Owatonna’s People’s Press recently ran an editorial from Mike Martin, executive director of the Minnesota Cable Communications Association and Brent Christensen, president of the Minnesota Telephone Alliance. Both are supportive of the $20 million broadband development fund. Both represent industry and celebrate the progress that industry has made in investing in broadband across the state…

As telecommunications stakeholders — including the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, members of the media, legislators and the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development — continue to look at ways to improve our state’s broadband coverage, it is important to remember that Minnesota has great coverage today with 98 percent of all homes and businesses with service levels at or above the FCC’s definition of broadband. Almost 90 percent of homes have access to broadband at speeds of 10 mbps download/ 3 mbps upload. These numbers continue to improve with each construction season.

Their hiccup with the broadband fund is that both underserved and unserved communities are eligible…

While this new fund has a role to play in helping expand broadband coverage, Minnesotans will be best served if these funds are dedicated toward areas of our state that lack service today. And, with a 50 percent match required, the state’s telecommunications industry looks forward to leveraging these new grant funds to expand in areas of our state that currently do not have service. Leveraging these public funds with private investment will foster the right kind of partnerships to expand coverage. This is the most cost-effective approach, and it will guarantee long-term success in these areas.

What’s the difference between served and unserved? Unserved areas do not meet the FCC definition of broadband, which is 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps up. Underserved areas do not meet the State definition of 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. (Regardless of where the community sits today, the proposed improvements must be scalable to 100 Mbps; so funding shouldn’t go to solutions that move a community only from unserved to underserved.)

Right now the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is touring Minnesota talking about the grant; I’ve been to a number of those meetings and plan to attend the meeting in Owatonna tomorrow. While the details of the grant have not been finalized, it seems like they are pretty close and that applications in unserved areas will be weighted more than underserved areas, but it is just part of the equation that will help the OBD rank success applications. Other factors include good business plans, good story to tell, readiness, geographic distribution, residents served, anchor institutions served, digital inclusion component and local match.

I have seen a range of providers attend the information sessions on the grants. I think that a community with a willing provider is probably in good shape for applying for funds, assuming the provider has plans and is will to provide (or help provide) the match. A few providers who attended the meetings pointed out that the funding in question isn’t a large percentage of most build-out projects but it just might be enough to start a discussion, to get community support to spur some local digital inclusion initiatives that help promote higher adoption in currently underserved and unserved areas – and it might also help the investment pay off – for the community, the provider and the OBD

1871This week I had the opportunity to attend the OpenGovHack Night in Chicago. It happens every Tuesday night from 6-10 pm. They have free pizza and between 50-100 (or more) attendees each week! The meeting is part scheduled agenda and part time to meet with your group and work on ideas. It seems like a great way to create civic tools, promote tools and build skills within the community.

I would love to find a way for smaller communities to find a way to make similar meetings happen – so I took pretty good notes with an eye to helping that happen. Also, I know similar meetings happen on monthly basis in the Twin Cities (Open Twin Cities) – maybe these notes will be informative to those folks too.

The meeting started with brief introductions. There were about 50 people in attendance – including seasoned coders, new and wannabe coders, government and city employees with an interest in using technology to solve their problems and reporters. People come to be helpful and/or learn. Some are very passionate about a given project and they can really drive a project; some are less driven but certainly committed enough to show up for four hours on a Tuesday night!

The meeting started with brief introductions. I’d say 12 people were brand new and probably 12-15 come every week. I think there were as many as 10 women. Lots of different ages. People were friendly.

After introductions were announcements, which included the introduction of some cool tools, so I’ll include those:

  1. Expunge.io expunging a juvenile record, which doesn’t necessarily expunge without a request!! It connects you with legal aid
  2. Holla Back – public site to track street harassment
  3. Codefund to raise funds for good code ideas; first user Rose Afriyie http://bit.ly/meet-rose
  4. James Kalven wins open data battle to make Chicago police misconduct info public
  5. Five-O app to help document police brutality
  6. tutormentorprogramlocator.net app for parents, leaders, decision makers

Usually they have presentations next, but this was a working-only group so we got updates from workgroups:

