Latest FBA Research Underscores Fiber is the Superior Broadband Technology

As the industry is looking at literally billions of dollars to invest in broadband, it’s nice to get a glimpse at the ongoing costs of various modes of broadband like fiber. This report is from the Fiber Broadband Association and they have a clear agenda, but numbers are compelling…

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) today released its 2021 Broadband Consumer Study that reveals fiber is the clear superior technology to meet broadband needs. The research, conducted by RVA LLC Market Research & Consulting (RVA), concludes that when compared to other broadband technology—including cable, DSL/FTTN, satellite, mobile wireless and fixed wireless—fiber has stronger reliability, the highest satisfaction rates and lowest cost per Mbps.

RVA consumer broadband studies have been conducted for the FBA since 2006. The data for the latest study was collected from 4,300 surveys of U.S. and Canadian broadband consumers in May 2021. This annual research provides a snapshot of the current broadband market. It includes the latest broadband technology deployment numbers, satisfaction rates and market growth rates. The FBA leverages the results to set strategic initiatives, and FBA members utilize this data to guide current and future fiber deployment plans.

“We’re experiencing a defining moment in building broadband infrastructure, and our research will help influence public policy to ensure that the remaining 20 – 40 million Americans without broadband access can finally realize digital equality,” said Gary Bolton, President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “We know that when broadband capacity is unlimited, our communities’ potential is limitless. This research underscores the fact that fiber is the superior broadband technology because of its ability to reliably connect families and businesses to new opportunities.”

This year’s survey revealed several key findings that note fiber has the:

  • Highest Satisfaction Rating
    • Fiber has an average net promoter score of 20% (scores of other broadband types range from -5% to -45%).
  • Highest Reliability based on reported outages
  • Highest Speeds and Lowest Latency based on random speed tests.
  • Lowest Cost per Mbps at $0.66
    • Other technologies range from $1.00 – $6.00 per Mbps.
  • Increase in value to Real Estate
    • Increasing the value of homes by 3.4%, apartment rental prices by 8.1% and apartment operating income by 15%.

Rep Omar votes against Infrastructure Bill that brings $100 million to broadband in MN

Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar voted against a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Friday, after tensions among Democrats continued around the party’s efforts on a separate $1.85 trillion spending plan.

Omar explains…

“From the beginning, I have been clear that I would not be able to support the infrastructure bill without a vote on the Build Back Better Act,” Omar, the whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement that referred to the $1.85 trillion spending plan.

“Passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first risks leaving behind child care, paid leave, health care, climate action, housing, education, and a road map to citizenship.”

Broadband was part of the bill…

At least $100 million was expected for broadband in the state, with the White House estimating that Minnesota would see $680 million during a five-year span to improve water infrastructure along with around $297 million focused on airports, according to the Biden administration.

Rep Hagedorn votes against Infrastructure Bill that brings $100 million to broadband in MN

Mankato Free Press reports

There were 6.8 billion reasons for Minnesota members of Congress to vote for the recently passed federal infrastructure bill.

But Minnesota Republicans, including 1st District Rep. Jim Hagedorn, didn’t apparently favor any of those reasons.

The Senate passed the vote 69-30 and the House passed it 228-206

Broadband was part of that bill..

The state will get $100 million to expand broadband, and there remain many areas of the 1st District without viable broadband. In a September 2020 debate, Hagedorn agreed with Democratic challenger Dan Feehan that rural broadband expansion was important and said it would get bipartisan support in Congress.

But apparently not from Hagedorn, who voted against one of the biggest investments in infrastructure in years. Hagedorn did not respond to a Free Press inquiry seeking an explanation of his vote.

US Reps Dean and Craig talk about Jobs Act and broadband funding

KEYC reports

On Tuesday, U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips (MN-03) and Angie Craig (MN-02) hosted an event with the Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioner to promote new investments.

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 is designed to tackle big-ticket items such as expanding high-speed internet and building better airports.

