Charter Communications extends network in Rosemount (Dakota County)

Sun this Week reports…

Charter Communications has announced a $1 million construction project to bring its fiber-optic network nearly 265 homes in the northwestern part of Rosemount.

As part of Minnesota’s Broadband Grant Program, Charter was awarded a $500,000 grant to expand its services to 40 unserved and 225 underserved locations in the northwestern Rosemount area.

Charter contributed $450,000 and Dakota County added $50,000, bringing the total investment to $1 million.

Expected to be completed by this fall, residents in these locations will have access to the company’s Spectrum Internet, Spectrum TV, Spectrum Voice, and Spectrum Mobile services.

Spectrum Internet offers starting speeds of 200 Mbps and connections up to 1 gigabit per second — exceeding the state’s speed goals for 2022 and 2026 — with no modem fees, data caps or contracts.

AT&T and the AT&T Foundation Donate Nearly $100,000 to Help Residents in Twin Cities Experiencing Homelessness or Hunger

Super careful readers will know that homelessness is something I care a lot about – so I couldn’t resist sharing this…

Nonprofits that help people experiencing homelessness and vulnerabilities in Minneapolis and St. Paul are facing immense challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and AT&T and the AT&T Foundation are helping local organizations serve their clients during this crisis.

AT&T and the AT&T Foundation announced today nearly $100,000 to five Twin Cities nonprofits dedicated to helping those experiencing homelessness or hunger in Minnesota.

“One of AT&T’s core values is to Be There when people need us,” said Paul Weirtz, president of AT&T Minnesota.  “Now more than ever, our most vulnerable residents – and the organizations that support them – need help.  We’re proud we’ve been able to provide some support in Minnesota.”

AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have donated to the following organizations:

  • The Salvation Army Northern Division: A $25,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation will support The Salvation Army’s relief efforts in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  The Salvation Army’s most important programs – food, emergency services and housing – remain open and are seeing increased demand.  For example, their Twin Cities service centers are experiencing a fivefold increase in demand for food.  At just one location, more than 260 families are seeking food a week, up from 50.  The grant will also support the Harbor Light Center, the largest homeless shelter in Hennepin County, and its relief programs that have been impacted by COVID-19.
  • People Serving People: A $25,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation will help People Serving People continue its mission to provide shelter, basic needs, early childhood education, and comprehensive support services to families experiencing homelessness and other adversities.  The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the shelter’s programs, operations and staffing, but the organization remains open and working to keep staff, guests, and the community safe.  Currently, People Serving People cannot utilize its nearly 7,000 volunteers, access is limited to the shelter, there is increased internet bandwidth, cleaning has been expanded to three times a day, and meals are delivered in disposable containers to rooms.  The grant will help People Serving People meet these increased costs to continue serving children and families in Minneapolis.
  • Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities: A $25,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation will help Union Gospel Mission cover increased expenses related to COVID-19, including added PPE supplies, transport, cleaning and triage costs, so it can safely continue its programs to fight homelessness.  The Mission provides safe shelter, emergency food, medical and dental care, education and substance abuse recovery services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  The grant will help the Mission purchase much-needed facemasks, cleaning supplies and equipment rentals so the nonprofit can continue providing homeless services, shelter and food to those in need.
  • Second Harvest Heartland: A $12,500 contribution from AT&T will help Second Harvest Heartland as it works around the clock to get much-needed food to local families, partner food shelves, and other hunger-relief programs.  The demand for emergency food assistance has risen to historic levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Second Harvest has ramped up food distribution and redesigned services in response to a steep increase in local hunger due to the pandemic.
  • Hunger Solutions: A $10,000 contribution from AT&T will support Hunger Solutions as it works to address the surging demand for food resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hunger Solutions has been helping implement new food shelf delivery models that maintain safety for staff, volunteers, and clients during the pandemic.  They have also been helping families and kids find out where they can get a free meal during the school closures, and providing Minnesotans with ways they can help members of their communities struggling with hunger.

Trust the Providers who still need to upgrade? Or find alternatives?

It’s very likely that public money is going to be coming for broadband as a result of COVID-19. That may be State, Federal or Local but it seems likely. So it seems like a good time to ask the questions that Doug Dawson is asking about past investment with the big national providers, such as CenturyLink…

It’s time to stop the pretense that CenturyLink or the other big telcos have been busy upgrading rural DSL. I don’t know anybody who thinks that’s happened. I have anecdotal evidence that it hasn’t, My company has been helping rural counties with broadband feasibility studies for many years. In the last four years, we’ve been asking rural customers to take speed tests – and I’ve never seen even one rural DSL connection that transmits at a speed of 10/1 Mbps. I’ve haven’t seen many that have tested above 5 Mbps. I’ve seen a whole lot that tested at less than 3, 2 or even 1 Mbps. Many of these tests have been in areas that are supposed to have CAF II upgrades.

