Could Trump bring in a ARRA-like opportunity to broadband?

Remember the ARRA stimulus projects? Millions of dollars came into Minnesota for broadband projects – helping providers to expand and upgrade broadband and helping organizations such as the Blandin Foundation to support broadband adoption. ARRA was a game changer.

For years I’ve heard people say  – ARRA was great but it’s not going to happen again. Then not that long ago I heard someone intimate that another ARRA might not be the strangest thing. That was before Trump won the election but that sets the stage for a recent article in Bloomberg indicating that big money will be going into infrastructure – just a matter of how…

Details of President-elect Trump’s plan are murky, but at an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years is twice as long and nearly four times as big as the five-year, $275 billion effort championed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Candidate Trump’s response during Clinton’s August rollout of her initiative? “Double it.” …

Trump’s site calls for new investments to “create thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing, and other sectors to build the transportation, water, telecommunications and energy infrastructure needed to enable new economic development in the U.S., all of which will generate new tax revenues.” It’s this crossover appeal for infrastructure investment that makes it ideal as Trump seeks to build bridges in both a figurative and literal sense.

To be fair, the same article includes precautions in expecting too much predictability. And broadband is rarely listed at the top of the new Administration’s priorities but as I often said with the ARRA funding – luck favors the prepared. Here’s what Bloomberg said…

For municipalities with “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, the thought of increased Federal funding for infrastructure projects is an exciting one. Studying project specifications, scopes of work and bid documents to benchmark proposals and pricing from other agencies who have already issued similar solicitations is a time-saving tactic that can help expedite getting the contracts out the door for public bidding.

A-CAM 101: federal funding for smaller broadband providers

Sometimes you just need a practitioner to give the 10,000 foot view of what’s going on when policy and technology combine. I’m thankful to Brent Christensen (from MTA) for his time today giving me the low down on A-CAM.

I’ve talked a lot about CAF 2 funding from the FCC – $85 million a year for 6 years going to Price Cap Carriers (big guys such as CenturyLink, Frontier and Windstream ).

For Rate of Return providers (mostly smaller providers, often in rural areas) the FCC has come up with another plan. Providers can choose to reduce their rate of return OR apply for A-CAM funding:

  • Reduce the rate of return means going from 10.25 percent to 9.75 percent over the next few years.
  • The A-CAM option is available for providers where less than 90 percent of their service can access broadband at 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up and/or receive less than $200 per loop. A-CAM funding is for 10 years.

For most folks it’s a numbers game – can you make more by applying for A-CAM funding or going with strict cut in rate? For some folks, it’s a stability issue. They’ll take a reduction in support for the certainty over 10 years.

The deadline to apply for A-CAM funding was November 1, 2016. They received $160 million more than they had budgeted; they had budgeted for just over $1 billion. So, the FCC is trying again with a round two of applications. In fact that application should be available soon. The providers will have 30 days to respond. The FCC is hoping to be done with the process by the end of the year – in part I’m sure due to political changes.

So many questions still remain.

Why are they funding 10/1 access when they define broadband as 25/3? The reason is to help the folks who have no service. But this stuff is difficult for community leaders, policy makers and really anyone outside the industry to understand without using multiple speed definitions for broadband (10/1 vs 25/3).

Why the continuation of uncertainty? We’re asking providers to continue to make long term investment – albeit with government support. But the uncertainty can be as difficult as the financial pinch.

The biggest question – what will be the impact of political change on this and other broadband funding and regulation?

Support for Wireless Innovations Addressing Global Social Issues

If you’re not subscribed to GrantStation’s newsletter of grant opportunities, you should think about signing up. The last issue mentioned an opportunity I wanted to share. It would be great to see a Minnesota organization get working on some ideas!

Vodafone Americas Foundation: Wireless Innovation Project
The Vodafone Americas Foundation’s Wireless Innovation Project seeks to identify and fund the best innovations using wireless-related technology to address critical social issues around the world. Funded projects must demonstrate a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling a social issue in the areas of education, health, access to communication, environment, or economic development. The technology should demonstrate a significant advancement in wireless-related technology, and have the potential for replication and large-scale impact. The Wireless Innovation Project will provide support for projects from universities and nonprofit organizations based in the United States. (Although organizations must be based in the U.S., projects may operate and help people outside of the U.S.) Winners will be selected for awards of $100,000, $200,000, and $300,000, which will be paid in equal installments over three years. The application deadline is March 6, 2017. Visit the Vodafone Americas Foundation website to take the required Eligibility Questionnaire and submit an online application.

