FCC reverse auction to “expand rural broadband access” includes parts of MN

The FCC  just released information on their upcoming reverse auction. The idea is that broadcasters will relinquish spectrum and mobile broadband providers will buy that spectrum. Both sides bid at the opportunity. The FCC will use those bids to determine prices, winners and losers. (Here’s a better, more detailed description.)

Parts of Minnesota (see map) are included in the reserve aucfcc-auction-eligibletion.

Here’s the FCC press releases on the opportunity…

 

WASHINGTON, February23, 2017–Continuing its push to expand access to broadband in rural America, the Federal Communications Commission today set key rules for a competitive “reverse auction” that will provide nearly $2 billion for rural deployment over the next decade.

In the upcoming Connect America Fund Phase II auction, providers will compete for support to expand broadband to unserved areas, along with voice service. The auction rules established today aim to maximize the value the American people will receive for the Connect America Fund dollars spent by balancing deployment of higher-quality services with cost efficiencies. Broadband access is essential in the 21st Century for jobs, education, information and economic development. Since 2011, the FCC has been working to expand access in rural areas where deployment costs are high by providing support from the Connect America Fund.

Today’s action focuses on census blocks unserved by broadband in 20 states where the nation’s largest carriers –known as “price cap” carriers –declined last year’s Connect America Fund offer of support. Also included in the auction are locations across the country with extremely high deployment costs.

The Order balances incentives for deployment of higher-quality services with cost efficiencies by establishing auction “weights” that credit bids by companies offering more robust service. Specifically, the Order:

 Establishes bidding weights to compare bids across performance tiers set last year (see 2016 press release at  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC339550A1.docx)  These weights account for the value of higher speeds, higher usage allowances, and low latency  But the formula used to rank bidders balances these performance goals with the need to reach as many consumers as possible within the FCC’s budget for rural universal service support

The item builds on the substantial progress the FCC has made in recent years connecting rural America to broadband. In 2015, pricecap carriers accepted $9 billion over six years from Phase II

of the Connect America Fund to expand broadband in their rural service areas. And in March of 2016, the FCC reformed its broadband support for the nation’s smallest carriers, known as “rateof-return” carriers, providing $20 billion over the next decade.

Next steps for the Phase II auction include seeking comment on auction mechanics. After consideration of the record developed, the FCC will vote on finalauction details and set specific deadlines and dates.

Other resources: Preliminary map of areas eligible for the Phase II auction. https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf-2-auction-preliminary-areas/

Action by the Commission February 23, 2017 by Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration (FCC 17-12). Chairman Pai, Commissioner Clyburn approving. Commissioner O’Rielly approving in part and dissenting in part. Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn and O’Rielly issuing separate statements.

Webinar: How small Minnesota companies can connect to Cash for STEM Internships

This looks like a great opportunity for the right business. For businesses in rural areas, it’s a nice way to introduce a young person to your community. The webinar is hosting by the MHTA (MN High Tech Association) but the webinar and the opportunity is not restricted to members…

Webinar: How small Minnesota companies can connect to Ca$h for STEM Internships | Minnesota High Tech Association

Do you work for or with small companies looking for science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) interns? Have you heard of SciTechsperience, a state-funded program that helps employers cover 50% of a STEM intern’s wages up to $2,500?

Hosts:                   Becky Siekmeier, SciTechsperience Internship Program at MHTA
Date:                     Thursday, February 23, 2017
Time:                    1:30 PM CST
Duration:             60 Minutes
Location:             Online
Cost:                      FREE

REGISTER HERE

This webinar will explain how small to mid-sized companies can take advantage of SciTechsperience, an exciting internship program that provides a low-cost solution for Minnesota businesses seeking talented college interns in STEM majors. SciTechsperience, a free, state-wide, state funded program brought to you by the Minnesota Employment & Economic Development and the Minnesota High Tech Association, provides hiring companies with a cash match of 50 percent of the intern’s wages up to $2,500.

