CTC saves money and keeps people safe with broadband self installation kits

According to a press release from Calix, CTC has created a cool self-installation strategy…

Calix, Inc. (NYSE: CALX) announces that Minnesota-based, member-driven cooperative Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) innovated a groundbreaking self-installation strategy, Broadband in a Box™, that more than doubled subscriber growth. CTC developed and launched the strategy by leveraging the award-winning Revenue EDGE™ on the Calix platform, which includes Calix GigaSpire® BLAST systems, managed servicesCalix Marketing Cloud (Marketing Cloud), and Calix Support Cloud (Support Cloud). To further accelerate the success of this strategy, CTC also partnered with Calix Premier Customer Success (Premier Success). Initially driven by the pandemic-era need for contactless support, Broadband in a Box enabled new members to get set up with their CTC Complete Wi-Fi service quickly—without the need for a member services technician to visit their home. The innovative approach proved wildly popular. With 95 percent engagement for Broadband in a Box, CTC accelerated their market expansion into Cherry Township, Minnesota, delivering their services to new homes and businesses in mere days. Annual new subscriber growth rates have jumped from 6.5 percent to nearly 14 percent.

Because Support Cloud enables their team to solve most self-installation issues remotely, CTC immediately lowered operational expense (OPEX), reducing unnecessary truck rolls 50 percent. To ensure they continue to understand and meet their subscribers’ needs, CTC recently worked with Calix Business Insights Services to run a Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS®) survey. The result was an exemplary score of 69, with almost half of CTC “promoters” citing customer support as the primary reason for their glowing ratings.

You can check out the press release for the technical details, but I want to point out that, as I recall, the impetus for innovation was wanting to get people the broadband they needed during a pandemic while keeping both the installers and new customers healthy.

East Central Energy (ECE) starts fiber construction in Dalbo, Ogilvie, Braham and Pine City (Isanti and Kanabec Counties)

Isanti-Chisago County Star reports

East Central Energy is proud to announce that construction for ECE Fiber started on May 8, 2023. Construction will consist of installing both overhead and underground fiber lines, starting in the Dalbo area before moving to Ogilvie, Braham, and Pine City throughout the remainder of the year.

The cooperative first explored providing fiber internet services in 2019 but it wasn’t until November 2021 that the ECE Board of Directors made the decision to move forward with a full fiber-to-the-home project. Since then, the co-op has developed ECE Fiber and is advancing toward bringing reliable internet services to some of the most underserved counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This is big news for an area that’s been working on broadband for a long time. Last year Isanti and Kanabec Counties were in the bottom 10 served counties in Minnesota. ECE has been working hard to make it happen…

Fiber construction is scheduled to take place over the next five years, covering all of ECE’s service territory. Construction plans have been confirmed for 2023 and are in motion until the ground freezes later this year. Moving forward, ECE Fiber will solidify areas each summer to be constructed in the following year and updates will be shared on ecefiber.com….

ECE members are encouraged to visit ecefiber.com and sign up to express interest in fiber internet services, and to review package tiers and prices. By signing up online, members will be notified as ECE gets closer to building in their area and receive updates via email.


Frontier Communications plans to stick with copper for 3-5 years

Fierce Telecom reports

Frontier Communications still has hundreds of thousands of copper passings, but it doesn’t seem like that footprint will be taken offline anytime soon. CEO Nick Jeffery said during an investor conference this week the operator thinks it can get more bang for its buck deploying fiber than decommissioning copper – at least in the short term.

Jeffery has a history with turning down copper networks, having done so several times in his previous role as CEO of Vodafone UK. He said Frontier has studied the process in “great detail,” with early pilots showing “it’s possible” and “an important source of savings.” But, he added, Frontier expects the majority of savings in the short term to come from fiberizing copper customers rather than decommissioning copper.

“I think full copper decommissioning, central office grooming and all of that sort of stuff is important. But I think when we think about the next use of an incremental dollar, it’s much better spent building fiber in the short run versus copper decommissioning,” he said, noting fiber customers make fewer customer service calls and require fewer truck rolls. “I think full copper decommissioning will be important but I think in a three to five year time horizon.”

Imagine if you lived in an area with copper and you knew there was no plan to convert any time soon. According to a press release from 2020, they have 90,000 customers in Minnesota; I don’t know if they are copper or fiber…

Frontier provides telephone and internet service to approximately 90,000 customers in Minnesota, many of whom live outside the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area and have limited options for high-speed internet service.