Economic Impact of Rural Telecommunications Industry in Minnesota? $900+ million

Last April I wrote about the Hudson Report on the Economic Impact of Rural Broadband Industry. But back then I only had the executive summary – not the full report. Recently I got the full report with details specific to Minnesota.

The report quantifies the impact rural telecom industry has on the economy nationally…

Rural broadband companies contributed $24.1 billion to the economies of the states in which they operated in 2015.  Of this, $17.2 billion was through their own operations and $6.9 billion was through the follow-on impact of their operations.  The total represents the amount added to the Gross Domestic Product by this set of firms.

And in Minnesota (in 2015)…

  • Direct Impact – $659.4 million
    Additional Impact – $251.8
    Total Impact – $911.3 million
  • Number of Jobs –  2,527
  • How much went into rural economies? $279.1 million
    How much went into urban economies? $632.2 million

They also report on Regional Input-Output Modeling System indicating that in Minnesota and the Rural Broadband industry:

  • Output is: 1.3819
  • Earnings is: 0.2373
  • Employment is: 4.7036

These numbers attempt to estimate how much a one-time or sustained increase in economic activity (such as State grants, CAF money, other inputs) will be supplied by industries located in the region.

I think it’s worth noting that investment in rural broadband does not benefit only rural economies. In fact, the urban economy gets the greatest boost. And investment yields output, earnings and employment.

It makes the case for public-private funding. The state benefits when jobs increase and funding is spent in other industries to support telecom and telecom companies benefit with added earnings.

$70 million in broadband requests for $35 million of funding in Minnesota

According to the Wadena Pioneer Journal

High-speed broadband Internet is in demand.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith says that $70 million in requests have been made to expand broadband, mostly in rural Minnesota. That is twice as much as state lawmakers approved earlier this year. The $70 million in requests is from 60 grant applications.

The available $35 million in state funding could add broadband to 12,000 more homes.

More info on 60 applications for MN Broadband grants

The Office of Broadband Development received applications for funds for broadband projects. (They also received two that were seemingly just sent to the wrong address.)

The projects specified their target speed goals. Here’s how that broke out:

  • 1Gig down and 1 Gig up (1/1Gbps)  – 34 applications
  • 1Gbps/100Mbps – 2 applications
  • 250Mbps/250Mbps – 3 applications
  • 200Mbps/20Mbps – 1 application
  • 150Mbps/20Mbps – 3 applications
  • 100Mbps/20Mbps – 7 applications
  • 60Mbps/6Mbps – 2 applications
  • 25Mbps/3Mbps and 1/1Gbps – 1 application
  • 25Mbps/3Mbps and 150Mbps/150/Mbps – 1 application
  • 25Mbps/3Mbps – 6 applications

Monday was the deadline for the incumbents to send in any challenges to the grant proposals. No word yet (pretty early still) on how many challenges were submitted.

You can get more info on the proposed projects on the OBD website. I’ll try to paste the info below too – but it’s in table format and that never transfers well to the blog…

  Applicant Project Name Project Broadband Speeds Project Type Project Area
1 AcenTek 2016-atk-lanesboro 1Gbps/100Mbps Unserved AcenTek/Lanesboro Block