  • Civic hacking 101
  • new coders – github & getting started today
  • transportation – red light ticket analysis from tribe to tack right turn accidents on lights with cameras – tribune will actually be speaking to group next week
  • education – CP’s procurement & easy to share info
  • environment – rain intensity & take back recycling – landlords need to recycle 5- apts+ site to report
  • vacant bldgs – open data to build model of when bldgs are likely to become vacant – mapping & predictive modeling;
  • social service delivery – 10 program integrated into one app to assess eligibility – looking at design
  • modeling pension reform – people are in for &40000 to bring pension to healthy – need to make info accessible – learn financial tools
  • make research available to public

Then the groups met up and worked. I attended the Civic Hacking 101 session presented by Christopher Whitaker of Smart Chicago. I thought he did a very good job. I’ll include a very high level outline of his talk:

  1. Intro to Chicago data portal
  2. Intro to APIs
    1. Example: Wasmycartowed.com
  3. Open source software
    1. Example: Chicago flu shot app – where to get it? Transportation? Code lives in github repository. Boston forked flu app in36 hours; made it better; made Chicago’s better; issues fork
  4. Need community activist for real world problems to solve

Civic Hacking only lasted about 20 minutes with the idea that then folks could head off to another work group. I was very tempted – but had teens waiting for me. But next time I’m in Chicago on a Tuesday without kids, I’ll plan to join again.

TDS recently announced that they have completed their ARRA funded project, which included improved broadband in Cass and Crow counties…

TDS Telecom has completed its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus-funded broadband internet projects in parts of Michigan and Minnesota. As a result of the project’s completion, businesses and more than a combined 1,250 households gain access to broadband service. TDS is receiving funding for 44 projects, including these two, from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) as part of the ARRA. …

 

The stimulus-funded project in Minnesota is also now complete and impacts customers in parts of Cass and Crow Wing counties. TDS reported in October 2013 that a portion of this project, in TDS’ Arvig Telephone Company, was complete. The project included installing nearly 100 miles of fibre optics cabling and twenty cabinets in order to connect more than 900 area residents to broadband. TDS projected the cost at more than USD 6.7 million. The company invested 25 percent (nearly USD 1.7 million) and the RUS grant covered 75 percent.

The first 6 months of the year I spent time every month on the Fond du Lac reservation – specifically at the tribal center in Cloquet. There’s a library in the tribal center – with computers and good broadband. And once I month I was in the building providing some kind of Internet/computer training. Turns out FdL is top of the class when compared to other tribal libraries.

I was shocked by some of the stats on tribal libraries in a recent report: Digital Inclusion in Native Communities: The Role of the Tribal Libraries:

  • One hundred percent of public libraries offer patrons access to the Internet, but only 89 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to do so.
  • One hundred percent of public libraries offer patrons access to public computer workstations, but only 86 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to do so.
  • Sixty-eight percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide free public WiFi, as compared to 86 percent of rural public libraries; however, only 17 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide WiFi access when the library was closed.
  • Only 36 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to offer e-book access, as compared to 76 percent of public libraries, and only 11 percent of respondent tribal libraries were able to support remote access to e-books.
  • Only 46 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample offered access to licensed electronic databases (such as journal indices, science learning tools, and genealogical data) as compared to 98 of rural public libraries
  • At least 40 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample did not have a broadband Internet connection. The actual figure may be as high as 89 percent.
  • Only 42 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide patrons with technology training, as compared to 87 percent of rural public libraries and 90 percent of all public libraries.
  • Only 34 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample had a website.
  • Only 45 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample had a Facebook presence as compared to 65 percent of rural public libraries; nonetheless, it was far and away the most frequently reported means of social media communication.
  • Federal and tribal government funding are the two most common sources of revenue for tribal libraries; respectively, 89 percent and 54 percent of survey respondents reported these sources of funds.
  • Sixteen percent of tribal libraries in the study sample reported that IMLS was their only source of support.
  • Only 15 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample received E-Rate discounts; statistics suggest that the limited uptake of E-rate support can be attributed, in part, to complicated eligibility requirements and a general lack of awareness.

