US poised to award $100B to SpaceX Starlink – will it help rural residents?

Telecompetitor reports…

The analysts estimate SpaceX’s total addressable U.S. market at full deployment at between 300,000 to 800,000 households, or less than 1% of the market.

It’s a particularly noteworthy number, considering that SpaceX is poised to receive nearly $900 million from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas. And considering that the total number of locations for which SpaceX was the winning RDOF bidder is 642,000.

Why do they have doubts?

MoffettNathanson’s estimate of SpaceX’s addressable market is based on several assumptions, which according to the researchers, are conservative. These include:

  • Although Starlink currently has about 1400 satellites deployed, the analysis is based on the nearly 12,000 satellites that the company expects to launch, approximately one third of which will cover the U.S.
  • Based on satellite inclines of 53 degrees, researchers estimate that only about 3% of Starlink’s satellites will be visible to U.S. customers at any given time.
  • According to SpaceX FCC filings, each satellite will have a capacity of 17-23 Gbps, but future developments could expand that. Therefore, the researchers assumed a doubling or tripling of per-satellite capacity.
  • The average broadband user consumes data at a constant rate of 2.2-2.7 Mbps during peak consumption hours, leading to researchers’ assumption that 4 Mbps of bandwidth per user would be needed to provide good quality of service today. The researchers forecast that requirement to increase to 10-18 Mbps per user in the next five years

One last factor…

SpaceX is charging customers $499 for a rooftop antenna, which according to news reports, cost the company $2,400, which suggests that the company is subsidizing each installation by nearly $2,000.

It seems like that $499 installation fee could increase at any time, which would make satellite much less affordable to deploy for the household. The authors also remind us that Starlink is in line to get $100 billion from the US government through an RDOF award.

Is MN a broadband winner or loser? A look at Federal Funding RDOF and CAF

Telecompetitor reports on the RDOF ranking by state. Turns out Minnesota ranks highly for funding per rural resident…

The states with the most funding per rural resident, in descending order, were California ($830), West Virginia ($530), Arkansas ($377), Minnesota ($328), Massachusetts ($327), Mississippi ($313), Pennsylvania ($254), Wisconsin ($248), Illinois ($205) and Michigan ($201).

You’d think that would make Minnesotans feel like winners but it doesn’t because there is great concern over what that money is going to buy and when. The biggest concern is about LTD, undeniably a big winner with an opportunity to bid for almost $312 million project to build FTTH (fiber to the home) to 102,005 homes. This is especially surprising because they are a small company that always has focused on fixed wireless not fiber.

I’ve written a lot about this – so a quick rundown:

This story may sound familiar. It reads an awful lot like what I posted about CAF II awards in 2015

If I’ve learned nothing else from the TV show Toddlers in Tiaras, I learned that sometimes you don’t want to win the first crown. Winning the first crown is better than winning nothing, but it usually puts you out of the running for Best in Show. Getting access at speeds of 10/1 is better than what the communities receiving CAF 2 funding have now. And any improvement is an improvement. BUT those speeds are slower than the Minnesota speed goals of 10/5 (The MN Broadband Task Force is looking to update those speeds.) and they seem even slower when you compare them to rural areas that have Gig access, such as Grand RapidsRed WingLac qui Parle CountyNew PragueRogersMelrose and others.

Five years later, CAF II winners CenturyLink (Lumen) and Frontier report that they “may not have met” CAF II deployment deadlines for 2020. Here’s what I said when that announcement was made in January…

The frustration is that this leaves many people without broadband – again. The goal is to build to 25/3 (even lower in some areas) and they haven’t done that. To put that in perspective, it does not get them closer to the MN State speed goal of 100/20 by 2026. In Minnesota we are used to the State MN border to border broadband grant rules where project must build networks that are scalable to 100/100. That is not the case with these networks and getting to 25/3 does not mean getting to 100/20 will be easier.

Also there is the concern for customers that the promise or threat of building has kept competitors out of their market. The promise of a CAF II network has made it more difficult for the communities to get funding from other sources. CAF II funding focused on the providers only – communities didn’t not sign up or on to the program.

Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Frustration is watching from the sideline as decision makers make the same decision again and again, especially when you are the community that suffers the consequence.

FCC Creates Consumer FAQ for Emergency Broadband Benefit

Yesterday the FCC updated their site with more info on the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Here are the questions…

When can I sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

The program has been authorized by the FCC, but the start date has not yet been established.  The FCC is working to make the benefit available as quickly as possible, and you should be able to sign up by the end of April, 2021.  Please check our website, www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, regularly for the latest information.

