Tag: "financing"

Posted October 22, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Earlier this month, a plan to bring fiber connectivity to four towns in Knox County, Maine (pop. 39,500) spearheaded by the MidCoast Internet Development Corporation (MIDC) was dealt a major blow when Knox County Commissioners denied MIDC’s request to use the county's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for network construction.

During a Knox County Commission meeting on Tuesday, October 12, after County Commissioners repeatedly barred local municipal leaders from commenting on broadband-related issues, they voted unanimously against awarding any of the county’s $7.7 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to municipal broadband projects or any project benefiting an individual municipality.

County Commissioners assembled to consider 58 ARPA project applications submitted by nonprofit and municipal entities, all vying for a portion of the county’s Rescue Plan funds. But, the meeting took an unexpected turn when one Knox County Commissioner accused representatives from the MIDC, a regional broadband utility formed by four Knox County towns, of “bullying” the Commissioners into spending the county’s Rescue Plan funds on regional and municipal broadband projects. 

After County Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether voiced her displeasure for how local community broadband advocates pursued the funding, three local Select Board members were not permitted to speak in support of MIDC. Adding insult to injury, the Commissioners then welcomed a representative from Charter Spectrum to talk for nearly 30 minutes.

Knox County Commissioners are now getting pushback from local municipal leaders and their constituents who are accusing the Commissioners of not adhering to the budget approval process mandated by the county charter and failing to represent constituents in the county’s ARPA funding priorities. They also say the County Commissioners are in violation of Maine state law for forgoing a public comment period.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Knox County Commissioners had informally awarded $4.1 million of the county’s ARPA funds to project proposals addressing affordable housing and food distribution. Yet, some municipal leaders refuse to go quietly into the night, skeptical...

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Posted October 21, 2021 by Maren Machles

Situated in rural Central New York, Madison County (pop. 71,000) was named in honor of America’s fourth President, James Madison. But it was the region’s history of growing hops for beer that really put the county on the map. By 1859, New York state produced 80 percent of all hops grown in the U.S., thanks in no small measure to the crops in Madison County.

Today, while the community still celebrates this history at the annual HopFest, county leaders are now focused on the future and how to ensure the region does not get left in the dust by missing out on an essential economic development ingredient: high-speed Internet connectivity. In a modern economy, broadband infrastructure is indispensable in general terms and specifically for the efficient operation of precision agriculture

With a focus now on the digital landscape, Madison County planners have embarked on a project to bring fiber to the farm as well as thousands of other other residents and businesses across the region.

What really got things off the ground, or rather into the ground, was the county being awarded a USDA ReConnect grant last year. Madison is the only county in United States to directly receive ReConnect grant funding in FY 2020.

In July, the USDA announced it would grant $10.1 million in ReConnect funds in support of the project to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect 2,170 people, 50 farms and 30 businesses to high-speed broadband in Madison County as part of a larger countywide project. The county will work with private Internet Service provider (ISP) Empire Access to eventually bring fiber connectivity to nearly 7,600 households in the region.

A Fertile Land For Fiber

Two years ago, Madison County officials decided to make broadband a top priority. The most underserved area of Madison is in the southern part of the county, where DSL and satellite were primarily offered, with limited addresses eligible for cable access. 

The county held community forums. The response was overwhelming: frustrations with the limited, unreliable options had been long brewing in...

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Posted October 18, 2021 by Maren Machles

More than $34.6 million in COVID relief funds were awarded in August to 15 Minnesota cities and counties across the state as part of the Small Cities Coronavirus Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG-CV). The grant program was created to support Minnesota’s COVID-19 response efforts with the help of a special allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds from the CARES Act fund. 

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) administered the grants which can be used for projects like housing assistance and commercial rehabilitation, but the majority of the funding - approximately $32 million - will be used for broadband projects. 

“The pandemic has made clear how vital broadband is to the lives of Minnesotans and to the economic vitality of our state,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove in a DEED press release. “These grants will help communities fund broadband and other important projects as we write the next chapter of our economy.”

Aitkin County, receiving the largest grant of $4.8 million, submitted an application to work with the Mille Lac Energy Cooperative on a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project that would pass approximately 565 homes across seven communities, six of which don’t even have access to 10/1 Megabit per second (Mbps). The application projected it would take approximately 93 miles of fiber and $9,000 per passing location. In its application, the county shared that while the median household income across Minnesota is $71,300, the median across these communities is $45,990, demonstrating that there is a clear issue of infrastructure and access, but also affordability. As part of its application, Aitkin County and MLEC announced the latter would include a low-cost plan to help address the digital divide: 

MLEC will offer a discounted plan at $39.95 with speeds of 50Mbps/50 Mbps to qualifying residents.If the Emergency Broadband Benefit is continued after the initial funding period" MLEC hopes to participate in this program and will discontinue the discounted...

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Posted September 28, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Update, 1/22/22: Common Sense Media has released an easy-to-read, comprehensive guide to federal broadband funding opportunities. Read it here.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress and the Biden Administration passed two federal stimulus relief packages with historic levels of funding for programs devoted to advancing digital equity – the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA). 

In early August, legislators in the U.S. Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package which continues many of the federal programs started by previous relief packages and includes $65 billion more for expanding high-speed Internet infrastructure and connectivity. Members of Congress returned from their summer break on September 20th and U.S. House Representatives are expected to vote on the infrastructure relief bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, on September 30th.