And specifically about broadband…

Craig said this bipartisan package will create over 2 million new jobs across America by 2025, and will create local jobs throughout the Second Congressional District of Minnesota.

“More importantly, though, there has been entire patches of America in Minnesota left out of high-speed internet broadband,” Craig stated.

And…

Torkelson says he supports the money being put towards roads and bridges, water infrastructure and wastewater treatment and broadband access.

“We need broadband all over so that people who want to work in greater Minnesota can depend upon dependable Internet access.”

OPPORTUNITY: $500M in Good Jobs Challenge grants could fund training and tech assistance

The US EDA explains…

EDA’s American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge aims to get Americans back to work by building and strengthening systems and partnerships that bring together employers who have hiring needs with other key entities to train workers with in-demand skills that lead to good-paying jobs.

Through the Good Jobs Challenge, EDA is allocating $500 million to collaborative skills training systems and programs. EDA encourages efforts to reach historically underserved populations and areas, communities of color, women, and other groups facing labor market barriers such as persons with disabilities, disconnected youth, individuals in recovery, individuals with past criminal records, including justice impacted and reentry participants, serving trainees participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and veterans and military spouses.

A little more detail…

EDA will fund proposals within the following three phases, as applicable to regional needs:

  1. System Development Help establish and develop a regional workforce training system comprised of multiple sector partnerships

  2. Program Design Develop the skills training curriculum and materials, and secure technical expertise needed to train workers

  3. Program Implementation Implement non-construction projects needed to provide workforce training and connect workers with quality jobs, including wrap-around services

Application deadline is January 26, 2022

Most recent RDOF Award winners include Midcontinent and Roseau Electric in MN

FCC announced latest RDOF awards

The FCC today announced that it is ready to authorize $709,060,159 in its fourth round of funding for new broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.  Together with three prior funding wave announcements, the Commission has now announced over $1.7 billion in funding to winning bidders for new deployments.  In this funding wave, 50 broadband providers will bring broadband service to over 400,000 locations in 26 states. …

The 26 states slated for today’s funding include Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The bulk of today’s funding will go to nonprofit rural electric cooperatives to deploy broadband throughout their service areas.

Here are the awards in Minnesota:

Midcontinent
Census blocks 683
Locations 5706
Total Award $4,453,800.60

Roseau Electric
Census blocks 76
Locations 266
Total Award $1,228,494

And from the small print, in case there’s something to learn or we need it in the future…

With regard to its ETC designation in Minnesota, MidCo was able to secure its designation from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on May 28, 2021, and submit the Order to the Commission on June 1, 2021, prior to the June 7 deadline.[1]  Thus, we dismiss as moot MidCo’s request for waiver with regard to Minnesota.

[1] See Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Docket No. P-6186/SA-21-124, In the Matter of a Notice to Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Grant Winners et al., (May 28, 2021).

CBS MN reports $100M for broadband in latest Infrastructure bill

CBS Minnesota reports

A new infrastructure package awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature in Washington includes $65 billion in order to bridge digital divides.

That includes at least $100 million for Minnesota — if not more.

“While the pandemic sort of highlighted the issues that we have and the gaps that we have, the need for the high-speed broadband doesn’t go away when the pandemic is over,” said Marc Johnson, executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative and a member of the Governor’s Taskforce on Broadband.

He pointed to forthcoming data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development that indicates 171,000 households in Minnesota have little to no broadband access and another 240,000 are considered underserved because they don’t meet the state goal of broadband speeds of 100/20 Mbps by 2026.

The Erickson’s speed? 5.37 Mbps. That’s the difference between minutes and hours to upload large files. Some Minnesotans have to transfer files overnight to make it work.

Johnson also noted that the legislature this session flagged $70 million for over two years, which will help the state’s efforts to bring everyone online with adequate speeds, he said, but isn’t enough to cross the “finish line.” The parts of the state that need connection are the most expensive.

He noted that $100 million per state for broadband is the baseline, and that number could increase based on need.

