FCC announces some RDOF winners – in MN that’s Farmers Mutual Telephone Company

FCC announced 466 RDOF winning bids. The only winner announced in Minnesota was Farmers Mutual Telephone Company. Here’s the announcement

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids identified in Attachment A of this Public Notice.

For each of the winning bids identified in Attachment A, we have reviewed the long-form application information, including the letter(s) of credit and Bankruptcy Code opinion letter(s) from the long-form applicant’s legal counsel.  Based on the representations and certifications in the relevant long-form application, we authorize support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

We will also soon post a state-level summary under the “Results” tab on the Auction 904 webpage at https://www.fcc.gov/auction/904/round-results.  The summary will provide for each long-form applicant included in this Public Notice:  1) the total support amount over 10 years and total number of locations that the long-form applicant is being authorized for in each state, 2) the total number of locations to which the authorized support recipient must offer the required voice and broadband services for each performance tier and latency in each state, and 3) the eligible census blocks included in the winning bids that are being authorized in each state.

Here are some of the details for the Farmers Mutual bids:

Winning bid MN-073-1801002

  • 26 locations
  • $21,054.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801001

  • 2 locations
  • $ 7,626.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1801003

  • 6 locations
  • $ 2,294.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802001

  • 119 locations
  • $ 216,152.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1802002

  • 37 locations
  • $ 166,258.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803001

  • 39 locations
  • $ 152,096.00

Winning bid MN-073-1803002

  • 78 locations
  • $ 177,172.00 over 10 years

Winning bid MN-073-1803003

  • 25 locations
  • $ 17,170.00 over 10 years

No word on LTD.

FCC will study cost of landlords’ broadband deals

Yahoo News reports

The Federal Communications Commission wants to learn whether deals between landlords and internet service providers raise prices for apartment dwellers as part of the Biden administration’s push on increasing competition in the economy.

Why it matters: Despite cities having more competition among broadband providers, those in apartment buildings can be stuck with one provider because of the arrangements.

Driving the news: A senior agency official told Axios the FCC on Tuesday will begin seeking comment on the impact certain practices have on tenants, including:

  • Revenue sharing agreements in which the landlord takes a percentage of the revenue an internet service provider receives, incentivizing the landlord to steer tenants to that provider.

  • Exclusive wiring agreements that involve a landlord saying only one internet provider can use a building’s wires to provide service.

  • Exclusive marketing agreements where only one company can market its services in the building.

Residents in urban areas don’t realize that there are residents and whole communities in rural area that no real competition for broadband provider. And if they do they think somehow only one provider has permission to serve a certain area. I think these deals with landlords are the closest an urban experience gets to understanding rural. They aren’t any federal rules prohibiting other providers from serving an apartment building but the landlord has made deals (and sometimes they are exclusive) that makes it much easier for one provider. The same way the state or federal funding may make it easier for one provider to enter a rural market.

The result is the same – it promotes a lack of competition.

FCC announces second ECF application window; $5.137 billion requested in first window

An announcement from the FCC…

The FCC announced  that requests for $5.137 billion in funding to support 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections were received during the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program’s initial filing window.  The window, which closed August 13, 2021, attracted applicants from all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia – including schools and libraries in both rural and urban communities seeking funding for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.  Additional information about the demand at the state level can be found here.

In view of outstanding demand and the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the FCC will open a second application filing window for schools and libraries to request funding from the roughly $2 billion in program funds remaining for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.  The second window will open on September 28 and run until October 13.  Eligible schools and libraries will be able to apply for financial support to purchase eligible equipment and services for students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs.

ECF Demand: Minnesota

  • Amount Requested for Equipment: $50,636,008.93
  • Amount Requested for Services: $12,232,818.32
  • Total Funding Requested: $62,868,827.25

EVENT Sep 13: Deleting the Broadband Affordability Divide with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel

From the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIAA)

Deleting the Broadband Affordability Divide:
A Virtual Chat with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel

featuring a virtual discussion with FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and IIA Co-Chair Kim Keenan, along with founding IIA Connected Roundtable participants:

  • Joi Chaney, Executive Director of National Urban League’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy
  • Dr. Dominique Harrison, Director of Technology Policy for the Joint Center
  • Rosa Mendoza, Founder, President and CEO of ALLvanza

