It’s time for the MN Broadband Model to bring broadband to communities without ability to ask

The Duluth News Tribune posts a letter to the editor from David Beard, who teaches writing and communication at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He outlines some projects that have done a great job bringing broadband to some parts of the northland but the letter is a reminder that we are not all there and until we are, we need to keep working…

Imagine if you had to drive to your local library to virtually visit with a therapist about your increasing anxiety during the pandemic. Or imagine if you had to drive to the community center to ask your doctor to take a look at the mole that appeared on your forearm. It sounds inconvenient, invasive, and awkward.

And yet, for as long as one in 10 Minnesotans lacks access to broadband internet, we are telling our (mostly rural) neighbors that we don’t care how inconvenient, invasive, and awkward it can be for them to see their doctor.

Broadband internet access is a health care equity issue, and we need to do more.

FCC announces some RDOF winners – in MN that’s Farmers Mutual Telephone Company

FCC announced 466 RDOF winning bids. The only winner announced in Minnesota was Farmers Mutual Telephone Company. Here’s the announcement

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids identified in Attachment A of this Public Notice.

For each of the winning bids identified in Attachment A, we have reviewed the long-form application information, including the letter(s) of credit and Bankruptcy Code opinion letter(s) from the long-form applicant’s legal counsel.  Based on the representations and certifications in the relevant long-form application, we authorize support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

We will also soon post a state-level summary under the “Results” tab on the Auction 904 webpage at https://www.fcc.gov/auction/904/round-results.  The summary will provide for each long-form applicant included in this Public Notice:  1) the total support amount over 10 years and total number of locations that the long-form applicant is being authorized for in each state, 2) the total number of locations to which the authorized support recipient must offer the required voice and broadband services for each performance tier and latency in each state, and 3) the eligible census blocks included in the winning bids that are being authorized in each state.

Here are some of the details for the Farmers Mutual bids:

Winning bid MN-073-1801002

  • 26 locations
  • $21,054.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801001

  • 2 locations
  • $ 7,626.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801003

  • 6 locations
  • $ 2,294.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802001

  • 119 locations
  • $ 216,152.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802002

  • 37 locations
  • $ 166,258.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803001

  • 39 locations
  • $ 152,096.00

Winning bid MN-073-1803002

  • 78 locations
  • $ 177,172.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803003

  • 25 locations
  • $ 17,170.00 over 10 years

No word on LTD.

South Central & Southeast Regional Broadband Conference Notes & Video

It’s been a great day of broadband conversations around the state. Three regional broadband conferences happened today and I’ll post on each separately. (There will be eight regional meetings leading up to statewide fall conference Oct 12-14.)

There were 40-50 people in attendance. The run of the day:

  • A panel on Mapping the Broadband Challenge looked at broadband maps and data collected by DEED’s Office of Broadband Development, the South East Minnesota League of Municipalities and the Minnesota Broadband Coalition.
  • Two regional initiatives talked about how to advance broadband-fueled economic and community development in the region: Red Wing Ignite and the Le Sueur County Broadband Initiative.
  • Ended with an exercise to prioritize broadband opportunities in this region, and talk about next steps.

Here are the presentations:

And chat from the day. The chat includes attendee introductions but also any resources share or questions… Continue reading

EVENT Sep 16: Regional Broadband Summit

From the Land

A regional broadband summit will be offered as a virtual event 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Conference speakers include representatives from Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, Red Wing Ignite and Le Sueur County’s Broadband Initiative. Participants will discuss access and adoption, regional prioritization and how to use American Recovery Act funds for broadband investments.

Register at: https://bit.ly/3AgekKI.

This is a regional event, leading up to the Fall Broadband Conference.

EVENT Sep 22: Broadband Informational Meeting Coming In Wright County

From Wright County

Wright County is in the process of gathering information and public input on improving the county’s broadband capability and part of that process will include a public informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 in the Wright County Board Room at the Government Center in downtown Buffalo (10 Second St. NW).

The county has contracted with the firm Design Nine out of Blacksburg, Virginia to complete a broadband study which included a public survey that was mailed out to all county residents in August. Jack Maytum, a senior broadband analyst with Design Nine, will be making a presentation of the results and will answer questions residents might have concerning the project.

The goal is to connect the underserved areas of Wright County with high-speed internet. The study will serve as a guide for the implementation of an expanded and improved broadband network and provide strategies to address rural high-speed internet deficiencies. The study will also provide the standards required for the county to seek out funding for state and federal grant programs designed to improve broadband connectivity.