AcenTek/Lanesboro Map

2 AcenTek 2016-atk-rushford 1Gbps/100Mbps Unserved AcenTek/Rushford Block

AcenTek/Rushford Map

3 Advantenon 2016-adv-lyon 250Mbps/250Mbps Unserved Advantenon/Lyon Block

Advantenon/Lyon Map

4 Advantenon 2016-adv-redwood 250Mbps/250/Mbps Unserved Advantenon/Redwood Block

Advantenon/Redwood Map

5 Advantenon 2016-adv-steele 250Mbps/250/Mbps Unserved Advantenon/Steele Block

Advantenon/Steele Map

6 Albany Mutual Tel. Assn. 2016-alb-watab 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Albany/Watab Map
7 Arvig 2016-arv-loretel 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Arvig/Loretel Description
8 Arvig 2016-arv-redwood 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Arvig/Redwood Description
9 Benton Coop. Tel. 2016-ben-bock 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Benton/Bock Map
10 Benton Coop. Tel. 2016-ben-buckman 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Benton/Buckman Map
11 Benton Coop. Tel. 2016-ben-ramey 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Benton/Ramey Map
12 BEVCOMM 2016-bev-freeborn 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved BEVCOMM/Freeborn
13 BEVCOMM 2016-bev-granada 1/1Gbps Unserved BEVCOMM/Granada Block and Map
14 BEVCOMM 2016-bev-heidelberg 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved BEVCOMM/Heidelberg Block and Map
15 BEVCOMM 2016-bev-winnebago 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved BEVCOMM/Winnebago Block and Map
16 Broadband Corp. 2016-bro-middle 25Mbps/3Mbps Unserved Broadband/Middle Block

Broadband/Middle Map

17 CenturyLink 2016-ctl-thief 25Mbps/3Mbps Unserved and Underserved CenturyLink/Thief River Falls Description

CenturyLink/Thief River Falls Map 1

18CenturyLink/Thief River Falls Map 2

18 CTC 2016-ctc-kandiyohi 1/1Gbps Unserved CTC/Kandiyohi Block

CTC/Kandiyohi Map

19 CTC 2016-ctc-ripley 1/1Gbps Unserved CTC/Ripley Block

CTC/Ripley Map

20 Dakota County 2016-dak-dakota 1/1Gbps Unserved and Underserved Dakota Block and Map
21 Farmers Coop. Assn. of Canby 2016-far-yellow 100Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Farmer’s/Yellow Medicine Map
22 Frontier 2016-ftr-kandiyohi 25Mbps/3Mbps and 150Mbps/150/Mbps Unserved Frontier/Kandiyohi Block

Frontier/Kandiyohi Description

Frontier/Kandiyohi Map

23 Garden Valley Tel. Company 2016-gvt-trf 1/1Gbps Unserved Garden Valley/Thief River Falls Block

Garden Valley/Thief River Falls Map

24 Gardonville Coop 2016-gar-ida 1/1Gbps Unserved Gardonville/Ida Block

Gardonville/Ida Map

25 Gardonville Coop 2016-gar-louise 1/1Gbps Unserved Gardonville/Louise Block

Gardonville/Louise Map

26 Gardonville Coop 2016-gar-miltona 1/1Gbps Unserved Gardonville/Miltona Block

Gardonville/Miltona Map

27 Halstad Tel. Company 2016-htc-kertsonville 1/1Gbps Unserved Halstad/Kerstonville Block and Map
28 KMT 2016-kmt-mantorville 1/1Gbps Unserved KMT/Mantorville Block

KMT/Mantorville Description

KMT/Mantorville Map

29 Lismore Coop. Tel. Company 2016-lis-noble 25Mbps/3Mbps and 1/1Gbps Unserved Lismore/Nobles Map
30 Martin County 2016-mar-broadband 25Mbps/3Mbps Unserved Martin Map

Martin Description

31 Mediacom 2016-med-fayal 150Mbps/20Mbps Unserved and Underserved Mediacom/Fayal Addresses

Mediacom/Fayal Map

32 Mediacom 2016-med-harris 150Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Mediacom/Harris Addresses

Mediacom/Harris Map

33 Mediacom 2016-med-medina 150Mbps/20Mbps Unserved and Underserved Mediacom/Medina Addresses

Mediacom/Medina Map

34 Midco 2016-mid-marshall 200Mbps/20Mbps Unserved Midco/Marshall Block

Midco/Marshall Description

Midco/Marshall LM Map

Midco/Marshall MM Map

35 Mille Lacs Energy Coop. 2016-mle-mlec 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved Mille Lacs/MLEC Block

Mille Lacs/MLEC Map 1

Mille Lacs/MLEC Map 2

36 New Ulm Telecom 2016-nut-goodhue 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved New Ulm/Goodhue Map 1

New Ulm/Goodhue Map 2

37 New Ulm Telecom 2016-nut-hanska 1/1Gbps Unserved New Ulm/Hanska Map
38 New Ulm Telecom 2016-nut-mazeppa 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved New Ulm/Mazeppa Map 1

