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.

Succinct notes on Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities from Common Sense

How do you wrap up some of the largest broadband funding opportunities ever into a concise, pretty easy-to-use format? Use very small print. But thanks to the hard work from Common Sense Media and the ability to zoom in on a PDF, that information is a ton more accessible in one place. They look at the practicalities of:

  • Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
  • American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
  • Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (CA
  • Other Broadband ProgramsA21)

FCC announce latest RDOF winners including Midcontinent and Windstream in Minnesota

The FCC announces

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 and obligate support for the winning bids listed in Attachment A.

Here are the awards in Minnesota

Midcontinent Communications
Census blocks: 680
Locations: 5,978
Total Award: $4,327,175

Windstream Lakedale
Census blocks: 257
Locations: 2,909
Total Award: $6,548,974.10

New rules mean broadband providers can’t upsell customers using government subsidies

Ars Technica reports

Less than a year after Verizon and other ISPs forced users to switch plans in order to get government-funded discounts, a new federal program will prevent such upselling by requiring ISPs to let customers obtain subsidies on any Internet plan.

With last year’s $50-per-month Emergency Broadband Benefit that was created by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission let ISPs participate in the program as long as they offered the discount on at least one service plan. The FCC said it did so to encourage participation by providers, but some major ISPs drastically limited the subsidy-eligible plans—forcing users to switch to plans that could be more expensive in order to get a temporary discount.

Congress subsequently created a replacement program that will offer $30 monthly subsidies to people with low incomes. The program also specified that ISPs “shall allow an eligible household to apply the affordable connectivity benefit to any Internet service offering of the participating provider at the same terms available to households that are not eligible households.” The FCC still has to make rules for implementing the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), but that requirement prevented the FCC from using the same one-plan rule that helped ISPs use the program as an upselling opportunity.

OPPORTUNITY: FCC Commits Over $361M in Additional Emergency Connectivity Funding

The FCC announces

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing $361,037,156.16 in its latest wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support.  This round of commitments will support 802 schools, 49 libraries and 8 consortia, which are approved to receive nearly 654,000 connected devices and over 313,000 broadband connections.  Today’s seventh funding wave brings total commitments to nearly $4.2 billion since the program was launched on June 29, 2021, supporting students, school staff, and library patrons in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

“Today’s funding announcement will provide 700,000 more schoolchildren with the digital tools they need to connect with teachers and classmates,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.  “The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to close the Homework Gap by bringing connectivity and devices to students and library patrons.  The need for this support is apparent in both rural and urban America and I’m pleased to note that with this funding we are supporting communities stretching from Aniak, Alaska to New York City.”

The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework and virtual learning, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education.  Total commitments to date are supporting over 9,800 schools, 800 libraries, and 100 consortia for over 8.9 million connected devices and over 4.7 million broadband connections.  Today’s announcement includes nearly $155 million in commitments from Window 1 applications and over $206 million in commitments from Window 2 applications.

More details about which schools and libraries have received funding commitments can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund.

Detailed information on the status of Emergency Connectivity Fund applications is available in the Open Data Portal, including applicant details, requested funds, individual product or service details, funding commitment, and funding disbursement information.  Additional information on the Emergency Connectivity Fund program is available at: https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org.  The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, with oversight from and under rules unanimously adopted by the Federal Communications Commission.

FCC Releases Draft Program Rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program

From the FCC…

The Federal Communications Commission released draft rules associated with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).  Created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act), this new longer-term program builds upon the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB). The program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. It also continues to provide the same one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households that was available as part of the EBB program. 

In releasing the item for public review, Chairwoman Rosenworcel said: “… Given the importance of this program to consumers, I made public the draft for our newest broadband affordability program to invite feedback. We know that programs meant to help the most vulnerable consumers benefit greatly from public input. 

 The Commission is expected to vote on this item next week. 

You can learn more about the ACP by visiting: www.fcc.gov/ACP. 

You can also find ACP program outreach materials for the ACP in our partner toolkit. 

Paul Bunyan Communications shares info on the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program

Good info for folks in and out of Paul Bunyan coverage area…

Today, Paul Bunyan Communications announced it is working to help build awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program.  The new long-term benefit will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households struggling to afford internet service.

The $14 billion Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of up to a $30 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for qualifying households on qualifying Tribal lands.  The benefit also provides up to a $100 per household discount toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop, or tablet if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase through a participating broadband provider.

A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Has an income that is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines;
  • Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
  • Participates in one of several Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income qualifying standard) Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
  • Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income program.

Affordable Connectivity Program enrollment opened on December 31, 2021. Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or by (1) going to ACPBenefit.org to submit an online application or print a mail-in application and (2) contacting their preferred participating broadband provider and selecting a plan.  Additional information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit is available at www.fcc.gov/ACP, or by calling 877-384-2575 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET any day of the week.

