MN Broadband Task Force Sep Meeting: Education acerbated needs and creative tech solutions during pandemic

Today the MN Broadband Task Force heard from folks who work to help families and children get and use the technology they need – especially in these times of distance and hybrid learning. They also heard from folks involved with Blandin Foundation Accelerate!, a program that supported and recharged some of the least served communities in Minnesota. (Blandin in looking for a new cohort of Accelerate communities!)

Hand outs from the day:

TF Connected MN MN Broadband Task Force_09.15.21 Final
TF MilleLacs slides broadband task force 9.15.21
TF Online Learning Update – 9-2021

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting Continue reading

Recommendations for reforming universal service to keep it around longer!

SHLB Coalition, INCOMPAS, and NTCA, with support from Public Knowledge recently released a report on Reforming Universal Service Contributions Mechanism, which could also be called – how to save Universal Service and help keep more online at all incomes. They look at some options…

To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the pro[1]gram’s future. At the request of INCOMPAS, NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, this report analyzes several options for FCC reform of the current status quo that have been pending in FCC rulemakings dating back to the early 2000’s: (1) modifying the current revenues-based contribution methodology to assess broadband internet access service revenues, (2) assessing connections, or (3) assessing telephone numbers.

They make recommendations…

Reforming the current revenues-based system to include broadband internet access service revenues is the preferred approach, both as a matter of policy and ease of implementation. Doing so would reduce the contribution factor to less than 4%.

First, it is appropriate as a matter of public policy to assess broadband internet access service revenues because all four programs in the USF promote universal broadband. The revenues from broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all. This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.

Second, broadband internet access service revenues are expected to be stable in the future, with the potential for some modest growth. This would stabilize the funding mechanism and stop the death spiral in the current USF contribution methodology.

Third, it is a solution that can be implemented more quickly than the alternatives. It would be far less uncertain than seeking congressional intervention and can be done by the FCC pursuant to its current statutory mandate. FCC reform of the USF contribution mechanism now is an important first step in stabilizing the current system.

Fourth, there is a significant advantage to retaining the current revenues-based system because most of the revenues reported to the FCC for USF purposes come from publicly traded companies that are audited and subject to stringent financial

reporting standards for their revenues. This external financial scrutiny would provide an additional level of assurance that the metric used to assess USF contributions is accurately reported.

Fifth, assessing both broadband internet access service and voice services removes the incentives of providers to arbitrarily allocate revenues from bundled services to one service and not the other. This creates an inequitable situation where some end users continue to pay into USF, while others do not, yet everyone benefits from the positive network externalities of universal connectivity made possible from the four USF programs that support broad[1]band-capable networks and service.

Reform of the current system of financing universal service is long overdue. The FCC has sought comment multiple times on various permutations of the options analyzed in this report and has the ability to move forward to assess broadband internet access service revenues without congressional action. The rapid increase in the contribution factor over the last decade and potentially in the future puts the stability of the entire USF at risk. While other proposals to help finance universal broadband may warrant further examination, the FCC should reform the current contribution methodology now to assess broadband internet access service revenues.

FCC expands Emergency Broadband Benefit Program eligibility for another year

The FCC reports

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces that it will expand the school years that will be acceptable for eligibility determination purposes for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program).  As a result of this change, households that can demonstrate participation in the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program for the 2021-2022 school year will now be eligible for the benefit.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA or Act)[1] provides that households with members who are approved to participate in the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program are eligible for the EBB Program,[2] and the Commission’s rules adopted this eligibility criteria.[3]  In the EBB Program Order, the Commission clarified that, in addition to households that apply for and are approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program, households with students that are enrolled in schools that participate in the USDA Community Eligibility Provision will also be eligible for the EBB Program under the school lunch program or school breakfast program eligibility criteria.[4]  The Commission further agreed with commenters that proposed that the Commission allow proof of enrollment in these programs for either the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year, “given that many schools have been closed since mid-March 2020 due to the pandemic and students may not be enrolled in the programs” in the 2020-2021 school year.[5]  Based on the EBB Program Order, the EBB Program application and other EBB program guidance specifically identify the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years as eligible school years for purposes of qualifying for the EBB Program, but do not discuss any subsequent school years.

