Tiger 4G And AT&T work together to get Franklin Township online

The Delano Herald Journal reports on a story of provider collaboration to get broadband to a community that needed, especially in an era of sheltering in place. The innovation at the most local level is great; partnering with incumbent or upstream providers at the early stage is a key piece in making the network work. …

For many people working from home and students participating in distance learning online, internet service is a necessity.

That necessity was in jeopardy for the 240 people in Franklin Township, Independence, and Greenfield who utilize Tiger 4G Internet.

In fact, it appeared as if service was being terminated all together.

Tiger 4G owner Ken Beamish said a change in terms with AT&T prompted an AT&T employee to start shutting off customers’ accounts.

The owner reached out to social media, which helped make the connections he needed…

“Enough people called (Rep.) Joe McDonald and (US Rep.) Tom Emmer, and they got involved,” Beamish said. “(Delano Public Schools Superintendent) Matt Schoen called Tom and Joe, as well.”

McDonald and Emmer are familiar with AT&T’s lobbyists at the state and federal levels and got them connected with Beamish, who was then able to get a hold of the right people at AT&T to restore service.

Those connections in turn helped the community get better connected..

He came up with a solution.

“I worked out a way with AT&T to offer a wireless program,” Beamish said. “I put a modem and wireless router in your house, just like your cell phone pulls it out of the air and your router broadcasts it.”

That results in speeds of 5 megabytes up to 70 megabytes, depending on proximity to cell towers.

He’s looking forward to keeping that service going for years to come.

NEO becomes GEO and can help with strategic hotspot placements

I just got an update from GEOspatial Engineering & Optimization (GEO, formerly NEO) about how they can help schools and other pick the most strategic placement of hotpots based on surrounding households. I know many schools (and perhaps others) have been racing to use hotpots to get better broadband to those who need it as quickly as possible to help people keep learning and earning and living online during the coronavirus threat. Here’s what they offer…

When we do an RF design study, we have the option to locate optimum places for hotspots and identify the number of households that are covered by them.

 

This was originally designed around Ruckus equipment, but the Cisco Aironet series will work with this model.  We would recommend 2.5 and 5 ghz channels be set to the 200mw setting and using the 6 db antennas.

 

The base display shows, based on a cutoff, in this case, of 10 households within wifi range, where we should place the hotspots.  These are the purple dots.

We can see alternative locations for hotspots indicating the # of households and hotspots required to service them.  By placing the mouse over a dot, we see the number of hotspots required in that area, the square miles of that area, and the number of households served.

 

We then can come up with an optimal installation strategy – minimizing distance traveled between each installation, shown both as waypoints, and as a route map.

Pandemic preparation for a local urban broadband providers: Community Networks with US Internet

Keeping up with broadband these days is becoming 24×7 job these days. I’m catching up a little bit over the weekend – starting with the Community Network’s podcast. This last week, Chris Mitchell spoke to Travis Carter of US Internet (USI) about what it’s like to provide broadband services during a pandemic.

First -their office is primarily working form home using Google Hangouts for meetings and a virtual private network to access local services and provide customer services. There are a few folks who aren’t working because that would break social distancing recommendations – but they are on staff and will remain so as long as possible.

They have seen a change in network traffic. It used to be that Sunday nights were the busiest time and now every day is like Sunday night. They do see an increase but it doesn’t compare with “Game of Thrones” busy. USI is focusing on keeping things running.

So why do some sites seem to run slow? It’s not the local providers. It’s because poplar sites don’t’ have the server power to handle the traffic.

The USI network in Minneapolis (with 2500 access points) is now open for free. There were about 7300 connections (at time of recording). They are running into some issues – but often that’s because people are trying to access wifi from their well-insulated, well-built home. The wifi just doesn’t move well through that barrier.

One funny note – they still have 1200 dialup customers! Not because USI can’t or won’t upgrade; they choose this level of connectivity. USI is working to see what might bring people online to a higher degree. They have tried different price points, adding television and partnering with device distributors, such as PCs for People.

