FCC authorizes $4.9 billion in A-CAM – $569 million in MN

The FCC reports

Taking further steps to close the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission today authorized over $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable rural broadband for 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states and American Samoa, including 44,243 locations on Tribal lands.

The support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as “rate-of-return” carriers.  These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar.  The homes and businesses are located in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

In return for the support that is being approved today, carriers must maintain, improve, and expand broadband throughout their service areas, including providing service of at least 25 Megabits per second downstream and 3 Mbps upstream to over 363,000 locations, including more than 37,000 locations on Tribal lands.  Providers will be held accountable through an enforceable schedule for delivering improved and expanded service, with the first interim deployment obligation occurring in 2022.

Minnesota is one of the biggest recipient with $569,183,965 going to better serve 55,520 locations over the next 10 years.

I know this info below will not transfer well to the website BUT you can download a spreadsheet of which carriers got funding, how much, for how many areas at which speeds and more…

Carrier Holding company Annual support Locations
 ALBN  Albany Mutual Telephone Association             1,741,828                      2,376
 ALLN  Alliance Communications Cooperative, Inc.                518,742                         667
 BNTN2  Benton Cooperative Telephone Company             2,592,147                      3,724
 FDRT  Federated Telephone Cooperative             3,392,869                      2,122
 FRMR8  Farmers Mutual Tel             1,693,615                      1,094
 GRDN  Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association             2,119,740                      3,090
 GRDN2  Garden Valley Telephone Company           13,610,263                    10,737
 HLST  Halstad Telephone Company             1,098,297                         707
 HRMN  Harmony Telephone Company                578,457                         583
 JHNS  Johnson Telephone Company             2,363,306                      3,063
 KSSN  Kasson & Mantorville Telephone Company             1,558,090                      1,574
 LNSD  Lonsdale Telephone Company                486,808                         710
 LSMR  Lismore Cooperative Telephone Company                576,970                         382
 PLBN  Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative           11,501,395                    13,727
 PLRC  Polar Communication Mutual Aid Corporation                261,923                         182
 RNST  Runestone Telephone Association             4,429,214                      3,627
 SPRN4  Spring Grove Communications                777,675                         531
 UPSL  Upsala Cooperative Telephone Association             1,207,710                      1,157
 WDST  Woodstock Telephone Company             1,416,710                      1,067
 WNNB  Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association                782,481                         688
 WSTC2  West Central Telephone Assn.             4,210,156                      3,712


More on FCC Funding – Freeborn County receives almost $2 million

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. The Albert Lea Tribune reports…

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized over $28.5 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 8,089 unserved homes and businesses in Minnesota, part of the fourth wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. The providers will begin receiving funding later this month.


Nationwide, the FCC authorized over $121 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 36,579 unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states in today’s wave of funding. …

“In Minnesota, this round of funding takes yet another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to nearly 8,100 unserved rural homes and businesses.”

Freeborn County will receive $1.9 million, according to a press release.

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest

A press release from Next Century Cities

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest
Washington DC (August 14, 2019) — Today, Federal Communications Commission leadership recommended the approval of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, a move that would further consolidate the wireless market and eventually raise prices for consumers.
T-Mobile and Sprint are two maverick companies that have competed head-to-head to offer innovative low-cost products to consumers and create a vital resale market. Combining the two would likely raise prices across the market, and would be particularly harmful for low-income consumers who rely on mobile service as their sole connection to the internet.
Both companies have told the FCC and Congress that the merger is necessary in order to build out next-generation wireless networks, yet have simultaneously touted independent 5G deployments to the public. It remains true that ultimately, competitive pressure — not consolidation — is what will drive network upgrades.
“The FCC’s charge is to protect the interest of the public, not of private companies,” said Cat Blake, Senior Program Manager. “This deal is good for T-Mobile and Sprint, but will ultimately make it harder for Americans to access affordable, high-quality essential mobile services. Further, it is unacceptable that the FCC would move to approve a deal without first soliciting public comment on the significant divestiture package required by the Department of Justice.
The public has a right to weigh-in on whether restructuring the deal with DISH would provide adequate consumer choice in the wireless market.”
A merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would be against the public interest. The FCC should follow the 16 state attorneys general in blocking the deal.

