Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Questions for County Board of Supervisors - May 19th meeting


This document was submitted to each Board Supervisor in order for them to prepare themselves for the upcoming May 19th Board Meeting when Steve Schneider of Bug Tussel was going to present to the board.  Twenty hard copies were also delivered to the County Clerk who ensured a copy would be at each of the Supervisors Positions.  My next report will recap the  presentation by Steve Schneider.


May 18, 2020
To:  Honorable Board Members
From:  Ron Heuer, former Kewaunee County Board Chairman/Concerned Taxpayer
Subject:  Broadband Information and Questions for Mr. Schneider of Bug Tussel & County Administrator

It is your responsibility as a board member to ensure that our tax dollars (both County and grant money) are spent wisely.  At tonight’s board meeting, Mr. Steve Schneider will be addressing the County Board concerning the Broadband Expansion Program as has been submitted to the PSC on a proposed joint venture with Kewaunee County.   
Bug Tussel has been selected as the vendor of choice to develop the broad band expansion in Kewaunee County.  This selection was made after the Kewaunee County Broadband Committee made determinations as to what services would be necessary for the County.  The Broadband Committee’s findings were then memorialized in an RFP that Bug Tussel responded to.  I have attached that RFP as a reference item to this document.  Just to be perfectly clear, if by spending this Kewaunee County s$960,000 combined with the PSC grant money we provide all Kewaunee County residents with 25mbps down and 10mbps upload I would totally support this broadband effort.

The well-intentioned Broadband Committee did recognize the problem in their meetings, that being, Kewaunee County is quite wooded and there are plenty of valleys where service is difficult to establish.  For the most part, the residents living in these areas are the underserved residents.
These broadband users require individual assistance to determine how a “line of sight” signal can either be constructed at their home or a signal can be redirected to their homes (see diagram following). 
That can only happen one of two ways, either by constructing a tower at the user site that allows signal to go over the woods, or if some type of pole or tower is erected at, or close to their home, to receive the signal.  Keep in mind, the Cambium equipped towers proposed by Bug Tussel for broadband are the same as those already existing in the County with Bertram, Mercury, Door County Broadband and others.  That Cambium broadband equipment allows only for “LINE OF SIGHT,” transmission.  If you can’t see the tower, it is very likely you can’t receive the signal.

I have spent hours researching information on this broadband subject, and have had both direct, and telephone meetings with professionals in the broadband industry in order understand this complicated subject.  I am quite certain that most Supervisors do not have the time to research this subject, so I have taken the liberty to provide each of you with a list of questions that you can pose while Mr. Schneider is in the room.


There are many questions that need to be answered, and tonight’s format will hopefully allow you to ask the questions that need to be asked.  Unless Bug Tussel will provide service as outlined in the above schematic, there is little or no reason to have them build seven towers in the county.

Steve Schneider, Co-founder and CEO of Bug Tussel has a great background in the cellular field, in fact, his business now primarily builds cell phone towers for AT&T.  In a cordial and informative phone conversation I had with him this past week, Steve made a statement that really concerned me. He made this statement “We don’t make money with broadband; we make our money with AT&T.”  To me, he could not have been clearer.  Building Cell Phone towers for AT&T is their core business and broadband are an add on.

I don’t fault Mr. Schneider for cashing in with Kewaunee County and the PSC grant.  He is a business man and he recognizes an extraordinary deal for his company when he sees it.  The nearly $2,000,000 found cash, a combination of taxpayer money from Kewaunee County and the PSC ensures a very low risk, high yield return for Bug Tussel.  Remember, his core business is tower building, towers which will be arrayed with AT&T equipment and leased by AT&T and later purchased by AT&T.  Further, AT&T under the FirstNet program receives Federal Funding to build these towers. Bug Tussel is for all intents and purposes acting as a contractor for AT&T.

Following are some critical questions that need to be asked, both of Mr. Schneider but also our legal counsel and the Administrator:
Question for Mr. Schneider: You erected 10 towers in Sauk County and, according to you, service a total of 3,000 people of the 64,500 residents of the County with those 10 towers.  That equates to about 4.6% of the population.  If those numbers are applied to Kewaunee County, we could anticipate service for about 940 people in our county of 20,400.  How can taxpayers possibly justify spending $2,100 per person for that small slice of the County’s population to receive broadband?  That is assuming that many would subscribe.  A knowledgeable source in Sauk County indicated the actual number of people covered by Bug Tussel is 2%.  if that is true, you can halve the preceding numbers and double the per capita cost to $4,200, not justifiable.

