EVENT Nov 17: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting

I will be livestreaming on Facebook, but all are welcome to attend the meeting directly…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

Thursday, November 17, 2022

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

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10:00 a.m. – 10:05 a.m.                Welcome, Task Force Introductions, and Approval of Minutes from October 24, 2022 meeting

10:05 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.  Office of Broadband Development Update Bree Maki, Executive Director

10:10 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.  Walk Thru of Draft Report Scott Cole, Collectivity

10:20 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Affordability and Adoption Sub-Group

11:00 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Break

11:10 a.m. – 11:50 p.m. Funding, Mapping and Usage Sub-Group

11:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Update

Teddy Bekele, Chair, Minnesota Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

12:00 p.m. – 12:05 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, December 19, 2022 Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

FCC will unveil draft broadband maps and NTIA clock on BEAD allocation to start

Something to look forward to next week – new broadband maps – as the FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it will unveil a pre-production draft of new broadband maps on November 18, 2022. This version is the first release of the map required by the Broadband DATA Act and will begin an ongoing, iterative process that will improve the data submitted by providers by incorporating challenges from individuals and other stakeholders.

Broadband availability will be based on data submitted by providers during the initial Broadband Data Collection filing window and will reflect services available as of June 30, 2022. When published, the draft maps will display location level information on broadband availability throughout the country and will allow people to search for their address, and review and dispute the services reported by providers at their location.

The FCC will also accept bulk challenges to the reported availability data from state and Tribal governments and other entities. As a result, this map will continually improve and refine the broadband availability data relied upon by the FCC, other government agencies, and the public. The pre-production draft map release is an important first step forward in building more accurate, more granular broadband maps, which are long overdue and mandated by Congress. Historically, the FCC’s maps have been based on broadband availability data collected at just the census block level rather than the location level, which kept unserved locations hidden if they were in partially served census blocks.

To generate this version of the map, providers’ availability data has been matched to the location information contained in the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (Fabric). The Fabric is a common dataset of all locations in the United States where fixed broadband internet access service is or can be installed. To improve the accuracy of the FCC maps, the Commission began accepting challenges to Fabric information from providers, states, local and Tribal governments starting in September. Once the draft maps launch, individuals will also be able to submit challenges, or request corrections, to Fabric locations directly through the map interface. They will also be able to request missing locations be added. Information from those challenges will be incorporated in future versions of the Fabric.

For more information about the BDC, please visit the Broadband Data Collection website at https://www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData.

And once that happens, the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Association) reports…

Following the Federal Communications Commission’s announcement that on November 18 it will unveil an initial version of new broadband maps and open the mapping challenge process, NTIA expects to communicate Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment allocation levels to eligible entities by June 30th.

“The next eight weeks are critical for our federal efforts to connect the unconnected,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. “The FCC’s upcoming challenge process is one of the best chances to ensure that we have accurate maps guiding us as we allocate major Internet for All awards in 2023. I urge every state and community that believes it can offer improvements to be part of this process so that we can deliver on the promise of affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service for everyone in America.”

The Biden-Harris Administration is required by law to allocate Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment funds according to a formula derived from the map data. NTIA coordinates closely with the FCC to ensure that this data is accurate and reliable and will continue to do so. NTIA’s efforts to date include:

  • Calling every single Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the United States to remind them of their obligations relating to the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) process, register any concerns or technical assistance requests, and relay those to the FCC;
  • Engaging in sustained outreach with Governors’ offices, state broadband offices, and stakeholder communities to share technical assistance resources, solicit feedback, and relay major areas of concern; and
  • Producing and sharing materials to break down the process with key dates and deadlines for affected stakeholders.

NTIA will engage in a comprehensive outreach effort to support the FCC in its efforts to ensure that every state that wishes to file a challenge can do so. This effort will include:

  • Technical assistance to state broadband officials and governors’ offices as they prepare challenges;
  • Webinars for members of the public wishing to learn more about how to participate in the challenge process;
  • Regular engagement with state officials to identify and resolve issues.

