RAMS to sponsor MN statewide speed test

Big news for folks who like crowd source mapping – Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) is picking up the Statewide speed test mapping project. RAMS reports…

Today we are pleased to announce that the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) will be the new host of the Minnesota statewide speedtest project. This map and initiative was previously hosted by the MN Rural Broadband Coalition. This crowdsourcing speed test will allow local governments, area partners, communities and providers to better identify underserved and unserved areas as well as help consumers see for themselves if they are actually getting the service (broadband speed) that they are playing for. RAMS is able to host this test with the help of one of our corporate members, GEO Partners, LLC who will be helping analyze the data and create usable maps and information. RAMS is also pleased that retired director, Steve Giorgi, has remained on Minnesota’s state broadband task force and is continuing to volunteer and help Minnesota communities gain access to affordable, high-speed internet. RAMS helped to start this testing process in April of 2020 and the information gathered directly from the end users (you) will be used is extremely important to further the development of high school internet for citizens of Minnesota.

Check your speed!

MN Tribal broadband maps are out – compare 2019 to 2020 coverage

I recently finished the MN County Broadband profiles – 87 mini reports on what’s happening in each county. I’ve been keep an eye out for an opportunity to update the profiles for MN tribal communities as well. The maps from the Office of Broadband Development are out, which show the coverage (served/underserved/unserved) but the numbers aren’t. From a macro level it’s hard to compare progress or gauge success without the numbers. When the numbers come out I’ll do a deeper dive, in the meantime I thought it might be interesting to at least see the maps from 2019 and 2020 for each tribal area. Side by side we can make some assessments in each community.

Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

Bois Forte Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Fond du Lac
(get 2020 map)


Grand Portage Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Leech Lake Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Lower Sioux Indian Community
(get 2020 map)


Mille Lacs Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Prairie Island Indian Community
(get 2020 map)


Red Lake Reservation
(get 2020 map)


Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
(get 2020 map)


Upper Sioux Community
(get 2020 map)


White Earth Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Which providers in MN can get voice-only lifeline service support? CNS has a map!

Back in June (2021), the FCC announced the census blocks where providers could still receive financial support for voice-only lifeline services…

Today, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces those Census blocks where Lifeline support for voice-only service will continue at $5.25 per month from December 1, 2021 through November 30, 2022. These Census blocks can be found on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website here: https://www.usac.org/wpcontent/uploads/lifeline/documents/Data/voice_CB_blocks.zip.

In the 2016 Lifeline Order, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) outlined a shift in the Lifeline program towards a greater focus on supporting broadband services for Lifeline eligible consumers.1 As part of that effort, the Commission adopted a transition period to phase down support for voice-only Lifeline services before reimbursement for such services would decrease to $0 on December 1, 2021.2 The Commission also adopted an exception to this complete phase-down in voice-only support and continued Lifeline support, in the amount of $5.25 per subscriber per month, for qualifying voice-only services provided to Lifeline eligible subscribers in Census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider.3 The Commission directed the Bureau to identify Census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider and to announce those Census blocks by June 1 of each year.

CNS has mapped out the areas, which is always a good way to take in this information, especially for policymakers. I have a screenshot here, the CNS map is interactive.

State speed goals and mapping are important – especially in Infrastructure Packages if states allocate funds

Fierce Telecom reports

Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler argued incumbent cable operators are in prime position to scoop up federal broadband funding and have little to fear from potential overbuild activity.

Speaking about the looming congressional infrastructure package during a New Street Research event, Wheeler acknowledged each state will have discretion over how to allocate the broadband funding allotted to them, leaving some uncertainty about what their priorities in terms of speeds and access technology will be. However, he asserted incumbent operators are best positioned to help close the digital divide.

Wheeler said the idea that there are “massive areas of virgin unserved territory” in the U.S. is a “myth” and instead the reality on the ground is that there are “pockets of served areas surrounded by unserved.”

The article goes on to focus on the advantage that incumbents (or at least existing) providers will have. I am interested in the emphasis on state discretion. To highlight the highest need in the short term, to find the pockets of unserved areas, we need continual and granular mapping. To make the best investment for the long term, we need state speed goals that meet the needs of the next generation as well as for today.

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

ARPA County and Township Support Amounts Mapped by CNS

CNS has created a new map

As discussions with counties, townships, and cities ramp up, we mapped the ARPA funding amounts for MN’s Counties, Townships and Small Cities so you can see how much each entity is receiving in ARPA funding.

Layers include:

  • County Allocated funding
  • Estimated Township funding amounts
  • Disbursed Township and Small City funds
  • RDOF funded census block groups

Zooming in on the map will show more granular data.

