HBC offers free internet to guests in transitional housing in Winona

HBC reports

Helping the homeless has been heavy on the heart of Carla Burton, founder and Executive Director of Grace Place in Winona for many years. It has been part of her vision since Grace Place Ministry began in 1992, offering shelter and safe housing for young, single mothers.

Burton’s dream of being able to offer transitional housing to help individuals and families get back on their feet came true this past January when Grace Place purchased the former Catholic Worker House at 802 W. 6th Street in Winona. With the help of volunteers, the home has been refreshed with new paint and repairs made.

Burton said it was a challenge to get the home ready for families, “We purchased the home in January 2020 and we all know what happened a few months later with COVID-19. But we had the help of volunteers who repainted walls, and Habitat for Humanity took care of needed repairs,” she said.

For its part, Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) will be donating Internet service for the home’s guests. Burton said having access to the Internet will play an important role in getting people back on their feet.

“Without Internet what would you do,” asked Burton. “Nearly everything needed to get a job requires an Internet connection including learning new skills, finding job opportunities, and emailing job applications and resumes.”

Two things that are close to my heart! Having volunteered time with people experiencing homelessness, I have seen how important broadband access is. It is the connection to a potential job, to friends and family, to finding resources such as a bed for the night or getting into the system for more support. It is a gift that is like offering someone a fishing pole. It’s a tool to help someone help themselves.

Finley Guide: Best Practices for Public-Private Partnerships

Finley Engineering helps communities with broadband and energy engineering. Telecompetitor recently posted their Guide: Best Practices for Public-Private Partnerships. Boiled down they have a straightforward 7-step approach to developing public private partnerships with communities, especially in light of federal, state and local funding being made available through various COVID recovery programs:

  1. Start with a strong feasibility study
  2. Engage the broad discussion around structure of potential partnership
  3. Make your company an attractive partner
  4. Develop an effective communication plan
  5. Be prepared to respond to an RFI/RFP process
  6. Find good vendor partners
  7. Prepare for things that can go wrong

New FirstNet Cell Site Primarily Powered by Solar Launches on Echo Trail to Support First Responders in Northern Minnesota

Big news in Ely from AT&T…

What’s the news? Northern Minnesota’s first responders 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 northwest of Ely near Meander Lake and Lake Jeanette State Forest – one of the first primarily powered by solar in the Midwest region.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along the Echo Trail, located 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 site, which launched May 18, has already provided coverage to first responders who battled the Bezhik Fire – a wildfire that began May 17 near Bezhik Lake, spread north to Moose Loop Road, and burned 782 acres just a few miles south of the new tower.

Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Other FirstNet sites already launched in Minnesota communities include Bagley, Blackduck, Cloquet, Finlayson, Graceville, Grygla, Hovland, Isabella, Lewiston and Williams.

What are the benefits to first responders? Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 600 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help Minnesota residents? This new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when capacity is available.

What is FirstNet? FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings. It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority – an independent agency within the federal government. The FirstNet network is providing first responders with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it, unique benefits like always-on priority and preemption, and high-quality Band 14 spectrum. These advanced capabilities enable FirstNet to help fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel save lives and protect their communities.

What people are saying:

Sheriff Ross Litman

Sheriff, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office

“For our first responders battling the Bezhik Fire, this new FirstNet tower provided critical wireless coverage necessary for communication in a very remote area where we previously had poor to no coverage. FirstNet is helping give public safety the connectivity they need to communicate and coordinate emergency response efforts, especially in remote wilderness areas of St. Louis County.”

Paul Weirtz 

President, AT&T Minnesota

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting. We’re pleased this new site could provide critical wireless coverage for the courageous fire fighters and first responders who battled and contained the Bezhik Fire near the Echo Trail. We have a responsibility unlike any other network provider, and couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission by bringing first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need.”

Edward Parkinson

CEO, FirstNet Authority

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety. We worked hand-in-hand with the Minnesota public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And this new site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Minnesota’s first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect our communities.”

Where can I find more information? Go here to learn more about how AT&T is supporting Minnesota. For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com. And go here for more FirstNet news.

MVTV covering campgrounds in Kandiyohi and Redwood Counties

I just got a campground hotspot update from MVTV Wireless. Funny enough I got it while on a campground in Northern Minnesota, which makes me appreciate the work even more…

We have recently added Internet Hotspot Service at two more campgrounds within our network. Diamond Lake County Park in Kandiyohi County and Sailors & Soldiers Memorial Campground in Redwood County. Right now MVTV is proudly serving 23 campgrounds throughout our network with Hotspot Service. Each year more and more people are working from their campers and spending more time camping. It’s also a great way to keep the family entertained, especially when it’s raining. MVTV Wireless Hotspot service offers low priced plans with unlimited data. Hotspot Services make it more convenient than ever to stay connected at parks and campgrounds.

