New FirstNet Cell Site to Support Public Safety in Northwestern Minnesota near White Earth Reservation and Surrounding Community

Big news from AT&T…

New Infrastructure will Improve Connectivity for Tribal First Responders, Expand Rural Broadband Access for Tribal Community

BAGLEY, Minn., Nov. 14, 2019 – First responders in northwestern Minnesota and those serving the White Earth Reservation are getting a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site – located between the White Earth Reservation and Itasca State Park – is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in Minnesota, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. Additionally, the new FirstNet site will give first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.1

FirstNet is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and Public Safety community. Backed by Congress, it’s designed to strengthen and modernize Public Safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is for all first responders – whether rural, tribal, urban or suburban. That’s why extending the FirstNet network in rural, tribal and remote parts of America is a top priority.

This site is located in Zerkel near the intersection of State Highway 92 and State Highway 200, and to the east of the White Earth Reservation. Public safety stakeholders identified this location as a prime spot for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications. The site will help improve coverage along the eastern edge of the White Earth Reservation.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address emergency situations. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they are getting,” said Paul Weirtz, president, AT&T Minnesota. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need.”

This is the first new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in Minnesota following the State of Minnesota’s decision to advance the state’s Public Safety broadband communications with FirstNet. It was constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum bands. Additional new FirstNet sites are underway, and Band 14 has been and is actively being added to existing sites across Minnesota. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. It provides public safety with a dedicated lane of connectivity when needed.

FirstNet is built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government. To ensure AT&T and the FirstNet Authority are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network for Public Safety, by Public Safety,” said Jeff Bratcher, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, FirstNet Authority. “The FirstNet Authority worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And this cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting White Earth first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect their community.”

In addition to further elevating Public Safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com.

1Based on AT&T analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q2 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

2“‘Indian tribe’ means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688) [43 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.], which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” 25 U.S.C. § 5304(e) (formerly cited as 25 U.S.C. § 450(b))

About the First Responder Network Authority

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chartered in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. Learn more at FirstNet.gov/mediakit and follow the FirstNet Authority (@FirstNetGov) on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

Clearing the Way for Telemedicine – FCC report on telehealth

In Clearing the Way for Telemedicine, the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) members identify state, local, Tribal, and territorial regulatory barriers to the use of telemedicine, as well as incentives that promote the adoption of telemedicine. The report discusses key issues, including state and local licensing laws or regulations that prevent telehealth providers from treating patients across state lines, and intrastate restrictions that may inhibit the provision of telemedicine.

Minnesota gets a nod for being one of three states that have specific laws that require that payers pay the same amount for a Telehealth delivered service as would have been paid had the service been provided in-person.

Here are their recommendations looking at issues or broadband access, regulatory barriers and digital equity and digital integration issues:

Broadband Recommendations

  • Broadband needs to be funded. FCC initiatives such as the recent Connected Care NPRM and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund can support bringing Telehealth services directly to low-income patients and patients in underserved, rural, Tribal, and territorial areas
  • Coordination needs to be improved between state and federal universal service programs aimed at expanding broadband to avoid having different programs supporting service availability in the same area and to ensure that support goes to areas without broadband service and without the likelihood of receiving it in the foreseeable future.
  • Broadband Telehealth services should be independent of the technology used to provide such service, particularly in rural areas. Creative ways of deploying hybrid fiber along with wireless, satellite, and TV white spaces offer different advantages and opportunities.
  • The term “Telehealth” should be construed broadly, and should incorporate the need for software, equipment, data storage and patient record access along with the various spectrum and telecommunications solutions and broadband deployment.
  • Telehealth policy should address the deployment of necessary infrastructure, including homes of older adults, and provider offices in rural and frontier communities that are far from a hospital.
  • Improved geographic data should include the types of services that are available in various locations.
  • Providers must ensure that any equipment they purchase is interoperable and meets industry standards and can be used to connect to multiple Telemedicine platforms.
  • Data and documents should be able to be transferred in multiple formats and structures in order to be operable in the various application programming interfaces (APIs), rather than in the prevailing “PDF” format, to allow electronic transfer with full interoperability and use of the underlying data elements.
  • To be considered interoperable, software vendors should be required to open their systems to communicate electronically patient information.