Internet for All

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable and reliable high-speed Internet access in communities across the U.S. NTIA recently launched a series of new high-speed Internet grant programs funded by the law that will build high-speed Internet infrastructure across the country, create more low-cost high-speed Internet service options, and address the digital equity and inclusion needs in our communities.

Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward high-speed Internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Visit getinternet.gov for more information.

For more information on the Biden-Harris Administration’s high-speed Internet programs as well as quotes from the awardees, please visit InternetforAll.gov.

The latest news on Mills Lac County broadband hope and plans

The Mille Lacs Messenger reports…

Economic Development Manager Mike Wimmer was in the midst of his last day when he presented to the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners for the final time on Nov. 1. He highlighted challenges counties across the state and country are facing, challenges like workforce issues, child care availability, and broadband access, as well as housing.

Wimmer spoke about current grant applications in review for greater broadband access, a need rather than a want in an increasingly online world. According to a letter Chair Genny Reynolds signed in August in support of an SCI Broadband grant application, “nearly 40 percent of households in Mille Lacs County lack access” to broadband that would meet the state’s goals for 2026. 

He spoke about technology options…

Wimmer talked about the developing technology of 5G, a wireless option, which he called “promising,” but he encouraged the board and county to continue pushing for fiber-to-premises connection “as far as possible.” At this moment in time, the new technology is costly. Fiber-to-premises, or FTP, is more reliable and can provide more consistent speeds, even during “network congestion or outages due to obstructions or inclement weather,” according to a CNET article comparing 5G to wired connection.

He brought attention to East Central Energy’s recent decision to begin exploring broadband options. He believes the cooperative is “in a good position to tackle” issues concerning connectivity in low population-density areas. ECE’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution to “enter the broadband business,” according to a press release from ECE.

Ty Houglum, vice president/chief information officer of ECE, said the Oct. 27 board decision came after “nearly a year of hard work, including grant applications, a feasibility study, meetings with local entities, additional research and learning from other co-ops that offer broadband.” The release also stated, “the co-op plans to prioritize unserved and underserved locations” throughout their 14-county service area.

On the heels of ECE’s release, the Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative announced on Nov. 2 that they received nearly $3.8 million as a Rural Development investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The money will allow MLEC to “deploy a fiber-to-the-home network to connect 473 people, 15 farms and nine businesses to high-speed internet in Aitkin and Crow Wing Counties.” 

MLEC will partner with Consolidated Telecommunications Company on the construction of the announced project, which is expected to begin in late 2023; the release also noted the cooperative will “make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.” Additionally, a map of the project is available for viewing at www.mlecmn.net/fiber.

RESOURCE: Recommendations to Prevent Digital Discrimination

The FCC has published Recommendations and Best Practices to Prevent Digital Discrimination and Promote Digital Equity. It’s a work from people on the frontlines after doing interviews and research. They have boiled it down to a series of recommendations – with greater explanation in the report than I have recreated here. I have highlighted the recommendations that struck a chord with me. For example, number 6 on the first list focused on ISPs: encourage competition. Because so much broadband expansion is funding, at least in part, by federal grants and loans, it seems practical to reconsider at how those are funded to encourage competition rather than focus on supporting one provider in any given area.

DEI Working Group Recommendations for Model Policies and Best Practices That Can Be Adopted for States and Localities to Prevent Digital Discrimination by ISPs:

  1. Develop, implement, and make publicly available periodic broadband equity assessments in partnership with ISPs, the community, and other local stakeholders.
  2. Facilitate greater awareness and information sharing among multi-dwelling unit owners regarding tenant choice and competition considering broadband service agreements.
  3. Identify local opportunities that could be used to incentivize equitable deployment
  4. Engage, where permissible under state and federal law, in the management of public property, such as public rights-of-way, to avert discriminatory behaviors that result in or sustain digital discrimination and redlining.
  5. Convene regular meetings of broadband providers and other stakeholders, including community anchor institutions, public interest groups, community advocates, labor organizations, and faith-based institutions, to evaluate areas and households unserved or underserved with competitive and quality broadband options.
  6. Encourage fair competition and choice.

