Sunday, September 1, 2019

Update on Kewaunee Broadband Boondoggle



Thought it was time to have an update on how the County Administrator is working hard to blow a million or more of your tax dollars on a broadband boondoggle.

You know if something smells like horse dung, looks like horse dung, it probably is horse dung!

First, here is the Mission Statement of the Broadband Committee taken right from their minutes.
Read this mission statement carefully word by word.  Notice, there is no mention of spending tax dollar one in this statement?  What it does state is the committee will research, gather info, and educate the board and encourage third party investment.  That's all good, but it seems this is horse dung as well because, on the 21st of June, our County Legal Counsel Jeff Wisnicky who sits on that committee told me directly they want to spend the first million we've received from Dominion and maybe more on this broadband project.  I called the Administrator Feldt on this issue, he didn't answer, I left a message and he didn't return the call.

Last meeting of this Broadband Committee was on May 22.  Those minutes are now posted on the county website.  In those minutes, Administrator Feldt reported Door County Broadband had established a tower in Lincoln Township.  Could it possibly be that Administrator Feldt has a "special relationship" with Door County Broadband as he never talks about, or has talked to other broadband providers that are providing service in the county to include Bertrand and Mercury.

The committee is now reportedly investigating "Mesh WiFi"  opportunities and how to perhaps co-op with some company like Public Service in using their power poles to mount internet boosters on their poles or use other services they might have.  A mesh technology system works very much like a network of cell phone towers only with different technology.  One tower serves multiple customers and the towers are close enough that if one fails another tower picks up the load.  This is what broadband vendors are doing already.

Let's tear into this a bit. 
The whole idea sounds wonderful to residents.  They think if the County provides access points they will have free internet.  NOTHING IS FREE, there will be monthly fees of $60 to $100 or more for service which is available today through various vendors.

This whole idea was hatched by the County Administrator along with Board Member Lee Luft.  This is a bit complicated, so I would suggest you go back to review my earlier articles on this subject.  Go to www.ronheuer.com and review the Oct 26, 2018 article and the Jan 18, 2019 posts I have made on this subject. You can review the budgeting debacle by reading these two posts.

A Slight of Hand/Obfuscation?
According to Mr. Weidner, the County Board Chairman, he had no prior knowledge of the fact that the County Administrator Mr. Scott Feldt had added $1,000,000 to the budget to be spent on broadband in the County.  Thank God, Weidner worked with the board, and had that removed from the budget. That is when the Broadband Committee was established.

Mr. Feldt insisted the money from Dominion was to be used for "Economic Development."  Turns out that was a boldface lie, and by the way, it didn't take long before Administrator Feldt had other board members like Luft espousing the same lie.  (This is consistent with the idea, "Tell a lie over and over, and pretty soon people will believe it). The payment from Dominion was clearly and simply provided to the County to fill a budgetary gap left in the County budget with the closure of the Nuclear Plant.  There were no strings attached to that money.  The County can use that money for roadwork, tax rebate, you name it.

This whole dung stinking public broadband idea has come from a couple of people on the board and the KCEDC who say "We need high speed internet to attract businesses to Kewaunee Co."  They believe that "If you build it and they will come."  They believe that, if Kewaunee County has "extraordinary" high speed internet, there will be traffic jams on Highways 29, 42 and 54 with people wanting to relocate here.

But let's face facts.  The 1900 census showed 17,212 people in Kewaunee Co., and the 2010 census showed 20,574 people in Kewaunee Co.; a growth over 110 years of 3,362 people or an average of 30 people a year.  Four generations of growth or so, not impressive at all.

Reality, Growth has never been on the radar for the County
This County was an agricultural community 110 years ago and it still is.  In fact many townships have had, or do have restrictions as to how many acres of land you must own before you can build a house on your own land.  These restrictions were in place to preserve agricultural land.  BTW, if you haven't noticed, we don't have an Interstate Hwy touching our County, and if I am not mistaken, there is one rail spur left in the County that goes to the feed mill in Luxemburg. For years local residents of Kewaunee Co. have shunned growth, they wanted Kewaunee Co. to be kept pristine and did not seek growth.  Further, look no further than the City of Kewaunee.

