Should big tech companies pay a toll to broadband providers?

Fierce Telecom reports

Orange Group CEO Christel Heydemann and Brendan Carr, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), called on technology giants to contribute a “fair” share to broadband infrastructure costs, arguing such companies are driving a need for continued upgrades and have disproportionately benefitted from telecom investments to date. Their comments, made at an event hosted by the Financial Times this week, come as regulators in the U.S., European Union and South Korea weigh rule changes which would force the likes of Alphabet, Amazon, Meta and Netflix to pay telcos for the large amounts of traffic they generate.

Speaking during a keynote, Heydemann questioned whether the current arrangement between telecoms and tech companies is sustainable, noting internet traffic is growing “30 to 40% annually while telecom revenues are based mostly on flat rates.” She added a majority of traffic – 55% – is now driven by just six companies: Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix.

The request was simple…

Heydemann called on the E.U. to implement a “fairer system” in which large traffic emitters pay fees to operators to help pay for network maintenance and upgrades.

This question always brings me back to working for a broadband provider (aka ISP) in the 1990s. There were larger fees for website that got more traffic and really big websites were collocated with our servers so in some ways they did pay more but it wasn’t a lot more.

It is true that providers are the ones making the investment in infrastructure. (Although plenty of government money helps subsidize growth.) And it does seem like the broadband providers are not the ones who are benefiting they way some larger retailers or media companies are.

But there are some slippery slopes when you start asking some people to pay more, especially to make their websites more available. (And it’s more than websites but for simplification of discussion, I’m going to ay website.) It opens the door to a fast track for some website, which by default means others are on a slow track. It gives the companies with money a great advantage.  Another door opens to talking about broadband as a utility, which is another long-lasting discussion. Should we treat the Internet as a utility?
Another angle, should we penalize the websites that encourage greater broadband adoption? Because learning how to stream movies gets a person one step closer to telehealth and that could save everyone money in the end.

Sometimes these new ideas have long roots. It’s often valuable to relook at the suggestions but at least as valuable to look at the old arguments.

Mediacom brings fiber to Wykoff MN (Fillmore County)

KIMT TV reports

Mediacom Communications says it has finished its expansion of a “company completed its expansion of a state-of-the-art fiber communications network” in Wykoff.

The company says this makes Wykoff one of nearly 200 Gigabit broadband communities Mediacom serves across Minnesota.

The details…

Construction began in early summer 2022 with a build-out of nearly five files of fiber optic lines reaching 235 local homes and businesses.  Mediacom says it privately funded the $435,000 costs to build and activate the Wykoff fiber network in order to provide local residents with substantially faster internet service options.

The rest of Fillmore County…

Mediacom says its high-speed internet services are now available in Fillmore County in Canton, Chatfield, Fountain, Lanesboro, Mabel, Peterson, Preston, Rushford, Spring Valley, and Wykoff.

Nextlink Internet and Tarana enter Minnesota rural broadband market with fixed wireless

Business Wire shares a press release from Nextlink Internet and Tarana…

Nextlink Internet and Tarana announced today their formal collaboration toward large-scale improvements in the US broadband landscape. The companies are partnering to bring reliable, low-latency gigabit broadband service to an extensive set of under- and unserved communities and rural regions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. The team expects to expand service to hundreds of rural counties over the next several years, covering over a quarter million households.

Nextlink is using Tarana’s G1 platform to compete in local markets with fiber providers, taking market share with rapid deployment of fast, affordable broadband service. Nextlink is also using the platform to go above and beyond its regulatory commitments, delivering 500 Mbps service where it was obligated to deliver 100 Mbps service. Finally, Nextlink plans on utilizing a combination of fiber and gigabit fixed wireless to meet its RDOF obligations. Tarana is uniquely positioned to help Nextlink deliver on all of those promises.

It seems like maybe they are capitalizing on the changes/opportunities with LTD Broadband’s situation with their RDOF plans. Here’s more info on both…

About Nextlink

Nextlink Internet is a rural-focused provider of high-speed internet and phone services, investing over $1 billion in unserved and underserved communities with its fiber and wireless infrastructure. As an active participant in public-private partnerships to close the digital divide, Nextlink is working to rapidly connect thousands of additional homes, businesses, and anchor institutions in rural areas and small communities across 11 states. For more information visit: nextlinkinternet.com.

