BroadbandUSA Webinar, Nov 15: Electric Co-ops bringing Fiber to Rural America

Another good webinar coming up…

BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations Webinar Series

Topic: Practical Broadband Conversations: Electric Co-ops Bringing Fiber to Rural America

 

Date: Wednesday, November 15 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT

 

Overview: Electric cooperatives are capitalizing on existing infrastructure and deep community roots to bring gigabit communications to rural communities, and the results can be transformational. Just as rural electrification energized the country in the early 20th century, high capacity broadband connections are necessary for thriving communities in the 21st century. Join BroadbandUSA’s Practical Broadband Conversations webinar to learn how member-based co-ops are making the case for investment and creating new opportunities for economic prosperity.

 

Speakers:

Brett Kilbourne, Vice President Policy and General Counsel, Utilities Technology Council

Randy Klindt, Founder, Conexon; General Manager, OzarksGo

Paul Belk, President, North Georgia Network

 

Please pre-register for the webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on joining the webinar.

USDA Webinar Nov 17: Rural Glance at Demographics and Broadband Access

Looks like an interesting webinar…

Webinar Details
Date: Friday, November 17, 2017
Time: 1:00 PM EDT
Duration: 1 hour

Host:  John Cromartie, PhD, Geographer, Economic Research Service, USDA

Description:

In this webinar, ERS geographer John Cromartie highlights the most recent indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas, focusing on population change, employment, income and poverty, as well as trends in access to broadband service. The USDA’s Economic Research Service releases the Rural America at a Glance report annually, which summarizes the status of conditions and trends in rural areas.

Register/Join Meeting

 

Broadband makes the shortlist of topics Sen Klobuchar discusses in Jackson County

Jackson County Pilot reports on a recent visit Senator Klobuchar made to the area…

Minnesota’s senior senator stopped by the industrial park headquarters of New Fashion Pork Friday evening to talk employment, immigration, transportation, trade, rural broadband connectivity and the farm bill, among other topics. Klobuchar said she was impressed with New Fashion Pork and the Jackson County Food 4 Kids program the company spearheaded a few years ago, urged those gathered to continue lobbying lawmakers for sensible immigration law and pledged to look into impending changes to overland transportation regulations.

And more specifically on broadband..

David Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers and Association and Minnesota Pork Board, talked trade and the farm bill with Klobuchar, while Jackson City Council member Donnie Schoenrock, president of the Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services Board of Directors, briefed the senator on local issues surrounding rural Internet connectivity.

“It’s the digital divide,” Klobuchar said, adding the solution may lie in certain changes necessary at the Federal Communications Commission level.

Klobuchar said she appreciated hearing concerns from those gathered and pledged to continue working on their behalf.

CenturyLink expands internet access to parts of Kanabec County

According to the Kanabec Times

Rural residents that have struggled to find ways to access the internet from their homes may be in luck as Century Link is expanding services to include an additional 1,400 homes in the Braham area, and 3,000 homes in the Mora area.

While this will boost internet access and speeds in under-served areas, Doyle Jelsing of the Kanabec Broadband Initiative said it still isn’t ideal.

“This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go,” he said. Jelsing explained that even though Century Link advertises speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, actual speeds tend to vary. For Jelsing, he had hoped upload speeds would be considered equally as important as download speeds. While download speeds help consumers who are interested in streaming video, upload speeds are essential for supporting local businesses that need to send data —not just receive it.

While 10 Mbps bandwidth will be a huge improvement for those with no wired internet options, it’s still below the FCC’s definition of broadband which is 25Mbps download / 3Mbps upload.

“We welcome the improvement,” Jelsing said. “However, time will work against us as the need for broadband increases.”

Main Street Gibbon is getting a 3D printer – that’s what happens with FTTP

I love to share stories about what works when good broadband and innovation meet to the advantage of rural development. Today’s happy story comes from Gibbon, MN.

Winthrop News reports…

The Gibbon City Council has agreed to sell the State Bank of Gibbon building to Corey Theis of Gibbon. The Council asked $14,000 for the building, the amount of expenses that I has in the building.

Theis will pay 25 percent down with the balance on a four year contract for deed at zero percent interest.

Plans for the building is to create a home for a startup 3D printing service shop that will be owned and operative by a local resident of the community. Theis stated that to start with the building will be capable of making various types of plastic parts for jigs, and fixtures, manufacturing tooling, prototypes, product development and engineering consulting.

Gibbon has FTTP through RS Fiber. That makes is possible to download, upload, transfer large design files that would likely be used in 3D printing.