Monday, September 13th
10:00 a.m. ET

Ten years ago, policies to close the digital divide focused exclusively on connection. But we now know that the broadband adoption gap is approximately three times larger than the availability gap. Right now, the Federal Communications Commission is taking action to ensure that all Americans can afford to connect to the internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband availability and access for all Americans since 2004, invites you to hear leaders from top social justice organizations engage in a conversation with FCC Acting Chair Rosenworcel about the success of the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program and what lessons learned can be applied to modernization of the Lifeline Program. Acting Chair Rosenworcel and the Connected Roundtable will explore:

  • What the FCC did to fuel the surge in sign-ups for the EBB and whether similar strategies would increase the Lifeline participation rate from just 26% of eligible households;
  • How long the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s $14.2 billion allocated for an Affordable Connectivity benefit program, which is an extension of the EBB, might last before it runs out;
  • How local governments, private companies, community institutions and advocacy organizations can support the FCC in its mission to bridge the broadband affordability gap;
  • What Lifeline reforms could make the program a viable long-term solution to the broadband affordability challenge.

Essentia Health in Duluth gets nearly $1 million from FCC for telehealth

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today approved an initial set of 62 applications for funding commitments totaling $41.98 million for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program.  Health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, including those previously unfunded in Round 1, will use this funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.  The FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program supports the efforts of health care providers to continue serving their patients by providing reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to enable telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to health care has proven to be not only a national issue, but also a local issue, and it is imperative that every community is given the tools to access this care as safely and effectively as possible.  The FCC is committed to ensuring that every state and territory in the United States receive funding as part of this program,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “The FCC took action earlier this year to establish a system for rating applications in Round 2, factoring in the hardest hit and lowest-income areas, Tribal communities, and previously unfunded states and territories.  Now even more doctors and nurses in every corner of our country can establish or expand telehealth services to support patients and their families.”

This first set of awards will go to applications that qualify for the equitable distribution step, as required by Congress and outlined in the FCC’s rules, to ensure nationwide distribution of funding to health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.  This step funds the highest-scoring applications in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia plus the second highest-scoring application from the states and territories that did not receive funding in Round 1, if multiple applications were submitted from those areas.

Round 2 is a $249.95 million federal initiative that builds on the $200 million program established as part of the CARES Act.  Now that funding has been committed to the highest-scoring applications from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, the next funding awards will commit funding to the highest-scoring applications, regardless of geography, until at least $150 million has been committed.  The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau will then announce an opportunity for all remaining applicants to supplement their applications, as required by Congress.  After all remaining applicants have the opportunity to supplement, the remaining program funding will be committed.

Here’s the Minnesota recipient…

Essentia Health in Duluth, an integrated health system in Minnesota, serving patients in the upper Midwest, was awarded $981,204 to support the acquisition of remote monitoring devices and video carts with peripheral cameras and stethoscopes/EKGs for care during the pandemic, and to increase wireless broadband coverage at eight clinics to allow for additional space for telehealth patients.

FCC data shows growing fiber, need for upload

C|Net reports

Every six months, the Federal Communications Commission releases updated data on the respective coverage of every internet provider in the US. That includes coverage maps as well as metrics on the types of technologies being used, the number of customers that fall into each provider’s footprint, and the specific upload and download speeds available to those customers, should they choose to sign up. The latest update went live just last week, and brings the database up to date as of June 2020.

I have picked out the charts and notes they share that I think are most interesting…

Percentage of US Population covered by each ISP

  • by the nature of their technology, satellite providers cover a lot.
  • Starlink isn’t on the horizon yet – but this is from June 2020

Percentage of Provider’s Footrpint with access to FTTH

  • Fiber is increasing
  • The problem is that it isn’t available everywhere — for the most part, providers have focused on building out fiber networks in population-dense regions around America’s major cities, leaving rural internet customers out of the mix.

Percentage of provider footprint with access to each (upload) speed via technology

  • Of all of the internet providers that offer service to at least 10% of the US population (including satellite providers omitted from this chart), Verizon is the only one that offers upload speeds faster than 25Mbps to a majority of its customers.
  • upload speeds from most providers remain much slower than most customers would probably like. That’s largely because fiber is really the only mode of home internet capable of hitting triple-digit upload speeds, and as mentioned earlier, fiber is far from universally available.

Minnesota requests almost $63 million from FCC’s n Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it has received requests for $5.137 billion to fund 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections as part of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The first filing window, which closed August 13, 2021, attracted applications from all 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia – including schools and libraries in both rural and urban communities seeking funding for eligible equipment and services received or delivered between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. In view of outstanding demand and the recent spike in coronavirus cases, the FCC will open a second application filing window for schools and libraries to request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them – and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities. This funding is an important down payment in closing the Homework Gap so that all children, regardless of their circumstances or where they live, have access to the tools they need to succeed,” said acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “The pandemic highlighted like never before the difference a reliable internet connection can make in a student’s education, and we want to make sure that as many schools and libraries can apply for support this school year. The need is there, and the opening of a second application window reflects that. Together with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in American students and households, so more Americans can connect, communicate, and more fully participate in modern life.”

