The FCC is looking for comments on broadband service for veterans

The FCC is looking for comments

WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON PROMOTING BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS SERVICE FOR VETERANS
WC Docket No. 18-275
Comments Due: October 12, 2018
Reply Comments Due: October 29, 2018
In this Public Notice, as required by the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) seeks information and data for the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) report on promoting broadband Internet access service for veterans.1 Section 504 of the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 directs the Commission to, within one year, “submit to Congress a report on
promoting broadband Internet access service for veterans, in particular lowincome veterans and veterans residing in rural areas” and “provide the public with notice and an opportunity to comment” in preparing the report.2 In the report, the Commission is required to examine veterans’ access to broadband and how to promote such access, and provide findings and recommendations for Congress on
those issues.3
Broadband is critical to ensuring that veterans, like all Americans, have full and meaningful participation in society. It ensures that veterans in particular can
access the resources they need to connect with health care services, find jobs, get information on and apply for military benefits, and generally participate in modern
society. The Commission’s top priority remains promoting digital opportunities for all Americans, including veterans. For example, the Commission’s recent telehealth Notice of Inquiry sought comment on “developing a Universal Service Fund pilot program to explore how to promote the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services . . . [among] low-income veterans, with a focus on such services
. . . delivered directly to patients outside of brick-and-mortar health care facilities.”4 The Notice of Inquiry identified the significant obstacles faced by lowincome
veterans and veterans residing in rural areas to obtain healthcare, and noted that veterans living in rural areas are among the largest population of … (read more)

CAF II auctions in MN: 16 winners of $38.3M for 12,000 locations

On Tuesday, the FCC released the winners of the Connect American Fund (CAF) II Auction. ECN Magazine reports…

The FCC on Tuesday revealed names of the winning bidders of its Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF-II) auction, which concluded last week and will dole out $1.488 billion to internet service providers to expand fixed internet coverage in rural areas.

The winners span a variety of different service provider types, with satellite providers, electric cooperatives and WISPs filling out those receiving the most support in auction funds.

Here are the winners listed for Minnesota:

I’ve copied items from their table which included:
Bidder – FRN –Assigned Support over 10 Years – Number of Locations

  1. Broadband Corp – 0016419392 – $428,117.00  – 128
  2. Consolidated Telephone Company – 0003742467 – $934,933.80  – 358
  3. Farmers Mutual Telephone Company – 0003747722 – $ 348,991.60 – 163
  4. Federated Telephone Cooperative – 0003741576  – $1,431,038.80 – 808
  5. Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee – 0027389550 – $55,010.80 – 13
  6. Garden Valley Telephone Company – 0002652519 – $880,346.00 – 95
  7. Halstad Telephone Company – 0003744224 – $19,635.20 – 7
  8. Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative, Inc. – 0003741550 – $552,329.60 – 209
  9. Jaguar Communication, Inc – 0004365961 – $510,587.60 – 672
  10. Johnson Telephone Company – 0004311304 – $81,272.50 – 47
  11. LTD Broadband LLC – 0020926788 – $1,104,440.80 – 840
  12. Midcontinent Communications – 0002621951 – $27,977,283.80 – 7,410
  13. Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative – 0002644953 – $1,313,542.60 – 315
  14. Roseau Electric Cooperative, Inc. – 0009568379 – $2,081,769.70 – 326
  15. West Central Telephone Association – 0002645612 – $611,934.40 – 532
  16. Wikstrom Telephone Company – 0004319372 – $532,556.80 – 56

Assuming I didn’t miss one – and please let me know if you notice I did, it looks like $38,331,234.20 for 11,979 locations.

FCC Broadband maps shown unreliable

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently looked at what the FCC reports for broadband coverage in Rochester MN and what’s actually there. They found…

Our results confirm what a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has expressed concern over: federal broadband data is deeply flawed.

The FCC data comes from self-reporting via Form 477. What I’ve heard from providers over the years is that these forms are overwhelming to complete. The report recognizes the flaws of self-reporting…

The overwhelming failure of broadband mapping results from several factors. Large, de facto monopoly providers have incentives to overstate their coverage and territory to hide the unreliable and slow nature of their service in many communities. Small providers often have trouble completing the FCC Form 477. This form requires 39 pages of instructions on how to properly complete it. Providers are supposed to submit it every 6 months, but many small providers find it confusing and frustrating- taking too much time to produce data that has dubious value given the flaws. Larger providers have plenty of staff to handle the form and seem to benefit the most from its flaws, as this data is often used to determine whether government programs should invest additional funds into an area, often by a competitive grant program. Areas that appear to be well covered will not result in more investment, leaving the incumbent providers without fear of competition.

Here is the coverage (number of providers versus population) for speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 up

Versus 100 Mbps (which is the state speed goal by 2026)…

There’s a ten-fold difference in number of unserved residents.

They also compare coverage of wired-only access:

Versus wired & wireless service…

What they found is that there is much greater competition, pricing and speeds in town as compared to the outskirts or outside of town…

The rural communities surrounding Rochester, Minnesota have few fast, affordable, and reliable Internet service options. The urban areas enjoy some limited broadband competition. Still, most residents can only access broadband with speeds greater than 100 Mbps through Charter. A majority of the rural communities around Rochester rely on fixed wireless connections. The broadband tiers from fixed wireless providers are often more expensive than wireline broadband. The two fixed wireless providers that advertise Internet access at broadband speeds around Rochester are Hiawatha Broadband Communications’ Air Internet division and RadioLink. Hiawatha Broadband Communications charges $64.99 per month for a 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload connection.8 RadioLink charges $85 per month for a 30 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload connection.