Question for Mr. Schneider: Today, your business has no presence in Kewaunee County, why do you need our money to come to our County? 

Question for Mr. Schneider: Today, on your website for Rapid Bug service in Sauk County you are providing service at 2mbps download and 1mbps upload for $49.99 per month.  In the PSC Grant Application, you represent Rapid Bug service 25mbps down and 5mbps upload for $49.99.  How can you justify the reduced cost to Kewaunee County residents?  Are the Sauk County residents being treated unfairly?

Question for Administrator Feldt:  On page 20 of the PSC Grant Application, e. Scalability, para 2 it states “At present, Bug Tussel Wireless has been working with AT&T wireless to deploy their services throughout rural Wisconsin. The towers that are being built via this project will also be made available for FirstNet coverage.”  FirstNet is an independent authority funded already with $40 Billion dollars managed within the U.S. Department of Commerce.  In 2017 AT&T were awarded a 25-year contract to build out the FirstNet network.  Is there any liability to the County if the Federal Government is funding AT&T for these towers and then Kewaunee County and the PSC are paying for them as well?”

Question for Administrator Feldt:  Is it right or fair for the County to pick a winner in awarding a company that hasn’t done business in the County heretofore?  Even though the County went through an RFP process, are we opening the County to a law suit from companies that are already providing service to the County?

Questions for Mr. Schneider: You have stated Bug Tussel will be paying the $960,000 back to the County over a 12-year period.  What interest is this money going to bear?   Also, what financial penalties are going to be in place if you fail to make a payment?  What guarantees/collateral are you providing the County to ensure you will pay the money back?

Questions for Administrator Feldt: On the Kewaunee County RFP – Proposal Scope it states - Provide broadband (high speed internet) of at least 25 down and 10 up for all rural residents within Kewaunee County, preferably higher than 100mbps down and 25mbps up. What does the word all mean?  Additionally, in the grant application, it lists the townships covered as; Red River, Carlton, West Kewaunee, Franklin, Casco and Mischicot.  What about the townships of Montpelier, Pierce, Lincoln, Ahnapee, and Luxemburg Township?  In as much as they are not mentioned, do they get service?
Questions for Administrator Feldt: How is success, or failure of this broadband venture going to be determined?  What types of reporting will you require from Bug Tussel?  By the number of homes/residences serviced?  Do we have any expectation or goal as to how many homes should be serviced?  What recourse does the County have if the seven towers are constructed and we only see one or two percent of the County served?  What penalties will there be in the contract?

Questions for Mr. Schneider:  What type of monthly reporting will you provide Kewaunee County as to number of customers/residents you are serving, the type of service the customers are receiving and location of customers?  Will this be part of the contract and will there be penalties assessed to Bug Tussel if certain number of customers is not attained?

Question for Mr. Schneider: Currently, you have zero employees in Kewaunee County.  How many Kewaunee County residents will you be employing?

Questions for Mr. Schneider: Based on the schematic in this document, if a resident/customer cannot receive signal from one of your towers and you have to reach them by rerouting the signal, who pays for any tower or pole and related costs to put that type of service in?  What is a reasonable time frame from a request like that until the service is established?   What if you are delayed, is there a penalty to Bug Tussel?

Questions for Mr. Schneider: What is the timetable for installing these towers?  When will service to prospective broadband users be available?  Will these timetables be part of the contract and will there be, or should there be, financial penalties in the event your company fails to perform?

Question for Mr. Schneider:  In the Grant Application you list existing broadband providers as TDS and Centurylink.  Why wasn’t a complete list of companies including Bertram, Mercury.net, Door County Broadband, Hughes Net, AT&T, Spectrum, Verizon, ViaSat, Cellcom, submitted? 

Questions for Mr. Schneider: On page 2 of the PSC grant application you claim 12,115 residential locations will have access to the service.  Then on page 13 of the application (table 1) you represent 7,886 people will have service.  When the number 7,886 is divided by 2.45, the average number per household, the actual households reached would be 3,218.  What is the right number 12,115 or 3,218?
Further On page 14, (table 2), the total population of Kewaunee County is 20,434, yet you say they will service 29,960 people.  Even taking out the 4,011 from the Tisch Mills (table 1, page 13), site assuming they are Manitowoc County and you still are representing a number served of 5,200 people more than are in the County.  Keep in mind, also, there are somewhere between 15% and 20% of the total population who don’t even want internet service.