There are so many aspects of the report that are of interest to me – both in the libraries’ role in teaching patrons to access technology and the libraries’ role in preserving culture – but I’ll stick to broadband:

Just last week I read a report that the me an broadband speed (download) in the US was 57 Mbps. This report doesn’t give a direct correlation – but I can see that only 24 percent of the tribal libraries report access of 40 Mbps or faster. Also I find it shocking that 2 percent of tribal libraries have dialup access.

bob - tribal library speeds

The good news is that there’s easy opportunity for improvement through better funding. Few of the libraries had heard of E-rate…

bob - erate

And few libraries have a technology plan. So perhaps a first step is creating a technology team to create a technology plan that includes research on funding, such as E-rate.

bob - library tech plan

The Center for Rural Policy and Development recently released their State of Rural Minnesota 2014 presentation. It’s a series of maps that documents by county, change in population, age, diversity and income. Here are a couple of high level take away:

  • Counties with access to high education and diverse populations are growing in population, especially a younger population.
  • Northeastern Minnesota (from Cook County to Lake of the Woods) is going to have the highest populations of seniors by 2045. (There are a few outliers.)
  • Highest incomes were seen around the Twin Cities. (Scott County tops with median income $86,324.)
  • Lowest incomes were seen in Central and Northern Minnesota – roughly from Cass County to Lake of the Woods. (Again some outliers.)
  • Western Minnesota, most of the counties bordering North Dakota, have seen the greatest decline in population since 1990.
  • Project population in Western Minnesota is expected to grow in the next 20 years.

Without going into the numbers – just using broad stroke maps – I thought I’d compare that to Connect Minnesota maps. Well, the download speed map.

On the Connect MN map if you draw a line from the Twin Cities to the Northwest Corner of the state, that’s the digital divide. There are exceptions, but with the map below I won’t go into them. Here are a few observations:

  • The Western border had experienced population decline in the last 25 years. The broadband in those areas is pretty good. The population is expecting to grow in the next 20 years. (Of course the oil in North Dakota may be a factor as well – on both population and broadband access.)
  • The areas with the lowest median income also have poor broadband speeds.
  • The Twin Cities has some of the highest incomes and fastest broadband speeds.

I’m not going to say whether there’s a cause or effect. Access to higher education institutions means access to better broadband. But is that because there’s an anchor tenant and larger population OR does the better broadband entice a larger population. But there are a few sweeping generalizations that can be made.

The USDA just announced $40 million in funding for rural broadband expansion. Minnesota will see a small part…

USDA Funds Broadband Expansion in Rural Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded nearly $40 million in loans for new or improved broadband service in rural parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. The loans are being funded through USDA Rural Utilities Service’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program to finance projects to expand voice, video and data services. This funding is part of the Obama Administration’s vision for stronger rural economies, which are vital to building a more prosperous America.

“Broadband is essential to the economic strength of rural communities,” Vilsack said. “It improves access to education and quality health care, and it leads to new jobs and business opportunities. Broadband is part of everyday life in most of America and vital for economic success in the 21st Century. Rural America cannot be left out.”

In Texas, the Community Telephone Company will use a $26.4 million loan to replace its outdated copper system with a fiber-to-the-premises network. Community Telephone also will make system improvements in its six exchanges in the north central Texas plains.

The Red River Rural Telephone Association is receiving an $8.5 million loan to construct 145 miles of buried fiber optic cable in Abercrombie, Colfax, Fairmount, Great Bend, Hankinson, Lidgerwood, Mooreton and Wyndmere in North Dakota; and in Barnesville and Rollag in Minnesota. This project will complete Red River’s fiber-to-the-premises network. The upgraded system will meet current and future requirements for voice, video and high-speed data services to subscribers.

The Griggs County Telephone Company will use a $4.7 million loan to deploy fiber-to-the-premises in Binford and Cooperstown, N.D. Griggs County also will use loan funds to make improvements in the system’s four exchanges. The project will provide expanded voice, video and data services to 682 subscribers.

The Dakota Central Communications Cooperative received a $2.2 million USDA broadband grant in 2010 to bring fiber-to-the-premises service to Gackle and Streeter, N.D. This network connects more than 400 rural subscribers. Thanks in part to this funding, Daktel (along with Dickey Rural Networks) has constructed what is believed to be the largest 100% fiber-to-the-home network in the United States. It covers 10,000 square miles and reaches roughly 18,000 homes.

President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.

USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 16, 2014

Minnesota Broadband on MPR: plenty of listener participation

Earlier this week, Broadband was a hot topic on Minnesota Public Radio’s Daily Circuit. Guests will be Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Bill Coleman, broadband consultant with Community Technology Advisors and broadband coach for Blandin Broadband Communities.

You can hear the archive on the MPR News site. It was interesting to hear questions and stories from the call-in listeners.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 14, 2014

Webinar archive: Blandin Community Broadband Program 2015-16

Check out the archive from today’s webinar on funding and support opportunities through the Blandin Foundation.

