Three new FirstNet Cell sites launch in MN: Deer River, Ely and Gary

AT&T reports on three new FirstNet Cell site. Here’s the info on each, starting with Deer River

First responders in Northern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located south of Deer River on Great River Road near Skunk Lake and the Mississippi River.

This new site will provide coverage when traveling along Great River Road (County 65 NE) and Minnesota State Highway 6 west of Grand Rapids in Itasca County. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

In 2021, we added a new site in Togo near George Washington State Forest in Itasca County. In addition, AT&T has added new cell towers in Itasca County to enhance mobile broadband coverage and help give residents, visitors and first responders faster, more reliable wireless service. These sites are south of Bigfork near Maple Lake and north of Bovey by Lower Balsam Lake.

Ely

First responders in Northern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located on the Echo Trail just north of Ely near Twin Lakes and Everett Lake.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along the Echo Trail in the remote wilderness of northeastern Minnesota. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

This is the third FirstNet site in St. Louis County and the second on the Echo Trail. In 2021, we added a new site on the Echo Trail northwest of Ely near Meander Lake and Lake Jeanette State Forest – one of the first primarily powered by solar in the Midwest region. This site along the Echo Trail provided coverage to first responders who battled the Bezhik wildfire in May of 2021 just a few miles south of the tower. We also added a new site in 2021 in the Kabetogama State Forest near Kjostad Lake and west of Buyck.

Gary

First responders in northwestern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located near Gary and just west of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota’s Red River Valley region.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along State Highway 200 and State Highway 32 in Norman County. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

What’s happening with Bois Forte Band of Chippewa

I’ve been trying to check in with folks in the county (or tribal areas) who might know who to contact about digital equity programs or opportunities. (If you are that person, please give me a shout! atreacy@treacyinfo.com) As I contact folks, I’ve been getting some fun update, such as this one from Randy Long with Bois Forte Band of Chippewa…

Our current fiber to the home project is currently underway and hopeful that the locations of Nett Lake, Palmquist and Indian Point will be completed an operations yet this fall. Our Vermilion location where the Casino is located will be questionable by late fall. I have applied for many funding opportunities for broadband in conjunction with CTC for our surrounding areas and hopeful that some of them will come through.

EVENT Aug 25: Paul Bunyan and Red Lake Nation host Affordable Connectivity Program Day

Red Lake Nation News reports

Paul Bunyan Communications and the Red Lake Nation are holding a another sign-up day for the Affordable Connectivity Program, this time on Thursday, August 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake.

This new long-term benefit will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households struggling to afford internet service and 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.

EVENT September 2022: National Summit to Improve High-Speed Internet on Tribal Lands

US Department of the Interior announces…

Federal Coalition Announces National Summit to Improve High-Speed Internet on Tribal Lands

Registration Open for 2022 National Tribal Broadband Summit

WASHINGTON — A coalition of federal agencies today announced next steps as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s all-of-government approach to addressing how to close the digital divide and increase internet access across Indian Country and the Native Hawaiian Community. The Department of the Interior and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are partnering with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) for the 2022 National Tribal Broadband Summit, taking place virtually throughout the month of September.

The National Tribal Broadband Summit offers a platform for leaders across the broadband development ecosystem to share best practices, new ideas and lessons learned from their real-world experience of bringing high-speed internet to Tribal governments and Tribal and Native Hawaiian Community businesses, organizations, and homes. Federal partners, Tribal and Native Hawaiian Community broadband industry experts, and other participants will discuss how to make the best use of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Federal Broadband Connectivity Grant funds for Tribes, and how to plan for the future of wireless networks and digital economies on Tribal Lands and across Native Hawaiian communities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

Registration is now open to Tribal leaders; representatives of Tribal organizations; Tribal colleges and universities, and schools and school districts serving under-connected Native students; Tribal libraries, museums, and cultural centers; the Native Hawaiian community, including Native Hawaiian education programs; private sector stakeholder organizations; representatives from state governments supporting high-speed internet expansion on Tribal lands; and federal program managers and policymakers.