Question for Mr. Schneider:  On page 15, of the PSC grant application, you claim, on your business map, you will reach and provide service to 199 businesses.  Most, if not all, of the larger businesses have already solved their internet needs by cutting deals with various vendors.  What about the businesses in the townships of Montpelier, Pierce, Lincoln, Ahnapee, and Luxemburg?  In as much as they are not mentioned, do they get service too?
Question for Mr. Feldt: The Covid 19 pandemic has severely impacted revenues for the County, sales tax, gas tax, revenues for example will be much less than projected.  Would it be more prudent to use this money to plug the holes in our budget rather than spending it on this project?
This list of questions needs to be answered along with any and all questions individual County Supervisors may have. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Moving the goalposts on Kewaunee County Broadband

Lies last only a moment, but the truth lasts forever

Our silver-tongued Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Feldt is now moving the goalposts on the Kewaunee County Broadband project. He effectively did this at the Monday, May 11th meeting of the Executive Committee.  

When he was asked by one of the attending Supervisors why the whole County (all residents), were not going to be serviced by Bug Tussel, as had been represented by Bug Tussel, our lead Bureaucrat Feldt responded;  "No one broadband company can provide broadband service to all the customers in any County."

Now, keep in mind, this is the same Administrator, that for months, sat on the Kewaunee Broadband Committee, attended those Committee meetings, and then crafted the official broadband RFPHere is the verbiage directly from the RFP (click here to see the County's RFP): "Proposal Scope: Provide broadband (high speed internet) of at least 25 down and 10 up for all rural residents within Kewaunee County)."  Notice it says all, not some.

Administrator Feldt, throughout the months leading to the construction of the RFP, had been steadfast about ensuring any money spent by the County would guarantee that all residents would have broadband made available.

I hate repeating myself over and over, but the problem with this entire boondoggle spending $960,000 of County money and $960,000 of State PSC grant money on the project, as presently laid out, is a waste and will not meet the expectations of the residents of Kewaunee County.

This project should be halted in its tracks and a proper assessment of what county residents require for broadband service should be completed first.  The haphazard survey completed by the County turned out to yield anecdotal comments from people who didn't have, or didn't like their current broadband service.  

Yes, there are areas that are under-served, we need to identify them and then get the service directly to them.  Garbage in, garbage out. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Kewaunee County Broadband Expansion -- Continued investigation of Bug Tussel Documentation

The memo below starting with the date May 11, 2020 was sent to each Kewaunee County Board Member yesterday.  

Tonight at 6:30 PM the Executive Committee will be discussing contracting with Bug Tussel for Kewaunee County Broadband Expansion.  What I am trying to point out to every member of the board are inconsistencies of the entire process of this venture.  Bug Tussel has misrepresented information to the PSC in this application that spends $1,960,000 of our taxpayer money, and they will never deliver the service that was clearly stated in the Request for Proposal that the County had put out for bid.

This is a complicated subject, and if you have not read my initial blog on this subject, I would highly recommend you do that.  It will help to clarify the entire issue.  Heuer, April 18th Blog on this Subject


May 11, 2020

 Supervisor --------, District --, Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors

Lies last only a moment, but the truth lasts forever

Hello ------,

Your County Administrator Scott Feldt continues to push the Broadband expansion plan for the County by placing this item on the Executive Committee Meeting for May 11th, 2020: “Item 7. Discussion: PSC Broadband Expansion Grant – Contract”  (click here to see the County's RFP) 

If the County is to go forward with this, certain to be, ill-fated plan and proceed to contracting with Bug Tussel, the contract must specifically state the requirements and goals to be met for compliance. It must contain definitions of what constitutes contract completion. There must be provisions in the contract to ensure that Bug Tussel indeed delivers all requirements of the Contract. There must be criterion established to determine if the contract has been fulfilled by Bug Tussel.

This is key to the entire project.  Kewaunee County Broadband Committee’s Request for Proposal, under the Proposal Scope section has this sentence; Provide broadband (high speed internet) of at least 25 down and 10 up for all rural residents within Kewaunee County, preferably higher than 100mbps down and 25mbps up.

That sentence is the essence of the entire RFP, and Bug Tussel must guarantee they will produce that result for this project to be a success. 

Taking that into consideration a thorough review of the Broadband Expansion Grant Application (Click Here to see the Actual Grant Application) submitted to the PSC by Bug Tussel Wireless, Inc. at no time, in the document, refers to that type of service delivery.  In fact, throughout the document there appears to be mistruths and inconsistencies.  These following items and issues need to be clearly addressed by Bug Tussel and must be incorporated into any contract between Bug Tussel and Kewaunee County.

Inconsistencies and mistruths directly from the Grant Application in relation to the Kewaunee County Broadband Committee Request for Proposal.