Under the leadership of the previous Mayor, John Blaha the city received over $4.2M in State grants to redo the sea wall and develop the port area which was intended to draw construction of a hotel, restaurants and shops .  What happened after Blaha was not reelected?  Well, the State finished the sea wall and port development two years ago and it's been sitting there just as they left it.   With the current leadership in Kewaunee, my guess is that two years from now the answer will be the same on that project, Nothing done!

Why Should Our Taxpayers fund a portion of the broadband development?
They shouldn't!  High speed internet service by definition of the FCC already exists in the County, you just have to pay for it.  According to the FCC 10 MBPS per second download and 4 MBPS upload is considered to be the current "high speed" standard.

Internet users that demand high speed like Pagel Ponderosa and Kinnard Farms invested directly with providers to pull in fiber which gives them super access, probably up to 100 MBPS dedicated download.  Businesses can get fiber here if they want it or need it.  Heck, the County Administration building on Lincoln Street has fiber pulled to it.

There are a number of internet service providers like Mercury.net that will, at their expense, install high speed distribution systems if there is a demand (install meaning a mini-tower or nodes on a silo, or other high points).  By demand, I mean, a group of customers in a specific area that are willing to sign a one year contract for their high speed services.

I ran a consulting company from my home and had need to video conference and transfer large packets of data.  I made that work at my expense by paying about $210 per month with Verizon to have 4G access at my home with download speeds averaging about 20 MBPS and uploads of 7 MBPS.  It was adequate, but the data limits sometimes shot my monthly costs up quite high over the $210 figure.  I could stream Netflix HD movies, but the cost of doing so was prohibitive.  I didn't expect the County to fix my issue.  I fixed it myself as have hundreds of other people in the County have done themselves.

Even though I had a visual view of a Bertrand tower to my South and a Mercury.net tower to my North.  I couldn't access either tower because the trees were in the way.  So, I worked with Mercury.net.  I put in 600 feet of underground wire to get electric to a location where I had clear line of sight to the tower North of me.  It cost me, all in, about $600 to do this, but now I have consistent speeds of 20 MBPS download for 200 Gigs per month (that exceed the FCC standard) I pay $100 a month for this service.  And, my speeds are not slowed down after 60 or 80 Gigs.

So What Should the County's Role be?
Nothing.  It is a business that is driven by demand and best left to the private sector to own and manage.

Unfortunately, the whole high speed internet picture is really complicated and ever changing.  Most people cannot get their minds engaged to understand it fully.  The only role the County should/could play in this initiative would be to conduct comprehensive surveys to the inhabitants of the County.  Unfortunately developing a comprehensive survey that the rank and file person would understand is a challenge.

Go back and review my Oct blog where I have listed a number of companies that already provide service in the County.




Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Your County Board Per Diem and Expenses 2018/2019

Here are the final numbers for the 2018/2019 Kewaunee County Board per diems and expenses. 

Once again I will preface this is nothing more than a report of the monthly numbers as compiled by the County Finance Director Paul Kunesh. 

2018 / 2019 County Board Per diems and expense totals by board member

Name of board member      Per Diem         Expenses        Total
Augustian/Aaron                   $1,680.00          $405.56           $2,086.56
Cochart/Cory                         $2,360.00          $476.86           $2,836.86
Cretney/Thomas                    $2,380.00          $404.03           $2,704.83
Dobbins/Mary Ellen            $4,610.00          $793.73           $5,403.73
Doell/ Doug                           $1,850.00          $341.92           $2,191.92
Haske/Virginia                     $7,170.00          $1,620.68        $8,790.68
Jahnke/Scott                          $2,150.00          $429.01           $2,579.01
Kroll/Kim                              $1,950.00          $293.03           $2,243.03
Luft/Lee                                 $2,180.00          $0.00               $2,180.00
Lukes/Joe                               $1,580.00          $155.54           $1,735.54
Mastilar/John                         $3,320.00          $0.00               $3,320.00
Olson/Dan                              $1700.00           $390.40           $2,090.40
Paape/Gerald                        $6,590.00          $2,545.06        $9,135.03
Romdenne/Thomas              $6,560.00          $1,887.28        $8,447.28
Schmitt/Charles                     $1,580.00           $226.04            $1,806.04
Schillin/Kaye                         $3,990.00           $27.11              $4017.11
Teske/Linda                            $2,940.00          $572.00            $3,512.00
Treml/Kent                             $3,540.00          $319.38            $3,859.38
Wagner/Chuck                     $4,600.00           $2,907.98         $7,507.98
Weidner/Robert                      $3,220.00          $822.47            $4,042.47