The good news is that apparently Frontier will be talking to them…

That said, Frontier isn’t planning to ignore copper customers until fiber arrives. Jeffery said it is making “very targeted investments” in its copper network, for instance in areas where weather events disproportionately degrade performance. He added it has started communicating with its copper customers again, “which is something the old Frontier had never done.”

Apparently Frontier has a lot of copper and may have plans to get more with government subsidies…

As of the end of Q1 2023, Frontier still had nearly twice as many copper passings as fiber, with 9.9 million copper and 5.5 million fiber locations covered. But the reverse was true of its customer statistics, with 1.6 million fiber broadband customers to 987,000 copper customers. Overall fiber penetration as a percentage of total passings stood at 32.2% while copper was at 11.3%. Fiber penetration within its fiber footprint specifically, however, was 43.5%.

But Frontier isn’t planning to convert all of its copper customers to fiber. Frontier’s Chief Strategy Officer Vishal Dixit previously said it will see how many additional copper customers it can reach with the help of government subsidies.

Midco offers recommendations on ReConnect funding

It’s smart to try to find out what’s working on what’s not with federal funding for broadband – especially as we’re looking at tremendous amounts of funding soon. Hearing from providers is helpful; I hope they are getting feedback from communities too. NCTA reports…

Midco is a leader in the rural broadband industry serving over 490,000 homes and businesses across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, and Wisconsin. The company has invested over $765 million in private capital in the last six years to extend and upgrade its fiber network – in places like Hartford, South Dakota – despite some of its communities housing less than 100 people.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Midco will share its experiences connecting the Midwest and discuss challenges and solutions facing rural broadband deployment.

Here’s a list of the problems they see…

  • The insufficient focus on directing funds to genuinely unserved areas wastes government resources and encourages overbuilding in areas already burdened by challenging economics.
  • Legacy application requirements for certain experienced businesses that discourage participation by companies.
  • The lack of sufficient coordination between the many agencies giving out broadband funding, which can lead to overbuilding and forum shopping.
  • The lack of flexibility in program speed thresholds to permit alternative platform solutions like fixed wireless to be used when the per-household costs of a terrestrial fiber solution may be cost-prohibitive.

Here are their recommendations…

  • Require that at least 90% of households in a proposed service area lack broadband access.
  • Prioritize applications in areas without 25/3 service.
  • Update buildout speed requirements that would consider different technological solutions to connect hard-to-reach areas.
  • Exclude funding in areas where providers have already been granted funding under another government program, unless used by the same provider for different expenses or to achieve expedited deployment milestones.
  • Simplify the application process.
  • Establish better communication between federal agencies to ensure transparency and avoid duplication of funding.


Paul Bunyan Communication to bring Gigazone to Grand Rapids, Warba, Marble, Calumet, and Waukenabo Township in Aitken County

Big news from Paul Bunyan Communications for Aitken County…

Paul Bunyan Communications will be expanding its all-fiber optic network the GigaZone®, in 2023 to over 2,500 more locations in areas of south Grand Rapids, Warba, Marble, Calumet, and Waukenabo Township in Aitken County.
“We are excited to continue our efforts to bring gigabit broadband Internet to those currently without reliable Internet access in our region. Internet access is no longer a luxury, it is a vital component of everyday life and our cooperative continues to expand our network to bring this essential access to more homes and businesses right here in northern Minnesota” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
Anyone interested in getting connected to the all-fiber optic broadband network should sign up for service now. That can be done online, over the phone, or in person at our Grand Rapids Customer Service & Technology Center. To check to see if a specific location is within an expansion area, visit https://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/availability-map/ Paul Bunyan Communications will be also mailing more information to those within the 2023 plans as construction is about to begin in their area. Construction will take place over the summer with services expected to be available by winter.
“This will be a huge service improvement for everyone in the project areas. It is very challenging for those who don’t have true high-speed internet available at their home or business. As more and more students and employees work from home, many people are learning how critical upload speed is for their job or school work. Unlike many other providers, our speeds are symmetric, the same speeds are available for upload and download. This will be a game changer for these areas.” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications Information Technology and Development Manager.
The cooperative’s services will become available once the network is operational including GigaZone™ Internet with its unprecedented broadband speeds of up to 10 Gig and low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone™ voice telephone service. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications, membership is included by subscribing to either local phone service or GigaZone™ Internet service.

Last year Aitken County ranked 77 out of 87 for MN broadband county ranking with 5527 households unserved. This deployment will make a difference!

