FCC reports – fixed broadband deployment and CAF eligible areas

The FCC just released data based on their 477 forms. Here’s info on the forms (or form fillers) from the FCC…

  • All facilities-based broadband providers are required to file data with the FCC twice a year (Form 477) on where they offer Internet access service at speeds exceeding 200 kbps in at least one direction. 
  • Fixed providers file lists of census blocks in which they can or do offer service to at least one location, with additional information about the service.*
  • Mobile providers file maps of their coverage areas for each broadband technology (e.g., EV-DO, HSPA, LTE).  See Mobile Deployment Data.

They released a list of census blocks eligible for Connect America Phase II support in states where price cap carriers accepted the statewide offers of model-based Connect America Phase II support. It’s a spreadsheet of eligible census tracts by state. It would be valuable if you had questions on a specific census tract or were able to visualize the tracts. It shows the high cost (HC) and extremely high cost (EHC) areas as well as the providers.

The FCC also released updated data on fixed broadband deployment as of June 30, 2016. You can download that dataset by state – and the data includes advertised speeds up and down. Here’s an important caveat from the site…

A provider that reports deployment of a particular technology and bandwidth in a census block may not necessarily offer that service everywhere in the block.  Accordingly, a list of providers deployed in a census block does not necessarily reflect the number of choices available to any particular household or business location in that block, and the number of such providers in the census block does not purport to measure competition.

FCC Chairman Pai visits Madelia to talk to local telcos

On June 7th, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his Senior Counsel Nick Degani stopped in Southern Minnesota as they traveled from Minneapolis to Sioux City, Iowa as part of a larger 5 state road trip. I mentioned this earlier – but was happy to talk with MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen (and host to Pai) about the visit.

Brent noted that this is only the second time in past 20 years that a FCC Chairman has visited Minnesota and the first time one toured Greater Minnesota. The Chairman was specifically interested in learning from rural telcos about the challenges they are facing deploying broadband. He also wanted to see how the Connect America Fund (CAF) and Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM) were actually being implemented in the field.

The Chairman stopped in Madelia where he was given a tour of Christensen Communications Company, a 114 year old family owned company deploying fiber to the premise. The Chairman heard from the Christensen family on how the company started and its commitment to the communities they serve. He was then shown the outside plant upgrade plans and told of how new A-CAM money is being used to expedite the deployment. This was followed by a tour of the Central office where the Chairman was able to have an open dialog with CCC installers on the pros and cons of fiber, fixed wireless and other technologies being used by the company

Following the tour, the Chairman convened a round table discussion in a local restaurant with area telcos. The group talked about contribution reform, the rate floor for landline telephone service, Internet privacy, and other related topics. The Chairman concluded his visit with media interviews.  Brent noted, “I have always been a fan of Chairman Pai and his commitment to rural America, but now I am even more so. He is extremely down to earth and easy to talk to.  Like he said, he comes from a “fly over” state.  When it was all over, the Chairman and Mr. Degani got into their rented Hyundai and continued down the road. It doesn’t get anymore “real” than that.”

FCC Chari visits Madelia MN to talk to rural broadband providers

According to the Mankato Free Press

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai visited Madelia Wednesday to talk with rural broadband providers about how to get high-speed internet to more Minnesotans.

He visited with…

Along with [Brent] Christensen [of MN Telecom Alliance], representatives from 702 Communications of Moorhead, Bevcomm of Blue Earth, CenturyLink of St. Paul, KM Telecom of Kasson, Minnesota Valley Telephone/Winthrop Telephone of Franklin, Minnesota Office of Broadband Development and New Ulm Telecom attended the discussion, which was closed to the media.

Sounds like they discussed the future of FCC funding, at least at a high level…

Pai said part of how the FCC can alleviate the cost of the burden is to continue current work on policies that ensure the FCC’s millions in federal subsidies are administered “wisely” to the places that would benefit most and go the farthest, like rural areas.

Sometimes USDA Rural Development grants also are used to support broadband expansion, such as a project completed by RS Fiber last fall in Sibley County. Dan Pacerina, CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications, said it cost about $1,000 per home to install the high-speed connections.

FCC announces 2 Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) working groups

Remember back in January when the FCC announced new federal advisory committees? They asked for applications.

Well, this week they announced the members of two working groups
Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure and
Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers

I see one Minnesota connection – Danna MacKenzie from the Office of Broadband Development is on the Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers committee. (There may be others that are less obvious.) I tried to do a little breakdown of what sort of organizations comprise the committees. Here’s what I found:

Competitive Access

  • 15 providers & broadband suppliers or consultants
  • 1 tech company (Microsoft)
  • 2 government
  • 6 nonprofits/university/research

Removing Barriers

  • 15 providers & broadband suppliers or consultants
  • 4 government
  • 6 nonprofits/university/research

The Document also indicated members of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

  • 13 providers (or provider reps and I included the power company here) & broadband suppliers or consultants
  • 3 government
  • 5 nonprofits/university/research

I didn’t spend a ton of time determining whether something called The Quilt was provider, government or nonprofit (I went with provider since they are a coalition of regional networks) but that’s the rough breakout.

Here’s the official word from the FCC

This Public Notice serves as notice that Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai has appointed members to serve on two Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) working groups, Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure and Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers.

The members of these working groups are listed in Appendix A. The selection of members for the Streamlining Federal Siting working group is in progress, and final selections for this group will be announced at a later date. The BDAC is organized under, and operates in accordance with, the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

The BDAC’s mission is to provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access.

