Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 21, 2014

Two-thirds of Americans can access 100 Mbps broadband

According to a recent blog post from the NTIA (National Telecommunications & Information Administration)…

Considering wireline and wireless technologies together, the slowest broadband speeds are nearly ubiquitously available, and access to very fast broadband (over 100 Mbps) has now reached two-thirds of Americans. The data, as of December 31, 2013, shows that 99 percent of Americans have access to wired and/or wireless broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps up, though this number drops to 89 percent when considering wireline broadband alone.

The NTIA credit upgrades in cable infrastructure.

I myself moved to cable fairly recently. I finally cancelled my other/old broadband service last week. As any good provider (of any services) would do, the customer rep on the phone tried to talk me out of cancelling until I told her I really needed better upload capacity. She allowed that upload wasn’t their long suit.

As much as it’s heartening to hear that so many Americans have access to good speeds, it makes me nervous to see that juxtaposed so many having access to 100 Mbps that 89 (or 99) percent have access to “6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps up” or better because that is quite a digital divide. It’s exactly what the National Broadband Plan was going for (100 Mbps to 100 million homes; 4/1 Mbps service to everyone else) but again it’s quite a digital divide.

My fear is just as I forget about the days it used to take hours to upload some of the video I post on the blog regularly now that I have cable; I’m afraid the rest of the world will forget about the 4/1 people and communities once “we all” (or at least 100 million households) get 100 Mbps.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 19, 2014

Lake County hosts Senior Health and Technology Conference

Fun to hear about the successful health-technology fair in Lake County. They got some nice local press on the event and it sounds like it was well attended. Thanks to the folks from Lake County for sharing it…

Lake County hosts Senior Health and Technology Conference

Jan O’Donnell, Vice Chair of the Community Partners Board of Directors, welcomed 70 participants to the 15th annual Community Partners conference focused on Senior Health and Technology on Tuesday May 13, 2014. “We know two things”, O’Donnell said, “First, technology is all around us whether we like it or not, and second, we are all getting older! We might as well become informed consumers in this changing world.”

 

Community Partners chose the topic of “senior health and technology” to help people learn about tools that will make life easier. Participants enjoyed a luncheon, workshops and an information fair.

 

During the luncheon, Jill Corbin from Home Instead Senior Care, presented Lu Cotton with the “Salute to Senior Service Award” for her many hours of service helping seniors through Community Partners and Socially Active Seniors (SAS). Kirsten Cruikshank, Director of Community Partners, introduced a video about how the organization and other partners are helping seniors learn about technology and using the internet. The video, produced by ProVideo of Duluth and funded by the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation, is available on the Community Partners website, www.communitypartnersth.org.

Patty Rowray of Lake Connections was the keynote speaker, sharing information about Lake Connections services. She also shared fun online ideas and opportunities to help people of all ages “get connected, stay connected and live connected”.

Workshops were presented by Cheryl Blue of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services; Randy Rusnak of Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss; Leah Davidson, Healthsense; Rachel Gischia and Katie Klessig, Lakeview Hospital; and Jan Ringer and Mary Aijala, Senior Surf Day Volunteers.

Twenty-four vendors shared information about senior services with participants. Ecumen, Lake View Hospital & Clinic, Lake Superior School District Community Education, and the Blandin Broadband Communities Program sponsored the event that was held at Superior Shores.

We are just beginning this journey of exploring how technology can help us as we age in the community – there is so much to learn!”, said Cruikshank.

For more information about resources shared at conference, contact Community Partners at 218-834-8024.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 18, 2014

MN Broadband Development Fund Meeting in Montevideo

Today I attended two meetings in Montevideo. My primary reason for being there was to attend the first regional meeting to discuss the Broadband Fund. Danna MacKenzie and Diane Wells from the Office of Broadband Development spoke to 20-25 people about the upcoming opportunity for funding.

The information shared was very similar to info from the webinar a couple weeks ago. I’ve included the PPT and questions below. The big take away – it’s not too early to get working on a proposal if you plan to apply.

Timeline:
Late Sept 2014 – announce program details and open application process
Application process will be open for 30 days
Oct-Nov 2014 – 6 week application review process
Challenge window – first two weeks of review process
December – make awards

Official RFP will be available once the application process is actually open. (Late

If you want funding – start the process now.
We know we can’t fund everything but this list will be used to make the case to legislature that more funding is needed.