We’ll continue to update the map as more data is released. According the state, not all Township and Small Cities have received their first-round funding yet due to incomplete applications. Note that two rounds of disbursements will be sent, one in 2021, one in 2022 – disbursed funds shown in the map are 50% of their total allocation.

FCC data shows growing fiber, need for upload

C|Net reports

Every six months, the Federal Communications Commission releases updated data on the respective coverage of every internet provider in the US. That includes coverage maps as well as metrics on the types of technologies being used, the number of customers that fall into each provider’s footprint, and the specific upload and download speeds available to those customers, should they choose to sign up. The latest update went live just last week, and brings the database up to date as of June 2020.

I have picked out the charts and notes they share that I think are most interesting…

Percentage of US Population covered by each ISP

  • by the nature of their technology, satellite providers cover a lot.
  • Starlink isn’t on the horizon yet – but this is from June 2020

Percentage of Provider’s Footrpint with access to FTTH

  • Fiber is increasing
  • The problem is that it isn’t available everywhere — for the most part, providers have focused on building out fiber networks in population-dense regions around America’s major cities, leaving rural internet customers out of the mix.

Percentage of provider footprint with access to each (upload) speed via technology

  • Of all of the internet providers that offer service to at least 10% of the US population (including satellite providers omitted from this chart), Verizon is the only one that offers upload speeds faster than 25Mbps to a majority of its customers.
  • upload speeds from most providers remain much slower than most customers would probably like. That’s largely because fiber is really the only mode of home internet capable of hitting triple-digit upload speeds, and as mentioned earlier, fiber is far from universally available.

US Senate has plans for better broadband maps but not for a while

Roll Call reports on the good and bad news about broadband maps…

The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill makes a $42.5 billion bet that the government will overcome an obstacle that has long plagued efforts to connect most Americans to the internet: notoriously inaccurate maps showing where they can get a signal – and where they can’t.

That’s the amount of grant funding that the legislation, which the Senate passed earlier this month on a 69-30 vote, would provide to states to fund broadband projects in areas currently considered unserved or underserved. To qualify, proposals would have to comply with new broadband maps drawn by the Federal Communications Commission.

There’s one catch: the new maps don’t exist yet. And they may not be ready to go for one or two years, experts say.

Interactive map of RDOF winners and bids in default

Last week, the FCC announced some of the winners and losers of RDOF awards. CNS has created an interactive map that include that info. Specifically, as they reports. The maps include

  • Initially won RDOF block groups
  • LTD and AB Indiana bidders’ declined waivers
  • Bids ready to be authorized
  • Bids in default
  • Potentially previously served blocks within winning areas

OPPORTUNITY: Consumer Reports is asking for your home broadband speed and cost

Consumer Reports is launching a new initiative, Broadband Together

Consumer Reports today is launching a first-of-its-kind project to uncover what people really pay  — and what they are really getting — for their internet service. With the support of local and national partner organizations, CR is asking thousands of consumers to share their monthly internet bills at broadbandtogether.org so CR can analyze the cost, quality, and speeds that are being delivered to people in communities across the U.S., and to better understand the factors that affect price and why consumers pay different rates for the same service.

The findings from this major initiative will help CR in its effort to press internet service providers and government officials to deliver greater access to fair, affordable, reliable internet services. In a recent CR survey, 76 percent of Americans say that internet service is as important as electricity and running water in today’s world, and 86% say they rely on the internet at least five days a week.

Doug Dawson predictions in upload broadband discussion

Doug Dawson recently wrote about the “Looming Battle Over Upload Speeds” as a precursor to doling out funds to deploy broadband. Even I can find discussion about broadband speed tedious … until you put a dollar sign in front of it, then it’s not just academic and Doug does a nice job queueing up the discussion…

By next week we’re going to see the opening shots in the battle for setting an official definition of upload broadband speeds. You might expect that this is a topic that would be debated at the FCC, but this battle is coming as a result of questions asked by the U.S. Department of Treasury as part of defining how to use the grant monies from the American Rescue Plan Act. Treasury has oddly been put in charge of deciding how to use $10 billion of direct broadband grants and some portion of the gigantic $350 billion in funding that is going directly to counties, cities, and towns across the country.

Treasury asked for comments through a series of questions about the broadband speeds of technologies that should be supported with the grant funding. The questions ask for a discussion of the pros and cons of requiring that grant dollars are used to built technologies that can achieve speeds of 100/20 Mbps versus 100/100 Mbps.

Treasury is not likely to see many comments on the requirement that grant deployments must meet 100 Mbps download speeds. All of the major broadband technologies will claim the ability to meet that speed – be that fiber, cable company hybrid-fiber networks, fixed wireless provided by WISPs, or low-orbit satellites. The only industry segment that might take exception to a 100 Mbps download requirement is fixed cellular broadband which can only meet that kind of speed for a short distance from a tower.