 

EVENT Sep 15: MN Broadband Task Force monthly meeting (topic: education)

The meeting is virtual; I plan to attend and will livestream – although the meeting is open to the public and you too can join directly…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband

September 15, 2021

10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer or mobile app

Click here to join the meeting

Join with a video conferencing device

mn@m.webex.com

Video Conference ID: 111 512 968 3

Alternate VTC instructions

10:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. Welcome, Task Force Introductions, Attendee Introductions and Approval of Minutes from July 28, 2021 Meeting

10:10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Office of Broadband Development Update

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. MN Department of Education Online/Distance Learning Presentation
Jeff Plaman, Online and Digital Learning Specialist

10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.  East Central MN Rural Broadband Panel
Heidi Steinmetz, Kanabec County Economic Development Director;
Lezlie Sauter, Pine County Economic Development Coordinator;
Beth Gruber, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Director of Planning & Community Engagement

11:15 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Break

11:20 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Partnership for a ConnectedMN (Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation)
Anne Hoyt Taff, Associate Vice President of Community Impact
Dustin Moretz, Community Initiatives Program Manager

11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ECMECC Digital Navigator Project
Marc Johnson, ECMECC
Dihanna Fedder, Digital Navigator, Pine City Public Schools

12:00 p.m. – 12:20 p.m.  Subgroup Reports

12:20 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Public Comment, Other Business, October Meeting Plans, Wrap-up

Fiber Minnesota creates statewide fiber network in MN

News from Fiber Minnesota…

Fiber Minnesota, LLC, a Minnesota fiber-optic transport carrier announced it has merged with fiber transport providers Broadband Visions (BBV) and SM Broadband (SMB) to create one of MN’s largest fiber transport networks.
The deal increases the Fiber Minnesota backbone network by more than 60% to a total of 3,900 route miles of fiber. The merged networks will operate under the Fiber Minnesota brand.
Combining the assets of these networks will enable MN’s rural telecom and broadband providers to deliver increasingly advanced services to consumers and carriers, faster and more efficiently.
“This merger is the culmination of 18 months of work, resulting in one of the largest and most robust fiber networks in the state, providing significant benefits for
consumers, enterprise customers, carriers, major wireless providers, the owners and the entire State,” said Jason Dale, Fiber Minnesota CEO. “As technology and rural
transport economics have changed, it’s clear that a unified state-wide network is a key ingredient to remaining relevant in the transport world. By combining these
complementary networks, we’ve taken another huge step forward. We are extremely excited for the opportunities this new combined network provides.”
The expanded Fiber Minnesota footprint connects nearly all corners of the state with multiple redundant routes, including rural areas often bypassed by other players.
This merger comes after the successful 2020 acquisition by Cooperative Network Services (CNS) of the WCTG fiber network, its integration with the original CNS network, and the subsequent launch of subsidiary Fiber Minnesota for all CNS network operations. The members of BBV and SMB join CNS as shareholders of Fiber Minnesota, together representing 33 different owners or ownership groups, most of which are operating companies / ISPs serving rural Minnesota and neighboring areas. BBV continues
to operate its video headend and Internet services divisions, while SMB has completely merged into Fiber Minnesota.
According to Glenn Zerbe, Board Chair of BBV / President of Nuvera Communications, “The broad ownership base is an advantage for Fiber Minnesota as it partners with its own shareholders for the connectivity of its core network to a staggering network of last-mile fiber throughout the
state. Consumers and institutions, especially those in rural areas, will experience a higher degree of reliability for broadband and related services. All three of these networks complement each other, and their combination removes redundancies and offers greater scale. The ability to keep
more traffic on-net is imperative as the transport network industry evolves.”
The motivation to combine these networks was clear with BBV, CNS and SMB all having multiple shareholders in common, and each network having significant overlapping segments with the others. However, it was still a tall order to rally all the companies involved.
“There have been multiple efforts over the years to put our statewide independent network back together here in Minnesota. We were fortunate this time around with the right people, the right model, and the right time for it all to come together. The benefits of this merger would not have
been possible without the fantastic leadership of the BBV, SMB, CNS, and FM management teams and shareholders,” said Bill Eckles, President of SMB / CEO of Bevcomm. “The merged network fits strategically for the long term provision of critical broadband services.”
Similar to surrounding states Minnesota’s fiber transport landscape has long been made up of smaller regional networks, but as technology and the industry have evolved, so too has the need for a larger, unified network. For years, Minnesota has differed from neighboring states, where the independent telecommunications / broadband providers joined forces decades ago to create statewide networks – enjoying robust facilities and advanced centralized solutions.
“This is a big win for the independent telecom providers in MN and for the customers they serve,” said Dean Bahls, Fiber Minnesota’s Network Operations Manager.
“Minnesota has now achieved the ‘statewide fiber network’ many other surrounding states have enjoyed for years.
The increased footprint will provide direct connectivity to nearly all of the independent ISPs in the state as well as connectivity to many more on-net customers throughout the state. Additionally, adding diverse connections to wholesale Internet providers and peering exchanges will be more cost-effective now and help contain
costs in the future — a key ingredient to a sustainable business model for rural
broadband providers in serving their customers, especially those in Greater
Minnesota and neighboring areas.”
Integration of the three networks will be phased over the next 24 to 36 months.
Streamlined quoting and turn-up With the increase of on-net route miles, quoting circuits will be faster, and pricing will be more competitive. Customers will enjoy highly available services, with faster resolution times.
Network of Networks
As with the current Fiber Minnesota network, through partnership with 702 Communications, the combined network will participate in the Aurora Fiber Optic Networks brand (aurorafonet.com), and through that partnership will continue to be a part of the INDATEL nationwide “network of networks”.