About Tarana

Tarana is on a mission to accelerate the deployment of fast, affordable internet access to the world. With a decade of research and more than $400M of investment, the Tarana engineering team has created a unique next-generation fixed wireless access (ngFWA) technology instantiated in its first commercial platform, Gigabit 1 (G1). G1 delivers a game-changing advance in broadband economics in both mainstream and underserved markets, using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. G1 started production in mid-2021 and has already been installed by over 120 service providers globally. Tarana is headquartered in Milpitas, California, with additional research and development in Pune, India. Visit www.taranawireless.com for more on G1.

Representative Dave Lislegard asks MN PUC to revoke LTD Broadband’s ETC designation

I’ve been tracking what’s happening with MN PUC looking into revoking LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation (get background). The latest development is that Representative Dave Lislegard sent a letter to the MN PUC…

I’m writing to encourage the Public Utilities Commission to revoke LTD Broadband’s expanded ETC designation and to expedite the proceeding.

Greenwood Townships trying to secure broadband funding with CTC

The Ely Timberjay reports on the Greenwood Township Town Board meeting…

Supervisors are still working on securing funding for a broadband project, and are pursuing a couple of different grant opportunities and working with CTC, a broadband provider.
“We were told to apply for as many grants, concurrently, as possible,” Chairman Sue Drobac said, noting that in case two applications were successful, they would only need to accept one of them.

Mediacom brings fiber to 235 locations in Wykoff (Fillmore County)

ABC New 6 (Rochester MN) reports

Mediacom Communications announced on Tuesday that they completed installation of a new broadband fiber communication network in Wykoff.

The company says they built nearly five miles of fiber optic lines with gigabit internet services now available to 235 homes and businesses in the Fillmore County town.

Construction began in early summer.

Mediacom says they privately funded the $435,000 costs to build and activate the Wykoff fiber network.

The investment was made to provide local residents with substantially faster internet service options.

“Mediacom chose to make this investment to offer Wykoff residents the super-fast internet services we deliver to customers in other Fillmore County communities and throughout much of Minnesota,” said Mediacom Operations Director Zach Raskovich. “Gig Internet provides a large amount of bandwidth to a home network – allowing multiple users to surf, stream, download and game at the same time.”

According to Mediacom, Wykoff now joins the ranks of nearly 200 Gigabit broadband communities Mediacom serves across Minnesota.

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.

TDS Telecom seeks broadband grants in Enfield, Monticello, Danube, Kerkhoven and Sunburg MN

Fierce Telecom reports

TDS Telecom is duking it out with the likes of Comcast, Frontier Communications, Verizon and Breezeline as it pursues broadband grants in at least three states. The operator has achieved mixed results with its grant efforts so far in 2022, walking away with a loss in Wisconsin but a win in Tennessee.

Drew Petersen, TDS SVP of External Affairs, told Fierce it has “five pending grant applications in Minnesota as well as one in Virginia.” In the latter, it is seeking nearly $4.6 million to reach over 2,800 locations in Craig County. It was not immediately clear how much it is asking for in Minnesota, but it has applied for funding to provide symmetrical 1 Gbps service in the areas around Enfield, Monticello, Danube, Kerkhoven and Sunburg.

Starlink appeals FCC rejection of RDOF applications

Fierce Telecom reports…

SpaceX subsidiary Starlink asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider a decision to deny it $885.5 million in rural broadband funding, arguing the decision handed down in August was “flawed as a matter of both law and policy.”

The company filed what is known as an Application for Review with the Commission. Such applications are essentially appeals from an aggrieved party which ask the FCC to revisit actions taken on the grounds that they conflict with established statutes, regulations, precedent or policy or rely on a policy or precedent that should be changed or overturned.

Last month, the FCC rejected Starlink’s winning bids for $885.5 million in broadband subsidies from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, which were intended to help it connect more than 640,000 unserved locations in 35 states. At the time, the FCC cited Ookla data which showed Starlink’s broadband speeds were below the service benchmark set for its subsidies.