Totals                                     $65,710.00          $14,404.16       $80,569.08

Couple of notes on these per diems. 
*  Board members are assigned to various committees and those board members who serve on more committees will, as a result of those committee meetings have higher per diems. 
*  Robert Weidner is Chairman and as the Chair he also receives an annual stipend of just over $8,000

Here is something interesting.  Notice above, the 5 names that are highlighted?  Four of the five (Dobbins/Haske/Paape/Romdenne) have held public paid positions before they got on the board.  Wagner has been on the board the longest of those who are currently on the board.

Remember, there are 20 members of the board in total.  If you add up their per diems, the five of them represent $45% of the total per diems.  Do the same with their expenses and those five represent 68% of the total expense of the board.  Coincidence?  Do you find that to be a bit odd?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Year to date Kewaunee County Board Per Diems and Expenses




Here is a report on your County Supervisors per diems and expenses
for the period May 2018 - Feb 28, 2019

With 10 months of the year behind us, your biggest recipients of per diems and expenses seem to be all from the Algoma area -----District 14, Tom Romdenne -$7,845.92, District 16, Virginia Haske - $7,665.46,  District 1, Gerald Paape - $7,483.92 and District 3, Chuck Wagner - $6,544.31. 

You have to consider the number of committees these people are on.  Then you have to dig deeper into the spend to see what, if any, boondoggle trips they have taken across the State to "better themselves". 
It appears, spending at this rate the per diems and expenses will come in at about $85K for the year.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Latest on the Kewaunee Co. Broadband Boondoggle

Follow-up on bad idea to spend up to $1m of your tax dollars on building Internet Towers in Kewaunee Co.
After the $1M budget line was removed from the 2019 Budget by a board vote of 16 opposed, 4, in favor. Our illustrious Board Chairman appointed a Broadband Study Committee.... here is that committee that is clearly stacked in favor of the spend..... Great work Bob, when a ludicrous proposal is defeated by the board....LET IT DIE!
Kewaunee County Broadband Study Committee The committee reports to the PAL committee and the Board. Term December 18, 2018 to April, 2020. This committee is comprised of County Board Members & County Staff Citizen Members


Broadband Committee will be jointly co-chaired by Bob Weidner and Gary Paape
Citizen Members include:
Frank Madzarevic, N3733 Cedar Ln, Luxemburg
Ryan Hoffmann, 1804 Idlewild Rd, Sturgeon Bay
August Neverman, E1595 Old Settlers Rd, Denmark
Jason Melotte, E7257 Washington Rd, Algoma
Kim Larson, KCEDC
County Staff Members
Jeffrey Wisnicky, Steve Hanson and Scott Feldt
County Board Members
Thomas Romdenne, Virginia Haske, Lee Luft, , Mary Ellen Dobbins, Kent Treml, Aaron Augustian and Thomas Cretney,
If you wish to weigh in on this "bad idea" boondoggle or whatever else you want to call it, contact these members and inform them as to your position on this project.
There are companies that provide high speed internet service already doing so in the County, and they will put more towers up to provide service at their expense. You already know, if you want something to NOT OPERATE EFFICIENTLY, get the government involved.

So, what will be accomplished by this group of 18 folks?  Given this is running for about 15 Months, I would imagine a good number of dollars spent on per diems and expenses for zero return.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

SHOULD THERE BE A BARRIER BETWEEN THE U.S. AND MEXICO?

