June 1, 2012

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

>> Reminder: New FCC Lifeline Applications Requirements Go into Effect Today

>> Connect Minnesota Releases New Broadband Availability Figures

>> IPAWS Webinar: Getting Ready for CAP: Countdown to June 30

>> OPASTCO Offers Discount to Minnesota Companies

>> FiberNet Management Company Parts Ways with Troubled Monticello City Telecom Network

>> UV and Your Eyes

People and Companies

MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Jaskowiak
Meeting Planner:
Julie Cygan
Member Services:
Chris Swanson
Janey Duntley

June 11-13, 2012: 2012 MTA Fishing Outing

July 9, 2012: 2012 MTA Golf Day

August 22, 2012: 2012 Telco Marketing Peer Group Summer Conference

October 4-5, 2012: MTA 2012 Fall Industry Showcase

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Reminder: New FCC Lifeline Applications Requirements Go into Effect Today

The FCC’s Lifeline Order has added new requirements to the application process for customers wishing to participate in the program. The State of Minnesota has not as yet taken action to approve a new template for Minnesota Eligible Telecommunications Providers (ETCs) to use for the program in this State. Until that is done, MTA members are encouraged to modify their existing applications to include the new requirements to ensure compliance with the FCC Order.
These requirements include the following:

  1. ETCs are required to obtain each consumer’s signature on a document certifying under penalty of perjury that the consumer’s household receives benefits from a qualifying state or federal assistance  program, specifying the program in which the consumer’s household is enrolled, or has income at or below 135 percent of the FPG, and that the consumer, if required to do so, presented documentation that accurately represents the consumer’s household income or participation in such program. Consumers must provide this certification to the ETC upon enrolling in Lifeline and annually thereafter.
  2. ETCs are required to obtain each consumer’s initials or signature on a document, under penalty of perjury, when the consumer enrolls in Lifeline and annually thereafter, attesting that the information contained in the consumer’s application remains true and correct to the best of his or her knowledge and acknowledging that providing false or fraudulent information to receive Lifeline benefits is punishable by law.  ETCs are also required to explain that Lifeline is a government benefit program and consumers who willfully make false statements in order to obtain the benefit can be punished by fine or imprisonment or can be barred from the program.
  3. In order to eliminate incidences of duplicative support, the FCC now requires ETCs to collect subscribers’ date of birth and last four digits of the Social Security number (or an official Tribal government identification card number for eligible consumers living on Tribal lands who lack a social security number) to verify the subscriber’s ID through the National Accountability Database. ETCs must collect this information on their initial and annual certification forms and the Lifeline subscriber must attest that the information is correct and they do not receive lifeline support from another source.

Additionally, you may want to add a "Company Use Only” section to the form to enable tracking of the documentation reviewed to determine eligibility since companies cannot retain the "proof” documents provided by the customer.
TDS Telecom’s draft of a modified Lifeline Application form is available for reference.
For more information, click here or contact MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen at bchristensen@mnta.org or 651-288-3723.


Connect Minnesota Releases New Broadband Availability Figures

From ConnectMN

New research unveiled recently by Connect Minnesota shows that the broadband availability gap in Minnesota is shrinking, with 85.09% of Minnesota residents now having access to broadband speeds of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload, compared to 81.20% last October. In addition, 59.92% of Minnesota households can access broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/6 Mbps upload – the minimum speed threshold for Minnesota’s goal of ubiquitous broadband availability – a nearly 3% increase from October 2011.
"It is encouraging to see that the efforts of providers and all state stakeholders to increase broadband access are showing clear results,” said Connect Minnesota Program Manager Bill Hoffman. "These efforts, however, must continue in order to bring the empowering technology of broadband to the roughly 2 percent of Minnesota residents who remain unserved. And while the majority of the state can access basic broadband speeds, our 2011 survey results show 28% of the population still does not use broadband at home.”
Nonprofit Connect Minnesota has been working since 2009 to ensure that Minnesota residents have access to the economic, educational, and quality of life benefits derived from increased broadband access, adoption, and use. Part of that work includes mapping Minnesota’s broadband availability and providing analysis to the Broadband Taskforce, broadband providers, policymakers, and community planners.
Among the findings of the new broadband availability research are:

  • 85.09% of Minnesota households can access broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload, meaning that 311,000 households are in areas that may be eligible for Universal Service Fund broadband deployment subsidies.
  • 59.92% of Minnesota households can access broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/6 Mbps upload – the minimum speed threshold for Minnesota’s goal of ubiquitous broadband availability*.
  • 94.83% of rural households in Minnesota have access to broadband.  
  • 67.66% of Minnesota households have access to broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload. In October 2011, only 45.30% of households in Minnesota had access to these broadband speeds.
  • Broadband at the basic 768 Kbps/200 Kbps tier is available to 97.77% of Minnesota households, up from 97.08% last October.
  • 88.1% of Minnesota households have the ability to choose broadband service from two or more non-mobile broadband providers

Note: The data in this report are subject to data validation.