EVENT Sep 22: Wright County is looking at better broadband

Patch reports

 

Wright County is in the process of gathering information and public input on improving the county’s broadband capability and part of that process will include a public informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 in the Wright County Board Room at the Government Center in downtown Buffalo (10 Second St. NW).

The county has contracted with the firm Design Nine out of Blacksburg, Virginia to complete a broadband study which included a public survey that was mailed out to all county residents in August. Jack Maytum, a senior broadband analyst with Design Nine, will be making a presentation of the results and will answer questions residents might have concerning the project.

The goal is to connect the underserved areas of Wright County with high-speed internet. The study will serve as a guide for the implementation of an expanded and improved broadband network and provide strategies to address rural high-speed internet deficiencies. The study will also provide the standards required for the county to seek out funding for state and federal grant programs designed to improve broadband connectivity.

EVENT Sep 16: West Central Initiative’s Broadening Our Broadband

More info from the Perham Focus on West Central Initiative’s Broadening Our Broadband Regional event, which is part of a series of regional events happening before the Fall (online) Broadband Conference…

West Central Initiative will host Broadening Our Broadband, a discussion featuring a panel of rural broadband industry professionals and policy experts, on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 11 a.m. via Zoom.

The panel will focus on imagining new possibilities that come with enhanced broadband access, learning how communities can prepare for potential future funding opportunities and hearing how the region can leverage broadband access to better support students, businesses and communities. You can register for the event at wcif.org/events.

“High-speed internet access is fundamental to vibrant rural communities,” said Anna Wasescha, West Central Initiative president. “It supports economic development, high-quality health care, equitable education, and more. Broadband discussions … are particularly important in helping to form our region’s long-term, comprehensive broadband implementation strategy. Broadband is no longer a want—it’s a need.”

The panel will feature:

  • Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation;
  • Greg Wagner, director of business and economic development at West Central Initiative;
  • Diane Wells, deputy director of the Office of Broadband Development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development;
  • Amy Baldwin, community development director for Otter Tail County;
  • Todd Johnson, Traverse County Commissioner;
  • Ann Treacy, owner and founder of Treacy Information Services and researcher and contributor to the Blandin on Broadband blog

EVENT Sep 18: National Day of Civic Hacking

An invitation from the Code for America Team…

Whether you’ve attended one Code for America Brigade meetup, or you’re a regular attendee, we wanted to make sure you knew about our upcoming National Day of Civic Hacking event on September 18. This is an opportunity to use your time and skills to help transform our 911 emergency system. Right now, our 911 system often deploys an armed law enforcement response as a one-size-fits-all solution regardless of the caller’s needs.

