Duluth pursues Border to Border grant for Lincoln Park

The Duluth News Tribune reports

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson this summer proposed a pilot project to bring faster, more affordable broadband internet service first to Lincoln Park. And last month, as the News Tribune reported, the City Council gave the go-ahead for city administration to apply for a $3.2 million state Broadband Development Grant to help fund the proposal. Councilors expressed discomfort, however, with withdrawing $5 million from Duluth’s Community Investment Trust to help fund the project, which is expected to cost $7 million to $9 million total. If Duluth is successful in securing the requested state grant, there’s confidence in City Hall that there are other financial paths for the pilot project without having to dip into the Community Investment Fund.

OPPORTUNITY: Experienced Online Digital Skills Instructors Needed

From the National Digital Equity Center

The National Digital Equity Center is looking for experienced Digital Skills Instructors to join our team.  Applicants for these fully remote positions must be able to meet the following requirements:

  • Must have a home office with high speed internet access
  • Experience teaching computer skills to adults, preferably in a classroom or online setting
  • Comfortable and proficient with the use of Zoom for meetings and instruction
  • Strong demonstrated digital literacy/computer skills, especially with Windows 10 and Android devices
  • Available for at least 20 hours a week during the hours of 8:30 am to 8 pm EST, Monday through Friday excluding holidays.
  • Willing to abide by the National Digital Equity Center’s Code of Conduct – https://digitalequitycenter.org/ndec-code-of-conduct/
  • Starting pay: $20.00/hr.

Both half-time and full-time positions are available.  Please send a resume and a letter of inquiry to info@digitalequitycenter.org.

The National Digital Equity Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities.

EVENT Aug 25: Paul Bunyan and Red Lake Nation host Affordable Connectivity Program Day

Red Lake Nation News reports

Paul Bunyan Communications and the Red Lake Nation are holding a another sign-up day for the Affordable Connectivity Program, this time on Thursday, August 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake.

This new long-term benefit will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households struggling to afford internet service and provides a discount of up to a $30 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for qualifying households on qualifying Tribal lands.

135 Border-to-Border Broadband Applications Received—Challenge Process Begins

An update from the Office of Broadband Development…

One hundred and thirty-five (135) applications for the 2022 Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant program were received by the August 4th deadline. The Office of Broadband Development has initiated the challenge process required by Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. 116J.395 subd. 5a) concurrent with its review of the applications. A list of the applications filed and instructions on how to file a challenge, if necessary, are available on our website and under the “2022 Application Process” tab.  Any challenges must be submitted via email to deed.broadband@state.mn.us by 4:00 p.m. Thursday, September 8, 2022.

If you have any questions, please contact our office at 651-259-7610 or via email at deed.broadband@state.mn.us.

FCC Rejects RDOF applications of LTD broadband and Starlink

From the FCC

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is rejecting the long-form applications of LTD Broadband and Starlink to receive support through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program. The Commission determined that these applications failed to demonstrate that the providers could deliver the promised service. Funding these vast proposed networks would not be the best use of limited Universal Service Fund dollars to bring broadband to unserved areas across the United States, the Commission concluded.
“After careful legal, technical, and policy review, we are rejecting these applications. Consumers deserve reliable and affordable high-speed broadband,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “We must put scarce universal service dollars to their best possible use as we move into a digital future
that demands ever more powerful and faster networks. We cannot afford to subsidize ventures that are not delivering the promised speeds or are not likely to meet program requirements.”
“Starlink’s technology has real promise,” continued Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “But the question before us was whether to publicly subsidize its still developing technology for consumer broadband—which requires that users purchase a $600 dish—with nearly $900 million in
universal service funds until 2032.”
In the initial auction results announced December 7, 2020, LTD Broadband won $1,320,920,718.60, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (Starlink) won $885,509,638.40.
Although LTD was a relatively small fixed wireless provider before the auction, it was the largest winning bidder in the auction, submitting winning bids in 15 states. Subsequently, it failed to timely receive eligible telecommunications carrier status in seven states, rendering it ineligible in
those states for support. Ultimately, the FCC review concluded that LTD was not reasonably capable of deploying a network of the scope, scale, and size required by LTD’s extensive winning bids.