DEI Working Group Recommendations to Support Digital Equity:

  1. Make low-cost broadband available to low-income households through government benefit programs, in combination with internet service providers’ low-income programs.
  2. Build on the success of existing benefit programs that allow low-income households to apply a credit to an internet service of their choice.
  3. Raise awareness about connectivity programs for programs among eligible households.
  4. Strengthen marketing and communications about available federal and state connectivity programs and other programs that target low-income or other unconnected members of a community.
  5. Streamline the application process for government benefit programs referred to above.
  6. Increase support and funding for organizations such as schools, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations to provide digital navigation assistance in communities they serve.
  7. Fund, promote and leverage the use of digital navigators.
  8. Stakeholders should encourage Congress to create a digital public service and engagement program (e.g., digital navigators), which could conduct trainings and outreach in non-adopting communities.
  9. Increase device access and participation.
  10. Use public-private partnerships to facilitate remote learning and close the homework gap.
  11. Ensure that members of the community have safe spaces to access the internet.
  12. Strengthen digital skilling efforts in underserved communities.
  13. Encourage the creation of workforce development/training opportunities, focusing on historically underrepresented communities.

I&A Working Group Recommendations (Part Two):

  1. Adopt definitions of small minority- and women-owned (SMW) businesses.
  2. Designate a government-wide office to oversee supplier diversity initiatives, including the creation of an annual plan to increase supplier diversity.
  3. Adopt an accountable goal of no less than 30% participation of SMW businesses in state and local infrastructure grant and contract opportunities and provide incentives to first-tier contractors to partner with SMW businesses. 17
  4. Include auditing and in-progress reporting in the contracts/subgrants; implement thoughtful auditing, in-progress reporting, real-time accountability, and enforcement to ensure that SMW goals are met.
  5. The grantees, working in conjunction with the supplier diversity office, should proactively identify contracting and procurement forecasts and needs.
  6. Ensure diverse participation in task forces or committees that advise grantees on their broadband plans, including broadband supplier diversity.
  7. Promote certifications prior to disbursement of funds so that SMW businesses are prepared to participate in the funding opportunities.
  8. Grantees, subgrantees, and contractors should be required to reach out to SMW businesses.

D&E Working Group Recommendations (Part Three):

  1. The Commission needs to examine and expand the definition of “equal access” to facilitate greater adoption and use of high-speed broadband, especially among populations experiencing a range of inequalities resulting from a protected characteristic, or an intersection of various attributes or social determinants that limit their full digital engagement.
  2. The Commission should play a more active role in promoting the relevance of highspeed broadband among populations where broadband can improve quality of lives and increase consumer demand for more equitably deployed broadband services.

Telehealth is part of the solution to the maternity care desert in Fillmore County

The Post Bulletin reports

In its 2022 report , March of Dimes calls Fillmore County a maternity care desert, defined as having zero hospitals or birth centers offering obstetric (OB) care and zero OB/GYN physicians or certified nurse midwives based in the county. This lack of close-to-home maternity care impacts hundreds of Fillmore County families each year — in 2020, 222 infants were born to county residents. A majority of those babies (57.1%) were delivered in Olmsted County, with only 44 recorded home births in Fillmore County that year.

“I think the maternity care desert thing is only going to get worse and worse, and it very much plays into our maternal mortality rates, unfortunately,” said Katie Duerr, a certified nurse midwife at Winona Health in Winona. “It’s scary.”

Telehealth (as well as easier access to insurance coverage beyond borders) is offered as part of the solution…

For health care providers in Minnesota, telemedicine can help reduce the frequency of in-person visits without compromising care for pregnant patients. At Mayo Clinic, Butler Tobah is the research program leader for OB Nest , a telemedicine model for low-risk pregnancies. OB Nest shifts about half of a pregnant patient’s visits to virtual ones, and providers show patients how to use self-monitoring devices, such as fetal heart rate Dopplers, to monitor their pregnancies from home.