CNS Map of RDOF Auction Details

CNS continues to update their interactive map of RDOF Auction Details…

Here’s the latest updates:
We update this map whenever the FCC releases RDOF-related data. The latest update was 12/29/2021 with data released from the FCC on 12/14/21 and 12/16/21. Updates include:

“Bids in Default” DA-21-1582A3 12/16/2021

“Ready to Authorize” batches 1-5 12/16/2021

“Authorized” batches 1-4 12/14/2021

FCC commits $603 million to close homework gap – MN to get $57+ million

The FCC reports

—The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing $602,985,895.13 in its latest wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support, which will connect over 1.4 million students in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These additional commitments bring the current total commitments to over $3.8 billion, supporting students, school staff, and library patrons in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework and virtual learning, as schools and libraries continue to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. …

Today’s announcement marks the sixth wave of commitments and includes over $367 million in commitments from Window 1 applications and nearly $236 million in commitments from Window 2 applications. This round of commitments will support 1,651 schools, 85 libraries, and 14 consortia, which are approved to receive nearly 1.2 million connected devices and over 790,000 broadband connections. Total commitments to date are supporting over 9,000 schools, 760 libraries, and 100 consortia for nearly 8.3 million connected devices and over 4.4 million broadband connections. More details about which schools and libraries have received funding commitments can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/ecf-current-funding-commitments.

Minnesota will get $57,412,673.35 in total doled out in waves of:

  • $19,830,464.06
  • $10,347,442.23
  • $6,601,893.82
  • $3,854,319.44
  • $10,865,203.54
  • $1,468,881.00
  • $4,444,469.26

Most recent RDOF Award winners include Federated Telephone, Roseau Electric, Savage and Winnebago 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 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.

Here are the awards in Minnesota…

Federated Telephone
Census blocks: 85
Locations: 248
Total Award: $537,399

Roseau Electric
Census blocks: 61
Locations: 191
Total Award: $948,078

Savage
Census blocks: 492
Locations: 4,541
Total Award: $6,090,478.50

Winnebago
Census blocks: 57
Locations: 178
Total Award: $20,541.70

They also announced some of the reporting requirements, including service milestones

 

OPPORTUNITY: FCC Seeks Nominations for Telecommunications Interagency Working Group

From the FCC…

Nominations due: December 20, 2021
By this Public Notice, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) seeks nominations for membership on the Telecommunications Interagency Working Group (“Working Group”), a group that is being formed pursuant to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act “to develop recommendations to address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry.”1 Section 60602 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directs the Chairwoman of the Commission, in partnership with the Secretary of Labor, to establish this interagency working group by January 14, 2022.2 The Working Group must prepare a report with “recommendations to address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry, including the safety of that workforce” not later than one year after the Working Group is established.3
Nominations for membership in the Working Group should be submitted to the FCC no later than December 20, 2021. Note: these procedures only apply to the four members of the Working Group from outside organizations that will be appointed by the Chairwoman. Procedures for submitting
nominations are set forth below.
WHO MAY APPLY FOR MEMBERSHIP
Pursuant to section 60602(a) of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Chairwoman will select four members of the Working Group from outside organizations.4
Accordingly, the Commission seeks nominations and expressions of interest from individuals and organizations in the following categories:
 A representative of a telecommunications industry association;
 A representative of an Indian Tribe or Tribal organization;

 A representative of a rural telecommunications carrier; and
 A representative of a telecommunications contractor firm.5

Most recent RDOF Award winners include Midcontinent and Roseau Electric in MN

FCC announced latest RDOF awards

The FCC today announced that it is ready to authorize $709,060,159 in its fourth round of funding for new broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.  Together with three prior funding wave announcements, the Commission has now announced over $1.7 billion in funding to winning bidders for new deployments.  In this funding wave, 50 broadband providers will bring broadband service to over 400,000 locations in 26 states. …

The 26 states slated for today’s funding include Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The bulk of today’s funding will go to nonprofit rural electric cooperatives to deploy broadband throughout their service areas.

Here are the awards in Minnesota:

Midcontinent
Census blocks 683
Locations 5706
Total Award $4,453,800.60

Roseau Electric
Census blocks 76
Locations 266
Total Award $1,228,494

And from the small print, in case there’s something to learn or we need it in the future…

With regard to its ETC designation in Minnesota, MidCo was able to secure its designation from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on May 28, 2021, and submit the Order to the Commission on June 1, 2021, prior to the June 7 deadline.[1]  Thus, we dismiss as moot MidCo’s request for waiver with regard to Minnesota.

[1] See Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Docket No. P-6186/SA-21-124, In the Matter of a Notice to Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Grant Winners et al., (May 28, 2021).