But what if our country’s emergency response system were “people-first”? There is a growing movement to reimagine this system, starting by understanding its levers for change. That’s where the Code for America community comes in.

Register now to join National Day of Civic Hacking 2021. On Saturday, September 18, join fellow civic leaders, public servants, designers, coders, data scientists, and activists for our 9th annual National Day of Civic Hacking—a day of action to partner with local communities and tackle some of our toughest challenges.

This year our theme is “Reimagining 911.” We’ve partnered with Transform 911 to understand, evaluate, and reimagine a human-centered approach to the emergency response system.

This virtual event kicks off with a panel at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET followed by working time, an optional lunch-and-learn, and closing remarks. Participants have the option to work independently or with their local Brigade, community group, or assigned volunteer group.

During working time, our coordinated action teams will participate in the following actions:

– Open Data: Research & Scorecard

– Data Analysis

– Prototyping: Case Studies & exploring “How Might We” Statements

We welcome people of all skill levels as well as new and returning volunteers alike. While “hacking” is in the name, you don’t need to know how to code to participate. There will be actions available to leverage different skills, technical and nontechnical. Check out our FAQs to learn more about National Day of Civic Hacking.

See you on the 18th,

The Code for America Team

To reply to this message, please contact brigade-info@codeforamerica.org

2021 MN Broadband County Ranking for 25/3 speeds – how do you rank?

The 2021 MN County broadband maps are up on the Office of Broadband Development websites, showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. Now I’m looking at the maps that reflect county access to wirelines broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up as of April 1, 2021. This is the speed goal for Minnesota for 2022. I’ll paste the full list below, but it might be easier to access the spreadsheet of the new speeds and ranking. (You can see the 100/20 ranking too.)

In the past, I’ve looked at the top and bottom 10 counties but I think we’re past the point of celebrating the counties for reaching speeds of 25/3. Unfortunately this is more of a wake-up call to the counties that aren’t poised to hit the 2022 goal. The good news is that almost half of the MN Counties (40 of 87) have more than 90 percent coverage of 25/3 access. The bad news is that leaves a lot of counties needing more, with a special nod to Pine and Murray Counties, which has less than 60 percent coverage.

You can get the details below – the map at the right is a clear look too at the areas that need help – the lighter the color, the more help you need.

county coverage 25-3 ranking
Aitkin 64.32 84
Anoka 98.72 13
Becker 92.53 34
Beltrami 99.49 7
Benton 92.88 31
Big Stone 99.48 8
Blue Earth 84.78 49
Brown 84.66 50
Carlton 72.79 77
Carver 93.32 26
Cass 94.02 24
Chippewa 86.26 46
Chisago 79.21 63
Clay 95.66 20
Clearwater 99.76 5
Cook 94.5 22
Cottonwood 71.12 79
Crow Wing 90.01 40
Dakota 97.98 14
Dodge 84.86 48
Douglas 90.94 38
Faribault 92.42 35
Fillmore 72.47 78
Freeborn 88 43
Goodhue 81.66 58
Grant 95.44 21
Hennepin 99.21 12
Houston 92.86 32
Hubbard 97.18 17
Isanti 78.5 66
Itasca 93.03 29
Jackson 69.86 81
Kanabec 60.34 85
Kandiyohi 88.68 42
Kittson 80.2 60
Koochiching 76.21 72
Lac qui Parle 99.84 4
Lake 93.34 25
Lake of the Woods 77.55 70
Le Sueur 79.35 62
Lincoln 99.33 10
Lyon 84.52 51
Mahnomen 87.15 45
Marshall 78.36 67
Martin 81.51 59
McLeod 82.86 56
Meeker 74.92 74
Mille Lacs 74.46 76
Morrison 79 64
Mower 90.13 39
Murray 58.05 86
Nicollet 83.87 52
Nobles 83.71 53
Norman 79.45 61
Olmsted 95.88 18
Otter Tail 90.97 37
Pennington 99.37 9
Pine 52.02 87
Pipestone 82.54 57
Polk 93.02 30
Pope 82.95 55
Ramsey 99.86 3
Red Lake 99.99 1
Redwood 76.12 73
Renville 74.48 75
Rice 94.18 23
Rock 99.93 2
Roseau 87.44 44
Scott 93.26 27
Sherburne 95.78 19
Sibley 70.05 80
St. Louis 85.5 47
Stearns 93.26 28
Steele 89.59 41
Stevens 99.22 11
Swift 99.54 6
Todd 77.01 71
Traverse 67.87 82
Wabasha 78.33 68
Wadena 97.36 16
Waseca 78.65 65
Washington 97.88 15
Watonwan 77.62 69
Wilkin 83.1 54
Winona 91.65 36
Wright 92.71 33
Yellow Medicine 64.65 83