Do I receive the funds directly each month?

No, the Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a monthly discount on broadband service of up to $50 per eligible household (or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands).  The participating broadband service provider will receive the funds directly from the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

Which broadband providers are participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

Various broadband providers, including those offering landline and wireless broadband, will be participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit.  Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of providers.  Check with the broadband providers in your area to learn about their plans for program participation and eligible service offerings.  You can also use the Companies Near Me tool found here.

sort byWhat is the enhanced benefit amount for residents of Tribal Lands?

Eligible households on Tribal lands can receive a total monthly discount of up to $75.  You can find out more about which areas are eligible Tribal lands by visiting this site: www.lifelinesupport.org/additional-support-for-tribal-land.

Easy on ramp to understanding Emergency Broadband Benefit? Chris Mitchell’s Connect This! Video

Someone suggested I watch the Institute for Local Self Reliance Connect This! video on Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a $3.2 billion program designed to get families connected to available service that they otherwise might not be able to afford. Chris Mitchell is the host and he has three guests: Travis Carter (USI Fiber) Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Olivia Wein (National Consumer Law Center).

These are three people who deal with different parts of the EBB and together they give a well rounded view. It’s a genius approach because they go in depth but not into the weeds. They want to share with each other information that practical and useful because that’s what each of them need to do. This isn’t academic to them, it’s their work. They are all going off the cuff, which make it easy to listen to and again keeps anyone from going into the weeds. They are asking each other real world questions.

Being honest, I thought I’d listen to a few minutes, then when I run into Chris at the grocery store I could say something – but I never turned it off.

Better broadband maps – the FCC is looking at changes

The FCC is looking to make their broadband maps better. GCN reports on the steps they are taking…

“The Commission will not only collect more data; it will collect better data,” Kiddoo said in a task force presentation. Minimum service speeds, maximum buffer sizes for fixed service along with infrastructure and drive-test data will give the FCC accurate broadband data, she said. Additionally, the commission will refine the data over time through crowdsourcing, audits and verification and enforcement actions.

“With these new data and tools, the Commission will produce vastly more granular and accurate broadband deployment maps, which in turn will allow the Commission to target Universal Service Funding more precisely and produce better data for Commission reports and analyses,” Kiddoo said.

The FCC has already brought on an expert data architect and design firm to work with the commission’s own data and IT teams to design the internal databases, systems and public-facing portals to support advanced broadband data collection and the resulting availability maps, FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in a March 16 blog.

The commission has also issued a request for information for the creation of the broadband serviceable location fabric — a common dataset of all U.S. locations where fixed broadband internet access service can be installed — that will form the foundation for the location- or address-based reporting.

This complex, data-driven evaluation of broadband access involves building new systems, processes and supporting materials, and it will not happen overnight.

Meanwhile, the FCC is asking consumers to share their broadband experience by filling out a form on the FCC’s site. The simple form asks for basic contact information along with a three-to-five sentence description of connection problems and what could be done to solve them.

MN Telecom Alliance asks FCC to deny LTD’s long-form RDOF application

I have written about concerns with the LTD winning options for federal funding through RDOF. Looks like MN Telecom Alliance is taking steps to formalize those concerns. Telecompetitor reports

Two state associations representing broadband providers have asked the FCC to deny the long-form application filed by LTD Broadband in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program. LTD Broadband had the largest amount of RDOF winning bids in the program and stands to gain $1.3 billion for broadband deployments in 15 states if its long-form application is approved.

In a joint filing with the FCC, the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Iowa Communications Alliance argue that “there is no indication that LTD has the technical, engineering, financial, operational, management, staff, or other resources to meet RDOF build-out and service obligations.”

They get into some details…

Arguments made by the Minnesota and Iowa associations in their filing about LTD Broadband RDOF concerns:

  • LTD won funding in five states in the Connect America Fund (CAF II) auction but was fined $3,563 for defaulting on bids in one census block in Nebraska and another in Nevada. The FCC rejected LTD’s argument that it had been unable to obtain designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier in those states – a requirement for obtaining funding.
  • The company has been criticized by the Minnesota Department of Commerce for failure to comply with its obligations to advertise Lifeline service to eligible customers.
  • The Better Business Bureau gives LTD’s Minnesota operations a failing rating based on the length of time it has been operating and because the company failed to respond to a complaint filed against the business and currently has 14 complaints filed against it.
  • The associations estimate that the LTD Broadband RDOF build-out will cost the company between $5,000 to $8,000 per location, yielding estimated 15-state construction costs of $2.6 billion to $4.2 billion. Noting that the company does not likely have the required funding on hand, the petitioners argue that the FCC should “place a substantial and stringent burden of proof on LTD to demonstrate reasonable, workable and detailed technical plans for constructing and operating its RDOF broadband networks . . . and to show that it has clear and certain access to the financial resources necessary to meet the realistic and detailed costs of such technical plans.”