“It’s very, very encouraging for the state,” Johnson said. “We’re very excited about that.”

Four ways the Infrastructure Bill makes broadband more affordable

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society outlines the ways the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make broadband more affordable. At a very high level, here’s the answer…

  1. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Becomes the (Permanent) Affordable Connectivity Program
    The subsidy goes from $50 to $30 but again. Permanent
  2. Consumer Broadband Labels
    I would love to see this look like the grocery store model – give me cost per Mbps – like comparative price per ounce of breakfast cereal
  3. Speed Report
    They mention “consider future speed needs” when coming up with thresholds
  4. Addressing Digital Redlining
    Will be interested to view this from rural lens

City of Prinsburg Takes Next Step for Broadband Project – $330,000 in ARPA funding (Kandiyohi County)

The news from Prinsburg…

On Tuesday, November 2nd, the Prinsburg City Council held a community broadband meeting at the Prinsburg Community Center to complete the next step towards a fiber-to-the home broadband project in partnership with Arvig. Over 40 people were in attendance, including community members and business owners, City representatives, Arvig Enterprises, Inc., and Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Broadband Committee members.

Access to high-speed broadband internet is an important issue for attracting and retaining community members and businesses alike. As many have experienced firsthand over the past 18 months, broadband has become a critical infrastructure for people to work from home, attend online classes, and participate in telemedicine appointments; not to mention staying connected with loved ones.

“I was considering moving out of town,” Alex Calvin told the City Council on Tuesday. “This project will help attract more young adults to Prinsburg.”

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved an allocation of $330,000 from their American Rescue Plan Act funds on September 21st. Additional funding for this $1 million project will come from Arvig ($450,000) and the City of Prinsburg. Thanks to the overwhelming support for this project at Tuesday’s community meeting, the Prinsburg City Council adopted a Resolution Approving Property Tax Abatements. This resolution allows the City to issue general obligation taxable tax abatement bonds not to exceed $275,000, with a tax abatement term of up to ten years.

As part of the agreement between Arvig and the City of Prinsburg, construction will begin no later than August 1, 2022, with substantial completion by December 31, 2022.

USDA specific funds for Tribal and Rural communities

Public Knowledge reports

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced more than $1 billion in funding to promote meaningful broadband access in rural, Tribal, and socially vulnerable communities. This program has the potential to deliver robust, affordable broadband to rural and Tribal communities that is essential to their civic, economic, and educational livelihoods. The program will offer eligible recipients a mix of grants, grants and loans combined, and just loans to deploy truly robust broadband networks (capable of 100/100 Mbps upload/download broadband speeds) to eligible communities. Much of what is in the ReConnect program is consistent with Public Knowledge’s advocacy on the infrastructure bill pending before Congress, so we are excited to see the USDA’s RUS step up to deliver meaningful broadband access to rural and tribal communities.

What do we love about this program? There is a lot to love here. Specifically, in order to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, including Tribal areas, are able to benefit from this opportunity, the RUS has set aside $350 million in grant funding for Tribal governments and “socially vulnerable communities” to build 100/100 Mbps networks to their communities.

The scoring is particularly interesting…

Moreover, Public Knowledge is very excited about the evaluation criteria that will be used to award funding. Projects will be ranked and awarded funding based on criteria that includes points for addressing affordability (20 points), serving higher poverty areas (20 points), committing to net neutrality (10 points), and offering wholesale broadband service (10 points).

MRBC  Update: Congress Passes Infrastructure Bill, Broadband Funding

An update from the MN Rural Broadband Coalition

Congress Passes Historic Infrastructure Bill, $60 billion for Broadband

Many of you will have already read or heard the good news that on Friday, November 5, the U.S. House the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act 228-206, with six Democrats voting against and 13 Republicans in favor. The bill contains $60 billion for broadband expansion, including $42 billion in grants to states. Since it had already passed the U.S. Senate, it is now headed to the President’s desk for his signature. It’s the biggest investment in infrastructure in the U.S. in many years.

Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve learned is in the bill related to broadband:

  • $60 billion total for broadband
  • $42 billion for grants to states
  • Minimum of $110 million to each state in direct grants. Final $$ based on how many served/unserved households in the state.
    • Less than 25/3=unserved; less than 100/20 underserved. Identical to MN statutes.
    • States must apply for funds.
    • Funds will be routed through Department of Commerce
  • $14.2 billion for Emergency Broadband Benefit extension
  • $2.75 billion for digital equity and adoption grants
  • $2 billion for USDA Reconnect program
  • $2 billion for grants to tribal areas

The Coalition is very excited to see this once-in-a-lifetime investment finally get across the finish line in Washington. It will take time for the Department of Commerce and the Treasury to flesh out the full guidelines of the grants to states, but we will keep you updated as we learn more in the coming weeks and months.

Minnesota Senator and Congress member response to the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2021

KARE 11 reports on Minnesota response to the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2021…

Representative Dean Phillips says the package will provide the following for Minnesota:

  • Highways: $4.5 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and
  • Public transportation: $818 million to improve our public transportation
  • Water Infrastructure: $680 million over five years to improve water infrastructure
  • Bridges: $302 million for bridge replacement and repairs
  • Broadband internet: $100 million
  • Wildfire protection: $20 million
  • Cybersecurity: $17 million

The high level answer is that no Minnesota representatives were on the list of 13 Republicans who broke party ranks to vote for the infrastructure bill. US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was the only member of the delegation to break party ranks to vote against the infrastructure bill as it advanced without Build Back Better provisions. Here are quick takes from each…

U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum

“The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act is a once-in-a-generation investment in our roads, bridges, and communities. It will help us maintain and improve our existing physical infrastructure, which Minnesotans know all too well is long overdue. It includes funding for clean energy innovation, electric vehicle infrastructure, transportation, and critical improvements to water infrastructure that will help protect public health. Today I voted to send this bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.”

U.S. Congresswoman Angie Craig

“Today, we made good on our promises to invest in America’s highways, roads, bridges and broadband for our rural communities. This bipartisan package will create millions of good-paying jobs, help our economic recovery and rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure for future generations. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver this historic achievement for Minnesotans.”

U.S. Congressman Dean Phillips 

“Investments in roads, bridges, waterways, energy, broadband, and the future of our nation is a unifying need and opportunity,” said Rep. Phillips. “This package will allow our nation to make smart, fiscally responsible investments in our infrastructure and in our people. We must send this legislation to President Biden’s desk as soon as possible, so we can get shovels in the ground and people to work.”

U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

“From the beginning, I have been clear that I would not be able to support the infrastructure bill without a vote on the Build Back Better Act. Passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first risks leaving behind childcare, paid leave, health care, climate action, housing, education, and a roadmap to citizenship.”

“My community cannot wait any longer for these much-needed investments that will be delivered through the Build Back Better Act. I cannot in good conscience support the infrastructure bill without voting on the President’s transformative agenda first.”

U.S. Congressman Jim Hagedorn

“President Biden and House Democrats are working to push the most radical and extreme agenda in American history. Their schemes are littered with reckless leftwing planks to raise taxes, increase deficit spending, impose the Green New Deal, grant amnesty to illegals, expand welfare programs without work requirements, and woke so called “equity” programs that use race and identity to discriminate.

What is at our gates now is a Trojan Horse for the Democrats to force their socialist agenda on the American people. We must vehemently reject these harmful ideas and policies and return to commonsense and the time-tested principles: limited government, free enterprise capitalism, and fiscal responsibility. Only with a return to such principles and fighting for conservative values can we restore America’s greatness.”

U.S. Congressman Pete Stauber

“No one wants an infrastructure bill more than me, and I have long stated that it is important we return to regular order with a bicameral, bipartisan package that invests in traditional infrastructure projects, creates jobs, and spends taxpayer dollars wisely.

