LTD Broadband expand wireless service to Kandiyohi County

The West Central Tribune reports…

LTD Broadband recently expanded wireless service to the lakes area of Kandiyohi County with the installation of LTE equipment on water towers in Spicer, on Green Lake, in New London and a tower site by Long Lake.

The company now has 120 towers in Kandiyohi County bringing wireless internet service to rural areas that lack broadband or are underserved.

The newly installed equipment will allow internet download speeds up to 25 mbps with no data caps.

LTD Broadband uses a hybrid fiber and fixed wireless network that provides fast speeds while keeping prices low, especially for customers in remote or sparsely populated rural neighborhoods that are often difficult to serve in a cost-effective way.

“We believe that leveraging existing fiber to deliver high-speed fixed wireless is the best way to continue to expand broadband availability in rural areas,” said Corey Hauer, CEO.

Looks like it happened with the help of Representative Baker…

“This was definitely an area with a need for a better broadband option — and we didn’t have a solution until Rep. Dave Baker linked us up with Kandi Power. Quite simply, we could not have brought service to this area without their help,” Hauer said.

Letter to the Editor – AT&T is investing in northwestern Minnesota

The Crookston Times posts a letter to the editor from Paul Weirtz, state president of AT&T Minnesota…

Mobile internet coverage is always a hot topic these days, especially in northwestern Minnesota. That’s why I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight some good news AT&T has to offer residents here.

Over the last five years, AT&T has made 115 upgrades to expand our network and boost coverage and reliability in Polk County and the surrounding counties of Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake and Rosseau. This includes 36 network upgrades in Crookston, East Grand Forks, and Thief River Falls.

Just last month, we expanded our 4G LTE wireless network in the area with upgrades to an AT&T cell site on Highway 64 west of Thief River Falls. With these enhancements, AT&T customers will experience faster, more reliable wireless service.

We know residents and businesses are doing more with their wireless devices than ever before, and our goal is to give them an effortless network experience, not only in northwestern Minnesota but throughout the state.

That’s why AT&T is committed to investing in our wireless networks across Minnesota. We invested nearly $350 million in our Minnesota networks from 2014 to 2016. In 2017, we made 976 network enhancements across 299 communities in the state, including new cell sites, network upgrades, and capacity expansions. And we are continuing to invest in our networks this year. In fact, expanding our network in Minnesota has given AT&T the most wireless coverage in the state.

Not only do these investments boost reliability, coverage and speed, they also improve critical services that support public safety and first responders.

This is important because last year, Minnesota opted in to FirstNet, accepting a plan from the FirstNet Authority and AT&T to deliver a wireless broadband platform to the state’s public safety community. We are very proud that AT&T, in a public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority, will build, operate and maintain a highly secure wireless broadband communications platform for Minnesota’s public safety community for the next 25 years at no cost to the state. The FirstNet experience will deliver innovation and create an entire system of modernized devices, apps and tools for first responder subscribers of the service.

As a member of the Governor’s Broadband Task Force, I know full well the benefits of broadband deployment.

I’m very proud of AT&T’s commitment to investing in our networks in Minnesota, and I’m excited for what the future holds.

Paul Weirtz, state president
AT&T Minnesota

 

Broadband service spreading in rural Murray, Pipestone counties

The Globe reports on a process that Nobles, Murray and Pipestone Counties have used to move to better broadband in their areas…

The widespread utility of broadband has led several southwest Minnesota counties to invest their time and money into researching the topic, and make serious progress in the process.

In 2016, Nobles County conducted a broadband feasibility study with CCG and Slayton-based Finley Engineering. Shortly after, the state’s Border-to-Border grant program awarded Lismore Cooperative Telephone nearly $3 million to create a hybrid fiber and wireless network that will provide baseline broadband speeds to most of the county and ultra-fast fiber to hundreds of homes. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2018.