SHOULD THERE BE A BARRIER BETWEEN THE U.S. AND MEXICO? The unequivocal answer is yes!
Just before Christmas I attended my the funeral of one of my grandniece. She died of an overdose, not so coincidentally, the same day her boyfriend died of an overdose in Memphis TN. As always, I researched the drug scene in Memphis and learned very quickly there had been 18 opium related deaths from Nov 18 through Nov 30. That pace continued on into December. Opium more than likely laced with fentanyl is what is apparently killing off these young people. My grandniece's death is being treated as a murder by local Memphis authorities, as whomever provided/sold that lethal dose is responsible for her death.
Read this book "Dream Land" by Sam Quinones. In this book the Quinones describes in detail how the opioid epidemic was foisted on the U.S. by the Mexicans from the State of Nayarit. President Trump gets it! Have a look at these stats.
CDC states that between the years of 1999 to 2015 there have been more than 183,000 deaths in direct relation to opioid overdose. Between the years 2010 to 2014, according to the DEA There was a spike in opioid overdose with an increase of 258% that occurred.
America has officially reached an all-time high, in 2016, in regards to opioid overdose. The current statistics reported from the CDC have revealed that in 2016, 91 Americans died daily from opioid overdose. What is worse is that in 2017, that number increased to 142 people in the U.S. dying per day with drug use.
Remember when Trump was running for President and he specifically noted the overwhelming drug problems in Ohio and West Virginia? Well, Trump got it, he understands the problem and this is why he is hell bent on the border security between the U.S. and Mexico. THERE IS NO DOUBT A BARRIER, WALL, FENCE, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT WOULD PARTIALLY STEM THE FLOW OF DRUGS FROM MEXICO.
I am a Vietnam Veteran and we buried 58,000 great young men as a result of that meaningless war. Put that into perspective. That war was 10 years long, and now we are killing off bright young people at nearly 55,000 per year as a result of the illicit drug trade. How can we accept that?
One other thing in closing. While in Vietnam, I was a Company Commander and I saw, first hand, what the accelerated use of Marijuana does to people. It changes good productive people who lose interest in their jobs and become lackadaisical in their approach to life in general.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Kewaunee Co. Finance Committee Proposed $1 million dollar internet plan

Following is an informational document I prepared and emailed to the Finance Committee members who are scheduled to take up this issue during their November 2, 8:00 AM meeting.  I also sent it to the entire County Board.

This is in regards to a ridiculous idea that would take $1 million dollars that Kewaunee County received from Dominion and use it to finance building POP (point of presence) towers to facilitate internet access in our County.

This a complicated issue and something the County should leave to private enterprise.  To accentuate how ludicrous this idea is, I took this statement from the Personnel, Advisory and Legislative Committee minutes of their October 2, 2018 minutes.  Mr. Luft is quoted as saying "the allocation of the funds ($1M) sends a message to the community that we are listening to their concerns".

REALLY?  WE HAVE TO SEND A MESSAGE THAT COSTS TAXPAYERS A COOL MILLION TO SHOW WE ARE LISTENING TO THEIR CONCERNS?  Tell me this is not a pitiful statement.

So this is the information I forwarded directly to the board members.  This whole idea to me sounds like an Obama phone scam for the taxpayers.  Could this $1M be better spent reducing our taxes in the County or some improvements that might benefit all citizens of our County?  Guess what, soon our Sheriff will be demanding the new jail be built.  Would you guess that will cost more than $1 M?



