CTC gets $3 million from ReConnect

We’ve already recognized and celebrated the investment, but the official word is out

The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Minnesota. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.

“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”

Consolidated Telephone Company will use a $3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 819 people, 34 businesses and 25 farms to high-speed broadband internet in Morrison County, Minnesota.

OPPORTUNITY: US Ignite to find novel broadband tech solutions

US Ignite is looking for projects to fund…

At least 17 million U.S. residents lack the basic Internet access necessary for remote work, online learning, and telemedicine. While ensuring greater connectivity has always been important, the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have turned a desire to deliver broadband to everyone into a critical priority for the nation. The goal of the OVERCOME project is to select, launch, and oversee five proof-of-concept efforts to deploy novel broadband technology solutions to both rural and urban underserved communities. These communities will be chosen to reflect a mix of density, demographics, regions of the United States, housing types, local and industry collaborations, and technical approaches.

To explore further strategies for broadband expansion, US Ignite has published a solicitation (including broadband network examples) calling for communities and their partners to participate in the OVERCOME project to connect the unconnected. Responding communities will propose their team members, identify underserved area(s) they will connect, and recommend specific technologies to be used for broadband delivery. US Ignite will select five strong and diverse proposals, oversee broadband deployment efforts, provide national publicity for the effort, and charter leading faculty to measure the effects of the project – both technical and social – as it evolves.

They are hosting a webinar on November 10 to learn more.

OPPORTUNITY: WCI Resiliency Grants Now Accepting Proposals

This opportunity from West Central Initiative isn’t exclusively for broadband or technology but it might help…

West Central Initiative is currently accepting proposals for Resiliency Fund grants.

Established in March 2020,  the current Resiliency Fund grant round retains emphasis on the pandemic response and recovery, while refining the focus to efforts in two crucial areas: racial equity and sustainable development.
Organizations leading community efforts to address racial equity or sustainable development (or both!) are encouraged to apply. Most grants will be for $3,000-to-$10,000, but a few may be larger.
Applications are due November 13, 2020 and award decisions will be made by December 18, 2020.
Proposals will be reviewed by individuals from across the region who have on-the-ground experience in racial justice and sustainability work. These same peer partners helped to design the grant program.
Grant guidelines and access to an online application link can be found at www.wcif.org. As always, Wendy Merrick (wendy@wcif.org, 218-998-1622) is available to respond to questions or assist in other ways.
West Central Initiative’s grant programs look to connect local actions to a broad, global world using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework.

Donations to the 2020 Resiliency Fund are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law.

EVENT Oct 20: Celebrate ReConnect Program Award with CTC

CTC has been awarded a grant in the amount of $3,061,502 to continue to bring broadband to rural Minnesota that are unserved today. Yay! The award will be granted by the United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and RUS Administrator Chad Rupe – via Zoom and we’re all invited!

ReConnect Program https://reconnect.usda.gov
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cordially invites you to celebrate an important investment in high-speed internet broadband infrastructure in Rural Minnesota with United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Date: Oct 10, 2020 3pm

Location: “Zoom” Teleconference: https://usfs.zoomgov.com/j/16194206399

Please RSVP no later than Oct 19 to: Ashley.Willits@usda.gov

USDA Seeks Applications for Community Connect Grants to Fund Broadband in Unserved Rural Areas

From the USDA Rural Development MN…

USDA is accepting applications to provide broadband service in unserved rural areas.

USDA is making grants available under the Community Connect Grant program for Fiscal Year 2021. The program provides financial assistance to eligible applicants that will provide broadband service in rural, economically-challenged communities where broadband service does not exist. Grant recipients must provide broadband speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 3 Mbps upstream to all premises in the proposed service area.

USDA will give priority to rural areas that demonstrate the greatest need for broadband services, based on requirements that can be found at 7 CFR part 1739.

Applicants are encouraged to review the FY 2021 application guide and sample material online. Electronic submissions must be received no later than Dec. 23, 2020 at 11:59 Eastern Standard Time (EST) to be eligible for funding under this grant opportunity.

USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB) to help improve life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

  • Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
  • Developing the Rural Economy
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation
  • Supporting a Rural Workforce
  • Improving Quality of Life

For additional information, visit www.grants.gov.

IRRR Board supports broadband deployment projects in St Louis County

Business North reports

Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation is investing $1.5 million to improve broadband within two rural areas of northeastern Minnesota.

