Frontier plans to extend its fiber network but not everywhere

Telecompetitor shares good news for some and bad news for others with a recent update on Frontier. The good news, they are upgrading some areas…

Frontier built to 1.2 million locations in 2022 and was originally targeting 1.6 million locations in 2023. But it is now aiming to reach 1.3 million locations this year – an acceleration in absolute terms from 2022 but far below the originally forecast number.

The bad news, it’s not planning to upgrade other areas…

Dixit noted Frontier’s copper customers continue to generation a “decent” amount of cash for the business. He added the operator will see how many of those locations might be supported by BEAD funding. For those that aren’t, it will then be left with a decision to either keep them or divest them in “some sort of asset swap,” he said.

The article makes it clear that Frontier is grooming itself to acquire or be acquired; so keeping copper customers for the cash must plan into that plan…

“We’re large enough to potentially be a consolidator of smaller fiber players,” he stated during a New Street Research investor conference on Tuesday. “We’re also small enough to be consolidated or be acquired by another larger carrier. So, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

MN broadband provider Arvig celebrates 15,500 miles of fiber

Globe Newswire reports

The Arvig fiber network has surpassed a major growth milestone, the company announced recently.

Arvig has now constructed more than 15,500 fiber route miles throughout Minnesota, bolstering its strategic goal to grow the network by at least 1,000 route miles per year. Arvig ended 2022 with more than 1,100 fiber route miles constructed, and remains well-positioned to carry that momentum into further growth initiatives in 2023 and beyond.

A little more info on Arvig…

With coverage throughout the state, Arvig’s network serves 48 counties in Minnesota, including 155 communities and more than 125,000 homes and businesses. Its dense fiber routes extend throughout greater Minnesota, including the metro areas of Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud and Rochester.

Arvig annually invests millions of dollars into the network in an effort to steadily improve reliability, increase available speeds and build capacity. The network also includes co-location space within 27 data centers in five states: Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois.

There’s room for fiber providers and WISPs in a rural market

Doug Dawson has a great way of making things easy, such as his recent article on WISPs versus fiber providers, because Doug remembers that it’s not always about the technology.  It is usually about the customers.

The whole article is worth a read but here’s a snippet where we learn that sometimes customer service trumps bandwidth, cooperatives are often able to charge less (and that matters too) but not all coops have good customer service and big national providers have a reputation that precedes them and will make it easier for WISPs to compete. Also – there’s room for choice…

I know WISP operators who are some of the best ISPs in the country. When I rate them as best, I’m talking about how they deliver products their customers are happy with and how they provide great customer service and timely repairs. They are the kind of ISP that builds customer loyalty. I fully expect high-quality WISPs to be able to compete against fiber networks. While the industry lately seems to be fixated on broadband speeds, there are customers that value other aspects of being an ISP, such as trust and reliability.

I’ve never built a business plan that assumes that any fiber ISP will sweep the market and get every customer, so there will always be room for other ISPs. There is some portion of customers in any market that will switch immediately to fiber. There has been so much hype about fiber that many folks accept it as the gold standard. But the penetration rate of a new fiber network builder is going to depend on who builds and operates the network.

I think WISPs (and every other ISP) will have a hard time competing against a cooperative that builds fiber, particularly one that sets low prices like $50 or $60 for a gigabit. But not all coops will have affordable rates, and not all coops are loved by their members.

WISPs will have a much easier time competing against big telcos that win broadband grants.

Broadband expanding in Cuyuna Range area (Crow Wing County)