For more information or for those with questions about the process or the informational meeting, contact Wright County Project Administrator Elizabeth Karels at elizabeth.karels@co.wright.mn.us or by calling (763) 684-8604.

 

MN Broadband Task Force Sep Meeting: Education acerbated needs and creative tech solutions during pandemic

Today the MN Broadband Task Force heard from folks who work to help families and children get and use the technology they need – especially in these times of distance and hybrid learning. They also heard from folks involved with Blandin Foundation Accelerate!, a program that supported and recharged some of the least served communities in Minnesota. (Blandin in looking for a new cohort of Accelerate communities!)

Hand outs from the day:

TF Connected MN MN Broadband Task Force_09.15.21 Final
TF MilleLacs slides broadband task force 9.15.21
TF Online Learning Update – 9-2021

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting Continue reading

EVENT Sep 15: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting (topic: education)

The meeting is virtual; I plan to attend and will livestream – although the meeting is open to the public and you too can join directly…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

September 15, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Join with a video conferencing device

mn@m.webex.com

Video Conference ID: 111 512 968 3

Alternate VTC instructions

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development Update

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. MN Department of Education Online/Distance Learning Presentation
Jeff Plaman, Online and Digital Learning Specialist

10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.  East Central MN Rural Broadband Panel
Heidi Steinmetz, Kanabec County Economic Development Director;
Lezlie Sauter, Pine County Economic Development Coordinator;
Beth Gruber, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Director of Planning & Community Engagement

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Partnership for a ConnectedMN (Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation)
Anne Hoyt Taff, Associate Vice President of Community Impact
Dustin Moretz, Community Initiatives Program Manager

11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ECMECC Digital Navigator Project
Marc Johnson, ECMECC
Dihanna Fedder, Digital Navigator, Pine City Public Schools

12:00 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Subgroup Reports

12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, October Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

Fiber Minnesota creates statewide fiber network in MN

News from Fiber Minnesota…

Fiber Minnesota, LLC, a Minnesota fiber-optic transport carrier announced it has merged with fiber transport providers Broadband Visions (BBV) and SM Broadband (SMB) to create one of MN’s largest fiber transport networks.
The deal increases the Fiber Minnesota backbone network by more than 60% to a total of 3,900 route miles of fiber. The merged networks will operate under the Fiber Minnesota brand.
Combining the assets of these networks will enable MN’s rural telecom and broadband providers to deliver increasingly advanced services to consumers and carriers, faster and more efficiently.
“This merger is the culmination of 18 months of work, resulting in one of the largest and most robust fiber networks in the state, providing significant benefits for
consumers, enterprise customers, carriers, major wireless providers, the owners and the entire State,” said Jason Dale, Fiber Minnesota CEO. “As technology and rural
transport economics have changed, it’s clear that a unified state-wide network is a key ingredient to remaining relevant in the transport world. By combining these
complementary networks, we’ve taken another huge step forward. We are extremely excited for the opportunities this new combined network provides.”
The expanded Fiber Minnesota footprint connects nearly all corners of the state with multiple redundant routes, including rural areas often bypassed by other players.
This merger comes after the successful 2020 acquisition by Cooperative Network Services (CNS) of the WCTG fiber network, its integration with the original CNS network, and the subsequent launch of subsidiary Fiber Minnesota for all CNS network operations. The members of BBV and SMB join CNS as shareholders of Fiber Minnesota, together representing 33 different owners or ownership groups, most of which are operating companies / ISPs serving rural Minnesota and neighboring areas. BBV continues
to operate its video headend and Internet services divisions, while SMB has completely merged into Fiber Minnesota.
According to Glenn Zerbe, Board Chair of BBV / President of Nuvera Communications, “The broad ownership base is an advantage for Fiber Minnesota as it partners with its own shareholders for the connectivity of its core network to a staggering network of last-mile fiber throughout the
state. Consumers and institutions, especially those in rural areas, will experience a higher degree of reliability for broadband and related services. All three of these networks complement each other, and their combination removes redundancies and offers greater scale. The ability to keep
more traffic on-net is imperative as the transport network industry evolves.”
The motivation to combine these networks was clear with BBV, CNS and SMB all having multiple shareholders in common, and each network having significant overlapping segments with the others. However, it was still a tall order to rally all the companies involved.
“There have been multiple efforts over the years to put our statewide independent network back together here in Minnesota. We were fortunate this time around with the right people, the right model, and the right time for it all to come together. The benefits of this merger would not have
been possible without the fantastic leadership of the BBV, SMB, CNS, and FM management teams and shareholders,” said Bill Eckles, President of SMB / CEO of Bevcomm. “The merged network fits strategically for the long term provision of critical broadband services.”
Similar to surrounding states Minnesota’s fiber transport landscape has long been made up of smaller regional networks, but as technology and the industry have evolved, so too has the need for a larger, unified network. For years, Minnesota has differed from neighboring states, where the independent telecommunications / broadband providers joined forces decades ago to create statewide networks – enjoying robust facilities and advanced centralized solutions.
“This is a big win for the independent telecom providers in MN and for the customers they serve,” said Dean Bahls, Fiber Minnesota’s Network Operations Manager.
“Minnesota has now achieved the ‘statewide fiber network’ many other surrounding states have enjoyed for years.
The increased footprint will provide direct connectivity to nearly all of the independent ISPs in the state as well as connectivity to many more on-net customers throughout the state. Additionally, adding diverse connections to wholesale Internet providers and peering exchanges will be more cost-effective now and help contain
costs in the future — a key ingredient to a sustainable business model for rural
broadband providers in serving their customers, especially those in Greater
Minnesota and neighboring areas.”
Integration of the three networks will be phased over the next 24 to 36 months.
Streamlined quoting and turn-up With the increase of on-net route miles, quoting circuits will be faster, and pricing will be more competitive. Customers will enjoy highly available services, with faster resolution times.
Network of Networks
As with the current Fiber Minnesota network, through partnership with 702 Communications, the combined network will participate in the Aurora Fiber Optic Networks brand (aurorafonet.com), and through that partnership will continue to be a part of the INDATEL nationwide “network of networks”.

