Rural WISPS (including MN) get access to 5.9 GHz Spectrum to expedite rural broadband

News Dio reports…

The FCC said Friday that temporary access that is approved for the 33 WISPs will help provide access to telehealth, distance learning and teleworking in rural communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

Here are some of the details…

The agency is giving access to the 33 WISPs for 60 days to help them bring broadband to rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Temporary access to the lower 45 megahertz of spectrum in that band is a kind of dry test for the FCC’s plan to free up this part of the 5.9 GHz spectrum for unlicensed use. In December, the agency voted to divide that spectrum band so it could be shared with providers, allocating the lowest 45 megahertz for unlicensed use. The top 30 megahertz is allocated for Qualcomm All Cellular Vehicle Protocol (C-V2X) use.

How to quickly deploy free WiFi – from CTC Technology & Energy

As we settle into social distancing IRL (in real life), communities may want to find ways to help make online social interaction easier by setting up wifi hubs where broadband is otherwise limited or not affordable – like a manufactured home park, campus or any multi-dwelling buildings. Here are some great instructions from CTC Technology & Energy…

This approach needs to be customized for each building but would include the same key elements.

1: Ensure there is adequate backhaul to the building. A range of technologies can perform this task. If the building has municipal- or county-owned fiber, this is simply a matter of configuring sufficient capacity. If fiber is absent but reaches a nearby building, and you have line of sight to that building, mmWave, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or other wireless technology can enable backhaul using a mast-mounted or building-mounted antenna.  (If you don’t have line of sight, 900 MHz equipment can serve the same function.) Failing these options, seek commercial service—preferably over fiber.

2: Install Wi-Fi hotspots. These should be installed in hallways, mounted on ceilings or walls (ideally in false ceilings or crawl spaces), with as much density as possible.  The ideal outcome is that no more than 25 feet or one wall separates user from the access point and there are no more than eight users simultaneously using each access point. You will want to interconnect each access point using a single Cat 5/6/7 cable to a power-over-ethernet switch with a 1000 Mbps port. A good practice in a high-rise is to have a switch on each floor and connect each floor’s switch to a building switch located in the basement or on the rooftop that connects to the backhaul service. Where appropriate, consider wireless mesh technologies so as to reduce the amount of cabling.

3: Connect users to the network. You want members of the public to easily connect to the network. Generally, this is a simple matter. Most people own some form of Wi-Fi enabled device, even if they can’t afford ongoing carrier service. Students may have received devices from their schools. What remains is to provide instructions for connecting:  usually just an SSID and a password. For others who are using city-, county-, or school-provided equipment, ideally this equipment is preconfigured with the needed applications (including remote management) and browser links and instruction screens in the appropriate language. You may also need to lock down equipment to protect against inadvertent or deliberate tampering with the operating system or other components that could compromise the network.

4: Set up user supportYour residents may need a moderate level of technical support. In ideal circumstances, a handful of people at a building or development who have basic technological skills can assist clients or neighbors if they get stuck—using text-messaging or voice calls if needed to enforce social distancing. Additionally, municipal or county staff—or volunteers from local schools or technology companies—could also assist from call centers.

5: Set policies to lessen the risk of network congestion. Gaming and interactive video use considerable bandwidth that may slow your network and limit use for critical needs during this crisis. If a locality wants to control use of its devices or its network (for example, to avoid slowdowns and bottlenecks in the building networks), it may consider blocking or limiting some content or applications on those devices, or within its network. This can be done in the network configuration or the device configuration. (Some applications used for teleworking, such as Zoom, should be whitelisted.)

Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help you think through these strategies. 


MVTV Wireless response to COVID-19: free hotpot access, low cost service

It’s not quite fair to say MVTV’s services are in response to COVID-19; they had some deals in place long before now. But here’s what I’ve heard this week.

MVTV partners with PC’s For People; anyone that qualifies for their program is eligible for our PC’s For Please discounted plan – 6 Mbps for $29.99. (To receive technology from PCs for People a potential recipient must be below the 200% poverty level or be currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program. You can read more about eligibility and about the documentation required by clicking here.)

MVTC covers over 25,000 square miles of Southwestern and Central Minnesota, as well as parts of Iowa and South Dakota. You can check out their coverage maps.

Also MVTV has free hotspot access in some areas:

Kandiyohi County

  • Pennock Community Center
  • Blomkest Community Center
  • Lake Andrew Township Hall

Nobles County

  • Bigelow City Hall
  • Dundee City Park
  • Emmanuel Presb. Church, Rushmore
  • Leota Township Hall
  • Little Rock Township Hall
  • Rushmore City Hall
  • Seward Township Hall

Thanks MVTV for the heads up and for the generous services!

USI opens their WiFi network in Minneapolis in response to efforts to slow coronavirus

The City of Minneapolis reports…

Free temporary services in response to Covid-19

USI opened their WiFi network in Minneapolis for those that may need temporary internet access.

  • Look for the “City of Minneapolis Public WiFi” or “USI Wireless” networks on your mobile device and you will be connected.  The process is similar to using Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or the airport.

  • No password or credit card is required to sign in.

  • Contact US Internet for more information or to get help over the phone.

Midco’s plan for fixed wireless in Yellow Medicine County

I’ve been looping back with counties to see how things are going with local broadband. Yellow Medicine County had a whole PowerPoint presentation to share.

As you may recall, Yellow Medicine was ranked 78 out of 87 for ubiquitous access to 2026 speed goal speeds of 100/20. But in 2016, Midco got a grant to build better broadband from Canby to Marshall. Midco also has CAF funding to help build out fixed wireless – in fact they have $2.3 million for Yellow Medicine.

According to the slides, Midco is already serving Canby. The long haul fiber from St Joseph to Canby was expected to be completed Fall 2019. And they are proposing 10 vertical assets from which to provide fixed wireless: 5 assets in the county and 5 outside the county that will serve the county.

Ely looks to local provider for next broadband grant opportunity

The Ely Echo reports

The Town of Morse will again try to help improve internet service in the rural areas around Ely.
After the state wouldn’t fund a project involving Frontier, this time the board is looking locally for a possible solution.
The board passed a motion to pursue a grant with Treehouse Broadband, owned by Ely resident Isaac Olson.
“My customers have been very happy with the high quality of service being provided,” Olson told the board on Jan. 11.
Treehouse uses a high-speed line of sight connection to provide 100 megabit service. So far the Ely water tower has been the only location to push the signal from.
Olson said he would like to put together a grant package to put up six towers, up to 100 feet high, in the area to expand where service can be provided.
Supervisor Bob Berrini said there may be county or other public land in areas where towers could be put up.

Olson said he is also looking at private easements where a property owner could host a tower and receive a discount on the cost of broadband.
Olson said he is also going to set up a broadcast point from the Winton water tower as well.
There needs to be electricity at each tower location.
Morse’s previous proposal would have served around Hwy. 88, the Echo Trail, Van Vac Road and Wolf Lake Road.
“What’s been slowing me down is a lack of capital and time to spend on the business,” said Olson, who continues to work from home while getting Treehouse set up.
There is also the education portion to explain that a fiber only approach doesn’t always work. Olson said funding agencies are beginning to look at hybrid wireless/fiber approaches as ways to better serve areas like Ely.
Tower locations would require some planning tools to determine high points, customer locations, line of sight to other towers or the water tower.
Olson said with a clear line of sight the towers can repeat and shoot a signal out four miles.
Supervisor Terry Soderberg gave Olson a copy of the Design Nine Broadband Study that showed four potential tower locations.
The Morse board approved a motion to seek IRRRB and state funding for a joint project with Treehouse Broadband utilizing $100,000 already set aside by the Morse board.

Senators urge FCC to prioritize rural broadband before 5G

The Benton Institute reports…

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), James Lankford (R-OK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and John Kennedy (R-LA) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging the FCC to focus their efforts on providing reliable broadband to rural communities before expanding 5G coverage, as indicated by the announcement of the FCC’s 5G Fund.

While we commend the Federal Communications Commission for acknowledging that critical fact, we have some serious reservations about the recently announced 5G Fund and the decision to focus these limited mobile broadband deployment dollars on the promise of a 5G future when many places in our states still lack 4G service or do not have any service at all. To stand any chance of connecting rural Americans, the FCC needs a more accurate method of data collection, a strong challenge process, and a funding process that includes terrain factors to ensure that the hardest to serve places can compete for limited funding.

5G is a topic that people outside of work ask me about frequently. In the Twin Cities, we got a crash course in 5G leading up to the Super Bowl two years ago. But as I’ve reported in the past, 5G isn’t a likely solution for rural areas with great distance and lower population density. One societal problem with investing in 5G before fixing the rural broadband issue is that we deepen the digital divide.