Libraries to partner with FCC to share info on broadband funding

The FCC reports

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Crosby Kemper, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, today announced a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly promote public awareness of federal funding opportunities for broadband.  The partnership will work to generate efforts to promote the availability of affordable broadband programs, in light of the significant role that libraries and other community anchor institutions play in promoting digital access and inclusion.

“Libraries are some of our most trusted institutions—and rightfully so. They serve as community hubs connecting library patrons to a host of services, including providing internet access that many may lack at home.  The FCC has long enjoyed working side by side with them to support digital access opportunities, which is why I’m excited about this expanded partnership to raise awareness of broadband funding programs,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.  “Internet access is essential for modern life. We need to make sure everyone, everywhere, has a chance to connect.  This new partnership with help us do that. Working with IMLS to spread the word about these important programs, will help meet the connectivity needs of communities across the country.”

“The FCC’s E-Rate program, its Emergency Connectivity Fund, and so many other initiatives have benefited libraries and their communities, particularly the most underserved and under resourced, that it has always been needful for IMLS to work closely with FCC staff and Commissioners,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “We are honored to work with Chairwoman Rosenworcel to make sure the generous funding provided by Congress and the administration, as well as targeted universal service support, reaches many, even most, of those who historically have been unable even to apply for the funds available to them.”

The FCC looks at increasing broadband speed goals for rural fund areas

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to seek comment on a proposal to provide additional universal service support to certain rural carriers in exchange for increasing deployment to more locations at higher speeds.  The proposal would make changes to the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) program, with the goal of achieving widespread deployment of faster 100/20 Mbps broadband service throughout the rural areas served by rural carriers currently receiving A-CAM support.

The ACAM Broadband Coalition submitted a proposal to create an Enhanced A-CAM program, which is the impetus for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today.  Enhanced A-CAM, as proposed, would raise the broadband speeds required by the A-CAM programs to those generally required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, while minimizing duplicative support across different federal broadband programs.  The Notice also proposes targeted modifications to the high-cost program rules to improve efficiency and efficacy in the program, including further streamlining of the annual reporting rules.

The Notice seeks comment on whether and how the Commission could:

 

  • Offer additional A-CAM support in exchange for increased broadband deployment obligations to additional locations and at higher speeds under an Enhanced A-CAM program.
  • Use the new Broadband DATA Act maps to determine any new deployment obligations.
  • Calculate support for an Enhanced A-CAM program, including whether the existing A-CAM framework continues to be appropriate.
  • Align specific proposals with Congressional intent, as well as programs at other agencies.
  • Improve the administration of the high-cost program and better safeguard the Universal Service Fund.

The FCC Commits $50 million in Emergency Connectivity Funding to Schools and Libraries – none in Minnesota

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing over $50 million in the 15th wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support, helping to close the Homework Gap.  This latest round of funding is supporting 46 schools, 7 libraries, and 2 consortia across the country, including for students in American Samoa, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and the US Virgin Islands.  The FCC just wrapped up its third filing window for applications last week and will be announcing results in coming days.

No awards were made in Minnesota.

MinnPost looks at PUC petition from MN Telecom folks focused on LTD Broadband

I mentioned this over the weekend and I suspect there will be more article but this has the potential to be a big deal so I’ll likely post them all.

MinnPost reports

Two trade groups have filed a petition with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission saying LTD Broadband will waste taxpayer time — and money — in the company’s bid to provide high speed broadband to roughly 160,000 people in the state.

The trade groups (MTA and MREA) say…

“Public funding is essential to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas of rural Minnesota,” says the filing submitted by the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association. “But public dollars are limited, making it essential that those who obtain public funding can be counted on to deliver broadband to those areas as intended. The record will show that LTD cannot.”

LTD says…

Corey Hauer, the CEO of LTD Broadband, described the petition as a nuisance given the PUC has already approved the company. He said LTD can grow rapidly to meet the challenge of deploying a massive network of fiber-optic cable, despite having little experience building fiber, and will disrupt the industry like Elon Musk did with SpaceX and Tesla.

