Mankato Free Press reacts to Blue Earth County broadband feasibility study

Earlier this week, I mentioned the Blue Earth County broadband feasibility study, which outlined the high cost of getting fiber to everyone in the county. Mankato Free Press reacts to the study…

The shortage of broadband creates a kind of decision with multiple bad choices: Expand millions to create networks and expect to lose money or require broadband providers to build those networks, or, of course, do nothing and leave the market to push business out of rural areas and to big cities.

In these times where rural America is being left behind, according to certain politicians, it seems there would be some kind of push to subsidize rural broadband or require some telecom and broadband providers to contribute to a development fund.

Broadband is to the 2020s what rural electricity was to the 1930s. We know rural America got its electricity. Now it needs its broadband.

They seem to suggest greater funding for the State Broadband grants…

Minnesota Democrats have typically favored more funding with past proposals by the DFL in the area of $100 million to $200 million, while Republicans have favored less funding. Gov. Mark Dayton’s Broadband Task Force, a nonpartisan group, said in a report two years ago, that $1.4 billion would be needed to hook up everyone in the state to broadband. More recently, Gov. Tim Walz and Republicans have been agreeing on funding of about $35 million a year, still far short of needs.

Kandiyohi County doing feasibility study to investigate broadband grant options

Lakeland Broadcsting reports…

The Willmar and Kandiyohi County Economic Development Commission says a contract with Compass Consultants Inc. for an engineering study will determine fiber broadband feasibility in rural Kandiyohi County townships, including Dovre, Mamre and St. Johns townships. Pending the study outcomes and a positive response from the township constituents, the EDC will submit a Border-to-Border application to the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD) by August 2020.

They also provide a little history…

Kandiyohi County was granted a 4.9 million dollar Border-to-Border grant in 2017 to improve broadband in an area north of Willmar but the project fell through when the contractor, Consolidated Telephone, decided not to do the work out of fears there wasn’t enough interest.

More details on the previous grant – CTC was looking for 50 percent of potential customers to sign up for service. And competitor TDS announced plans to expand (using A-CAM funding) to parts of Kandiyohi County.

CenturyLink upgrades broadband services around Pipestone County MN

Pipestone Star reports…

CenturyLink has been installing fiber-optic cable around the city of Pipestone as part of a broadband upgrade that includes the installation of 25 fiber nodes throughout the community.

Some of those nodes have already been turned up.

The company currently offers DSL internet service with maximum advertised speed of 40 megabits per second (Mbps) downloading, and 2 Mbps uploading.

With the upgrades, fiber-optic service will be offered at 100 Mbps downloading, 10 Mbps uploading. State statutory goals are that all Minnesota businesses and homes will have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps by 2022. No later than 2026, those speeds increase to 100 Mbps downloading and 20 Mbps uploading.

CenturyLink is advertising prices of $49 per month for up to 100 Mbps. The fiber-optic speeds are believed to extend about a mile from a node, with lower speeds beyond that up to 2.5 miles.

They report that speeds are different throughout the county…

All of these options are available in varying degrees throughout Pipestone County. The fastest of these is fiber-optic but it’s also the most expensive to install. Woodstock Communications recently completed a fiber-optic upgrade that offers speeds in parts of Pipestone County of 1,000 Mbps up and down (or 1 gigabit per second up and down).

Companies like Woodstock Communications and CenturyLink have used the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program to help build broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. In this year’s 2019 legislative session, $20 million was appropriated for each of the next two years and is accessed by companies through competitive grant rounds that provide up to 50 percent of a project’s infrastructure costs to a maximum of $5 million.

 

Morcom Township (St Louis County) hoping for a MN broadband grant

The Timberjay reports…

Residents here, who have been without reliable Internet access for years, could soon have some of the best broadband speeds in the area, if final funding from the state’s Border-to-Border grant program is approved later this year.

The Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation recently approved a $224,800 grant to the township, which means Morcom Township has now secured three-quarters of the $899,200 they’ll need to bring broadband to the 126 unserved and underserved households in the township and in an adjacent unorganized township to the north. Morcom Township is located west of Cook.

“We are just waiting to hear in December if we qualified for the state Border to Border grant,” said Morcom Town Clerk Sasha Lehto. Morcom is asking for $331,704 in border-to-border funding under a plan to utilize Paul Bunyan Communications as the township’s broadband provider. Paul Bunyan would commit $332,696 to the effort. Morcom Township has committed $10,000 in township funds for the project.

“This was out of our really small budget,” said Lehto, “but either you want it or you don’t. This is for our people.”

The need for reliable internet service in the Morcom Township area is clear.

The article demonstrates the importance of the MN grants. The hope they bring but in reality the state grants are the difference between a community getting improved broadband or not. I saw the difference it made looking at the most recent MN broadband county profiles – counties with grants saw improvement.

The article outlines a few project proposals from the area…

IRRR grants for broadband projects were also approved for:

 $579,272 to Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for the construction of a fiber network to serve 442 unserved and underserved households on the reservation. Total project cost is $2,317,090.