New Ulm/Mazeppa Map 2

39 Otter Tail Telcom 2016-ott-battle 60Mbps/6Mbps Unserved Otter Tail/Battle Lake Block and Map

Otter Tail/Battle Lake Description and Map

40 Otter Tail Telcom 2016-ott-fergus 60Mbps/6Mbps Unserved Otter Tail/Fergus Block and Map

Otter Tail/Fergus Description and Map

41 Palmer Wireless 2016-pal-biglake 1/1Gbps Underserved Palmer/Big Lake Description and Map
42 Palmer Wireless 2016-pal-del 1/1Gbps Unserved Palmer/Del Description and Map
43 Palmer Wireless 2016-pal-duelm 1/1Gbps Unserved Palmer/Duelm Description and Map
44 Palmer Wireless 2016-pal-palmer 1/1Gbps Unserved Palmer/Palmer
45 Paul Bunyan Communications 2016-pbc-hubbard 1/1Gbps Unserved and underserved Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Map 1

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Map 2

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Map 3

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Map 4

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Map 5

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Map 6

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Block 1

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Block 2

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Block 3

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Block 4

Paul Bunyan/Hubbard Block 5

46 Red River Tel. Assn. 2016-red-west 1/1Gbps Unserved Red River/West Block

Red River/West Map

47 Renville County 2016-ren-renville 1/1Gbps Unserved Renville/Renville Block

Renville/Renville Map 1

Renville/Renville Map 2

48 Rice County 2016-ric-rice 1/1Gbps Unserved and Underserved Rice/Rice Description and Maps
49 Runestone Tel. Assn. 2016-run-holmes 1/1Gbps Unserved Runestone/Holmes Block and Map
50 Sjoberg’s Cable 2016-sjo-roseau 1/1Gbps Unserved Sjoberg/Roseau Description

Sjoberg/Roseau Block and Map

51 Sub-Sahara African Community 2016-sub-african Not provided Low income  
52 Sunrise Township 2016-sun-sunrise 1/1Gbps Unserved Sunrise/Sunrise Description

Sunrise/Sunrise Map

53 TDS 2016-tds-cass 25Mbps/3Mbps Unserved TDS/Cass Map

TDS/Cass Block

54 TDS 2016-tds-kmp 25Mbps/3Mbps Unserved TDS/KMP Map


55 TDS 2016-tds-midstate 25Mbps/3Mbps Unserved TDS/Midstate Map

TDS/Midstate Block

56 United African Soccer Club of America 2016-uas-youths Not provided Low income  
57 WCTA 2016-wct-wadenano 1/1Gbps Unserved WCTA/Wadena Block

WCTA/Wadena Map

58 Wikstrom 2016-wik-alvarado 1/1Gbps Unserved Wikstrom/Alvarado Block and Map
59 Wikstrom 2016-wik-nwmn 1/1Gbps Unserved Wikstrom/NW MN Block

Wikstom/NW MN Map

60 Winona County 2016-win-pickwick 1/1Gbps Unserved and Underserved Winona/Pickwick Block

Winona/Pickwick Map

61 Woodstock Telephone Company 2016-wds-balaton 1/1Gbps Unserved Woodstock/Balaton City Map

Woodstock/Balaton Map

62 Woodstock Telephone Company 2016-wds-westbrook 1/1Gbps Unserved Woodstock/Westbrook Map

Woodstock/Westbrook City Map


Grant and other funding opportunities that could be stretched to support broadband

I’m on vacation this week. I’m trying to keep up with posts too – but it turns out the Grand Canyon is distractedly beautiful. I thought it might be helpful to share some funding opportunities I learned about posting the Minnesota Rural Partners monthly newsletter. I added anything that I thought could be stretched to support broadband planning, deployment or adoption…


Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) offers grants to fire departments and EMS organizations for equipment, training, personnel wellness programs, capital funding, and collaboration efforts.  Application Deadline: Nov 18, 2016.

