The Community Broadband Action Network (CBAN) has been awarded a grant in the amount of $380,591 through the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) to provide digital equity education and resources to communities in rural Iowa.
The grant is part of a $10 million investment from Google.org to establish a national Digital Navigator Corps. It supports the hiring and establishment of 18 community-based digital navigators across the country for three years, through August 2025. CBAN was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide.
“The NDIA and Google understand that areas with lower population density are the most vulnerable to being left on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Jon Anne Willow, CBAN co-founder and President. “This program is a great start in terms of closing that gap.”
NDIA sub-grantees, including CBAN, will receive programmatic and technical support to further develop NDIA’s digital navigator model for rural and Tribal communities. The program will help thousands of Iowa residents to gain much-needed access to the internet, devices, and digital skills training.
“The grantors have been very helpful,” said Todd Kielkopf, CBAN co-founder and Treasurer. “The NDIA is providing great programmatic support while still allowing us to work the way that’s best for our local communities.” Kielkopf will serve as Program Manager for Iowa’s Digital Navigator program.
Digital navigators are trusted guides who assist community members in internet adoption and the use of computing devices. Iowa’s digital navigator will provide one-on-one assistance with affordable internet access, device acquisition, technical skills, and application support, including for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) broadband service subsidy.
“There are so many ways we’ll be able to help people, and having the program funded for three years shows Google and NDIA’s commitment to its success,” said Curtis Dean, CBAN co-founder and Vice President. “We are equally committed as CBAN expands its ability to educate, support, and serve communities across our nationwide member base."
CBAN is working to finalize the communities where the program will be enacted and hire a Digital Navigator. It is expected that Digital Navigator services will begin being offered in the target communities in January 2023.
The voters of Waterloo, Iowa have spoken, and by an overwhelming margin they have given the green light to a key financial component for their planned municipal fiber utility.
At issue in yesterday's referendum was whether or not the City of Waterloo should issue $20 million in general obligation bonds to help finance the planned $110 million fiber-to-the-home network. The City had already committed $9 million in funds from their American Recover Plan Act (ARPA) allocation toward the project. 84% of the voters in Tuesday's referendum said YES to the bond issue, which required 60% to pass. As a result, the network will lower overall interest costs by using some GO bonds, although city leaders say taxes will not need to be used to make those bond payments as revenues from the sale of services will be sufficient. City leaders say the project would still have proceeded even with the bond issue passage, but would have raised interest costs over the term of the financing.
The remainder of the funding for the project - approximately $80 million - will come from the sale of revenue bonds backed by the Waterloo Communications Utility.
Waterloo, Iowa will be the 29th city in Iowa to build a municipal communications utility. It will also become the largest city in Iowa served by municipal communications.
Iowa communities with municipal telecom (in alphabetical order)
Registration is open and the agenda has been finalized for the IAMU Fall Broadband Forum on October 24 and 25, 2022. This fall's event will be held in Waverly, home of Waverly Utilities.
Activities will begin at 3:30pm on Monday, October 24th when attendees can participate in a tour of the Waverly Utilities facility. A second tour opportunity will take place on Tuesday, October 25th. A member meet-up will take place after the tour at approximately 5:00pm at a Waverly restaurant to be determined.
On Tuesday the 25th, a series of informational sessions will be held in the Waverly Room at Waverly City Hall.
8:00am - Registration
8:30am - The Waverly Utilities Story
9:20am - Break
9:30am - Digital Inclusion
10:20am - Break
10:30am - 10G PON and Beyond - Preparing for the Future
11:20am - Break
11:30am - Smart Cities: Grids, Transportation, and Big Data
12:20am - Lunch featuring new ACA Connects Director Grant Spellmeyer
1:00pm - Broadband Funding in Iowa
1:45pm - Waverly Utilities Tour #2
Registration is $50 for IAMU members and $75 for non-members. You can register at www.iamu.org or by filling out the registration form in the flyer (CLICK HERE to download, PDF)
CBAN is excited to welcome Sinch, formerly Intelliquent, to our growing community! We asked the team at Sinch to share some information about their company as they come on board.
Sinch empowers personalized communications at scale - through one communication platform and best-in-industry omnichannel solutions for voice, messaging, video, email and verification. All powered by the best super network in the U.S.
Sinch was recently selected by the City of Fort Dodge (a CBAN community member) as the voice service platform on Fort Dodge Fiber, the city's new municipal fiber network being built later this year. Sinch also provides voice services for CBAN member Reinbeck Telecommunications Utility.
Miles Communications, a CBAN provider member, is teaming up with the City of Clinton, Iowa to bring fiber optic connectivity to city and county facilities.
The project received a major boost last week from the Clinton County Development Association, which committed $500,000 toward the project. The fiber rnetwork will connect 16 city-owned facilities, five county facilities, four Clinton elementary schools, the middle school and to the high school.
The City of Clinton is also investing $5 million in the fiber network, which Miles Communications will operate on its behalf.
CBAN's Curtis Dean attended Mountain Connect in Colorado last week and filed this report.
I took a little drive (10 hours) early last week to Keystone Conference Center in Colorado for the annual Mountain Connect conference. This was my third Mountain Connect, and it gets a little bigger and better each year. Organizers cram a lot of great content and networking opportunities into the two-day show. Here are some highlights from the perspective of this Iowa flatlander.
WARNING: Many acronyms ahead!