 $105,450 for Ash River for the construction of a broadband network for 121 unserved and underserved households in the Ash River area. Total project cost is $421,800.

 $236,050 for the Elephant and Black Duck lake areas for the construction of a fiber network to serve 124 unserved and underserved households near Elephant Lake. Total project cost is $944,200.

Both Paul Bunyan Communications (Ash River and Elephant Lake) and Consolidated Telephone Company (Bois Forte) are provider partners for these projects. All these projects are also scheduled to receive state funding from the Border to Border program (pending final approval).

Four companies seek broadband grants for Douglas County

The Alexandria Echo Press reports…

Four companies have applied for state grants to expand internet access next year in Douglas County, according to records made public last week.

Arvig, Charter, Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association and Runestone Telecom Association are all seeking some of the $20 million the Minnesota Legislature approved this year to help expand high-quality internet access throughout the state.

They took a look at how the providers chose their areas…

Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association has applied for six grants, responding to neighborhoods that organized and asked for service, said Executive Director Dave Wolf.

“The neighborhoods we selected were all unserved as far as the state map was concerned,” he said. “We had been reached out to by residents in those neighborhoods.”

A Lake Victoria neighborhood was particularly active, he said, with residents helping to organize their neighbors.

“It’s a grass roots thing, very effective, but we encourage that,” Wolf said.

Next year, Gardonville would like to run fiber to 600 homes, including 300 existing customers and 300 new customers, he said. Gardonville chose to break up its grant requests into six projects, hoping that if one grant gets turned down, another will win approval.

Meanwhile, Runestone applied for just one grant, but it covers a sizable chunk of turf south of Interstate 94.

“This is by far the biggest one that we’ve applied for,” Hedstrom said. Runestone’s first grant was for 100 locations and its second was for 400 locations. This one includes 965 locations.

“We kind of went where people called, and where people contacted us,” he said. “It doesn’t make much sense to do (Lake) Andrew and Forada and skip everybody in between. They’re just as important as everybody else.”

And here’s a look at the specifics…

It’s unlikely that all these projects would receive full funding from Minnesota’s Border-to-Border grant program. However, they outline the neighborhoods that internet providers in Douglas County want to reach. Every project listed here would provide internet speeds well above the state’s goals.

Charter

  • Along U.S. Highway 29 southwest of Carlos, including Maple Way and Maple Lane NE. It would provide speeds of 940 megabits per second download and 35 megabits per second upload.

Gardonville

  • South of the interstate on the north side of Lake Andrew
  • Between Lakes Darling and Ida, around Lake Charley
  • Southeast of Garfield, along Centennial Drive NW from N. Oaks Lane NW to County Road 22 NW
  • Inside the wishbone of Lake Victoria, along its eastern shoreline
  • Near the Minnesouri Club, along Krohnfeldt Drive on Lake Miltona
  • Around Lakes Mina and Latoka
  • Gardonville would provide speeds of one gigabit upload and one gigabit download.

Runestone

  • Just one grant, but it’s a biggie, looping a chunk of Douglas County south of I-94. Like Gardonville, it would provide one gigabit down and one gigabit up.

Arvig/Tekstar

  • It also wants grant money to install connections in Forada and around Maple Lake; it would provide speeds of one gigabit down and 100 megabits up.

The Echo Press did a nice job getting info that is helpful to the community and beyond!

 

2019 Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program Applications Received—Challenge Process Begins

Highlights from the Office of Broadband Development:

  • 78 applications came in for broadband funding
  • Challenges to those applications must be in by Oct 18

Full news…

Seventy-eight (78) applications for the 2019 Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant program were received by the September 13 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 at http://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program/index.jsp under the “Challenge Process” tab.  Any challenges must be submitted in writing by 4:00 p.m., Friday, October 18, 2019 to the Office of Broadband Development, 1st National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101.

 

 

Pipestone County broadband expansion is completed

The Pipestone Star reports…

An estimated 135 Pipestone County households that did not previously have access to broadband internet now do following the completion of a nearly $1 million project by Woodstock Communications.

The project included the installation of about 20 miles of fiber optic cable, two new communications towers — one in Altona Township and one in Eden Township — and the installation of equipment on two existing towers near Trosky and north of Pipestone. Terry Nelson, general manager for Woodstock Communications, said the project was completed around Aug. 1.

Internet through the new hybrid fiber and wireless system exceeds the federal definition of broadband internet, which is 25 megabits (Mbps) downloading and 3 Mbps uploading, in most areas. Nelson said the wireless internet service can provide internet speeds up to 50 Mbps downloading and 25 Mbps uploading within about six miles of the towers. …

In addition to the 135 households, the expanded broadband service is expected to make high speed internet service available to 540 previously unserved businesses and one unserved community anchor institution, the Altona Township Hall.

Woodstock Communications received a $363,851 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota in the fall of 2017 to pay for a portion of the cost of the project. The project was expected to be completed and providing service late last year, but Nelson said the project was delayed by the permitting process and the weather this past spring.

Now that it’s complete, Nelson said the company is testing the services with about a dozen customers. It then plans to begin marketing the service more broadly in the next few weeks.