The IRRR Board on Tuesday recommended funding broadband projects in Pequaywan Township in the Cloquet Valley area, and in Wuori, Sandy and Pike Townships north of Virginia.

Here are some of the details…

The $4 million Pequaywan Township project, supported by a $750,000 IRRR grant, will construct fiber to 266 unserved and underserved households. Cooperative Light and Power, which will invest $3.2 million in the project, will construct, operate and provide service.

The $3.1 million Wuori, Sandy and Pike Township project, backed by a $750,000 IRRR grant, will construct fiber to 616 unserved and underserved households. Paul Bunyan Communications, which will invest $1.2 million in the project, will construct, operate and provide service.

The two projects are the latest in a number of high-speed broadband projects the IRRR has in recent supported in its service area in partnership with other funding sources.

“We’re excited about these projects,” said Phillips. “Every time we complete one of these projects, another 500 to 600 people are served. It’s significant.”

64 applications for 2020 Border to Border broadband funding – did someone in your county apply?

Office of Broadband Development reports (via email)…

Sixty-four (64) applications for the 2020 Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant program were received by the September 30 deadline. The Office of Broadband Development has initiated the challenge process required by Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. 116J.395 subd. 5a) concurrent with its review of the applications. A list of the applications filed and instructions on how to file a challenge, if necessary, are available under the “Challenge Process” tab.  Any challenges must be submitted in writing by 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 4, 2020 to the Office of Broadband Development, 1st National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101.

I have added a column to their info adding counties served. Each are is presented differently (maps, address, census blocks…) so I’ve done my best. If you see an error, please let me know and I’ll fix it.

I’ll paste what I have below but I know it may not be as clean looking or useful as downloading the Word Doc.

2020 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Applications Received by Deadline





Project Name

Proposed Broadband Speeds  

Proposed Service Area

AcenTek Rural Peterson 1Gbps/1Gbps AcenTek Rural Peterson map

AcenTek Rural Peterson Census Blks

Advantenon, Inc. Mille Lacs County 1Gbps/1Gbps Advantenon Mille Lacs Co map

Advantenon Mille Lacs Co Census Blks

Mille Lacs
Albany Mutual Telephone Association Watab Phase III and West Holdingford 1Gbps/1Gbps Albany Tel Watab III and West Holdingford maps Stearns
Tekstar Communications, Inc. dba Arvig Becker, Hawley, Lake Osakis, Sauk Lake & Smith areas 1Gbps/1Gbps Arvig Becker, Hawley, Lake Osakis, Sauk Lake and Smith areas description and maps Douglas, Todd, Clay, Sherburne


Benton Cooperative Telephone Company Ramey Phase 2 250Mbps/250Mbps Benton Ramey Ph 2 Maps and Census Blks Morrison
Benton Cooperative Telephone Company Barley Road 250Mbps/250Mbps Benton Barley Road Maps and Census Blks Morrison, Stearns, Benton
BEVCOMM Rural Faribault and Martin Counties 1Gbps/1Gbps BEVCOMM Rural Faribault and Martin Counties Maps and Description Faribault, Martin
BEVCOMM LeSueur County Phase 2 1Gbps/1Gbps BEVCOMM LeSueur County Phase 2 description and map LeSueur
BEVCOMM Morristown 1Gbps/1Gbps BEVCOMM Morristown description and map Rice
Charter Cambridge Hills 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter Cambridge Hills map 1

Charter Cambridge Hills map 2

Charter East Lake Burgen 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter East Lake Burgen map Douglas
Charter Getchell Road Duluth 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter Getchell Road map St Louis
Charter Lake Jessie 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter Lake Jessie map Itasca
Charter Lakeshore 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter Lakeshore map Cass
Charter Ridgeview South Lake Victoria 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter Ridgeview S. Lake Victoria map Douglas
Charter Spicer 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter Spicer map Kandiyohi
Charter West Burgen Estates 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter W Burgen Estates map Douglas
Charter West Lake Carlos 940Mbps/35Mbps Charter W Lake Carlos map Douglas
Cooperative Light and Power Assn. of Lake County (CLP) Cloquet Valley 1Gbps/1Gbps CLP Cloquet Valley description, census blocks and maps St Louis
Crosslake Communications O’Brien and Goodrich Lakes 1Gbps/1Gbps Crosslake description, census blocks and map Crow Wing
Consolidated Telephone Co. (CTC) Chisago Lake and Franconia Twsps 1Gbps/1Gbps CTC Chisago Lake and Franconia Twsps maps Chisago
Consolidated Telephone Co. (CTC) Stark and Borden Lake area 1Gbps/1Gbps CTC Stark and Borden Lakes map Crow Wing
Emily Cooperative Telephone Company Waukenabo Lake 1Gbps/1Gbps Emily Coop Waukenabo Lake description, census blocks and maps Aitkin
Garden Valley Technologies Thief River Falls Euclid 1Gbps/1Gbps Garden Valley Thief River Falls North map