The Iron Range Resources & rehabilitation enewsetter, The Ranger, reports

Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) is expanding its broadband fiber optic network to approximately 500 unserved or underserved homes, businesses and community institutions within the Cuyuna Lakes area. All locations will have a minimum service of 250mbps download and upload, with service of 1Gbps download and upload available. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $742,850 Broadband Infrastructure grant to CTC. The total project investment is over $5.7 million.
“The existing communications infrastructure throughout the Cuyuna Range is outdated and does not meet the needs and demands of families, schools or businesses,” said Joe Buttweiler, CTC’s chief strategy officer. “This became very apparent with the onset of the pandemic and during the past three years when education, health care and the overall economy became incredibly reliant on broadband.”
The three largest employers in the area are Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Crosby-Ironton School District and Graphic Packaging International. They represent industries that have come to depend on fast, reliable broadband for daily operations as well as providing online services such as telehealth and distance learning.
Buttweiler explained that access to broadband is as imperative today as electricity was 75 years ago. A reliable fiber optic network is the backbone necessary to provide rural residents, businesses, schools, community centers, remote workers, farmers and visitors with access to the benefits of unlimited bandwidth, cost efficiency and reliability. Residents in the Cuyuna Lakes service area do not currently have access to quality or affordable internet service for everyday needs and essential services.
CTC’s network infrastructure is anticipated to evolve into the future. The newly serviced locations from the project will have the capability to be upgraded and grow with CTC as it works toward broadband services of 2, 5 or even 10Gb.
Other project partners include the State of Minnesota’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-CV Broadband Grant, Crow Wing County and CTC.
CTC is a member-owned cooperative established in 1952 and based in Brainerd, with additional offices in Baxter and Crosby. It has 16,000 residential and business members and 75 employees that serve as local support teams across northern Minnesota. It originated as a telephone service provider and has since added television and internet services for homes, businesses, cabins and apartment buildings throughout the state.
Email Whitney Ridlon for Broadband Infrastructure grant information, or call her at 218-735-3004.

Willmar City building an open access fiber network with Hometown Fiber

West Central Tribune reports…

Willmar City Council authorized staff to move forward with drafting a contract with Hometown Fiber to build out a $19.3 million open-access fiber network with a speed of up to 10 gigabytes per second.

If all goes as planned, the city of Willmar will have a $19.3 million open-access fiber broadband network with coverage throughout the city and speeds from one to 10 gigabytes per second in the next three years — all at no cost to taxpayers.

Here are the details…

Along with installing the infrastructure at no cost to the city, Hometown Fiber will maintain the network for the foreseeable future and has agreed to revenue sharing with the city of at least $250,000 per year, according to Walker.

Revenue bonds would be issued to pay for the construction of the network, which would be paid by the revenue generated by the network.

“As far as why the city of Willmar is getting such a good deal from Hometown Fiber is they need proof of concept,” Walker said. “(Open-access fiber networks do) not exist in the state of Minnesota and, right now, we’re just in a really good situation — a lot of coincidences have really just kind of come together to work out for us that we have such a great deal and that it’s an open access fiber network opportunity.”

Info on the options they didn’t select…

The broadband RFP selection committee was formed several months ago to review the requests for proposals from broadband internet service providers to increase access to broadband internet service in Willmar.

The city also received proposals from two other internet providers — Vibrant and Windstream.

The committee immediately set aside the Vibrant proposal due to only offering a partial build-out more focused on the industrial park and being very noncommittal on a timeline for a complete build-out or how much it would cost the city.

The other proposal was from Windstream, which is currently building out a fiber network that will provide coverage for about 50% of Willmar at no cost to the city, according to Walker. Its proposal to partner with the city for a complete build-out was still only a partial build-out, focusing only on the main part of the city.

For complete coverage of the city north of the railroad tracks, into the industrial park, and south of Willmar Avenue, Windstream wanted the city to provide $4.7 million. The city would have to issue general obligation bonds, meaning taxpayers would foot the bill, according to Walker.

ISP changes in Alexandria MN as ALP Utilities sells its fiber to Arvig

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (Muninetworks) reports

In an announcement last week, Alexandria, Minnesota’s (pop. 15,000) electric and water utility (ALP Utilities) announced it would be selling its business-facing fiber network to Arvig, a 40-percent employee-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP) that has 54,000 subscribers across urban and rural Minnesota. The deal was for 130 business accounts, including 77 routes miles of fiber and 13 additional miles of conduit, for a total of $3.25 million. Consideration of the move goes at least back to October of last year.

The move sunsets the last of the city’s retail municipal network infrastructure, which began as a joint project with Runestone Electric Association in the 1990s that offered DSL service to homes and businesses before expanding to include some fiber offered to local businesses in the early 2000s, and continued today with some additional dark fiber offerings as part of its portfolio. The goal, then as now, was to see how the utility could intervene to improve connectivity options for residents in the area. Christopher spoke with General Manager Al Cowser in 2016 about the efforts’ origins and progress in its first two decades of life.

So what does that mean?

The sale to Arvig allows ALP Utilities to continue to focus on its core services (electric and water), while doing what it can to use its assets to partner with a provider with a good track record of working in the area. Business subscribers should see no interruption of service, and Arvig has indicated plans to expand in the area, including out beyond town limits where options are considerably fewer. Arvig and the utility, Cash shared, also plan joint trenching projects as the utility continues to underground its electric services over the coming years. Arvig also provides some network services to the city at present.

