FCC authorizes $166.8 million in funding over the next decade; $3.3+ million for MN Projects

The FCC reports

The FCC today authorized $166.8 million in funding over
the next decade to expand broadband to 60,850 unserved rural homes and businesses in 22 states, representing the second wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding this month.

Here are the projects authorized in Minnesota…

Minnesota: Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 315
Support /10 Years: $1,313,543

Minnesota Garden Valley Telephone Company
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 95
Support /10 Years: $880,346

Minnesota West Central Telephone Association
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 532
Support /10 Years: $611,934

Minnesota Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative
Minimum Speed: 1 Gbps/500 Mbps
Locations: 209
Support /10 Years: $552,330


EVENT ALET: Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting June 18

Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
NEW TIME!  10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
League of MN Cities – Boardroom
145 University Avenue West – St. Paul, MN 55103
Session Overview
Interim Plan/Next Session
Organizational Future
Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.
Feel free to extend this invitation to other interested stakeholders.
Reminder: All dues paying members are able to vote at this meeting.

Sanford-TytoCare and Best Buy partner to bring more telehealth service to the home

Home Healthcare News reports…

TytoCare — which recently announced a retail relationship with Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and also has multiple health system partnerships across the country — is just one example of telehealth’s steady evolution.

With its U.S. operations based in New York, TytoCare is the maker of an FDA-cleared telehealth device capable of carrying out a long list of medical tests in the home setting, including comprehensive heart and lung evaluations, as well as ears and throat checkups.

Through the company’s software platform, that biometric data can then be sent to the company’s health care provider partners, whose physicians can subsequently diagnose and even treat patients’ conditions remotely.

Here’s what it means to the consumer…

TytoCare’s consumer-focused telehealth product — TytoHome — is available to Best Buy shoppers for roughly $300, with virtual visits conducted by American Well’s LiveHealth Online costing less than $60 each.

But more than 50 health care organizations have teamed up with TytoCare by using its enterprise-focused offerings, branded as TytoPro and TytoClinic.

And the health care facilities…

The Sanford Health system includes 44 medical centers, 482 clinics, more than 200 senior living facilities, providing health care services across parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Its flagship home health division — Sanford Home Health — provides services in and around the Sioux Falls area, in addition to Luverne, Minnesota.

“With the exam capabilities this device has, I could see potential use cases being follow-up on post-surgical patients or chronic disease management,” Crabtree said. “I think that could fit with our home care population.”


FCC Proposes Capping Fund Used to Close the Digital Divide

The Benton Foundation reports…

On Friday, May 31, the Federal Communications Commission launched a proceeding to seek comment on establishing an overall cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF). USF programs provide subsidies that make telecommunications and broadband services more available and affordable for millions of Americans. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) asks a lot of questions about how an overall cap to the fund would work. But does this NPRM actually move the U.S. nearer to closing the digital divide?

They look at the various USF programs…

  1. Connect America Fund (formerly known as High-Cost Support) — The largest of the four programs, CAF provides subsidies to telecommunications companies to expand connectivity infrastructure (wired and wireless, telephony and broadband) in unserved or underserved areas.
  2. Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) Program — Provides discounts to schools and libraries to ensure affordable access to high-speed broadband and voice services.
  3. Rural Health Care Program — Allows rural health care providers to pay rates for broadband services similar to those of their urban counterparts, making telehealth services affordable.
  4. Low-Income (Lifeline) Program — Assists people with lower-incomes to make monthly telephone (wireline or wireless) and broadband charges more affordable. The Lifeline program is the only USF program that lacks a self-enforcing cap, but it is under its own “soft cap” limit.

The article goes into great (and interesting!) detail about the hows and whys the programs might change. What gets to the point to those who are counting on government partnership to get better broadband might be most interested in their concerns…

1. Pits Programs Against Each Other

2. Mapping, Not Capping

3. At Odds with FCC’s Statutory Duty

And their conclusion…

The adoption of the NPRM — on a 3-2 party-line vote — now means the FCC will take public comment (technically, after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register) for three months before, theoretically, considering this input and moving to a final vote.

The Benton Foundation released a press release after the NPRM was released last week. Being late on a Friday afternoon, you will hopefully excuse us for being a bit blunt: “The FCC once again proves that Friday is ‘take out the trash day’ in our national capital; its latest proposal is pure garbage.”

You can follow along with the debate around USF daily by subscribing to Headlines — the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband.