The American Library Association recently released a comprehensive study on digital inclusion efforts in libraries – including public access to broadband. Two of my passions in one study – nerd heaven!

The report is a good reminder of the role that libraries can and do play with digital inclusion. And in my experience as a Reference Librarian and someone who has done tech training in libraries as recently as this summer, the folks who forget about the library are the folks who don’t need it. The people on the far edge of the digital divide know about libraries. Maybe not everyone on the edge of the digital divide thinks library – but I can tell you a lot do. (Last year a report indicated that 91 percent of Americans 16 and older think libraries are important.)

So if everyone thinks it’s important why am I writing about it? Why are they doing research? Because all libraries are not created equal. Government Technology highlights the urban-rural difference…

The study, conducted in conjunction with the Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland and the International City/County Management Association and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, found that cities still fair far better when it comes to broadband — they report an average subscribed download speed of more than 100Mbps, compared to an average subscribed download speed of just over 21Mbps for rural public libraries.

“Fully 10 percent of libraries still have broadband speeds of 1.5Mbps or slower, but for rural libraries that number is closer to 1-in-5,” said Larra Clark, director of the ALA’s program on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century. “That is completely inadequate to support multiple public computers, public Wi-Fi, and downloadable digital content.”

If libraries are going to support all students, all businesses, all residents then all libraries need adequate access – and that’s not 21 Mbps. That make take funding – extra funding to reach remote areas.

Also if libraries are going to help lead the push for digital inclusion then maybe librarians need a chair at the table where this is getting discussed SO for community leaders – remember to invite the librarians. Also to provide digital inclusion services, the libraries need to be open and they need to have training necessary to serve and train their patrons.

One of the biggest hurdles I hear about with local and community technology training is getting people to attend the sessions. Likely attendees are already at the library – seems like a good place to build

Also I think it’s interesting to compare Minnesota libraries with National counterparts so I’m including that info from the report too…

Public Access Technology and Infrastructure & Broadband
Mean Download speed: 23.8 Mbps (MN) / 57.4 Mbps (US)
Minimum Download Speed: 0.7 Mbps (MN) /0.1 Mbps (US)
Maximum Download Speed: 400 Mbps (MN) /3000 Mbps (US)
WiFi Availability: 98.7% (MN) /97.5% (US)
Libraries that would like to increase bandwidth: 46.9% (MN) /66.1% (US)
Mean number of public access computers/laptops: 12.4 (MN) /19.8 (US)
Patrons experience wait time for public access computers: 14.7% (MN) /35.9% (US)
Technology Services for Patron Use
Databases: 100.0% (MN) /100.0% (US)
E-books: 99.1% (MN) / 89.5% (US)
Online homework assistance (e.g., tutor.com): 97.4% (MN) / 96.5% (US)
Online job/employment resources (e.g., Brainfuse, JobNow): 98.9% (MN) / 95.6% (US)
Mobile apps to access library services and resources: 43.7% (MN) / 42.6% (US)
Digital Literacy/Public Access Technology Training 
 Formal Training: 97.5% (MN) / 98.0% (US)
General computer skills: 81.6% (MN) / 91.4% (US)
General familiarity with new technologies (e.g., using e-readers, tablets): 38.2% (MN) / 67.5% (US)
Social media (e.g., blogging, Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube): 19.1% (MN) / 58.5% (US)
Library Programs, Information Sessions, & Events 
Education Programs: 100.0% (MN) / 99.5% (US)
Basic literacy: 34.5% (MN) / 33.2% (US)
GED or equivalent education: 29.6% (MN) / 26.5% (US)
Summer reading: 98.7% (MN) / 97.5% (US)
Economy and Workforce Development Programs: 95.9% (MN) / 99.6% (US)
Applying for job: 73.3% (MN) / 73.5% (US)
Entrepreneurship and small business development: 60.9% (MN) / 47.3% (US)
Accessing and using online business information resources: 54.4% (MN) / 56.1% (US)
Civic Engagement Programs: 61.4% (MN) / 74.1% (US)
Hosting community engagement events (e.g., candidate forums, community conversations): 44.4% (MN) / 45.6% (US)
Hosting creation events (e.g, maker spaces): 20.3% (MN) / 21.4% (US)
Completing government forms on-line: 97.7% (MN) / 98.6% (US)

Rumor has it that broadband will be a topic on Minnesota Public Radio’s The Daily Circuit tomorrow morning from 11 am to noon. I’m not sure if it will fill the hour or happen sometime in that hour. But I do know that guests will be Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Bill Coleman, broadband consultant with Community Technology Advisors and broadband coach for Blandin Broadband Communities.