The FCC will open the second application filing window to provide support for the current school year in light of outstanding demand, including applications that were filed after the close of the initial application filing window, and resource challenges some schools faced with a summertime application filing window. Moreover, the rise of the Delta variant means off[1]campus connectivity remains vital to ensuring students, school staff, and library patrons can engage in remote learning as they face challenges and uncertainty amidst the ongoing COVID[1]19 pandemic.

During the second application filing window, which will run from September 28 to October 13, eligible schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase eligible equipment and services for students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs. The acting Chairwoman has long made closing the Homework Gap a priority during her tenure at the Commission. Recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 17 million children struggling without the broadband access they need to fully engage in remote learning.

For the first application filing window, the FCC set a target to review and issue decisions for 50% of workable applications within 60 days of the close of the application filing window and 70% of workable applications within 100 days of the close of the application filing window. The funding is available for the purchase of laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need, and is available to support off-campus leaning, such as homework, even if schools have returned to full time in-person instruction.

Minnesota requested: $62,868,827.25

What about the RDOF areas that are already served?

Fierce Telecom reports on what’s happening with the RDOF grants. As you may recall, the FCC asked providers to look at the areas they wanted to serve to make sure that they weren’t already served. Providers are doing that but it’s raising questions – what will happen to the money the FCC slated to serve those areas…

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently urged operators to ensure money awarded to them in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction wouldn’t go toward unnecessary coverage, and they responded – with a wave of waiver requests. As a result, millions in broadband funding could be left on the table.

Top RDOF winners including LTD Broadband, Windstream, Frontier Communications and Starry, were among those seeking to relinquish winning bids without penalty, after receiving warning letters from the FCC last month. Collectively, the waiver requests cover thousands of census blocks across at least 26 states.

The FCC issued letters to a total of 197 RDOF winners, flagging potentially redundant funding in a total of 15,187 census blocks. Operators had until August 16 to request waivers for these areas.

LTD Broadband requested waivers for more than 3,000 census blocks spanning California, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin. The operator was notably the top bidder in the RDOF auction, winning $1.3 billion in funding to provide service to 528,000 locations across those 15 states.

… and what will happen to the providers in question…

It is unclear exactly how much funding is associated with the waiver requests mentioned above. Last month, the FCC revealed more than 60 bidding entities have already defaulted on winning bids totaling $78,533,385.30 and covering nearly 11,000 census blocks.

According to RDOF rules, operators in default of winning bids are subject to a penalty of $3,000 per violation. But the FCC said in its warning letter last month it would consider waiving the fees if operators could demonstrate why defaulting on their bids would serve the public interest.

In redefining the speed goals for funding, the US Senate may have effectively boosted broadband speeds to 100/20

Doug Dawson looks at the Senate infrastructure bill and highlights an important action – the Senate just increased the definition of broadband for funding purposes and that the definition that matters…

The recently passed Senate infrastructure legislation included a new definition of an underserved household as being a location that lacks access to reliable broadband service offered with a speed of not less than 100 megabits per second for downloads; and 20 megabits per second for uploads, plus a latency sufficient to support real-time, interactive applications. It’s hard to see this as anything other than a new definition of broadband.

A brief history of broadband speed definitions…

In 2015, the FCC established the current definition of broadband as 25/3 Mbps (that’s 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload). Prior to 2015, the FCC definition of broadband was 4/1 Mbps, set a decade earlier. The FCC didn’t use empirical evidence like speed tests in setting the definition of broadband in 2015. They instead conducted what is best described as a thought experiment. They listed the sorts of functions that a “typical” family of four was likely to engage in and then determined that a 25/3 Mbps broadband connection was enough speed to satisfy the broadband needs of a typical family of four.

The FCC asked the question again in 2018 and 2020 if 25/3 Mbps was still an adequate definition of broadband. The Commission took no action and concluded that 25/3 Mbps was still a reasonable definition of broadband. There were comments filed by numerous parties that argued that the definition of broadband should be increased.