·        In their presentation to the Broadband Committee they represent “Rapid Bug” service as 2mbps down and 1mbps upload at $49.99. 

o   Yet, in the grant request they represent “Rapid Bug” as 25mbps down and 5mbps upload at $49.99.  Which is correct?  

o   Neither one of these meets the RFP requirements of 25mbps and 10mbps! 

o   What is there proposed charge for the RFP requirement?

·       Provide broadband (high speed internet) of at least 25 down and 10 up for all rural residents within Kewaunee County, preferably higher than 100mbps down and 25mbps up.

o   All means all, not some. 

o   In the Grant Application, they list the Townnships covered as; Red River, Carlton, West Kewaunee, Franklin, Casco and Mischicot. 

o   What about the the townships of Montpelier, Pierce, Lincoln, Ahnapee, and Luxemburg Township?  In as much as they are not mentioned, do they get service?

·       Again, in the Grant Application they are to list existing broadband providers, they list two, TDS and Centurylink. 

o   What about Bertram, Mercury.net, Door County Broadband, Hughes Net, AT&T, Spectrum, Verizon, ViaSat, Cellcom, all of whom are providing service in the County at this time? 

o   Why the obfuscation, the omission and dishonesty?

·       In the Grant Application, page 1, they claim they will serve 199 Businesses and 12,115 Residential Locations, that is interesting when on page 5 they represent there are a total of 9,462 Housing Units in Kewaunee County according to the Census 2018. 

o   Once again, a misrepresentation of facts.  When people or organizations misrepresent facts, it should send a warning to whomever is dealing with them. 

·       Placement of 7 towers with 4 of the seven in the bottom 1/3rd of the County is suspect at best.  It appears by the tower placement that Bug Tussel is choosing to place these AT&T equipped towers to more facilitate their Cell tower building business for AT&T.  Rather than benefiting the broadband effort.

·       Note on page 7 of the Grant Application under c.  There is mention of two types of broadband service 25mbps/5mbps and 100mbps/20mbps within the range of the proposed towers.  They go on to list the names of the tower locations to be; Bay View, Bolt, East Krok, Gregorville, Norman, Ryans Corner, and Tisch Mills.  This further confirms no commitment to the balance or the County.

·       On page 2 of the application Bug Tussel claims 12,115 residential locations will have access to the service.  Then on page 13 of the application (table 1) Bug Tussel represents 7,886 people will have service.  When that number is divided by 2.45, the average number per household, the actual households reached would be 3,218.  That is 26.5% of the total households represented on page 1 of the application.  This is total misrepresentation of the facts by Bug Tussel. 

·       On page 14, (table 2), the total population of Kewaunee County is 20,434, yet they say they will service 29,960 people.  Take out the total of 4,011 from the Tisch Mills (table 1, page 13), site assuming they are Manitowoc County and you still are representing a number served of 5,200 people more than in the County.  Keep in mind, also, there are somewhere between 15% and 20% of the total population who don’t even want internet service.

·        Page 15, Business map claims they will reach and provide service to 199 businesses.  Most, if not all, of the larger businesses have already solved their internet needs by cutting deals with various vendors.

·        Page 16, they talk about “last mile service,” and they introduce AT&T Mobility.  That service is already available in the service area and is also offered by Verizon, Cellcom and others.

·        Page 17, fourth paragraph, very important, this is where they admit they will not be servicing “all” customers in Kewaunee County.  It is carefully worded and says, “We will provide broadband internet services of 25mbps download and 5mbps upload for $49.99 per month rate in the proposed coverage areas illustrated in Figures 4 – 11.  If you carefully scrutinize those maps, you see various colored bans around the proposed towers.  Typically, a tower is engineered to cover an area 3 – 5 miles around that specific tower. Beyond that, typically there is no service.   

o   Remember, line of sight, if a home is in a valley or covered in its surrounds by trees, there will be no service.

·        Page 19, a. Matching funds indicates the Kewaunee County Board approved a resolution on 12/17/2019 which memorialized the county’s financial support for the project and the possibilities the broadband expansion will provide for the county’s constituents.  Note it doesn’t say “part of the constituents or a few of the constituents, it simply says constituents.  Which again means all!

·        Page 20, c. Existing Broadband Service, once again here, Bug Tussel misrepresents the number of broadband operators in Kewaunee County indicating there are two, when in fact, there are about 10 providers.  Why the dishonesty?

All these issues, and more need to be addressed.  But in addition, these items should be considered and added to any contract Kewaunee County would enter with any broadband supplier.