They’re going to talk with Tom Weber about broadband access in Minnesota – what’s the situation right now, what progress has been made, and what’s left to do.

 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 13, 2014

Webinar Aug 28: How to Apply for Rural Broadband Experiments

Minnesota had a large number of experiment ideas submitted when the Rural Broadband Experiments first came up. This could be a good opportunity to hone those applications…

Webinar: How to Apply for the Rural Broadband Experiments

Hear from Federal Communications Commission representatives about the rules and process to apply for $100 million available in funding via the Rural Broadband Experiments. Sign up for the webinar today.

Sign up to participate in a national webinar:

How to Apply for the Rural Broadband Experiments

Date: Thursday, August 28th

Time: 1:00pm Eastern

The National Rural Assembly’s Rural Broadband and Policy Group invites all rural stakeholders to participate in a national webinar in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission that will explain how to apply for funding from the Rural Broadband Experiments – a program that will fund projects to bring broadband to rural areas.

Space is limited.  Register now.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Rural Broadband Experiments – a $100 million funding initiative seeking  proposals that bring advanced telecommunications services to Rural America. Deadline to apply is October 12th 2014. For the first time, cooperatives, municipalities, nonprofits, anchor institutions, and Tribal governments will be able to access federal funding to bring broadband service to rural areas. This is a historic opportunity for entities committed to rural communities. 

On Thursday, August 28th at 1:00pm Eastern, join the Rural Broadband Policy Group and the National Rural Assembly on a webinar featuring Jonathan Chambers from the Office of Strategic Policy and Analysis and Carol Mattey from the Wireline Competition Bureau, to learn about the rules and process to apply for the Rural Broadband Experiments.

JOIN US and learn about how your community, organization, cooperative and local provider can take advantage of this funding opportunity. Read the full Report and Order launching the Rural Broadband Experiments here: http://www.fcc.gov/document/rural-broadband-experiments-order

Akamai reports quarterly on the “State of the Internet.” They have been publishing reports for seven years. It’s a good benchmark on what’s happening with broadband around the world. This year they started tracking “4K Readiness,” which refers to ultra high definition TV. That’s a sign that ultra HD is hitting some sort of critical mass of users – or at least readiness. The report is also a standard for tracking where in the world we stand in terms of broadband availability and adoption.

Back in Q3 2010, Minnesota made the lists. That’s the last time I saw them on the list. Back then we ranked in the following areas:

  • MN is #10 in Average Measured Connection Speed by State
  • St Paul is #7 in Average Measured Connection Speed, Top US Cities by Speed

I’ll include some state rankings, but Minnesota no longer shows up at all – and we haven’t in years!

 akamai states

The US is not sitting pretty either. Here’s where we don’t show up:

  • Top Average Connection Speed by Country
  • Top Average Peak Connection Speed by Country
  • Percentage of Users with better than 4 Mbps Connectivity
  • Percentage of Users who are 4 K Ready

 Here’s where we rank:

akamai us

The US does rank well when compared to other counties in the Americas but looking globally is more important.

And one fun chart from the report that’s more a commentary on the State of the Internet, the chart on mobile growth…

akamai mobile

 

Good news for low cost households interested in broadband – and an interesting fact I’ve wondered about for a while; apparently 8000 households in the Twin Cities currently take advantage of Comcast Internet Essentials. Here’s more for the Comcast press release…

COMCAST OFFERS UP TO SIX MONTHS OF COMPLIMENTARY INTERNET SERVICE AND AMNESTY PROGRAM FOR LOW-INCOME TWIN CITIES FAMILIES

Internet Essential Kicks Off Back to School Season with Nationwide, Complimentary Six-Month Offer, Discounted Computers and Free Digital Literacy Training for Eligible Families

Comcast Has Now Connected More Than 8,000 Low-Income Twin Cities Families to Internet at Home

  1. PAUL, MN (August 4, 2014) — Comcast today announced it will include up to six months of complimentary internet service for any new family in the Twin Cities area that has not yet applied for Internet Essentials. Families who are approved for Internet Essentials between August 4 and September 20, 2014 will receive up to six months of complimentary Xfinity Internet service. Since 2011, Comcast’s innovative broadband adoption program has connected more than 350,000 families, or about 1.4 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet. The program is available in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

In the Twin Cities, Comcast has connected more than 8,000 families to Internet Essentials so far, providing home Internet access to more than 32,000 low-income local residents across the metro area.