EVENT Sep 22: Wright County is looking at better broadband

Patch reports

 

Wright County is in the process of gathering information and public input on improving the county’s broadband capability and part of that process will include a public informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 in the Wright County Board Room at the Government Center in downtown Buffalo (10 Second St. NW).

The county has contracted with the firm Design Nine out of Blacksburg, Virginia to complete a broadband study which included a public survey that was mailed out to all county residents in August. Jack Maytum, a senior broadband analyst with Design Nine, will be making a presentation of the results and will answer questions residents might have concerning the project.

The goal is to connect the underserved areas of Wright County with high-speed internet. The study will serve as a guide for the implementation of an expanded and improved broadband network and provide strategies to address rural high-speed internet deficiencies. The study will also provide the standards required for the county to seek out funding for state and federal grant programs designed to improve broadband connectivity.

EVENT Sep 16: West Central Initiative’s Broadening Our Broadband

More info from the Perham Focus on West Central Initiative’s Broadening Our Broadband Regional event, which is part of a series of regional events happening before the Fall (online) Broadband Conference…

West Central Initiative will host Broadening Our Broadband, a discussion featuring a panel of rural broadband industry professionals and policy experts, on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 11 a.m. via Zoom.

The panel will focus on imagining new possibilities that come with enhanced broadband access, learning how communities can prepare for potential future funding opportunities and hearing how the region can leverage broadband access to better support students, businesses and communities. You can register for the event at wcif.org/events.

“High-speed internet access is fundamental to vibrant rural communities,” said Anna Wasescha, West Central Initiative president. “It supports economic development, high-quality health care, equitable education, and more. Broadband discussions … are particularly important in helping to form our region’s long-term, comprehensive broadband implementation strategy. Broadband is no longer a want—it’s a need.”

The panel will feature:

  • Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation;
  • Greg Wagner, director of business and economic development at West Central Initiative;
  • Diane Wells, deputy director of the Office of Broadband Development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development;
  • Amy Baldwin, community development director for Otter Tail County;
  • Todd Johnson, Traverse County Commissioner;
  • Ann Treacy, owner and founder of Treacy Information Services and researcher and contributor to the Blandin on Broadband blog

2021 MN Broadband County Ranking for 25/3 speeds – how do you rank?

The 2021 MN County broadband maps are up on the Office of Broadband Development websites, showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. Now I’m looking at the maps that reflect county access to wirelines broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up as of April 1, 2021. This is the speed goal for Minnesota for 2022. I’ll paste the full list below, but it might be easier to access the spreadsheet of the new speeds and ranking. (You can see the 100/20 ranking too.)