Certainly the hot topic at 2022 Mountain Connect was the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, affectionately known by all as BEAD. BEAD is part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden late in 2021. BEAD provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Just days before Mountain Connect, the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) released its Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to the states and territories outlining the key requirements they will need to follow to administer their share of the funding. Assistant NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson attended Mountain Connect to provide additional perspective on the program to the 600 or so people in attendance, many of whom represented communities and small providers who would love to access BEAD funding to bring broadband to unserved areas. Check out a great article by Sean Gonsolves with the ILSR for a complete summary of Davidson's remarks.
There have been mixed opinions about the NOFO. For example, the Fiber Broadband Association considers it a big win because the rules prioritize fiber development. Other industry analysts are not as enthusiastic as the NOFO may restrict who applies for funding due to required credit guarantees and reporting requirements. Also, the proposed timeline (above) means that money won't be in the hands of providers to build out fiber for at least two years. BEAD will not be a quick fix for the nation's broadband woes.
Jeff Gavlinksi, founder and organizer of Mountain Connect, really knows how to put on a conference. They information sessions were divided into five tracks, each of which had great topics and presenters/speakers. As someone attending solo, choices had to be made, so there was a lot that I personally missed. I envied the organizations and communities that were able to send multiple representatives to absorb multiple tracks of content.
One of the big reasons to attend a show like Mountain Connect is to network with companies that offer the products and services it takes to research, build, and operate a broadband network. There were about 60 or so vendors with displays at Mountain Connect. It was great to see around 8 CBAN Associate Members there and catch up with their latest offerings.
Ah, Colorado in late spring. Just a few days before Mountain Connect began, temperatures in the mountains were summer-like. All that changed a few days before opening day when a major spring snowstorm brought up to 2 feet of snow to the mountains, and around 9-12 inches to the Keystone Resort. The annual golf tournament, scheduled for May 23rd, was a victim of the weather.
Mother Nature wasn't done, however, and she graced attendees with another half-foot of snow on the night of Monday, May 23rd. The walk from the lodging area to the conference center was beautiful, but a little sloppy.
Still, this IS Colorado and even though it was snowy it was never very cold or uncomfortable. And the views were majestic! The best part of the trip, however, had to be the drive through Nebraska. If you've done it you know what I mean.
Here at CBAN we are always looking for new ways to communicate with our members. Since our founding 4 years ago we've provided regular webinars and webcasts, including Lunch and Learn and Member Spotlight series; email newsletters from Broadband Bytes; and one-one-one and group meetings. Now, we are excited to have launched a new form of communication - the Broadband Action podcast!
Broadband Action features audio content from our previous video presentations as well as new and original content. So far our library includes a discussion of anti-municipal lobbyists, an exploration of state broadband offices, low-Earth orbit satellite internet, supply chain issues, and the Affordable Connectivity Program. New episodes are made available every couple of weeks.
Broadband Action is a great way to get caught up on the go using your favorte podcast platform. Just search "Broadband Action" on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Amazo, and Stitcher. We hope you'll take a listen and spread the word!
We’d like to welcome Irby as a CBAN Associate Member. You may have had the opportunity to visit with the Irby team at the recent CBAN Reception and IAMU Spring Forum. Irby is a value-added distributor for a variety of products in the broadband space. Their product lines include 3M, AFL, Cisco, Commscope, Exfo, Fluke, OFS, and many more. Irby has secured a large order of loose tube fiber that will be available for ordering early this summer. Our Outside Account Manager’s can be reached at Cory Scheibly firstname.lastname@example.org and John Felton email@example.com
Thank you to Irby for supporting CBAN and welcome to the community!
With a mission of providing the best broadband internet experience to Fort Dodge residents, the City of Fort Dodge on Monday hired a local expert in Jeremy Pearson to lead Fort Dodge Fiber, the city’s new municipal broadband utility.
Pearson comes to the City from the Fort Dodge Community School District where he served as the Supervisor of Information Technology. He oversaw all IT operations for the district of 3,600 students and 700 staff, coordinated construction projects throughout the district, and maintenance of the servers, fiber, and wireless networks throughout the district.
“This project and the opportunities it will bring to the City of Fort Dodge will last long into the future,” said Pearson. “With this investment in our community, everyone will benefit. We’ve heard loud and clear from the community that our residents and local businesses want a better option to provide broadband services. In my over 25 years in the technology field, I’ve always tried to provide the best quality customer service, and tried to make the end users feel valued and respected. I will bring that experience to Fort Dodge Fiber to make this experience the best it can be.”
Pearson’s appointment as Fiber Director is effective on May 2nd.
“Being able to onboard this early in a massive project such as this is so beneficial,” said Pearson. “I’ll get to understand the engineering and thought process as the different phases are planned and eventually installed. I’ll be able to work alongside the engineers and consultants to ask questions and gain insight as to how to make this project the best it can be. And, knowing the citizens of Fort Dodge want more than what is available to them today, getting to be a part of the team to help deliver that made this a very exciting opportunity.”
Pearson has been part of the Fort Dodge Community since he was a freshman at Iowa Central Community College in 1994. He lives in Fort Dodge with his wife Mary, who is an elementary music teacher at Duncombe Elementary School. He has four children, Cole, Adam, and Kira.
We were excited by the great turnout at the 2022 CBAN Reception on April 6th. The event was held the evening before the IAMU Spring Broadband Forum on April 7th.
It was also the first event since pre-COVID that the entire CBAN team were together in the same place at the same time! Below (left-right) are CBAN co-founders Todd Kielkopf, Jon Anne Willow, and Curtis Dean; and CBAN Community Manager Kate Kielkopf
Thank you to everyone for attending!
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.