 

Senator Klobuchar speaks to mayors in southern MN about broadband (Lyon, Jackson, Martin & Faribault counties)

The Sentinel reports

On Wednesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar held a virtual roundtable southern Minnesota county tour to discuss infrastructure needs. Mayors from the cities of Marshall, Jackson, Blue Earth and Fairmont participated.

While the purpose of the meeting was to hear about issues in these areas, Klobuchar first told the area mayors that the bipartisan infrastructure laws are still an incredible source of funding for rural Minnesota.

“I led the broadband part, in part, because having been in your counties, I knew the problem we still had, and really highlighted in the pandemic; 144,000 rural Minnesotans that didn’t have high-speed access to internet,” Klobuchar said.

In addition to broadband issues in southern Minnesota, Klobuchar said she’s aware of issues with rural roads and bridges, as well as childcare and workforce issues.

What should a broadband consumer-friendly label look like?

As far back as the 2010 National Broadband Plan, there have been recommendations for a broadband label for consumers much like nutrition labels we see at the grocery stores. In January, the FCC asked for comments on broadband labels; Carnegie Mellon University came up with that and more. They have a report that looks into labels in depth starting with surveys and recommendations from 2016 and updated recommendations and a draft label based on recent responses to the 2016 model.

Here are their recommendations…

  • Broadband labels should include a range of information valued by consumers but should highlight the information they value most, including information on cost, speed, and reliability.
  • Broadband labels should balance the needs of consumers who value simplicity and conciseness with those who value detailed information. This can be achieved with a standardized label design with links to definitions of terms maintained by the FCC in a format conducive to comparing multiple plans. A layered label design with a summary and full version may help address the needs of a wider range of consumers.
  • Broadband service providers should be required to deposit detailed plan information in a standardized computer-readable form in a publicly accessible database to enable third-parties to generate customized labels for consumers and offer comparison shopping tools, quality of experience or suitability ratings, and other value-added services.
  • Non-optional costs should be bundled into a total cost where possible, including taxes, to make it easy for consumers to determine how much they will need to pay.
  • Performance metrics should be included for downstream speed, upstream speed, latency, and packet loss in both normal and poor performance times.
  • Broadband labels should include some measure of reliability, addressing consumer interest in information about outages and downtime.
  • All data rate units be kept consistent (e.g. all broadband providers would express throughputs in Mbps and latencies in ms).
  • Network management practices should be enumerated on the label in standard groups and accompanied by a standardized glossary with definitions and examples that explain these terms for consumers.
  • Labels and accompanying data should be localized so that consumers can readily compare plan details–including total costs, performance at both normal and busy times, reliability, and network management practices– for a particular geographic location.

And model labels…

Federal (BEAD) funding requires states, such as MN, to rethink anti-municipal broadband laws

Telecompetitor reports on research done by BroadbandNow

The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program has $42.5 billion available to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. States will administer the program but must first have a plan approved by the NTIA and, as new research from BroadbandNow shows, some states face an important hurdle as they prepare their plans – a hurdle that involves anti-municipal broadband laws.

Twenty-one states have laws in place that prohibit or restrict municipal broadband networks, BroadbandNow notes. And those laws are at odds with rules for the BEAD program, which say that states must disclose whether they will waive anti-municipal broadband laws, including laws that either prevent municipalities from applying for BEAD funding or that “impose specific requirements on public sector entities, such as limitations on the sources of financing, the required imputation of costs not actually incurred by the public sector entity, or restrictions on the service a public sector entity can offer.”

If a state does not plan to waive the laws, it must describe how the laws will be applied in connection with the application process. And, according to the researchers, the NTIA has included language in the BEAD rules that could enable municipalities to apply for funding directly if their state will not consider their applications.