Carver County continues its long history of planning and building FTTH

SW News Media reports

In the midst of conversations about broadband funding at every level of government, Carver County officials are weighing their options as they move toward their goal of becoming the first county in Minnesota to have fiber broadband accessible to every resident, businesses and organization

For over a decade, the county has been making an effort to expand residents’ access to high-speed internet, said CarverLink Fiber Manager Randy Lehs. The county hopes to become the first in Minnesota to be able to provide fiber broadband to anyone in the county who wants it.

They have been working steadily for years…

The county’s fiber broadband efforts began in 2008 and construction began in 2011 with the help of a federal grant awarded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The fiber broadband network went live in 2013.

Last August, the county launched its Connect Up Carver initiative to expand its fiber broadband network and help provide high-speed internet to over 2,000 unserved or underserved rural locations. The $10.5 million dollar project was funded by $6.5 million from Carver County and $4 million from Metronet. The project is set for completion by December 2024.

They have plans for the future…

But, there are remaining rural addresses that are not covered by Connect Up Carver. According to Lehs, these addresses are the hardest to reach and therefore the most costly.

The county has worked to facilitate agreements between Metronet and the cities in Carver County for fiber buildouts. Currently, the construction associated with these agreements is complete in Hamburg, Mayer, New Germany, Cologne and Norwood Young America, according to Lehs. Carver is still under construction, and Chanhassen, Watertown and Waconia are to follow. Chaska and Victoria do not currently have agreements for construction.

State and federal initiatives are available to assist people in gaining access to adequate internet speeds including the Broadband Line Extension Connection Program and the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

For the county to achieve its goal of becoming the first in Minnesota with 100 percent fiber broadband access, it could cost as much as another $5 million, according to Lehs.

Coincidentally, $5 million is exactly what they can request from a Border to Border grant.

Duluth City Council prepares for possible fiber project in Lincoln Park

Duluth News Tribune reports

While the City Council has yet to authorize staff to proceed with efforts to construct a municipally owned fiber optic network in Lincoln Park, it has already begun to move money around in anticipation of the proposed pilot project.

Last week, councilors unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to transfer $936,397 from decertified tax-increment financing districts into a newly established “Broadband Enterprise Fund.”

It’s a step but not a commitment…

He went on to say: “This action does not commit the council or the city to moving the pilot forward. It does not commit the council or the city to approve that pilot. But we can’t bring you a funding package if we don’t have a place to put the funding.”

Yet another $1 million in federal pandemic-relief funding from the America Rescue Plan Act had already been funneled into the broadband fund, as the result of a Dec. 5 council resolution.

More info…

If approved, a proposed $5.5 million pilot project in Lincoln Park could lead to the installation of a city-owned high-speed fiber optic network that would provide access to multiple internet service providers. The open-access system is intended to foster competition, delivering faster, more reliable service at a more affordable cost to consumers.

The city continues to pursue state and federal assistance, as it prepares for a possible foray into the internet business.


Comcast to extend fiber to Wayzata MN

Light Reading reports…

In addition to West Virginia, Comcast also announced it will expand its fiber network to over 2,300 homes and businesses in Wayzata, Minnesota. Network construction is slated to be finished in 2023. The Wayzata buildout will cost $2.5 million and brings the company’s statewide investment over the last few years to roughly $437 million.

Duluth Fiber Lincoln Park Project testing waters for larger municipal roll out

WDIO reports

The City of Duluth is taking the first steps to making internet accessible for all with the Duluth Fiber Lincoln Park Project. In the first phase of Duluth Fiber, the pilot project will connect an estimated 1,900 customers, both residential and business, with high-speed internet in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. After a year of success, the City will look to deploy fiber citywide.

“So this is a fiber project, it would be utilizing some connected fiber that is already in this community through other services and then expanding on it. And so what’s really exciting is that council last year passed a policy. This policy would make it that whenever the city is doing road maintenance within the pilot project there could be a potential future fiber build out to somebody’s home or business,” says Emily Nygren, Economic developer for the planning division of Duluth.

City staff and Council have been working towards broadband resolutions for the last year. A recent survey of over 1, 7000 residents, found the vast majority of respondents believed the costs were unaffordable. When considering options for City investment, a substantial 97 percent chose the option to back a City-sponsored broadband resolution.