And putting jerseys on the respective teams…

A recent blog on the WISPA website argues that argues for upload speeds of 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps. The blog argues that it costs more to build 100/100 Mbps networks (as a way to remind that fixed wireless costs a lot less than fiber).

We know the cable industry is going to come out hard against any definition up upload speed greater than 20 Mbps – since that’s what most cable networks are delivering. In a show of solidarity with the rest of the cable industry, Altice recently announced that it will lower current upload speeds of 35 – 50 Mbps down to 5 – 10 Mbps. This is clearly being done to allow the cable industry to have a united front to argue against faster upload speeds. This act is one of most bizarre reactions that I’ve ever seen from an ISP to potential regulation and a direct poke in the eye to Altice customers.

Back in March, we saw Joan Marsh, the AT&T Executive VP argue that 21st-century broadband doesn’t need upload speeds greater than 10 Mbps. This was an argument that clearly was clearly meant to support using grant funds for rural fixed cellular technology. It’s an odd position to take for the second largest fiber provider in the country.

New research shows: household of four requires 131/73 Mbps of bandwidth

Telecom Review reports

Research commissioned by the FBA and presented in the white paper indicates that in 2021, a household of four requires 131/73 Mbps of bandwidth and will grow to 2,141/2,044 Mbps by 2030. This makes today’s definition of broadband speeds unusable, as the FCC currently defines broadband as a mere 25/3 Mbps for Americans and 50/10 Mbps for Canadians. These antiquated definitions of broadband affect the rural populations of North America the most. FBA’s research found that 62% of the most rural areas have the lowest performing broadband with speeds for the lowest quantile at 4/1 Mbps.

To eliminate the rural digital divide, the white paper suggests attention and investment should be placed on the most effective rural broadband infrastructure. The research presents that, without exception, there is no communications medium nearly as effective or future proof as fiber optics. Fiber’s transmission capacity can be increased almost infinitely as needed to supply any level of bandwidth. Fiber is immune to electrical interference and requires fewer powered nodes, enabling it to serve as the most consistent and reliable technology option. Additionally, the cost to operate a fiber-to-the-home system is lower than other broadband methods.

“The investment in fiber networks in rural areas to close the digital divide has never been more important. Not only does fiber provide the necessary infrastructure needed for communities to work, learn, shop and play from home, it has the added benefit of creating jobs and fueling the economy in these rural parts of North America,” said Deborah Kish, Vice President of Research and Marketing at the Fiber Broadband Association. “As the federal government makes plans to spend billions of dollars towards America’s digital infrastructure, deploying fiber proves to be the soundest and cost-effective investment.”

EFF makes the case for symmetrical, high speed internet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation makes the case for symmetrical, high speed internet…

Congress is about to make critical decisions about the future of internet access and speed in the United States. It has a potentially once-in-a-lifetime amount of funding to spend on broadband infrastructure, and at the heart of this debate is the minimum speed requirement for taxpayer-funded internet. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the granularity of this debate, but ultimately it boils down to this: cable companies want a definition that requires them to do and give less. One that will not meet our needs in the future. And if Congress goes ahead with their definition—100 Mbps of download and 20 of upload (100/20 Mbps)—instead of what we need—100 Mbps of download and 100 Mbps of upload (100/100 Mbps)—we will be left behind.

In order to explain exactly why these two definitions mean so much, and how truly different they are, we’ll evaluate each using five basic questions below. But the too long, didn’t read version is this: in essence, building a 100/20 Mbps infrastructure can be done with existing cable infrastructure, the kind already operated by companies such as Comcast and Charter, as well as with wireless. But raising the upload requirement to 100 Mbps—and requiring 100/100 Mbps symmetrical services—can only be done with the deployment of fiber infrastructure. And that number, while requiring fiber, doesn’t represent the fiber’s full capacity, which makes it better suited to a future of internet demand. With that said, let’s get into specifics.

The questions they use:

  1. Which Definition Will Meet Our Projected Needs in 2026 and Beyond?
  2. Which Definition Will Increase Upload Speeds Most Cost-Effectively?
  3. Which Definition Will Deliver Gigabit Speeds?
  4. Which Definition Will Give Americans an Affordable Option That Meets Their Needs Over Time?
  5. Which Definition Makes the U.S. Globally Competitive?

I won’t do the deep dive into each question – but I will look at the first…

Which Definition Will Meet Our Projected Needs in 2026 and Beyond?