Regular readers will know this is bittersweet news. LTD was awarded the opportunity to apply for $311 million to deploy fiber in Minnesota. On the one hand, this is $311 million that is unlikely to come back to Minnesota in the same way. On the other hand, many people were suspect with LTD’s ability to meet what they proposed. In Minnesota, the MN PUC recently agreed to look into revoking LTD’s credentials here; these credentials were required to get RDOF money. The FCC had previously proposed fining LTD for violating requirements.

 

Le Sueur County and Bevcomm are applying for Border to Border funds – again post-RDOF issues

Le Sueur County News posts an update of what’s happening with broadband plans in the county since they last applied for MN State Border to Border grants and were disqualified because they were in an area where LTD Broadband had subsequently been awarded an opportunity to apply for federal (RDOF)…

After two years of being walled off from state broadband dollars, Le Sueur County is reviving efforts to bring high speed internet to nearly 250 rural households.

At the July 26 Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners meeting, Broadband Initiative Coordinator Barbara Droher-Kline announced local internet service provider Bevcomm would be seeking a Border-to-Border grant to expand high speed internet service to 152 homes in Montgomery Township 89 homes in Lexington Township and 6 homes in Sharon Township.

Le Sueur County agreed to dedicate $350,000 toward the project with Montgomery, Lexington and Sharon townships compensating the county $1,500 per home in their respective territories.

The county has attempted to lift the project off the ground since September of 2020. Back then, Bevcomm requested $300,000 in matching funds from the county to build a $1.6 million fiber optic network providing 1 Gbps speeds to 239 homes.

The network was to build off of Bevcomm’s existing fiber optic network, constructed in partnership with Le Sueur County and a $2 million Border-to-Border grant in 2020.

Access to telehealth is a digital equity issue

I’ve been seeing an increase in articles on telehealth these days and they usually report that access to technology increases comfort and use of telehealth and that leads to easier access to healthcare – for doctor and patient. Rheumatology Advisor reports

For patients to participate in telehealth encounters, they have to use a number of proprietary, health system-specific portals and platforms. That can be challenging for many older adults and minority groups. Effective virtual care depends on digital fluency, meaning they need to be able to engage in all aspects of digital technologies, from accessing the internet to navigating telehealth applications and performing basic troubleshooting. Many people cannot do this, creating significant barriers to care and telehealth disparities for a large segment of the population.

Boston researchers say the technology has the potential to reduce health disparities, but it also is exacerbating structural inequities. “Telehealth is here to stay, and has the potential to actually improve care outcomes, enhance the patient experience, reduce costs, and address health care inequities,” said Rebecca G. Mishuris, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and Chief Medical Information Officer of the Boston Medical Center Health System in Massachusetts. “This, of course, will only be realized if we can address equity in engagement with telehealth, and fully incorporate it into a holistic care delivery model that employs both virtual and in-person care.”

Some of the numbers…

At her institution, which is a safety net hospital, 21% of Black/African American patients, 20% of Hispanic/Latino patients, and 22% of White patients reported lacking access to a connected device with a camera or microphone. The study on telehealth disparities, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, also showed that 67% of White patients opted to schedule their telehealth visits by video compared with only 60% of Black and Latino patients.

US House Lawmakers Urge Biden Administration to Co-Locate Broadband and EV Charging Infrastructure

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society report..

Reps Anna G Eshoo (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) led a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information (NTIA) Alan Davidson, urging them to use funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to build out broadband and electric vehicle charging infrastructure simultaneously.

The letter beings

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) makes transformative investments in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and will help meet the Administration’s critical goal of 500,000 chargers by 2030 to ensure that EVs are accessible to all Americans. As federal agencies, states, and relevant stakeholders develop plans for a robust electric vehicle (EV) charging network across the country, we urge you to consider the connectivity requirements for EV supply equipment (EVSE) as well as the benefits of co-locating EVSE with infrastructure that can also be utilized to deploy broadband.