Garden Valley Thief River Falls West map

Garden Valley Euclid map

Garden Valley TRF Euclid address list

Pennington, Polk
Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association County Rd 34 1Gbps/1Gbps Gardonville Co Rd 34 description and maps Douglas
Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association Hazel Hill 1Gbps/1Gbps Gardonville Hazel Hill Rd. description and maps Douglas
Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association Town Hall Road 1Gbps/1Gbps Gardonville Town Hall Rd. description and maps Douglas
Halstad Telephone Company North Fisher 1Gbps/1Gbps Halstad North Fisher map Polk
Hanson Communications Inc. Comfrey 1Gbps/1Gbps Hanson Comfrey map Brown, Cottonwood
KMTelecom Rock Dell Northwest 1Gbps/1Gbps KMTel Rock Dell NW description and maps Dodge, Olmsted
KMTelecom Rock Dell Southwest 1Gbps/1Gbps KMTel Rock Dell SW description and maps Dodge, Mower
Lismore Cooperative Telephone Company Iona 1Gbps/1Gbps Lismore Iona Map 1

Lismore Iona Map 2

Mediacom Minnesota LLC Cedar Lane Sturgeon Lake 1Gbps/50Mbps Mediacom Cedar Lane Sturgeon lake map

Mediacom Cedar Lane Sturgeon lake address list

Mediacom Minnesota LLC Field of Dreams Hermantown 1Gbps/50Mbps Mediacom Field of Dreams Hermantown map

Mediacom Field of Dreams Hermantown address list

St Louis
Mediacom Minnesota LLC Minnetrista 1Gbps/50Mbps Mediacom Minnetrista map

Mediacom Minnetrista address list

Mediacom Minnesota LLC Wykoff 1Gbps/50Mbps Mediacom Wykoff map

Mediacom Wykoff address list

Meeker Cooperative Light and Power Association Big Swan Lake 100Mbps/100Mbps Meeker Coop Big Swan Lake description and maps Meeker
Meeker Cooperative Light and Power Association Fairhaven and South Haven 100Mbps/100Mbps Meeker Coop Fairhaven and South Haven description and maps Stearns, Wright
Meeker Cooperative Light and Power Association Lake Koronis 100Mbps/100Mbps Meeker Coop Lake Koronis description and maps Meeker
Jaguar Communications, Inc. dba MetroNet LeSueur County 1Gbps/1Gbps MetroNet LeSueur County maps and address list Le Sueur
Jaguar Communications, Inc. dba MetroNet Waseca County 1Gbps/1Gbps MetroNet Waseca County maps and address list Waseca
MiBroadband, LLC Rural Preston 1Gbps/1Gbps MiBroadband Rural Preston route map

MiBroadband Rural Preston unserved map

Midco Scandia 5Gbps/5Gbps Midco Scandia Census Blks and maps Washington
Midco Town of Morse 1Gbps/50Mbps Midco Morse Census Blks and maps St Louis
Midco Wright County 5Gbps/5Gbps Midco Wright County Census Blks and maps Wright
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) Phase 4 (portions of Mille Lacs and Crow Wing counties) 1Gbps/1Gbps MLEC Phase 4 map

MLEC Phase 4 address list

Mille Lacs, Crow Wing
Minnesota Valley Telephone Company Rural Franklin 1Gbps/1Gbps MVTC Rural Franklin description, census blks, map Renville
Nuvera Communications, Inc. Goodhue County West 1Gbps/1Gbps Nuvera Goodhue Co West map Goodhue
Nuvera Communications, Inc. Goodhue Welch 1Gbps/1Gbps Nuvera Goodhue Welch map Goodhue
Nuvera Communications, Inc. Hutchinson SE 1Gbps/1Gbps Nuvera Hutchinson SE map McLeod
Nuvera Communications, Inc. New Ulm 1Gbps/1Gbps Nuvera New Ulm map Brown
Nuvera Communications, Inc. Webster 1Gbps/1Gbps Nuvera Webster map Rice
Park Region Mutual Telephone Underwood Dalton 100Mbps/20Mbps Park Region Underwood Dalton maps Otter Tail
Paul Bunyan Communications North Central MN Gigazone 1Gbps/1Gbps Paul Bunyan Ash Lake map