“The truth LTD Broadband is exposing is that deploying rural fiber is easier, faster and cheaper than the party line touted by some of our rural … competitors,” Hauer said.

What could happen…

If the PUC sides with the coalition of telecom providers and electric cooperatives, it would be the latest in a string of defeats for LTD Broadband across the country — and another reversal for a company that shocked the broadband industry by winning $1.32 billion in subsidies in 15 states from one of the country’s largest efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural areas.

FCC announces latest RDOF winners including Cable One and Gardonville in MN

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is ready to authorize $199,336,695 through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 26 states and the Northern Mariana Islands bringing service to over 230,000 locations.  This is the ninth round of program funding since July 2021, when the Commission announced the first approvals for applicant bids meeting the stringent requirements that Chairwoman Rosenworcel put in place to ensure the integrity of the program, which draws on funding in the high-cost universal service program.

Two companies in Minnesota received funds

  • Cable One
    Census blocks: 5
    Locations: 15
    Total Award: $1,293.50
  • Gardonville:
    Census blocks: 10
    Locations: 24
    Total Award: $63903

No word about LTD Broadband

FCC announces latest RDOF winners including Halstad, Red River Rural Telephone and Wikstrom in MN

The FCC reports

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 t long[1]form application, we authorize and obligate support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

Three companies in Minnesota received funds

  • Halstad
    Census blocks: 38
    Locations: 111
    Total Award: $325,917
  • Red River Rural Telephone
    Census blocks: 5
    Locations: 11
    Total Award: $29,952
  • Wikstrom:
    Census blocks: 93
    Locations: 228
    Total Award: $983,637

FCC Announces Third Application Window, Emergency Connectivity Fund Commitments

The FCC reports on another funding opportunity…

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is opening a third application filing window to award at least $1 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund support. The third application filing window will open on April 28, 2022 and close on May 13, 2022.
During this third application filing window, eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023. Given past demand, the third application filing window will likely be the last opportunity for schools and libraries to request funding before the remaining Emergency Connectivity Funds are exhausted.

Additional information on the third application filing window can be found here.

FCC announces latest RDOF winners – None in Minnesota

The FCC reports

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[1]form application, we authorize and obligate 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[1]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.

Upon issuance of this Public Notice, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is authorized and directed to take the steps necessary to disburse from the Universal Service Fund the amounts identified in Attachment A to the long-form applicant associated with each study area specified in Attachment A. Payments will be to the account on file for the 498 ID associated with the study area code (SAC). The support will be disbursed in 120 monthly payments, which will begin at the end of this month.

16 MN Organizations get funding in latest Emergency Connectivity Fund awards to schools and libraries

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing $125,962,023.72 in its ninth wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support.  This round of funding will support over 270,000 students and provide funding for 340 schools, 20 libraries and 6 consortia, which are approved to receive over 330,000 connected devices and over 39,000 broadband connections.  Since its June 2021 launch, the program has committed over $4.5 billion supporting all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.

“Today’s announcement will bring more connectivity to students and libraries in our communities, helping to close the Homework Gap and support library patrons who lack internet access,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.  “The Emergency Connectivity Fund is making billions of dollars in investments in our schools and libraries to support success in the digital age, no matter who you are, or where you live.”

The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education.  Total commitments to date are supporting over 10,800 schools, 875 libraries, and 125 consortia for nearly 9.9 million connected devices and over 4.9 million broadband connections.  Today’s announcement includes nearly $27 million in commitments from Window 1 applications and over $99 million in commitments from Window 2 applications.