FCC will study cost of landlords’ broadband deals

Yahoo News reports

The Federal Communications Commission wants to learn whether deals between landlords and internet service providers raise prices for apartment dwellers as part of the Biden administration’s push on increasing competition in the economy.

Why it matters: Despite cities having more competition among broadband providers, those in apartment buildings can be stuck with one provider because of the arrangements.

Driving the news: A senior agency official told Axios the FCC on Tuesday will begin seeking comment on the impact certain practices have on tenants, including:

  • Revenue sharing agreements in which the landlord takes a percentage of the revenue an internet service provider receives, incentivizing the landlord to steer tenants to that provider.

  • Exclusive wiring agreements that involve a landlord saying only one internet provider can use a building’s wires to provide service.

  • Exclusive marketing agreements where only one company can market its services in the building.

Residents in urban areas don’t realize that there are residents and whole communities in rural area that no real competition for broadband provider. And if they do they think somehow only one provider has permission to serve a certain area. I think these deals with landlords are the closest an urban experience gets to understanding rural. They aren’t any federal rules prohibiting other providers from serving an apartment building but the landlord has made deals (and sometimes they are exclusive) that makes it much easier for one provider. The same way the state or federal funding may make it easier for one provider to enter a rural market.

The result is the same – it promotes a lack of competition.

2021 MN Broadband County Ranking for speeds of 100/20 – how do you rank?

The 2021 MN County broadband maps are up on the Office of Broadband Development websites, showing percentage of each county with (and without) broadband access. Now I’m looking at the maps that reflects county access to wirelines broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up as of April 1, 2021. This is the speed goal for Minnesota for 2026. I’ll paste the full list below, but it might be easier to access the spreadsheet of the new speeds and ranking or spreadsheet of ranking over the last three years. (I’ll work on the 25/3 map next.)

Here are the Top 10 Counties (with percentage of coverage)

  1. Rock – 99.93
  2. Ramsey – 99.84
  3. Lac qui Parle – 99.83
  4. Clearwater – 99.59
  5. Swift – 99.5
  6. Beltrami – 99.25
  7. Lincoln – 99.03
  8. Hennepin – 98.98
  9. Big Stone – 98.6
  10. Pennington – 98.19

The top three are the same as last year. Congrats to them. Clearwater and Lincoln are the newest additions to the Top 10. Clearwater went from #22 to #4; Lincoln wen from #83 to #7. Very big congrats to them!! It’s worth noting that the top 26 ranked counties all have greater than 90 percent coverage.

Bottom 10 MN Counties for Speeds of 100/20 (starting with worst with percentage of coverage)

  1. Kanabec – 26.24 (rank 87)
  2. Pine – 39.89 (rank 86)
  3. Redwood – 40.04 (rank 85)
  4. Faribault – 43.95 (rank 84)
  5. Yellow Medicine – 48.81 (rank 83)
  6. Todd – 49.93 (rank 82)
  7. Isanti – 50.21 (rank 81)
  8. Traverse – 50.97 (rank 80)
  9. Carlton – 52.08 (rank 79)
  10. Aitkin – 52.96 (rank 78)