Information for Kewaunee County Board Members on Internet Access in Kewaunee County
             Prepared by Ron Heuer 10/26/2018
As both a former board member and Chairman of the Kewaunee County Board, I continue to take interest in the activities of the current board and the actions of the board in general.  A current discussion underway concerning spending County dollars on a broadband project is of great concern.  Kewaunee County, in no way, should spend a single taxpayer dollar including Dominion monies to support a broadband company tower build project. 
Why?  Because today private enterprise already provides internet service to those who wish to pay for it.  Taxpayers should not be subsidizing internet service for local business or for individuals - read on.
The Issue at Hand
The Administrator Mr. Feld, very likely with urging from certain uninformed board members, decided to allocate the $1M the County received from the Dominion settlement to a County broadband internet project.  This decision, according to the Administrator, was made in consideration of the economic development for the county.
At the October 2, Personnel, Advisory, and Legislative committee meeting a motion was passed to recommend to the Finance Committee to remove the $1M line from the Economic Development Fund in the budget and for this project to be taken up as a stand-alone item.
A decision of this magnitude is not to be made by the Administrator.  This is a Finance Committee and full Board decision.  This decision considering economic development was largely based upon 4-year-old survey data from KCEDC (a year in the internet/cyber world is equivalent to 10 years in most other business tasks and services as technological innovation is moving at breakneck speed).  Never should the government at any level get involved in any process the private sector can fulfill.
Further there is broadband service available to every county residence today if they are willing to pay for it.  There is no need for any government intrusion in this matter.
First, let us understand and agree on - What is Broadband?
The word (Broadband) has been bantered about by the Administrator and other county board members.  So, what is broadband?  That depends on who is selling you internet service.  Locally, many companies hype broadband service at 4MBPS download, but is that really broadband?  That depends on who is doing the talking.

According to the FCC, who a
s part of its 2015 Broadband Progress Report, voted to change the definition of broadband by raising the minimum download speeds needed from 4Mbps to 25Mbps, and the minimum upload speed from 1Mbps to 3Mbps.  This decision, at the time,  effectively tripled the number of US households without broadband access.

In 2015, 6.3 percent of US households didn’t have access to broadband under the previous 4Mpbs/1Mbps threshold, while another 13.1 percent didn't have access to broadband under the new 25Mbps downstream threshold.  So that means 18.4 percent, nearly 1/5 of all U.S. households did not have access to the new broadband threshold speeds. 

That wasn’t acceptable to anyone, including the FCC, so they further dictated/ruled that rather than the 25 MBPS download standard being applied the new broadband would be
10 MBPS download and 3 MBPS upload.  So, this is the current standard.
Internet speeds have gone from just 56 Kbps to a potential 500 Mbps over the past 20 years and it likely will not stop there. As companies begin to explore the potential of 1 Gigabit per second Internet speeds, people’s expectations of what is considered fast Internet will likely shift again.  
Currently the FCC is considering upping the lower limit for what is considered broadband Internet which indicates perceptions are already changing about high-speed Internet and what is truly fast and what is normal.
Until a few years ago, cable was considered the fastest Internet. The greatest problem with cable is speeds are inconsistent.  The reason for this inconsistency is only so much data can be fed through the cable and if upline users are tapping the data hard, the people downstream are getting less available data.
Current Broadband status in the County
The entire population of Kewaunee County is 20,500 people.  The cities of Algoma, Kewaunee and Luxemburg, already have cable access with broadband internet, so one can assume about 8,500 people in those cities are covered.  That would leave 12,000 people (4,285 households 2.8 people per household) who conceivably would not have access to broadband.

According to various sources, about 15% of the population do not use the internet and don’t want it.  That would take out 642 households and reduce the total without broadband to 3,643 homes. 

Those 3,643 homes do have access to various internet providers to include:  AT&T, Cellcom, Verizon, Mercury, Bertrand, Viasat, Hughsnet, etc., etc.

There are various requirements for the differing internet users in the County.  The following table outlines those user types and the type of broadband they would require.
Categories of internet users in Kewaunee County today include:
User Type
Data Requirement
Large integrated Businesses (a Kinnard Farms operations) requiring greater than 25 MBPS broadband consistent service to link all farm operations data via WIFI
Depending on size of business, 100 – 200 MBPS download/Upload 100.  More than likely will contract with an AT&T or Spectrum
Small Businesses (Cold Country Winery, Blaha Body Shop)
10 MBPS Download/3 MBPS
Employee Working from Home, email, teleconferencing, large document uploads, cloud data management
50 MBPS Download/3 MBPS
Home user’s high data (family user email, online research, video conferencing, downloading Netflix or other movies)
50 MBPS Download/3 MBPS
Home user’s lower data (email, online research, YouTube video, etc.)
10 MBPS Download/3 MBPS
It has been reported that local companies cannot market their products on the internet. Specifically, Cold Country Wines not being able to sell their product(s) online from this County today is absolutely incorrect.  Just go to their site, they are already selling wines online  http://coldcountrywines.com/ 
So, how are current Internet users in Kewaunee County today being serviced?

