Duluth New Tribune Letter to the Editor lifts up fiber as the broadband solution

Duluth New Tribune posts a letter from Kyle Moorhead, chief technology officer who makes some assertions about current broadband providers…

In my 30 years in the business, I’ve observed a few things.

Most telecommunications companies have quietly abandoned rural and suburban communities. Due to economic realities, they have applied bandages instead of replacing old equipment. Fixes and installations are done as quickly and cheaply as possible. Then it is onto the next project. Later they send a repair truck to try to fix problems.

And offers a recommendation…

Local, state, and federal officials are trying desperately to solve the problem. But after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, in many cases, the problems still exist and few people understand why. Sometimes the system works, sometimes it doesn’t. People are clear about what they want: reliable, affordable, high-speed service.

This is critical infrastructure, and it needs a complete redesign. But that doesn’t mean cities become internet providers. That economic model doesn’t work either. A new model must continue to allow internet and cell phone companies to provide their services. The community’s role is building and taking control of the fiber infrastructure through public-private partnerships. Just like public entities build roads today, they need to build a reliable fiber “road.”

Reliability demands a completely different design coupled with a well-built fiber infrastructure. This approach ensures low ongoing maintenance costs. It means combining all the public and private grant money available to cities, counties, townships, school districts, and other public entities to design and install a fiber infrastructure. It means taxpayers help foot the bill once for a network that serves entire communities’ needs not only today but also well into the future.

CNS shares RDOF Challenged Census blocks

CNS has a pretty complete map of RDOF Challenged Census blocks. What does that mean? RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) is the FCC’s largest distribution of USF (Universal Service Funds). There are two phases:

  • Phase 1: Will provide up to $16.4 billion
  • Phase 2: Will provide at least $4.4 billion

The FCC will award RDOF funds through a descending clock, reverse auction process. Eligible areas include those without current (or already funded) access to adequate broadband service, defined by the FCC as 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream (25/3). CNS’s map shows those areas whose eligibility is being challenged…

Their map shows locations of the approximately 280,000 census blocks identified by ISPS or other entities, filed with the FCC to challenge potentially available census blocks  included in the upcoming RDOF auction. Not all challenge letters provided sufficient and/or accurate data for accurate mapping, and thus, this map, while containing a significant amount of data, is not fully complete. Please see the “information” tab for disclaimer and additional limitations.

For a more detailed map, or questions, please contact Paul Solsrud paul.solsrud@cooperative-networks.com

[Added May 6 noon]

Paul just shared a list of the largest challengers by the number of blocks they challenged and a list of all challengers. So interesting!

CenturyLink Asks FCC for CAF Deadline Extension, Citing COVID-19 Issues

Telecompetitor reports…

CenturyLink has warned the FCC that the company may not meet deadlines for completing broadband deployments funded through the CAF (Connect America Fund) program. In a meeting with senior commission officials this week, CenturyLink representatives attributed the deployment delays to the COVID-19 pandemic and asked the commission for a deployment deadline extension.

In a letter that CenturyLink sent to the FCC summarizing the meeting, the company noted a range of reasons why the pandemic was causing CAF deployment delays, including:

  • Some localities have mandated a complete work stoppage that extends to broadband deployment.

  • Numerous permitting agencies are shut down or have scaled back operations, substantially reducing their ability to process permit applications.

  • Higher instances of backorders and product unavailability for electronics, fiber and other equipment needed for broadband deployment.

It’s a shame it’s happening just when end users need it the most.

Taking recommendations from a failing broadband provider? Frontier makes 400,000 ineligible for RDOF

This is an interesting story because you have to wonder about the motivation of a broadband provider who is in trouble financially with flailing customer satisfaction reputation – especially when it results in changing the landscape of federal funding. The Institute for Local Self Reliance (Community Networks) reports…

Last week, Frontier Communications told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that there are 17,000 census blocks in which it is now offering 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. This means well over 400,000 Americans now live in areas no longer eligible for the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a $20.4 billion program to expand rural broadband. The first phase will auction off up to $16 billion in subsidies later this year.

In the filing, the company also identified census blocks where it believes other providers will deploy broadband access through state-funded programs, making those locations ineligible for the federal funds as well.

One of the most surprising things about this declarations in that it comes from a provider that not doing well…

Frontier recently declared bankruptcy, following a history of increasingly unsustainable acquisitions. It also just missed its milestone for the Connect America Fund, which required the company to deploy obsolete 10/1 Mbps service to 80 percent of the funded locations by the end of 2019 in return for more than $1.5 billion in subsidies. Some 774,000 locations should have at least 10/1 Mbps service by the end of 2020 from a company Consumer Reports repeatedly finds to be one of the worst Internet Service Providers in the nation.

Frontier is so bad that it went through repeated outages of 911 in Wisconsin, dealt with state investigation after state investigation (including but in no way limited to MinnesotaOhioNevadaNew YorkConnecticutMinnesota againWest Virginia, and California [pdf]), and cannot even handle basic redactions (revealing nearly 1 million poorly maintained network connections in West Virginia alone). We made a fact sheet to track some of Frontier’s problems.

Add that with the fact that this is the kind of info that providers seem to get wrong…

This would not be the first time in the past week that a major U.S. telecom monopoly incorrectly reported coverage in thousands of census blocks to the FCC. The FCC seems to have no intention of developing any consequences for companies that make repeated false claims in these data collections.