Paul Bunyan City of Cook map

Paul Bunyan Field Twsp map

Paul Bunyan Sandy Twsp map

Paul Bunyan West Twin Lakes Bayview map

Paul Bunyan Wuori Twsp map

St Louis
Runestone Telecom Association Villard 1Gbps/1Gbps Runestone Villard map and census blocks Pope
Savage Communications, Inc. (SCI) Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe 1Gbps/20Mbps SCI Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe map Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
SkyNet Broadband, Inc. Co. Rd. 15 Bridgeview 1Gbps/1Gbps SkyNet Co. Rd. 1 Bridgeview map Sherburne
Sytek Communications Morrison, Todd, Stearns Counties 1Gbps/1Gbps Sytek Morrison Todd Stearns Map

Sytek Morrison Todd Stearns Map overlay

Sytek Morrison Todd Stearns census blocks

Todd, Stearns
Valley Telephone Company Browns Valley 100Mbps/20Mbps Valley Telco Browns Valley maps Traverse
West Central Telephone Association (WCTA) Rural Staples Phase 2 1Gbps/1Gbps WCTA Rural Staples Phase 2 map

WCTA Rural Staples Phase 2 Census Blks

Todd, Wadena
Wikstrom Telephone Co. Inc. NW MN 1Gbps/1Gbps Wiktel NWMN maps Polk
Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association SE Faribault/W Freeborn County 1Gbps/1Gbps Winnebago SE Faribault W Freeborn address list

Winnebago SE Faribault W Freeborn map

Winthrop Telephone Company, Inc. Bismarck and Transit Twsps. 1Gbps/1Gbps Winthrop Tel Bismarck and Transit Twsps maps and census blocks Sibley
Woodstock Telephone Company Lynd 1Gbps/1Gbps Woodstock Lynd map Lyon

eNews: MN Monthly Recap: Broadband Conference and MN Broadband County Profiles (Oct 2020)

Today’s eNews is a little different. First, the fall Broadband Conference starts tomorrow. It’s not too late to sign up. Second, the annual County Broadband Profiles have just been released; we how you rank.

OPPORTUNITY! Broadband 2020: Connected We Stand
The Blandin conference planning team s looking forward to the annual conference inaugural online experience – and monthlong series of opportunities. Starting tomorrow! This week we have the Digital Inclusion Showcase, a day with the MN Broadband Task Force, keynotes Roberto Gallardo and Shirley Bloomfield  and a special mentor matchmaking session!

Then we have two weeks of lunchtime conversations and Broadband 101 seminars. Following by a week of programming that’s still in the making but will definitely include keynotes from Tom Friedman and Deb Socia and a conversation on the annual MN County Broadband Reports.