Learn about:

  • Who can participate
  • What a SciTechsperience internship looks like – stories from the field
  • Where and when to apply
  • Why STEM is important to Minnesota’s economic future
  • How to help companies in your community take advantage of this FREE program

Update on State Grant funded project in Fillmore County (Lanesboro)

Here’s an update on the Border to Border grant in Fillmore County from Bluff Country Reader

In less than 24 months, approximately 475 more homes, businesses and a government building will be included in Acentek’s high-speed internet system. It was announced last month that the Houston-based company received a $1.78 million grant to add 159 miles of fiber optics to residents living in the village of Whalan and Carrolton and Holt townships. The grant is through the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The $1.78 million grant for Acentek is part of a new round of grants, totaling approximately $34 million, that will expand high-speed internet access to 16,627 households, 2,240 businesses and 71 community institutions in greater Minnesota.

“With this grant, which will pay for 39 percent of the project, we will be able to offer better services to many of our rural costumers,” said Darren Moser, Acentek’s chief financial officer (CFO).

The total cost to install nearly 160 miles of fiber optics to Fillmore County residents is $4.68 million. The local match for the project is $2.9 million. Moser noted Acentek was awarded $75,000 from Fillmore County.

Moser noted that with the topography of Fillmore County, the cost to dig 159 miles of fiber optics through hills, valleys, cliff, limestone formations and wooded land is quite a challenge.

It’s interesting to hear about the struggle to get through the terrain in Fillmore County. Not all rural is the same. I remember visiting Northeast Minnesota to see fiber installs there – lots of drilling through rock!

Mediacom gets $224,369 in State grants for broadband upgrades in Harris Township

Pleased to share a press release from Mediacom on their Border to Border grant project in Itasca County…

State grant-makers select Mediacom for projects to expand broadband network in part of Harris Township

GRAND RAPIDS, MN – February 3, 2017 —  Residents in portions of Harris Township can look forward to gaining robust broadband service with speeds of up to 200 megabits-per-second (Mbps) – twice as fast as Minnesota’s 2026 state speed goal.

Local officials recently learned that Mediacom Communications was selected to receive a Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband grant to extend its broadband network to additional areas of Harris Township. The project will construct more than 17 miles of fiber and coaxial cable to bring high-speed broadband service to at least 268 unserved homes and businesses.

The new network will be built by the summer of 2018, giving homes and businesses access to the same high-speed internet and advanced digital video services Mediacom delivers in Grand Rapids and eight other Itasca County communities.

The state broadband grant of $224,369 accounts for 30-percent of the project costs, and Mediacom will provide the remaining investment of $550,000. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who receive state grants are required to deliver service with speeds that will reach Minnesota’s 2026 state speed goal of 100 Mbps download by 20 Mbps upload.

Currently, Mediacom broadband subscribers in Minnesota and elsewhere can connect to even faster internet service, 200 Mbps download by 20 Mbps upload. In addition, speeds 10-times faster than Minnesota’s goal will soon be a reality, according to Jason Janesich, Mediacom’s senior operations manager for northern Minnesota.

“Our Mediacom CEO announced a plan 10 months ago to significantly boost capital investments over three years to enhance broadband services and bring 1-Gigabit speeds to all areas along Mediacom’s network,” Janesich said. “As part of a relentless effort to bring advanced services to non-urban areas, our customers experienced a big speed boost a month ago when our entry-level internet speeds jumped from 15 Mbps to 60 Mbps, and faster speed tiers sped up as well.”

Janesich said that Mediacom recently upgraded its entire national network to make it 1-Gig capable, and explained that the investment in new-generation broadband technology will bring 1-Gig speeds to all service areas in Minnesota and other states in 2017 and 2018.

Mediacom’s capital investments include construction to expand the company’s existing fiber-optic network and connect homes and businesses that lack access to advanced broadband services. On behalf of his company, Janesich expressed gratitude to state officials at the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for selecting Mediacom as a grant recipient for broadband expansion projects in Harris Township, and also in Fayal Township in St. Louis County.

 

Mediacom gets $263,345 in State grants for upgrades in Fayal Township

Pleased to share a press release from Mediacom on their Border to Border grant project in St Louis County…

State grant-makers select Mediacom for projects to expand broadband network in part of Fayal Township

HIBBING, MN – February 3, 2017 —  Residents in portions of Fayal Township can look forward to gaining robust broadband service with speeds of up to 200 megabits-per-second (Mbps) – twice as fast as Minnesota’s 2026 state speed goal.

Local officials recently learned that Mediacom Communications was selected to receive a Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband grant to extend its broadband network into areas of Fayal Township. The project will construct more than 15 miles of fiber and coaxial cable to bring high-speed broadband service to at least 260 homes and businesses currently categorized as unserved or underserved.