HBC Brings 5 Gbps FTTP Residential Service to Hastings

An update from HBC

Construction has begun on a new high-speed fiber broadband network in Hastings, MN that will provide residents and businesses with access to a next generation, all fiber-optic network.

Winona, MN based Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) is building the high-speed fiber network that upon completion, will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 10 Gigabits. The company expects to be delivering its high-speed Internet and Phone services to approximately 1,500 homes on the city’s southwestern edge by the end of this year.

Hastings is the latest community that will receive access to HBC’s fiber network. The company recently completed Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) projects in the cities of Chatfield and Cannon Falls, in addition to several smaller rural communities.

HBC’s relationship with Dakota County and Dakota Electric made expansion into the Hastings community a logical move.

“As a company, we have been working with those two entities for the past several years, running fiber to substations and for other applications,” said HBC president Dan Pecarina. “With the necessary infrastructure already in place, our decision to grow here was much easier to make.”

Jim Kronebusch, HBC VP of Technology said HBC will utilizing XGS-PON technology as part of this project. This new technology will allow delivery of the fastest broadband speeds in the area, up to 10 Gigabits.

“The best part about deploying fiber optic networks is light has far less limitations than any other medium, such as copper cable,” said Kronebusch. “We can deploy 10 Gigabit speeds for upload and download now, however the future is capable of hundreds of Gigabits in both directions with simple updates to the electronics.”

Leading-edge technology will also be deployed in customer homes allowing them to take full advantage of ultra-fast Internet speeds and management of their home WiFi network.

“The wireless routers that we deploy in customer’s homes are WiFi 6 capable, extremely powerful, highly reliable, and exceptionally versatile,” according to Kronebusch. “If needed, our Mesh WiFi extenders will fully cover any size and style of home. Our HBC GigaHome app puts customers in control of their home network, however if assistance is needed, HBC’s Wizards Technical Support group can remotely assist with any questions without the need to enter your home. We offer support in ways the Big Box store devices cannot.”

Many may wonder why expand into a city with an existing service provider when rural broadband access is needed?

Pecarina explains, “There are times that we need to build networks in higher density communities in order to help fund the extremely high cost of rural broadband expansion. HBC currently delivers services to customers in 30 rural communities in southeastern and central Minnesota, with average populations of about 1,500 people. HBC has completed several rural expansion projects over the last several years. Building the network in Hastings with bigger city density, will help us reinvest more funding into rural connectivity. This enables us to bring broadband services to more households allowing for remote learning and working,” he said. “We also have an extensive wireless broadband network that is providing a connection for families across southeastern and into central Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.”

With an emphasis on local service, HBC is currently remodeling an office location in the Hastings Marketplace with a planned opening date of July 1st. In addition to two customer care representatives, the office will also staff an in-house HBC Wizards Technical Support technician as well as local service technicians.

“When our customers call us with an issue or question, they will be not be talking with someone in a call center halfway across the world, they will be speaking with someone who is working in their community or in one of our seven other Southeast Minnesota offices,” Pecarina said.

HBC has completed several broadband projects over the past year in Dakota County including F-T-T-P networks to an area along Highway 46, and the homes and businesses in Nininger Township and Miesville.

MN Broadband Task Force Mtg May 2021 Notes: Fixed Wireless & State Demographer

Today the Task Force heard from a panel of Fixed Wireless providers. They spoke about advanced in wireless technologies and the range of customers they have. The also heard from Susan Brower, State Demographer. We learned that the state is growing but at a slower rate and that growth is uneven. There’s more growth in urban areas.

Here’s the whole lineup including some of Susan’s slides:

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from April 5, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Update on 2021 MN Legislation Deven Bowdry, DEED

Session ended May 17 with no action. But Senate, House and Gov agreed on $70 million over biennium for broadband – not sure if it’s State of Federal funding yet. Funding will not be included in Sen Westrom’s Ag bill. They passed a policy-only bill with nothing related to broadband. It will likely become an infrastructure bill. Spreadsheets expected May 28; June 4 bill language is due; Special session is June 14 – with all new bill numbers.