–THE U.S. Department of Education is offering grants to nonprofits, LEAs, public agencies, and IHEs for a wide array of activities to encourage at-risk youth to complete high school and go on to college through the Upward Bound program. Deadline to apply: 11/28/2016. Click here for funding guidelines.

–USDA is offering funding through the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program. The program provides support to meet the food needs of low-income individuals, increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their food needs, and promote comprehensive responses to local food access, farm, and nutrition issues. Deadline: 11/30/2016. Click here to review program funding guidelines.

— HUD has released its Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program. Up to ten communities, including four rural, will be awarded funds to design and implement a community response focused on ending youth homelessness. $33 million is available for the program. Deadline: 11/30/2016. Click here to review funding guidelines.

Phyllis and Milton Berg Family Respite Care Grant funding to help alleviate the cost of respite care for families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Application Deadline: Dec 1, 2016.  Sponsor: Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Smart Rural Community Collaboration Challenge provides funding to support the development and implementation of innovative broadband-enabled solutions to support rural commerce, healthcare, public safety, economic development, education, energy, or other community-oriented initiatives.  Application Deadline: Dec 1, 2016.  Sponsor: NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association

AmeriCorps State and National Grants funding for programs that are designed to strengthen communities and solve local problems, including those found in rural and underserved areas. Funds may be used for programs that utilize AmeriCorps member in the following areas: disaster services, economic opportunity, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, education, and veterans and military families. Letter of Intent (Required): Dec 7, 2016. Application Deadline: Jan 18, 2017.

–The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development will begin accepting proposals for the Capacity Building Grant Program on November 10, 2016.  Proposals must be received by DEED no later than 4:30 pm. on December 9, 2016. Late proposals will not be considered. Request for Proposal

–The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries is offering funds to schools where a minimum of 85 percent of the student body qualifies for the federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program to enable them to extend, update, and diversify the book and print collections. Grants of up to $7,000 are available to pre-K-12 school libraries throughout the United States, the American territories, and Department of Defense schools in other countries. Funds are provided solely for books, e-books, or magazines and serials in print, Braille, or audio form. All grants are made to individual schools rather than to school districts, foundations, or other entities. Deadline: 12/12/2016. Online application information is available here.

–THE HOME DEPOT Foundation Community Impact Grants Program provides support to nonprofit organizations and public service agencies in the U.S. that are using volunteers to improve the physical health of their communities. Proposals for the following community improvement activities will be considered: repairs, refurbishments, and modifications to low-income or transitional veteran’s housing or community facilities (schools, community centers, senior centers, etc.); weatherizing or increasing energy efficiency of low-income or transitional veteran’s housing or community facilities; engaging veterans as volunteers to help other veterans in their community through service projects focusing on the renovation, repair, and improvement of homes and other properties serving veterans; and planting trees or community gardens or landscaping community facilities that serve veterans. Requests will be accepted through 12/31/2016. Visit the Foundation’s website here to submit an online application.

–THE MISSION CONTINUES is seeking applications for Post-9/11 Veteran Nonprofit Fellowships. Service fellowships, which include a cost-of-living stipend, are awarded to post-9/11 veterans to enable them to volunteer with nonprofit organizations in their community as an extension of their service to the country. Deadline: 1/17/2017. Visit the website here to review program guidelines.

–THE KRESGE FOUNDATION is offering grants through its Arts and Culture Program to anchor institutions in any sector that have a stake in and are located in a low-income, disinvested community, and to nonprofit community partners, nonprofit artist collaboratives, and government entities. Support is provided for cross-sector/cross-disciplinary projects that embed arts and culture into local systems such as municipal departments, community financial networks, comprehensive planning efforts, human services networks, regional food hubs, etc. Deadline: online applications may be submitted throughout the year. Visit the Foundation’s website here to learn more about the Arts and Culture Program.

— Rebate opportunities for solar thermal systems remain available to all Minnesota residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as part of the 2016 Made in Minnesota (MiM) Solar Energy Incentive Program.