The new network will be built by the summer of 2018, giving homes and businesses access to the same high-speed internet and advanced digital video services Mediacom delivers to residents in Hibbing, Virginia, and 12 other St. Louis County communities or townships.

The state broadband grant of $263,345 accounts for 39-percent of the project costs, and Mediacom will provide the remaining investment of $412,000. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who receive state grants are required to deliver service with speeds that will reach Minnesota’s 2026 state speed goal of 100 Mbps download by 20 Mbps upload.

Currently, Mediacom broadband subscribers in Minnesota and elsewhere can connect to even faster internet service, 200 Mbps download by 20 Mbps upload. In addition, speeds 10-times faster than Minnesota’s goal will soon be a reality, according to Jason Janesich, Mediacom’s senior operations manager for northern Minnesota.

“Our Mediacom CEO announced a plan 10 months ago to significantly boost capital investments over three years to enhance broadband services and bring 1-Gigabit speeds to all areas along Mediacom’s network,” Janesich said. “As part of a relentless effort to bring advanced services to non-urban areas, our customers experienced a big speed boost a month ago when our entry-level internet speeds jumped from 15 Mbps to 60 Mbps, and faster speed tiers sped up as well.”

Janesich said that Mediacom recently upgraded its entire national network to make it 1-Gig capable, and explained that the investment in new-generation broadband technology will bring 1-Gig speeds to all service areas in Minnesota and other states in 2017 and 2018.

Mediacom’s capital investments include construction to expand the company’s existing fiber-optic network and connect homes and businesses that lack access to advanced broadband services. On behalf of his company, Janesich expressed gratitude to state officials at the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for selecting Mediacom as a grant recipient for broadband expansion projects in Fayal Township, and also in Harris Township in Itasca County.

Park Rapids celebrates recent broadband grant – recognizes the need for more

Park Rapids Enterprise recently posted an article on broadband. They detailed the recent grant award in their area…

Paul Bunyan Communications last month was awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant by the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to portions of southwest Hubbard County and a small portion of west central Becker County. The expansion area is located to the south and west of Park Rapids.

As a result, the company stated in a news release, the cooperative will begin expansion construction this spring that will pass a minimum of 359 locations in portions of Straight River Township in Hubbard County and portions of Osage Township and Green Valley Township in Becker County. The project, along with the cooperative’s project in central Itasca County which was also a part of the Border to Border Broadband Grant, is estimated to cost $3.9 million, with Paul Bunyan Communications contributing $2.16 million, $1.74 million from the State of Minnesota Border to Border Grant, and Itasca County contributing up to $75,000 towards the Itasca County portion of the project.

Paul Bunyan Communications expects to develop the specific expansion construction plans by early spring and will contact locations included in the project shortly thereafter. Construction will start in the early summer and will be completed by June 30, 2019.

And recognized that there’s still work to be done and that work needs to be funded…

Lawmakers last week announced a bill calling for another $100 million in spending for rural broadband projects statewide. Gov. Mark Dayton, in his state budget, released last week, proposed $60 million over two years for rural broadband.

While both proposals may prove a bit ambitious, the Legislature can continue to chip away this session at the worthwhile funding goal, following $20 million approved in 2014, $10 million in 2015, and $35 million allocated last year.

Rep. Julie Sandstede calls broadband a $10 to $1 investment

The Hibbing Daily Tribune recently ran an article from Rep. Julie Sandstede on broadband…

Down in St. Paul, I’m the chief author of an initiative to expand the Border-to-Border Broadband program by $100 million. Matching grants made available under this program are able to leverage private capital to improve infrastructure throughout the state.

Since the program launched in 2014, $65 million has been invested to expand access to 10,000 new homes and more than 1,000 businesses.

As learning has moved toward electronic resources, students and teachers increasingly rely on access to fast internet service. The use of telemedicine is expanding, and our aging populations in rural Minnesota need 21st century broadband — this isn’t a luxury.

It’s no secret that our regional economy needs to diversify, and I’m working hard to make this happen.

For every $1 invested in broadband infrastructure, communities have seen up to a $10 return. If we want to be a destination location for businesses of all types, we can’t put these investments off.

If we don’t build it, they won’t come.