Minnesota has 134,000 locations eligible for FCC Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund funding

The FCC reports on how many locations (homes and businesses) are eligible for Phase I funding later this year. There are 134,000 locations in Minnesota that are eligible. More info from FCC

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced initial estimates of how many homes and businesses in each state could benefit from Phase I of the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. In total, about 6 million rural homes and businesses could be eligible for bidding in an auction slated for later this year to receive funding for high-speed broadband. This state-by-state list is for Phase I funding, which would target a total of $16 billion to census blocks with no broadband service at all meeting the Commission’s minimum speed standards. The remainder of the funding would be disbursed during Phase II. As recently announced, the FCC will vote January 30 on launching the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“The digital divide affects many people in many rural communities. I’ve said that the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund would be our boldest step yet to bridge this divide, and today we get a glimpse of the broad impact this investment in rural America would have across the country,” said Chairman Pai. “Our staff’s initial estimate shows that in 25 states there would be more than 100,000 locations that would be eligible for Phase I of the Fund, and the benefits would be felt from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains, and from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is critical to bridging the digital divide. I hope that my colleagues will join me in voting for it on January 30.”

MN’s Teddy Bekele named chair of FCC precision ag task force

The FCC announces

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today announced the membership and first meeting date of the new task force assigned to explore ways to enhance the productivity and efficiency of the nation’s farms and ranches through broadband-based technologies—a concept known as “precision agriculture.”

Planned in close consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the first meeting of the Task Force for Reviewing Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture is set for Monday, December 9, at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC Headquarters.  Chairman Pai has designated Teddy Bekele, Land O’Lakes Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, to serve as Chair of the Task Force, and Catherine Moyer, Pioneer Communications Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, to serve as Vice Chair.

A full list of Task Force members appointed by the Chairman in consultation with the Department of Agriculture is available at DA-19-1187A1.pdf.

Last month, Teddy Bekele was named chair of the Minnesota Broadband Task Force. It seems like wearing those two hats is a great benefit to Minnesota.

FCC calibrates testing for CAF-supported Carrier networks

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today approved performance testing procedures for carriers receiving Connect America Fund support to deploy fixed broadband networks to unserved Americans living in rural areas, helping to ensure that rural Americans have access to the same high-quality networks as Americans in urban areas.

Here are the specifics…

In response to Petitions for Reconsideration and Applications for Review of an earlier bureaulevel Performance Measure Order, the FCC today maintained the existing requirement that carriers conduct quarterly speed and latency tests between specified numbers of active subscribers’ homes and the Internet, and made targeted modifications to the testing procedures, including:

· Modifying the schedule for commencing testing by basing it on the deployment obligations specific to each Connect America Fund support mechanism;

· Implementing a new pre-testing period that will allow carriers to become familiar with testing procedures without facing a loss of support for failure to meet the requirements;

· Allowing greater flexibility to carriers in identifying which customer locations should be tested and selecting the endpoints for testing broadband connections

Minnesota and Blandin Foundation get nice nod from Christopher Ali as broadband instigators

Telecometitor has a nice feature on Professor Christopher Ali of the University of Virginia. He researches broadband policy noting…

In comparing what he hears today with what people have told the FCC and USDA in the past, Ali said, “the conversation hasn’t changed at all.”

We still hear that rural areas need broadband and people are “frustrated” because “large telecom is gobbling up the subsidies,” he said.

He also mentions Minnesota and the Blandin Foundation…

Ali singled out several success stories he encountered in his research, including a couple from Minnesota, where the Blandin Foundation has played a key role in spurring rural broadband deployment. In Rock County, Minnesota the community managed to build a fiber-to-the-home network to reach nearly 100% of the 10,000 people in the area. The modern infrastructure helped attract a shrimp company that wanted to set up operations there and although the company ultimately opted against that, the reason was unrelated to broadband but instead related to other Minnesota regulations.

Another success story comes from Winthrop County, Minnesota, where RS Fiber Cooperative built a broadband network that attracted a satellite medical college that required high-speed connectivity, Ali noted.

Also Minnesota gets a nod for our speed goals…

Asked about what the broadband speed target should be, Ali said “100/100 would be amazing” and noted that this is the target that the state of Minnesota has used successfully.

The 2026 speed goals are actually 100/20 (100 Mbps down and 20 up) but anyone applying for broadband grants must build networks that are scalable to 100/100.

Latest Primer on Net Neutrality Update

Thanks to the Benton Foundation for creating a Cliff Notes-like cheat sheet on the latest chapter of Net Neutrality; yesterday the US Court of Appeals issued a decision…

We uphold the 2018 Order, with two exceptions. First, the Court concludes that the Federal Communications Commission has not shown legal authority to issue its Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing any rule or requirement that the FCC “repealed or decided to refrain from imposing” in the Order or that is “more stringent” than the Order. 2018 Order ¶ 195. The Court accordingly vacates that portion of the Order. Second, we remand the Order to the agency on three discrete issues: (1) The Order failed to examine the implications of its decisions for public safety; (2) the Order does not sufficiently explain what reclassification will mean for regulation of pole attachments; and (3) the agency did not adequately address Petitioners’ concerns about the effects of broadband reclassification on the Lifeline Program. Despite the Commission’s failure to adequately consider the 2018 Order’s impact on public safety, pole-attachment regulation, and the Lifeline Program and despite our vacatur of the Preemption Directive, we decline to vacate the 2018 Order in its entirety…

Check out the page for everything you could want to know in record time!

Bicameral Bill Introduces to Increase Access To Broadband Service For Low-Income Americans

From Senator Durbin’s press release (Sen Klobuchar is co-signer)…

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18) today introduced a bicameral bill that would increase access to broadband service for low-income urban and rural Americans.  The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would help states increase awareness of, and enrollment in, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline program, which aims to help low-income households pay for their telephone and broadband service charges by providing a monthly subsidy of $9.25.  Enrollment in the Lifeline program remains extremely low nationwide. …

Along with Durbin and Maloney, the Promoting Access to Broadband Act is also cosponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 50 percent of non-broadband users cite cost as a reason that they do not have broadband at home, with 21 percent citing cost as the most important reason they do not have broadband.  In 2017, the Lifeline program had just a 28 percent participation rate nationwide.

The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would do the following:

  • Award grants to at least five states;
  • Direct the FCC to consider several factors in evaluating the applications, including: states that have a higher number of covered individuals, states with plans with the potential to reach a higher percentage of eligible-but-not-enrolled households, and the geographic diversity of the applicants;
  • Allow states to use the funds for a variety of Lifeline enrollment efforts, including:
    • Informing Medicaid enrollees or SNAP participants of potential eligibility in the Lifeline program,
    • Providing these individuals with information about how to apply for the Lifeline program,
    • Partnering with non-profit and community-based organizations to provide individuals with assistance applying for Lifeline and information about product and technology choices; and
  • Require the FCC to issue a report to Congress within a year of establishing the grant program evaluating the program’s effectiveness.

The bill is supported by the National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; the United Church of Christ, OC Inc.; the National Digital Inclusion Alliance; Third Way; and Public Knowledge.

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)…