The filing reminds the FCC that 160 members of Congress sent a letter to the commission urging the commission to thoroughly vet winning RDOF bidders.

OPPORTUNITY: Share your broadband story with the FCC!

Here is your opportunity from the FCC

Getting Connected to Broadband

In today’s world, it is critical that families and businesses across the country have access to broadband. As work, education, healthcare, and many other activities have moved online, broadband is no longer nice to have. It’s need to have for everyone.

In order to better determine where high speed internet services are currently unavailable, we need precise, accurate, and up-to-date broadband mapping data.

The FCC’s Broadband Data Task Force is developing the necessary tools to gather this information. This is a complex, data-driven effort that will involve building new systems, process, and supporting materials.

These new tools will enable the FCC to create maps that display fixed broadband availability for individual locations and mobile broadband availability with more accuracy. The program will also provide a way for consumers, as well as Tribal, state, and local governments, to challenge and improve the accuracy of the maps by sharing data with the FCC. More accurate maps will enable broadband funding programs to target support for broadband services to the areas most in need.

Share Your Broadband Experience

The Commission is working hard to develop these new tools as quickly as possible. In the meantime, consumers can share their broadband experiences with the Broadband Data Task Force using this sort by form.

Your experience with the availability and quality of broadband services at your location will help to inform the FCC’s efforts to close the digital divide. We may also send you additional information by email in the future as we develop tools for consumers to share data with the FCC. You can also follow our efforts to improve the accuracy of these maps at www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData

US Senate Committee meeting raises questions on speeds, needs and long term wins

RFDTV recently covered a Senate Commerce Committee that included a broadband update that seemed to cover two tricky topics, federal funding and speed goals. They used Dakota County as an example. The Committee heard from Justin Forde, the Senior Director of Government Relations at Midco who wanted to make sure that policy remained technology neutral and was concerned because other providers had received federal funding after they did for the same community. Apparently countering, Dr. Christopher Ali from the University of Virginia, seems to offer that some technologies will not meet the needs of farmers and that’s why we need to look at supply and demand. RFDTV reports

According to Forde, “A lot of farmers do not want a fiber line to the farm, they want connectivity to the entire farm. In fact, we have a farmer that has two farms, 75 miles apart. He can use fixed wireless and get connections to both of those for less than $100 dollars. The cost of running fiber to those wouldn’t be economical for us or for the federal government to serve both of those farms.”

Using a recent example from Minnesota, he explained how better agency coordination is needed to ensure federal dollars are spent wisely and where they are needed most.

“We’ve been awarded CAF 2 funding to reach areas of Dakota County in Minnesota and are fully on track for our deployment schedule, but recently we learned two other providers have been awarded CARES Act funding to serve the same areas,” Forde states. “That’s three providers awarded federal funds to serve the exact same area.”

Lawmakers also spent a significant amount of time on the question of what level of connectivity is needed.

Dr. Christopher Ali from the University of Virginia says that precision ag needs access to symmetrical 100×100 speeds.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in rural Minnesota talking to precision agriculture companies and providers; they are uploading terabytes of data and doing an incredible amount of soil analysis oftentimes in realtime, if possible if the technology is there… They need that ultra-fast symmetric upload speeds to enable them to make real-time decisions about planting,” Dr. Ali explains.

However, Forde pushed back saying that increasing the standard from 25/3 MBS to 100/100 would only reclassify some areas as unserved.

“The farms, hundreds of them in the vast agriculture area could also get over 100/20 service out in those farms surely from Midco,” Forde adds. “All of those areas, if the speed changes, would now become eligible for federal funding.”

Farmers don’t want fiber?

There’s a lot to unpack here. First the allegations that famers don’t want fiber seems strange. They certainly want fiber to the tower and I suspect they would be happy to get fiber to the farm but that costs may be a factor in their decision. One way or another they will be creating a wireless network built off a wired connection because they are doing precision agriculture, which generally means connecting lots of moving pieces. (Think of the super charged version of your kids’ various devices connecting to your home network.) And just like we’re all learning we want to best connection we can get to support those home devices, farmers feel the same.