Minnesota is one of the states with a restriction, BroadbandNow lists it…

Minnesota state laws require municipal governments proposing to offer telecommunications exchange to obtain a referendum “supermajority” of 65% of voters to proceed. Municipal governments are able to construct, extend, improve and maintain facilities for Internet access only if the city council finds that the proposed broadband network and service will not compete with existing services provided by private telecom companies, or if such services are not and will not be available through private telecom companies in the foreseeable future.

The rule is getting more antiquated every day but it’s still important. Some subscribers will want landline services and a barrier to offering that service is indeed a barrier.

 

MN Broadband Task Force Oct 2022 Notes: BEAD

The Broadband Task Force gathered today on site and online. They heard from the NTIA Minnesota contact about how to prepare for BEAD funding. They also got updates from the subcommittees on recommendations for the annual report. The mapping committee shared an interesting chart details costs to get broadband to everyone and impact the various potential funding sources could have to contributing to that investment. Although it wasn’t clear whether they were looking at speeds of 25/3 or 100/20. They changed the label of the table but not clear whether the numbers given looked at the slower of faster speeds.

Get more complete notes Continue reading

EVENT Oct 24: Minnesota Broadband Task Force

Happening tomorrow … I will be livestreaming it on Facebook

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
Monday, October 24, 2022
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Land O’Lakes
1150 County Road F West
Arden Hills, MN 55112
Park in North Parking Lot near Visitor Entrance – Building C Main Entrance
Room C2-217

OR Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting URL: https://landolakes.zoom.us/j/91861197956?pwd=aWxuZDdxVzhMWXBoMFJXTENCS3dRUT09&from=addon
Meeting ID: 918 6119 7956
Passcode: 0J9DrpCr

  • 10:00 a.m. – 10:05 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from September 29, 2022 meeting
  • 10:05 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. NTIA Grants (BEAD and Digital Equity) and role of Task Force in Plan Preparation
    Tom Karst, Federal Program Officer, Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth
  • 10:35 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Effects of Broadband Grants on Businesses and Townships
    Pete Johnson, Supervisor of Sunrise Township
  • 11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break
  • 11:15 a.m. – 11:40 a.m. Affordability and Adoption Sub-Group
  • 11:40 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. Funding, Mapping and Usage Sub-Group
  • 12:05 p.m. – 12:15 p.m. Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Update
    Teddy Bekele, Chair, Minnesota Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
  • 12:15 p.m. – 12:20 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, November 17 Meeting Plans, Wrap-u

MN Attorney General, MTA and MREA and Taft law chime in on MN PUC’s investigation into LTD Broadband

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.) I have been tracking new documents posted to the PUC site. The latest is a letter from Taft Law supporting LTD’s request to wait until after the conclusion of LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s denial of its RDOF long-form application to address their ETC status. They do this by recapping what has happened in PUC offices in other states. The PUC has received some reactions to that request…

 

MN Attorney General Keith Ellison says…

The Office of the Attorney General—Residential Utilities Division (“OAG”) files this supplemental letter pursuant to Ms. Severson’s October 14, 2022 email stating that all parties may file additional responses or supplemental information by 4:30 today. This letter responds to the letter submitted earlier today by LTD Broadband LLC (“LTD” or “Company”).

LTD claims that the OAG’s concerns that the Company could receive support before it is thoroughly vetted, that Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) support could flow prematurely to the Company, and that it could be three years before the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) or the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“Commission”) could act if that occurred are unfounded. LTD claims are inaccurate and warrant a further response.

First, it is the Commission, not the FCC that is responsible for determining whether LTD should receive an eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) designation, or in this case have its designation revoked. If the Commission determines that LTD is not able to meet its RDOF commitments in Minnesota and revokes LTD’s expanded ETC designation, any decision by the FCC is moot; LTD would no longer be eligible to receive RDOF support even if the FCC Bureau[1]level decision is overturned.