This guide consolidates the different funding opportunities made available through various relief packages to assist communities interested in accessing federal funds to expand broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion services. It updates ILSR’s Community Guide to Broadband Funding released in April of 2021, which describes programs established under ARPA and CAA in more detail, provides additional resources and answers FAQs.

Important upcoming deadlines are bolded throughout this guide. 

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Pending 

Though the legislation is pending in Congress, the version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the U.S. Senate in August of 2021 includes $65 billion for expanding Internet access and digital inclusion initiatives. The Senate bill takes a more holistic approach to addressing the digital divide than previous relief packages, as it includes...

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Posted September 24, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On Episode 19 of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and (a partly there) Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Keith Hanson (Shreveport, Louisiana Chief Technology Officer) and Angelina Panettieri (National League of Cities) to talk about how some cities place themselves at the vanguard of innovation by undertaking projects designed to improve local conditions using existing infrastructure and know-how. Keith shares Shreveport's efforts to map the digital divide by connecting low-power computing devices to GPS sensors and cell phone batteries on garbage trucks to map broadband access across the city. He also talks about other edge computing initiatives, like video for public safety. 

The group also discusses the newly released Treasury rules on the $10 billion in infrastructure funding coming down the pipeline, and how cities can position themselves to take advantage.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here, or below.

Posted September 22, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

A week from today, the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) is hosting a fireside chat on Tuesday, September 29th at 12-12:30p ET with SHLB Executive Director John Windhausen and Christopher Ali.

Ali is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, and recently released a new book through MIT press called Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity.

From the description:

Before the pandemic-driven surge of public investment in broadband networks, the federal government had subsidized rural broadband by approximately $6 billion a year. So why does the rural-urban digital divide persist? Why are we looking to the new infrastructure bill to solve a problem that should have been solved a decade ago? Author of "Farm Fresh Broadband" Dr. Christopher Ali argues that rural broadband policy is both broken and incomplete, proposing a new national broadband plan. Join SHLB Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen for a virtual fireside chat with Dr. Ali, to pick his brain on where the U.S. is going wrong and how to course correct rural broadband policy moving forward. And of course, they’ll discuss where community anchor institutions fit into it all.

ILSR spoke with Ali on Episode 134 of the Building Local Power podcast, which you can listen to here.

Register for the event here.

Posted September 21, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On Episode 19 of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Keith Hanson (Shreveport, Louisiana Chief Technology Officer) and Angelina Panettieri (National League of Cities) to talk about how some cities place themselves at the vanguard of innovation by undertaking projects designed to improve local conditions using existing infrastructure and know-how. For instance, in this episode of the show, Keith will share Shreveport's efforts to bridge the digital divide: an initiative driven in part by connecting low-power computing devices to GPS sensors and cell phone batteries on garbage trucks to map broadband access across the city. 

The group will also discuss the newly released Treasury rules on the $10 billion in infrastructure funding coming down the pipeline.

Join us for the live show Thursday, September 23rd, at 5pm ET. 

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here, or below.

Posted September 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Ponca City, Oklahoma (pop. 24,100) sits in the north-central part of the Sooner State 100 miles north of Oklahoma City. Its history as a community built and shaped by the oil town looms large, from the E.W. Marland Mansion which still stands as a testament to the efforts of the oil baron who helped build the city in the first decades of the 1900s, to the Conoco Museum which offers residents and tourists a look at the history of the corporate giant which emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century.

But today, instead of pumping petroleum in the name of keeping the local economy strong, officials are broadcasting bytes to residents, business, government facilities, and community anchor institutions via their new municipal fiber utility: Ponca City Broadband. The project, which left its pilot phase two years ago in July, has passed the halfway point of a full greenfield overbuild which will see more than 400 miles of new fiber pulled to build the citywide network as it aims for completion in late 2022.

A Wired Upgrade

Ponca City’s current fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project was born in 2014, when local officials began talking about bringing more robust connectivity to every location in town. While it began laying fiber for city services as far back as 1996 and used those assets as the basis for a free citywide public Wi-Fi network which launched in 2007, the onset of increased usage that went with HD streaming services called for more. The solution they landed on was a fiber-to-the-home network hitting every premises in town, with planning beginning around 2015. When we last checked in with Director of Technology Services David Williams in July of 2019, the network was completing Phase 1: a 1.5-square-mile rectangular area sitting squarely in the center of town.

Today, Ponca City Broadband is nearing the end of Phases 2 and 3...

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Posted September 13, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Connect This! show has officially returned, kicking off an unofficial Season 2 with better production value, worse jokes, and the same lively conversation and hot takes we've all become accustomed to. 

On the latest episode, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to catch up after a frenzied summer. With all of the federal, state, and local broadband infrastructure funding programs and projects announced over the last three months, the panel breaks down what they've been seeing across the country. 

During the course of the conversation, they cover what's been going on with the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (including ISPs turning funds back in and LTD failing to get its ETC status), more supply chain constraints, how communities can plan for current and future funding, and incumbents continuing to lock up MDUs.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here, or below.

Posted September 8, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On Episode 18 of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to catch up after a frenzied summer. With all of the federal, state, and local broadband infrastructure funding programs and projects announced over the last three months, the panel breaks down what they've been seeing across the country. 

Join us for the live show tomorrow, September 9th, at 6pm ET. 

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here, or below.

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