10:15 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. Fixed Wireless Panel – Luke Johnson, Broadband Operations Manager, Meeker Cooperative Light & Power – VIBRANT Broadband Terry Nelson GM/VP, Woodstock Communications Mary Lodin, CEO/Partner and Jay Mankie, CTO/Partner, Genesis Wireless, Tim Johnson, Operations Manager, MVTV Wireless

Questions:

Can fixed wireless provide symmetrical services?
Only at lower speeds 10/10, 20/20 even 50/50 but not up to 100/100

How much is fixed wireless?
$39.95/month to 99.95 – we really need to average $50 per customers to remain sustainable.
We have 300-400 people who only use email; we have others that seem to stream constantly.
Folks can get 25 Mbps for $35/month.
Woodstock has a service that starts at $24.95/month. It’s a legacy from a Moose Lake municipal service and it’s mostly seniors who only email. No streaming.
If we want symmetrical speeds we have to go with fiber.
If someone wants a light package we can serve northern areas but the trees make it difficult. They try to map accordingly.
Costs can be high for end users – and sometimes we need to go to them to help pay for those costs and people do it – especially with fiber? Do people really need FTTH or do the hybrid solutions work.
It might be helpful to have a “bank” of funds to help offset some of these installation costs for folks who need it.

How has COVID impacted demand?
Many people now know they can work from home and many of them will continue working from home. That might not be the case with students.
Evening hours are the busiest for most providers. They built the network for those nighttime peaks; so we were ready for the shift to day time use. For most, they got new customers and upgraded existing customers.
Learned that we need to deploy quicker in rural areas. They were installing 7 days a week. They’re still seeing growth and people are not getting the lower packages; the buy at higher levels.
Sometimes you can get around obstacles.

How can we help you?
What about a program that helps upgrade existing customers? Rather than introduce a faster competitor, but look at who is the incumbents and how can the State help make them faster. Especially in areas where you might have 4 customers per square mile. The customer is there – we just need to upgrade.
Need better education. Wireless had gotten a bad rap – and there are good ways and bad ways to build it. The new technology is a very good solution.

How many residents actually need a Gig – we have to quick chasing these numbers. Getting to 100/100 with today’s technology is difficult but providers feel they can get there in the future. Not sure about higher speeds.

Cost to build a tower:
In Meeker $120,000
300 ft tower $100-175,000
And there’s a 50 percent increase in steel costs

How do you deal with businesses in range but out of line of sight?
We work with them – taking down trees or extending existing towers.

11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower

Minnesota had growth but it has slowed, as has the US growth. Our population is getting older. (More people living longer than babies born.) Most growth is in 7-metro counties and up the Highway 94 core. IN rural areas – there’s not as much growth but these areas are not quickly emptying out. It’s more of a stability that most people think.

In rural areas – we are seeing population declines, albeit modest decline. It has picked up in some areas in the last decade. Entirely urban areas are growing.

12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. Public Comment, Other Business, June Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

What are we going to do with RDOF? Can we get the legislature to look at the problem of RDOF closing the door on so many communities that night have qualified for Border to Border grants and are now left in the lurch.

Better broadband planned for Cass and Crow Wing County

Brainerd Dispatch reports

More than 12 miles of fiber to improve broadband availability in the city of Pequot Lakes are planned for this year, the Echo Journal reported May 12.

The broadband internet to be installed by TDS Telecom would become available to another 1,080 service addresses in the city. TDS expects to install about 60 miles of fiber between Cass and Crow Wing counties by the end of the summer, including 100-megabyte service in Breezy Point, Jenkins, Pine River, Backus and Hackensack.

HBC Expands Service Area in Miesville

Good news for Miesville from HBC

– Like many rural communities around the country, the town of Miesville has had limited access to broadband service. But this will soon change with a project currently underway by Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) to expand its fiber-optic broadband network.
Once the project is completed this summer, an additional 65 homes and businesses in this rural community of 119 people will have access to symmetrical Internet speeds of up to 1 Gigabit. HBC will also offer high-definition Video service and crystal-clear Phone service.
Based in Winona, MN, HBC has been building high-speed fiber-optic networks and providing Internet, Video, and Phone services to residences and businesses since 1997. HBC currently serves customers in 30 communities across southeastern Minnesota. HBC also built and manages the RS Fiber Cooperative Network in Renville and Sibley counties in central Minnesota.
“Today, having access to a reliable high-speed broadband connection is as essential as having electricity in your home,” HBC’s president Dan Pecarina said. “Over the last year, the COVID pandemic exposed the dire need for communities to have solid broadband infrastructure to allow for at-home learning and working, telemedicine and other online applications. We are delighted that HBC is able to fill that need for the Miesville community.”
HBC Director of Technical Operations, Michael Barker indicated that construction is beginning to wrap up and that it won’t be long until services will be available. “We are on track to complete construction in the next 2-3 weeks,” according to Barker. “Once construction is finished, crews will begin connecting fiber to network distribution cabinets. If everything goes well, service could be available as soon as July.”
HBC’s Miesville customers will be served out of local offices in Cannon Falls and Hastings