To change or not to change broadband definitions or goals that is the question.

Dr. Ali offers that precision ag needs access to symmetrical 100/100 speeds. And according to the article, Forde pushed back saying that increasing the standard from 25/3 MBS to 100/100 would only reclassify some areas as unserved. The federal definition of broadband right now is 25/3 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up). The Minnesota state goals are 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026 – but the MN Broadband Task Force is investigating whether that should be increased.

I’ve heard this reasoning in previous discussions in the Task Force meetings and other places. So again I think it’s worth unpacking. On the front lines, a user is more concerned with “do I have enough broadband” than whether they are considered served, underserved or unserved. Can I get through a telehealth visit while feeding the pigs or does my broadband drop or slow down? Can I do a zoom call while my kids are taking classes online?

Providers and policymakers care about whether someone is served/underserved/unserved because that determines where the funding goes and that helps color the maps that show how successful we are in getting everyone broadband. A mismatch in the definitions may help policymakers declare an early success – but it will be short-lived because constituents who can’t get their work done with slower (25/3) speeds will still be calling them to complain. And if it turns out that taxpayer money has been spent on broadband solutions that do not scale to higher speeds, constituents will be angry and policymakers may feel duped. The only ones who benefit from a lower speed goal are the providers who get the funding to build to lower speeds.

I’m trying to think of an analogy – the best I can do is I go to buy a dress for my daughter, she needs a size 4 and they only have a size 2. But the salesperson convinces me that this size 2 will work, because it’s sleeveless or short or (worse) made of stretchy material. Oh and I can get it on sale. So I buy the dress. My kid is excited. Big win for the mom. Until she tries it on. It simply doesn’t fit. Maybe she can cut it into a top or a skirt – she can be partially served – but at the end of the day, she can’t go to the prom in it.

Unfortunately broadband is a lot more expensive than a prom dress. We all want a win – aiming for what we need will help us reach a longer lasting win.

FCC looking at broadband speeds and maps

Seems like speeds and maps are popular topics right now; the Minnesota Broadband Task Force was also talking about these topics. MeriTalk reports on the latest FCC meeting…

Much of the hearing focused on what the FCC has defined as broadband speed – 25 Mbps in download speeds and 3 Mbps in upload speeds. Ali called that speed definition “woefully inadequate” for the average family of four where two adults are working from home and two children are attending K-12 online. In addition to it being unsuitable for families, he also pointed out that it prevents businesses – especially rural businesses – from embracing emerging technologies. He specifically cited the precision agriculture industry as a field that requires modern broadband speeds. Ali argued for establishing a goal of 100/100 Mbps speeds, or symmetrical upload and download speed.

O’Rielly disagreed with Ali’s assessment, both with his overall opinion on the 25/3 Mbps and the claim that precision agriculture specifically needs much faster speeds. O’Rielly described the existing speed definition as “incredibly functional,” and said he’s seen data that suggests users could have six simultaneous Zoom calls with that speed. Forde also supported O’Rielly’s position that 25/3 Mbps was sufficient for the average family. Additionally, he argued against needing symmetrical speeds, saying that even during the year-long surge in teleworking and telelearning, download demand remains significantly higher than upload demand.

The committee also touched on how long it will take the FCC to update its broadband service maps. As recently as last year, the FCC said it could get the maps updated in just a few months. However, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the committee, said the FCC is now saying it could take upwards of two years, which he said was unacceptable.

O’Rielly said if the committee wants the mapping completed sooner, it needs to make mapping the FCC’s top priority. However, he demurred when Sen. Wicker asked if he believed it could be completed in a few months.

Both Forde and Wilkins touched on the role the private sector plays in expanding broadband access, and stressed the importance of working with Federal, state, and local authorities.

Forde said broadband companies need to be “focused like a laser” on underserved areas and get broadband deployed “as soon as possible.” Further, Forde said, “we know where those areas are and we know how to reach them.”

FCC adopts federal broadband discount program: up to $50/month, $75/month on tribal lands and $100 for device

Here’s the quick take…

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.  It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

The FCC reports

Today, the FCC voted to formally adopt a Report and Order that establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.

 

“Today the Federal Communications Commission made history.  It adopted rules for the nation’s largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service.  This $3.2 billion program was designed to lower the cost of high-speed internet service for those struggling to get the connectivity they need during the ongoing pandemic.  It’s a challenge that is all too real for too many families.

