FCC dedicates 41.5 billion to broadband: $1.8 million in MN

BroadbandBreakfast reports…

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday announced that it had authorized $112.2 million in funding over ten years to expand broadband to nearly 48,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in nine states.

This is the fifth wave of support from last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Broadband providers will begin receiving funding later in September.

Here’s what they have slated for our areas…

Four rural phone companies are receiving $1.8 million to offer gigabit-speed fiber service to 536 rural homes and businesses in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

And a map of the winning areas (near us)…

Impact of competition on broadband speeds may come down to type of provider

Roberto Gallardo and Brain Whitacre have a new report out – A Look at Broadband Access, Providers and Technology. They used FCC Form 477 to figure out who are the biggest providers in the country, the state of competition and access to speeds of 25/3 (FCC definition of broadband) in rural vs urban areas and more.

Here are the six largest providers in the US:

I was surprised to see Charter with 22 percent rural housing units since I think of Charter as cable and I don’t think of cable as a primary rural provider. But that wasn’t what I found most interesting in the report.

I was a little surprised to see the discrepancy between urban and rural household access to 25/3:

I don’t know why I was surprised but the stark difference between 1 percent and 26 is jarring. But even that isn’t what really caught my eye. What caught my eye was the map of broadband providers by group:

Here’s an explanation of the key:

Figure 5 shows four layers: the orange layer indicates where top 6 and non-top 6 providers overlap; the blue layer indicates where Top 6 providers were the only providers (darker blue indicates a higher number of top 6 only providers); the green layer indicates where other (nontop 6) were the only providers (darker green indicates a higher number of other providers only).

Remember “top 6” are the providers shown above.

What struck me was the blueness of East Central Minnesota – trailing up north.

Roberto was kind enough to below of the Minnesota portion of the map for me. I’d like to compare it to two other maps. In each map you can see the color pattern in East Central MN – just north of the Twin Cities.e

  • The first map blue indicates only one of the “Top 6” providers serves that area.
  • The second map shows access to 25/3 broadband; orange means 50-60% have access, beige is 60-70% and light blue is 70-80%
  • The third maps shows access to 100/20; it is more diverse but yellow indicates less than 50 percent have access.
  • The first maps also shows where there is only one “other provider” which may be a cooperative, an independent or really anyone outside of the top 6.

I think it’s a powerful image of the impact of limited competition – and impact of the type of provider. Comparing East Central MN to West Central – each has areas served by one provider but the type of provider seems to make a difference in the speed of connection.

Roberto was also kind enough to send a spreadsheet with provider numbers and types by county – but with the county-level into we lose the granularity of the map. There are areas where the county may have numerous providers but a section of that county has just one – that is better demonstrated by map.

[Updated Sep 8: I’m delighted to share a new map from Roberto that includes county boundaries and provider number/types.]

Could 5G deployment impact weather reporting?

I am several degrees shy of my meteorologist degree. (OK – all credits shy.) But I found this fascinating. Evaluation Engineering reports that 5G may hinder the 10-day forecast…

The current adage in meteorology is that today’s 10-day weather forecast is as accurate as the seven-day used to be, which is as accurate as the five-day used to be in the 1990s, which is accurate as the three-day used to be in the 1980s. Those crucial extra forecast days gained over the years has allowed local governments to issue evacuations at least several days before hurricanes impact an area, and gives local services time to prepare for damaging impacts and the aftermath following the storm.

But according to many people involved with this forecasting, the onset of 5G technology could ruin that decades-long progress. This past May, the acting chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Neil Jacobs, testified on Capitol Hill that the interference from 5G wireless technology could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasting by as much as 30%. Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment that such a setback would result in coastal residence having at least two or three less days to prepare for a hurricane and could lead to less accurate predictions on the path of hurricanes and where they will make landfall, endangering lives by doing so. Jacobs said that’d set hurricane forecasts back to where they were in 1980.

Here’s the reason…

In a nutshell, the issue with 5G and weather forecasting comes from 5G’s use of spectrum in the 24 GHz frequency band, which is nearly that the 23.8 GHz spectrum band that NOAA uses to gather data for weather prediction. Some of the frequencies the Federal Communications Commission plans to use for 5G are located next to the only frequency where weather satellites can detect water vapor—a crucial component for weather forecasting, especially for hurricanes. …

Water vapor emits a faint 23.8 GHz signal in the earth’s atmosphere, which satellites monitor to collect data that is then fed into weather prediction models. That gives meteorologists no flexibility to use a different frequency.

“We can’t move away from 23.8 or we would,” Jordan Gerth, a research meteorologist at the Universifty of Wisconsin-Madison told WIRED in May. “As far as 5G is concerned, the administration has a priority to put 5G on the spectrum, and they thought this was an OK place to do it. It’s just close to where we are sensing the weather.”

Gerth and Jacobs said that reducing the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of spectrum-water vapor interference. NOAA and NASA want to limit interference noise to closer to that considered acceptable by the European Union and World Meteorological Organization. At its current FCC proposal, Jacobs said 5G interference would result in a 77% loss in data from NOAA satellite sensors.