Here are Minnesota folks who got funding this round:

  1. FARIBAULT SCHOOL DISTRICT 0656          FARIBAULT
  2. MARTIN CO WEST SCH DIST 2448              SHERBURN
  3. PIM Arts High School      EDEN PRAIRIE
  4. MINNEHAHA ACADEMY NORTH MINNEAPOLIS
  5. MONTICELLO SCHOOL DISTRICT 882        MONTICELLO
  6. WATERTOWN-MAYER SCH DIST 111         WATERTOWN
  7. NORTH LAKES ACADEMY               FOREST LAKE
  8. STEPHEN 0011-31-016 ANOKA
  9. NEW LONDON-SPICER SCH DIST 345        NEW LONDON
  10. FERTILE-BELTRAMI SCH DIST 599               FERTILE
  11. Little Crow Telemedia Network  HUTCHINSON
  12. BAGLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT 162    BAGLEY
  13. Runestone Education District      ALEXANDRIA
  14. ECHO CHARTER SCHOOL -DIST 4026         ECHO
  15. BADGER PUBLIC SCHOOL DIST 676            BADGER
  16. OGILVIE SCHOOL DISTRICT 333   OGILVIE

You can see the full list of fund recipients and more on the FCC website.

ILSR looks at RDOF one year in – some good, some stuck and some remain to be seen

The Institute for Local Self Reliance has done a nice job outlining the last year of RDOF. Seven of the top ten bidders have yet to actually receive money, which means the FCC is looking closely…

The biggest news so far is that of the top ten winners, seven look to have received no funds at all (see table below or high-resolution version here). That’s $4.1 billion worth of bids for almost 1.9 million locations, and includes LTD Broadband, SpaceX’s Starlink, AMG Technologies (NextLink), Frontier, Resound Networks, Starry (Connect Everyone), and CenturyLink. This is a big deal.

Cooperatives have fared well…

In addition, of the bidders who so far have received the most funds, three are electric cooperative consortiums (see table below or high-resolution here), including the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium, the NRTC Phase I RDOF Consortium, and the RDOF USA Consortium. In fact, electric and telephone cooperatives have done well so far. Familiar faces include Paul Bunyan Communications in northern Minnesota ($16.3M), WK&T in the Kentucky/Tennessee/Illinois area ($2.9M), the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative ($6.5M), Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative ($2.1M), and Altamaha EMC ($8.7M).

Satellite has not fared well…

Importantly, too, while 85 percent of all the winning bids during the RDOF auction were at the gigabit tier, nearly 100 percent of the funds handed out have been for gigabit service. So far, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) ISP Starlink has gotten no funds for its “Above Baseline” bids for more than 640,000 locations for service at 100/20Mbps.

LTD has fared poorly – although no word on what’s happening in Minnesota with LTD…

In looking at Defaults, it’s clear that LTD has some big problems on its hands. As of the middle of December, it had formally defaulted on more than $140 million of its bids (see table here, and map below or high-resolution version here). That includes 100 percent of the census blocks it won in Oklahoma and Kansas, 16 percent of its census blocks in Texas, and 10 percent of its census blocks in California and Iowa. Moreover, in the latest release on January 28th, the FCC announced that LTD defaulted on another 10,500 locations and $5.4 million.

What will ultimately happen with LTD, we still don’t know. In Iowa, the state Utilities Board has denied the ISP the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) status the ISP needs to get RDOF funds and begin construction.

And we won’t know long term impact until – well long term…

The scandals surrounding RDOF have raised additional concerns about the federal government’s ability to effectively dole out the $42 billion in broadband spending lined up as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While Congress has pushed the FCC to adopt numerous mapping reforms, most won’t arrive until after that money has begun to be awarded.

“We won’t know for years what the final extent of RDOF defaults will be,” Turner said. “The FCC’s pre-auction default policy, while stronger than the one from CAF-II, still lets winning bidders walk away from their deployment commitments years later, for a small fine. That encourages speculation, but of course to an unknown degree.”

Frustration in Le Sueur County about being stalled as RDOF gives dibs to LTD – but so far no contract

I’ve written about the situation in Le Sueur County before. They have been working to get better broadband for years. Then a provider (LTD) was awarded the possibility of getting a big chunk of federal money (RDOF) to bring FTTH in several parts of Minnesota including parts of Le Sueur. Le Sueur County News has more – and frankly the fact that a local paper gets into such details about a complex issue speaks to the priority and urgency the community feels…

Many under-served and unserved areas of Le Sueur County are now ineligible for Border to Border grant dollars since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned over $408 million in grants to internet service providers to construct fiber optic networks across northeastern and southern Minnesota.