“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection.  It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work.  It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning.  It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries.  In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.  That’s why our work is already underway to get this program up and running, and I expect it to be open to eligible households within the next 60 days as providers sign up and program systems are put in place.  I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly and the right way,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.  It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

Under the law, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.

LTD Broadband partners with Aviat for wireless platform system

PRNewswire reports

Aviat Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVNW), the leading expert in wireless transport solutions, today announced that LTD Broadband, an internet service provider (ISP) and top recipient in the US government’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction with a total of $1.3 billion in funding, will deploy Aviat’s WTM 4000 microwave and multi-band platform systems in its network middle mile and for fiber redundancy. The company has already deployed these Aviat systems in its current network, which delivers high-speed connectivity to commercial and residential subscribers in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, with other states in planning as part of the company’s RDOF expansion.

“Our experience with Aviat has been exceptional,” said Corey Hauer, Chief Executive Officer, LTD Broadband. “The company’s WTM systems deliver the multi-gigabit fixed wireless performance we need, and Aviat Design enables solid link planning with no surprises. We are able to order the systems from the Aviat Store and take delivery within a couple of weeks, something no other radio manufacturer can offer us, accelerating our time to market. These capabilities will become even more critical as we roll out our RDOF plans.”

LTD Broadband was selected to submit a long form RDOF proposal to build FTTH; they were the biggest winner of potential funding in Minnesota. There is some concern that they are better versed in building wireless network than the fiber they are committed to building in Minnesota.

How LTD Broadband plans to meet RDOF requirements

Fierce Telecom takes a look at how LTD Broadband did so well with the RDOF process…

The RDOF auction was a “reverse auction.” This is different than typical auctions where multiple buyers bid up the price for an item from the seller. In its reverse auction, the FCC drove down the price of its item — awards to deploy broadband — by having multiple bidders compete against each other to provide the best technology at the lowest price. The FCC has used reverse auctions before.

But there was a provision in the FCC’s auction rules (paragraph 20, page 9) for RDOF that created a “clearing round.” The bidding system took into account the performance and latency promises of bidders in a census block and eliminated the inferior bidder from proceeding.

The electric co-ops may not have bid at the highest speed tier — the 1 Gbps/500 Mbps — if they weren’t confident they could deliver those speeds. But it turned out they were often eliminated from the auction if another bidder in a particular census block did bid at that speed tier.

Sounds like LTD was able to use this to their advantage; they did bid at the higher tiers.

Fierce Telecom also look at how LTD plans to deliver on their fiber plan…

Hauer said LTD plans to deliver on its promise of fiber to rural areas, and he doesn’t seem daunted by the cost, even though the expense of fiber has humbled large companies in the past, such as Verizon.

He said it’s hard for providers to lay fiber in urban and suburban areas because there is a lot of existing infrastructure to contend with such as natural gas lines, sewer pipes, water systems and buildings. “Our theory is that it’s going to be easier to do in rural areas,” he said. “Fiber is primarily a labor proposition.” He said his company will be able to deploy fiber faster and cost-effectively in rural because there are less obstacles.

He said LTD will probably lay fiber using both methods: in-the-ground and aerial on existing infrastructure such as telephone wires. He said, “With a fiber plow that puts fiber in the ground, you can go at walking speed.”

Even though there’s a shortage of skilled fiber layers, Hauer said he has a plan for securing workers, which he’s not willing to share publicly.

In areas where it’s simply impossible to lay fiber, LTD will use other methods such as microwave hops. “Fiber is the source of the river,” said Hauer. “And in many cases, we also will use fiber at the end. For RDOF, where we would consider FWA would be the middle mile…. It might be mountain top to mountain top where we could do multi-gigabit microwave links as part of this. In most cases we’ll be able to run fiber.”

EVENT Feb 16: RDOF – LEO Satellite Assessment Webinar from Fiber Broadband

Of potential interest to folks watching RDOF and especially if you like in an area where satellite is in line to get RDOF funding (check map)…

RDOF – LEO Satellite Assessment
Presented by: Fiber Broadband Association
Complimentary Webinar
Tuesday, February 16th, 10:00 AM EDT

The Fiber Broadband Association commissioned research firm Cartesian to develop an independent analysis and a model to help the FCC analyze whether Starlink is likely to meet the RDOF public interest obligations.

The results of this study indicate that Starlink will fail to meet the RDOF public interest requirements on a nationwide basis, with over 56% of subscribers expected to experience service degradation during peak periods. This expected service degradation will worsen and significantly impact all its awarded RDOF locations if Starlink’s broadband capacity is also offered to (non-RDOF) commercial subscribers.