·        First, and most important, service for all is All, not some.  So, the contract must clearly spell out how Bug Tussel will reach all the residents in the County.  As part of that description, there has to be plans to reach those underserved pockets (people surrounded by trees or in a valley) and those plans must include pricing for any special circumstances.  A special circumstance would be if a customer does not have line of sight to a tower, and a secondary pole or tower would be required.  Who pays for that, what is the timeline for Bug Tussel to respond to that type of request and what is the penalty to Bug Tussel if they fail to provide that service?.

·        What is the reporting requirement to the County as to the progress of Bug Tussel actually providing service to customers?  How many customers, when signed, what type of service are they receiving, etc.

·        How is success in this project determined?  What factors are considered?  Number of customers?  Speed Tests? 

·        Who has the responsibility in the County to ensure the project is being completed on schedule and that ALL residents are being served?  How is that even determined.

·        What is the incentive to Bug Tussel, if any, to sign up customers?  What incentive, if any, is Bug Tussel providing to the end user to move them to Bug Tussel?

·        Broadband Technology is changing rapidly, in fact, about every 3 to 4 years all the equipment needs to be changed out and upgraded.  Is that covered in the contract?

·        What if Bug Tussel fails to meet timelines or customer signups?  What is the penalty, how does the County get its money back?

 

Respectfully submitted by

Ron Heuer
E3530 Townline Road
Kewaunee, WI 54216
920-255-4260  /
ronheuer@gmail.com

 I have officially requested that Chairman Olson, be cited at the citizen input part of tonight's meeting and that the letter be made part of the official minutes of the meeting.

 If you haven’t had the chance to read what I have already written on this subject, I have attached it hereto.  This information was posted April 18th, 2020 on my blog Heuer, April 18th Blog on this Subjectwww.ronheuer.com


Thursday, May 7, 2020

My Two Cents on the Covid 19 Disaster and Bureaucracy

Our economy is in shambles, on a national basis, we have 22 million plus unemployed, small businesses failing, the travel industry most likely will take years to rebuild. I spent my working life in the Travel Industry a segment that has been severely impacted by the Covid 19 mess. Many question as to whether or not airlines and cruise companies will ever be revived. Here in Wisconsin, we have a Governor who doesn't seem to have a clue as to what is happening outside the capitol. And, you ask yourself why?

BUREAUCRACY is why! THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY! Let's delve into the national problem. The NIH 2020 budget is $41.5 Billion, they employ nearly 21,000 people. They, along with the CDC who have a $6.6 Billion budget and 15,000 employees stand around in a circle and point fingers at each other, scare the hell out of the public while providing inconsistent and, in many instances misleading information.
And all along the way through the Covid 19 mess they appear to have been wrong. For example, the now famous Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the NIH, did not understand the risks of the virus as late as January 26.
During a radio interview with host John Catsimatidis, he said that the American public shouldn’t worry about the coronavirus outbreak in China. “It’s a very, very low risk to the United States,” Fauci said. He continued: But it’s something that we as public health officials need to take very seriously.  It isn’t something that the American public needs to worry about or be frightened about, because we have ways of preparing and screening of people coming in [from China]. And we have ways of responding—like we did with this one case in Seattle, Washington, who had traveled to China and brought back the infection.
His point is clear: we EXPERTS need to worry, not the public! But it is the public that must bear the cost of this disruption, and the public should be enlisted in something other than a passive capacity to help stop the virus.
It was President Trump, much criticized for it at the time, who closed our borders to China on February 2. Fauci and many other public health officials have since praised that decision, but many experts opposed it.
Shouldn't we taxpayers get more for our $48.1 billion dollars spent with the NIH and CDC and their collective 36,000 employees? Bureaucrats are at all levels of the government, local, State and Federal, and none are held accountable. These bureaucrats control billions of taxpayer dollars and have discretion as to how they spend that money. Just fact check the $3.8 M Fauci gave to the Chinese Wuhan lab.
That must change. All of us look to our elected officials to take on the bureaucrats and to hold them accountable. That isn't happening. It seems each year government (bureaucrats) grow in numbers and the more there are, the less accountability is in place.
It is time that each and every one of us, take the time to hold bureaucrats responsible for their actions. You can no longer sit on the bench!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Kewaunee County Board Passes Wisconsin Re-Opening Resolution

Kewaunee County's Board of Supervisors went right to work on Tuesday, April 28.  Following the swearing in and selecting a new Chairman, one of the first orders of business was to pass "Resolution Encouraging Governor Evers To Start Process For Reopening Businesses May 12, 2020".