In the past, I’ve looked at the top and bottom 10 counties but I think we’re past the point of celebrating the counties for reaching speeds of 25/3. Unfortunately this is more of a wake-up call to the counties that aren’t poised to hit the 2022 goal. The good news is that almost half of the MN Counties (40 of 87) have more than 90 percent coverage of 25/3 access. The bad news is that leaves a lot of counties needing more, with a special nod to Pine and Murray Counties, which has less than 60 percent coverage.

You can get the details below – the map at the right is a clear look too at the areas that need help – the lighter the color, the more help you need.

county coverage 25-3 ranking
Aitkin 64.32 84
Anoka 98.72 13
Becker 92.53 34
Beltrami 99.49 7
Benton 92.88 31
Big Stone 99.48 8
Blue Earth 84.78 49
Brown 84.66 50
Carlton 72.79 77
Carver 93.32 26
Cass 94.02 24
Chippewa 86.26 46
Chisago 79.21 63
Clay 95.66 20
Clearwater 99.76 5
Cook 94.5 22
Cottonwood 71.12 79
Crow Wing 90.01 40
Dakota 97.98 14
Dodge 84.86 48
Douglas 90.94 38
Faribault 92.42 35
Fillmore 72.47 78
Freeborn 88 43
Goodhue 81.66 58
Grant 95.44 21
Hennepin 99.21 12
Houston 92.86 32
Hubbard 97.18 17
Isanti 78.5 66
Itasca 93.03 29
Jackson 69.86 81
Kanabec 60.34 85
Kandiyohi 88.68 42
Kittson 80.2 60
Koochiching 76.21 72
Lac qui Parle 99.84 4
Lake 93.34 25
Lake of the Woods 77.55 70
Le Sueur 79.35 62
Lincoln 99.33 10
Lyon 84.52 51
Mahnomen 87.15 45
Marshall 78.36 67
Martin 81.51 59
McLeod 82.86 56
Meeker 74.92 74
Mille Lacs 74.46 76
Morrison 79 64
Mower 90.13 39
Murray 58.05 86
Nicollet 83.87 52
Nobles 83.71 53
Norman 79.45 61
Olmsted 95.88 18
Otter Tail 90.97 37
Pennington 99.37 9
Pine 52.02 87
Pipestone 82.54 57
Polk 93.02 30
Pope 82.95 55
Ramsey 99.86 3
Red Lake 99.99 1
Redwood 76.12 73
Renville 74.48 75
Rice 94.18 23
Rock 99.93 2
Roseau 87.44 44
Scott 93.26 27
Sherburne 95.78 19
Sibley 70.05 80
St. Louis 85.5 47
Stearns 93.26 28
Steele 89.59 41
Stevens 99.22 11
Swift 99.54 6
Todd 77.01 71
Traverse 67.87 82
Wabasha 78.33 68
Wadena 97.36 16
Waseca 78.65 65
Washington 97.88 15
Watonwan 77.62 69
Wilkin 83.1 54
Winona 91.65 36
Wright 92.71 33
Yellow Medicine 64.65 83

2021 MN Broadband County Ranking for speeds of 100/20 – how do you rank?

The 2021 MN County broadband maps are up on the Office of Broadband Development websites, showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. Now I’m looking at the maps that reflects county access to wirelines broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up as of April 1, 2021. This is the speed goal for Minnesota for 2026. I’ll paste the full list below, but it might be easier to access the spreadsheet of the new speeds and ranking or spreadsheet of ranking over the last three years. (I’ll work on the 25/3 map next.)

Here are the Top 10 Counties (with percentage of coverage)

  1. Rock – 99.93
  2. Ramsey – 99.84
  3. Lac qui Parle – 99.83
  4. Clearwater – 99.59
  5. Swift – 99.5
  6. Beltrami – 99.25
  7. Lincoln – 99.03
  8. Hennepin – 98.98
  9. Big Stone – 98.6
  10. Pennington – 98.19

The top three are the same as last year. Congrats to them. Clearwater and Lincoln are the newest additions to the Top 10. Clearwater went from #22 to #4; Lincoln wen from #83 to #7. Very big congrats to them!! It’s worth noting that the top 26 ranked counties all have greater than 90 percent coverage.