EV needs broadband and unserved areas are unable to adopt EV…

EV charging access has long been lacking in underserved communities. In 2019, the Department of Energy (DOE) found that 80 percent of EV owners charge in their own homes. Although home chargers are the most used type of chargers in EV adoption, apartment residents are less
likely to have access to at-home chargers. This disparity poses a particular challenge to lower income households and communities of color, who are more likely to live in multi-unit housing.
Similar challenges exist in rural areas, where limited electric distribution exacerbates range anxiety, the concern that vehicles will not be able to travel the distance needed. IIJA addresses these equity concerns by including $2.5 billion to support, among other things, rural charging
and increase EV charging access in disadvantaged communities. Additionally, IIJA directs $5 billion to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, resulting in $7.5 billion to build a national electric vehicle charging network.

Gaining access to EV, is one more reason to invest in broadband for all…

Digital equity disparities exist in areas where access to broadband is non-existent or unaffordable and disproportionately affects rural areas and communities of color. A Pew Research Center report showed that 34 percent of Black households and 39 percent of Latino households do not have wired broadband connection. In addition to this, the Census Bureau found that 33 percent of
Native Americans lack a broadband subscription, and 47 percent of those living on tribal lands lack broadband availability altogether. The IIJA acknowledged these disparities and provided $65 billion for broadband expansion, including grants for internet service expansion in unserved and underserved areas.
In light of the national electric vehicle charging network’s connectivity requirements, the persistent digital divide, and EV charging infrastructure disparities across the nation, we encourage you to coordinate IIJA broadband and EV charging infrastructure efforts to encourage co-location of EVSE with telecommunications infrastructure when and where appropriate. The IIJA also included strong prevailing wage protections and preferences to ensure federal funding supports high-skilled, well-paying jobs. We urge you to include and build upon these bedrock protections during deployment to maximize meaningful opportunities for American workers.
This approach can address multiple national priorities simultaneously and avoid duplicative efforts, maximizing IIJA’s wide-reaching equity mission.

Lumen (aka CenturyLink) to offer 8-gig broadband in Minneapolis

Fierce Telecom reports

Lumen Technologies announced a significant speed boost for Quantum Fiber subscribers in a trio of markets, rolling out a new symmetrical 8-gig service for residents and small businesses.

The operator is offering the new speed tier using its XGS-PON network. Unlike multi-gig fiber services from other operators, Lumen said its 8-gig plan will require the on-premises installation of a permanent network interface and router that is separate from a customer’s Wi-Fi. It claimed this separation will enable “easy Wi-Fi activations and simple upgrades as technology evolves.”

Its new speed tier will initially be available to select customers in cities near Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle. A Lumen representative told Fierce it plans to expand availability of the service “as quickly as we can,” adding “the vast majority of our new builds will have 8 gigabit capability.”

The new 8-gig tier will cost $300 per month and will be offered alongside a 3-gig option for $150 per month, a 1-gig option for $65 per month and a 200 Mbps service priced at $49 per month.

The move to introduce its 8-gig service comes after the company’s President of Mass Markets Maxine Moreau teased its development of a multi-gig offer in March.

Many reader will know Lumen better as CenturyLink. Here’s the connection from their website…

Lumen brings together the talent, experience, infrastructure and capabilities of CenturyLink, Level 3 and 25+ other technology companies to create a new kind of company—one designed specifically to address the dynamic data and application needs of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Latest RDOF awards announced – none in MN and nothing to LTD

The FCC has announces the the latest rounds of RDOF funding.

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorizes Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids identified in Attachment A of this Public Notice.

As in the previous round – none were based in Minnesota.

Telecompetitor offers a perspective, noting that many of the top winners have yet to receive money…

There were over 400 winning bidders in the RDOF auction, but the top 10 winning bidders represent more than three-quarters of the total $9.2 billion tentatively awarded.

Over the last 18 months or so, the FCC has authorized funding for many smaller winning bidders and for five of the top 10 winning bidders. But the other five of the top 10 have not yet been deemed ready to authorize and questions have begun to arise about whether those other five will ever be authorized.

Several sources closely involved in the RDOF program have noted that the FCC has no deadline for reviewing RDOF long-form applications and might never approve some or any of those five bidders.