Last year, Murray County and Pipestone County partnered with four other southwest Minnesota counties and the Blandin Foundation to conduct feasibility studies — also done by Finley and CCG — in hopes of getting a similar outcome.

Pipestone County’s study was completed in February 2017, and later that year, Ruthton-based Woodstock Telephone received a $363,851 grant from the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband to provide fixed wireless broadband to rural Pipestone County.

Murray County is still working on access…

“The county does not plan to build a broadband network but is open to talking with providers who are interested in extending service to our citizens and may need financial assistance to do so,” Rucker said. “Murray County had the feasibility study completed so that any provider who wants to extend broadband service to our unserved and underserved areas could use the study as background to apply for state or federal grants to do so.”

The county has seen significant broadband investment from Woodstock since 2015, when it installed two wireless broadband towers around Lake Shetek. It continued over the last two years, installing eight internet coverage sites in the area, including towers in Lake Wilson, Slayton and Edgerton. The company plans to add another tower south of Chandler this year.

The towers, which are fed with fiber, provide 50Mbps download speeds at a range of six miles, according to Terry Nelson, Woodstock general manager. The speeds and service can vary, however, as wireless internet can be disrupted by geographical features such as hills, trees and windmills.

“We’ve done wireless in a lot of these areas, but there’s still little pockets that we can’t hit with some of our wireless,” Nelson said. “I would definitely never say the county is 100 percent covered, because it’s not.”

An October 2017 report from the state found 99.8 percent of Murray County households have access to 25/3 broadband — up from 50.47 percent in July 2016 — and more than 52.9 percent can access 100/20 — up from 41.56 percent. The numbers in Pipestone County are 97.87 and 79.73 percent — up from 79.36 and 44.54 percent, respectively — but Dawson said the numbers shouldn’t be relied on.

Counties recognize wireless as a means to meeting 2022 state goals, but at looking for fiber to reach 2026 goals…

Minnesota wants 25/3 speeds mandated statewide by 2022. By 2026, the required numbers will be raised to 100/20. Reaching those speeds consistently is nearly impossible with wireless internet, Dawson said.

“The wireless that we’re talking about is capable of that within a mile or so, but you would have to put a cell site at every farm — that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Instead, broadband experts agree the ultimate solution is delivering fiber-to-the-home, reliably delivering 1-gigabit (1000Mbps) speeds.

Lismore Telephone is installing fiber to every household in Leota and Wilmont and hundreds of homes along its 135-mile fiber ring, but it is expensive. In addition to $6 million between the state and Nobles County, the county had to throw in an addition $1 million in cash and $2.57 million in taxable general obligation tax abatement bonds to make it work.

That’s with fiber costing around $20,000 per mile, and the price won’t be coming down any time soon, Dawson said.

“You are already in a state where fiber is as cheap as it will possibly be,” Dawson said. “With 50-foot deep soil, they can get it in real easy. Minnesota can bury fiber for $20,000 a mile, where in a lot of parts of the country, that’s $50,000 a mile.”

For Woodstock, a successful fiber formula has been delivering directly to large businesses, where the return on investment makes it doable.

Details on new wifi connection in and around Rochester MN

Here are details on a new network around Rochester, Minnesota from a press release from Calix, a vendor serving equipment used in the network…

Calix, Inc. (NYSE:CALX) today announced Minnesota WiFi, a wireless Internet service provider (WISP) based in southern Minnesota, is leveraging Calix Cloud and Mesh-Enhanced Carrier Class Wi-Fisolutions to bring its managed Wi-Fi service to residential and business subscribers across six counties. Through the superior performance of the Calix GigaCenters, Minnesota WiFi has dramatically improved the broadband speeds and cloud-based services for its subscribers, allowing local businesses to thrive and residents to maintain their rural, teleworking lifestyle. With Calix Cloud in place, Minnesota WiFi has also been able to improve its support for these subscribers as the remote troubleshooting capabilities have resulted in faster call time resolution and fewer costly truck rolls.