There’s been some moving around within the list but most of these counties are familiar with their standing at the bottom. Unfortunately Carlton is the latest addition; they replaced Lincoln County.

county coverage 100/20 ranking
Aitkin 52.96 78
Anoka 97.41 12
Becker 73.41 57
Beltrami 99.25 6
Benton 90.25 24
Big Stone 98.6 9
Blue Earth 80.76 40
Brown 75.99 50
Carlton 52.08 79
Carver 90.2 25
Cass 64.02 71
Chippewa 82.67 37
Chisago 73.34 58
Clay 89.08 26
Clearwater 99.59 4
Cook 94.5 16
Cottonwood 67.2 66
Crow Wing 86.38 30
Dakota 97.57 11
Dodge 80.62 41
Douglas 72.89 59
Faribault 43.95 84
Fillmore 56.36 75
Freeborn 85.89 32
Goodhue 76.09 48
Grant 71.99 61
Hennepin 98.98 8
Houston 75.26 51
Hubbard 91.71 21
Isanti 50.21 81
Itasca 86.65 29
Jackson 68.84 65
Kanabec 26.24 87
Kandiyohi 74.82 53
Kittson 80.13 42
Koochiching 72.85 60
Lac qui Parle 99.83 3
Lake 93.32 19
Lake of the Woods 74.31 55
Le Sueur 76 49
Lincoln 99.03 7
Lyon 82.31 38
Mahnomen 71.73 62
Marshall 77.39 46
Martin 66.71 68
McLeod 58.09 74
Meeker 60.51 72
Mille Lacs 60.1 73
Morrison 73.96 56
Mower 84.95 35
Murray 54.37 77
Nicollet 78.49 45
Nobles 81.24 39
Norman 55 76
Olmsted 93.9 17
Otter Tail 67.02 67
Pennington 98.19 10
Pine 39.89 86
Pipestone 80.11 43
Polk 91.72 20
Pope 74.48 54
Ramsey 99.84 2
Red Lake 93.85 18
Redwood 40.04 85
Renville 70.86 63
Rice 85.58 33
Rock 99.93 1
Roseau 85.23 34
Scott 91.02 22
Sherburne 90.69 23
Sibley 65.29 70
St. Louis 79.49 44
Stearns 84.71 36
Steele 88.95 27
Stevens 96.79 14
Swift 99.5 5
Todd 49.93 82
Traverse 50.97 80
Wabasha 66.67 69
Wadena 97.29 13
Waseca 75.02 52
Washington 96.02 15
Watonwan 69.25 64
Wilkin 77.06 47
Winona 87.59 28
Wright 86.15 31
Yellow Medicine 48.81 83

New FirstNet Cell Site Launches Near Baudette to Support First Responders in Northern Minnesota

Latest news on FirstNet from AT&T

Northern Minnesota’s first responders are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located just south of Baudette near the North Branch Rapid River in Lake of the Woods County.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along County Highway 84 and County Highway 1 near the Town of Carp in northern Minnesota. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Other FirstNet sites already launched in Minnesota include Bagley, Blackduck, Cloquet, Echo Trail (northwest of Ely), Finlayson, Graceville, Grygla, Hovland, Isabella, Kellogg (Hwy 42), Kjostad Lake, Lewiston and Williams.

What are the benefits to first responders? 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. 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. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 600 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help Minnesota residents? 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 capacity is available.

eNews: MN Monthly Recap Sep 2021: funding, definitions and updates

Virtual Conference! Oct 12-14
Registration is open for our annual broadband conference! We hope you can join us. The agenda will be released later this month.

Pre-Conference Regional Events
There will be a series of regional events happening leading up to and in conjunction with the Fall Broadband Conference on Oct 12-14. Some events are still being planned; here’s the information:

 

Federal Changes maybe be long lasting
In redefining the speed goals for funding, the US Senate may have effectively boosted broadband speeds to 100/20. But the timing is good as Studies show the need for upload speeds increased during pandemic – and it’s likely to continue. Also access to broadband is credited for drawing in new residents to help boost population.

State Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

Federal Policy Issues (in reverse chronological order)

COVID/COVID-Funding News

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
MLEC is expanding FTTH in Aitkin County (MN)

Appleton, Benson, Madison and Redwood County
Appleton, Benson, Madison and Redwood County get grants from MN DEED

Duluth
Essentia Health in Duluth gets nearly $1 million from FCC for telehealth
Duluth City Council asks MN Congressional Delegation to support infrastructure

Greenwood Township
Greenwood Township looks at local, state and federal options for broadband funding

Grand Rapids
Paul Bunyan Communications Opens Apple Service Center in Grand Rapids

Kabetogama State Forest
New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in the Kabetogama State Forest to Support First Responders in Northern MN

Mahnomen County
Enbridge gives broadband grant to Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools (Mahomen County)

Park Rapids
DLF Chair talks about broadband and other topics in Park Rapids (Hubbard County)

Redwood County
Redwood County gets Lead for Minnesota Fellow to work on broadband

Walnut Grove and Redwood and Pine Counties
A look at broadband needs in rural MN: Walnut Grove, Redwood County and Pine County

Upcoming Events, Opportunities and Resources

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Keeping up with broadband news and information can be a challenge.  Emerging state and federal funding programs, new technologies, and regulatory decisions are all in the news mix.  How can community leaders keep up?

I have some trusted sources; I do consulting work for two of them.  Here is a summary of what I read:

  • Blandin on Broadband (of course!) Subscribe at www.blandinonbroadband.org.  A great summary of everything Minnesota broadband.  This blog is a great resource for daily news and also a great searchable archive for policy and strategy ideas.
  • Pots and Pans by CCG.  Subscribe at https://potsandpansbyccg.com.  Doug Dawson, one of my favorite broadband consultants,  provides daily, thoughtful essays on technology, telecom industry news, community broadband and consumer trends.  This is a must-read for all community broadband advocates.
  • Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Daily Digest.  Subscribe at https://www.benton.org/headlines.  I work on the Benton team for the Illinois Connected Communities Program.  Benton provides a wide ranging broadband policy news digest on both broadband infrastructure and digital equity issues.  They produce their own, high quality original research and spread the word on other policy papers and news.
  • Telecompetitor.  https://www.telecompetitor.com.  This newsletter is tech and industry news heavy and has a bounty of advertising links.
  • One final source that I look to is the NTCA.  Here is a link to CEO Shirley Bloomfield’s blog – https://www.ntca.org/ruraliscool/newsroom/ceo-blog

This should keep everyone busy and informed.  If you have other sources that you would like to share, let us know!

What does 5G look like across the states? (Esp Minnesota)

OpenSignal reports

As U.S. carriers continue to hit new milestones in their 5G network rollouts, Opensignal has now conducted the most comprehensive analysis of smartphone users’ 5G mobile experience across the U.S. We included all 50 states and as many as 250 cities in this new study. While 5G was present to some extent everywhere, the quality of 5G experience varied significantly. Our 5G users on the East Coast generally had a better 5G experience, followed by users on the West Coast and in the Great Lakes region.

They looked at the time users spent with an active 5G connection across the 50 states varied greatly. Minnesota seems to rank well above (or at least slightly above) average:

They also looked at download speed where Minnesota did quite well with a mean download of 88.4 Mbps.

Are you ready for Digital Inclusion Week Oct 4-8?

There’s still time to plan so I wanted to share info from NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) on Digital Inclusion Week 2021…

Digital Inclusion Week is an annual campaign that recognizes local digital inclusion organizations and special events that promote digital equity across the country.

Please join us October 4-8, 2021 – this will be our biggest Digital Inclusion Week ever, with seasoned practitioners and newly launched programs hosting virtual and in-person events. DIW aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create or find an activity in your area that builds inclusion by providing computer training, media literacy, affordable devices, or internet access to people on the wrong side of digital divides – or builds public awareness.

  • Use the social media kit to raise awareness around the digital divide and the incredible work your community is doing to reach digital inclusion.

  • Connect with colleagues around the country to share ideas through our mailing list.

  • Use hashtags #DIW2021 and #digitalequityNOW during the week of October 4th to join the conversation and celebrate progress.

Learn more – and get resources to help!