New FirstNet Cell Site to Support Public Safety in Northwestern Minnesota near White Earth Reservation and Surrounding Community

Big news from AT&T…

New Infrastructure will Improve Connectivity for Tribal First Responders, Expand Rural Broadband Access for Tribal Community

BAGLEY, Minn., Nov. 14, 2019 – First responders in northwestern Minnesota and those serving the White Earth Reservation are getting a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site – located between the White Earth Reservation and Itasca State Park – is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in Minnesota, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. Additionally, the new FirstNet site will give first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.1

FirstNet is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and Public Safety community. Backed by Congress, it’s designed to strengthen and modernize Public Safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is for all first responders – whether rural, tribal, urban or suburban. That’s why extending the FirstNet network in rural, tribal and remote parts of America is a top priority.

This site is located in Zerkel near the intersection of State Highway 92 and State Highway 200, and to the east of the White Earth Reservation. Public safety stakeholders identified this location as a prime spot for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications. The site will help improve coverage along the eastern edge of the White Earth Reservation.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address emergency situations. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they are getting,” said Paul Weirtz, president, AT&T Minnesota. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need.”

This is the first new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in Minnesota following the State of Minnesota’s decision to advance the state’s Public Safety broadband communications with FirstNet. It was constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum bands. Additional new FirstNet sites are underway, and Band 14 has been and is actively being added to existing sites across Minnesota. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. It provides public safety with a dedicated lane of connectivity when needed.

FirstNet is built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government. To ensure AT&T and the 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.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network for Public Safety, by Public Safety,” said Jeff Bratcher, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, FirstNet Authority. “The FirstNet Authority worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And this cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting White Earth first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect their community.”

In addition to further elevating Public Safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out

1Based on AT&T analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q2 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

2“‘Indian tribe’ means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688) [43 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.], which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” 25 U.S.C. § 5304(e) (formerly cited as 25 U.S.C. § 450(b))

About the First Responder Network Authority

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chartered in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. Learn more at and follow the FirstNet Authority (@FirstNetGov) on Facebook and Twitter for updates.


MN PUC settles with Frontier – MN Attorney General still looking into complaints

Last month, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported…

Minnesota utility regulators Thursday approved a legal settlement aimed at remedying Frontier Communications’ multitude of telephone network failings.

The settlement between the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Connecticut-based Frontier calls for refunds for aggrieved customers and establishes a framework to deal with any future Frontier phone service problems and maintenance breakdowns.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 5-0 to approve the settlement, throwing in a few tweaks to essentially uphold the commission’s ultimate authority over the matter.

A reminder of what has happened in MN…

The PUC began looking into Frontier in 2018 after hearing from its customers about poor service, from static-filled phone calls to billing mistakes. The PUC ordered a Commerce Department inquiry, through which more than 1,000 customer complaints about Frontier surfaced.

The Commerce Department issued a scathing report in January concluding that Frontier may have broken 35 laws and failed its Minnesota customers with shoddy phone and internet service, lax record-keeping and inadequate investment in its own network. Commerce has been working with Frontier in recent months on a settlement.

Frontier has denied breaking any laws and does not admit to noncompliance with state regulations and statutes in the settlement.

The settlement does not include complaints about Frontier’s internet service, which isn’t under the PUC’s regulatory purview.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is continuing its own investigation into Frontier, which may involve the company’s internet operations.

The City Pages puts a little more color into the story…

In short, the settlement was “not commensurate with the gravity of the allegations” and the Attorney General’s Office doubted whether the company was properly motivated to make it up to its customers.

Frontier formally disagreed with the office’s comments in September and urged the Public Utility Commission to take the deal. Last week, it did. The Tribune reported commissioners voted for it 5-0. In a statement, Frontier Vice President Javier Mendoza said the company was “pleased” to have reached a resolution.

City Pages adds a angle that many metro readers won’t assume…

Many customers said in previous interviews with City Pages they would have dropped the company long ago if they had any other options where they lived. The market, they say, has failed them, and they’re left with whatever hookups they can get, no matter how much they suck.

Their future depends on whether Frontier can really step it up, or whether the Attorney General’s Office can hold its feet to the fire. In the meantime, they’ll just have to stay on hold.

Vast Broadband Selects Netcracker to Deliver BSS and OSS Transformation

For the techiest in the group, I will share news on Vast Broadband upgrades in part because they serve “over 58,000 residential and business customers” in South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota. And in part because it smooths the transition for acquired subscribers, which might speak to future plans. Business Wire reports…

 Netcracker Fully-Managed Cloud BSS and OSS Solution to Enhance Customer Experience, Deliver End-to-end Automation, and Reduce Total Cost of Ownership for Vast

Netcracker announced today that it has been selected by Vast Broadband to deliver a BSS and OSS transformation program that will enable the growing cable and Internet service provider to enhance its customer experience, quickly introduce new services, consolidate its BSS and OSS platforms to reduce total cost of ownership, and realize post-acquisition efficiencies. This extended multiyear fully-managed agreement between the companies demonstrates the ongoing strategic partnership between Vast and Netcracker as well as the future-proofing alignment between Vast’s business vision and Netcracker’s technology roadmap. Leveraging more than two decades of success delivering business transformation for communications service providers, Netcracker’s uniquely skilled professional services team will help Vast execute a BSS/OSS transformation initiative.