Next Century Cities applauds the FCC’s efforts to increase spectrum available for WiFi

The latest from Next Century Cities…

Today the ​Federal Communications Commission (FCC) circulated draft rules permitting unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band. The proposal would allow unlicensed devices to share the band with incumbent licensed services, making 1,200 megahertz of spectrum available for unlicensed use.
Spectrum is a public resource that fuels wireless connectivity. ​The airwaves are allocated by the FCC to support mobile, satellite, broadcasting, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth networks — among other purposes. Wi-Fi networks, in particular, are essential in areas that do not have access to cable or fiber wireline.
Francella Ochillo, Executive Director, said: “The nationwide coronavirus shut-in has exposed the urgent need to connect every community, especially those in hard to reach areas. Cities, towns, and counties that are still waiting for fixed broadband connections could immediately benefit from wireless solutions that ultimately depend on access to spectrum. We applaud the FCC’s efforts to expand which populations benefit from this underutilized resource.”
Ryan Johnston, Policy Counsel, said: “Chairman Pai’s proposal would help support connectivity nationwide during this national emergency. As more people are asked to work, learn and live from home, this spectrum allocation could decrease congestion on wireless networks and complement wireline connections. It would also provide immediate options for unserved and underserved communities to get online​.​” ###
Next Century Cities ​ is a non-profit membership organization of over 200 communities, founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access. Next Century Cities celebrates broadband successes in communities, demonstrates their value, and helps other cities to realize the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible broadband. For more information, visit ​
http://www.nextcenturycities.org

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.

White Earth Tribal Council and local Blandin Broadband Community partner on local WiFi access

D-L Online reports on the Partnership between the local Blandin Broadband Community Initiative and White Earth Tribal Council  …

The council passed a resolution to partner with the Blandin Foundation to provide funding for community projects to help promote the access and use of broadband for members across the reservation. Examples given in the presentation were Wi-Fi access to community members, libraries, community workforce, and schools.

FCC Announces Plan to Launch $9 Billion 5G Fund for Rural America

FCC announces

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit
Pai announced today that he intends to establish the 5G Fund, which would make up to $9
billion in Universal Service Fund support available to carriers to deploy advanced 5G mobile
wireless services in rural America. This major investment in rural America would be allocated
through a reverse auction and would target hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations and/or
rugged terrain. The $9 billion Fund also would set aside at least $1 billion specifically for
deployments facilitating precision agriculture needs.
“5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including
wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than
today’s 4G LTE networks,” said Chairman Pai. “We want to make sure that rural Americans
enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the
Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow.
Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen
across the country. That’s why I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G
Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas and would reserve some of
that funding for 5G networks that promote precision agriculture. We must ensure that 5G
narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that
come from wireless innovation.”
The 5G Fund would replace the planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which would have provided
federal support for 4G LTE service in unserved areas. Pursuant to the Mobility Fund Phase II
rules, wireless providers were required to submit 4G LTE coverage data in order to help the
Commission target federal subsidies to unserved parts of the country. The Mobility Fund
Phase II challenge process gave stakeholders an opportunity to dispute these coverage maps by
submitting speed tests to the Commission. But in a report released today, Commission staff
finds that the 4G LTE coverage data submitted by providers is not sufficiently reliable for the
purpose of moving forward with Mobility Fund Phase II.
Specifically, FCC staff conducted thousands of speed tests to measure network performance
and concluded that the MF-II coverage maps submitted by certain carriers likely overstated
each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground experience in many
instances.
The staff report recommends that the Commission terminate the challenge process, audit the
coverage filings of carriers in other proceedings before the Commission, and take additional
steps to make sure that coverage data the Commission and the public rely on is accurate. The
report, which includes additional staff recommendations regarding future collections of mobile
coverage maps, is available here: DOC-361165A1.pdf.
Data files containing the approximately 25,000 speed tests taken by FCC staff and
approximately 20 million speed tests taken by challengers are available for download here:
https://www.fcc.gov/mobility-fund-phase-2#data
Chairman Pai praised the work of the agency staff on this investigation and report. “I thank the
FCC’s dedicated staff for their diligence in conducting the investigation that led to this report.
This investigation highlights the importance of drive testing to verify mobile coverage claims.
Staff drove nearly 10,000 miles in the course of conducting speed tests of carrier networks, an
unprecedented effort that provided vital information about the extent of actual coverage on the
ground. Mobile carriers must submit accurate broadband coverage data to the Commission.
Simply put, we need to make sure that federal funding goes to areas that need it the most,” said
Chairman Pai.
The Commission recently created the Digital Opportunity Data Collection and has also sought
comment on how to improve the reliability and accuracy of the data submitted by mobile
broadband providers.