Second, even if the OAG has six-to-eight weeks’ notice before LTD’s long-form application is approved and the “ready to authorize” Public Notice issues, once an ETC receives “ready to authorize” status, there is no delay in disbursement of support. Rather, the Public Notice states that, upon its issuance, “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” the Public Notice and to disburse the support in “120 monthly payments, which will begin at the end of [the] month.” It defies logic for LTD to suggest that six-to-eight weeks would be sufficient time to take the appropriate next steps to determine whether the Company’s expanded ETC designation should be revoked prior to “LTD actually receiv[ing] RDOF support.” Once RDOF support is disbursed, it is very difficult to recover. Thus, it is vital that discovery commence and the contested case be conducted “expeditiously,” as requested by the Commission in its referral order.

Third, it is entirely accurate to say that it could be three years before the Commission or the FCC could act to stop the flow of RDOF support to LTD. This is because the FCC’s rules do not require LTD to provide the Commission with any information about whether the Company is meeting its FCC-mandated network buildout requirements until the third year that LTD receives RDOF support. And consumers, to the extent they have concerns about LTD’s performance, will not raise their concerns with the FCC or USAC, nor would the FCC or USAC likely be the ones to address them. As the entity tasked with designating and certifying ETCs, that task falls to the Commission. Indeed, the instructions to the annual certification form for RDOF recipients states that “[i]f USAC believes there may be a violation or potential violation of a statute or a Commission regulation, rule, or order, [the ETC’s] form may be referred to the Federal, state, or local agency responsible for investigating, prosecuting, enforcing, or implementing the statute, rule, regulation, or order.”

The MTA and MREA say (in part)…

This letter is submitted in response to the letter filed on behalf of by LTD Broadband, LCC (“LTD”) on October 13, 2022.

Petitioners agree with the Department of Commerce (“Department”) and Office of Attorney General (“OAG”)1 that LTD’s request for stay should be denied and this proceeding be conducted expeditiously as the Commission has ordered. 2 As the Department and OAG stated, the Nebraska and South Dakota decisions actually “highlight why the Minnesota proceeding should continue.” Those two decisions preserved a status quo in which LTD is currently not eligible for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) support. As a result, the Nebraska and South Dakota decisions protect the public interest in those states from the negative consequences of a possible reversal of the FCC’s decision to deny LTD’s long form.

The opposite is true in Minnesota. In Minnesota, a stay would allow LTD to obtain RDOF funding in the event of an FCC reversal before the Commission would have an opportunity to determine whether it should revoke the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (“ETC”) designation LTD needs to qualify for this RDOF funding.

The Commission initiated this proceeding out of concern (based on information presented by Petitioners and other commentors) that LTD would not be capable of delivering on its RDOF commitments to provide broadband to over 102,000 unserved locations in Minnesota. The purpose of the proceeding was to reexamine whether LTD qualifies for the ETC designation which is a precondition to receiving RDOF funding. Given the importance of the decision and its potential effects, the Commission wanted the proceeding completed “expeditiously.” 3

Staying this proceeding would frustrate the Commission’s intent and could lead to severe and irreversible harm to the public interest that this proceeding was initiated to protect. Approval of RDOF support for LTD in Minnesota would significantly reduce Minnesota’s share of approximately $41.5 billion in new federal broadband funding under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (“BEAD”) program. 4 Each state’s share of this BEAD funding will be “distributed primarily based on the relative number of “unserved” locations … in each State and Territory.”5 If the FCC were to reverse its decision as to LTD in Minnesota, LTD’s 102,000 Minnesota locations would no longer be considered unserved.6 These locations are a very substantial share of Minnesota’s unserved locations. As a result, Minnesota’s BEAD funding would be proportionately and substantially reduced.7

Taft Law (LTD Broadband) says…

Pursuant to Ms. Severson’s October 14, 2022 email stating that all parties may file additional responses or supplemental information by 4:30 today, I write to provide a brief response to statements made in the October 14, 2022 letter jointly submitted by the Department of Commerce and the OAG (“Department/OAG Letter”).

