Border to Border Broadband meeting in Spicer

According to the West Central Tribune there’s a meeting in Spicer to discuss the recent Border to Border broadband grant (next meeting April 4)…

The second in a series of meetings on broadband expansion in northern Kandiyohi County will be at 5 p.m. [yesterday] today at the Dethlefs Center in Spicer.

Representatives of Consolidated Telecommunications Co. will be on hand to explain the project and answer questions. Those who live or do business within the proposed project zone also will have an opportunity to sign up for future services.

Consolidated Telecommunications was awarded a grant earlier this year through the Minnesota Office of Broadband Technology to bring high-speed internet to unserved rural neighborhoods in north central Kandiyohi County.

They were talking what they need to happen to help the project succeed…

Connie Schmoll, business development specialist for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, said 53 people attended the first meeting, which was held Monday evening.

Consolidated Telecommunications Co. needs at least half of the potential customer base within the target area to become subscribers in order to make the project financially feasible. Because of the state grant funds, those who sign up during the project deployment will not be charged installation fees, Schmoll said.

Monthly fees are competitive with services offered by other local carriers. Bundles that include landline telephone service and TV also will be offered if there’s enough interest.

A final informational meeting with CTC will be held at 5 p.m. April 4 at the Dethlefs Center in Spicer.

MN House Job Growth Budget – $7 million for broadband grants for one year only

Earlier today I posted the Senate budget for broadband ($10 million a year for 2 years). Now I have the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee posted proposed budget today.

Here’s what they have for broadband: Broadband (HF1618 Baker/HF841 Sandstede) (Border to Border Grants)

  • FY 2018 – $7 million
  • FY 2019 – 0
  • FY 2020 – 0
  • 2021– 0

They budget $250,000/year for the Office of Broadband Development from 2018-2021.

Both the Senate and the House are far from the $50 million a year proposed by the MN Broadband Task Force and the $30 million a year proposed by the Governor.

MN Senate Jobs Omnibus Budget Spreadsheet – Broadband Grant funding through FY 2018-19

I try to follow what’s going on at the State in terms of funding for broadband. Yesterday I ran across the Senate Jobs Omnibus Budget Spreadsheet. There are a couple of interesting items related to broadband.

  • The Governor’s proposed appropriation for Border to Border grant for 2018-19 is $60 Million ($30 million per year) with $500,000 ($250,000 per year) for the Office of Broadband Development
  • The Senate’s proposed appropriation for Border to Border grant for 2018-19 is $20 Million ($10 million per year) with $500,000 ($250,000 per year) for the Office of Broadband Development
  • Neither have proposed funding for the grants for FY2 20-21
  • Both have proposed funding of $500,000) ($250,000 per year) for the Office of Broadband Development for 2020-21

Telepsychiatry project saves $2,500 per patient

I know a lot of us are talking to people (policymakers, providers, community leaders) about the importance of broadband. So I’m going to try to track some short, sharp benefits of broadband. For example, the University of South Carolina recently posted an article on the benefits of broadband and mental health…

Using telehealth technology, mental health professionals in larger metropolitan areas access patients in those rural or remote locations and make treatment recommendations to the local health provider. More than 30,000 patients in South Carolina have been evaluated through Narasimhan’s telepsychiatry projects with a calculated savings of $2,500 per patient compared with traditional face-to-face treatment.

Cost saving appeals to insurance companies and other payers whose buy-in is key to getting psychiatrist participation, Narasimhan says. That is especially important in a state like South Carolina, which has just 10 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.

Using telehealth technology, mental health professionals in larger metropolitan areas access patients in those rural or remote locations and make treatment recommendations to the local health provider. More than 30,000 patients in South Carolina have been evaluated through Narasimhan’s telepsychiatry projects with a calculated savings of $2,500 per patient compared with traditional face-to-face treatment.

Cost saving appeals to insurance companies and other payers whose buy-in is key to getting psychiatrist participation, Narasimhan says. That is especially important in a state like South Carolina, which has just 10 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.

Broadband competition is essential to better service and lower costs in rural areas

Brookings recently took a look at broadband in rural areas – postulating that competition is a key component to quality broadband in rural areas…

It can be tempting to accept the view that, in an environment of scarce government resources and competing interests, merely ensuring broadband access from a single provider is enough – especially as an improvement on a status quo with little or no access at all. History tells a cautionary tale, though. In 1913, the U.S. Department of Justice settled an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T by essentially accepting AT&T’s monopoly in exchange for the build-out of the nation’s telephone system. AT&T worked hard to uphold its end of the bargain, but it was decades before competitive markets were free to serve consumers, stimulate innovation, and avoid unnecessary regulation.