Lumen responds to AG’s request to Senators continue phone companies obligation to serve

Last week I posted Duluth News Tribune’s letter from Attorney General Keith Ellison asking Minnesota Senators to keep phone companies’ obligation to serve, which means consumers would be protected from telephone companies cutting the cord on their landlines. This week, the Duluth News Tribune posts a response from Dana Bailey, director of state legislative affairs for CenturyLink/Lumen…

The May 17 “Statewide View” commentary in the News Tribune, headlined, “Bill threatens Minnesotans’ access to phone service,” was out of step with how people communicate today.

The commentary suggested Minnesota continue to regulate voice telephone service as it did in the 1980s when touch-tone phones were new, voice service was a monopoly, and rates were set by regulators. Back then, those rates were set to enable a provider to recover the costs of providing service.

But that’s not the case in 2021. Today, that landline business model no longer exists — while many of the regulations from that era still do.

What really threatens landline telephone service today is technology. In the year 2000, CenturyLink had 2 million access lines in Minnesota. Today, approximately 85% of those lines have disappeared, and another 10% are lost each year. Even in 2020, a year when a home connection was so vital, consumers continued to drop their copper voice line in favor of other technologies at a double-digit pace. The CDC keeps track of this kind of data, and its research shows that just 4.4% of Minnesotans today rely solely on a landline phone.

This is not a rural or urban issue, as the commentary suggested. The reduction in landline voice service is everywhere in Minnesota, whether it is the Iron Range, Bemidji, Duluth, Rochester, the Twin Cities, or even the smallest market in Minnesota we serve.

Nor is this a safety issue, as the commentary also suggested. A change would not take away voice service or emergency-calling services, and it is worth noting that today 85% of Minnesota calls to 911 come from cellular or VoIP phones — largely unregulated by the state.

To ignore these trends and continue with a 1980s-era approach, requiring investments in a copper network that consumers are abandoning, is not good for Minnesota. Minnesotans want more investment in fiber-optic broadband, and that cannot occur when limited resources are being diverted into uneconomic copper-network investments.

Finally, the commentary failed to mention that if the legislation passed, a telecommunications provider would still need the approval of the Federal Communications Commission, under its formal process, before it could stop offering service. The federal process is something that more than 25 states rely on today, and it serves consumers in those states well.

Early in the legislative process we reached out to Minnesota regulators to have a dialogue about how to navigate issues like this and transition from copper to fiber. It is our hope we can restart those conversations in the months ahead.

Two broadband views in Duluth News Tribune – and a place for partnership between electric coops and broadband providers

Earlier this month, the Duluth News Tribune published an editorial about the need for better broadband…

One lingering barrier to border-to-border broadband, long a goal for the state, is what companies tend to do after landing state or federal grants meant to push broadband availability to more homes: “They often cherry-pick a path (that serves) larger population centers to enhance profits,” as Darrick Moe, president and CEO of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association of Maple Grove, wrote in a commentary distributed last week to the News Tribune Opinion page and elsewhere.

“This approach, while beneficial for investors, results in islands of unserved and underserved communities that become even more difficult and expensive to reach,” Moe wrote. “Without a financial incentive to serve the smaller and more rural areas, they are bypassed time and time again for larger, more profitable service areas.”

And the electric cooperative’s role in providing service…

“Electric cooperatives already have the critical infrastructure in place,” he wrote. “Minnesota’s 44 distribution cooperatives serve 1.7 million Minnesotans in all 87 counties and operate the largest distribution network in the state with more than 135,000 miles of electric lines. Minnesota’s electric cooperatives can be part of the solution to bridge the digital divide. The cooperative business model, existing infrastructure and proven history make electric co-ops natural champions for deploying broadband to rural America.”

Already, Arrowhead Electric in Lutsen has deployed broadband to its members through a partnership with Consolidated Telephone Company, Minnesota Rural Electric Association Director of Education and Communication Krista Benjamin reported last week to the News Tribune Opinion page.