If you are looking at forming a new entity to receive funds? Start that now.

We don’t’ need detailed engineering designs. We need high level and enough to make judgments.

The Broadband Rural Experiments are due October 14. They are looking for efficient applications. The timing doesn’t fit with the MN funding very well but it’s another route. It will be difficult to marry the programs but we’re trying to work to support

The FCC requires voice service. The state funding does not.

Questions:

Is this ongoing funding?
This is one time funding. BUT the idea is to continue the conversation.

Is in-kind funding allowed?
Yes. But you will get more points if it’s a cash match.

What if you use your own staff for construction? (Do we invoice ourselves?)
We can take that into consideration.

How will geographic dispersion be handled?
It will depend on the applications we receive. We need to consider geography.

Does it have to be a Minnesota entity to be eligible?
We are looking into it; there may be a SD option for this area.

What if the challenge (served vs unserved) lasts longer than 6 weeks?
The challenge process is totally separate; we will judge applications and do review process. If no resolution in 6 weeks we’ll get everyone in a room and figure it out.
** If you have questions about maps start working with Connect MN on it now!

We are expecting flood disaster relief would that help get disadvantaged points?
It’s not one of the specified areas, but please do include that information. It might help.

The anchor tenants are covered in many areas. How can we address that?
We are looking at the imprint of the anchor institute so maybe you increase the speeds or maybe providing wireless to anchor tenants clients.

Will applications be made available?
Name of applicant and boundaries served will be made available immediately for challenge purposed. .The grant application will be eventually made public. Maps and some financial info will not become public data. DEED already a process for that.

Are there state laws for wages for people hired?
There are state requirements for wages akin to David Bacon.

MVTV has ARRA funding (as did Farmers). We did 6 wireless networks across 10,000 square miles. Does the state funding cover over build networks?
The state follow the legislature. The law defines an un-served vs under-served area.

I also attended a meeting hosted by DEED, a conversation on economic development in Southwest Minnesota. The folks from DEED came to talk about talent, innovation and trade. The issue in Southwest Minnesota is having enough people (sometimes the right people) to fill the local jobs. The community needs housing, childcare and training programs that meet the needs of local employers. (Geothermal training would be welcome.)

It’s interesting juxtapose these very hands-on issues with a broadband solution. I remember when all discussions led to jobs; maybe broadband has helped shift the discussion.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 18, 2014

Why are there no Google Educator Groups in Minnesota?

Google Educator Groups are special interest groups focused on education and sponsored/hosted by Google. I think Google has done a good job supporting educators. They have a wide range of technology and training available to teachers. The groups are a hybrid of online and real world entities.

Google seems to offer their platforms and convening powers for Google Educator Groups (GEGs) but they don’t run the groups. So groups are welcome to use various Google tools – from Google+ to Google Hangouts to facilitate communication. Supporting educators doesn’t come without benefits. Getting teachers to use Google tools is a great way to get students to use Google tools, which is a great way to push Google into tomorrow’s workplace.

More importantly (I think) Google maintains a map of groups and events across the world. Currently there are no groups or events listed in or near Minnesota. It might be an opportunity for Minnesota educators to get something going. Or if there are similar groups formed outside of Google’s infrastructure, it might make sense to use the GEG infrastructure to at least promote those existing groups. It would be nice to see Minnesota on the GEG map – or make it easier for like-minded educators to find each other and so others could see the strong connection between technology and education in Minnesota

fdlFond du Lac is a Blandin Broadband Community. They have been working to expand broadband access on the reservation. They recently completed a big wireless upgrade creating 13 wireless hot spots for community use. The wireless service has 30 megabit bandwidth for those who are in range of the antennas.  (The speed was verified on an iPhone with a speed test website. )

 

People with access have been very happy. And the overall range was actually larger than predicted.  At the beginning of the project it was estimated that each antenna would have a range of a quarter- mile radius of the antenna.  After the installation several of the antenna’s had a range of a half-mile radius.  Unfortunately there are folks who live just outside that range and of course they now want access too. But overall the reaction has been very positive for a fairly small project.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 17, 2014

RFP for fiber partner in Annandale

Thanks to MTA for the heads up on this opportunity…

I received a request from the City of Annandale for us to distribute their Request for Proposal. Annandale is looking for a partner to help develop a fiber optic network in their City. They are willing to help with the increased cost between a self-sustaining network and an all fiber network. Please download the RFP for more details. Download a map of the city limits. If you have any questions, please contact Annandale City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp at khinnenkamp@annandale.mn.us or 320-274-3055.