The BDAC held its first meeting on Friday, April 21, 2017. More information about the BDAC is available at https://www.fcc.gov/broadband-deploymentadvisory-committee. You may also contact Brian Hurley, Designated Federal Officer (DFO) of the BDAC, at brian.hurley@fcc.govor 202-418-2220; or Paul D’Ari, Deputy DFO, at paul.dari@fcc.govor 202-418-1550.

Get list of members.

Introducing the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee: April 21

The FCC has announced members the members of the new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) and will be holding their inaugural meeting on Friday April 21 (10 am EST). The meeting with be streamed online at www.fcc.gov/live. The list of members includes  many broadband providers, a few government folks, some professors and some community organizations. (You can get the complete list here.)

I think the list of working groups gives the best glimpse at the potential of the Committee…

In addition, the Chairman has identified five working groups that will assist the BDAC in carrying out its work:

  • Model Code for Municipalities.—Douglas Dimitroff of the New York State Wireless Association will serve as Chair of this working group, and the Honorable Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose, California, will serve as Vice Chair.
  • Model Code for States.—Kelly McGriff of Southern Light will serve as Chair of this working group, and the Honorable Karen Charles Peterson, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable, for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners will serve as Vice Chair.
  • Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure.—Ken Simon of Crown Castle will serve as Chair of this working group, and Brent Skorup of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University will serve as Vice Chair.
  • Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers.—Robert DeBroux of TDS Telecom will serve as Chair of this working group, and Kim Keenan of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council will serve as Vice Chair.
  • Streamlining Federal Siting.—Jonathan Adelstein of the Wireless Infrastructure Association will serve as Chair of this working group, and Valerie Fast Horse of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe will serve as Vice Chair.

It will be interesting to see if the “Model Code” groups are focused on creating model code to “remove state and local regulatory barriers” or whether those groups will focus on the needs of municipalities and states. Perhaps the first meeting will give further indication…

The BDAC will hold its first meeting on Friday, April 21, 2017, beginning at 10:00 am, in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC Headquarters, located at 445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-C305, Washington, DC 20554.  Notice of this meeting will be published in the Federal Register. … The BDAC meeting is open to the public. The FCC will accommodate as many attendees as possible; however, admittance will be limited to seating availability.  The Commission will also provide audio and/or video coverage of the meeting over the Internet from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.

FCC pushes Lifeline decisions to states

According to the Washington Post

The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday he wants to block requests by dozens of small and rural Internet providers hoping to offer subsidized broadband connections to low-income Americans nationwide, saying that state officials should decide whether to allow those companies to participate in the federal program known as Lifeline.

Here’s a little background…

Through Lifeline, roughly 3.5 million Americans receive a monthly credit worth $9.25 that they then use to reduce the cost of buying mobile or residential broadband. Millions more use the subsidy to purchase traditional phone service. The program, which was created during the Reagan administration, supports seniors, veterans and rural Americans who otherwise cannot afford phone or Internet service. It is not funded by taxpayer dollars but by the fees collected on consumers’ phone bills each month.

And a high level look at both sides…

“Eliminating the national designation procedure puts more ‘state cops on the beat,'” said Paul Kjellander, a commissioner on Idaho’s public utilities commission, “and strengthens both complementary state Lifeline programs and the quality of service provided to customers, as well as deters fraud and abuse of the program.”

Opponents of the decision said the move will limit struggling Americans’ ability to choose a good provider, particularly in rural or low-income areas.

Sen Klobuchar and Rep Peterson talk rural broadband and farm bill in Detroit Lakes MN

The Duluth News Tribune reports

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson met with about a dozen Internet service providers in Detroit Lakes on Friday, Feb. 24, to help solve a nagging problem—how to get high-speed Internet service out to everybody, even rural areas where there is only one home or farm every mile or two.

One possible solution—put funding for it in the new Farm Bill, which would cut red tape, simplify the regulatory and funding process, and put the focus on rural areas where the need is greatest.

They have a plan to get the idea rolling…

About $230 million in federal money has gone to Minnesota for broadband, versus about $35 million in state money, so the federal effort has not been unsubstantial, Klobuchar said. But a sustained effort is needed, with a steady funding source.

Klobuchar will recruit six senators who are focused on rural issues, while Peterson will recruit six similar House members, and the group will work with industry experts to thresh out a feasible funding plan.

Area broadband providers gave their thoughts too..

Mark Birkholz, director of southern markets for Arvig Communications, and Gary Johnson, CEO and general manager of Paul Bunyan Communications in Bemidji, were among a half-dozen or so service providers and others who met with Klobuchar and Peterson at the Detroit Lakes Library.

They had high praise for the Minnesota state agency that works with broadband but not so much for federal agencies.

Federal money is capped and often comes with so much regulatory requirements that an additional staffer must almost be hired to deal with it all, Bickett said.

A big problem is that federal funding from the Universal Service Fund is largely tied to taxes on landline telephones, which are fading away as cell phones take their place. Logically, Internet taxes would replace landline taxes, but there is such fierce sentiment in the U.S. House not to “tax the Internet” that it’s politically difficult to make that switch. …

Federal funding also penalizes Internet service providers if they provide service outside their specific areas, even if a neighbor across the street has no service provider and is begging for broadband.

The Trump Administration has also hit the pause button on one initiative that was about to go into effect to provide broadband to lower income, underserved areas such as Indian reservations.

“We serve three tribes, how do we afford it?” said Johnson, of Paul Bunyan Communications. “It was a lifeline for broadband, we were about to hit go, now there’s a big pause button at the FCC.”