Bottom 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 100/20 (starting with worst with percentage of coverage)

  1. Kanabec – 26.24 (rank 87)
  2. Pine – 39.89 (rank 86)
  3. Redwood – 40.04 (rank 85)
  4. Faribault – 43.95 (rank 84)
  5. Yellow Medicine – 48.81 (rank 83)
  6. Todd – 49.93 (rank 82)
  7. Isanti – 50.21 (rank 81)
  8. Traverse – 50.97 (rank 80)
  9. Carlton – 52.08 (rank 79)
  10. Aitkin – 52.96 (rank 78)

There’s been some moving around within the list but most of these counties are familiar with their standing at the bottom. Unfortunately Carlton is the latest addition; they replaced Lincoln County.

county coverage 100/20 ranking
Aitkin 52.96 78
Anoka 97.41 12
Becker 73.41 57
Beltrami 99.25 6
Benton 90.25 24
Big Stone 98.6 9
Blue Earth 80.76 40
Brown 75.99 50
Carlton 52.08 79
Carver 90.2 25
Cass 64.02 71
Chippewa 82.67 37
Chisago 73.34 58
Clay 89.08 26
Clearwater 99.59 4
Cook 94.5 16
Cottonwood 67.2 66
Crow Wing 86.38 30
Dakota 97.57 11
Dodge 80.62 41
Douglas 72.89 59
Faribault 43.95 84
Fillmore 56.36 75
Freeborn 85.89 32
Goodhue 76.09 48
Grant 71.99 61
Hennepin 98.98 8
Houston 75.26 51
Hubbard 91.71 21
Isanti 50.21 81
Itasca 86.65 29
Jackson 68.84 65
Kanabec 26.24 87
Kandiyohi 74.82 53
Kittson 80.13 42
Koochiching 72.85 60
Lac qui Parle 99.83 3
Lake 93.32 19
Lake of the Woods 74.31 55
Le Sueur 76 49
Lincoln 99.03 7
Lyon 82.31 38
Mahnomen 71.73 62
Marshall 77.39 46
Martin 66.71 68
McLeod 58.09 74
Meeker 60.51 72
Mille Lacs 60.1 73
Morrison 73.96 56
Mower 84.95 35
Murray 54.37 77
Nicollet 78.49 45
Nobles 81.24 39
Norman 55 76
Olmsted 93.9 17
Otter Tail 67.02 67
Pennington 98.19 10
Pine 39.89 86
Pipestone 80.11 43
Polk 91.72 20
Pope 74.48 54
Ramsey 99.84 2
Red Lake 93.85 18
Redwood 40.04 85
Renville 70.86 63
Rice 85.58 33
Rock 99.93 1
Roseau 85.23 34
Scott 91.02 22
Sherburne 90.69 23
Sibley 65.29 70
St. Louis 79.49 44
Stearns 84.71 36
Steele 88.95 27
Stevens 96.79 14
Swift 99.5 5
Todd 49.93 82
Traverse 50.97 80
Wabasha 66.67 69
Wadena 97.29 13
Waseca 75.02 52
Washington 96.02 15
Watonwan 69.25 64
Wilkin 77.06 47
Winona 87.59 28
Wright 86.15 31
Yellow Medicine 48.81 83

eNews: MN Monthly Recap Sep 2021: funding, definitions and updates

Virtual Conference! Oct 12-14
Registration is open for our annual broadband conference! We hope you can join us. The agenda will be released later this month.

Pre-Conference Regional Events
There will be a series of regional events happening leading up to and in conjunction with the Fall Broadband Conference on Oct 12-14. Some events are still being planned; here’s the information:

 

Federal Changes maybe be long lasting
In redefining the speed goals for funding, the US Senate may have effectively boosted broadband speeds to 100/20. But the timing is good as Studies show the need for upload speeds increased during pandemic – and it’s likely to continue. Also access to broadband is credited for drawing in new residents to help boost population.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

COVID/COVID-Funding News

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
MLEC is expanding FTTH in Aitkin County (MN)

Appleton, Benson, Madison and Redwood County
Appleton, Benson, Madison and Redwood County get grants from MN DEED

Duluth
Essentia Health in Duluth gets nearly $1 million from FCC for telehealth
Duluth City Council asks MN Congressional Delegation to support infrastructure

Greenwood Township
Greenwood Township looks at local, state and federal options for broadband funding

Grand Rapids
Paul Bunyan Communications Opens Apple Service Center in Grand Rapids

Kabetogama State Forest
New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in the Kabetogama State Forest to Support First Responders in Northern MN

Mahnomen County
Enbridge gives broadband grant to Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools (Mahomen County)

Park Rapids
DLF Chair talks about broadband and other topics in Park Rapids (Hubbard County)

Redwood County
Redwood County gets Lead for Minnesota Fellow to work on broadband

Walnut Grove and Redwood and Pine Counties
A look at broadband needs in rural MN: Walnut Grove, Redwood County and Pine County

Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Keeping up with broadband news and information can be a challenge.  Emerging state and federal funding programs, new technologies, and regulatory decisions are all in the news mix.  How can community leaders keep up?