Comcast also announced an amnesty program for low-income families who could qualify for Internet Essentials, but have a past due balance. Customers who have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old are now eligible for the program. Comcast will offer amnesty for that debt for the purpose of connecting to Internet Essentials, so long as the customer meets the other eligibility criteria.

“One of the major goals of Internet Essentials is to ensure every child can build digital literacy skills that benefit them in the classroom and in life,” said Jeff Freyer, Regional Vice President for Comcast – Twin Cities Region. “By offering six months of free Internet Essentials service to Twin Cities families, along with an amnesty program, we hope to provide kids better access to homework resources and afford families a better connection to their children’s teachers and schools.”

Throughout the back to school season, Comcast will actively engage with parents, teachers, non-profit partners and elected officials to help spread the word to low-income families about the program. Comcast plans to air an unprecedented number of public service announcements (PSAs) that promote the new, six months free offer, and to focus on schools that automatically qualify for Internet Essentials based on student participation in the National School Lunch Program. Comcast will also continue to offer families the option to purchase a computer for less than $150, as well as provide access to free digital literacy training online, in print and in person.

Since 2011, Comcast and the Comcast Foundation have dedicated more than $200 million in cash and in-kind support to fund digital readiness initiatives nationwide, reaching more than 1.75 million people through non-profit, digital literacy partners. In 2013, Comcast announced its largest non-profit collaboration to date with Khan Academy to bring free, world-class online educational content to more low-income families. Khan Academy offers a personalized online learning experience to students, in subjects from basic math to physics, biology, economics, art history, computer science, health and medicine and more. Khan Academy has provided 400 million lessons where learners have completed over 2 billion exercise problems. Comcast has committed to airing hundreds of thousands of PSAs for and providing significant digital promotion, in both English and Spanish, of Khan Academy and its educational resources.

In March, Comcast announced the indefinite continuation of Internet Essentials, well beyond its original three-year commitment. The program’s impact continues to grow as the company works to expand its national and local efforts to address the digital divide for eligible students and families. Since its launch in 2011 to the end of June 2014, Comcast has:

  • Sold nearly 30,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
  • Distributed nearly 37 million Internet Essentials brochures at no cost.
  • Broadcast more than 4 million public service announcements, valued at nearly $51 million.
  • Welcomed nearly 2.2 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and the Online Learning Center.
  • Fielded more than 2.3 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
  • Offered Internet Essentials in more than 30,000 schools and 4,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Partnered with thousands of community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.
  • Dedicated $1 million in grants to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones, where networks of non-profit partners are working together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training in St. Paul, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Miami and Seattle, among others.

Based on customer surveys, we have also learned a lot about what customers think about having Internet Essentials.

  • 98% said they would recommend the program to friends and families.
  • 97% said they use the service so their kids can do homework.
  • 90% said they were satisfied with the program.
  • 82% said they use the service every day or almost every day.

Comcast and the Comcast Foundation have also made significant investments in nationwide digital readiness, training, and safety programs with partners like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The Arc. These partnerships integrate digital readiness education into program curricula and offer the disabilities community a better and safer opportunity to access and be empowered by digital technologies. Also, the Comcast Digital Connectors program has trained and certified thousands of youth in Internet and computer skills across the U.S. In the Twin Cities area, Comcast has partnered with Hmong American Partnership and Neighborhood House to host Digital Connectors programs.

About Internet Essentials:

Internet Essentials from Comcast is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program. It provides low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150 and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. Eligible families must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private and homeschooled students.

For more information or to apply for the program, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376, or, for Spanish, visit www.InternetBasico.com or call 1-855-765-6995.

I have two pieces of good news to share with potential conference attendees in Minnesota:

First the Annual NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) Conference is gong to be in St Paul September 29 – October 2.

Second, the keynote is FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Here’s more info from their website…

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to Keynote NATOA Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 6, 2014
Contact: Steve Traylor (703) 519-8035 x 204

The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) announced today that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler will keynote NATOA’s 2014 Annual Conference taking place September 29 – October 2 in St. Paul, MN. 