The letter is similar to one I wrote about in the Worthington Globe. Today the Duluth News Tribune has posted a response from Brent Christensen at the MN Telecom Association

Minnesota has been measuring and mapping broadband since 2008. While our state’s maps can always be improved, particularly when it comes to fixed wireless verification, they are still the most accurate in the nation. Why the News Tribune chose to get facts from outside the state is beyond me. The Minnesota Office of Broadband Development has a plethora of data and maps showing how broadband availability has grown year after year. From 68.08% in 2015 at the state’s 2022 goal of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) in download speed and 3 Mbps in upload speed to 83.10% last October. The state’s 2026 speed goal of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload went from 40.68% in 2015 to 72.53% last October.

The editorial cited the president and CEO of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association as a broadband expert and source. That would be like asking me, the president of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance, to be a resource on issues surrounding rural electrification. You can fill volumes with what I don’t know about the electric industry.

Unlike the electric industry, telecom, including broadband, is a competitive utility. Our industry is no longer a “build it and they will come” business. We have to make sure we are going to get the customers to support the infrastructure investment. This is why the editorial’s comparison of rural broadband deployment today with rural electrification a century ago didn’t work.

This is where state and federal support comes into play. Minnesota Telecom Alliance members are cooperatives, family-owned companies, privately held commercial companies, and investor-traded companies. We all have one thing in common, besides providing broadband in rural Minnesota: We can’t invest in broadband if the business case doesn’t work. Last year, Minnesota Telecom Alliance members invested more than $196.9 million to maintain and upgrade their networks, with more than $244 million projected for 2021. That is still not enough to make some business cases work.

The FCC is investing $162.2 million each year in broadband expansion. The state of Minnesota has invested more than $136.1 million in border-to-border broadband grants to further tip the scale. None of these programs allows providers to cherry-pick who they serve, as the editorial suggested. The federal dollars come with build-out requirements and performance-testing requirements that providers have to meet. If they don’t, they have to pay the money back.

There are three lingering barriers to true border-to-border broadband in Minnesota. One is our limited construction season. We cannot bury fiber during the winter. The second is supply-chain issues. There is so much broadband expansion that getting supplies and the contractors to install broadband is a major problem. And three is bad information. Misinformation keeps communities and providers apart. Minnesota has great examples of partnerships that have brought broadband to entire counties and examples where local units of government have failed miserably.

One thing the editorial got right was the partnerships between members of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association and the Minnesota Telecom Alliance: They are yet another example how Minnesota has gotten it right.

FTC suing Frontier for internet that’s too slow

Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

The Federal Trade Commission and six states are suing Frontier Communications for not delivering the internet speeds it promised customers and charging them for better, more expensive service than they actually got.

In its complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court in California, the FTC said thousands of Frontier customers have complained that the company was not delivering promised speeds. Customers said they couldn’t use the internet service for the online activities they should have been able to.

The complaint concerns what’s called DSL internet, an older type of network that’s sent over copper telephone wires. Phone and cable companies today build networks which can handle much faster speeds. The FTC says Frontier provides DSL service to 1.3 million customers in 25 states, mostly in rural areas. It has about 3 million internet customers overall.

Minnesota is not part of the suit but…

The Minnesota attorney general’s office settled with Frontier last July over possible deceptive billing practices. The company agreed to disclose its prices to new customers before they get service and said it would pay $750,000 in restitution to customers. It also agreed to invest at least $10 million over four years to improve its broadband network in the state. West Virginia in 2015 required the company to spend $150 million to boost internet speeds for rural customers as part of a settlement.

[Added May 20, 7:41pm]

The folks from Frontier have asked me to include post their response to the original article…

Frontier Communications Parent, Inc. (“Frontier”), today responded to a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and State officials in Arizona, California, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin claiming that Frontier made material misrepresentations to consumers in descriptions of its digital subscriber line (“DSL”) Internet services.

The following can be attributed to a spokesperson for Frontier:

“Frontier believes the lawsuit is without merit. The plaintiffs’ complaint includes baseless allegations, overstates any possible monetary harm to Frontier’s customers and disregards important facts including the following:

 

  • Frontier offers Internet service in some of the country’s most rural areas that often have challenging terrain, are more sparsely populated and are the most difficult to serve.
  • Frontier’s rural DSL Internet service was enthusiastically welcomed when it was launched and has retained many satisfied customers over the years.
  • Frontier’s DSL Internet speeds have been clearly and accurately articulated, defined and described in the Company’s marketing materials and disclosures.

