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: https://www.connectingduluth.com/

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.

Mediacom brings fiber to 235 locations in Wykoff (Fillmore County)

ABC New 6 (Rochester MN) reports

Mediacom Communications announced on Tuesday that they completed installation of a new broadband fiber communication network in Wykoff.

The company says they built nearly five miles of fiber optic lines with gigabit internet services now available to 235 homes and businesses in the Fillmore County town.

Construction began in early summer.

Mediacom says they privately funded the $435,000 costs to build and activate the Wykoff fiber network.

The investment was made to provide local residents with substantially faster internet service options.

“Mediacom chose to make this investment to offer Wykoff residents the super-fast internet services we deliver to customers in other Fillmore County communities and throughout much of Minnesota,” said Mediacom Operations Director Zach Raskovich. “Gig Internet provides a large amount of bandwidth to a home network – allowing multiple users to surf, stream, download and game at the same time.”

According to Mediacom, Wykoff now joins the ranks of nearly 200 Gigabit broadband communities Mediacom serves across Minnesota.

ITC Expands Fiber-Optic Services to the City of Ivanhoe (Lincoln County)

ITC fiber reports...

 ITC is excited to announce a fiber-optic expansion to the City of Ivanhoe, Minnesota. Along with ITC’s investment in the fiber-optic expansion, this project is funded by the City of Ivanhoe and Lincoln County. To ensure area residents have access to world-class telecommunications services, ITC continues to expand its network. This fiber-optic expansion to Ivanhoe, Minnesota, is another example of ITC’s continued commitment to this region.

Tracy Bandemer, ITC’s CEO, adds, “Since we completed the initial expansion into rural Lincoln County in 2019, there have been continued conversations about expanding into the City of Ivanhoe. We are excited this project is moving forward. In analyzing Lincoln County, the city of Ivanhoe was the only area without fiber-optics, so this expansion will bring Lincoln County to 100% fiber.”

Vince Robinson, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Enterprise Development Corp. further explains, ”About seven years ago we set out to become a County that would provide fiber to the premise to all of our residents and businesses. ITC has proven to be a solid partner with the previous joint rural fiber expansion project in the County. Broadband delivered on fiber is the future, and with this partnership of the City of Ivanhoe, the County, and ITC we will ensure that all residents of Lincoln County have equal access to state-of-the-art broadband technology.”

ITC is planning to start the construction this Fall. This new fiber-optic connection will offer residents and businesses a reliable, unlimited, Fiber-Fast Internet connection and local phone service. The plan is to plow fiber-optics to every location. To verify your location’s eligibility, please visit www.itcfiberlinc.com . You will have the option to sign up for service with ITC or grant permission for the fiber-optics to be plowed to your location for future utilization. ITC requests that this step be completed by September 15 to maintain the tentative timeline.

ITC is a local telecommunications company providing services to communities in Northeastern South Dakota and Southwestern Minnesota for over 68 years. Currently, ITC provides service to more than 14,000 customers.

A fiber cut takes down internet and phone service in Northeast Minnesota (Cook & Lake Counties)

MPR reports on how a fiber cut took down internet and phone services (landline and many mobile services) on the North Shore. Shops couldn’t accept credit cards, tourists couldn’t use credit cards or ATMs, hospitals couldn’t transfer x-rays for review and while police could accept calls few people could make them…

Those headaches began at 11:19 a.m. on Friday morning, when a company installing an underground cable about three miles north of Silver Bay accidentally cut the main fiber optic trunk line that runs from Duluth up the North Shore.

That line is owned by the Northeast Service Cooperative, or NESC, a nonprofit public corporation established by the state legislature that operates a 1,200-mile fiber optic network across northeastern Minnesota.

Jon Loeffen, who oversees that network for NESC, said it’s still unclear who cut the line. What is clear, he said, is that whoever it was broke the law by failing to properly notify existing utilities through Gopher State One Call that they were planning to dig in the area.

“That was a terrible place for us to get hit because it was a main artery to our network,” Loeffen said.

And that fiber optic line doesn’t just provide internet service. It provides fiber connectivity between cell towers and carriers like AT&T and Verizon. So when the line was cut Friday, it also disrupted cell phone service.

The story reminded me of Winter 2010, when a broken steam pipe in Duluth caused the same issues. I assumed the new fiber service took that incident into effect, sounds like they did but there are still issues…

For years there was only a single fiber optic line that linked the North Shore to the Duluth area. Any disruption to that line would often lead to widespread outages.

A few years ago NESC installed a second line to create a more diverse system with redundancy built into it, so that if one line went down, traffic could be diverted to the other line almost instantaneously.

But this incident exposed holes in the system. The cut to the fiber line a few miles north of Silver Bay occurred “in an area that did not have that redundancy built in on that particular segment,” said Loeffen.