Chairman Wheeler, appointed by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, became the FCC’s 31st Chairman in November 2013.

“We are thrilled that Chairman Wheeler will keynote the conference,” stated NATOA President Tony Perez. “He has assumed leadership of the FCC at a time when the commission is faced with many challenging issues. We look forward to hearing his thoughts on the future of telecommunications networks and services.”

This year’s Annual Conference focuses on the rapid changes in the communications industry, the ability of local communities to control their digital futures and the tools needed to protect and advance local interests as we migrate to an IP world.

It looks like a great conference. I’m hoping to attend.

 

 

 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | August 11, 2014

Barnesville invests $3.8 million in municipal FTTH

Great news for Barnesville MN…

Today more than ever before, consumers are demanding higher speeds for data delivery. Many people work from home over the internet and businesses, small and large, need faster internet speeds. Barnesville is responding by investing $3.8 million in a Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) project.

The City of Barnesville has owned the phone system for over 100 years. In order to be competitive with other cities and what kind of utilities offered, Barnesville has a consistent history of continually reinvesting in the cutting edge telephone infrastructure.

The City’s current copper system is capped at 1 megabyte of upload speed and customer feedback indicates we need a minimum of 3 megabytes of upload speed. Fiber is needed to retain residents and businesses. FTTP provides almost unlimited capacity for services such as HD, Netflix, gaming applications and much more all over the fastest broadband connection. In fact, download speeds of up to 100 megabytes will be available.

The project started at the end of April and should be substantially complete by the end of 2014. At this time, all residents should be up and running on the new system. While the estimated cost of the project is between 3.5-4 million dollars, it is not expected that taxes, nor utility rates will increase in order to pay for the project. Instead, it is being paid out of telephone revenues. The City’s investment in this cutting edge technology makes it less attractive for a competitor to overbuild.

The part that makes this project unique is that not very many communities in the United States have fiber to every property. As of the spring of 2013, the number of public and public/private fiber networks had reached 135. As of 2012 only 23% of Americans have access to fiber. In the United States, only one of every five households is within reach of fiber optics. Barnesville will be providing fiber optics to every single home and business in Barnesville, which will give them access to the faster internet. Only 130 municipal governments have built Fiber to the Premise projects.

The fiber optic update will have a tremendous impact on the residents and businesses of Barnesville. Fiber has the capability to transport virtually unlimited bandwidth, which means faster upload and download internet speeds. It is also considered to be “future proof” and offers the flexibility to deliver additional services in the years to come. Since fiber is made of glass and does not conduct electricity, it is not affected by the seasonal temperature changes, which results in greater reliability.

The City’s TEC Manager, Guy Swenson, who has been working tirelessly on this project for many years; Swenson said, “Everything is tied to the internet in one way or another, that trend will continue into the future. A key element in supporting that trend is the ability to provide the internet speeds that exceed demand.” Since the city was still operating on the copper telephone lines, it was difficult to achieve faster speeds.

In addition to sustaining their current customer base, FTTP will also allow the City to also expanding their residential and commercial bases. When asked if this project will be profitable in the future, Swenson was confident that it would turn a profit. He said, “In sustaining our current customer base and growing that base plus the reduction in maintenance costs associated with fiber will generate an increase in profits.”

Karen Lauer, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director, is very enthusiastic about this project. She thinks fiber will be key to attracting future economic development. In a recent Business Retention & Expansion survey most local businesses were concerned about broadband speed, reliability and cost. Lauer states, “As we’ve worked with more tech savvy businesses in recent months, higher broadband speeds have been a subject of frequent discussion, in large part because so many businesses are using cloud based applications and software.

Another opportunity that will come out of the project, is opportunities for telecommuters. Lauer said, “The most exciting opportunity with the Fiber to the Premise project is the impact on telecommuters – those folks who are living in Barnesville, but working from home, either full or part-time, utilizing the internet.” Many companies throughout the United States are looking to reduce costs, so they turn to teleworkers. In the future, Lauer hopes to use the FTTP project to attract individuals looking for high quality of life along with expanded career opportunities.

Barnesville has become very competitive in the levels of internet services it offers to its customers. Not only will this technology set Barnesville aside from other communities, but it will increase people’s satisfaction with their internet, but also their overall quality of life.

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