Of all the companies competing for grants, the largest sum is expected to go to a little-known ISP: LTD Broadband. The telecom provider bid for over $311,000 in 102,000 locations across the state. LTD’s planned fiber optic network encompasses approximately two thirds of unserved and under-served areas in the county.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the state would reject broadband grant applications in places that federal auction grant winners plan to build. State officials have claimed it would be wasteful to invest state dollars in projects overlapping with projects that could receive funds from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

But the RDOF grants are still preliminary, and many experts have raised concern that LTD Broadband can’t meet its goals. At this time, LTD is a smaller provider with over 2,100 wireless towers, but the company aims to use $1.3 billion in grant monies to rapidly expand its service area to bring high speed internet to 500,000 locations across the country within the six-year time frame required by RDOF.

At that scale, local broadband advocates doubted that the federal grant money would go far.

“For the whole county, it’s $1 million in federal dollars for what is a multi-million dollar project,” said Le Sueur County Broadband Consultant Barbara Droher-Kline. “How viable is it for LTD, with $1 million, to bring fiber to the door of every household?”

The County continues to work for better broadband, but this RDOF process is currently creating more barrier than opportunity…

With federal dollars from the CARES Act, Le Sueur County pursued an aggressive strategy to expand rural internet access. About 420 homes in Waterville, Kilkenny, Montgomery, Cordova, Sharon, Lexington, and Kasota townships were connected to a 49-mile fiber optic network built by Metronet in partnership with the county.

Le Sueur County hoped to continue to build out from those networks with Border-to-Border grant applications, proposing to connect high speed fiber optic cables in Lexington, Montgomery, Kilkenny, Cordova, Sharon, Ottawa and Kasota townships. Fiber was planned to be in the ground this past spring, and the network would have been fully operational by the end of next year.

But the county’s applications were rejected by the state, since the RDOF award to LTD Broadband overlapped with the project area.

“It’s a blockage of dollars. It’s not a resource for us,’ said Droher-Kline.

FCC announce latest RDOF winners including ITC and Red River Rural Telephone

The FCC announces latest RDOF winners…

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is ready to authorize more than $1.2 billion through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 32 states.  In the largest funding round to date, 23 broadband providers will bring broadband service to over 1 million locations.  The Commission also has created the Rural Broadband Accountability Plan, a new effort to monitor and ensure compliance for universal service high-cost programs including the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Here are the awards in Minnesota

Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative Inc
Census blocks: 153
Locations: 391
Total Award: $51.748.60

Red River Rural Telephone
Census blocks: 5
Locations: 11
Total Award: $29,952.00

There’s an update on what’s happening and expected…

With today’s sixth funding wave, the Commission has now announced over $4 billion in funding to winning bidders for new deployments.  Meanwhile, Commission staff continue to carefully review and process long-form applications on a rolling basis.  Over the past year the Commission has taken a number of actions to strengthen its oversight of the program, including:

  • Sending letters to 197 applicants concerning areas where there was evidence of existing service or questions of waste.  Bidders have already chosen not to pursue support in approximately 5,000 census blocks in response to the Commission’s letters.

  • Denying waivers for winning bidders that have not made appropriate efforts to secure state approvals or prosecute their applications.  These bidders would have otherwise received approximately $350 million.

  • Publishing a list of areas where providers had defaulted, thereby making those places available for other broadband funding opportunities.

  • Conducting an exhaustive technical, financial, and legal review of all winning bidders.

FCC looking at nutrition-like labels for broadband

Good news for consumers as MSN reports

Consumers would be able to easily compare rates for home and mobile broadband service under plans given an initial green light by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

The proposed new rule would require broadband providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. to show consumers standardized price data similar to the window stickers on new cars and the nutrition labels on packaged food. …

Under the proposal, internet service labels would include details on prices, data allowances, speeds, and the difference between introductory and regular rates. They would have to be prominently displayed at the time of sale to consumers buying either home broadband or mobile broadband plans.

The FCC is also asking for comment on the labels’ content as well as how the labels must be displayed—for example, whether companies will have to show them prominently on their marketing websites or simply provide a link. The FCC will take public comments on the proposal before completing the rules in the coming months.