It took about six hours to switch most internet and cell phone service over to that redundant line. But it took AT&T nearly 24 hours to restore its service, DeCoux said.

NESC is now putting together a plan to install additional equipment and reconfigure its network links up the North Shore, “so that hopefully in the future, if something like that occurs again, there won’t be an outage for some of those services because they’re going to be on a protected, diverse path,” Loeffen said.

The goal, he said, is to complete that work in less than a month.

“So I started my own ISP…” everything old is new again

I worked for Minnesota Regional Network (MRNet) in the mid 1990s. They were the first Internet service providers in Minnesota. They partnered with big folks (3M, UofM and more) to bring the Internet (backbone then was three T1s) to the state. They sold subscriptions to home users and they were upstream connections to other ISPs. Everything was new and there were very few rules.

We’d get calls from all over the state of someone who wanted a dialup connection to MRNet. Dialup only made sense if you were within the local service market – or your long distance bill would break you. So sometimes we’d get very entrepreneurial folks who would decide they’d get a difference connection to their house (maybe with a 56k or T1 Frame Relay connection) and sell to their neighbors to offset the cost. Sometimes that grew like a garage punk band on their way to CBGBs. Sometimes it imploded. But I always love the ingenuity and I was reminded of it listening to a story on NPR

Long before the pandemic forced many office workers to depend on their home internet, Jared Mauch had been working from home for about two decades.

When he moved to Scio Township in 2002, an area in rural Michigan not far from Ann Arbor, his employer set him up with a great home internet connection — many of his neighbors at the time were still stuck with sluggish dial-up.

After a while, though, his bandwidth couldn’t keep up with his tech job and his growing family.

But when he started shopping around, he wasn’t happy with his options. The internet speeds from AT&T were painfully slow. Comcast wanted to charge him an up-front fee of $50,000 to expand service to his home. He opted for a third route.

Rather than shell out that kind of money only to depend on the whims of an internet service provider, the 46-year-old decided to create his own fiber ISP.

“I had every reason to believe that I would be able to execute and perform a lot of these pieces of it, and most likely be more able to bring the service to the community than, you know, a large company,” he told NPR. “I saw it as an excellent opportunity both to expand service and something I’m passionate about.”

He created the company in 2017 and secured permits in 2019 to start construction the following year. In August of 2020, he was officially in business. Just in time for his kids to start virtual school during the pandemic.

“It was great,” he recalled. “I had a home fiber that I controlled, and the ability to kind of control my own fate in the future.”

Globally fiber is growing faster than other mode of broadband

IIA reports

Fiber is winning the broadband war. For the first time in 2021, high-speed fiber internet surpassed cable to become the primary fixed broadband technology across the OECD’s 38 member countries, according to recently released OECD data. Fiber broadband now constitutes more than one-third (34.9%) of fixed broadband subscriptions.

Fiber subscriptions increased by 18.6% in 2021 (to reach 34.9%) to overtake cable, now at 32.4% of fixed broadband subscriptions, and DSL at 27% and falling.

In 13 OECD countries, the share of fiber is now at 50% or above: Chile, Finland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, and Portugal, and above 70% in Iceland, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and Sweden. In the United States, the share of fiber among fixed broadband connections reached 21.8% in 2021, climbing from 16.4% in 2020.

Harmony Telephone to build FTTH in Harmony (Fillmore County)

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.

Quantum Fiber (Lumen Tech) to expand fiber in MN

Telecompetitor reports

Quantum Fiber, a brand of Lumen Technologies, is expanding to 20 communities in 12 states, the company has announced.

Quantum Fiber offers symmetrical gigabit speeds, all digital ordering and subscription based billing and includes no contracts, bundles or data caps. Quantum offers promotional pricing of $65 for a gigabit package.

The states that include expansion markets are in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.


Paul Bunyan may have Gig access to Cook MN before the end of the year (St Louis County)

The Timberjay reports…

Faster internet may be coming to Cook sooner than anticipated, as Paul Bunyan Communications announced on Tuesday that there’s a good chance the system will be installed this fall, rather than next spring.
“It looks like our Cook project is going to go ahead earlier than expected,” Paul Bunyan CEO Steve Howard told the Timberjay on Tuesday. “It’s still tentative. We originally were planning to start work there late this year and then finish up next year. But the weather’s been cooperative, and things are lining up nicely to potentially start working on that project as soon as right after Labor Day, and we very likely would finish this year.”
Bemidji-based Paul Bunyan Communications received a $311,000 state Border-to-Border grant to partially fund deployment of their fiber optics GigaZone network in the community in February 2021, and after minor changes to the original proposal were approved by the Cook City Council that March, the project was slated to be completed in spring 2023. Outside of an $8,000 contribution from the city of Cook, Paul Bunyan will foot the bill for the remainder of the $700,000-plus project.

Redwood County residents asked to take a survey and leave a message about broadband

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.