Congratulation first to Supervisor Kim Kroll for introducing the Resolution and congrats to the Board for passing this on a 17 in favor, 3 opposed vote.  To the 3 Supervisors who voted against this common sense resolution I ask.  What were you thinking?

Here is that resolution----


A RESOLUTION ENCOURAGING GOVERNOR EVERS TO START PROCESS FOR REOPENING BUSINESSES MAY 12, 2020


TO THE HONORABLE KEWAUNEE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:

WHEREAS, the Board recognizes and appreciates Governor Evers intent and action to protect the health and wellbeing of the citizens of the State of Wisconsin as reflected in Emergency Orders No. 12 and 28; and

WHEREAS, the temporary implementation of social distancing and closing of non-essential activities and businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was a necessary and prudent response to this ongoing public health emergency; and

WHEREAS, the Board is also mindful that maintaining the strength and vitality of our local businesses is an essential component for the long term health, safety, protection and welfare of the persons and property within Kewaunee County; and

WHEREAS, the people of Kewaunee County are struggling financially, Kewaunee County is experiencing historic unemployment and many of our local retail and restaurant businesses will not be able to survive closure until May 26, 2020; and

WHEREAS, after a full month under the restrictions of Emergency Order No. 12, the public now understands and appreciates what is necessary to keep themselves, their families, and our community safe from the spread of COVID-19; and


Y
E
S
N
O
A
B
S
E
N
T
A
B
S
T
A
I
N
Augustian, A.




Baker, D.




Doell, D.




Guilette, N.




Haske, V.




Jahnke, S.




Kinnard, T.




Kroll, K.




Lazansky, J.




Lukes, J.




Mastalir, J.




Olson, D.




Paape, G.




Piesler, M.




Romdenne, T.




Swagel, M.




Teske, L.




Vollenweider, J.




Wagner, C.




Wochos, J.




TOTALS




WHEREAS, our local businesses need a date certain to prepare and implement appropriate safety protocols to keep employees and customers safe; and

WHEREAS, the Board believes it is possible, and necessary, to implement a strategic, well-planned, common sense approach to allow our citizens the ability to return to work in the safest manner possible.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE it resolved, by the Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors duly assembled this 28th day of April 2020, that the Board hereby requests Governor Evers implement the following approach:

1.      Request Secretary Designee of Human Services, Angela Palm, to immediately discontinue the Safer at Home Orders: Emergency Orders No. 12 and No. 28;
2.      Implement President Trump’s “Bring America Back to Work” COVID-19 Guidelines; and
3.      Establish May 12, 2020 as the date our businesses can start reopening.

Respectfully Submitted,



__________________________________________           
Supervisor Kim Kroll
District 13


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Broadband Internet Accessibility Expansion in Kewaunee County

As a former Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors Chairman, I feel obligated to speak out when it appears the County is making bad decisions.  This is one of those times.

My preface to this article:  
There is one thing I want you to take away from this article.  That is, providers like Bertram, Mercury.net, and Door County Broadband are “LINE OF SIGHT” PROVIDERS.  IF YOU DO NOT HAVE LINE OF SIGHT TO A TOWER, YOU CANNOT ACCESS THE TOWER.  Keep this in mind as you are reading about the County’s plan later.

I fully understand there are “underserved pockets” of residents in Kewaunee County who have difficulty accessing reasonably priced broadband.  My research shows that several companies have blanketed the entire county with broadband signal with typical download speeds of 20 Mps and 6 Mps upload.  Kewaunee County does not have a broadband access problem, we have homes in the woods and homes in valleys which I refer to as an “underserved pockets” problem. 

I was one of those homes, located in the woods South and West of Kewaunee.  I ran a business from my home and had to have fast enough internet service to run teleconference meetings and handle large data dumps.  I was buying service from Verizon, and it was pricey, about $300 a month on average.  I was not able to take advantage of some of the more competitively priced packages for broadband as offered by Bertram, Mercury.net, or Door County Broadband. 

You might ask, why could I get service from Verizon?  Well, good question.  The major telecom like Verizon, U.S. Cellular, AT&T, have paid the FCC billions of dollars for licensing broadcast bands that are lower frequency that can penetrate through walls and trees, etc.  Companies like Mercury, Bertram and Door County Broadband through licensing from FCC broadcast at higher frequency rates, typically operate at 5.1 GHz to 5.8 GHz that do not afford the same penetration.

I actually had the Bertram and Mercury people (whose towers I could see from my house) come to my home to run accessibility and speed readings only to be told, “if you cut those trees down over there, we can service you.”  Well that wasn’t an option.  The trees were one of the primary reasons I built here.  So, I walked the Mercury.net representative about 100 yards to the Southwest of the house and said, what if we put a post here?  From that location we had direct “LINE OF SIGHT” to their tower.  He pulled out his meter and said, this will be great, as he was getting about 55 Mps of signal at that point. 

