaul capabilities, and provide better coverage to parts of rural Minnesota.

“The expansion of our fiber network will improve available services to commercial customers in the area,” said David Arvig, Chief Operating Officer at Arvig. “It is our ongoing intent to serve the needs of our rural communities and continue to invest in building the infrastructure businesses need to operate where they want.”

The inclusion of the Involta Data Center brings the total data centers within Arvig’s network to nine and opens additional opportunities for Arvig’s customer base.

The expansion further diversifies the network, providing additional redundancy to the overall Arvig network, enhancing customer protections. This adds more than 200 miles to the network and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

About Arvig
Established in 1950, Arvig is the largest independent telecommunications provider in the state of Minnesota. The company has a 4,500-mile fiber network throughout the state of Minnesota and provides services to telecommunications companies, wireless carriers and to 46,000 internet customers in more than half of Minnesota’s counties. In addition to broadband services, Arvig also provides business phone systems, security, managed IT and a variety of other services. It serves multiple industries and has completed projects for numerous schools, resorts, financial institutions, hospitals and more. For additional information, visit Arvig online at arvigbusiness.com.

Fond du Lac reservation is building FTTH to 1,800 homes by 2020

Minnesota Public Radio reports on the network deployments up on Fond du Lac…

The Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa is getting into the internet business.

The band recently submitted a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to form a telecommunications company called Aaniin, which means “hello” in Ojibwe.

The band’s ambitious plan is to provide fiber-to-home high-speed broadband internet service to more than 1,800 homes, and anyone who lives in the network’s roughly 120-square mile service area, by 2020 — both band members and non-members alike.

Service is expected to begin at around $50 a month. People who live below the poverty line — which includes about a third of people living on the reservation — will qualify for subsidized rates.

Broadband may not seem like a big deal to city-dwellers accustomed to high-speed internet service, whether it’s via a fiber optic network, cable, or DSL.

But many people who live on and around the Fond du Lac reservation have never had access to high-speed internet in their homes, said the band’s planning director Jason Hollinday.

The GigaZone comes to areas of Cass Lake and the Leech Lake Reservation served by Paul Bunyan Communications

Good news for areas of Cass Lake and Leech Lake Reservation from Paul Bunyan

(Bemidji, MN) (September 4, 2018) – Areas of the Leech Lake reservation and Cass Lake served by Paul Bunyan Communications now have access to Gigabit Internet speeds over an all-fiber optic network, Paul Bunyan Communications announced today. Thanks to recent upgrades to the Cooperative’s all-fiber optic communications network over 2,100 more locations now have access to GigaZone services including Internet speeds up to a Gigabit per second.
“It’s an exciting day for our cooperative members in the Cass Lake area and on the Leech Lake Reservation. The GigaZone will not only provide the capacity to handle current communication technologies quickly and efficiently, it will also meet the increasing demands of the next generation of broadband innovations. Our cooperative serves a portion of the Leech Lake Reservation but we do not serve their entire geographic footprint. Working with the Tribal Council we anticipate expanding our network to even more locations on the reservation in the coming years!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“We have been working on this as a team. We are very excited about the benefits it will bring to the Leech Lake Band members,” said Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson.
The GigaZone is currently available to over 35,500 locations, making it one of the largest rural all-fiber optic networks in the United States! Check out our online map https://www.paulbunyan.net/gigazone/availability-map/ showing the current areas of the GigaZone as well as those that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.
GigaZone service options include unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit in both directions, both upload/download. Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited long distance service. All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.
Most current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds. To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.
Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,500 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties. The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services including the GigaZone, digital and high definition television services, digital voice services, Residential and Business IT services, and is also northern Minnesota’s certified Apple Service Center.
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