Fond du Lac gets $2 Million from USDA for FTTH

Congrats to Fond du Lac recipient of a USDA Rural Development Community Connect Grants.

N Fond du Lac Band of Lake
Superior Chippewa
$2,109,007
To construct an FTTP system to provide state-of-the-art
broadband services to unserved residents and businesses in
the Big Lake area of the Fond du Lac Reservation. A
community center will be established where residents may
have access to computer terminals and free internet for at
least two years

Lake County required to pay broadband contractor remaining $2 million

The Lake County News Chronicle reports…

After five days of testimony and evidence, a jury on Friday ruled in favor of Rohl Networks LP, awarding the company more than $2.075 million in its lawsuit against Lake County regarding work done on the county’s broadband network, Lake Connections.

Rohl, of Jupiter, Fla., was the main contractor during the construction of the broadband network, Lake Connections, from 2012 to 2015. Among other aspects of the lawsuit, Rohl claimed the county failed to pay what it owed for the work it performed and didn’t obtain contracts, permits and agreements in a timely manner necessary to allow the company to perform its work.

The jury on Friday found that under the three contracts — Phase 1, Phase 2A and Phase 2B — the county owed Rohl more than $25 million. Jurors also found that under those same three contracts, the county has so far paid Rohl more than $22.8 million.

The jury did not award Rohl any money for labor or materials supplied outside the scope of the contracts, and did not award the county any liquidated damages due to the delay of the project. The jury of eight did find that Rohl owed Lake County $223,961 for back charges and/or owner-furnished (OFM) materials not installed in the project or returned to Lake County.

The article details the ins and outs of the project as it relates to the contracting work. It seems like this is just another chapter of a project that has seen its ups and downs – and a situation where the decision could have been better or worse for the county and the contractor.

Good questions about CAF from the Anchor Institutions

A lot of public money is going to be going into broadband. It’s important to spend it wisely. Part of spending it wisely is getting users adequate access for today and tomorrow.

Here’s what SHLB (Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition) had to say about it…

Anchor institutions like schools, libraries and health care providers play an important role in bringing connectivity to their local communities. But advances in telemedicine and education will not be fully realized if rural consumers do not have adequate broadband service at home.  School aged children will struggle if they cannot do their homework. Individuals with medical conditions that require active monitoring – diabetes, congestive heart failure and more – need broadband at home to transmit critical medical data in real time to medical professionals.

That is why local government officials and anchor institutions should be paying attention to the implementation of the Connect America Fund, now and in the years ahead. The FCC is working to hold an auction in 2018 to award nearly $2 billion in funding over the next decade from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to service providers to extend fixed broadband to unserved residential and small business locations, and a separate auction to award $4.53 billion in funding over a decade from Phase II of the Mobility Fund to mobile wireless providers to extend LTE service to rural America. Any entity willing to provide the requisite level of service set by the FCC and meet other requirements can bid in those auctions for the subsidy.

Local leaders should ask: is it possible to utilize funding in a more coordinated way from E-rate, the Rural Healthcare program, and the Connect America Fund to build a business case to serve the entire community? What efficiencies might be gained from building an integrated broadband network for the entire community? Are the service providers that currently participate in any of these FCC’s universal service programs planning to bid in these upcoming Connect America Fund auctions? Who else might bid?

Frontier is going wireless for its CAF 2 commitment

Doug Dawson of CCG reports on Frontier’s decision to build wireless network with their CAF 2 funding…

Frontier Communications just announced that they are testing the use of wireless spectrum to complete the most rural portions of their CAF II build-out requirement. The company accepted $283 million per year for six years ($1.7 billion total) to upgrade broadband to 650,000 rural homes and businesses. That’s a little over $2,600 per location passed. The CAF II program requires that fund recipients increase broadband to speeds of at least 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.

He outlines the good and the bad about the technology…

I have mixed feelings about using federal dollars to launch this technology. On the plus side, if this is done right this technology can be used to deliver bandwidth up to 100 Mbps, but in a full deployment speeds can be engineered to deliver consistent 25 Mbps download speeds. But those kinds of speeds require an open line-of-sight to customers, tall towers that are relatively close to customers (within 3 – 4 miles) and towers that are fiber fed.

But when done poorly the technology delivers much slower broadband. There are WISPs using the technology to deliver speeds that don’t come close to the FCC’s 10/1 Mbps requirement. They often can’t get fiber to their towers and they will often serve customers that are much further than the ideal distance from a tower. Luckily there are many other WISPs using the technology to deliver great rural broadband.