Highspeed Internet (Broadband) delivery

A.)   DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) (Century Link and AT&T)
B.)    Satellite (Viasat, Dish and Hughes Net, Directv/AT&T)
C.)    Cable (Charter/Time Warner)
D.)   Internet POP (Points of Presence, Silo/Tower/Grain Elevator, Etc.)  Companies like Mercury/Bertrand/Door County Broadband use this delivery method
E.)    Fiber Optic (AT&T/Spectrum)
So, how do the 3,643 homes in the countryside get broadband?

I have spent several hours researching the various providers and phoned many of them to understand their plans and services and to determine the number of customers they already service here.  Obviously, they wouldn’t share their exact numbers as that is proprietary information, but based on the information I received, it would be safe to assume that 2,500 of the 3,643 countryside homes have broadband already. In reality, we are dealing with probably 1,100 homes that are struggling to find the right service for themselves.   
Following is a table that displays various providers in the area that already provide broadband service in the countryside area.  These are the people we need to concern ourselves with.

Provider
Upload
Download
Contract
Cost p/Mo
Other Notes
Verizon 4G LTE
5 MBPS
12 MBPS
Yes
$49 and up
5 Ghz service off Cell Phone Towers
Mercury
4
50 MBPS
Yes
$59
2.4 Ghz - POP (points of presence, tower, repeater towers, silos, grain elevators)
Hughes Net
3 MBPS
24 MBPS
Yes – 2 Yr.
$69.99
Satellite
Cellcom
5 MBPS
12 MBPS
Yes
$49 and up
5 Ghz service off Cell Phone Towers
Door County Broadband Silver
4MBPS
1 MBPS


$54.99
2.4 Ghz - POP (points of presence, tower, repeater towers, silos, grain elevators)
ViaSat
3MBPS
12MBPS
Yes – 2 Yr.
$75.00
Satellite
We Connect
3MBPS
24MBPS
Yes – 2 Yr.


A reseller/aggregator for Dish and Hughes Net
Directv

3MBPS
12MBPS

12MBPS
Yes – 2 Yr.


Satellite
Dish Network
3MBPS
12MBPS
Yes – 2 Yr.


Satellite
Bertram
4
50 MBPS
Yes


2.4 Ghz - POP (points of presence, tower, repeater towers, silos, grain elevators)





What is the difference in delivery?  I am only going to deal with those folks that live in the countryside.  They have three options, those options reflected in the following table.
Satellite providers -Viasat, Hughsnet, Dish, Directv
Direct communication to a satellite, latency is a bit high as the signal is travelling such a great distance.
POP providers - Door County Broadband, Mercury, Bertrand

These providers are the most likely to reach local residents as they are line of sight POP (Point of Presence) providers.  Service is 2.4 Ghz, low penetrating frequency with trees.
Phone providers – Cellcom, Verizon, AT&T

Service provided from cell phone towers utilizing 5 Ghz less interference form natural obstacles like trees.

Summation

In my research, I found the POP providers are ready, willing, and able to provide POP service to the customers in Kewaunee County with their own towers, silos, and repeater towers with no investment from the County. 
The POP providers problem isn’t one of being capable or able to provide service, it is defining who needs service. Demand is actionable by these companies, if demand can be determined.
So what the Finance Committee should do is pass a motion that would authorize the Administrator to use whatever internal department resources required to complete a comprehensive survey by mail to those 3,643 rural, countryside homes to determine what types of service these homes already have, which homes do not have broadband internet service.  This probably would max out at a cost of $4,000 which I am sure can be found in existing budgets of the Administrator or Tourism. 
Once the data is collected and mapped out, that information could be provided to the internet providers, to include Satellite, Cellphone and POP. 
Let the private sector then fill any voids and permanently take this issue off the table for the County.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

County Board Members Per Diems--- Period April - September 2018


Your County Board Supervisors per diem and expense report for the period May through September 2018.  Note, in most cases, the expenses and per diems are in direct correlation to the number of committees the board member is involved with.

Per Diem and Expense Report of your County Supervisors