The FCC may need to look at the value of the investments they are making but it seems that how much is spent is not the greatest issue. It seems like they need to look at the long term impact of the speed requirements they are currently making in rural broadband deployment. Providers are getting funded to upgrade or expand to 10 Mbps down and 1 up. That is not future proof, or even future likely development.

I have three daughters in Minnesota and Winnipeg. I don’t save money buying their spring jackets for winter because they are cheaper. I make sure we buy good winter coats they can wear for several years.


Maine looks at tighter data privacy, shining a light on MN policy

The Governor of Maine is looking at enacting the tightest data privacy law. But in looking at the issue the Mondaq News provides a nice outline of the laws here…

Nevada and Minnesota have enacted similar laws. The Nevada statute (Nevada Revised Statutes section 205.498) makes an Internet provider’s disclosure of confidential information a misdemeanor and provides for a fine between $50 and $500 per violation. The Minnesota law (Minnesota Statutes sections 325M.01–09) requires ISPs to take “reasonable steps to maintain the security and privacy of a consumer’s personally identifiable information” and allows for civil actions by consumers, but not class actions. The Minnesota law prohibits the disclosure of personally identifiable information except as incident to the ordinary course of business of the service provider, in response to a court order, subpoena, or warrant, to another Internet service provider under certain circumstances, or by authorization of the consumer.  Under an exception created by another Minnesota statute, cited in the privacy statute, personally identifiable information may be disclosed to law enforcement if it qualifies as contents of electronic communications “that appear to pertain to the commission of a crime” and that “were inadvertently obtained by the service provider.”

How is broadband like a dishwasher?

Broadband and dishwasher are neck in neck in renters short list of needs.

Broadband Now recently did a survey of apartment renters and what they thought of broadband. Turns out 39 percent report that broadband is essential. Here are some of the other things they found:

  • Renters were fiber were happiest with their broadband
  • Most renters had wireless
  • Renters wanted dishwashers and laundry more than broadband, but it was close
  • People will pay more for fiber.For customers without a fiber connection today, 17 percent said $50 or more per month to rent a place with fiber. For customers with a fiber connection today, 35 percent said $50 or more per month.

Technology makes it easier for seniors to stay at home in Northeastern Minnesota

Thanks so much to Don Brunette from Access North Center for Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota for collecting stories from two clients who have used technology (Echo Show) to make their lives easier…

G.G. is in her 90’s and her vision is fast failing. She was having a tough time even being able to use the phone. Her family found a phone with very large numbers, yet G.G. still had a tough time using it.  I set up Echo Show and with this device G.G. no  longer even needs to use the phone. She can just ask Alexa to call a person and the Show will do that for her.  I think this feature is one of G.G.’s favorite features–her smile was HUGE!

We added an Echo Spot now that lives in the Metro area in her family’s home. They are close however, do not get to see each other very often.  Now, with the 2 devices G.G. can just ask Alexa to drop in on (family) or (family) can drop in on her. We also set up G.G with the Philips Hue lighting for her living room and TV room.  This can be very helpful; G.G just asks Alexa to turn on requested light. She doesn’t need to get up to turn on anything and/or the lights can come on; also lights can be on before she even enters the room so that G.G does not walk into anything or trip.

We also set up the Alexa Fire for her TV. Now G.G can ask Alexa to turn on and off her TV, change channels and change volume as needed. No more multiple remotes with tape over some of the buttons so G.G. couldn’t hit the wrong button and switch the source instead of changing the channel. When that used to happen, a family member would need to go over and get the TV back to the correct source for watching TV.

Now we’re waiting for installation of Nest Thermostat and also Ring doorbell.  These devices will add extra security and safety to consumer home for her.

L.S. wanted some smarthome technology for leisure as well as to stay connected to family. We installed the Echo Show into her home. Now L.S. can listen to her music. She loves asking Show for some jokes and she loves getting the news rundown every morning.  She also enjoys being able to ask Show for the weather report and recipes.  L.S. even asked Show for some ideas to help her granddaughter with a school report. L.S is very close with her adult granddaughter now in Duluth for college. We equipped the granddaughter with the Spot so that the two can drop in on each other any time they like!

We also set up the Philips Hue so that L.S can turn the lights on and off without getting up. L.S is also going to be getting a Ring doorbell installed by Access North staff very soon.  L.S is very excited for this as living alone she cannot wait to be able to see who is at the door before she gets up to go and answer or yell – come in.