The line-of-sight issue is a big one and this technology is a lot harder to make work in places with lots of trees and hills, making it a difficult delivery platform in Appalachia and much of the Rockies. But the technology is being used effectively in the plains and open desert parts of the country today.

And why this may not be best use of federal funding…

I see downsides to funding this technology with federal dollars. The primary concern is that the technology is not long-lived. The electronics are not generally expected to last more than seven years and then the radios must be replaced. Frontier is using federal dollars to get this installed, and I am sure that the $2,600 per passing is enough to completely fund the deployment. But are they going to keep pouring capital into replacing radios regularly over time? If not, these deployments would be a sick joke to play on rural homes – giving them broadband for a few years until the technology degrades. It’s hard to think of a worse use of federal funds.

There are people who do wireless well. If federal funding is going to be spent on wireless, it’s too bad it can’t be shifted to those folks who make it their business to serve rural areas well with wireless solutions.

US Democrats (Including Sen Nolan) call for $40B investment in rural broadband

The Hill reports on Democrats proposal to invest in rural broadband…

Congressional Democrats are calling for a $40 billion investment to expand internet access in rural and inner-city communities, likening their plan to New Deal efforts to expand the electrical grid.

The new proposal is the latest addition to the party’s “Better Deal” agenda launched in July.

Democrats say public funds are needed because internet service providers on their own have failed to cover large swaths of the population.

The article includes high level details and mentioned Minnesota’s Rick Nolan as a leader in the effort…

Under the plan, the $40 billion would go toward funding private and public infrastructure projects, mapping internet access across the country, upgrading outdated internet capabilities and building out public safety infrastructure.

The proposal was unveiled Thursday by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Tester, along with Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.).

Feasibility study in Pipestone County find wireless more affordable broadband option

The Pipestone County Star reports…

The most viable way to provide broadband internet service to under-served parts of Pipestone County is with a wireless system, and even that is not feasible without a grant.

Those were the findings of a broadband internet study Pipestone County commissioned earlier this year to find out what it would take to provide broadband access to the under-served parts of the county. Doug Dawson, President of CCG Consulting, and Mark Mrla, business unit manager with Finley Engineering, presented the results of the study Sept. 12 to the Pipestone County Board.

The study examined three scenarios to bring broadband to 1,747 homes where it is not currently available: Build a complete fiber system; build a hybrid fiber and wireless system; or an all wireless system. An all-fiber system requiring 458 miles of fiber was estimated to cost $12,359,445, a hybrid system $5,327,253, and an all wireless system $1,002,809.

A factor on the table…

Meanwhile, Woodstock Communications expects to find out before the end of the year if it will receive a $363,000 Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant to build a hybrid fiber/wireless system estimated to cost $967,000.

The company’s plan differs from the $5,327,253 hybrid plan in the feasibility study because Woodstock would use existing infrastructure and less fiber, relying more heavily on wireless service.

So they are waiting to figure out what to do…

Sharon Hanson, Pipestone County administrator, said the county plans to wait and see if Woodstock Communications receives the grant it has applied for and will share the broadband study with other internet providers if requested.

Pipestone County undertook the study in collaboration with five other counties. Its share of the $252,500 total cost of the study was $39,798, half of which was paid by a grant.

But the feasibility study contractors think that info will remain pertinent…

Dawson said the cost of fiber construction has remained steady over the last decade, so the costs in the report will probably be reliable for quite a while.

Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit – grants from Mobile Beacon

Mobile Beacon provides mobile hotspot connectivity through Sprint’s 4G LTE network. I imagine you have to be covered by Sprint to take full advantage of this deal – but it’s a heck of an opportunity…

Connecting Communities to a Brighter Future

The internet is a powerful enabler for social change; yet, for 34 million Americans it remains out of reach. A disproportionate number of these people include vulnerable populations such as low-income families or individuals, seniors, and adults living with a disability.

Mobile Beacon works hand-in-hand with community organizations to create digital inclusion programs that provide the internet to the people that need it most. Together, we help connect people to this vital tool to improve their lives.

Clearing the Runway for More Digital Inclusion Programs

You can be a part of this life-changing work. We know that local community anchor institutions understand the evolving needs of their communities best. That’s why we’re offering the Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit to help you create programs that will really take off.

When you become one of our pilot sites, you’ll have access to the full Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit which includes:

  • 25 donated 4G LTE mobile hotspots
  • FREE unlimited 4G LTE data plans during the pilot program
  • 25 donated Lenovo Thinkpad E560 laptops

That’s an estimated value of $20,000!

Do you have a brilliant idea for maximizing affordable, high-speed and mobile internet to serve the people in your community? Then apply to join our crew!