“So right now we’re doing the network design for what that would look like duplexes, triplexes, multi-family housing development as well as for businesses. It’s an opportunity for the city to own the actual fiber infrastructure, so the fiber optic cable and the network and then allow for other companies to come in and be able to compete for your service to your door. So similar to a cable TV provider of selection of channels, you can decide really what is your menu, what type of service, what types of speeds,” continues Nygren.

To sign up and find out more about the project, click here:

BBC chat on digital equity projects in Big Stone, Lincoln and Pine Counties, Austin and Warroad

Last week the BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) final cohort met to catch up with what was happening in each community.

Here’s a very high level list of what happening:

  • Big Stone has smart rooms and training through PioneerTV. The are trying to get local government folks to join via streaming versus travel unnecessarily.
  • Lincoln is adding hotspots, adding an Internet safety class and an at-home at Lincoln County program and is getting fiber to some of the last areas.
  • Austin has hosted a PCs for People event (refurbished computer distribution), working on privacy internet kiosks so that people can privately get public access to the Internet, working on getting seniors more comfortable with technology with an online trivia event and digital literacy training.
  • Pine County held come “Going Google” classes, working with a provider to build towers for fixed wireless and working in another areas on deploying fiber.
  • Warroad is working on Wi-Fi on sporting fields to aid in livestreaming, completed Wi-Fi on school buses and enhancing backbone coming into Warroad.


Lumen (CenturyLink) won’t reach FTTH to 1 million in 2022

Light Reading reports on Lumen (aka CenturyLink)

Lumen Technologies had hoped to build fiber connections to 1 million locations by the end of this year. But many analysts don’t think that’s going to happen.

“Lumen is deploying significant capital toward its FTTH [fiber-to-the-home] upgrade program but is having challenges ramping the deployment at the pace it expected. Supply chain, labor, and permitting hurdles have all weighed on enablements,” the financial analysts at MoffettNathanson, a division of SVB Securities, wrote in a note to investors following the release of Lumen’s third quarter results this week. The analysts noted that Lumen lit up 210,000 locations with fiber in its third quarter, just up from the 205,000 it notched during its second quarter.

However, “the company seems likely to miss its full-year enablement target of 1 million … and its goal of exiting the year at a 1.5-2 million run-rate appears out of reach,” the analysts noted.
That’s noteworthy considering other big fiber operators like AT&T and Frontier Communications have reported that they remain on track for their own fiber buildout goals.

TDS deploying fiber to 3,700 properties in Kandiyohi, Stearns, Renville and Swift Counties

The West Central Tribune reports…

 Residents and businesses in Brooten, Danube, Kerkhoven, New London, Pennock and Spicer will soon be gaining access to 1-gigabit broadband connections, thanks to a project by TDS Telecommunications.

The telecommunications service provider broke ground on a fiber network expansion project this month.

According to a news release, it will connect more than 3,700 properties to fiber broadband service, with the first people being able to connect by next summer. The launches will continue through the construction period as phases are completed. …

Construction will include the burying of conduit and fiber cable underground in utility easement areas.

IRRR invests in Mediacom broadband in Hibbing

According to an email newsletter update from IRRR, Mediacom is getting $128,500 from IRRR to help bring broadband to the city of Hibbing…

Broadband Infrastructure Grants: $128,500

Agency Investment $128,500 | Total Project Investment $4,282,269 | Leverage: 32.3 : 1

  • City of Hibbing, Mediacom Communications: $128,500 to expand Mediacom fiber optic to serve up to 573 unserved households in the Hibbing and adjacent areas.

Mediacom brings fiber to Wykoff MN (Fillmore County)

KIMT TV reports

Mediacom Communications says it has finished its expansion of a “company completed its expansion of a state-of-the-art fiber communications network” in Wykoff.

The company says this makes Wykoff one of nearly 200 Gigabit broadband communities Mediacom serves across Minnesota.

The details…

Construction began in early summer 2022 with a build-out of nearly five files of fiber optic lines reaching 235 local homes and businesses.  Mediacom says it privately funded the $435,000 costs to build and activate the Wykoff fiber network in order to provide local residents with substantially faster internet service options.

The rest of Fillmore County…

Mediacom says its high-speed internet services are now available in Fillmore County in Canton, Chatfield, Fountain, Lanesboro, Mabel, Peterson, Preston, Rushford, Spring Valley, and Wykoff.