*Minnesota Statute 237.012 indicates upload goal of 5 Mbps. Data collection only conforms with speed tiers as represented in the SBI NOFA where 6 Mbps is the most comparable upload speed tier. This means that across the state, approximately 837,000 households are not connected to services that meet the state’s target.
Last month, Connect Minnesota released an innovative new broadband mapping tool called My ConnectView offering unmatched views of Minnesota’s technology landscape. Residents and businesses are encouraged to use the interactive map to find area providers and help validate the data.
Connect Minnesota’s research was conducted as part of the State Broadband Initiative (SBI) grant program, funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The data were gathered in accordance with the requirements of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and subsequent clarifications set forth by NTIA. The process begins by contacting all known providers in the state and providing information about the broadband mapping project. Information on broadband service areas is collected from each willing provider through voluntary participation. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is offered to all providers prior to the submission of data; the data protected through the NDA are limited to highly sensitive network infrastructure information, including middle-mile locations. Connected Nation strives to maintain a flexible mapping process in order to be able to collect data from providers in a variety of formats based on providers’ technical capabilities and resources.

IPAWS Webinar: Getting Ready for CAP: Countdown to June 30

FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)
in Partnership with the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Association (NASBA)
and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)

Wednesday, June 6,  4:00 pm – 5:00 pm ET (3:00 pm – 5:00 pm CDT)

Join FEMA in welcoming back industry and government leaders for the next discussion in their continuing EAS Webinar Series on Wednesday, June 6, from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm ET! The event will be hosted by Manny Centeno of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Suzanne Goucher of NASBA and the Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB).

The Webinar will discuss what EAS Participants need to know to ensure they are prepared to receive alert messages in Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) and will include presentations on the following topics:

  • Antwane Johnson, FEMA IPAWS Director, will provide an overall update on IPAWS developments
  • IPAWS staff will discuss general EAS-CAP best-practices, EAS device configuration, and parallel operation of the EAS using traditional monitoring and CAP  
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will address recent changes to Part 11 Rules governing EAS and what State and local Emergency Communications Committees should be aware of as they update their State EAS Plans
  • Whit Adamson, President of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters (TAB), will share the steps he has taken to develop local officials’ interest in using the EAS    
  • IPAWS staff will provide an update on the Primary Entry Point (PEP) Expansion Program
Event Details:

What: FEMA IPAWS Special Event – Getting Ready for CAP: Countdown to June 30
When: Wednesday, June 6, 2012; 4:00 pm-5:00 pm ET
Where: WebEx (This link will only be active the afternoon of June 6)

NOTE: The audio portion of the program will be delivered via your computer speakers. Please review the instructions posted at: www.emforum.org/WebExInstructions.htm prior to the program.

Webinar Login: The following login link can be used not earlier than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting time: eiip.webex.com/eiip/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=922661163. The password is attend.

Questions can be directed to the FEMA IPAWS email address: ipaws@dhs.gov, Manny Centeno at Manuel.Centeno@fema.gov, or Suzanne Goucher at Suzanne@mab.org.

OPASTCO Offers Discount to Minnesota Companies

OPASTCO will hold its 49th Annual Summer Convention & Tradeshow July 15-18, 2012, in Minneapolis and has a great deal for companies located in Minnesota – discounted registration for $650! Because your company is located in Minnesota, OPASTCO is pleased to offer you convention registration for $650! That is $400 off the standard convention registration fee. Two general sessions, 15 breakout sessions, the annual tradeshow – all for the low price of $650. Included in the full registration is admittance to all meals, educational sessions and tradeshow!
Never been to an OPASTCO convention? Now’s the time to come! All first-time attendees receive an additional $100 off their registration fee!
Please visit the OPASTCO website at www.opastco.org for the latest information on the convention agenda. When you are ready, please use this link to register for the convention at this special rate. Please note, that guest registration and FRED event registration are additional and can be purchased on the same form.

