Mediacom extends fiber to Fountain (Fillmore County) with MN State broadband grant

Bluff Country News reports…

Mediacom Communications announced it has built more than seven miles of fiber optic cable connecting the homes and businesses of Fountain to its Fillmore County broadband network.

By mid-December, Mediacom will activate the new portion of its network to deliver advanced telecommunication services, including robust one-gigabit-per-second internet speeds that are up to 40 times faster than the minimum broadband definition set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The project was made possible by a Border to Border Broadband Development Grant provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Through this public/private partnership, DEED allocated funds to pay for up to 48-percent of the $400,000 network construction cost. Mediacom’s capital investment covered the remaining 52-percent of the project to create Fountain’s first facilities-based broadband network and makes gigabit internet speeds available to residents and businesses throughout the community.

Mediacom has been a longtime service provider in the Fillmore County communities of Canton, Chatfield, Lanesboro, Mabel, Peterson, Preston, Rushford and Spring Valley. With the addition of Fountain, 183 mid-sized and smaller communities throughout Minnesota are now connected to Mediacom’s fiber-rich broadband network.

 

RS Fiber Renville County broadband grant project on track for June 2019 completion

The West Central Tribune reports…

A project to provide broadband service to underserved areas in Renville County is on track for a June 2019 completion.

Work should be getting underway this week to install an underground, fiber-optic cable along a leg of the network near Sacred Heart, Ben Ranft, general manager of Renville Sibley Fiber/Hiawatha Broadband Communications, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

RS Fiber/HBC is a cooperative that was formed to provide broadband service to Sibley County and rural portions of Renville County. Now in its third year, the cooperative serves 2,000 homes and businesses, most located in Sibley County, according to a report by Broadband Communities magazine.

The state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program awarded a $865,000 grant for the Renville County portion of the project. The grant calls for providing service to 193 underserved households, 99 underserved businesses and three community anchor institutions in portions of the townships of Preston Lake, Boon Lake, Brookfield, Osceola, Kingman, Winfield, Crooks, Erickson, Sacred Heart, Emmet, Flor, Henryville, Norfolk, Birch Cooley, Camp and Cairo.

The total project cost is estimated at $2 million or more, according to Ranft.

Woodstock Communications expand coverage in Pipestone County

The Pipestone County Star reports…

Fiber optic cable is going in the ground between Edgerton and a communications tower northeast of Trosky as part of Woodstock Communications’ effort to expand internet service in the county.
The tower near Trosky is one of two existing towers the company plans to lease space on and connect fiber to as part of its effort to bring high-speed internet service to unserved parts of Pipestone County with a hybrid fiber-wireless system. The other tower is north of Pipestone.
Woodstock Communications also plans to build two new communications towers — one in Altona Township and one in Eden Township — that it will use to transmit wireless internet service. The towers are expected to provide broadband service within a six-mile radius.
When complete, the system is expected to serve 135 currently unserved households, 540 unserved businesses and one unserved community anchor institution, the Altona Township Hall. It’s expected to provide internet speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading and 3 Mbps uploading, meeting the federal government definition of broadband. In some areas, higher speeds of 75 Mbps downloading and 25 Mbps uploading are expected.
The fiber installation — about 15-20 miles in all — and tower construction are part of a $967,000 project for which Woodstock Communications received a $363,851 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota last fall.

Minnesota model is one where the State supports local involvement is broadband deployment

The Hill reports on opposite views of the Community Broadband Act…

Lawmakers on Tuesday sparred over ways to bring more investment to rural broadband services.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology heard from experts on the problems with building out rural broadband.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the subpanel’s chair, said government needed to complement private investment not compete against it.

Lawmakers on Tuesday sparred over ways to bring more investment to rural broadband services.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology heard from experts on the problems with building out rural broadband.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the subpanel’s chair, said government needed to complement private investment not compete against it.

The discussion helps me appreciate the Minnesota Model as administered by the Office of Broadband Development. Yes, it wasn’t funded for next year due to circumstances unrelated to broadband or the program. BUT the pieces are there for State funding to support local broadband through the grants. Local may mean partnering with a national provider (such as Sunrise Township) or a local cooperative (such as West Central Telephone). Allowing for projects to brew from the grassroots opens the doors to many solutions. And each community needs something different. As the saying goes – if you’ve been to one small town in Minnesota, you’ve been to one small town in MN.

Lack of rural broadband is hurting business – reprinted letter from Inter-County Leader

Thank you to the Inter-County Leader for permission to re-post a letter to the editor from someone who had experience with fiber in Minnesota and is talking about what life is like without broadband…

Rural Internet service

When I recently volunteered at Forts Folle Avoine during a fundraising event, their credit card machine stopped working. This was eventually fixed but staff said it happens quite often, especially when they have events where there are lots of people wanting to charge. The staff indicated that internet service in that area was poor.