I’ve also never talked to any County officials who have heard from the telcos that their county got rural broadband upgrades. One would think the telcos would brag locally when they were finished with upgrades as a pitch to get new customers. After all, customers that have only had slow DSL or satellite service should be flocking to 10/1 DSL. I’ve also not seen a marketing campaign talking about faster speeds due to CAF II. I’ve been searching the web for years to find testimonials from customers talking about their free upgrade to 10/1 Mbps, but I’ve never found anybody who has ever said that. This is not to say there have been zero upgrades in the CAF II areas, but I see no evidence of widespread upgrades.

The reality is that CenturyLink got new leadership a few years ago who immediately announced that the company was going to stop making ‘infrastructure return’ investments. We have Frontier that miraculously recently found 16,000 Census blocks that now have speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps when I’m still looking for proof that they upgraded places to 10/1 Mbps. Go interview folks in West Virginia if you think they’ve made any CAF II upgrades.

The FCC has a choice now. They can wimp out and grant the delay that CenturyLink is requesting, or the agency can come down on the side of rural broadband. There is no middle ground when it comes to CAF II. This FCC didn’t make the original CAF II decision – but they are the ones that are supposed to make sure the upgrades are done, and they are supposed to be penalizing telcos that failed to make the upgrades.

In January, I wrote about CenturyLink and Frontier not making their CAF II milestones in Minnesota – after receiving millions of dollars. We have providers who have been upgrading connections, expanding to new areas – many are cooperatives, some are local independent providers. Maybe it’s time to look around and see who is poised to meet the needs of rural communities as we consider future funding.

Rosemount to extend better broadband to NE Rosemount in Dakota County

Patch of Apple Valley-Rosemount reports an update on Charter’s MN broadband grant project in Rosemount…

Charter Communications, Inc. today announced a $1 million construction project to bring its advanced fiber-optic network nearly 265 homes in the northwestern part of Rosemount in Dakota County.

As part of Minnesota’s Broadband Grant Program, Charter was awarded a $500,000 grant to expand its services to 40 unserved and 225 underserved locations in the northwestern Rosemount area. Charter contributed $450,000 and Dakota County added $50,000, bringing the total investment to $1 million. …

Expected to be completed by this fall, residents in these locations will have access to the company’s full suite of Spectrum Internet®, Spectrum TV®, Spectrum Voice®, and Spectrum Mobile™ services. Spectrum Internet offers starting speeds of 200 Mbps and connections up to 1 gigabit per second — exceeding the state’s speed goals for 2022 and 2026 — with no modem fees, data caps or contracts.

Northeast Service Cooperative and CTC map public WiFi spots in NE MN

I can imagine this has saved a few hours for a lot of people. Through a partnership between CTC & NESC, an interactive map has been created that shows public WiFi locations.  As more sites come online they will get added.  This resource should help parents and students find and use quality broadband.

Optum telehealth claims up from 2 percent to 33 percent

I know it’s only one provider but an increase from 2 to 33 percent in less than a month is pretty substantial. An Optum press release indicates…

Early claims data indicates a significant shift in the use of telehealth for behavioral health care. Normally, about 2% of all behavioral health claims Optum receives are for a telehealth visit. By the end of March, approximately 33% of all behavioral health claims for Optum members were for a telehealth visit. The most recent claims data indicates that the proportion of telehealth visits continues to sharply increase.

Lower income households means slower broadband –but providers can help bridge the gap

Fastly is working on a new series that…

examines the data behind several yet-unexplored facets of the digital divide, the people and places it impacts most greatly, and what can and should be done to close this persistent gap.

At the end of April they looked at download speed and household income…

To understand the degree to which the digital divide is affecting low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic, we compared download speed against five median income brackets in the U.S. using 2017 tax return data by ZIP Code from the Internal Revenue Service.

The story nearly tells itself in pictures…

You can see the improvement experienced by the lowest income starting in mid-March…

The authors point out the impact of a change that Comcast made…

I would go beyond Comcast and look at the impact all of the national and local providers had in getting more people online, especially low income households. The impact is real, we just need a way to support the closing of the gap.

The authors end on a positive recommendation…

Thankfully, we can see that bridging the divide is possible. ISPs and mobile providers have the power to provide greater capacity and remove bandwidth restrictions and have done so amid this global health crisis. We are hopeful that others will follow suit, both now and in the future, as we head toward the new normal that awaits us on the other side of recovery.