Regulatory Recommendations

  • The FCC Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) program should expand eligible equipment and services to cover institutional mobile technologies that are not currently covered under the program. Mobile telephones and service should be an eligible cost item of the RHCP. 28
  • The FCC should reach out to relevant federal agencies to address reimbursement disparities for services categorized as “Telemedicine,” whether in Medicare or other medical services.
  • Telehealth, almost by definition, is a geographically dispersed, often interstate service. The complexities of interstate licensing, credentialing and privileging should be revised and simplified to allow for virtual multi-state service.
  • Malpractice insurance coverage should cover Telehealth delivered services and should extend into other states in which Telehealth services are being offered.
  • Health benefit plans should not exclude from coverage a covered health care service or procedure delivered by a preferred or contracted health professional to a covered patient as a Telemedicine medical service or a Telehealth service solely because the covered health care service or procedure is not provided through an in-person consultation.
  • The FCC should work with other governmental agencies to ensure that the same standard of care and other measurements should be applied to both in-person and virtual visits.
  • HIPPA and other privacy rules should be revised to allow patients to share Telehealth information with Telehealth providers and for treating Telehealth providers to share that information with each other.
  • The FCC should encourage legislation or regulations that detail how and in what manner Telehealth can be used to establish a patient-provider relationship and when it can be used for prescribing medicine, particularly controlled substances. C.

Other Recommendations

  • The public, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and health care providers all need to be aware of the technologies and services available for Telehealth.
  • Telehealth considerations and the infrastructure to provide health services virtually should be integrated into all state, local Tribal and territorial emergency planning.

 

 

 

 

Broadband Parity Act – use 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up across the board

The Hill reports…

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Friday introduced a bill to create “parity” among the government’s dozens of broadband programs.

The Broadband Parity Act would set one standard for “high-speed internet” across more than 20 programs aimed at improving access to broadband in the U.S. Right now, each program adheres to its own definition of what constitutes speedy internet.

It seems like a good idea – but it seems like they could aim for faster to really create parity in urban and rural areas…

The act would require all of the programs to use the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition of “high-speed,” which is 25 megabits per second (mbps) download and 3 mbps upload.

Any areas that do not have access to that internet speed will not be considered “served” under the legislation.

The article does mention mapping, which is an integral part of tracking parity…

The Senate panel advanced legislation to address the issue earlier this year. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act would require the FCC to collect more granular and accurate data on how many Americans have access to high-speed internet.

 

Matt Schmit move from MN to help Illinois get broadband

We are sad to see Matt Schmit move but Illinois is lucky to get him. I remember following him around Northern MN on a really cold day in 2013 and he worked on fodder to authorize the first Border to Border Broadband bill. He worked hard and now the (IL) State Journal Register reports on his hard work in Illinois…

The lack of adequate broadband width to properly power computers for homes, schools and businesses is a problem in some rural areas but also in some bigger cities, according to Matt Schmit, new director of the Illinois Office of Broadband in the state’s commerce department.

Schmit, 39, a native of Red Wing, Minnesota, who has served in his home state’s Senate, took his post with the state of Illinois in early September and is now living in Evanston. In his role, he’ll oversee the $420 million the state is spending on broadband as part of the capital plan passed by the General Assembly last spring and being put into effect by the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“You tend to see metro areas with better service, but that’s not always the case,” Schmit said in an interview. “There are pockets of poor service in urban areas all over the country.”

Schmit worked to expand broadband reach in Minnesota while in the legislature. He had won a four-year term in 2012 as a rural Democrat, but lost a bid for re-election in 2016. He said he had worked in the legislature to “bring people together and invest in infrastructure.” He said he’s been “blessed to be able to continue the work,” in part as an independent consultant — helping communities get broadband access. He’s also been an academic researcher and university instructor.

What he’d like to see in six years, Schmit said, is “ubiquitous service to all homes, businesses and community anchor institutions around the state. And I think that’s achievable.”

EVENT: MN Rural Broadband Coalition Meeting December 5, 2019

From the MN Broadband Coalition

Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting

Thursday, December 5, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
League of MN Cities – Boardroom
145 University Avenue West – St. Paul, MN 55103
Conference Call Option: 1-866-755-7677
Participant code: 591645

Agenda Coming Soon!

Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.

Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s outlines a policy plan for local, state and national audiences

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society released a new report; last week I looked at mentions of Minnesota today I thought I’d look more broadly at the report. They define three main benefits better broadband can deliver…

  • Growing the American Economy. High-Performance Broadband transforms industries that are basic to everyday life, positively impacting agriculture, education, healthcare, energy, and more.
  • Empowering Workers. High-Performance Broadband advances skills training to boost individual opportunity, helping to overcome income inequality and economic frustration.
  • Strengthening Communities. High-Performance Broadband spurs economic growth and jobs. It can enable civic participation. It can improve the health, education. and learning of community members.