In its filing, however, Starlink claimed the FCC’s decision “rests on unsupported conjecture and outside-the-record information apparently cherry-picked from somewhere on the Internet.” It also accused the FCC of making the decision “in service to a clear bias towards fiber, rather than a merits-based decision to actually connect unserved Americans.”

ITC Expands Fiber-Optic Services to the City of Ivanhoe (Lincoln County)

ITC fiber reports...

 ITC is excited to announce a fiber-optic expansion to the City of Ivanhoe, Minnesota. Along with ITC’s investment in the fiber-optic expansion, this project is funded by the City of Ivanhoe and Lincoln County. To ensure area residents have access to world-class telecommunications services, ITC continues to expand its network. This fiber-optic expansion to Ivanhoe, Minnesota, is another example of ITC’s continued commitment to this region.

Tracy Bandemer, ITC’s CEO, adds, “Since we completed the initial expansion into rural Lincoln County in 2019, there have been continued conversations about expanding into the City of Ivanhoe. We are excited this project is moving forward. In analyzing Lincoln County, the city of Ivanhoe was the only area without fiber-optics, so this expansion will bring Lincoln County to 100% fiber.”

Vince Robinson, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Enterprise Development Corp. further explains, ”About seven years ago we set out to become a County that would provide fiber to the premise to all of our residents and businesses. ITC has proven to be a solid partner with the previous joint rural fiber expansion project in the County. Broadband delivered on fiber is the future, and with this partnership of the City of Ivanhoe, the County, and ITC we will ensure that all residents of Lincoln County have equal access to state-of-the-art broadband technology.”

ITC is planning to start the construction this Fall. This new fiber-optic connection will offer residents and businesses a reliable, unlimited, Fiber-Fast Internet connection and local phone service. The plan is to plow fiber-optics to every location. To verify your location’s eligibility, please visit www.itcfiberlinc.com . You will have the option to sign up for service with ITC or grant permission for the fiber-optics to be plowed to your location for future utilization. ITC requests that this step be completed by September 15 to maintain the tentative timeline.

ITC is a local telecommunications company providing services to communities in Northeastern South Dakota and Southwestern Minnesota for over 68 years. Currently, ITC provides service to more than 14,000 customers.

FCC and Paul Bunyan raise awareness of Affordable Connectivity Programs

The latest from Paul Bunyan…

Paul Bunyan Communications and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are promoting Lifeline Awareness Week, September 12-16.

“Access to reliable high speed Internet service is critical.  We promote the Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program a lot throughout the year and Lifeline Awareness Week is another opportunity to spread the word about these programs.  We want to make sure all of our membership and those who live within our service area know about them and the benefit they can provide.  These programs help those struggling to afford Internet services get and stay connected!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

Lifeline is an FCC program designed to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers.  Lifeline provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on qualifying voice and broadband services for eligible low-income subscribers and up to $34.25 per month for subscribers on qualifying Tribal lands.  To learn more about Lifeline, go to www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers or www.lifelinesupport.org/.

A new FCC program, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), is also now available to help families and households struggling to afford internet service.  The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.  Additional information about the Affordable Connectivity Program Benefit is available at www.fcc.gov/ACP, or by calling 877-384-2575 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET any day of the week.  Households that qualify for Lifeline also qualify for the ACP Benefit.

Update on LTD Broadband hearings at MN PUC – next meeting scheduled for September 10

In July, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held a hearing to decide whether or not to look into revoking LTD Broadband’s ETC designation. The designation was important because their ability to receive a large amount ($311 million) was in part dependent on having the designation. They decided to move forward. In August, the FCC rejected LTD’s application for the federal funds based on numerous reasons. So the big question was whether the PUC would continue on with its investigation or not. They did.