The Department/OAG Letter expresses concern that LTD could receive RDOF support before it is “thoroughly vetted,” that RDOF support could “flow prematurely” to LTD, and that it “could be three years” before the Commission or FCC could act if that occurred. Those concerns are unfounded.

First, RDOF support cannot flow to LTD until and unless LTD is successful in challenging the FCC staff decision denying LTD’s long-form application. If LTD is successful in doing so, and the FCC grants LTD’s long-form application, that will mean that LTD has been “thoroughly vetted” by the FCC and that RDOF support is not “flowing prematurely” to LTD.

Second, it is important to understand the chronology of the process. If and when LTD successfully challenges the FCC staff decision, and assuming the FCC’s process that has been consistently applied, then the FCC will issue a “Public Notice” saying it is “ready to authorize” support, subject to LTD submitting a letter of credit and bankruptcy opinion letter within a few weeks thereafter. Once LTD submits these documents, the FCC will issue another Public Notice stating that LTD is “authorized” to receive RDOF funding. That generally happens the second week of each month. The soonest any support would be wired from the FCC to LTD would be the last business day of the month. So if and when LTD’s appeal is successful, there would still be plenty of time—around six to eight weeks—for the parties in this proceeding to regroup and determine next steps before LTD actually receives any RDOF support. The Department and OAG have repeatedly suggested that there would be a risk of imminent harm if the FCC staff decision is reversed—the chronology above demonstrates why that concern is significantly overstated. As I stated at our previous conferences, LTD would agree to provide periodic updates to you and the parties regarding the status of LTD’s application for review. Third, it is an exaggeration to say that it could be three years before the Commission or FCC could act to stop the flow of RDOF support to LTD. Each year, the Commission will have the opportunity to review LTD’s compliance with ETC requirements—the 2022 review is just concluding. See Commission Docket No. P999/PR-22-8. In addition, if the FCC, USAC, Commission, a party to this proceeding, or even an LTD customer identified a truly urgent concern relating to LTD’s compliance with the RDOF and ETC requirements, the FCC and USAC could act to temporarily suspend the flow of support. Indeed, USAC and the FCC have done so where, for example, a letter of credit lapses.

Duluth New Tribune endorses Rep Ecklund for his broadband work

Duluth New Tribune reports…

In September, Rep. Rob Ecklund of International Falls was able to meet virtually with the News Tribune Editorial Board — without having to leave his house. Even just a year ago, he said, he would have had to go “in town” for a reliable-enough connection.

Progress certainly is being made on Minnesota’s multiyear mission of achieving true border-to-border broadband availability, even in rural areas. And during his seven years in the Legislature, Ecklund certainly has been one of the cause’s leading champions.

Eligible voters in the Nov. 8 election can reelect Ecklund to a fifth term to continue his successful work — on broadband and other important issues — and his effective representation of massive Minnesota House District 3A, which runs up the North Shore from just outside Two Harbors and then covers the Canadian border from Grand Portage to west of Northome.

“We still have a ways to go, but I think (broadband) is important, because, as the pandemic showed, many people can work from home,” Ecklund said in the interview. “It’s a new facet of our economy, and I think going on into the future, we’re going to see more and more at-home work and less and less people working in big office buildings in cities. Minnesota can’t be left behind.”

Ecklund’s largely rural district stands to benefit greatly from better broadband. But it’s far from the only matter where he has made a mark for those back home.

MN Elections Broadband Notes: House District 41B candidate Tina Folch connected to broadband

Through YahooNews, we can see the Pioneer Press coverages of House District 41B candidates and Tina Folch’s connection to broadband…

House District 41B

Tina Folch

  • Age: 51

  • Party: DFL

  • City: Hastings

  • What qualifies you to hold this position? As a Hastings councilmember since 2016, I also serve on the Dakota County Broadband Board & School District 200 Community Engagement Committee. Having worked in state and local government for 25 years, I have broad experience with law enforcement, business, and transportation officials. I hold a Master’s degree from Hamline University.