Good luck to those applying. And for communities that may be looking at partnerships for a FTTH network, you might check out the RFP for ideas and inspiration.

 

This looks like an interesting conference. I will plan to attend and take notes. It will be nice to see Minnesota showcased!

Join us in Minnesota for the next stop on the gigabit highway!

Everyone who has participated agrees: the first two FTTH Council Regional Conferences: Following the Gigabit Highway have been a success! Our road trip is taking us north into the land of 10,000 lakes and within a day’s drive of close to 200 FTTH deployments. Register now and join us September 2-4 for the third stop on the gigabit highway: Minneapolis, Minnesota!

Minnesota has begun to ramp up its $20 million Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, designed to bring ultra-high speed broadband to areas currently unserved and underserved. Hear from stakeholders who are currently bringing FTTH technology to communities across Minnesota, including network operators, state officials, and community leaders.

A Conversation with Danna MacKenzie

Join us for a lunchtime keynote presentation with Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director of the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, and learn how the state of Minnesota is successfully bringing FTTH to communities across the state!

Meet us in the Land of 1,000 Lakes – and Fiber Deployment Register now and learn how you can implement your FTTH deployment faster and more efficiently. Join the ranks of local leaders who are bringing fiber to their communities, and experience everything the Gigabit Highway has to offer. Visit the FTTH Council Regional Conference homepage for more information, including the conference agenda and hotel information.

 

According to GovTrack, the Blackburn Amendment passed with 56 percent of the votes. What does that mean?

Here’s the view from Congressman Marsha Blackburn’s office

Congressman Marsha Blackburn today secured an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services Appropriations Bill that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from trampling on the rights of states when it comes to municipal broadband. Blackburn’s amendment was approved with a vote of 223-200. Municipal broadband projects have had a mixed bag of results.

There have been some successes and there have also been some spectacular failures that have left taxpayers on the hook. Blackburn’s amendment prohibits any taxpayer funds from being used by the FCC to pre-empt state municipal broadband laws.

And here’s the view from Institute for Local Self Reliance (posted clearly before today’s vote)…

Last night, GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn, introduced an amendment intended to destroy local authority for telecommunications investment by severely limiting FCC funding. The amendment, introduced during debate on H.R. 5016, targets 20 states, many with state-erected barriers already in place and/or municipal networks already serving local communities.

The vote was postponed but is expected today (Wednesday) at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET. …

through publicly owned infrastructure or through the private market. Rep Blackburn and those that support this amendment do not trust local communities to make the best choices for themselves. The FCC wants to ensure state legislatures do not impose their will as influenced by the telecommunications lobby. Call your Rep!

This will have an impact on Minnesota. We do have legislation in place that is a potential barrier to municipal networks.

Yesterday Senator Franken sent comments to the FCC on his take on Open Internet. In a nutshell these are his thoughts…

I urge the FCC to adopt strong net neutrality rules that protect consumers and preserve the open nature of the Internet. In particular, I request that the FCC adopt rules that (1) clearly and comprehensively ban paid prioritization; (2) provide robust protections for mobile broadband; and (3) are based on reclassified Title II legal authority.

His letter expands on each suggestion. Banning paid prioritization is pretty clear; he says in the letter and has said in the past, “Open Internet is the free speech issue of our time.” And Franken would like to see steps taken to make sure that everyone has equal access to hearing and being heard online.

He would also like to see the FCC protect mobile broadband especially in light of the role wireless broadband is likely to have in serving rural areas. As he points out, wireless is cheaper and will play a critical role in reaching remote areas and he is concerned…

Recent incidents – such as Verizon’s refusal to allow tethering apps and AT&T’s blocking of the Apple FaceTime application – underscore the need for mobile ISP rules. This is the unfinished work of the 2010 Order, and nothing in the Verizon opinion suggested that the rules could not apply equally to mobile ISPs.

He would like to see the same rules for mobile and fixed ISPs.

Finally Franken suggests that the FCC reclassify broadband as a common carrier. This gets a little geeky. Telephone providers were common carriers – and so when the Internet first emerged ISP were common carriers. Common carrier is responsible for transport. After looking at many definitions, I found one I liked on Wikipedia. It doesn’t refer only to telecom, but I think helps…

A common carrier holds itself out to provide service to the general public without discrimination (to meet the needs of the regulator’s quasi judicial role of impartiality toward the public’s interest) for the “public convenience and necessity”. A common carrier must further demonstrate to the regulator that it is “fit, willing, and able” to provide those services for which it is granted authority. Common carriers typically transport persons or goods according to defined and published routes, time schedules, and rate tables upon the approval of regulators.