Comcast bring Gig access to Wayzata MN

Bring Me the News reports that Comcast is bringing to Wayzata “speeds faster than 1 Gbps and advanced WiFi technology…”

Want to see the possibilities of tomorrow’s internet on full display? Look no further than Wayzata, where Comcast is now beginning to roll out its entire suite of innovative broadband services.

It’s the latest step in Comcast’s Twin Cities expansion, which has brought a whole range of possibilities to not only Wayzata, but also places like Rogers and Dayton, and later this year Corcoran and Cologne.

Federated REA applied for USDA funding for FTTH in Martin County

The Fairmont Sentinel reports more on one the Martin County ARPA broadband grants approved last month

JACKSON- Federated Rural Electrical Association (REA) has applied for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to further develop rural broadband in Martin County. If approved the grant would pave the way for a $35 million expansion which would completely eliminate a lack of broadband access within the county.

The proposed project would provide up to gigabit upload and download speeds for every home and business within the county that currently has download speeds of less than 120 megabits per second and upload speeds of less than 20 megabits per second. Geographically this would cover nearly all of Martin County west of Granada, excluding Fairmont, Sherburn, Trimont, Truman, Welcome and Ceylon. …

The project signifies another step forward for the cooperative in becoming a major internet service provider in south central Minnesota. In 2022 Federated REA purchased Jackson-based Back 40 Wireless and began offering fixed point wireless service. Later that year the co-op began a project to provide fiber optic connections in Ceylon which is already serving a handful of customers in the city. Outside of Martin County Federated REA is planning a similar project to connect most unserved or underserved areas of Jackson County using funding from the state’s Border to Border grant program.

The costs of the project would be split between Federated REA, the USDA and a smaller grant from the Martin County Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) Broadband Partnership, which itself uses federal funds. Overall Federated would cover 46 percent of the project, the USDA would cover 50 percent and the EDA would cover the remaining four percent.

If approved the project is expected to directly connect to 2,352 households and 106 businesses. Most of these connections would be via underground cables but Reimer estimated roughly one third of these would utilize Federated’s existing overhead power lines. Federated’s existing fixed point wireless systems would not be part of this new project.

Federated REA is looking to invest $16 million for a project they predict to serve 5 customers per mile on construction. Predicted fees for customers…

Once the project is completed Reimer predicts rates to be similar to what the cooperative currently offers for fiber connections which range from $70 a month for download speeds of up to 100 MB per second to $100 a month for download speeds of up to 1 gig.

Farmington is getting FTTH – completion expected in the next two years

Hometown Source reports on an update in Farmington. It might be worth noting that HBC isn’t new, they have been building fiber networks since 1997…

A new fiber-optic provider called Hiawatha Broadband Communications is busy placing fiber across Farmington to offer the city, residents and businesses high-speed Internet, TV, along with smartphone and landline services.

In recent weeks, HBC crews have been drilling along Denmark Avenue across from Boeckman Middle School. The crews have been placing big, orange rolls of plastic tubing with fiber inside and is buried underground. This week crews are setting up fiber networks within the city’s industrial park area.

HBC, based out of Winona, is marketing a tagline of: “We Serve. We Connect. We Care.”

In the next 24 months, HBC will be building out networks underground from border to border in Farmington to complete the build out of fiber access.

More info on the network…

The city of Farmington is partnering with HBC to complete a Wi-Fi buildout that will be throughout 20 city parks to give guests free Wi-Fi access.

“This will save more than $750,000 in future expense to taxpayers,” Hoyt said.

“Our park system is critical to the quality of life to many of our residents, but it also enhances the park experience,” Hoyt said.

City park visitors will be able to access free Wi-Fi. This will enable guests to be able to take part in geocaching, scavenger hunts, augmented and virtual reality activities, geospacial visualization, interactive mapping, targeted messaging with real time feedback, along with additional public safety. City park Wi-Fi services will be free and secure, although the bandwidth will not be the fastest.

And just for Friday fun, I’ll share the headline: Hiawatha Broadband Communications lying fiber across Farmington.