And the meat of the issue…

All of this is politics, of course, and homes and businesses know if broadband is adequate without the FCC setting some arbitrary speed as magically being broadband. Is the home that gets 27 Mbps all that different than one that’s getting 23 Mbps? Unfortunately, when it comes to being eligible for federal grant monies it matters.

I think there is a good argument to be made that the Senate just preempted the FCC in setting the definition of broadband. Declaring that every home or business with speeds less than 100/20 Mbps is underserved is clearly just another way to say that speeds under 100/20 Mbps are not good broadband.

Of course, the FCC could continue to use 25/3 Mbps as the definition of broadband for the purposes of the annual report to Congress. But Congress just changed the definition of broadband that matters – the one that comes with money.

This is a timely conversation worldwide as many households and communities felt the punch of COVID quarantines and broadband issues. In Minnesota, the MN Broadband Task Force have committed to look at the definition of speeds (or speed goals) this year.

How could the federal Infrastructure bill impact broadband in MN?

KARE11 News reports

The Senate’s infrastructure bill would bring billions of dollars in improvements to Minnesota.

The $1 trillion infrastructure package received bipartisan support in the Senate, passing 69 to 30 with 19 Republicans joining Democrats. The bill, which still needs to pass the House, includes $550 billion in new spending.

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) both voted in favor of the bill.

For broadband in Minnesota…

The plan would bring at least $100 million for broadband internet systems in communities across the state and provide access to at least 83,000 residents currently without broadband access.

“We found out in really glaring technicolor during the pandemic that we have 144,000 households in our state that don’t have high speed broadband. The school superintendents would say in all of the rural areas something like 10% to 15% of their kids couldn’t even do their homework over the internet because they had such slow internet,” said Sen. Klobuchar, during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.

La Crosse Tribune goes into the broadband aspects…

More radical industry changes laid out in the Biden administration’s original $100 billion plan, like promoting alternatives to the dominant phone and cable industries and hinting at price regulation, didn’t survive bipartisan negotiations over a bill that had to attract Republican support. Among the bill’s big winners, in fact, are those same internet service providers.

There’s a focus on affordability…

The Senate bill would provide about $14 billion toward a $30 monthly benefit that helps low-income people pay for internet, extending a pandemic-era emergency program.

“What makes this historic is the focus on affordability,” said Jenna Leventoff of Public Knowledge, which advocates for more funding for broadband. The bill, should it become law, is “going to help a lot of people that were otherwise unable to connect.”

An existing program, known as Lifeline, aimed to help solve this affordability issue before. But it only provides $9.25 a month, which doesn’t go far for internet plans. It has also been a target of Republicans, who say it has fraud and abuse problems.

Industry groups have also advocated for a permanent broadband benefit. Broadband companies, if they choose to participate, will gain additional customers. The program is “a plus for all ISPs,” said Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Jayant.

And network deployment…

The bill provides about $42 billion in grants to states, who in turn will funnel it to ISPs to expand networks where people don’t have good internet service. Companies that take this money will have to offer a low-cost service option. Government regulators will approve the price of that service.

The bill requires that internet projects come with minimum speeds of 100 mbps down/20 up, a big step up from current requirements. But some advocates are concerned that it’s still too slow, and argue that the federal government may have to spend big again down the line to rebuild networks that aren’t up to par for future needs.

Cable companies are also happy that the funding is primarily dedicated to areas that don’t currently have broadband service. Some advocates had hoped the government would step in and fund competition to cable so that people had more choices. Others saw that as wasteful.

The Biden administration’s initial plan promised to promote local government networks, cooperatives and nonprofits as alternatives to for-profit phone and cable companies. Under the Senate’s plan now, such groups aren’t prioritized, but they can still get money from states for networks. The telecom industry has lobbied against municipal networks; about 20 states restrict them.

Senate negotiators also left loopholes in language around an attempt to end what’s known as “digital redlining” — when telecom companies provide upgraded internet service in wealthier parts of town but leave others without good service. The bill says the FCC must create rules to stop this practice, “insofar as technically and economically feasible.” But the whole reason telecoms leave some areas with subpar service is because those neighborhoods are not as profitable, said Leventoff.

Wisconsin looks at failed history of federal funding for broadband

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does a nice job detailing the illustrious history of federal funding for broadband over the past few Administrations. The title of the article says it all…

With poor data, deficient requirements and little oversight, massive public spending still hasn’t solved the rural internet access problem

There isn’t a lot new in the summary but it’s a good and succinct account, starting with the stories of people who have been waiting for decades for the federal funds to trickle down to deploy broadband to their homes and including lots of good details, facts and figures. They boil the issue to a few high level points: inadequate mapping of the problem and minimal requirements and even less administration.

