Scandia’s Broadband Expansion Timeline
According to the Blandin Foundation, it typically takes a community 5 years to successfully address broadband issues. I have been keeping track of the actions taken to date in Scandia. Those actions are documented below:
  1. I founded the Internet Focus Group founded in February 2018. This grass roots team consisted of a dozen technology experts. While encouraged by the EDA and Council, we were never an official City Committee. Our initial mission was to collect and disseminate information about the current state of internet in Scandia.

  2. The Internet Focus Group met with Frontier in March told they are using Federal dollars to upgrade their network to 10/1, but they would consider adding nodes and upgrading to 25/3 if Scandia would be a partner on a DEED Grant.

  3. The Internet Focus Group met with MidCo in April told their current network is at capacity and unless we can get their cost to less than $1500 per home, they will not expand because it is not cost effective.

  4. In the Summer of 2018, the Internet Focus Group published a community survey with help from the Blandin Foundation. The results indicated MidCo customers are very happy and Frontier customers are very frustrated.

  5. The Internet Focus Group enlisted help from the Blandin Foundation, who provided funding for consulting services from Bill Coleman.

  6. Bill Coleman told the Internet Focus Group we were doing all the right things and to do it correctly typically it takes five years. He helpped us develope a work plan that indicated our next step would be to perform a Feasibility Study for expanding broadband to the community. He introduced us the Joe Buttweiler from CTC.

  7. With help from another Blandin Foundation grant, the City commissioned a Feasibility study from CTC. That study told us that we have 120 miles of road and 120 miles of connections from the road to homes. They also estimated it would cost approximately $13.3M to run FTTH to everyone in Scandia.

  8. I attended the October 2018 MN Broadband Coalition Conference, where I met with various providers and consultants who were helping communities expand broadband services. The primary methods everyone was pursuing were Fiber-To-The-Premise (FTTP) and Fixed Wireless (FW) towers with fiber to support them. Then, using the revenue from the FW installs to expand FTTH along the fiber path supporting the towers.

  9. In January 2019, the Internet Focus Group drafted an RFP asking eight providers to submit proposals for installing FTTH networks. We specifically wanted to ensure both Frontier and MidCo responded. As such, we made sure the RFP asked providers to submit alternatives to FTTH if they felt this was a better way to accomplish the goal of providing “Reliable, Cost Effective, High Speed Internet to Everyone in Scandia”.

  10. Two providers submitted RFP Responses by the deadline (CTC and Frontier). The Internet Focus Group asked CTC for an alternate response that would only serve the non-MidCo territory to see how that might reduce the overall cost and affect to those already “served”. They also reached out to try to get MidCo to respond.

  11. Around that time, the City Council discussed the possibility of some City expense to get expansion completed. We learned the only way we can fund broadband expansion is through the general levy. As such, we drafted a bill that would modify the Subordinate Service District legislation and allow us to define project areas and only assess those benefiting from the improvement. This bill did not make it to the floor for a vote, due to focus on passing the required budget bills. It is still sitting on “General Orders” and will likely be brought up in the 2020 session.

  12. Because of this bill, MidCo and the MN Cable Coalition met with Rep Dettmer, Bill Strusinski, and me. They asked to have the bill pulled. Their argument was that is not needed because MidCo could simply expand at no cost to Scandia. I indicated we could not unilaterally accept such an offer. Scandia is on track to select a partner to expand services. The chosen partner would come from the list of those who responded to the RFP. If MidCo was to be in the running, they needed to respond. As a result, MidCo submitted a letter outlining a high level plan to expand internet using a mix of their existing technology and Fixed Wireless, at no cost to the City.

  13. The Internet Focus Group developed a created for scoring proposals and a plan to ask providers to present to the EDA for a recommendation of there was not a clear “winner” among the responders.

  14. The CTC proposal was accepted, by the Internet Focus Group members, as the best RFP response and best technology for delivering internet. However, a minority of members were not certain the CTC proposed solution was the best overall, due to the cost and impact to homeowners who are happy with the service they have.

  15. Some members clearly thought CTC was the best solution; some thought MidCo was the best. Everyone discounted the Frontier proposal.

  16. As a result, the Scandia City Administrator was asked to set up a May 13 joint meeting of the EDA and Focus Group to hear directly from both CTC and MidCo.

  17. MidCo was unavailable on the 13th, so our Administrator reached out and ended up rescheduling the meeting for May 29.

  18. On May 25, Steve reached out to Bill Coleman to make sure he was invited to sit in on the presentations.

  19. Mid-Afternoon on the 29th, Steve got an email from Joe Buttweiler asking questions about the meeting. I later discovered the City Administrator had inadvertantly neglected to send CTC a final confirmation of the rescheduled meeting.

  20. Since our Administrator, had just retired, Steve reached out to Joe to get his presentation rescheduled. On the morning of May 30, Joe seemed agreeable to a presentation on June 12.

  21. On the morning of June 2, Joe sent out a communication stating CTC would not talk with the EDA or Council until the City “focus its efforts exclusively on a fiber to the premise solution”. Steve tried a few more times to get Joe to present, and even got the Mayor to make a request. Each time the answer was the same… not until we had chosen FTTH home as the only alternative being considered.

  22. MidCo presented their proposal on May 29. Phase 1 would involve expanding their existing solution to a portion of the unserved/underserved home in Scandia. The cost of this would be determined after the City chose which of the areas it wanted to pursue. Phase 2 would be a Fixed Wireless Solution offering a minimum of 100/10 at no cost to the City. Written details of the proposal were not available, but a map of the potential expansion areas was given to the Mayor and me with a request to not share it with anyone until financial information could be gathered. The Council could then determine which expansion areas they would support.

  23. During the Council Workshop on June 5, Steve give an update…. Frontier wanted $333K to get us to 25/3. MidCo verbally proposed a mix of Wired and Fixed Wireless solutions offering a minimum of 100/10 and would work with the City to minimize our overall investment, and CTC was refusing to present their proposal to the EDA or Council, but had indicated 1Gig Symmetrical to every home in Scandia for $5.7M.

  24. I indicated either we could wait for the EDA to review this, or since CTC was not willing to make a presentation, the Council could act and get the ball rolling 13 days sooner. The Council unanimously voted to support a DEED Grant application by MidCo so we could start building out a solution early next year.

  25. Many members of the Internet Focus Group were not happy with the Council Decision and asked to discuss it. MidCo’s proposals have all been vague, and CTC had recently indicated a willingness to discuss their proposal. The Internet Focus Group felt the Council should fully understand the opportunities before making a final decision.

  26. On August 7, against the recommendation of the Internet Focus Group, the Council reaffirmed its desire to pursue a DEED Grant this year and agreed to work with MidCo.

  27. Between July 22 and August 30, Midco submitted three different written project overviews to the City.

  28. On July 30, MidCo indicated the cost to expand their current wired solution to the rest of the City was around $6.5M and that they were willing to invest $1.4M of their own money to help make this happen, if ee wanted to pursue that route.

  29. On August 30, the Council signed a letter of support for a DEED grant by MidCo. The Grant proposal was submitted before the September 13 deadline and no challenges were made before the October 18 deadline.

  30. On October 14, MidCo provided a list of the addresses included in the Grant Application.

  31. On October 15, the City authorized a mailing to all of the addresses in Grant Application asking propoerty owners to send DEED letters of support for the grant.

  32. On November 12, the City received a copy of the 2019 DEED Grant Application from MidCo.

  33. The Council established goals for broadband expansion and created a new, and official, committee to oversee the expansion efforts.

  34. On December 3, the new Internet Action Committee met for the first time.