See how your county ranks…

  1. Aitkin County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vx
  2. Anoka County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vB
  3. Becker County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vG
  4. Beltrami County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vM
  5. Benton County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vQ
  6. Big Stone County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vU
  7. Blue Earth County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6vX
  8. Brown County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6w0
  9. Carlton County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6w5
  10. Carver County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wa
  11. Cass County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6we
  12. Chippewa County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wi
  13. Chisago County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wl
  14. Clay County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wo
  15. Clearwater County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wr
  16. Cook County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wu
  17. Cottonwood County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wy
  18. Crow Wing County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wC
  19. Dakota County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wF
  20. Dodge County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wJ
  21. Douglas County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wM
  22. Faribault County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wP
  23. Fillmore County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wS
  24. Freeborn County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wV
  25. Goodhue County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6wY
  26. Grant County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6×2
  27. Hennepin County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6×6
  28. Houston County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xa
  29. Hubbard County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xd
  30. Isanti County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xg
  31. Itasca County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xk
  32. Jackson County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xn
  33. Kanabec County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xr
  34. Kandiyohi County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xu
  35. Kittson County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xx
  36. Koochiching County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xA
  37. Lac qui Parle County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xE
  38. Lake County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xI
  39. Lake of the Woods County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xM
  40. Le Sueur County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xP
  41. Lincoln County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xS
  42. Lyon County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xV
  43. Mahnomen County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6xY
  44. Marshall County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6y2
  45. Martin County –  https://wp.me/p3if7-6y5
  46. McLeod County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6y8
  47. Meeker County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yb
  48. Mille Lacs County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yf
  49. Morrison County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yi
  50. Mower County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yl
  51. Murray County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yo
  52. Nicollet County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yr
  53. Nobles County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yu
  54. Norman County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yx
  55. Olmsted County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yA
  56. Otter Tail County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yE
  57. Pennington County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yH
  58. Pine County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yL
  59. Pipestone County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yO
  60. Polk County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yR
  61. Pope County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yV
  62. Ramsey County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6yY
  63. Red Lake County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6z1
  64. Redwood County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6z5
  65. Renville County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6z5
  66. Rice County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6za
  67. Rock County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6ze
  68. Roseau County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zh
  69. Saint Louis County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zk
  70. Scott County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zo
  71. Sherburne County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zs
  72. Sibley County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zv
  73. Stearns County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zy
  74. Steele County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zB
  75. Stevens County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zF
  76. Swift County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zI
  77. Todd County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zM
  78. Traverse County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zP
  79. Wabasha County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zS
  80. Wadena County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zV
  81. Waseca County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6zY
  82. Washington County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6A2
  83. Watonwan County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6A7
  84. Wilkin County –  https://wp.me/p3if7-6Ae
  85. Winona County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6Aa
  86. Wright County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6Aj
  87. Yellow Medicine County – https://wp.me/p3if7-6Am

Check out the interactive map on the Blandin Foundation website.

Applications are open for USDA RUS Community Connect Grant Program

An email from CTC Technology & Energy reports

In late September, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) opened the FY2021 funding round for its well-regarded Community Connect broadband funding program. Community Connect is a competitive grant program that distributes awards to rural, unserved communities demonstrating economic necessity. Awards range from $100,000 to $3 million and require a 15 percent cash match.
Expect the program to be competitive—historically only about 10 percent of applicants have received awards. Additionally, time is of the essence: The application window is currently open and closes December 23, 2020.
The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) does not include a program budget, suggesting that there is some flexibility to the amount of funding available. In previous years, the program budget has been about $35 million. RUS has indicated that it expects to award 20 grants this funding cycle.
The FOA can be found here and the program application guide here. The following is a brief summary of the opportunity; please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

The email goes on with more specifics and to provide information on ho to get help from CTC

Connect America Fund CAF Carriers Opt for Seventh Year of Support

Telecompetitor provides an update on the CAF federal funding…

The CAF program offered money to the larger carriers, known as price cap carriers, in 2015 in exchange for committing to deploy broadband to rural portions of their local service territory lacking broadband service. Funding was based on a cost model. Carriers had to accept or reject funding on a state-by-state basis and most of them accepted most of the money they were offered. Funding was for six years, and deployments were expected to be completed by the end of the sixth year, but carriers had the option of electing to receive a seventh year of support. The sixth year of support ends at the end of this year.

In the December 2014 Connect America Fund report and order, the FCC stated that the purpose of the seventh year of support was to provide “a gradual transition to the elimination of support.”

They report on the providers that they know opted for a seventh year…

Over the past week, AT&T, Frontier and CenturyLink sent letters to the FCC electing to accept the seventh year of CAF support. Three other price cap carriers — Cincinnati Bell, Consolidated Communications and Windstream – also were eligible to request the seventh year of support and may have done so at an earlier date.

AT&T and CenturyLink accepted all funding for all states for which they accepted CAF funding. For AT&T, seventh year CAF funding totals approximately $427 million for 18 states. For CenturyLink, the total seventh year funding totals approximately $503 million for 33 states.

Frontier elected seventh year CAF funding for 25 of the 29 states for which it accepted funding back in 2015. The company did not accept funding for Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington – the four states where Frontier sold its operations to WaveDivision Capital, which uses the name Ziply for those operations.

The seventh year CAF Funding that Frontier accepted totals approximately $313 million.