Wynne Ridge area in White Township gets better broadband with Mediacom (St Louis County)

The Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation newsletter (The Ranger) reports…

Mediacom Communications Corporation constructed a new fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network to the Wynne Ridge Rock N Pines residential area. The project involved 25 unserved households within White Township and a portion of Biwabik Township near Giants Ridge Recreation Area. Wynne Ridge residents can now connect to Mediacom’s Xtream internet service that delivers download speeds of up to 2Gig and upload speeds of up to 1Gig. The Wynne Ridge network was built using an advanced 10G broadband platform that delivers multi-gigabit speeds while supporting higher reliability, high security and low latency.
Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $65,000 Broadband Infrastructure grant to White Township. The total project investment was $180,165.
“Our new 10G platform is future-ready,” said Jason Janesich, Mediacom’s director of area operations. “The fiber network deployed in the Wynne Ridge neighborhood has more than enough capacity for today’s data needs, and capacity for future needs as well.”
The project was initiated after White Township received a petition from a group of Wynne Ridge residents whose homes were unserved by broadband or high-speed internet service. There is high speed broadband infrastructure throughout the Giants Ridge Recreation Area, but there was a pocket within Wynne Ridge that was unserved and dependent upon slow and unreliable satellite internet service. The geographic gap and lack of service posed significant challenges to the residents who work remotely from home, area business owners, educators and students. In response to the petition, White Township partnered with St. Louis County and Mediacom to proceed with construction of FTTH.
“Our township is very grateful for not only the financial support provided by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, St. Louis County and Mediacom, but also for the leadership and collaboration of everyone involved,” said Jodi Knaus, White Township manager and clerk. “This project is a great example of what working together across different agencies regionally can accomplish. The Township Board of Supervisors will continue to collaborate with area leaders bringing broadband infrastructure projects to underserved areas in the township.”
Mediacom is a leading gigabit broadband provider to smaller markets primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. Mediacom has offered Gig-speed internet to Minnesota residents in all areas of its 48-county service area for more than six years. In addition to Wynne Ridge, Mediacom’s fiber-based network delivers Gigabit-speed broadband service throughout St. Louis County including the communities of Aurora, Biwabik, Buhl, Chisholm, Eveleth, Gilbert, Hermantown, Hibbing, Hoyt Lakes, Kinney, McKinley, Mountain Iron, Proctor and Virginia; and in parts of Fayal, Midway, Solway and White Townships. Nearly 25% of Mediacom’s broadband customers choose to use 1 Gig speeds, and the company is transitioning its network to a 10G platform.
Learn more about Mediacom.

Cook MN get FTTH from Paul Bunyan Communications

The Ely Timber Jay reports

While emerging springtime has area residents prognosticating again about the most likely day for ice-out on Lake Vermilion, Cook residents have something else they’re looking forward to – the completion of the high-speed fiber Gigazone broadband network being installed in the city by Paul Bunyan Communications.

The company ran into a snag last fall with supply chain issues that left them without the equipment necessary to complete the project before winter. But the equipment has now arrived, and some residents who signed up early and had fiber already run to their homes have been connected and are enjoying blazing fast speeds of up to 10 gigabytes.

The company recently hosted a sign-up event at the Cook Hospital, and according to Brian Bissonette, the company’s marketing supervisor, the turnout was strong.
“I checked in with the team that went and they said it was wall to wall,” Bissonette said. “It was nonstop – our crew from start to finish didn’t have a free moment. It wasn’t a meeting where we answered questions and things, we did that on a personal level. They were just able to go to the Cook Hospital and sign up for services that day. It was really successful. The word is starting to spread.”
The base level of Gigazone service available is 250 megabytes, with additional options ranging up to the 10-gigabyte maximum, Bissonette said. Because the network is fiber-based, upload speeds are as fast as download speeds, something that will accommodate many of the needs for high-speed fiber broadband revealed by the COVID pandemic, such as distance learning, telemedicine, media streaming, and working from home, Bissonette said.

4,000+ Attend GigaZone Gaming Championship in Bemidji MN

News of the GigaZone Games makes me happy every year…

An estimated crowd of over 4,000 attended the GigaZone Gaming Championship & TechXpo on Saturday, April 22 at the Sanford Center. The event featured free gaming, numerous gaming tournaments, over 35 technology exhibitors, door prizes, and special guest Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. This one-of-a-kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event was run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.
Mathew Wagner of Duluth won the 6th annual GigaZone Gaming Championship and the top prize of $500. Shawn
Haines of Grand Forks secured second place and $400. A total of 76 of northern Minnesota’s best Super Smash Bros.
Ultimate players competed on the main stadium stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.
In addition to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament, there was several other open tournaments including Fortnite, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Madden 23, and Overwatch 3v3, Rocket League 3vs3 plus high score competitions in Pac-Man, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. There were also two tournaments for juniors 13 and Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, “Wow. When we first envisioned this event, we wanted to grow it so we could have a true arena e-sports event. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow so fast and that we would have Steve Wozniak the co-founder of Apple join us. It has been incredible to see the attendance and enthusiasm for the event! By adding the TechXpo, we were able to connect a wide variety of students and potential job seekers with schools and businesses that are utilizing the latest in technology every day right here in northern Minnesota. It was awesome to see so many people from all over come for the fun!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members. The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship & TechXpo showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.
“A huge shout out to our entire team for putting on one of the most unique events of this type in the country. Thank you to all of the exhibitors that were a part of the first ever TechXpo and our local partners, we couldn’t do this without them. We’re already looking forward to next year!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing
This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, the Sanford Center as well support from several regional and national partners.
For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com 