I took it upon myself to erect a 22-foot cedar pole and ran underground electric power to it.  Mercury came in and put a receiver (to access the tower) and transmitter on top the pole.  The transmitter was to move the signal from that pole to the house.  I had “LINE OF SIGHT” service from that pole to the corner of my house, and voila I had great internet service to my house at consistent speeds of 20 plus Mps download and an average of 12 Mps upload.  Problem solved!  And, I am now paying $100 a month for up to 500 GB per month.

My Experience with Government - When They Take Charge of Anything, they foul it Up!

The most terrifying words in the English language as so well stated by President Ronald Reagan are: “I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”

Well, I am now terrified, because I believe that what we have going on right here in Kewaunee County is the beginning of a mis-guided, wasteful, taxpayer funded, broadband expansion program.  We taxpayers may be able to change the misguided direction of this project if we speak up now! This is a very complex topic to explain, but I will do my best to try to lay it out in a fashion that is understandable by all.   

Here are the major items completed so far on the Kewaunee County Broadband Project   
1.      Broadband Committee (put together by the County Board) meets and discusses needs for Request for Proposal (RFP).
2.      RFP is drafted, approved and sent out to Vendors (click here to see the County's RFP).  Note: In the RFP, there is no mention of the real problem, that being the “underserved pockets.”
3.      Providers submit proposals to Kewaunee County
4.      Presentations are scheduled
5.      Presentations are made by the respondents
6.      Broadband Committee recommends providers to partner on PSC grant application
7.      Executive Committee approves recommendation of Bug Tussel
8.      Bug Tussel and Kewaunee County partner on grant application submitted Dec. 16, 2019, (Click Here)
9.      PSC announces grant awards March 19, 2020 (awarded to Bug Tussel)

Why will the approach taken by Kewaunee County fail to produce meaningful results?

In a recent news article reported in the Kewaunee County Star News, you read that “Kewaunee County was awarded $960,000 by the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin to increase its high-speed internet access.”

Perhaps you recall when you received your tax bill this year, the County put a letter with your bill requesting public input/comments in support of expanding broadband.  A realistic and cost-effective way to survey the general public.  Some 88 people took time to write a letter or an email indicating they wanted faster service and many wanted a lower price for that service.  Surprise, surprise, surprise!  In addition to the letters, other people called Administrator Feldt and expressed the same thoughts.  All in, 150 people .0075% of the population responded and were concerned enough to send in a letter, email or make a phone call.  In my opinion, not a resounding endorsement for support.  Perhaps it was because the issue was not causing a panic or concern in the general population. (Note, I underlined email because, for all intent and purpose, takes very little effort on anyone’s part to complete).  (Click here to see all Resident input)

Here is where the mistake occurred.  The County is blanketed in coverage from several vendors.  Access is not the problem, but reaching the “underserved pockets” is the problem.   Remember the LINE OF SIGHT issue!  What the County should have done is to have completed a door-to-door canvass to determine, first hand, what was causing certain people to say “I have terrible internet service.”  Had that been done, the approach to the alleged problem, I guarantee you, would be totally different.  (Read my Sep 26, 2019 article about this topic).

The County then used those public comments as support information in the PCS grant request.  Quite a simple process, and the PSC came back with a grant of $960,000 to the County.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of work went into this project, but when you start with bad assumptions you end up with the incorrect solution.

So now the County has $960,000 grant money from the PSC. Now how to spend it, along with a matching $960,000 from the County.   First let’s understand the $960,000 from PSC.  IT IS TAXPAYER MONEY!  And, the Kewaunee County $960,000, what are those funds?  TAXPAYER DOLLARS!  So, we now have $1,920,000 of TAXPAYER MONEY to spend.  Let’s find the best solution to expand our broadband access!

The County Broadband Committee then solicited four companies to come to a meeting and present their company’s structure and capabilities and listen to a pitch as to how they would improve the broadband in the County.  Those companies were; Door County Broadband, Bertram, Bug Tussel and Mercury.  Of the four companies, three have been working in Kewaunee County and providing service for a long time, those being Door County Broadband, Mercury and Bertram.  Bug Tussel, on the other hand, did not have a presence in Kewaunee County. 