Tribal lands are some of the most digitally disconnected areas in the United States, where 1.5 million people lack high-speed internet services. According to a 2018 report by the Federal Communications Commission, approximately 35 percent of those living on Tribal lands lack broadband access. Likewise, 34 percent of Native Hawaiians reported insufficient access to digital services and internet connectivity. As COVID-19 forced students to shift their learning online and numerous people into telework, the need for home broadband access across Native communities became increasingly apparent and critical.

Service providers, engineers, researchers, funders, regulators, anchor institutions, telehealth and distance learning specialists, Tribal governments, organizations and institutions, and other key players from across the country are invited to submit their best projects, programs or initiatives in planning, constructing, delivering and using broadband networks across Indian Country and the Native Hawaiian Community to be presented at this year’s summit. Submissions are strongly encouraged to include content from federally recognized Tribes, Tribal partners, or the Native Hawaiian Community.

###

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe gets $3.1 million funding (ARPA) to boost entrepreneurship

Senator Smith’s website reports

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $3.1 million in federal funding for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Onamia, Minnesota to boost tribal entrepreneurship. Specifically, the funding, provided through the American Rescue Plan’s Indigenous Communities program, will enable the construction of a tribal business incubator to help small businesses and start-ups access technical assistance they need to increase and expand their operations.

“This federal funding will make a real difference for the Mille Lacs Band Reservation, helping establish a business incubator that will boost small businesses and spur entrepreneurship,” said Klobuchar. “I’ll keep pushing to make sure our tribal communities have the resources they need to pursue economic opportunities.”

“Minnesota’s Tribal Nations have deep cultural and economic significance across our state,” said Smith. “I am pleased to announce this investment in the Mille Lacs Band reservation in Minnesota, which will help to grow and diversify the local economy. This investment, made possible by the American Rescue Plan, will create jobs and generate private investment so that the local economy can build back stronger in the wake of the pandemic.”

“President Biden is committed to ensuring that our communities are provided with the resources they need to diversify and grow their economies,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe business incubator project will spur private investment and job creation throughout the reservation.”

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Indigenous Communities program, which allocates $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding specifically to support the needs of Tribal Governments and Indigenous communities. The program supports these partners to develop and execute economic development projects they need to recover from the pandemic and build economies for the future.

Klobuchar and Smith have long worked to strengthen economic opportunities for Minnesota’s tribal communities. In April, they secured over $1 million in federal funding to provide emerging businesses in the Mille Lacs Band with necessary support and technical services.

Senator Tina Smith leads Indian Affairs hearing on infrastructure in Prior Lake MN

Senator Smith’s website reports

U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) chaired a productive field hearing for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, focusing on how Tribal Nations can utilize funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Senator Smith helped pass this historic investment in our country’s infrastructure last fall. The hearing was hosted by Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community at the Mystic Lake Center in Prior Lake.

The purpose of this hearing to understand how these transformational infrastructure investments can benefit Tribal Nations in Minnesota.  This bill has $13 billion for Tribal-specific programs and set-asides.  I am committed to making sure this funding is equitably distributed and accessible to Tribal Nations, and that it makes lasting impact.

These $13 billion will help address the longstanding infrastructure inequities in Tribal communities—inequities that impact the health, economic well-being, and safety of Native peoples.  Here are some highlights:

  • There’s $3.5 billion for Indian Health Service sanitation facilities—that will make drinking water safe and improve sewage and waste disposal systems.
  • There’s $3.8 billion for roads and bridges on Tribal lands, to make roadways safer for cars and pedestrians.
  • There’s $2 billion for broadband on Tribal lands, which will improve access to education, telehealth, and economic opportunities.
  • There’s $200 million for climate resilience, so that Tribal Nations can plan for and implement responses to climate change.

 

NEW Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit Now Available

BroadbandUSA reports…

A successful broadband project begins with a broadband plan, one that lays out the goals and path forward to enhance internet access and meaningful use within a target area or community. But there are many moving pieces involved in creating a broadband plan. BroadbandUSA’s Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit  aims to simplify the process for tribes. It provides the guidance, knowledge, and resources to design, implement, and then execute a broadband plan in tribal communities.
While this toolkit can be used at any time and for any broadband planning purpose – for NTIA or other programs – it comes at an especially opportune time: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) allocated an additional $2 billion and relaxed some of the program requirements to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.
Made up of seven worksheets, this Toolkit offers insights, interactive tools, and links to technical assistance resources for every stage of the broadband planning journey. While we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting a broadband plan, we hope that this Toolkit provides foundational resources to get you started.