The funding has been a mixed blessing in Minnesota. Some areas have seen improvements but they don’t always meet MN standards, CAF speed requirements are as low as 10/1 Mbps; Minnesota speed goals are 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026. A connection to 10/1, and really even a connection to 25/3 does not necessarily get a community closer to the 100/20 goal. There have been some projects where state funding has been used to leverage federal funding and push for higher speeds.

Also, we reported in January (2020) that both CenturyLink and Frontier reported that they “may not have met” required milestones in Minnesota. In May, CenturyLink asked for an extension of deadline due to COVID.

Dakota County approves $800,000 in CARES Act funding for broadband

Dakota County Commissioners meeting notes from September 15, 2020, indicate an approval for $800,000 of CARE Act funding for broadband investment…

On a motion by Commissioner Thomas A. Egan, seconded by Commissioner Mary Liz Holberg, the consent agenda was unanimously approved as follows:

Operations, Management And Budget

20-436 Authorization To Execute Agreement With Hiawatha Communications Ltd. To Implement Broadband Connectivity Improvements For COVID-19 Response, Amend 2020 Non-Departmental Budget And Amend 2020 Information Technology Budget

WHEREAS, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dakota County residents, families and schools are experiencing a greater need for affordable, fast and reliable internet connectivity; and

WHEREAS, Dakota County received funds to use through the Federal CARES Act; and

WHEREAS, the County Board has determined that assisting broadband carriers to implement immediate broadband connectivity improvements to unserved and underserved areas of Dakota County is a necessary and reasonable response to the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore eligible for the use of CARES Act funds; and WHEREAS, the County Board directed staff to seek out interest from providers in expending their network in unserved and underserved communities; and

WHEREAS, staff sent letters of interest to providers on July 28, 2020 and received six proposals; and WHEREAS, staff presented the six proposals to the County Board at the August 25, 2020 County Board meeting; and

WHEREAS, the County Board directed staff to award Broadband Connectivity funds to Hiawatha Communications LTD (HBC); and WHEREAS, speeds of service will be offered in Nininger, New Trier, Hampton and Miesville between 10 Mbps minimum and a maximum of 100 Mbps.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Dakota County Board of Commissioners hereby authorizes the Chief Information Officer to award Broadband Connectivity Cares Act funds to and execute an agreement, approved as to form by the County Attorney’s Office, with Hiawatha Communications Ltd., in an amount not to exceed $800,000;

46 percent of MN school CARES funding so far going to technology

MinnPost reports on how CARES funding is being spent in the schools in Minnesota. First a quick summary of the programs…

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Minnesota schools have received access to three main buckets of federal funding to help get students back to school safely. That includes $244.8 million via the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), $38 million via the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, and $140.1 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) aid.

Each comes with its own parameters of allowable uses and timeline. The bulk of these dollars are allocated on a per pupil basis, with some priority given to low-income students. And while the amounts available are largely non-competitive, school leaders must still submit a budget application to the Minnesota Department of Education for approval in order to access their funds.

As of Wednesday, the state Department of Education reports that only $111 million in applications, across all three buckets of funds, had been approved. Since there’s a tighter deadline for CRF funds — in which applications must be signed and approved by Oct. 1, with funds spent by Dec. 30 — the bulk of applications received to date fall into this category.

There’s still a lot of money to be requested but early days, it looks like technology is the biggest request…

By the end of last week, the Minnesota Department of Education had only approved about $9 million in budget applications submitted across all three buckets of funding. Breaking that amount down into eight categories, about 46 percent of budgeted items fell into the “technology” category. Expenses in the “instructional support” and “operating” categories made up another 41 percent of that amount, with the remainder falling under the following categories: transportation, nursing, non-instructional support, contracts and other.

ConnectedMN Awards $2.1 Million to Orgs Serving Digital Access Needs of Minnesota Students

ConnectedMN reports…

To address digital inequities faced by students in Minnesota, Partnership for a ConnectedMN, a public-private partnership of private businesses, philanthropic entities and community leaders, today announced that it has awarded $2.1 million in grants to 23 nonprofits serving the connectivity needs of students and their families. ConnectedMN grants will support an estimated 154,000 students and families in urban and rural communities gain access to computing devices, critical support services and the internet.

ConnectedMN was founded by Best Buy, Comcast, Blandin Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership, in collaboration with the administration of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. In June, ConnectedMN announced that their goal was to bring technology and internet access to students most challenged by the sudden shift to online school, including Indigenous and students of color, as well as students from low-income families across urban and rural Minnesota.