The need…

The Federal Communications Commission has said that nationwide around 14 million people lack access to broadband, also known as high-speed internet. However, the firm Broadband Now, which helps consumers find service, estimates it’s closer to 42 million. And although Microsoft Corp. doesn’t have the ability to measure everyone’s actual internet connection, the tech giant says approximately 120 million Americans aren’t using the internet at true broadband speeds of at least 25-megabit-per-second downloads and 3 Mbps uploads — a further indication of how many people have been left behind.

The attempts so far…

None of the efforts under any of the administrations succeeded, and some of the reasons were fairly straightforward. The data on who has broadband  — and who doesn’t  — has been flawed. Some of the upgrades quickly became obsolete. There’s been limited accountability.

“We have given away $40 billion in the last 10 years … and haven’t solved the problem,” said Tom Wheeler, who was FCC chairman in Obama’s administration. “I always thought the definition of insanity was doing things the same way over and over and believing that, somehow, something will change.”

And so the digital divide, which some say has become a chasm, remains.

And the funders having little to say about who gets service…

Under the Connect America Fund requirements, grant recipients had a great deal of latitude in where they deployed upgrades. They were allowed, for example, to bypass thinly populated sections of rural counties and make up the difference in other CAF II-eligible areas that had more customers.

It’s really hurt places like Price County, according to Hallstrand, who says the government subsidies should be used to cover the areas most in need of better service before the money’s spent in other places.

“That’s how rural America gets broadband,” he said.

In one rural Wisconsin county after another, Connect America Fund II has left a trail of skepticism and frustration. Many communities have initiated their own broadband expansion projects, seeking state grants and local partnerships, because they haven’t seen much help from the federal government and big-name service providers.

Interactive map of RDOF winners and bids in default

Last week, the FCC announced some of the winners and losers of RDOF awards. CNS has created an interactive map that include that info. Specifically, as they reports. The maps include

  • Initially won RDOF block groups
  • LTD and AB Indiana bidders’ declined waivers
  • Bids ready to be authorized
  • Bids in default
  • Potentially previously served blocks within winning areas

More on FCC’s scrutiny of RDOF awards – necessary but leaving communities in limbo

Ars Technica reports

The Federal Communications Commission wants SpaceX to give up a portion of the $885.51 million in broadband funding it was awarded in a reverse auction in December 2020.

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband division was one of the biggest winners in the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) grants announced in Ajit Pai’s last full month as FCC chairman. Overall, Pai’s FCC awarded $9.2 billion over 10 years ($920 million per year) to 180 bidders nationwide, with SpaceX slated to get $885.51 million over 10 years to serve homes and businesses in parts of 35 states.

Pai apparently mismanaged the auction, as an announcement yesterday from Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s office said the FCC has to “clean up issues with the program’s design originating from its adoption in 2020.” The FCC cited “complaints that the program was poised to fund broadband to parking lots and well-served urban areas.” The FCC suggested that SpaceX give up its funding in about 6 percent of the census blocks where it’s slated to get money. Other ISPs are being asked to give up smaller portions of their funding.

The rules that Pai set for the first RDOF auction required funding to go only to census blocks where no providers offer speeds of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. A planned Phase 2 auction would target such areas, but the first auction was meant only for places that are completely unserved.

Rosenworcel’s office sent letters to dozens of winning bidders yesterday, suggesting that they voluntarily give up a portion of their funding. The letter to SpaceX stands out for the sheer number of census blocks—about 6,500 in 34 states—where the FCC is challenging SpaceX’s funding. Those 6,500 are among about 113,900 census blocks where SpaceX tentatively won FCC grants.

The letters to SpaceX and other ISPs pointed to concerns “that certain areas included in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction are already served by one or more service providers that offer 25/3Mbps broadband service or otherwise raise significant concerns about wasteful spending, such as parking lots and international airports.”

Lots of folks (including me) have written about the concerns of funding going to odd areas (like the Vikings practice facility) and the ability of a provider to deploy what they have promised. Locally that concerns highlights LTD’s experience providing FTTP. Just yesterday I was in conversation with communities that are in a holding pattern because they are in RDOF areas and subsequently their applications for MN State funding for broadband was turned down last year and now they don’t qualify for funding – because they are theoretically going to be served by RDOF projects.

It’s a good idea to investigate the funds, clearly we don’t want money going to areas where it won’t help or won’t be used to help enough (or as promised) but for communities on the frontlines this game of waiting is getting old.