NDIA introduces new National Digital Navigator Corps!

Yesterday at the Net Inclusion conference NDIA announced

We’re Advancing Digital Equity with a Multi-Year Commitment to Rural & Tribal Communities That Will Impact Thousands
Over four years, this $10 million grant and the National Digital Navigator Corps will have a wide impact on the ground in rural and Tribal communities and a long-lasting impact on digital inclusion:
We will be equipped to formalize the Digital Navigator model.

We will gain insight from data collection with partner sites.

AMERIND will gain a staff member dedicated to digital equity in Tribal lands.

Assets will be publicly available to expand and scale Digital Navigator work nationwide.

USDA specific funds for Tribal and Rural communities

Public Knowledge reports

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced more than $1 billion in funding to promote meaningful broadband access in rural, Tribal, and socially vulnerable communities. This program has the potential to deliver robust, affordable broadband to rural and Tribal communities that is essential to their civic, economic, and educational livelihoods. The program will offer eligible recipients a mix of grants, grants and loans combined, and just loans to deploy truly robust broadband networks (capable of 100/100 Mbps upload/download broadband speeds) to eligible communities. Much of what is in the ReConnect program is consistent with Public Knowledge’s advocacy on the infrastructure bill pending before Congress, so we are excited to see the USDA’s RUS step up to deliver meaningful broadband access to rural and tribal communities.

What do we love about this program? There is a lot to love here. Specifically, in order to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, including Tribal areas, are able to benefit from this opportunity, the RUS has set aside $350 million in grant funding for Tribal governments and “socially vulnerable communities” to build 100/100 Mbps networks to their communities.

The scoring is particularly interesting…

Moreover, Public Knowledge is very excited about the evaluation criteria that will be used to award funding. Projects will be ranked and awarded funding based on criteria that includes points for addressing affordability (20 points), serving higher poverty areas (20 points), committing to net neutrality (10 points), and offering wholesale broadband service (10 points).

Lower Sioux Indian Community Broadband Profile: 90 percent access to 100/20

Code: Yellow
Population: 134
(See Blandin Foundation interactive map)

Fond du Lac Reservation has seen some success in deploying better broadband in the last year. They went from 77 percent access to speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up to 90 percent; and access to 25/3 has remained at 100 percent.

This is one of the few communities where there is a striking difference between the fixed, non-mobile broadband and wireline. The only have 68.62 percent access to wireless; although that is to 100/20 speeds.

Access to Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband
Name %Broadband (25/3) 2021 %Broadband (25/3) 2019 %Broadband (100/20) 2021 %Broadband (100/20) 2019
Lower Sioux 100 100 90.24 77.12

In April 2017, Mediacom announced that they upgraded their customers on the Lower Sioux Reservation to their Gig access. It seems that is reflected in the map but that almost 10 percent of the reservation’s households are not in Mediacom territory.

They will likely need concerted effort to get the rest of the community better broadband. One opportunity might come from Lead for America, a group of fellows working in rural areas to promote better broadband. Vanessa Goodthunder, Executive Director of Caƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi – Lower Sioux Early Head Start and Head Start, is on the broadband of Lead for America so the connection is there.

Lower Sioux Indian Community
(get 2020 map)

Map Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

I am doing the annual look at broadband in tribal areas – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Fond du Lac Reservation Broadband Profile: 66 percent access to 100/20

Code: Green
Population: 1530
(See Blandin Foundation interactive map)

Fond du Lac Reservation has seen some success in deploying better broadband in the last year. They went from almost 20 percent access to speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up to 66 percent; and access to 25/3 went from almost 31 percent to almost 84.

Access to Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband
Name %Broadband (25/3) 2021 %Broadband (25/3) 2019 %Broadband (100/20) 2021 %Broadband (100/20) 2019
Fond du Lac Res 83.81 30.96 66.4 19.5

Fond du Lac has been working on better broadband since 2006, often while working with the Blandin Foundation on programs to improve broadband use. In 2018, they set out to provide fiber-to-home (FTTH)  to more than 1,800 homes, and anyone who lives in the network’s roughly 120-square mile service area, by 2020 — both band members and non-members alike using funding from the USDA. (There are 1530 households on Fond du Lac, according to 2010 Census.) The network went live in 2019 and continues to expand.