More on MN PUC’s case on LTD Broadband: Dep of Commerce says suspend ETC – LTD disagrees

Yesterday I posted an update from the Minnesota PUC on the ongoing saga of LTD Broadband and the PUC looking into revoking their ETC status, a status they needed to get federal funding. (I went into greater details on the history yesterday.) Documents filed yesterday indicated that the Department of Commerce recommended the PUC continue looking into the revocation.

Today’s update, goes farther. This time the Department of Commerce recommends that the MN PUC also suspend LTD Broadband’s ETC designation during this time…

The Office of the Attorney General—Residential Utilities Division (“OAG”) files this Response in support of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s (“Petitioners”) Motion to Suspend ETC Designation (“Motion to Suspend”) and Motion to Certify. Granting the Motion to Suspend will protect ratepayers from being harmed if the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) reverses its decision to deny LTD Broadband, LLC’s (“LTD”) long-form application (“Application”) for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) funding by (1) ensuring RDOF money does not flow to LTD before the Commission determines whether LTD is capable of performing adequately, and (2) enabling other potential providers to seek federal funding to build out rural broadband service in the event LTD cannot deliver. Granting the Motion to Certify will allow the Commission to use its unique expertise to decide issues that could have important consequences for rural broadband development.

Today’s update also includes a response from LTD Broadband saying they disagree with the petitions to motion to suspend and motion to certify…

LTD Broadband, LLC (“LTD”), by its counsel and pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.6600, hereby responds to the “Motion to Certify” filed on March 29, 2023 by the Minnesota Telecom Alliance (“MTA”) and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (“MREA”) (together, the “Movants”)1 seeking to return this matter to the Commission for immediate consideration of a separate Motion to Suspend ETC Designation2 (“Motion to Suspend” and together with the “Motion to Certify,” the “Motions”) for certain areas in Minnesota.3 Together, the Motions seek to embroil the Commission in entirely unnecessary and potentially lengthy proceedings on the basis of speculation, inconsistent logic, and a fundamentally inaccurate characterization of the posture of LTD’s application for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) support before the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). The Motions are simply a backdoor attempt to extinguish arbitrarily LTD’s efforts to secure RDOF funding prior to any FCC action on LTD’s pending Application for Review4 in the speculative hope that such an outcome would result in MTA and MREA members obtaining funding under alternative programs in lieu of LTD – the same objective these parties have sought to attain by various means from the moment LTD submitted its application to expand its Minnesota ETC designation.

There has been no change in the circumstances of LTD’s Application for Review that led to the ALJ’s January 18, 2023 order staying the proceedings that the Commission delegated to him,5 and therefore no reason to change the posture of this case and require the state and LTD to expend considerable time and expense in a hearing that may be entirely unnecessary. Nor does the prospect of future broadband funding create an immediacy requiring that the current stay be lifted and the matter be turned back to the Commission. For these reasons, the Motion to Certify should be promptly denied and the present stay should remain in effect pending any further action by the FCC.

Here are their reasons, which they elaborate on in their remarks…

  • The Motions Misstate the Nature of the Relief the FCC May Grant in Ruling on LTD’s Application for Review.
  • The Motions Mount a Collateral Attack on the FCC’s Statutorily Mandated Obligation to Administer the Federal RDOF Program.
  • The Motions Inconsistently Rely Heavily Upon Initial FCC Staff Fact Finding While Unreasonably Disparaging the FCC’s Ability to Render Competently a Final Decision on LTD’s Ability to Meet Its RDOF Obligations.
  • Grant of the Motion to Certify and Further Consideration of the Motion to Suspend Would Squander Judicial and Administrative Resources.

Dep of Commerce recommends MN PUC continue investigation into LTD Broadband’s TEC status

The Minnesota PUC decided to continue to move forward to look 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.)