Since the 1980s, consumer usage of the internet has grown by 21% on average every single year. Policymakers should bake into their assumption that 2026 internet usage will be greater than 2021 usage. Fiber has capacity decades ahead of projected growth, which is why it is future-proof. Moreover, high-speed wireless internet will likewise end up depending on fiber, because high-bandwidth wireless towers must have equally high-bandwidth wired connections to the internet backbone.

In terms of predicted needs in 2026, OpenVault finds that today’s average use is 207 Mbps/16 Mbps. If we apply 21% annual growth, that will mean 2026 usage will be over 500Mbps down and 40Mbps up. But another crucial detail is that the upload and download needs aren’t growing at the same speeds. Upload, which the average consumer used much less than download, is growing much faster. This is because we are all growing to use and depend on services that upload data much more. The pandemic underscored this, as people moved to remote socializing, remote learning, remote work, telehealth, and many other services that require high upload speeds and capacity. And even as we emerge from the pandemic, those models are not going to go away.

Essentially, the pandemic jumped our upload needs ahead of schedule, but it does not represent an aberration. If anything, it proved the viability of remote services. And our internet infrastructure must reflect that need, not the needs of the past.

EVENT TODAY (noon) Lunch Bunch – MN speed tests and mapping

Just a reminder of today’s lunch bunch. We’re going to be talking about speed tests. I’ preparing for the discussion and ran into what appears to be a pretty good outline of speed test topics. I can hear from the experts if it is in line with their thinking. Otherwise here’s the original post about the meeting…

Speed tests connect users, providers and policymakers.

Speed tests are tools that households can use to let broadband providers and policymakers know what they are experiencing. They are used to create maps that help providers decide who needs better broadband, help policymakers decide who needs attention and people decide where to relocate homes or businesses. But what do we do when different tests show different results? What do different tests consider? And what are contributing factors?

We have a few folks on the frontlines willing to come to talk to us about the tests and we want to hear from you. What are you experiencing? Do you have questions?

Pleased to have folks from Geo Partners (Glenn Fishbine and Paul Demming) and a few providers (Travis Carter from USI) and hopefully Steve Howard from Paul Bunyan (based on availability) join us for the conversation.

Register now!

NTIA Creates First Interactive Map to Help Public See the Digital Divide across the Country

The NTIA unveils a cool new tool. I’ve showing a screenshot of MN, focusing in on Itasca County…

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a new publicly available digital map that displays key indicators of broadband needs across the country. This is the first interactive, public map that allows users to explore different datasets about where people do not have quality Internet access.

The public “Indicators of Broadband Need” tool released today puts on one map, for the first time, data from both public and private sources. It contains data aggregated at the county, census tract, and census block level from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), M-Lab, Ookla and Microsoft. Speed-test data provided by M-Lab and Ookla help to illustrate the reality that communities experience when going online, with many parts of the country reporting speeds that fall below the FCC’s current benchmark for fixed broadband service of 25 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload. This is the first map that allows users to graphically compare and contrast these different data sources.

 

“As we release this important data to the public, it paints a sobering view of the challenges facing far too many Americans as they try to connect to high-speed broadband and participate in our modern economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “In his American Jobs Plan, President Biden has proposed a once-in-a-lifetime investment that would finally connect one hundred percent of the country to reliable and affordable high-speed broadband.”

The map also puts poverty and lack of broadband access on the same page. The dataset allows you to see where high-poverty communities are located and how that relates to internet usage patterns, as well as to a lack of computers and related equipment.  The map also shows usage patterns in tribal communities, which have historically suffered from lack of internet access. Users can toggle the separate data sets on and off to compare information, and search for specific locations, including Tribal lands and minority-serving institutions, to gain a better understanding of where broadband needs are greatest.

“Any effort to close the digital divide starts with solid data, and NTIA continues to help policymakers make more informed decisions on expanding broadband access,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley. “Now, the public can benefit from our platform to see which areas of the country still don’t have broadband at speeds needed to participate in the modern economy.”

“Broadband is no longer nice to have. It’s need to have. To ensure that every household has the internet access necessary for success in the digital age, we need better ways to accurately measure where high-speed service has reached Americans and where it has not,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “The latest mapping effort by NTIA is a welcome new tool that provides valuable insight into the state of broadband across the country. Kudos to Secretary Raimondo and Acting Assistant Secretary Remaley for their leadership. The FCC looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with the Commerce Department and other federal partners to fulfill the goal of connecting 100 percent of Americans.”

NTIA also offers to state governments and federal partners a geographic information system (GIS) platform called the National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM) that provides more complex tools for analyzing broadband access, such as the ability to upload GIS files to compare proposed projects. Earlier this month, NTIA announced that Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, and South Dakota have joined the growing roster of state participants in the NBAM, bringing the total number of participating states to 36. The mapping platform allows these states and others to better inform broadband projects and funding decisions.