In 2020, the Band received a $602,916 MN Border to Border grant to help upgrade its infrastructure to serve 37 new households and 99 underserved customers, including properties on the reservation, western Cloquet and Perch Lake Township. That deployment would not yet be reflected in the maps or data on the reservation.

The tribe is making continuous investment and improvement on the broadband network with a focus on FTTH.

Fond du Lac
(get 2020 map)

Map Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

I am doing the annual look at broadband in tribal areas – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Bois Forte Reservation Broadband Profile: No access to 100/20

Code: Yellow
Population: 294
(See Blandin Foundation interactive map)

Bois Forte Reservation has seen an increase in broadband access of 25 Mbps down and 3 up since last mapping. They have seen nothing in access to 100/20.

Access to Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband
Name %Broadband (25/3) 2021 %Broadband (25/3) 2019 %Broadband (100/20) 2021 %Broadband (100/20) 2019
Bois Forte Reservation

65.36

20.12 0

0.00

Bois Forte has been working on better broadband through the IRBC program with IRRR and the Blandin Foundation as part of the Grizzlies, which include Bois Forte, Orr and Cook. Through that program, Bois Forte Tribal Government received Border-to-Border Broadband grant funding to connect ten unserved and 468 underserved locations throughout four sectors of the Bois Forte Reservation. Those upgrade must not yet show up on the maps and data. But it will make a difference and should means an increase in access to 100/20 speeds. 

Through IRBC, the community has also been making wireless available in public places around the community (learn more) it and they are working on programming to encourage use, such as a youth sports website.

Normally I would be concerned to see improvement to adequate access because it can dull the drive for better broadband for all in the long run and access to 25/3 will likely not meet long term needs, especially if residents stay or return to work, school and healthcare access online. Here I’m optimistic that the work with the Blandin Foundation will keep people focused and that the next mapping will highlight the impact of the 2020 Border to Border grant.

(get 2020 map)

Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

I am doing the annual look at broadband in tribal areas – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

MN Tribal broadband maps are out – compare 2019 to 2020 coverage

I recently finished the MN County Broadband profiles – 87 mini reports on what’s happening in each county. I’ve been keep an eye out for an opportunity to update the profiles for MN tribal communities as well. The maps from the Office of Broadband Development are out, which show the coverage (served/underserved/unserved) but the numbers aren’t. From a macro level it’s hard to compare progress or gauge success without the numbers. When the numbers come out I’ll do a deeper dive, in the meantime I thought it might be interesting to at least see the maps from 2019 and 2020 for each tribal area. Side by side we can make some assessments in each community.

Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

Bois Forte Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Fond du Lac
(get 2020 map)


Grand Portage Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Leech Lake Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Lower Sioux Indian Community
(get 2020 map)


Mille Lacs Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Prairie Island Indian Community
(get 2020 map)


Red Lake Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
(get 2020 map)


Upper Sioux Community
(get 2020 map)


White Earth Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Initiative Foundation funds Mille Lacs Tribal Economy Satellite Broadband Study

St Cloud Times reports

The Initiative Foundation and its partner funds provided grants worth more than $314,000 during the second quarter of 2021, with a focus on childhood education.

One grant went for a broadband study…

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures – Mille Lacs Tribal Economy Satellite Broadband Study: $6,670 goes toward a 12-month case study on broadband services and experiences among the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe districts.

I am looking forward to the results.

Enbridge gives broadband grant to Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools (Mahomen County)

KFGO reports

Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company that owns the controversial Line 3 pipeline replacement project in northern Minnesota, has donated $366,000 to the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools to subsidize internet access for low income families.

Enbridge spokesperson Julie Kellner says the grant will provide “a combination of broadband and fiber infrastructure, and fund other services that will help students connect to internet resources and thrive in remote learning environments.”

Kellner says the grant will also provide services for students in the Mahomen-Naytahwaush school district.  Enbridge plans to present a check Thursday morning.