Last month, MTA (MN Telecom Alliance) and MREA (Minnesota Rural Electric Association) asked the PUC to suspend LTD Broadband’s ETC status while they are under consideration for ETC revocation. There is a prehearing conference scheduled for April 24. Documents and information for that meeting have been posted on the MN PUC website. The most recent is from the Department of Commerce and signed by MN Attorney General Keith Ellison and supports the position to continue on the case…

Pursuant to Minn. R. 1400.6600 (2021), the Minnesota Department of Commerce respectfully requests that the Administrative Law Judge grant the Petitioners’ motion to certify the January 18 decision to stay this proceeding during the pendency of LTD Broadband’s Federal Communications Commission administrative appeal.1 THIRD PREHEARING ORDER (Jan. 18, 2023) (eDocket No. 20231-192240-01) (“Stay Order”); Petitioners’ Motion to Certify (Mar. 29, 2023) (eDocket No. 20233-194309-04). A Commission order directing the parties to proceed with this contested case would facilitate the ultimate termination of the matter and full record development prior to an FCC decision. While judicial economy is an important consideration, it should not come at the expense of other critical public interests. In this case, those interests include the sound stewardship of limited public resources—approximately $31 million a year—to an entity that may be incapable of delivering on its commitments to Minnesota.

The last sentence says a lot. The entire statement is surprisingly easy to read for those of us not steeped in legalese but I’m going to excerpt the part that it most pertinent to this update…

Although it is possible that the FCC may ultimately deny LTD’s appeal, Minnesota should still undertake a contested case proceeding now. If LTD’s administrative appeal prevails, absent suspension or resolution of this proceeding, federal support would begin flowing to LTD. 47 C.F.R. § 54.802(d) (2022); see, e.g., In re Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, WC Docket No. 19- 126, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Support For 7,608 Winning Bids Ready to Be Authorized (Dec. 16, 2021). While this would be an acceptable outcome if LTD possesses the technical, managerial, and financial capability to deliver on its commitments, Petitioners have raised allegations that suggest LTD may be unable to deliver:

  • LTD has made significantly different construction cost representations to state agencies when seeking grant support than to the FCC for RDOF support. Thompson Decl. at 11.

  • LTD’s construction cost estimates are significantly less than those developed by Petitioners’ engineering consultants. Id. at 13.

  • The South Dakota commission already concluded that LTD lacked the capacity to construct and operate a much smaller network in South Dakota. In re Appl. of LTD Broadband, LLC for Designation as an ETC for Purposes of Receiving Federal Universal Support, Docket No. TC21-001, FINAL DECISION & ORDER DENYING APPLICATION at 16-17 (SD PUC Mar. 21, 2022).

  • LTD has already defaulted on RDOF locations in Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota, California, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction (Auction 904), DA 21-908, Order ¶ 16 (July 26, 2021); Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction (Auction 904), DA 21-1311, Order ¶ 18 (Oct. 20, 2021).

In addition to advancing this proceeding towards termination, lifting the Stay Order would reduce the risks associated with a sudden FCC reversal; namely, funding flowing to an entity the Commission ultimately concludes is incapable of delivering on its commitments. The secondary consequences of such an outcome are equally concerning. Alternative state and federal funding would no longer be available. Motion to Suspend at 21. Minnesotans in communities designated for RDOF support via LTD would continue to lack access to high-quality broadband and voice services. Given the important public considerations at stake and the time sensitivity of this proceeding, this factor supports certification of the Stay Order to the Commission

And here is their conclusion…

For the reasons discussed above, the Department respectfully requests that the Administrative Law Judge grant Petitioners’ motion to certify the Stay Order to the Commission.

Nuvera to bring fiber to Hector MN

Market Screener reports…

Nuvera Communications, Inc. (OTC: NUVR) a diversified communications company, has announced plans to expand fiber internet service into Hector, Minnesota.

Nuvera is beginning its second year expanding access to fast fiber internet across Minnesota with its Nuvera Gig Cities project. The project creates a vast new fiber infrastructure that runs across southern Minnesota communities.

If you’re in the area, you can learn more at their open house…

Nuvera Gig Cities Open House
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Presentations at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Hector Public Library
126 Main Street South, Hector MN

Mini update on MN PUC upcoming prehearing on LTD Broadband

This seems like an update that’s too small to post, but it is nice to have everything archived in one place. What we learned last week…

The follow up is that a prehearing conference has been set for April 24 and the Institute for Local Self Reliance has submitted a file a notice of appearance.

Today we learned that the Institute for Local Self Reliance will appear at the prehearing conference and all subsequent proceedings in the above-entitled matter.

And some background for folks who are walking into the movie midway…

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.)