  • What would your top priorities be if elected? My top 3 priorities help our state prosper: 1) Develop more affordable housing and daycare options, 2) fully fund public education, pre-K through career training and 3) invest in infrastructure and foster development.

FCC announces latest RDOF round of winners including AMG Tech Investment in MN

The FCC announces the latest RDOF Winners

 

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorizes 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.

There was one winner from Minnesota:

AMG Technology Investment Group, LLC
Census blocks: 384
Locations: 1,408
Total Award:  $3,736,316

LTD Broadband asks MN PUC to hold off on decisions on ETC designation based on other states’ actions

This is an ongoing saga that many of us are watching closely and some might want a little recap…

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward looking at revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. (Background: LTD was awarded an opportunity to apply for$311 million in federal RDOF funding. They needed the ETC designation from the MN PUC to qualify; industry folks asked the MN PUC to rethink their designation because there were concerns about LTD being able to fulfill the contract. Last month, their application for RDOF was rejected.) I have been tracking new documents posted to the PUC site. The latest is a letter from Taft Law supporting LTD’s request to wait until after the conclusion of LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s denial of its RDOF long-form application to address their ETC status. They do this by recapping what has happened in PUC offices in other states…

I write to provide a brief update on activity in other states that you should know about as you continue to consider how to proceed in this matter. As you know, LTD’s position is that all litigation activity before you should be stayed until the conclusion of LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s denial of its RDOF long-form application. Two recent orders support LTD’s request.

As was referred to in passing at one or both of the previous conferences in this matter, LTD has been engaged in proceedings before other state public utility commissions concerning its eligibility as an eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) in those states for purposes of receiving RDOF funding. Indeed, the main basis for the MTA’s May 22, 2022 Petition was activity before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (“SD PUC”). See Petition at 2, 4, 6, 15-21.

Recent developments in two of those state commission proceedings support LTD’s request for a stay in this matter. First, on September 26, 2022, the Clerk of the Nebraska Supreme Court and Court of Appeals stayed an appellate proceeding in which LTD was challenging the denial, by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, of LTD’s ETC status in that state (the “Nebraska Stay Order”). A copy of the Nebraska Stay Order is attached. It provides that the Nebraska appellate proceeding is stayed pending resolution of LTD’s appeal of the FCC staff’s decision, and it requires LTD’s counsel to provide an update if the FCC appeal is not complete by January 21, 2023. The spirit of the Nebraska Stay Order is consistent with LTD’s request in this proceeding—it recognizes that having dual proceedings go forward at the same time would be unnecessarily duplicative and expensive.

Then, on October 12, 2022, the SD PUC issued an order closing LTD’s ETC docket there (“SD Order”). A copy is attached. In March 2022, the SD PUC denied LTD’s request for ETC designation for purposes of RDOF funding. LTD filed a Petition for Reconsideration or Rehearing. As described in the SD Order, that request was still pending as of August 10, 2022 when the FCC staff denied LTD’s long-form application. In light of the FCC staff decision, LTD requested that the South Dakota docket be suspended, and the South Dakota Telecommunications Association (“SDTA”) requested that the docket be closed. Yesterday, in the SD Order, the SD PUC granted the SDTA’s motion, closing the docket. But LTD still has an opportunity to file a motion to re-open the proceeding as new developments occur, for example if LTD wins its appeal of the FCC staff’s decision. See, e.g., In re Brookings Muni. Util. d/b/a Swiftel Comms. for Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier, Order Reopening Docket, Docket No. TC04-213, 2007 WL 8674044 (So. Dak. Pub. Utils. Comm’n, Sept. 18, 2007) (reopening docket to adjust compliance filing dates). Notably, one of the SD PUC Commissioners specifically stated at the Commission meeting that such a motion could be filed, indicating that the effect of the SD Order was to simply stop the proceedings until and unless LTD’s appeal of the FCC’s decision is successful. So the SD Order is consistent with LTD’s request to you.