In other words, as a nation, we should embrace both expanded broadband deployment and expanded broadband competition. Without competition, the pressure from consumers for better and cheaper broadband will naturally ease, and rural America could fall even further behind.

They note that for the very first time, the Federal Communications Commission concluded in 2015 that the disparity between urban and rural access to broadband provided the basis for direct agency action.

the recent FCC study found that 58 percent of rural Census blocks did not have a “fixed” broadband service provider offering broadband speeds at speeds of 25 megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload or better as of December 31, 2015. 25/3 is scarcely the fastest residential broadband – the same study shows 15.1 percent of fixed broadband connections had downstream speeds of at least 100 Mbps – but it does represent the speeds most recently established by the FCC as the broadband benchmark.

And show the breakdown of competition in rural and urban areas…

And they tell a few stories of what happens when competition happens…

For example, when the FCC looked at the use of municipal broadband (in an order that has since been reversed by an appellate court on legal grounds), it set out evidence showing that the presence of an additional broadband provider pushes down the prices and increases the quality of both new and incumbent providers. In other words, such competition is “win-win.” It benefits those consumers who switch and even those that do not but who gain from faster download speeds resulting from the incumbent’s response to competitive pressures.

Akamai Q4 (2016) broadband report is out – MN ranks 25-29 depending on the category

The latest Akamai Report is out Q4 (2016). They measure worldwide broadband adoption and speeds. Turns out Minnesota is pretty middle of the pack. Really Minnesota doesn’t even rank well enough to make the report (they only list “top 10) but the folks at Akamai are kind enough to send me our stats.

I’ve included below charts from the report – followed by Minnesota stats…

Average connection speed:

We rank #26 with an average connection speed of 16.2 Mbps – that’s a slight increase over Q3 (1.5 percent) but a nice increase from 2015 (8.5 percent).

Average peak connection speed:

We rank #27 with an average peak connection speed of 76.3 Mbps – that’s an increase over Q3 (3.5 percent) but a very nice increase from 2015 (24 percent).

4 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 29 with 88 percent having access. That’s an increase of 1.1 percent from Q3 and 5.1 percent from 2015.

10 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 26 with 60 percent having access. That’s an increase of 6.5 percent from Q3 and 16 percent from 2015.

15 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 25 with 39 percent having access. That’s an increase of 5.2 percent from Q3 and 20 percent from 2015.

25 Mbps broadband adoption:

We rank 26 with 14 percent having access. That’s an decrease of .1 percent from Q3 and an increase of 17 percent from 2015.

There’s a slight dip in growth in the 25 Mbps category. We weren’t the only state to see a decrease there and the decrease is slight (.1 percent) so that isn’t too concerning. What is concerning is the stronghold we have on middle of the pack standing!

It is disheartening to rank #27 for peak connection speed with 76.3 Mbps. It’s not great to be #27 – but again more concerning is that while the average peak for the state is 76.3 Mbps 12 percent of the state doesn’t have access to 4 Mbps. That’s quite a digital divide.

Paul Bunyan GigaZone Comes to Hines and areas of Blackduck

Happy to share the big news!

The GigaZone Comes to Hines and areas of Blackduck
One of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the United States continues to grow;
Now available to more than 33,400 locations in northern Minnesota

(Bemidji, MN) (March 20, 2017) – Paul Bunyan Communications has announced that the GigaZone has come to Hines and areas of Blackduck. As a result of continued upgrades to the Cooperative’s all-fiber optic communications network over 700 more locations now have access to GigaZone services including Internet speeds up to a Gigabit per second.

“We’ve made great progress on upgrading our network to incorporate even more members into the GigaZone over the past several months.  I’m very proud of all the hard work our cooperative has put in so far as we put our membership and region at the forefront of the very latest in communication networks.  We will continue to do as much as we can to bring the GigaZone to all our members and the communities we serve as fast as we can.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

The GigaZone is currently available to over 33,400 locations, making it one of the largest rural all-fiber optic networks in the United States!  Check out our online map http://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/map/ showing the current areas of the GigaZone as well as those that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.

Paul Bunyan Communications recently mailed out information to the new locations that are now in the GigaZone and the cooperative has an online map available at http://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/map/ showing the active areas of the GigaZone as well as those areas that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.

“If you are wondering when the GigaZone will reach you, the online map of the active areas and plans for the next two years is a great resource.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

GigaZone service options include unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit.  Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited long distance service.  All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.

Most current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds.  To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,000 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.  The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Service up to a Gigabit per second, digital and high definition television services, Smart Home services, digital voice services, and more.   Service availability depends upon location, some restrictions may apply.