Broadband in rural areas also gets a boost in the 2018 farm bill, which sets aside $350 million dollars for loans and grants. The money is specifically targeted to rural communities that don’t have broadband, or have slow broadband service.
A recent report from the state Governor’s Task Force on Broadband shows that Minnesota is making progress, with about 90 percent of households able to access internet speeds of 25 megabits per second or higher.
Great news – but I think it’s time we start looking at how much in Minnesota has access to the 2026 speed goals of 100 Mbps down and 20 up. When you look at that speed the latest reports say 74 percent of Minnesota households have access to wireline 100/20.
The USDA announced some good news and bad news today. They are dedicated money to broadband…
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Answering the Administration’s call to action for rural prosperity, Congress appropriated funds in the fiscal year 2018 budget for this broadband pilot program. USDA Rural Development is the primary agency delivering the program, with assistance from other federal partners.
In the form of grants, loans and mashups…
USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants (applications due to USDA by April 29), as well as $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications due May 29), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28).
But they are funding areas with 10/1 access or worse and minimal requirement is an upgrade to 25/3…
Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.
Approved projects must create access speeds of at least 25 mbps upload and 3 mbps download. Priority will be awarded for projects that propose to deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses and farms. USDA seeks to stretch these funds as far as possible by leveraging existing networks and systems without overbuilding existing services greater than 10/1 mbps.
The Timberjay posted an editorial of frustration written about the broadband providers’ lack of investment in last mile broadband. They note the state support middle mile technology but ask the state to take a closer look at what’s happening or not happening to get the homes and businesses connected…
There’s just one problem. We’ve forgotten to install the on and off ramps. The city of Orr, as we report again this week, has at least three separate fiber optic cables running right through town, but no one can get Internet. We report on the frustration of two local business owners in Vermilion Lake Township, who have fiber running right past their businesses, but who still must operate on Internet speeds that barely allow them to navigate the web— and that’s when their service is actually functioning.
The missing link in all this has been the corporately-owned service providers, companies like Frontier and CenturyLink, which have failed to uphold their role in the process. Bringing real and reliable broadband connectivity to rural Minnesota is, in theory, supposed to be a public-private partnership. The state or federal government provides the backbone of the system, while the local service providers like Frontier and CenturyLink are supposed to build the on and off ramps so local residents can begin to tap into that information superhighway that runs past their door.
While we’ve been critical of Frontier Communications in the past, the company has, at least, begun to make some upgrades to allow faster speeds in some parts of the region than have been available before. We’ll give credit where it’s due. It’s been a much more frustrating experience for customers of CenturyLink, such as those who live in Orr, given the company’s near-abandonment of parts of its service territory in northern Minnesota.
A partnership can only work when all the partners are willing to pull their weight. We certainly don’t want to discourage the Legislature from investing in bringing fiber to our region. The backbone is a critical part of the solution. But it has to be paired with strict and enforceable commitments by the local service providers to utilize that backbone to bring the level of service now possible to homes and businesses in our region. These service providers are regulated utilities and the Legislature needs to start addressing the lack of investment and follow-through that we’ve seen from some of them. If the Legislature can’t or won’t use enforcement mechanisms, they should explore incentives to encourage other providers to do the job. Ely is currently working with Brainerd-based CTC to facilitate fiber connections to downtown businesses. Orr is now turning to Back40 Wireless for a similar project, using a wifi signal. These are all hopeful developments which should be provided financial support where needed.
If CenturyLink or Frontier can’t do the job, the state should provide the resources needed to enable such organizations to expand the reach of their service.
The Mankato Free Press reports…
The Blue Earth County Board already has a New Year’s Resolution: kickstart efforts to bring more broadband options and data fiber connections to the area.
Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg called on county officials Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a future public-private data fiber partnership as recent data show Blue Earth County is lagging in internet connectivity.
Stuehrenberg said during a board meeting Tuesday he was concerned only about 14 percent of the county was equipped to handle at least 100 mpbs download speeds and 20 mbps upload speeds. While almost all of Blue Earth County’s internet options meet the state’s immediate high-speed goals — at least 25 mbps downloads and 3 mbps uploads by 2022 — Stuehrenberg and other commissioners believe the county needs to have better internet access if it wants to continue growing and attracting more economic development.
“It’s kind of disheartening to hear that in Mankato and Blue Earth County, we don’t have the same ability to get internet service as some of those smaller communities,” Stuehrenberg said.
I applaud the forward-looking vision. They are brainstorming some ways to make it happen…
Stuehrenberg suggested future highway reconstruction projects include installing fiber to help offset connection costs in rural areas. Yet he and other commissioners said it will ultimately be up to area internet providers to use and maintain fiber networks.
The county finished installing fiber infrastructure around Mankato and nearby cities over the last two years, according to County Administrator Bob Meyer. He said county officials have been in preliminary talks with internet providers to expand broadband access throughout the county.
You may recall that in September, Minnesota PUC ruled in favor of Charter by limiting state regulation.
On December 4 (2018), the Eighth Circuit Court issued an order denying the Minnesota PUC’s petition for rehearing of the Court’s September 17, 2018 decision affirming the Minnesota district court’s ruling that Charter’s VoIP service is an information service under the Telecommunications Act.
NDIA has created maps from the latest Census data…
The interactive maps below are based on new Census data released on December 6, 2018 as part of the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates.
For the first time, the 2017 ACS includes computer ownership and internet access information for local Census tracts. (Note: The Census uses the term “internet access” to refer to actual household connections, not just availability.) This information, presented in ACS Tables B28002 through B28011, was previously released only for communities of 20,000 or more and only on a community-wide basis. (NDIA’s Worst Connected Cities reports are based on this ACS citywide data.)
I was most interested in the map that shows where we lack access…
But the map of access is important too…
Both maps are interactive if you visit the NDIA site.
The FCC announces the opportunity. I hope we can flood the market with Minnesota names!
The Federal Communications Commission announced its intent to re-charter the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), a federal advisory committee, which provides advice and recommendations to the Commission on accelerating the deployment of high-speed Internet access. The Commission intends to renew the BDAC’s charter for a two year period, starting on or about March 1, 2019.
Nominations for membership to the BDAC should be submitted to the FCC no later than January 10, 2019.