Blandin Webinar Archive: Homework Gap: How Lack of Broadband Hinders K-12 Education

Here are notes and video from yesterday’s webinar – Homework Gap: How Lack of Broadband Hinders K-12 Education…

Education processes are now infused with technology.  Many school districts benefit from Gigabit level services on-campus.  One-to-one device initiatives, flipped classrooms and virtual school snow days are now part of the educational lexicon.  This is all well and good until students head to their unconnected home.  How are schools coping with this inequality of educational opportunity and capability?  In some school districts, ubiquitous connectivity and affluent families make connectivity a slight challenge.  In poorly connected regions with high levels of poverty, schools face a significant challenge to cope with the digitally excluded.

Join us for a webinar roundtable discussion with regional school technology experts.  Marc Johnson of East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative and Josh Sumption from the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative will discuss the present challenges, the current responses by education leaders and options for overcoming this broadband challenge.

FCC stepping in on Minnesota’s Charter case

Ars Technica reports

The Federal Communications Commission is intervening in a court case in order to help Charter Communications avoid utility-style consumer protections related to its phone service in Minnesota. The FCC and Charter both want to avoid a precedent that could lead other states to impose stricter consumer protection rules on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service offered by cable companies.

The FCC has never definitively settled the regulatory status of VoIP. By contrast, traditional landline phone service and mobile phone service are both classified as “telecommunications services” by the FCC, a distinction that places them under the same Title II common carrier regulatory framework that applies to broadband Internet access. But the FCC has never decided whether VoIP services offered by cable companies are telecommunications or “information services,” which aren’t as heavily regulated.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) hoped to fill this regulatory void by trying to re-impose utility rules on Charter’s Spectrum phone service. (Charter used to be subject to Minnesota’s utility rules but evaded them starting in 2013 by transferring its phone customers to a different subsidiary.) Minnesota wants Charter to collect fees from customers in order to contribute to state programs that help poor people and the hearing-impaired access telephone service. Customers should also be able to appeal to the MPUC in the event of disputes with Charter, the state regulatory body says.

The article is good, detailed, worth reading in full. I’ll just borrow from their presentaiton of both sides…

Rule of law rendered obsolete?

Minnesota argues that VoIP phone service shouldn’t come with fewer consumer protections simply because it is provided over a different kind of network than traditional circuit-switched landline phones.

“This case presents an important question of nationwide significance: whether the rule of law may be rendered obsolete by technological innovation,” the state utility commission said.

The district court’s finding that Charter’s VoIP service is not telecommunications “strips the MPUC of its authority to regulate VoIP telephone service, [and] is contrary to binding decisions of this Court, FCC precedent, and the longstanding system of cooperative federalism established under the Telecommunications Act,” the state commission said.

The PUC also urged the appeals court to declare that Charter’s phone service is telecommunications “under the plain language of the Telecommunications Act.” The federal statute defines telecommunications as “the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.”

Charter’s argument

Charter argues that the case hinges on just one question: whether Charter’s VoIP phone service is an information service under the federal communications statute.

Charter phone service “offers the ability to convert the protocol of calls when Charter’s network interconnects with other carriers,” thus fitting the statutory definition of information services as those that offer the “capability for… transforming [or] processing… information via telecommunications,” Charter wrote.

Minnesota is the only state in Charter’s footprint that “seeks to extend its regulatory reach to encompass advanced services,” the company wrote.

“Its approach not only ignores text and precedent, but would allow every state to impose idiosyncratic rules, creating a nationwide patchwork of requirements that would frustrate the FCC’s longstanding policy of insulating advanced services from such a regulatory morass,” Charter wrote.

Charter got support from other telecom companies that want to avoid stricter regulation of VoIP phone services. The brief filed by AT&T, Verizon, and USTelecom argues that VoIP is an information service because it converts voice signals from one format to another in order to carry phone calls to and from traditional landlines. AT&T and Verizon both offer utility landline phone services but are shifting toward VoIP services and want to shed the utility regulations that have long applied to phone networks.

Cable industry lobby group NCTA-The Internet & Television Association similarly filed a brief supporting Charter. “Preventing the imposition of utility regulation on VoIP will promote continued competition and benefit consumers,” NCTA wrote.

It’s hard when to consumers a phone is a phone is a phone. Internet access is internet access is internet access. But each supplier of phone/internet is treated so differently in terms of policy. That’s not a level playing field for the industry. What is also difficult is that consumers need protection. Increasingly residents need phone/internet access to live as active members of society. Yet not everyone can afford access – sometimes that a low-income issue and sometimes that’s a higher than normal prices issue. Universal service funds (in one shape or another) help get everyone online. Do we want everyone online or not? Because life without a phone/internet access is not a level playing field either. I guess the question is – which field do we want to level?