This program will automate Vast’s end-to-end fulfillment processes and will dramatically reduce operational costs by migrating subscribers and consolidating multiple BSS and OSS systems gained via acquisition onto Vast’s fully hosted Netcracker BSS and OSS solution.

MN PUC vs Charter – 8th Circuit decided that MN PUC is preempted from regulating Charter’s VoIP

It’s been an ongoing saga – can the MN PUC regulate Charter’s VoIP service or not. The PUC regulates POTS (plain old telephone service). VoIP is similar to POTS is some ways (customer perspective) but not others (provider perspective). And I don’t mean perspective in any political sense. Just the end user is often unaware of whether they are using POTS of VoIP but how it is set up and maintained by the provider is quite different.

In the latest chapter,  the US Supreme Court has denied the cert petition of Minnesota, thus affirming the 8th Circuit decision that the MN PUC is preempted from regulating Charter’s VoIP service…

Charter Advanced Services provides Voice over Internet Protocol services, which allow users to place voice calls over an Internet connection. After the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission attempted to regulate Charter’s provision of these services, Charter brought suit in federal court, arguing that the state regulation was pre-empted. The District Court granted summary judgment to Charter. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Federal Communications Commission’s “policy of nonregulation” of these services pre-empted state law. Charter Advanced Servs. (MN), LLC v. Lange, 903 F. 3d 715, 718 (2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). I agree with the Court’s determination that this case does not satisfy our criteria for certiorari. I write to explain why, in an appropriate case, we should consider whether a federal agency’s policy can pre-empt state law.

The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution provides: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” Art. VI, cl. 2. The Clause contains a non obstante provision, a common device used by 18th-century legislatures to signal the implied repeal of conflicting statutes. See PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, 564 U. S. 604, 621 (2011); see also Nelson, Preemption, 86 Va. L. Rev. 225, 237–242, 245–246 (2000). At the time of the founding, this Clause would have been understood to pre-empt state law only if the law logically contradicted the “Constitution,” the “Laws of the United States,” or “Treaties.” See id., at 260. It is doubtful whether a federal policy—let alone a policy of nonregulation—is “Law” for purposes of the Supremacy Clause. Under our precedent, such a policy likely is not final agency action because it does not mark “the consummation of the agency’s decisionmaking process” or determine Charter’s “rights or obligations.” Bennett v. Spear, 520 U. S. 154, 177–178 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, 587 U. S. ____, ____ (2019) (THOMAS, J., concurring). Even if it were final agency action, the Supremacy Clause “requires that pre-emptive effect be given only to those federal standards and policies that are set forth in, or necessarily follow from, the statutory text that was produced through the constitutionally required bicameral and presentment procedures.” Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U. S. 555, 586 (2009) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment); see also Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads, 575 U. S. 43, 86 (2015) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment) (“The Government may create generally applicable rules of private conduct only through the proper exercise of legislative power”). Giving pre-emptive effect to a federal agency policy of nonregulation thus expands the power of both the Executive and the Judiciary. It authorizes the Executive to make “Law” by declining to act, and it authorizes the courts to conduct “a freewheeling judicial inquiry” into the facts of federal nonregulation, rather than the constitutionally proper “inquiry into whether the ordinary meanings of state and federal law conflict,” Wyeth, supra, at 588 (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Because this petition does not clearly challenge the underlying basis of the pre-emption theory, however, I concur in the denial of certiorari.

MiEnergy Cooperative hosts legislative discuss in Rushford on topics including broadband

Bluff Country News reports…

MiEnergy Cooperative hosted two field hearings in Rushford on Oct. 3 as part of the Minnesota House of Representatives three-day mini session in southeastern Minnesota.

The cooperative provided testimony on disaster relief and broadband funding for the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Hearing. The group of nine representatives also heard testimony from the co-op on energy policy and initiatives for the Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Hearing.

Here’s what they discussed in regard to broadband…

Legislators also heard testimony on what led to the creation of MiBroadband, which was formed by three cooperatives (Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company, MiEnergy and Spring Grove Communications) looking to serve high-speed internet needs of those living in unserved and underserved areas of southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa. Vassil Vutov, MiEnergy’s vice president of information technology, explained how the co-op built a network backbone with a combination of fiber and wireless technology to connect its Rushford and Cresco offices. As the electric industry evolves, communicating via broadband to its 43 substations in Iowa and Minnesota is a necessity for MiEnergy, he said. This combination of fiber and wireless technology, known as fixed wireless broadband, is the solution for the electric co-op’s needs and the ample amount of expandability is how the joint effort with MiBroadband can help make reliable, high-speed internet service a reality for residents living in rural areas.

MiEnergy has wireless towers currently in Cresco, Rushford, Peterson and Fountain. As MiEnergy expands its communications technology to all substations, MiBroadband service can be offered in those areas. MiBroadband CEO Jill Fishbaugher noted its Minnesota Border-to-Border grant application request of $2.2 million of a $5 million project that would bring broadband to 12 townships in Fillmore County and three townships in Mower County. It would add 417 fiber passings and over 1,000 wireless passings.

Broadband Struggles in Greater Minnesota featured on Almanac

Last Friday TPT’s Almanac did a nice feature on rural broadband. It’s a nice piece on a range of issues. And it’s only a 5-minute video.

The spoke to some folks who have trouble running credit card, and therefore a business, because of slow connections. The spoke to folks at Frontier, Brent Christensen at MN Telecom Alliance and Gary Johnson at Paul Bunyan Telephone (Cooperative). So they really got a wide range of views from providers.