 

August 24, the PUC heard from interested parties and have decide to ask for materials from LTD, give folks an opportunity to respond and to meet again (via phone) on September 20…

  1. LTD shall serve and file the long-form application, related correspondence, and attachments by August 26, 2022.
  2. Parties wishing to intervene in this proceeding must file their requests by 4:30 p.m. on September 16, 2022.
  3. A prehearing conference will be held by telephone on September 20, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. to review the status of the case, define the issues and set the dates for hearing. At that time, please call 1-866-705-2554 and when prompted enter passcode 406954.
    Dated: September 1, 202

A fiber cut takes down internet and phone service in Northeast Minnesota (Cook & Lake Counties)

MPR reports on how a fiber cut took down internet and phone services (landline and many mobile services) on the North Shore. Shops couldn’t accept credit cards, tourists couldn’t use credit cards or ATMs, hospitals couldn’t transfer x-rays for review and while police could accept calls few people could make them…

Those headaches began at 11:19 a.m. on Friday morning, when a company installing an underground cable about three miles north of Silver Bay accidentally cut the main fiber optic trunk line that runs from Duluth up the North Shore.

That line is owned by the Northeast Service Cooperative, or NESC, a nonprofit public corporation established by the state legislature that operates a 1,200-mile fiber optic network across northeastern Minnesota.

Jon Loeffen, who oversees that network for NESC, said it’s still unclear who cut the line. What is clear, he said, is that whoever it was broke the law by failing to properly notify existing utilities through Gopher State One Call that they were planning to dig in the area.

“That was a terrible place for us to get hit because it was a main artery to our network,” Loeffen said.

And that fiber optic line doesn’t just provide internet service. It provides fiber connectivity between cell towers and carriers like AT&T and Verizon. So when the line was cut Friday, it also disrupted cell phone service.

The story reminded me of Winter 2010, when a broken steam pipe in Duluth caused the same issues. I assumed the new fiber service took that incident into effect, sounds like they did but there are still issues…

For years there was only a single fiber optic line that linked the North Shore to the Duluth area. Any disruption to that line would often lead to widespread outages.

A few years ago NESC installed a second line to create a more diverse system with redundancy built into it, so that if one line went down, traffic could be diverted to the other line almost instantaneously.

But this incident exposed holes in the system. The cut to the fiber line a few miles north of Silver Bay occurred “in an area that did not have that redundancy built in on that particular segment,” said Loeffen.

It took about six hours to switch most internet and cell phone service over to that redundant line. But it took AT&T nearly 24 hours to restore its service, DeCoux said.

NESC is now putting together a plan to install additional equipment and reconfigure its network links up the North Shore, “so that hopefully in the future, if something like that occurs again, there won’t be an outage for some of those services because they’re going to be on a protected, diverse path,” Loeffen said.

The goal, he said, is to complete that work in less than a month.

Comcast expands broadband to Rogers, Dayton and Wayzata MN (Hennepin & Wright Counties)

Fierce Telecom announces investment in broadband in Kansas as well as a few areas in Minnesota…

Other builds include an expansions to 267 homes in Rogers, Minnesota, and another 245 in Dayton; as well as work to reach 537 homes in Grain Valley, Missouri. It also plans to spend $2.5 million on a network expansion in Wayzata, Minnesota.

EVENT Sep 12: Affordable Connectivity Program Sign Up Day in Inger

An announcement from Paul Bunyan…

Paul Bunyan Communications, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) are holding a sign-up day for the Affordable Connectivity Program, on Monday, September 12 from 2-7 p.m. at the Inger Community Center.

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.

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

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

Eligible households can enroll at the sign-up event, through a participating broadband provider, or by going to ACPBenefit.org to submit an online application or print a mail-in application and contacting their preferred participating broadband provider and selecting a plan.  Additional information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit is available at www.fcc.gov/ACP, or by calling 877-384-2575 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET any day of the week.

About Paul Bunyan Communications

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 6,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.  The Cooperative provides fiber optic fast Internet speeds up to 10 Gig powered by the GigaZone, television services, digital voice services, Residential and Business IT services, and is also the home of northern Minnesota’s certified Apple Service Center.

About Itasca Economic Development Corporation

The Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) formed in 1981 as a non-profit corporation dedicated to the creation of high-quality jobs in and around Itasca County. Throughout its history, IEDC has established itself as a go-to resource for business retention, growth, and expansion. Their mission is to grow the Itasca County economy through education, research and outreach that creates business opportunities.