FCC Announces Equity Council Members, Working Group Chairs and meeting Nov 3

The FCC reports….

Consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act,[1] this Public Notice announces that Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has appointed members to serve on the Communications Equity and Diversity Council (CEDC).  A full list of the CEDC membership is attached to this Public Notice.

Additionally, Chairwoman Rosenworcel has appointed chairs for the three working groups of the CEDC.  The working group chairs will help organize and lead the work of the Council together with CEDC Chair Heather Gate, Vice President of Digital Inclusion, Connected Nation, and CEDC Vice Chairs Nicol Turner Lee, Ph.D., Brookings Institution and Susan Au Allen, National President & CEO, US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation whom Chairwoman Rosenworcel previously designated to lead the Council.[2]  The working group chairs are:

Robert Brooks, Digital Solution Specialist, WHUR-FM, Howard University, will chair the Innovation and Access Working Group.  Previously, Mr. Brooks served on the Access to Capital Working Group of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE), the predecessor advisory committee to the CEDC, and was instrumental in developing the ACDDE’s “Advertising Best Practices for Diverse Broadcasters” Report.

Dominique Harrison, Ph.D., Director, Technology Policy, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, will chair the Digital Empowerment and Inclusion Working Group.  Dr. Harrison served previously on the ACDDE’s Diversity in the Tech Sector Working Group and assisted in the drafting of an ACDDE report assessing the best practices of industry leaders in training and employment diversity in the tech field, including recommendations for innovative programs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Christopher Wood, Executive Director, LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute, will chair the Diversity and Equity Working Group.  Mr. Wood served previously on the ACDDE’s Diversity in the Tech Sector Working Group and helped assemble the ACDDE’s “Resource Guide to Tech Entrepreneurship Support Organizations,” which identifies organizations that support diverse tech entrepreneurs in market entry strategies.

They have also scheduled first meeting for today (Nov 3)…

As previously announced, the CEDC will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, November 3, 2021, beginning at 10:00 a.m. EDT.[3]  The primary agenda of the CEDC’s first meeting will be to introduce the members of the Council, set out initial assignments, and begin the selection process for working group membership.  The CEDC will also review the ACDDE’s reports and recommendations, for its charter which ended July 5, 2021.  The November 3 meeting agenda is attached to this Public Notice.

The CEDC meeting will be convened in an online format and will be available to the public via live feed from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.  The public may also follow the meeting on the Commission’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/user/fccdotgovvideo.  In addition, the public may follow the meeting on Twitter@fcc or via the Commission’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcc.  Members of the public may submit questions during the meeting to livequestions@fcc.gov.

[1] 5 U.S.C. App. 2.

[2] FCC Announces the Leadership and First Meeting of the Communications Equity and Diversity Council, DA 21-1315, GN Docket 17-208 (rel. October 20, 2021), https://www.fcc.gov/document/chairs-announced-fcc-diversity-committee-november-3-meeting-set.

[3] Notice of this meeting was published in the Federal Register on October 8, 2021, available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/10/08/2021-22023/meeting-of-the-communications-equity-and-diversity-council.

 

President Biden announces FCC and NTIA nominations

President Biden just announced his picks for the vacant FCC Commissioner seats and the position of Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

  • Jessica Rosenworcel, Nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission
  • Gigi Sohn, Nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission
  • Alan Davidson, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce
  • Kathi Vidal, Nominee for Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at the Department of Commerce
  • Laurel Blatchford, Nominee for Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget

President Biden has also designated Rosenworcel as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. She is the first woman in history to serve in this capacity.

You can find bios for each on the FCC site. Let’s hope confirmation is quick and the big Federal Infrastructure bill passes soon to make a difference to folks in Minnesota who need the help.

More RDOF grants made: Windstream only MN winner with 2,830 locations

From the FCC

The FCC today announced that it is ready to authorize $554,150,641 million in its third round of funding for new broadband deployments through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.  Together with two prior funding wave announcements, the Commission has now announced over $1 billion in funding to winning bidders for new deployments.  In this funding wave, 11 broadband providers will bring fiber-to-the-home gigabit broadband service to over 180,000 locations in 19 states.  The Commission also denied several waiver petitions by companies that did not diligently pursue their applications.

You can get the details on winners; I’ve pulled out the Windstream totals:

Windstream:

  • Census blocks 20
  • Locations 2,830
  • Total Award $6,548,963.30

The was some news about LTD broadband. Although not in Minnesota…

The FCC also continued to work to ensure that funding only supports providers that comply with program requirements.  The FCC denied LTD Broadband’s petition seeking waiver of the deadline to be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier in Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota, and denied NW Fiber’s petition seeking waiver of the deadline for submitting a post-auction long form application.