Within Rochester, broadband is more affordable and has faster speeds than outlying areas. As of July 2018, Charter Communications charges $30 for 100 Mbps download for one year if the service is bundled with a cable subscription in Rochester, but the service appears to cost $65 without promos or bundling and before the many fees that are tacked on.10 CenturyLink has an online offer for 40 Mbps download for $45 in Rochester, but that only applies to addresses located very close to the DSLAM and again does not include the added fees.11 Jaguar Communications offers a Fiber-to-the-Home network in select portions of the city. In a phone call, they confirmed that fiber services cost $69.95 per month for 125 Mbps download speeds, where available.

One of the main reasons we need to care about what can be seen as the minutia of technology is that policies are written and public funds spent based on these numbers. The ILSR presents one example…

In 2015, City Council member Ed Hruska claimed, “We have 19 local broadband providers and, of those, we have two cable providers, six DSL providers, four fiber providers, three fixed wireless providers and four mobile providers.”4 Our analysis shows that broadband competition in Rochester is actually far more limited.

As a whole, this may (or may not) be true about Rochester – but people need to understand that is is not ubiquitously true. If we can recognize the digital divide within and around the city, the digital divide more is likely to deepen.

Philanthropy and Net Neutrality – a podcast from Johnson Center for Philanthropy

I just finished listening to an interesting podcast on Why Net Neutrality Matter for Nonprofits. Here is the description from their website

Despite substantial public opposition, Obama-era regulations securing Net Neutrality – a principle that essentially bars Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from playing favorites with different websites — were rolled back by the FCC on June 11, 2018. These changes could pave the way for a new, highly manipulated user experience: movements, media reports, resources, and more that ISPs — or their investors — don’t like, or that don’t make them any money, could end up on the other side of a slow connection. What could this mean for nonprofits — and for the communities they serve?

Katharine Trendacosta, Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Larra Clark, Deputy Director for both the Public Library Association (PLA) and the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Information Technology Policy, join the hosts.

It’s about 40 minutes and they talk about the power of the Internet to bring remote services, such as webinar training, to rural areas and to organize and mobilize for social justice. Noting that 86 percent of Americans support Net Neutrality, they talk a bit about the people who don’t – mostly ISPs, who are concerned that Net Neutrality closes a revenue stream that helps them reinvest in infrastructure.

They also point out that most of the ISP that are at the center of the Net Neutrality debate are big. So big that while the June 11 date may have opened a door – it takes months or years to finalize deals that would take advantage of the repeal. Subsequently it’s hard to track the impact.

There was comparison made between the potential of the repeal and trying to use Facebook as a communication tool. Many nonprofits (and others) use Facebook to promote events, communicate with members/customers and reach new people. There are ways to use it for free and the advertising is pretty cheap. But Facebook changes their algorithms constantly, which means you need to keep up with how they are promoting things constantly to make the most out of the opportunity. The changes can seem capricious and precarious. And the user is sort of stuck with it.

The speakers were anticipating that working in a post-Net Neutrality internet may feel very similar. Will the provider be changing how the manage traffic as Facebook changes their policies? Also noting that like Facebook, the changes will likely occur slowly over time so that by the time you notice them, it may feel too late.

FCC is looking for good telehealth pilot project ideas

It would be great to see some projects spring up in Minnesota. We have some awesome healthcare minds – just imagine what could happen…

FCC SEEKS COMMENTS ON LAUNCHING

TELEHEALTH PILOT PROGRAM

Highlights the Benefits of Broadband to Deliver ‘Connected Care Everywhere’

  —

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2018—The Federal Communications Commission today took steps to explore the creation of an experimental “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support the delivery of advanced telehealth services to low-income Americans.

 

The Commission’s top priority is bridging the digital divide, and nowhere is that more critical than in the area of health care.  Today, whether it’s through remote patient monitoring or mobile health applications accessed via smartphones, tablets, or other devices, advances in broadband-enabled telehealth technologies are allowing patients to receive care wherever they are.  These connected care services can lead to better health outcomes and significant cost savings for patients and health care providers alike.  But many low-income consumers, particularly those living in rural areas, lack access to affordable broadband and might not be able to realize these benefits.

 

Through today’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the Commission seeks comment on creating a Universal Service Fund pilot program to promote the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services among low-income families and veterans, with a focus on services delivered directly to patients beyond the doors of brick-and-mortar health care facilities.

 

The NOI seeks comment on:

 

  • The goals of, and statutory authority for, the pilot program.
  • The design of the pilot program, including the budget; the application process and types of telehealth pilot projects that should be funded; eligibility criteria for participating health care providers, broadband service providers, and low-income consumers; the broadband services and other communications services and equipment that should be supported; the amount of support and how it should be disbursed; and the duration of the program.
  • How to measure the effectiveness of pilot projects in achieving the goals of the program.

 

Today’s decision reflects the Commission’s continued commitment to supporting broadband connectivity for those facing barriers to high-quality health care and to maximizing the benefits of telehealth for all Americans through enhanced digital access.

 

Action by the Commission August 2, 2018 by Notice of Inquiry (FCC 18-112).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, and Rosenworcel approving and issuing separate statements.

 

WC Docket No. 18-213

 

 

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.