The announcement was made at St Anne’s Place, which is part of Having Housing shelters in North Minneapolis. In the spirit of full disclosure, my worlds collided in the best way today when I got to cover broadband expansion and visit with my good friend Monica Nilsson, CEO of Having Housing. I have heard Monica talk about how hard it is for the kids at the shelter to go to school and do homework, especially during COVID. There may have been some camaraderie pre-COVID of everyone trying to work in the corner of the room by the window where you could get a signal – that is if you had a device. But with COVID, the kids are distanced and everyone needs a computer as most schools in Hennepin County are online or hybrid.

COVID is deepening the digital and opportunity gaps; today was a nice example of how we can try to stop that trends. Below Monica details what they are doing with labs, devices to check out and things like noise-cancelling headphones and laptop tables that help kids learn without barrier.

Grants have been awarded to:

  • Aeon Housing
  • Austin Aspires
  • Boys & Girls Club of Leech Lake
  • Centro Tyrone Guzman
  • East Central MN Education Cable Cooperative
  • FamilyMeans
  • Haven Housing
  • Itasca Area School Collaborative – Deer River ISD-317
  • Little Crow Tele-media Network
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation – Duluth
  • Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy
  • MN Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs
  • Neighborhood House
  • New Vision Foundation
  • Northfield Healthy Community Initiative
  • NW Links -Region 1
  • PORT Group Home Inc
  • Project FINE – Winona Co.
  • Project for Pride in Living
  • ResourceWest
  • South Central Service Cooperative
  • Southwest West Central Services Coop

Crow Wing Power on broadband updates in Crow Wing, Morrison, Cass and Aitkin Counties

In their most recent newsletter, Crow Wing Power spoke with local providers about broadband upgrades and expansion in the area, often spurred by great need in COVID.

From CTC…

  • Kristi [Westbrock, CTC CEO] explained that in mid-March, the company scrambled to extend finer to where it was needed and where they could reasonably expand, so students could have access to Internet for distance learning. It’s estimated that their efforts in the Brainerd ISD 101 school district provided broadband access to approximately 200 families in the region and set up 50 hot spots where kid cluster could go to study.
  • In 2019, CTC received an $830,587 MN Border to Border grant from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to expand services to build to Ft. Ripley, and other areas in Crow Wing and Morrison Counties. This allowed CTC to build to 399 homes in portions of St. Mathias and Fort Ripley Townships, as well.
  • “Most recently, CTC received CARES Act funding from both Crow Wing and Cass County to build broadband to unserved areas of Welton Road, County Rd 10, Border Lake, Little Pine Road and unserved areas in Lake Edward Township. The funds must be used by December 1 so these locations will have access to fiber Internet.

From Emily Cooperative Telephone Company…

  • Five hot spots were also installed throughout the communities, which are still available. Josh [ECTC CEO] said they are updating 100 homes in the Crosslake area to finer services and reviewing other areas for 2021. ECTC also received a MN DEED grant of $376,000 to build fiber services to the Esquagamah and Round Lake area in Aitkin County.

Le Sueur County uses CARES funding for wireless towers in Tyrone Township

Le Sueur County News reports…

One of Le Sueur County’s top priorities for the year is to expand broadband into under-served areas. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in planned and proposed broadband projects are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year through federal funds from the CARES Act.

Le Sueur County received $3.4 million from the federal government. One of the first projects approved with that money is a $140,000 proposal to bring high speed wireless internet to Tyrone Township in partnership with Netwave Broadband.

Netwave, a subsidiary of Access Networks Inc., brought a proposal to set up a 5G 900 Mhz wireless tower. The tower would provide 100 mb speeds for up to 218 homes in a 7-mile coverage radius from a tower off Hwy. 169 near the Cambria Processing Facility.

And here’s what it will look like to customers and the provider…

On the customer side, it would cost $299 for a basic one-time installation fee. Customers would be charged $99.99 per month for 100 mb of service in a three year contract. The $99 would only cover internet, but NetWave also has a phone service and is in the process of setting up television services.

In the deal, NetWave Broadband would take on most of the risk for keeping the wireless tower operational.

“All the risk as far as the tower maintenance, keeping everything afloat as far as tower rent, power, the responsibility is all on us,” said Steve Herman with NetWave Broadband. “We’re just asking for capital investment to provide service in the area and then we’ll take all management and everything over from that point.”