“In the 13 communities Minnesota WiFi serves in and around Rochester, our broadband service enables our subscribers to enjoy the comforts of rural living while being able to take advantage of the same level of service they would find in a big city,” said Darin Steffl, owner of Minnesota WiFi. “Many of our subscribers rely on Wi-Fi for high-bandwidth applications like VPN connections to the Mayo Clinic to work remotely or for transferring huge satellite images of farmland for agricultural tile drainage. We found phenomenal performance and coverage from the Calix GigaCenters, especially in the 5Ghz band. The GigaCenters blew away all other dual-band Wi-Fi routers, which helps our business subscribers succeed and supports our residential subscribers who are streaming media and gaming more than ever before. We are thrilled that through our investment of these next generation technologies from Calix we can meet our goals of both enabling our communities to succeed while finding new ways to streamline our operations.”

Regulators Urged To Examine T-Mobile-Sprint’s Impact On Broadband

Digital News Daily reports…

Senate Democrats are urging regulators to scrutinize whether T-Mobile’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of Sprint will harm consumers, including ones who primarily connect to the internet through their phones.

“We urge you to closely review this transaction to ensure that it does not threaten to harm consumers or competition in the wireless market,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and others write in a letter to the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.

The lawmakers’ letter comes one week after T-Mobile and Sprint said they had agreed to merge, leaving the country with three major wireless carriers. Klobuchar and the other lawmakers — Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) — say the deal raises concerns.

Arvig is bringing fiber to the tower across Minnesota

Global Newswire reports…

Arvig, a Minnesota-based broadband service provider, revealed today that it has surpassed bringing service to more than 500 cellular towers across 13 states.

Arvig made the decision in 2015 to start working directly with the major wireless carriers as a backhaul aggregator. Utilizing providers such as Arvig helps the wireless carriers accommodate increasing traffic and improve the overall customer experience for now (LTE and 4G) and in the future (5G). The company deploys dark fiber infrastructure and lit service to macro towers as well as small cells.

In 2017, Arvig installed approximately 415 route miles of fiber throughout the state of Minnesota and beyond.

Dave Schornack, Director of Business Development and Sales at Arvig, said, “As the demand for bandwidth continues to grow, we are well-positioned to provide solutions for carriers because of our broad footprint across Minnesota and connections to other providers across the region.”

Sen Klobuchar Urges Dep of Justice and FCC to Review T-Mobile’s Acquisition of Sprint

From Senator Klobuchar’s press release…

Klobuchar, Senators Urge Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission to Review Whether T-Mobile’s Acquisition of Sprint will Hurt Competition and Harm Consumers

Merging T-Mobile, the third-largest wireless carrier in the United States, with Sprint, the fourth-largest wireless carrier, would reduce the number of national wireless carriers to just three

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led a group of senators in a letter to the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing serious concerns regarding T-Mobile US, Inc.’s (T-Mobile) proposed acquisition of Sprint Corporation (Sprint). This transaction would combine T-Mobile, the third-largest wireless carrier in the United States with over 72 million customers, with Sprint, the fourth-largest wireless carrier with over 54 million customers, reducing the number of wireless carriers from four national competitors to three. The letter asked that the DOJ and FCC carefully consider: (1) the impact of reducing the number of national wireless carriers from four to three; (2) how the proposed merger would affect lower-cost options for wireless service; (3) whether specific regions, particularly rural areas, would be disproportionately affected by the proposed transaction; and (4) the proposed transaction’s likely effect on innovation of wireless networks and other technologies.

Joining Klobuchar on the letter were Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“As more than three-quarters of American adults now own smartphones, including many who depend on these devices for their primary connection to the internet, an anticompetitive acquisition in the wireless market could result in higher prices for American consumers or force some people to forego their internet connection altogether,” the senators wrote. “Senior leaders at DOJ and the FCC have also previously raised concerns about this proposed merger and expressed skepticism for the very reason that reducing the number of wireless carriers from four to three would adversely affect competition in the wireless market… The Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission must carefully consider whether the proposed transaction may lessen competition or harm consumers.”

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Assistant Attorney General Delrahim and Chairman Pai:

We write to raise serious concerns regarding T-Mobile US, Inc.’s (T-Mobile) proposed acquisition of Sprint Corporation (Sprint). As more than three-quarters of American adults now own smartphones, including many who depend on these devices for their primary connection to the internet, an anticompetitive acquisition in the wireless market could result in higher prices for American consumers or force some people to forego their internet connection altogether.

It is for these reasons that we urge you to closely review this transaction to ensure that it does not threaten to harm consumers or competition in the wireless market. Specifically, we ask that you carefully consider: (1) the impact of reducing the number of national wireless carriers from four to three; (2) how the proposed merger would affect lower-cost options for wireless service; (3) whether specific regions, particularly rural areas, would be disproportionately affected by the proposed transaction; and (4) the proposed transaction’s likely effect on innovation of wireless networks and other technologies.

This transaction would combine T-Mobile, the third-largest wireless carrier in the United States with over 72 million customers, with Sprint, the fourth-largest wireless carrier with over 54 million customers, reducing the number of wireless carriers from four national competitors to three. The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have previously raised concerns regarding consolidation in the wireless market. Both agencies opposed AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011. Senior leaders at DOJ and the FCC have also previously raised concerns about this proposed merger and expressed skepticism for the very reason that reducing the number of wireless carriers from four to three would adversely affect competition in the wireless market. Former Assistant Attorney General William Baer stated that “[I]t’s going to be hard for someone to make a persuasive case that reducing four firms to three is actually going to improve competition for the benefit of American consumers.” And former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said “[f]our national wireless providers are good for American consumers.” Now that T-Mobile and Sprint have formally signed an agreement to merge, we urge you to closely evaluate the parties’ arguments concerning the potential benefits of this merger, especially in light of your agency’s previous emphasis on the importance of maintaining four national competitors in the wireless market.

We also ask that both of your agencies carefully consider T-Mobile and Sprint’s direct competition against each other as the two lower-cost alternatives to AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile and Sprint have led the way in offering wireless products and service options that are more appealing to lower-income consumers, including no contract plans, prepaid and no credit check plans, and unlimited text, voice, and data plans. These lower-cost options are especially important for Americans who rely on mobile broadband as their primary or only internet connection. Further concentration in the wireless market could also result in increased pricing network access for Mobile Virtual Network Operators, wireless providers who purchase wholesale wireless network access and offer low-cost wireless alternatives.

In addition to reviewing the nationwide impact of consolidation in the wireless industry, we urge your agencies to examine whether any regions will face disproportionate harm as a result of the proposed merger. In rural areas of the United States, access to reliable cell coverage has a significant impact on local economies and public safety. A review of the proposed merger should evaluate potential effects on competition and service access in rural areas, particularly those covered only by Sprint and T-Mobile. As the parties are reported to have already executed a roaming agreement that would expand coverage to their customers in the absence of the merger, it will be important to focus on the benefits that can only be achieved as a direct result of the merger.

Finally, the potential effects on wireless network innovation are an important aspect of this transaction. T-Mobile and Sprint claim that the proposed merger will allow them to more quickly build a nationwide 5G network. However, T-Mobile has shown that it is already capable of rapidly creating and expanding a nationwide network independently when it deployed nationwide LTE faster than Verizon and AT&T. The transaction would also eliminate Sprint as an independent force for innovation. In addition, we are concerned that the execution of this merger agreement may discourage near-term incentives to invest in research and development at T-Mobile and Sprint as the two companies focus on navigating the merger review process.

The Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission must carefully consider whether the proposed transaction may lessen competition or harm consumers. Thank you for your attention to this matter.