Apparently, when the date for these interviews was set, Mercury.net had a conflict and could not be in attendance.  Administrator Feldt had discussion with Mercury saying the committee didn’t have time for the fourth presenter and would reschedule Mercury’s presentation for another date.  Well, that never happened as the Committee was so baffled and snowed by the Bug Tussel presentation they had bought into lock, stock and barrel.  Mercury never was given the chance to present.  I bring this up only because it seems that today, Mercury has the widest coverage in the County and understands the “underserved pockets” issue better than anybody.  BTW, I have no dog in this fight, but it seems to me there should be some loyalty to companies that have been serving the County residents.  (See vendorProposals here).

It was during these presentations the committee missed something of great importance, and in fairness, probably didn’t recognize it.  Bug Tussel’s core business is building Cell Phone Towers.  They have a standing contract with AT&T to build out those towers and equip with cell switching equipment.

So here is how that works.  AT&T gets funding from the FCC (taxpayer money) to build a network of Cell phone towers for handling the switching of cell phone calls.  That has nothing to do with broadband service.  Bug Tussel builds and provisions these towers to AT&T specifications.  So, then, upon the existing AT&T provisioned towers, Bug Tussel simply affixes Cambium Broadband equipment and thus provides a broadband LINE OF SIGHT signal is established.  So, they double dip with the government funding.  They already are getting paid through AT&T’s taxpayer funded program, then they have a county like Kewaunee, pay for the towers again.  What a wonderful fail-safe business model.  It works well for Bug Tussel as the $1.9 Million from Kewaunee County for this project is money that largely falls to the bottom line for Bug Tussel, but does this work for our County? 

Here is the rub.  On paper Bug Tussel appears to be financially solid.  However, the actual towers appear to be owned by Midwest DataCore LLC an entity owned by Bug Tussel.  Then Bug Tussel broadband leases space on those towers to place the Cambium Broadband equipment.  So that relegates broadband to being the secondary business. 

There is good reason to believe that Bug Tussel could, after they consummate the sale of their towers with AT&T, simply fold their tent and shut down the broadband offering.  BUG TUSSEL MAKES THEIR MONEY BY BUILDING CELL PHONE TOWERS FOR AT&T AND FOR THE CELL PHONE CALL SWITCHING RUNNING THROUGH THEIR SWITCHING EQUIPMENT ON THOSE TOWERS.  A really good example of this is, Bug Tussel already has AT&T equipment on the Kohnle Grain elevator in Tisch Mills, and, if you look at their proposal, they represent having to build a tower in Tisch Mills.  Is this tower one in the same as they are proposing to build?  Something seems fishy here!

Also, according to the Bug Tussel response to the RFP, their expansion will service 199 businesses and 12,115 residential locations within its total footprint, as antennas will also reach Mishicot in Manitowoc County.  And why is Manitowoc County included?

REALLY?
  With that statement, they are implying that virtually no one in the county has broadband today.  That, is not the case.  Looking at census data, about 11,500 of Kewaunee County residents live in the cities of Algoma, Luxemburg, Kewaunee and Casco who already have good broadband.  That means there are about 9,000 people living in rural areas.  From everything I researched there is about 20% of the population that don’t use the internet at all. So, if that is true, the 9,000 now becomes 7,200 people to serve.  If you assume census numbers are correct, the average household is 2.3 people, so 7,200 divided by 2.3 people equals about 3,100 homes that potentially could be affected by adding Bug Tussel broadband.  NOW KEEP IN MIND THAT MEANS THAT NO ONE OUT THERE HAS ACCESS TODAY, AND WE KNOW THAT IS INCORRECT.  Here is a link that provides more information https://broadbandnow.com/Wisconsin/Kewaunee

Is it too late to stop this wasteful spending?  I don’t think so, because the actual contract between Bug Tussel and the County has not yet been signed.  Perhaps it is not too late to conduct meaningful, in-person door-to-door surveys to determine the real problem and redirect the money to fix the real problem and ensure any contract deals with the "under served" pockets.

Some other considerations

·       Broadband Technology is changing rapidly, in fact, about every 3 - 4 years all equipment needs to be changed or upgraded. This needs to be addressed.
·       Will Broadband distribution change so much in the next 2 - 5 years causing this entire project to be obsolete?
·       Who or what determines success or failure of this wasteful spend?
·       Will there be continuous reporting from the County to the taxpayers as to current results/failures going forward.
·       Going forward, assuming this imminent disaster is allowed, what is the County’s recourse for reclaiming wasted tax dollars?


The County is on a horribly misguided path with this plan and about to waste taxpayer dollars.  If the demand for service is really there, the private sector will provide the services.  What can you do personally to stop this --- Contact your County Board Supervisor, all their contact information is here.