Register now

Could Amnesty Program for Over-Zealous RDOF Winners help rural Minnesota?

Telecompetitor has an idea for RDOF

As more and more stakeholders express concern that some RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) winners will not be able to deploy rural broadband meeting the service parameters to which they committed, one stakeholder has an interesting idea for what to do about this. Perhaps an RDOF amnesty program would be appropriate, suggested Jonathan Chambers, a partner with Conexon, on a recent phone interview with Telecompetitor.

One of the providers under the spotlight is in line to receive funding to serve a big portion of Minnesota

Chambers is one of several stakeholders that have singled out LTD Broadband, which won the most funding — $1.3 billion — in the auction, as a company that won funding to serve considerably more locations than it already serves. Traditionally the company has offered fixed wireless and fiber but bid to deploy gigabit-speed fiber for its RDOF buildouts.

Telecompetitor talked to LTD Broadband CEO Corey Hauer in late December, who said, “We have a history of very rapid growth. We expect that to continue. We have met challenges of growth and scale as we’ve grown.”

One hiccup is that some providers bid to provide services they don’t usually provide…

Chambers said he has heard from auction participants that some participants that initially wanted to use gigabit fixed wireless for their auction bids were told they couldn’t bid to use fixed wireless at the gigabit speed tier. (The auction awarded funding to the company that committed to deploying broadband at the lowest level of support, but a weighting system favored bids to deploy gigabit service.)

It’s not clear why some companies allegedly were allowed to bid gigabit fixed wireless and others weren’t. One possibility is that different FCC staffers responded differently to bidders after reviewing their initial applications.

The upshot, according to Chambers, is that “you can already see there are companies that seem to be preparing for the great bait-and-switch.” He speculates that some companies that bid to deploy gigabit fiber will try to get the FCC to allow them to use fixed wireless instead.

Allowing providers to rethink their bids may save time for communities…

Chambers sees a possibility that the review process could change, considering the recent administration change. As things stand now, however, any funding pulled back from the provisional winner would likely roll into the Phase 2 RDOF auction, which won’t happen until the FCC completes its revamp of broadband availability data collection and analyzes that data, which could be a time-consuming process.

Chambers offered some interesting alternative ideas. One idea, he said, might be to offer RDOF amnesty to any auction bidder, which would give over-zealous bidders the option of bowing out gracefully without encountering penalties.

And perhaps the FCC wouldn’t have to wait until the Phase 2 auction to award the funding returned by those accepting amnesty. Perhaps the commission could conduct a separate auction for areas turned back, Chambers suggested.

A problem now is that communities are left in a wait-and-see limbo. They are told to trust the provider, until the provider doesn’t perform. It takes the patience required for waiting for a buffered video to download to a new level.

Lynd MN getting better broadband through Woodstock’s MN Broadband grant (Lyon County)

The Marshall Independent reports

We’ve been trying for the grant for three years. We looked at it multiple ways,” said Terry Nelson, general manager of Woodstock Communications.

On Jan. 28, Woodstock Communications learned it had received one of 39 Border-to-Border Broadband Grants awarded statewide. The $325,548 grant will help make it possible to extend fiberoptic cable to 203 homes, businesses and community buildings in Lynd.

The project will significantly improve internet speed in the community, Nelson said.

“It’s going to be fantastic. Hopefully it will help bring businesses into Lynd,” said Lynd City Clerk Sue Paradis. Having reliable internet access has become a vital part of both school and work, and Paradis said the COVID-19 pandemic has really driven home its importance. “There’s a lot of people who work from home now.”

Nelson said the plan will be for Woodstock Communications to start the excavation to lay fiberoptic cable in Lynd this spring or summer. A lot of the timing will depend on how quickly Woodstock can get the needed cable supply, he said.

“We’re pretty much sticking to the city limits of Lynd,” including the housing developments extending north past the Savannah Oaks golf course, Nelson said.

Folks who have been watching the State (Border to Border Broadband) grants versus the federal RDOF funding, will especially appreciate Woodstock’s process, starting with getting the community involved…

“We had to show there was a need in the community,” he said.

Nelson said current internet speeds in Lynd range from five to 25 megabits per second, “But a lot of it is inconsistent.” With the new broadband project, speeds would be up to a gigabit per second, he said.

Nelson said Woodstock Communications sent out letters to Lynd residents to notify them of the project, and he planned to meet with members of the Lynd City Council to share more information on. Updates on the Lynd broadband project will also be posted on Woodstock Communications’ Facebook page, he said.