I have some trusted sources; I do consulting work for two of them.  Here is a summary of what I read:

  • Blandin on Broadband (of course!) Subscribe at www.blandinonbroadband.org.  A great summary of everything Minnesota broadband.  This blog is a great resource for daily news and also a great searchable archive for policy and strategy ideas.
  • Pots and Pans by CCG.  Subscribe at https://potsandpansbyccg.com.  Doug Dawson, one of my favorite broadband consultants,  provides daily, thoughtful essays on technology, telecom industry news, community broadband and consumer trends.  This is a must-read for all community broadband advocates.
  • Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Daily Digest.  Subscribe at https://www.benton.org/headlines.  I work on the Benton team for the Illinois Connected Communities Program.  Benton provides a wide ranging broadband policy news digest on both broadband infrastructure and digital equity issues.  They produce their own, high quality original research and spread the word on other policy papers and news.
  • Telecompetitor.  https://www.telecompetitor.com.  This newsletter is tech and industry news heavy and has a bounty of advertising links.
  • One final source that I look to is the NTCA.  Here is a link to CEO Shirley Bloomfield’s blog – https://www.ntca.org/ruraliscool/newsroom/ceo-blog

This should keep everyone busy and informed.  If you have other sources that you would like to share, let us know!

Help flesh out MuniNetworks’ Big List of American Rescue Plan Community Broadband Projects

From the Institute for Local Self Reliance

With the first traunch of American Rescue Plan funds going out to counties and cities earlier this summer, many local leaders have begun to propose projects and seek input from citizens about how they should be used. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) represents an unprecedented amount of money flowing to local governments, but the consequences of operating for more than a year and a half under the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic are such that there seems to be so many things that need attention.

Access to universal, affordable, fast Internet access is among them, but the road from recognizing the need and implementing thoughtful policies is not an equally smooth one for all. Sometimes, a little inspiration is all it takes.

That’s where this page comes in. This is our ongoing list of projects which are under consideration, have been announced, or are under way. Arranged alphabetically by state and organized by whether they are under consideration or are planned, the below are those broadband expansion projects being pursued by cities and counties as they look to expand access via telephone and electric cooperatives, nonprofits, community-owned solutions, or private providers.

This page will be updated in the coming weeks and months, but if you have any corrections, additions, or updates, please email ry@ilsr.org

I am thankful to them for doing this – if you have something to add, please send it their way or send it to me atreacy@treacyinfo.com and I’ll add it here and send it to them.

Here’s what they have for Minnesota…

Planned

The Duluth City Council has approved a plan to spend $12.8 million of the $58.1 million it will receive on infrastructure, including $1 million on broadband. There are no additional details, excepting a line item in a recent press release which says the money could be used to “incentivize broadband providers to the City.”

St. Louis County, Minnesota has earmarked a total of $2 million so far in broadband grant programs aimed at boosting connectivity efforts led by communities in the region. By committing a match, the latter can apply for funds in pursuit of a wide range of planning and development activities. Those grant applications are due in September.

One township already taking advantage of St. Louis County’s grant program is Greenwood, which is pursuing upcoming federal infrastructure dollars along with county funds and considering using some of its own $50,000 in Rescue Plan funds for the local match. Broadband continues to be a primary concern to local leaders, with the township running a broadband survey for residents and businesses right now.

ARPA County and Township Support Amounts Mapped by CNS

CNS has created a new map

As discussions with counties, townships, and cities ramp up, we mapped the ARPA funding amounts for MN’s Counties, Townships and Small Cities so you can see how much each entity is receiving in ARPA funding.

Layers include:

  • County Allocated funding
  • Estimated Township funding amounts
  • Disbursed Township and Small City funds
  • RDOF funded census block groups

Zooming in on the map will show more granular data.

We’ll continue to update the map as more data is released. According the state, not all Township and Small Cities have received their first-round funding yet due to incomplete applications. Note that two rounds of disbursements will be sent, one in 2021, one in 2022 – disbursed funds shown in the map are 50% of their total allocation.