FiberNet Management Company Parts Ways with Troubled Monticello City Telecom Network

From Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

The news just keeps getting worse for the troubled Monticello publicly financed telecom system. Recent news reports and events continue to confirm that Mayor Clint Herbst was right when he admitted "we shouldn’t be in the telecommunications business at all.”

Following up on the heels of FiberNet’s 2011 loss of $2.6 million (in spite of receiving a one-time $1.5 million legal settlement), the city notified bondholders that it needs to renegotiate the terms of $26 million in bonds that were used to construct the telecom network. Soon after notifying bonders of its desire to renegotiate the bonds, the city reported first quarter 2012 results that showed a stagnating customer base and a projected annual loss of $2.1 million in 2012.

On May 25, the company retained to manage and operate FiberNet gave notice to the city that it’s electing to terminate its $15,000 monthly management contract in 90 days.

"Many matters regarding FNM (FiberNet Monticello) are in flux and in the midst of those changes HBC had concerns about being able to continue to manage the project in accordance with HBC principles,” said Gary Evans, HBC President and CEO. "This seemed a prudent time to end the agreement with FNM and free the city to negotiate with other prospective managers.”

Earlier in the week, Monticello City Administrator Jeff O’Neill had told the Blandin on Broadband blog "the system is performing well with FNM staff and HBC getting great reviews from customers…Monticello is fighting the good fight and doing what it can to enhance financial viability through cost cutting and development of new resources.”

FiberNet’s prospective budget cuts were expected to include HBC, though it’s not clear that was a factor in the Winona-based company’s decision to part ways. "HBC understands discussions about refinancing the system and discussions with other potential prospective managers are underway to help assure the continued growth of the network,” Evans said in a news release. HBC also expressed pride in launching FNM and in meeting subscriber projections for the system.

In an interview with the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, Evans acknowledged reaching out to supporters of the proposed $70 million RS Fiber Network underway in southern Minnesota. "We’re looking forward to working with the people in Renville and Sibley Counties and have informed them of our decision,” Evans said. "We’ve told them if they have questions, we’d be happy to meet with them and discuss it. But we haven’t heard back from them.”

FiberNet officials say the network faces bond payments of $882,668 in June and $943,670 in August.

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UV and Your Eyes

Most of us understand the link between ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer. However, we do not always make the connection between UV radiation and eye damage. We remember to apply sunscreen to protect our skin but then neglect protecting our eyes.

The good news is that eyes can be safeguarded from UV rays. Not surprisingly, sunglasses are the most essential item. The best defense for everyone is to wear sunglasses that screen 99 to 100 percent of UV rays and brimmed hats. Brimmed hats alone will block about 50 percent of UV radiation.

Ideally, all types of eyewear should absorb at least the full spectrum of UV rays including UV-A and UV-B. Also remember that the degree of UV protection is not necessarily related to the price of the sunglasses.

UV Rays can cause the following:

Macular Degeneration, is a leading cause of vision loss for older Americans.

Cataracts, UV rays, especially UV-B rays, may also cause some kinds of cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses the light we see.

Another UV-related problem is a growth called pterygium. This growth begins on the white of the eye and may involve the cornea. Eventually, the growth may block vision. It is more common in people who work outside in the sun and wind.

Skin cancer around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.

Corneal sunburn, called photokeratitis, is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach or skiing without proper eye protection can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.

According to the World Health Organization, children are more exposed to the sun than adults. Estimates suggest up to 80 percent of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays is received before the age of 18. The risk is greatest during midday hours from 10 am to 2 pm and even during overcast days.

THE VISION COUNCIL’S TOP TIPS when picking shades:

  • Insist on protection from UVA and UVB rays (both can damage the eyes)
  • Find the right pair(s) for the activities you do (different lenses and frames may be suited to various types of sports)
  • Select a lens color that improves clarity and reduces glare (yellow- and brown-tinted lenses are best when you’re on the water; gray, brown and amber are great for field sports; and mirror coatings work well for downhill skiing and snowboarding)

When it comes to the sun’s rays and the human eye, it’s what we can’t see that matters most. Solar UV can cause both temporary and permanent problems, even acute visual impairment. And no matter what the season or location, exposure carries risk. That risk increases substantially over time.

Since UV damage can’t be repaired, prevention is crucial. Yet it’s also easy. Most days, protecting eyes takes little more than the right pair of sunglasses, a decent hat and dab of sunscreen. Put them together regularly to help ensure a lifetime of vision.

Take care,
Dan Berg, M.S.
Lead Safety Consultant

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