One of them is SpaceX, which plans to use satellite broadband to meet its service commitments. Concerns have arisen about the company’s ability to meet those commitments and about the longevity of that service. Another is LTD Broadband, which has received criticism about its ability to deploy fiber broadband as quickly and extensively as required.

Morrison County Commissioner support Border to Border grant from Charter Communications

Hometown Source reports

Some residents of Green Prairie, Little Falls and Pike Creek townships may soon have another option for broadband internet service.

Tuesday, Morrison County Administrator Matt LeBlanc told the Board of Commissioners that he had recently been contracted by the director of government affairs with Charter Communications. She informed him that the company was looking to extend fiber optic broadband service to 474 locations within the county.

“That stretches from approximately midway up Camp Ripley — everything’s on the west side of the river — down to kind of the parallel line of Sobieski, but again, tight to the river through the county, skipping over Little Falls,” Le-Blanc said. “It’s a $3 million project that Charter would be looking to do.”

Her purpose for contacting LeBlanc was to ask for the County Board to provide a letter of support on Charter’s behalf. In order to do the project, the company is applying for a Border to Board Broadband grant from the Minnesota Department of Economic Development.

He said a timeframe on the potential project would likely be contingent on successful receipt of the grant for Charter.

The Board unanimously encouraged LeBlanc to send the letter of support in hopes of getting the project done.

Representative Angie Craig talks up broadband and federal funding

Brownfield Ag News reports

Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig tells Brownfield precision agriculture has made it critical that farmers have access to high-speed internet.

“That is one area where I am so proud we’re going to deliver $100 million to Minnesota in broadband funding on a bipartisan basis, which is pretty hard to come by in the town of Washington.”

USDA recently announced it will award up to $150 million in loans, up to $300 million in loan-grant combinations, and $700 million in grants to bring high-speed internet to rural America.

Craig says the dollars will enable rural communities to expand.

“People can live anywhere and work anywhere these days in a lot of different businesses, so having that in the ground gives these communities options (like) do I want to grow? Do I want to develop? Do I not?”

Sherburne County to invest $1.5 million from ARPA in better broadband

Patriot News reports...

Sherburne County Commissioners approved a $1.5 million grant program to expand broadband service to unserved and underserved areas of the county.

The money will help bring reliable, affordable high-speed internet to more Sherburne County households and businesses, with the funds coming from the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The grants will be awarded to service providers for eligible projects that provide service designed to reliably meet or exceed a symmetrical 100 Mbps download and upload speeds or, where symmetrical 100 Mbps speeds are not practicable, 100 Mbps download and at least 20 Mbps upload speeds.

They are looking for provider partners…

Sherburne County will accept applications for Broadband Access Grants through Sept. 30, 2022. Interested parties can find a link to the application at the county’s website: http://www.co.sherburne.mn.us.

USDA ReConnect Program Round 4 funding applications open Sep 6 to Nov 2

The USDA reports

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small today announced that the Department will begin accepting applications on September 6 for funding to expand access to high-speed internet for millions of people in rural America nationwide, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet for all. USDA is making the funding available under the ReConnect Program, which received new funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“High-speed internet connects people and businesses to new markets and helps people in rural America build brighter futures,” Torres Small said. “For too long, too many rural communities have been left out of the digital economy. This funding will help everyone in America – regardless of where they live – because rural people provide the everyday essentials our country depends on. Investments like the ones we are making through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help close the digital divide across rural America.”

USDA is making additional funding available for high-speed internet in Round 4 of the ReConnect Program. The Department will begin accepting applications on September 6 for up to $150 million in loans, up to $300 million in loan/grant combinations, and up to $700 million in grants. The Department will use funds appropriated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

The application deadline is November 2.

Gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen puts broadband on priority list at Farmfest

The Duluth News Tribute reports

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen on Tuesday, Aug. 2, outlined a 10-step plan to support Greater Minnesota communities complete with proposals to expand broadband access and speed up the process of getting farm permits.

The article adds…

Walz has supported some of the efforts in his legislative priorities and budget plans at the Capitol, including building out access to biofuels and increasing funding for broadband.