Quick primer on 5G phones – lowband vs highband – in time for Black Friday

I understand 5G technology as well as the next guy. But I don’t know phones. So when I saw this article I knew I better read it before I see my family for Thanksgiving because I know someone will ask me about 5G phones before they go Christmas shopping. I thought there might be readers in the same boat so I wanted to share.

Light Reading outlines why there’s a difference between lowband and highband phones – but inherent in the description is a Readers Digest description of the differences…

If you’re shopping for a 5G phone in the US this holiday season, you’ll have to make a choice: Do you want a lowband 5G phone or a highband 5G phone?

Because you will not be able to purchase a phone that does both.

A bit of info on the difference between low and high band…

Highband 5G is typically only available in select parts of a few big cities, based on the relatively short distances such signals can propagate — but highband 5G can support superfast connections. Lowband 5G, on the other hand, can cover wide geographic areas but can’t support superfast connections.

And the why, which should seal the deal of your tech genius…

The reason US shoppers are being forced to make this choice is because handset makers like Samsung and others don’t yet have access to the kinds of chips (like Qualcomm’s X55) that can run 5G concurrently in both lowband spectrum and highband spectrum. Those chips are scheduled to arrive sometime next year.

The issue is partly due to the fact that highband spectrum (also called millimeter-wave spectrum, which typically sits about 20GHz) is relatively new to the commercial wireless industry. For the past 40 years or so, most cellular communications have been conducted in midband and lowband spectrum.

Democratic candidates’ take on broadband plan – and IIA’s view to 5G

Next Gov recently ran a letter to the editor from Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chairman of Internet Innovation Alliance. It gives a quick synopsis on how Democtractic candidates are leaning in regards to broadband…

In a very crowded Democratic primary—October’s presidential primary debate was the largest in American history—the issue of broadband access is popping up with great (and welcome) frequency. With this month’s debate fast-approaching on Nov. 20, candidates are continuing to try to distinguish themselves and, as often happens in campaigns, there’s a bidding war going on.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, has proposed spending $20 billion on broadband access; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren quadruples that with a proposal for $85 billion. Not to be outdone, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to spend $150 billion on broadband deployment (as former Sen. Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there; pretty soon you’re talking about real money”).  Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to connect every house to the internet by 2022 as part of a $1 trillion plan to improve the country’s infrastructure. …

Mayor Pete Buttigieg favors a “public option” for broadband in areas “[w]here companies have not provided coverage or where it is unaffordable”, with a total cost of about $80 billion.

Mehlman’s not very positive of most of their plans in short because he seems to prefer a provider-focused plan and his focus seems to be on 5G…

If the private sector does not have the right incentives to invest in broadband deployments, how can it invest the tens, even hundreds, of billions each year that will be necessary for the full deployment of 5G wireless technology? Without those investments, we cannot make the next leaps in connectivity and security—things like truly connected cars, the internet of things, and other innovations that will improve our daily lives even more radically than in the past decade. If the dollars do not come from the private sector, we can expect presidential candidates in 2024 or 2028 to call for trillions in government investments, while bemoaning our national failure to keep up with Chinese 5G investments that are happening today.

Worse, some of the Democratic candidates’ proposals would permit this spending only for certain types of groups—not private-sector network operators who have delivered broadband across the country for the past 20 years … but instead only for local governments, nonprofits, and cooperative organizations. Some candidates explicitly favor government-funded networks to the exclusion of private players.

He has a solution…

Fortunately, there is a better way: Encourage private sector investments and then target federal funding to areas that, principally for reasons of geography, are difficult to serve. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—or to shift broadband to government-owned-and-operated networks—for everyone to enjoy fast broadband service across the country.

But the focus on 5G gives me pause to question how highly he has prioritized rural America in his plan.