FCC makes some announcements on RDOF funding – nothing on LTD in Minnesota

I want to get this out because it’s something we’ve all been waiting for – and it’s important. At highest level – looks like Consolidates and Farmers have gotten word to move ahead on some projects. (Not sure if it’s all projects.) It looks like Aspire was offered (and took) the opportunity to withdraw. Nothing about LTD in Minnesota. However, LTD was denied its extension to get ETC designation in California, Kansas and Oklahoma so is in default there. FCC deferred for five other states where LTD requested extension for getting ETC designation (Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas).

Side note: I’m going to ask for some generous leniency here – if I got something wrong please let me know and I’ll fix it. I really wanted to get this out but there has been a disturbing incent across the street from my house. (It was a shooting in St Paul that will likely be covered in News.) So my concentration is not stellar.

Today’s action represents the first funding to be approved through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.  As a result of today’s announcement, 48 broadband providers will bring 1 Gbps broadband speeds to nearly 200,000 homes and businesses over the next 10 years.  Here are the Ready to Authorize Long-Form Applicants and Winning Bids (in MN):

(Info on each line – Applicant Name, FRN, Winning Bid Name, State, Area Codes, # of Census Blocks, #of Eligible Census Blocks, # of locations, Winning Bid over 10 yrs, Amt due on LOC – easier to read in PDF – but now search able here.)

  1. Consolidated Communications    0003713930MN-103-4805021Minnesota                                 361375            1             2             12             $ 11,126.00              $ 1,112.60
  2. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1801001Minnesota                                     369020            1             2              2               $ 7,626.00               $ 762.60
  3. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1801002Minnesota                                     369020            1            11             26             $ 21,054.00              $ 2,105.40
  4. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1801003Minnesota                                     369020            1             3              6               $ 2,294.00               $ 229.40
  5. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1802001Minnesota                                     369020            1            13            119            $ 216,152.00             $ 21,615.20
  6. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1802002Minnesota                                     369020            1            21             37            $ 166,258.00             $ 16,625.80
  7. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1803001Minnesota                                     369020            1            19             39            $ 152,096.00             $ 15,209.60
  8. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1803002Minnesota                                     369020            1            36             78            $ 177,172.00             $ 17,717.20
  9. Farmers Mutual Telephone        0003747722MN-073-1803003Minnesota                                     369020            1            11             25             $ 17,170.00              $ 1,717.00

At the same time, the FCC also took steps to clean up the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program.  In light of complaints that the program was poised to fund broadband to parking lots and well-served urban areas, the FCC sent letters to 197 winning bidders.  The letters offer providers an opportunity to withdraw their funding requests from those places already with service or where significant questions of waste have been raised. Here are the Bids in Default (in MN):

(Info on each line – Applicant Name, FRN, Winning Bid Name, State, Area Codes, # of Census Blocks, #of Eligible Census Blocks, # of locations, Winning Bid over 10 yrs – easier to read in PDF – but now search able here.)

  1. Aspire Networks 2, LLC          0030311583MN_05b                  Minnesota                                 2            155          1,150             $ 6,709,428.00

Next, the FCC made clear that it will not tolerate any provider participating in the program that is not serious about providing broadband service or has not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals.  To this end, the FCC rejected requests from AB Indiana in Florida and LTD Broadband in California, Oklahoma, and Kansas to waive program deadlines, in light of their failure to act in a timely way to seek state certification.

Emergency Broadband Benefit has enrolled just 1 in 12 eligible households

The Benton Institute is keeping an eye on Emergency Broadband Benefit…

Two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission released data on how many households have signed up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a program created by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program offers eligible households a discount of up to $50 per month on broadband service. The data, available through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) which administers the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, shows that over 3 million households have signed up for the new program. The downloadable spreadsheet shows that 3,125,066 households have enrolled for the benefit.

A close look at the data reveals some highlights:

  • The first wave of data indicates that, thus far, the Emergency Broadband Benefit has enrolled about one in twelve eligible households.
    • Analysis of 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) indicates that 31.7 million households are eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline program. Data on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) shows that 4.3 million more households used SNAP in 2021 than in 2019. This suggests that 36 million households are Emergency Broadband Benefit-eligible (using Lifeline qualification as a guide).
  • Places where wireline broadband adoption rates are low have exhibited above-average rates of households signing up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
    • Puerto Rico and New Orleans stand out as places with high rates of Emergency Broadband Benefit enrollment, along with cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia – all of which have high rates of poverty and residential segregation.