In 1996, the FCC classified broadband as an information service not telecom service, which meant providers were no longer common carriers. Providers seem to like to have broadband listed as an information service; net neutrality advocates want to go back to telecom service

Classification is one of those geeky, but important distinctions – and the root of it is “service to the general public without discrimination.” To some it means equal service; others feel it shuts the door on innovation and investment.

Franken was not alone in his comments. According to Washington Watch, the FCC has reportedly received over 670,000 comments. Here’s their summary of notes and links to various comments compiled by Washington Watch…

ITTA said any rules the Commission adopts in this proceeding should apply equally to all broadband providers, as there is no principled basis for treating fixed and mobile broadband providers differently. Verizon and Verizon Wireless  said the FCC should rely on a flexible approach that promotes experimentation and innovation throughout the Internet environment while protecting consumers and competition from actual harm, as for more than 20 years federal policy has reflected a bipartisan commitment to light-touch Internet regulation.  Verizon argued against a prescriptive one-size-fits-all rules approach. The Penn. PUC supported a modified form of common carriage regulation for the retail and wholesale broadband access network facilities and services that enable open and non-discriminatory use of Internet-based content and applications by end-user consumers. Comcast said it is essential that the Commission strike an appropriate balance between establishing effective oversight and promoting investment in broadband infrastructure, and said the Commission should follow the D.C. Circuit’s guidance and base its new rules on Section 706.  Replies on the NPRM and Public Notice are due September 10.

Comments also filed by:

If you have an opinion, you can chime in until July 18.

 

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 15, 2014

FCC approves E-Rate for wireless connections in schools

More funding coming for broadband, which always seems good. This time the FCC has approved $2 billion for wireless access in the schools. According to Bloomberg

The Federal Communications Commission approved a plan to spend $2 billion to boost wireless Internet connectivity in U.S. schools and libraries during the next two years.

“We’re at a watershed moment,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said during a hearing in Washington today in which the panel voted 3-2 to approve the plan he proposed in April. “Because of what we do today 10 million kids will be connected next year who otherwise wouldn’t. That’s a good days work.”

The move will phase out funding under a program known as E-rate for old technologies like pagers and dial-up phone service in order to subsidize broadband and wireless Internet connections in classrooms and libraries.

I’m interested to hear how this will play out in terms of library testing spectrum to wireless connections to serve unserved areas. I also wonder if someone is setting time and/or money aside to help teachers learn to work with new technologies. Years ago I worked with teachers on developing curriculum that included access to websites. To really adopt the technology, the teachers need time, training and incentive to learn how to use it.

Connected Nation also did a nice summary of the E-Rate Reform

Many important details about the FCC’s action today will only be known upon release of the full Order, which is expected in the coming weeks. The FCC has released a Fact Sheet outlining key aspects of the Order, including:

  • Repurposing of previously collected funds under E-rate to inject $1 billion annually in 2015 and 2016 ($2 billion total) to support school and library on-campus Wi-Fi. An array of services and equipment supporting Wi-Fi connectivity across schools and libraries will be eligible for this funding opportunity, including IT equipment that enables Wi-Fi connectivity, managed Wi-Fi services and catching services. This key piece of the reform aims to address a significant gap in Wi- Fi connectivity across schools and libraries. According to FCC estimates, three in five schools in America do not have adequate on-campus Wi-Fi. The FCC estimates that this new funding will help connect 10 million students to better on-campus Wi-Fi in 2015 alone.
  • For some applicants, the new Wi-Fi program will have a different discount rate than traditional E-rate. Today, schools and libraries serving the poorest communities across the country receive an E-rate discount of 90% over retail Internet and Wi-Fi connections prices. Moving forward, the discount rate for Wi-Fi services for these institutions will decrease to 85%. Discounts for other applicants in more affluent communities, ranging from 20% to 89%, will remain unchanged.
  • The new rules will provide multi-year funding predictability for schools and libraries to tap into this separate Wi-Fi fund. While details are scant, it appears that applicant funding for Wi-Fi services will be capped using a formula based on a student basis, in the case of schools, and on a square footage basis, in the case of libraries. Libraries will be able to receive as much as $2.3 per square foot annually to support Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • There will be no change in the annual E-rate cap (currently $2.4 billion) at this time, but a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will solicit comment on adjusting this cap. The FCC’s decision to leave the current cap in place is perhaps the most controversial aspect of today’s action, and it has been criticized from multiple parties advocating for an increase in the overall E-rate fund in order to better meet increasing demand for funding at the nation’s schools and libraries. Chairman Wheeler reiterated a position he voiced as early as February of this year that, while he does not oppose an increase in the program’s cap, the first step has been to focus on a structural reform of the program, such as the one voted for today, that would re-prioritize the goals of the program, and streamline its processes. Only then would the FCC be in a position to assess the overall need for E- rate funding. This assessment will likely be the core debate for continued E-rate reform moving forward.
  • Commencement of a multi-year transition of all program funding to broadband by gradually phasing down support for non-broadband, legacy services, such as voice telephony and paging. Currently, the FCC estimates that E-rate invests $1 billion annually in support of legacy services.
  • The FCC officially adopted broadband goals for the program, including 100 Mbps per 1000 students in the short run, and 1 Gbps per 1000 students in the longer term. However, rules for funding of broadband services to the school and library remain roughly unchanged. As we have noted previously, this is a significant departure in both substance and emphasis from several proposals debated earlier in the process. The E-rate will still prioritize services that connect schools and libraries to the Internet over Wi-Fi funding through a “safety valve” mechanism. In short, the bulk of the E-rate budget of $2.4 billion will continue to support connections to school and library buildings.
  • While broadband connections to schools and libraries will be prioritized, the FCC expects that it will continue to fund Wi-Fi connections within schools and libraries beyond the initial $2 billion allocated for 2015 and 2016. Further funds are expected to fit within the current E-rate cap due to program cost savings stemming from the phase out of legacy services. FCC staff indicated that it expects the transition away from legacy services will free up approximately $300 million in Funding Year 2015, $600 million in 2016, $800 million in 2017, $900 million in 2018, and $950 million in 2019.  Other FCC actions today include providing incentivizes consortia and bulk buying, streamlining the process for multi-year applications, and expediting the processing of small applications.
  • E-rate rules now will allow E-rate applicants to purchase goods and services from federally- negotiated General Services Administration prices without having to go through a competitive bidding process.
  • The FCC will also increase transparency on how E-rate dollars are spent and prices charged for E-rate services.
  • Finally, the Order expands applicant document retention period to ten years and toughens rules for site inspection.

Additionally, the Further Notice will seek comment on the following issues:

  • Long-term program funding needs necessary to meet goals and funding targets established in the Order.

  • Further steps to facilitate the use of cost-effective consortium-based purchasing.

  • Alternative methodologies for allocating support for library Wi-Fi connectivity instead of the per- student and per-square foot approach that the FCC will use in 2015 and 2016.

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 14, 2014

Broadband brings salmon to your computer

I’m a sucker for broadband allowing us to do new and different things – not just do the same things faster. So I loved the story of live streaming fish videos. I wanted to share to spur more good ideas and for folks who may be juggling work and kid management this summer. Maybe watching a little fish via device is just the distraction you need today…

Nature lovers can get a glimpse of salmon runs through a live streaming video. For the second year, the Forest Service is streaming from the bed of Juneau’s Steep Creek on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

Last year, the Steep Creek fish cam, near the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, was viewed more than 28,000 times. Viewers watched sockeye and coho salmon – and sometimes just flowing water – for more than 627,000 minutes – or more than 10,000 viewing hours. They posted guesses on the types of fish moving in front of the camera and posted questions, which were answered by Pete Schneider, a fisheries biologist on the Tongass. A viewer even captured on video a portion of the live streaming video just as a bear went into the water, snatched a salmon and walked away to have dinner.

The best viewing times for the Alaska cam are between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time. The camera operates around the clock, but there’s insufficient light for decent viewing outside these hours. Salmon up to 2 feet long are likely to pass by the cam around mid-July. Viewers also will see the smaller cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden (similar to bull trout).

Posted by: Ann Treacy | July 14, 2014

FCC Announces Budget for Rural Broadband Experiments

Thanks to Connect Minnesota for the update. It’s great to see that the FCC is moving forward to fund good ideas to expand broadband in rural America. As you may recall – