Broadband is happening around Ely with CTC, Midco and Treehouse Broadband expansions

There’s a lot of broadband activity happening in Ely these days between CTC, Midco and wireless options (Treehouse Broadband). Ely Timber Jay reports

Existing cable and internet customers who are frustrated with all-too-common service disruptions recently learned that Midco activated more than 200 additional miles of fiber to create a northern Minnesota fiber ring that adds diverse network paths for the Ely area.
The expansion and investment by the cable provider is an effort to reduce or eliminate service disruptions caused by fiber cuts and other sources of internet and business connections. Their recent investment announcement also appears to give the cable provider a bigger piece of the broadband pie in the immediate Ely area.

CTC is also building in the area…

CTC is in the midst of installing a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network in the city’s downtown corridor and is actively selling business services. In their first phase, CTC offers broadband technology to homes and businesses along Sheridan Street, and looks to offer business and residents internet, phone, and TV services along with business phone systems and IT services.
“We are scheduling a meeting with Midco at some point,” Langowski said. “We want to discuss where our project is and where their project is. I was a little concerned when I talked with (Midco’s) government affairs representative, who wasn’t aware of what we are doing or what our project is. I told him he must have been living under a rock. If he had read our local newspapers, he would have seen that we have been working on this for the last decade-plus.”
The first phase of the city of Ely’s CTC Broadband project is limited to the downtown area. “I don’t want it to sound like I’m not excited about (Midco’s) investment,” Langowski said. “I just want to make sure they don’t come in and overlay what we just did and cut us out of the market.”
Midco also announced that crews will begin installing FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) to homes and businesses in Ely and Winton in early 2022 capable of up to five Gbps. Connections can be upgraded to 10 Gbps, according to the cable provider.
The neighboring communities of Tower, Soudan and Babbitt will see similar construction activity with full FTTP network upgrades in 2023, company officials said.

Wireless is coming to the area too…

A wireless broadband project is also moving forward in the Town of Morse around the Ely area. Isaac Olson of Treehouse Broadband uses directional antennas operating on the radio frequency spectrum to provide high bandwidth internet service. With direct line of sight to their towers and repeater locations, they service customers in the Ely area. Unlike traditional satellite service, according to Olson, rain, snow and other weather has no impact on the frequencies and short-range transmissions he uses to deploy broadband.

Midco is expanding in other areas too…

In addition to the network redundancy and FTTP upgrades in the Ely area, the northern Minnesota communities of International Falls, Ranier and Littlefork will see faster data speeds from Midco in the coming year.
“All three communities will have access to Midco Gig in 2021. Midco Gig is 35 times faster than the average high-speed internet,” McAdaragh said.

EVENT Today 3pm: MN Senate Committee on Ag and Rural Dev on SF1536 broadband definition to include wireless or not

Sorry for the late notice – busy day! I’m going to try to attend remotely…

From Bill Tracker:

Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy

March 24, 2021 at 3:00pm (CDT)

The main idea is to change the definition of unserved/underserved as it relates to wired and wireless broadband. They want the legislation to definitely include wireless. This will determine who qualifies for state funding. State grants are available to wired and wireless solutions. I’ve bolded the areas with changes:

A bill for an act
relating to broadband grants; allowing broadband grants to be used for fixed
wireless broadband and clarifying broadband mapping requirements; amending
Minnesota Statutes 2020, sections 116J.394; 116J.397.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1.

Minnesota Statutes 2020, section 116J.394, is amended to read:

116J.394 DEFINITIONS.

(a) For the purposes of sections 116J.394 to 116J.398, the following terms have the meanings given them.

(b) “Broadband” or “broadband service” has the meaning given in section 116J.39, subdivision 1, paragraph (b).

(c) “Broadband infrastructure” means networks of deployed telecommunications equipment and technologies necessary to provide high-speed Internet access and other
advanced telecommunications services for end users.

(d) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of employment and economic development.

(e) “Last-mile infrastructure” means broadband infrastructure that serves as the final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the end-use customer’s on-premises telecommunications equipment.

(f) “Middle-mile infrastructure” means broadband infrastructure that links a broadband service provider’s core network infrastructure to last-mile infrastructure.

(g) “Political subdivision” means any county, city, town, school district, special district
or other political subdivision, or public corporation.

(h) “Underserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack access to wire-line or fixed wireless broadband service at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second download and at least 20 megabits per second upload.

(i) “Unserved areas” means areas of Minnesota in which households or businesses lack
access to wire-line or fixed wireless broadband service, as defined in section 116J.39.

Sec. 2.

Minnesota Statutes 2020, section 116J.397, is amended to read:

116J.397 UPDATED BROADBAND DEPLOYMENT DATA AND MAPS.

(a) Beginning in 2016 and continuing each year thereafter, The Office of Broadband Development shall contract annually with one or more independent organizations that have extensive experience working with Minnesota broadband providers to:

(1) collect broadband deployment data reflecting all broadband delivery technologies from Minnesota providers, verify its accuracy through on-the-ground testing, and create state and county maps available to the public by April 15, 2017, and each April 15 thereafter, showing the availability of broadband service at various upload and download speeds throughout Minnesota;

(2) analyze the deployment data collected to help inform future investments in broadband
infrastructure; and

(3) conduct business and residential surveys that measure broadband adoption and use
in the state.

(b) Data provided by a broadband provider under this section is nonpublic data under
section 13.02, subdivision 9. Maps produced under this paragraph are public data under
section 13.03.

 

Wisconsin is using drones to bring broadband to students in Northwoods

People are so clever. I love the innovation here. It’s not a permanent fix but what a great way to reach people who currently don’t even have enough cell coverage to support students or workers trying to get online at home. I know there are areas in Minnesota that are in the same boat! Wisconsin Public Radio reports

Rural Northwoods students who lack reliable internet at home will soon be able to connect to their school networks via a drone-powered cellular signal.

A Wisconsin startup will be part of a state-funded pilot program in the Eagle River area that will test the use of drones as a way to expand internet connectivity into rural areas.

It’s a partnership between the new company Wisconsin Telelift and the Northland Pines School District. The drones will be fitted with cellphone towers, allowing students throughout the sprawling Northwoods district to get online, even in rural areas where cellphone service and broadband access are unavailable or unreliable.

It’s a real need in a district that is among the state’s largest geographically, spreading over 435 square miles in Vilas and Oneida counties.

As many as 15 percent of the district’s 1,340 students have no internet access at home, said Northland Pines administrator Scott Foster, and half of its students have unreliable connections that don’t always allow for streaming video and other tools used in educational software. The district provides Chromebooks to its students and portable hotspots to those who need them — but the hotspots can only work where there is a strong cellular signal. In much of the district, that’s just not the case.

Christopher Ali outlines broadband options for rural areas

Benton recently posted a column from Christopher Ali about the importance of cooperatives. He promotes cooperatives as broadband providers because they are local and they have infrastructure. He also quotes Bernadine…

Long story short, and to use a quote from Bernadine Joselyn of the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota, “everything is better with better broadband.”

 

But perhaps even more valuable is a succinct description of different types of broadband…

With wires, DSL, or digital subscriber line, is the most deployed broadband access technology in rural America. DSL connections are the copper wires owned and operated by telephone companies like CenturyLink. Despite its prevalence, the problem is that these types of connections are slow and outdated, oftentimes not able to meet the FCC’s definition of broadband, which is 25 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload. More than this, DSL gets worse the further you are away from the network node. So once you’re about 3 miles from the access point, your internet is going to slow down considerably. AT&T and other providers have also begun phasing out their DSL networks, leaving many in rural America without an alternative.

Cable internet, or coaxial, or coax-hybrid internet is the most deployed type of connectivity in urban areas. These connections are owned and operated by cable companies like Comcast Xfinity. The benefit of cable internet is that you get blazing fast download speeds, which is great for binging Netflix. The problem is that the upload speed, which is so important for business and for video conferencing like we’re doing, is slower. More than this, cable internet suffers from something called “network congestion” – the more people on the network at the same time, the slower it becomes. Here in Charlottesville, my husband and I have Comcast, and we have definitely noticed slower service during peak working hours when everyone in our neighborhood is trying to make a Zoom call. It can make teaching really difficult!

Then there’s fiber optics, the “future-proof” and “gold standard” technology. It offers blazing-fast download and upload speeds, doesn’t degrade with distance, and is not impacted by how many people are on the network at the same time. The problem? It is expensive: Upwards of $27,000 per mile. And this is where counties and cooperatives and localities tend to struggle – how to raise the money necessary for fiber-to-the-home?