It is interesting to me that the FCC is not in line with European Union and World Meteorological Organization standards. I would have thought there’s be more alignment with something like this. It sounds like more issues may come up – some will likely have a greater impact on Minnesota weather watchers…

But even if a compromise is met between the meteorological community and the FCC over the 23.8 GHz frequency used to track water vapor, it won’t be the last clash between those two sides. Down the road, the FCC plans to action off 5G radio frequency bands close to that used to detect rain and snow (36-37 GHz), atmospheric temperature (50.2-50.4 GHz), and clouds and ice (80-90 GHz). So, expect to hear similar news about these issues going forward.

FCC authorizes $4.9 billion in A-CAM – $569 million in MN

The FCC reports

Taking further steps to close the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission today authorized over $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable rural broadband for 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states and American Samoa, including 44,243 locations on Tribal lands.

The support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as “rate-of-return” carriers.  These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar.  The homes and businesses are located in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

In return for the support that is being approved today, carriers must maintain, improve, and expand broadband throughout their service areas, including providing service of at least 25 Megabits per second downstream and 3 Mbps upstream to over 363,000 locations, including more than 37,000 locations on Tribal lands.  Providers will be held accountable through an enforceable schedule for delivering improved and expanded service, with the first interim deployment obligation occurring in 2022.

Minnesota is one of the biggest recipient with $569,183,965 going to better serve 55,520 locations over the next 10 years.

I know this info below will not transfer well to the website BUT you can download a spreadsheet of which carriers got funding, how much, for how many areas at which speeds and more…

Carrier Holding company Annual support Locations
 ALBN  Albany Mutual Telephone Association             1,741,828                      2,376
 ALLN  Alliance Communications Cooperative, Inc.                518,742                         667
 BNTN2  Benton Cooperative Telephone Company             2,592,147                      3,724
 FDRT  Federated Telephone Cooperative             3,392,869                      2,122
 FRMR8  Farmers Mutual Tel             1,693,615                      1,094
 GRDN  Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association             2,119,740                      3,090
 GRDN2  Garden Valley Telephone Company           13,610,263                    10,737
 HLST  Halstad Telephone Company             1,098,297                         707
 HRMN  Harmony Telephone Company                578,457                         583
 JHNS  Johnson Telephone Company             2,363,306                      3,063
 KSSN  Kasson & Mantorville Telephone Company             1,558,090                      1,574
 LNSD  Lonsdale Telephone Company                486,808                         710
 LSMR  Lismore Cooperative Telephone Company                576,970                         382
 PLBN  Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative           11,501,395                    13,727
 PLRC  Polar Communication Mutual Aid Corporation                261,923                         182
 RNST  Runestone Telephone Association             4,429,214                      3,627
 SPRN4  Spring Grove Communications                777,675                         531
 UPSL  Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association             1,207,710                      1,157
 WDST  Woodstock Telephone Company             1,416,710                      1,067
 WNNB  Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association                782,481                         688
 WSTC2  West Central Telephone Assn.             4,210,156                      3,712

 

More on FCC Funding – Freeborn County receives almost $2 million

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. The Albert Lea Tribune reports…

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized over $28.5 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 8,089 unserved homes and businesses in Minnesota, part of the fourth wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. The providers will begin receiving funding later this month.

 

Nationwide, the FCC authorized over $121 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 36,579 unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states in today’s wave of funding. …

“In Minnesota, this round of funding takes yet another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to nearly 8,100 unserved rural homes and businesses.”

Freeborn County will receive $1.9 million, according to a press release.

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest

A press release from Next Century Cities

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest
Washington DC (August 14, 2019) — Today, Federal Communications Commission leadership recommended the approval of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, a move that would further consolidate the wireless market and eventually raise prices for consumers.
T-Mobile and Sprint are two maverick companies that have competed head-to-head to offer innovative low-cost products to consumers and create a vital resale market. Combining the two would likely raise prices across the market, and would be particularly harmful for low-income consumers who rely on mobile service as their sole connection to the internet.
Both companies have told the FCC and Congress that the merger is necessary in order to build out next-generation wireless networks, yet have simultaneously touted independent 5G deployments to the public. It remains true that ultimately, competitive pressure — not consolidation — is what will drive network upgrades.
“The FCC’s charge is to protect the interest of the public, not of private companies,” said Cat Blake, Senior Program Manager. “This deal is good for T-Mobile and Sprint, but will ultimately make it harder for Americans to access affordable, high-quality essential mobile services. Further, it is unacceptable that the FCC would move to approve a deal without first soliciting public comment on the significant divestiture package required by the Department of Justice.
The public has a right to weigh-in on whether restructuring the deal with DISH would provide adequate consumer choice in the wireless market.”
A merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would be against the public interest. The FCC should follow the 16 state attorneys general in blocking the deal.

Minnesota is one of those states striving to block the deal.

More on FCC funding – going to Yellow Medicine County

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. The West Central Tribune reports…

Internet provider Midcontinent Communications is in line to receive more than $3 million in funding over 10 years from the Federal Communications Commission to expand the reach of broadband internet to more properties in five local counties.

Yellow Medicine County alone will get $2.349 million in funding, to bring broadband to approximately 440 locations, according to a news release from the FCC. Other counties on the list include Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Meeker and Renville counties. All totaled 931 new properties will be served by broadband in the five counties.