Regrettably, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat leaders made it abundantly clear that the $1.2 trillion Senate infrastructure bill is inextricably linked to their bloated multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend package.

Make no mistake; a vote for this “infrastructure” package is a vote for the reckless multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend spree. That’s why I voted NO.”

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar

“With this bipartisan infrastructure package we came together across party lines to improve roads, highways, bridges, and public transit while greatly expanding broadband and addressing climate change by upgrading our power grid. We now must work to pass the Build Back Better Act to bring down costs for families, ensure Americans can afford lifesaving medications, and put us on the path to a green energy future.”

The Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2021 passes!

We’ve been waiting for other shoe to drop since the Senate sent the bill to the House in August but the big news is that the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2021 has passed. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance reports

Today the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2021 passed in the House, meaning the biggest federal investment ever in digital equity.

“This moment is unprecedented,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “Not only is the funding an incredible down payment on digital equity, it is an acknowledgment of two decades of grassroots efforts to bridge the digital divide. NDIA and our community will make the most of this moment.”

The following digital inclusion elements are included in the new Infrastructure Act:

  • Digital Equity Act: $2.75 billion over 5 years
  • Broadband Grants for States, DC, Puerto Rico & Territories: $42.5 billion
  • Broadband Benefit: $14.2 billion
  • Tribal Connectivity Program: $2 billion
  • Middle Mile Connectivity: $1 billion
  • “Digital Discrimination” by internet service providers is prohibited
  • Clear labeling of consumer broadband service offerings and prices

National Digital Inclusion Alliance was a major initiator and supporter of the Digital Equity Act, with the organization’s own definitions of “digital inclusion” and “digital equity” setting the standards in the act.

OPPORTUNITY: Sherburne County looking for partners to build better broadband with ARPA grants

WJON reports

Sherburne County is using some America Rescue Plan Act dollars to invest in broadband service for their residents and businesses.

The county is taking applications from service providers to share in a $1.5-million grant to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas.

Eligible projects must be substantially completed on or before December 31st in 2024.

The effort is to bring reliable, affordable high-speed internet to more Sherburne County households and businesses.

The application can be found on Sherburne County’s website and all applications are due on December 31st this year.

Here’s a little more info on the opportunity from the grant guidelines…

The purpose of the Sherburne County Broadband Access Grant Program is to encourage and facilitate necessary investment in broadband projects designed to provide high- speed, reliable, and affordable broadband service to unserved or underserved households and businesses in Sherburne County. The County may award up to $1,500,000 in grants to service providers for eligible projects that will provide service designed to reliably meet or exceed a symmetrical 100 Mbps download and upload speeds or, where symmetrical 100 Mbps speeds are not practicable, 100 Mbps download and at least 20 Mbps upload speeds, along with other requirements set forth in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”).

The Broadband Access Grant Program will be administered through the County Administrator’s office.

Faribault County one step closer to using CARES money for better broadband

The Fairmont Sentinel reports

The cities of Bricelyn, Delavan, Elmore and Frost moved another step closer in being able to begin a broadband project to install fiber optic cable in their cities, courtesy of a grant program.

Faribault County Economic Development Authority (EDA) specialist Annie Nichols attended the Faribault County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday to give an update on the project.

“The first step was to complete an environmental review,” Nichols told the commissioners. “This has been completed and we are waiting for the go ahead from DEED (Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development) to post it for review from other government agencies.”

Nichols asked the commissioners to set Dec. 21, during their regularly scheduled meeting, for a public hearing on the matter.

“This grant is money from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security) Act,” Nichols reminded the board. “I would also ask you to consider contracting with CCG Consulting to prepare the necessary documentation according to state and federal regulations. CCG Consulting is a full-service telecom consulting company and they have extensive knowledge on the grant programs.”

The board passed a motion to hire CCG Consulting to develop a RFP (Request for Proposal) and contract for an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and engineer for the project.