One of the oddest things about the Frontier filing is that while Frontier was preparing to declare bankruptcy in recent months, it also had the time to research state broadband programs and suggest locations to the FCC in which it thought others may be deploying broadband in areas not covered by Frontier. That company is an utter mystery.

AT&T offers three months free phones for COVID frontline nurses and physicians on Some Good News

As much as anything with this post, I’m happy to make sure that everyone knows about John Krasniski’s Some Good News, a video of good news that’s happening during the coronavirus quarantine. In itself, it’s a way that technology it making things a little easier. The latest edition included a generous offer of free phone service to frontline nurses and physicians on AT&T’s FirstNet network for three months…

More from AT&T…

The free FirstNet service extends to ALL nurses and physicians nationwide starting April 13, and applies to both new and existing AT&T subscribers, giving them access to exclusive FirstNet features that aren’t available through standard wireless service from any carrier. Full press release here.

If you are not familiar with FirstNet, FirstNet was built exclusively for first responders based on 9/11 Commission recommendations to enhance communications for the public safety community. This includes health care first responders, law enforcement and firefighters, along with 911 communicators and emergency managers.

  • This is an entirely different Network and it’s onlyfor first responders.
  • It prioritizes first responder voice and data, 24/7. It’s a VIP lane for public safety communications. Regardless of how heavy network use is, first responder calls and data are prioritized on FirstNet, keeping those on the frontlines connected when they need it most.
  • Plus more.FirstNet partners with public safety agencies to provide additional resources, from a dedicated fleet of portable cell sites to an app ecosystem designed for them. See more on those efforts here.

In addition to three months of free service, nurses and physicians signing-on to FirstNet can get a $200 activation credit when activating a new FirstNet Ready smartphone on a new FirstNet Mobile-Responder plan.

For more on how AT&T is supporting the first responder community during COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 blog.

Klobuchar, Cramer, Welch, Marshall Urge Administration to Support Funding Dedicated to Ensuring Small Broadband Providers Can Sustain Critical Internet Services for Low-Income Families and Students in Future Coronavirus Relief Packages

From Senator Klobuchar…

In letter to the President, lawmakers call on the Administration to support dedicated funding for small broadband providers in the next economic relief package to ensure students and low-income families have critical internet services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS-01) wrote a letter to the President urging the Administration to support dedicated funding for small broadband providers to keep students and low-income families in their communities connected to the internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Many small broadband providers have committed to sustaining critical broadband services and upgrades for students and low-income families who cannot afford payment during this public health crisis. But these small broadband providers—which contribute to more than 77,000 jobs and support more than $10 billion in economic activity in the United States—may be unable to continue to provide these services if customers are unable to pay for a prolonged period of time,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Although the CARES Act included funding for rural broadband deployment, it did not include dedicated funding to help small broadband providers sustain services and upgrades for students and low-income families. Without support from your Administration, small providers may be unable to ensure that the communities they serve have access to critical internet connectivity.”

In March, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to sustain rural broadband connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. The Keeping Critical Connections Act would appropriate $2 billion for a temporary Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help small broadband providers sustain critical internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, Senators Klobuchar and Kevin Cramer and Representatives Peter Welch and Roger Marshall led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to include dedicated funding to help small broadband providers sustain internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families in any future legislation in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Mr. President:

As you work with Congress to provide additional economic relief for Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, we urge you to support dedicated funding for small broadband providers to keep students and low-income families connected to the internet.

Since the onset of the pandemic, unemployment claims have surged and states across the country have closed schools in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, leaving students and families to rely on internet connectivity to work, learn from home, search for employment, and access telehealth services. Many small broadband providers have committed to sustaining critical broadband services and upgrades for students and low-income families who cannot afford payment during this public health crisis. But these small broadband providers—which contribute to more than 77,000 jobs and support more than $10 billion in economic activity in the United States—may be unable to continue to provide these services if customers are unable to pay for a prolonged period of time.

Although the CARES Act included funding for rural broadband deployment, it did not include dedicated funding to help small broadband providers sustain services and upgrades for students and low-income families. Without support from your Administration, small providers may be unable to ensure that the communities they serve have access to critical internet connectivity.

It is for this reason that we introduced the bipartisan Keeping Critical Connections Act to establish a temporary emergency relief fund at the Federal Communications Commission to help small broadband providers continue providing critical internet connectivity for students and low-income families throughout the pandemic. Our bill has broad bipartisan support, in addition to support from small and rural broadband providers and rural broadband advocates. We now urge you to support the inclusion of this funding in the next expected relief package to ensure that small broadband providers can keep their communities connected at this critical time.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We stand ready to work with you to help small broadband companies provide critical internet connectivity for students and low-income families.

Sincerely,

AT&T expands 5G to Duluth, St Cloud and Le Sueur County

AT&T reports…

AT&T’s 5G network is now live for consumers in 90 additional markets across the country and covers more than 120 million people. With today’s launch, AT&T now offers access to 5G on its best unlimited wireless plans for consumers and businesses in a total of 190 markets in the U.S.

“At a time when technology is proving to be even more essential for communication, AT&T customers can rest assured that our company is continuing to invest in our network and new technologies to make connection easier,” said Chris Sambar, EVP of Technology Operations. “We remain focused on launching AT&T 5G in more markets and to more customers across the country – building on the nation’s best and fastest wireless network* – and plan to reach nationwide coverage this summer.”

The latest 5G markets available this week include:

Minnesota

44. Duluth

45. Le Sueur County

46. St. Cloud