Frontier will present a vigorous defense.”

CTC works with Ely and Little Falls to bring fiber to local businesses

Earlier this month, the Institute for Local Self Reliance wrote about CTC working with Long Prairie. CTC is a cooperative, they work with several Minnesota communities. Last week ILSR wrote about their work in Ely and Little Falls

Two other cities, specifically, Ely and Little Falls, have also partnered with CTC to bring fiber loops to their business districts. Both communities have faced challenges when it came to building and connecting their residents and businesses to a fiber network.

They give a great history of both locations, I’ll just grab from the CTC chapters, starting in Ely…

“[The] Little Falls [effort] was really spurred based on business retention,” Buttweiler said. “Thankfully, these businesses went to the city with this problem in advance of it being [so] critical that they had to leave, and the city recognized the urgency.”

As a result, the city of Little Falls and CTC started their partnership around 2013. The city partnered with the Initiative Foundation, Region Five Development Commission and the Morrison County Economic Development Corporation to pool together around $550,000 to lend CTC for the construction of a fiber network. CTC was already serving areas on the edge of Little Falls, and the co-op is based just 30 miles away in the Brainerd-Baxter area.

The network, which took the shape of a fiber ring, would run through downtown Little Falls and into the two main industrial parks where the majority of the city’s requests were coming from.

“It was good foresight from the people that came before me to develop this partnership because it really served a need that we had at the time and knew that we would need in the future,” Jon Radermacher, Little Falls City Administrator told us in an interview.

CTC ended up paying off the loan in seven years and now owns the network. Radermacher said the partnership just made sense.

And in Little Falls…

One of the big reasons communities take on these projects is because it can help stimulate the local economy through jobs and the taxes these businesses pay that help support new projects.

Airborn ended up being one of the businesses that Little Falls and CTC connected to the network. Though it cost $60,000 to connect Airborn, once it was that day-long upload speed turned into a minute.

“The value of that $60,000 was paid back pretty quickly and that firm that we connected said ‘We feel that we need to support this,’ so they ended up contributing $10,000 to the project,” Radermacher said.

Once they were successfully connected, not only did the original businesses stay, but new ones came.

“It’s enabled the city of Little Falls to attract new businesses and we continue to expand that network as the city recruits new businesses into the community,” Buttweiler said.

Harmony Telephone to apply for broadband grant with City of Harmony

The Fillmore County Journal reports

A public hearing to discuss the application of a grant from the Small Cities Coronavirus Community Development Block Grant Program was held at the beginning of the May 11 Harmony City Council meeting. Harmony Telephone would like to apply for it in conjunction with the City of Harmony so that the every home in town would have access to broadband internet. The grant would pay for the buried fiber and Harmony Telephone would cover the cost of the electronics necessary for the project. No questions or comments were received from the public and the hearing was closed. The council approved a participation plan and Resolution 21-08 regarding the application for the grant.

New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in Lewiston to Support First Responders

Here’s the latest from AT&T on FirstNet in Lewiston…

What’s the news? Lewiston’s first responders 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 in Lewiston near the area of Whistle Pass Drive and Rolling Hills Road. This site will provide coverage when traveling along Highway 14 and County Roads 20 and 25 in the Lewiston area. 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.
Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it
most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. New FirstNet cell sites in Cloquet and Hovland in
northern Minnesota were also announced today. Other FirstNet sites already launched in Minnesota communities include Bagley, Blackduck, Graceville, Grygla, Isabella, Finlayson, and Williams.
What are the benefits to first responders? Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need.
These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum.
Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane –can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet
network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 450 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St.
Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help Lewiston residents? This new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the Lewiston area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

New FirstNet Cell Sites Launch in Northeastern Minnesota to Support First Responders

Here’s the latest from AT&T on FirstNet in Northeastern MN (near Cloquet and Hovland)…

What’s the news? First responders in northeastern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added new, purpose-built cell sites located near Cloquet on County Road 3 and in Hovland along the North Shore between Grand Marais and Grand Portage. These sites will
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.
Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it
most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. A new FirstNet cell site near Lewiston in southeastern Minnesota was also announced today. Other FirstNet sites already launched in Minnesota communities include Bagley, Blackduck, Graceville, Grygla, Isabella, Finlayson, and Williams.
What are the benefits to first responders? Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need.
These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum.
Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane –can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet
network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience
and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 450 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help northeastern Minnesota residents? This new infrastructure will also help
improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in northeastern Minnesota near Cloquet and near Hovland along the North Shore. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when capacity is available.