FCC Commits Another $240M in Emergency Connectivity Funding – including MN locations

From the FCC

The Federal Communications Commission today

announced that it is committing $240,888,016 in its eighth wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support.  The funding commitments will support over 600,000 students and provide funding for 693 schools, 55 libraries and 8 consortia in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.  The institutions are approved to receive nearly 683,000 connected devices and 182,000 broadband connections.  Since its June 2021 launch, the program has committed over $4.4 billion supporting all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.

“In a little over six months, this program has helped over 12 million students across the nation get the digital tools they need to connect with teachers and online educational resources,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “This program is an important part of closing the Homework Gap, and connecting library patrons across the country.”

The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education.  Total commitments to date are supporting over 10,500 schools, 860 libraries, and nearly 120 consortia for nearly 9.6 million connected devices and nearly 4.9 million broadband connections.  Today’s announcement includes over $98 million in commitments from Window 1 applications and over $142 million in commitments from Window 2 applications.

Here are the Minnesota folks who got money in this latest round:

  • Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School
  • KATO PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL
  • ELLSWORTH SCHOOL DISTRICT 514
  • Great Oaks Academy
  • Gateway STEM Academy
  • ST JOHN THE BAPTIST SCHOOL
  • INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DIST 287
  • SEVEN HILLS PREPARATORY ACADEMY 4159-07
  • SAGE ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL 4087-07
  • COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE 4181-07
  • NEW CENTURY SCHOOL 4240-07
  • THE JOURNEY SCHOOL 4258-07
  • CONCORDIA ACADEMY
  • ST PASCAL REGIONAL CATHOLIC SCHOOL
  • COMMUNITY OF PEACE ACAD-4015
  • MINNESOTA INTERNSHIP CENTER CHARTER SCHOOL
  • FRIDLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT 14
  • NEW MILLENNIUM ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL 4143-07
  • STRIDE ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL 4142-07
  • ST FRANCIS XAVIER SCHOOL
  • ST. JOSEPH 0110-31-001
  • ALEXANDRIA SCHOOL DISTRICT 206
  • OSAKIS SCHOOL DISTRICT 213
  • MINN NEW COUNTRY SCH-DIST 4007
  • BRECKENRIDGE SCHOOL DIST 846
  • NEW YORK MILLS ISD #553
  • ASHBY SCHOOL
  • ST. AGNES
  • United Community Action Partnership, Inc.
  • WARREN-ALVARADO-OSLO S D 2176
  • GREENBUSH-MIDDLE RIVER SD 2683
  • ROTHSAY PUBLIC SCHOOL DIST 850
  • PELICAN RAPIDS SCHOOL DIST 548
  • BARNESVILLE SCHOOL DIST 146
  • ST MICHAEL’S SCHOOL
  • ST MARY’S SCHOOL
  • CHISAGO LAKES SCHOOL DIST 2144
  • KELLIHER SCHOOL DISTRICT 36
  • ESKO PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT 99
  • CAMBRIDGE SCHOOL DISTRICT 911

Got an issue with your broadband service? File a Complaint with the FCC

I feel like I should have known about this earlier – but better now than never. Residents can file a complaint with the FCC on a range of issues – including phone and Internet…

If your complaint is about a telecom billing or service issue, we will serve your complaint on your provider. Your provider has 30 days to send you a response to your complaint. We encourage you to contact your provider to resolve your issue prior to filing a complaint.

They don’t promise to “fix” your problem but it looks like they will try to find some answers and that your experience may help inform their policy work…

These complaints help inform FCC enforcement and policy work and may be shared with other Bureaus and Offices internally.
In some instances, we will provide you with a referral to another federal, state or local agency that can better address your complaint.

I often hear from folks who have issues with their service – and I’m happy to continue to hear from folks but I also encourage folks to use this form to be heard. We can’t expect the FCC (or policymakers) to know what’s happening on the ground if we don’t tell them.

Maybe it will help you get answers; maybe it will help the FCC better represent consumers.