The previous year, during Gandy Dancer Days, the credit card machine in the coffee shop in Webster did not work. They lost business as people didn’t have cash and most don’t use checks. On a recent visit to the coffee shop, the credit card machine was working but they had no internet. A customer said she was looking for a job and relies on using the internet at places like the coffee shop to apply for jobs. She stated that the school where she previously worked had iPads for students, but they often couldn’t connect due to slow internet speed. So she used her cell phone hot spot which cost her around $200 a month for unlimited data.She stated that this lack of access to the internet does not give local students an equal opportunity in education when compared with other locations in more populated areas.

About two years ago the school where I worked in rural Minnesota, a small town of 500, was getting up-to-date fiber optic cable for better internet access. I believe this was partly funded by the state of Minnesota.

With a population of 15,000 for the whole county of Burnett, the internet provider doesn’t seem to be concerned about the poor internet service. What the company doesn’t realize is that many “lakers,” some coming from the Twin Cities, want good internet service and they are at their cabins regularly. I would recommend that people interested in improving the internet connection in Northwest Wisconsin contact their legislators and their internet service providers asking for better up-to-date internet.

Pam Girtz

Frederic

Unfortunately the state funding she mentions above was not funded in the last legislative session – it was part of the Supplemental Budget that was vetoed.

 

Pickwick MN getting online thanks to MN State Funds and HBC

The Winona Post reports on the progress of a Border to Border grant project in the Pickwick area…

The promise of high-speed Internet has been a long time coming for Pickwick area residents. When HBC won a $561,000 state grant in 2015 to cover half the cost of extending fiberoptic Internet cables to Trout Creek Valley, Cedar Valley, and Whitewater State Park, the company expected the cables to be laid and the broadband internet flowing by 2017. HBC has completed work to bring broadband to those other areas, but it has yet to begin laying wires in Trout Creek Valley. CEO Dan Pecarina said that work should begin this summer.

It turns out Pickwick was a more difficult area to serve…

Remote and sparsely populated, it is very expensive to extend new fiberoptic cable to rural homes and businesses. “It is anywhere from four to 10 times what it costs to build out a network in town,” Pecarina said. With state grants covering half the cost, some rural projects make financial sense, but the most expensive rural projects are still a difficult business proposition with a long wait for return on investment, he stated.
Pickwick turned out such a project, Pecarina stated. HBC has plans to run fiberoptic cable along County Road 7 the length of the valley, but connecting the mouth of the valley to HBC’s larger distribution network on Highway 61 is the problem, he explained. HBC has existing fiberoptic cable just over a mile upriver, but there is a tight bend where Highway 61 is squeezed between a bluff, the railroad, and the river, where laying fiberoptic cable would require boring through rock, Pecarina explained. That is very expensive.
Once HBC realized how difficult connecting to the head of Trout Creek Valley would be, the company looked for alternatives. Pecarina said the company spent most of 2017 analyzing other options. HBC was also purchased by Indiana-based Schurz Communications that year. After looking at all the options, Pecarina said his firm has come up with a workable solution for Pickwick.
HBC plans to beam wireless Internet across the Mississippi River to Trout Creek Valley from two locations in Wisconsin: one downriver in Trempealeau and one upriver near the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge. It is not ideal, Pecarina admitted. State officials and companies prefer fiberoptic cable because it has the capacity to provide even higher speeds in the future, but Pecarina said that the Pickwick project’s point-to-point wireless connection will still be able to provide the DEED-mandated broadband speeds. “They’re still going to get the speed an all-fiberoptic network would have … we just can’t build fiberoptic into the valley at a feasible price,” he stated. “We’ll have enough bandwidth pumped into the valley to serve everyone with one-gigabit service if they want to go to that.” In the future, HBC would like to extend fiberoptic cable from Ridgeway to the head of the valley, he added.

Unfortunately the funding for rural broadband was not renewed through the 2018 Legislature.

Rep Layman lists broadband funding as a loss felt with Supplemental Budget veto

In an Editorial in the Grand Rapids Herald Review, Representative Layman specifically lists broadband funding as a loss felt by rural Minnesotans with the Governor’s veto of the Supplemental Budget…

On May 20, we wrapped up the legislative session by putting bills on the governor’s desk to cut taxes, provide schools with more funding, and expand broadband in rural Minnesota. Moreover, we took major steps to address and fix the enormous challenges faced by Minnesotans due to the Dayton administration’s MNLARS debacle and the revelation of years of elder abuse reports neglected by Minnesota’s Department of Health and Human Services. We completed our work on schedule and made a good-faith effort at compromise. Despite the compromise effort, the governor vetoed our tax and school funding bill as well as our supplemental budget, which will mean major consequences for many, many Minnesotans.