Then they look at a four-prong approach to making that happen. Here’s an outline of topics in the report based on the four segments:

Advancing Broadband Deployment

  • Map Broadband Oases and Deserts
  • Deploy High-Performance Broadband
  • Reach Unserved Areas (and Reject the Claim of “Overbuilding”)
  • Deploy High-Performance Broadband on Tribal Lands
  • Employ Reverse Auctions to Stretch Federal Dollars
  • Establish Eligibility for Reverse-Auction Participation
  • Establish Requirements for Funded Deployment
  • Increase the Effectiveness of Federal Efforts
  • Support State Strategies Targeted for Specific State Circumstances and Needs

Promoting Broadband Competition

  • Promote Broadband Competition at the Local Level
  • Enact Stronger Federal Policies to Spur Broadband Competition
  • Execute Additional Pro-Competition Recommendations in Other Parts of This Report

Ensuring Affordability and Adoption

  • Create an Affordability Agenda
  • Support Digital Skills
  • Incorporate Digital Skills Training in Regional Economic-Growth Strategies

Supporting Community Anchor Institutions

  • Governments should establish connectivity goals fit for the rising demands of the next decade, including periodically re-examining the current goals set by the FCC for federally funded connectivity to schools and libraries and establishing connectivity goals for other community anchor institutions.
  • Governments should support and promote competition to drive better broadband at lower prices for community anchor institutions.
  • The administration of broadband programs supporting community anchor institutions must be transparent, rely on competitive outcomes, and provide reasoned (and thus reviewable) analysis for administrative decisions.
  • Federal and state programs should empower community members—particularly K-12 students—to access community anchor institution broadband and crucial applications ubiquitously.
  • Governmental support for High-Performance Broadband deployment to community anchor institutions should leverage those networks to spur competition and greater connectivity for nearby residents.
  • Spectrum policy should allow community anchor institutions to be full or even favored participants in shared and tiered access.
  • State and local governments should facilitate comprehensive broadband strategies, including encouraging the creation and growth of state research and education networks and bringing institutions together to learn from one another.

The report is filled with persuasive stats and stories. In fact, if you were looking to build awareness of broadband, you could do worse that Tweet a stat a day from this report!

Feasibility study is first step to better broadband in Greenwood MN (St Louis County)

The Timber Jay does a nice job detailing a recent (Oct 29) meeting in Greenwood Township to discuss bringing better broadband to the community. I wasn’t there but it sounds like meetings I have attended in the past. If you live in an area with good broadband and you have any interest in knowing how the other half lives and/or if you’re a policymaker, this article strikes me as a good example of what people deal with in some rural areas….

[From Frontier] Bohler was one of over a half dozen local elected officials and representatives of telecommunications companies and state agencies who came to speak at a roundtable-style meeting here on Tuesday to discuss telephone and internet issues in the township. About 50 area residents filled the town hall at the Oct. 29 meeting.
Frontier currently supplies DSL level service in many areas of the township. “Most homes can get 10 mbps service,” said Bohler, “or a little higher if they are near a terminal node.”
For rural telecommunications providers, it comes down to numbers.
“Folks here are spread out,” said Bohler, noting that raises the cost per household for providing upgraded service. “State funding is vital in making the projects economically viable,” he said.
Fiber optic cable has already been installed in several of the more populated areas of the township, but at present, only the town hall has been connected to the broadband-level service. This fiber, installed by the Northeast Service Coop, stretches down Echo Point as far as the Bois Forte Reservation, down Birch Point, Moccasin Point, and toward Frazer Bay. But whether that fiber could be used to connect to individual homes and businesses in those areas is still an open question.
Audience members stressed the need for reliable service at speeds that would allow residents to work from home, having the township apply for state or federal grant funding to get a project started, and making sure the quality of internet service is sufficient for the needs of area businesses.

So much to unpack here – and I do this for readers who don’t live in these areas. First, he says “most homes can get 10 Mbps service” – I assume this means 10 Mbps down and likely 1 Mbps up. For federal funding that 10/1 speed is a benchmark. For comparison, the MN state speed goal for 2026 is 100/20.

Second, “State funding is vital in making the projects economically viable” – no explanation required but worth highlighting.

Third, “Fiber optic cable has already been installed in several of the more populated areas of the township, but at present, only the town hall has been connected to the broadband-level service.” How can a community thrive when they are looking at 10/1 access and their neighbors have fiber? Where do you buy a house, start a business or plan your vacation? Rural broadband may be expensive but the cost of not getting it may be higher in the long run.

In Greenwood, the commitment to move forward has been made…

Speakers all agreed that conducting a feasibility study was the most important first step. That study helps to determine how many residences and businesses desire high-speed service, how much they can afford to pay, and exactly where they are all located in the township. The study is also a prerequisite for any request for any kind of funding application.
Such a study is about to begin, thanks to the efforts of the local Blandin Broadband Committee, which is being led in large part by Greenwood residents Joanne, John, and Kate Bassing. The township has committed to help fund the feasibility study, which ensures that data on Greenwood’s needs and residents will be part of the study. The Blandin Foundation is providing matching funds for this study and will host a kickoff event for the feasibility study on Nov. 8 in Aurora.

The article goes on to detail potential pricing or at least factors that might impact pricing and talks about what broadband leaders are doing in communities in the area to make this happen. The costs are staggering (“$20,000 – $25,000 per mile to bury fiber optic cable, but that cost could double if the ground has bedrock”) and the volunteer hours are long. But the plan moves forward!