On the wireless side, counties like Culpeper are deploying towers with fiber-optic connections that transmit broadband wirelessly. This is known as “fixed wireless” and is provided by Wireless Internet Service Providers or “WISPs.” Fixed wireless has proven to be an important form of connectivity on its own, and for some counties, a mid-point towards fiber-to-the-home. It’s not as fast as fiber, and certainly comes with drawbacks like suffering from inclement weather and requiring line of sight, but many counties, particularly rural ones, are erecting a series of towers that are connected at the back end with fiber optics so that residents have meaningful connectivity. Fixed wireless is particularly useful for rural communities and agricultural spaces since one tower can cover a rather large distance. Others, however, say that nothing short of fiber for all will suffice. Again, the type of connectivity should be in tune with the community and the community’s needs.

Also on the wireless side is satellite, which many people don’t even consider viable because it is so problematic. Hughes and ViaSat are the two satellite internet providers in the country. Often times when I bring up satellite in rural areas, people roll their eyes at me, because it is expensive, slow, suffers from lag and inclement weather interruptions, and comes with tiny data caps. Still, the FCC considers satellite a viable complement to wireline broadband. It is available to almost everyone in the country, perhaps 99% or so. That said, I know of many residents who have to augment their satellite connections with mobile hotspots to ensure they are always connected, but at tremendous expense – sometimes $300 a month.

Many of you may have also heard about StarLink – Elon Musk’s SpaceX broadband service. StarLink is a type of satellite broadband called LEO or “Low Earth Orbital,” where the satellite sits closer to the Earth than traditional geosynchronous satellites like from Hughes or ViaSat. Theoretically, this proximity allows LEOs to provide faster and stronger service. Trials suggest StarLink is providing faster service, upwards of 100/20 in certain communities, but this pales in comparison to the original hype around LEOs, which promised speeds of gigabits per second. StarLink and others like it are just getting going, and the technology is still unproven at scale. A recent study, for instance, suggested that StarLink will reach capacity in only 8 short years. There’s still so much we don’t know about these networks. Despite this, the FCC recently awarded StarLink almost $900 million in funding. StarLink’s competitors are challenging this award, claiming that it overexaggerated its capabilities to the FCC.

We could say the same thing about 5G. While urban areas are getting a taste of what 5G can do – like blazing-fast mobile connections and the potential to replace your home broadband network – it is still in its trial stages and the type of 5G found in urban areas, known as millimeter-wave 5G or high-band 5G, is unavailable to the rest of the country. So far, 5G has not lived up to the hype mobile providers like Verizon and T-Mobile have promised us.

I get worried when I hear counties say that they are considering pausing their broadband plans in hopes that StarLink or 5G will arrive soon. Truth be told, these technologies are years away from being deployed in rural areas across our country. There is also uncertainty around cost, in addition to time. Communities that decide to pause will be waiting for something that may never come. In contrast, there are very real solutions available to counties today.

LTD Broadband partners with Aviat for wireless platform system

PRNewswire reports

Aviat Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVNW), the leading expert in wireless transport solutions, today announced that LTD Broadband, an internet service provider (ISP) and top recipient in the US government’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction with a total of $1.3 billion in funding, will deploy Aviat’s WTM 4000 microwave and multi-band platform systems in its network middle mile and for fiber redundancy. The company has already deployed these Aviat systems in its current network, which delivers high-speed connectivity to commercial and residential subscribers in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, with other states in planning as part of the company’s RDOF expansion.

“Our experience with Aviat has been exceptional,” said Corey Hauer, Chief Executive Officer, LTD Broadband. “The company’s WTM systems deliver the multi-gigabit fixed wireless performance we need, and Aviat Design enables solid link planning with no surprises. We are able to order the systems from the Aviat Store and take delivery within a couple of weeks, something no other radio manufacturer can offer us, accelerating our time to market. These capabilities will become even more critical as we roll out our RDOF plans.”

LTD Broadband was selected to submit a long form RDOF proposal to build FTTH; they were the biggest winner of potential funding in Minnesota. There is some concern that they are better versed in building wireless network than the fiber they are committed to building in Minnesota.

FirstNet Network Expands Across Minnesota to Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties

AT&T reports

Minnesota’s first responders are getting a major boost in their wireless communications with the addition of new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites and other network enhancements. This new infrastructure is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety.

The five new sites – located across northern Minnesota in the counties of Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods – are part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety. The remote sites located near Blackduck, Grygla, Isabella, Finlayson and Williams Counties were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” said Paul, Weirtz, president, AT&T Minnesota. “We couldn’t be more proud to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need to do their jobs. Working with public safety, we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19.”

FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It’s built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government.

That’s why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency.

Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable connectivity and modern communications tools they need. Currently well ahead of schedule, the FirstNet build has already brought Minnesota first responders:

  • Purpose-built network enhancements New FirstNet cell sites in Minnesota – located near Zerkel and Graceville – have also launched. These sites were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations. With FirstNet, it’s about where first responders need connectivity. That’s what is driving our FirstNet build. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Band 14 has also been added on more than 450 existing sites across Minnesota as part of the initial FirstNet build, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Baxter/Brainerd area.
  • Reaching Rural Minnesota – FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means everyfirst responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. That’s why connecting remote parts of America is one of our top priorities. We’re collaborating with rural network providers to help build out additional LTE coverage and extend FirstNet’s reach in rural and tribal communities.
  • Public safety-specific advanced capabilities – FirstNet is the only nationwide platform that gives first responders entire communication ecosystem of unique benefits including mission-centric devices, certified applications and always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data. This is like giving public safety communications the “lights and sirens” treatment so that they stay connected, no matter the emergency.
  • Unparalleled emergency support – Minnesota agencies on FirstNet also have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can either be deployed for planned events or in emergenciesat no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations – led by a group of former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.
  • Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies – We’ve also expanded the benefits of FirstNet for Minnesota agencies – spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations. Now, they can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for lifeat no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile—Unlimited plans.1 This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Where public safety goes, we go. We’ve answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it’s hitting the mark.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And these network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Minnesota’s first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.”

In addition to further elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, this new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses 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 FirstNet.com.

American Tower and Nextlink plan to build towers for fixed wireless in Minnesota

Netlink Wireless reports

American Tower, a leader in wireless communications infrastructure, and Nextlink Internet, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) focused on rural communities across the Central U.S., announced today that they have signed a new long-term agreement to help bring enhanced connectivity to users in rural America.

Under this new agreement, Nextlink Internet plans to collocate on over 1,000 American Tower sites to facilitate rapid deployment of fixed broadband service to residents and small businesses across 11 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, and Wisconsin.

Free WiFi Access Points

Thanks to Danna MacKenzie, former Office of Broadband Director, I became aware of a great opportunity from a national non-profit organization – the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC.org) .  The initiative is called Project Connect.  You can see details under the COVID 19 tab on their web site, including the application form.  They have a great FAQ on their web site with all of the details.  This organization comes highly recommended.

The have the resources to install an external wi-fi access point on a public or private building, all for free.  They also help the host ensure that everything is secure.  They also provide some ongoing, but limited support on the access point management.

The local host must provide the Internet access, either through their existing access or with a new separate Internet service.  Most hosts are public entities like cities or libraries, but it could be a local grocery store.  Having a place to park or sit is important.  The access point can be located inside, such as in a community room of an affordable housing development, but public access is required.  Smaller communities might identify one site; larger communities might think about identifying sites that are at least 1/2 mile apart.  There seem to be few restrictions.

ITDRC uses paid staff and a corps of qualified volunteers to do this work.  It takes 30-60 days for equipment to be installed.  For those interested, they generally use Ubiquity access points.

Complete information is on their web site.  They would prefer that each site host complete their own application so that all the information goes directly into their system.

Let’s keep them busy in Minnesota!

AT&T to build FirstNet tower in Cook County

Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

The Cook County Board on Tuesday approved a lease agreement allowing AT&T to build a tower on public land, a decision that sparked controversy among locals and visitors who prefer the region remain off the grid.

Rena Rogers, Cook County’s management information systems director, said the cellphone provider asked to construct a tower near Gunflint Lake so that first responders can access the company’s FirstNet service. Members of the public will also receive regular service. …

The tower will also have room to hold three service providers, should competitors like Verizon or T-Mobile want to venture Up North. Currently, service stops about halfway up the Gunflint Trail.

It was interesting to hear the importance places on the aesthetics of the tower…

“We’re trying really hard to find a balance between service and minimizing impact,” Rogers said.

The new structure will be less than 200 feet tall and built near an existing radio tower “to protect the view shed,” she said. It will not be lit at night to protect the area’s night skies — an asset increasingly used to promote regional tourism.

I understand the conundrum but I don’t hear a “con” for technology deployment now the way I used to years ago. But it’s nice to know that they are thinking about all sides.

“RDOF was a major fail” says MN Task Force member … we need to alert MN legislators

As promised, there’s more commentary coming on the RDOF results. And as a quick reminder – LTD was awarded nearly $312 million to build Gigabit broadband in Minnesota in the next 10 years. People are skeptical that this will happen, as MinnPost reports

In an interview, Corey Hauer, LTD Broadband’s CEO, said he was confident his company could grow fast and meet the challenge. But local competitors and broadband experts said they were concerned LTD could not deliver what it promised, especially since the company has focused primarily on wireless internet technology while it now promises fiber-optic connections.

The award came up at the last MN Broadband Task Forde meeting last Friday.

You can hear concern from at least one member about the ability of LTD (the big winner in Minnesota) to deploy the broadband that they have promised. The concern is multifaceted. Their primary concern with the federal funding is that it won’t happen. From the Task Force perspective, the greater concern is that legislators will assume that RDOF will serve the proposed areas and that therefore no further state funding is needed. An unintended consequence is that the promised funding might prevent other providers from going into those areas, companies that would have provided folks with speeds that would meet the MN broadband state goals. They are concerned that unlike what happens with Minnesota’s state program, the FCC will not follow through with oversight on provider performance.

Funny enough, an earlier iteration of the Broadband Task Force heard from LTD in February 2018. He spoke about their fixed wireless service – not fiber, which I think reflects the concerns that people have about LTD being able to fulfill the obligations it undertook through the RDOF application. They have a history of fixed wireless, not fiber. He also notes that speeds of 10/1 can be as welcome to some customers as 25/3. Again, this is from Feb 2018.

As you can hear, CEO Corey Hauser said that 80 percent of traffic comes from streamlining services. He spoke about the services they provided at the time:

  • 3 Mbps
  • 6 Mbps
  • 10 Mbps
  • 25 Mbps

(Presumably he is talking about download, since that was his focus.) He mentioned that Netflix usually required 2.5Mbps. He could only think of one use for Gig access – game updates. Then he outlines a number of applications and required speeds.

He spoke about cable companies and complaints about broadband pricing. And complaints about telecom broadband service in cities.

He spoke about utilities, building the case that a fixed wireless company has several options for broadband services. About minute 18:30 – he speaks about State funding for broadband – making the case that the State shouldn’t spend money “Cadillac” services when a lesser car will do. He’s annoyed that State funding has gone to overbuild areas where he already provides 25/3 services. He was annoyed because the services that he provided was not considered broadband by Minnesota statute. Annoyed at MN maps because they didn’t reflect his services.

He asks and answers: Why is fixed wireless best? Capital costs because he doesn’t have to spend money to reach every house until they want it. So a lower take rate isn’t a problem for LTD.

About minute 28:20, he speaks about TV White Spaces.

About min 29:42, he takes umbrage of the 25/3 speed goal as 10/1 is also a responsible service as compared to no service or satellite service. He also spoke about the CAF tiers – comparing the 25/3 and 10/1 tiers – saying both have their place.

It may be valuable to note that Reps Baker and Layman were in the meeting as well and clearly Rep Baker had been in earlier communication with LTD. It led to s discussion on government investing in technology that meets the needs today and in the future.

It would be great to see Minnesota get the upgrade that’s promised with RDOF funding – the concern is that it won’t happen and with a dibs on certain communities for 10 years, those communities are in danger of falling farther and farther behind.

T‑Mobile Expands Home Internet to More Than 130 Additional Cities & Towns

The news from T-Mobile

 T-Mobile is expanding its $50/month Home Internet pilot service AGAIN, to more than 130 additional cities and towns across nine states. Today, T-Mobile is bringing more competition to home broadband — especially in underserved rural markets — through LTE-based coverage, with 5G service coming soon.

Here are the states with new service…

Households in Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin who are ready to break up with their home internet provider.

And here are the cities in Minnesota…

Albert Lea
Alexandria
Austin
Bemidji
Brainerd
Duluth
Fairmont
Faribault-Northfield
Fergus Falls
Grand Rapids
Hutchinson
Mankato
Marshall
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington
New Ulm
Owatonna
Red Wing
Rochester
St. Cloud
Willmar
Winona
Worthington

AT&T 5G Launches in Rochester, Bemidji and Southwestern Minnesota

News from AT&T…

ROCHESTER, October 26, 2020 — AT&T’s* 5G network – the Fastest Nationwide 5G Network – is now live for consumers and businesses in Rochester, Bemidji and southwestern Minnesota.

With this deployment, consumers and businesses in Rochester, Bemidji, Pipestone, Worthington, Fairmont and Springfield with a 5G-capable device and qualifying plan will now have access to AT&T’s 5G service delivered using low-band spectrum.

“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 Paul Weirtz, state president of AT&T Minnesota. “We consistently work to provide better coverage for Minnesota’s communities. And we’re investing in our wireless network across the state to accomplish that.”

New FirstNet Cell Site in Northern Minnesota to be Among the First Primarily Powered by Solar in Midwest Region (St Louis County)

Big news from AT&T…

First responders in Northern Minnesota will soon be getting a major boost in their wireless communications with construction underway of a new, purpose-built FirstNet cell site – one of the first primarily powered by solar in the Midwest.

The site – located on the Echo Trail north of Ely near Orr, Minnesota – is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety. The remote site was identified by state and public safety stakeholders as a priority location for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re 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. Working with public safety, we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19.”

FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It’s built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government.

That’s why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Plus, it’s giving first responders unthrottled access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience.1

Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. Currently well ahead of schedule, the FirstNet build has already brought Minnesota first responders:

  • Purpose-built network enhancements New FirstNet cell sites in Minnesota – located in Zerkel and Graceville – have also launched. These sites were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations. With FirstNet, it’s about where first responders need connectivity. That’s what is driving our FirstNet build. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Band 14 has also been added on more than 300 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Baxter/Brainerd area.
  • Reaching Rural Minnesota – FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means every first responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. That’s why connecting remote parts of America is one of our top priorities. We’re collaborating with rural network providers to help build out additional LTE coverage and extend FirstNet’s reach in rural and tribal communities.
  • Public safety-specific advanced capabilities – FirstNet is the only nationwide platform that gives first responders entire communication ecosystem of unique benefits including mission-centric devices, certified applications and always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data. This is like giving public safety communications the “lights and sirens” treatment so that they stay connected, no matter the emergency.
  • Unparalleled emergency support – Minnesota agencies on FirstNet also have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can either be deployed for planned events or in emergencies at no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations – led by a group of former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.
  • Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies – We’ve also expanded the benefits of FirstNet for Minnesota agencies – spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations. Now, they can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for life at no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile—Unlimited plans.2 This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Where public safety goes, we go. We’ve answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it’s hitting the mark.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And these network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Minnesota first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.”

In addition to further elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, this new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses 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 FirstNet.com.

Fall Lake Township is getting broadband from Zito Media (Lake County)

Ely Echo reports on a Fall Lake Township meeting earlier this week…

Fall Lake Township residents, broadband is coming. That is what T.C. Leveille with Zito Media told the supervisors and the 10 citizens attending the township meeting Tuesday night.
“The main roads will be worked on first,” said Leveille, “and then branch out from there. Year-round residents would be first, then seasonal places.”
Hopefully more residents will have broadband connection by spring. Leveille said Zito is looking for a building to store equipment. He said there may be a possibility for free services in exchange for a storage area.
He said Fall Lake has areas that are more inaccessible because of ledge rock and a pole attachment agreement would have to be reached with Lake Country Power and Minnesota Power.
Leveille was asked if there is a possibility of going under Fall Lake to access the north side of the lake. He said he would have to check into that, but Supervisor Eric Hart said it is hard to get approval from the DNR.
Sheila Gruba asked if Zito could have an article in the Ely Echo about the broadband progress for Fall Lake and have contact information for Zito so residents who are interested in connecting to broadband could get on a list.
Gruba said Town of Morse has received funds from IRRRB for broadband, and maybe Fall Lake could get funding also.
Supervisor Craig Seliskar said Ulland Brothers received the big for the Cloquet Line project, and the bid came in under the estimated cost. Seliskar had a scheduled meeting with Ulland and TKDA Engineering Thursday morning and said work would be starting on Monday, October 12. The work would include clearing, widening and culvert replacement. Ulland hopes to keep one lane of traffic open with a pilot car or flagmen.

I didn’t know Zito Media; it looks like they provide wireless and cable options.

CoBank reports that Rural Broadband Valuations Remain High

CoBank recently released a report that indicates that rural broadband is a good investment. Here’s a two minute video that explains why.

As Jeff Johnston points out this is a time when folks are looking to acquire rural broadband companies including WISPS (wireless internet service providers). It’s good news for communities so long as the acquiring company is intersted in investment after the acquisition.