Minnesota is one of those states striving to block the deal.

More on FCC funding – going to Yellow Medicine County

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. The West Central Tribune reports…

Internet provider Midcontinent Communications is in line to receive more than $3 million in funding over 10 years from the Federal Communications Commission to expand the reach of broadband internet to more properties in five local counties.

Yellow Medicine County alone will get $2.349 million in funding, to bring broadband to approximately 440 locations, according to a news release from the FCC. Other counties on the list include Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Meeker and Renville counties. All totaled 931 new properties will be served by broadband in the five counties.

More on FCC funding – going to Stearns County

I wrote earlier about the $28.5 million coming from the FCC to Minnesota for broadband. BUT I want to follow up with any specific info related to providers or areas getting the funding. St Cloud Times reports…

The Federal Communications Commission authorized funding Monday that will help expand broadband in Stearns County over 10 years, according to a release.

The commission approved more than $28 million to help expand broadband in Minnesota, and providers will start receiving funds later this month.

Midcontinent Communications will receive $719,916 in funding over 10 years to expand services in Stearns County, according to the release.

The funding will help 280 locations gain access to broadband. Across the state, the funding will expand service to more than 10,000 homes and businesses.

FCC says $28.5 million for rural broadband in MN

WCCO reports

The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday it will provide $28.5 million in broadband funding to rural households in Minnesota.

The FCC says the money will benefit more than 8,000 homes and businesses in Minnesota that are currently unserved. The funding, which providers will begin receiving in late August, will be distributed over the next 10 years. The announcement comes as the fourth wave of support from last year’s Connect American Fund Phase II auction.

“In Minnesota, this round of funding takes yet another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to nearly 8,100 unserved rural homes and businesses,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said.

The FCC says providers must build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses within three years. Buildout must increase by 20% in each year afterward, and should be completed by the end of the 6th year.

Counties receiving the most funding include Yellow Medicine, Polk, Traverse, Mower, Marshall, Freeborn, Blue Earth and Kittson.

FCC makes better mapping with polygons – but will it matter?

FCC is making changes to how they do mapping. The changes are necessary; the current system has long been criticized. Doug Dawson looks at whether these changes will make a difference…

The most important new change is that ISPs have to produce mapping ‘polygons’ to show where they have existing customers. The ISP polygons can cover areas without current customers only where an ISP “has a current broadband connection or it could provide such a connection within ten business days of a customer request and without an extraordinary commitment of resources or construction costs exceeding an ordinary service activation fee.”

The new polygons fix one of the big flaws in the current broadband map. The polygons are going to make a noticeable difference when showing coverage for a cable company or a fiber-to-the-home network. Those networks have hard boundaries – there is always a last home served at the edge of the service area after which nobody else is covered. Today’s mapping by census block doesn’t recognize the hard boundaries of these networks and often counts customers outside these networks as having access to fast data speeds. This is particularly a problem in rural areas where a large area outside a small town might be counted as having 100 Mbps or faster broadband when there is no broadband.

Unfortunately, I don’t see the new maps making a big difference for the rest of rural America unless the ISPs providing DSL and fixed wireless service get scrupulously honest with reporting.  I contend that it is difficult, and perhaps impossible to accurately map these technologies – particularly for disclosing the broadband speed available at a given customer location.

Doug goes on to point out that there are a lot of factors that go into speed – distance from the DSLAM, quality of wire, age of electronics. It isn’t an apple to apple comparison. And the ISPs aren’t looking at actual speeds, they are looking at actual or standard speeds. This is where I’ve reminded of the strategy – trust but verify. It would be nice to see some on-the-ground testing of speeds. I don’t think the onus is on the providers to make that happen.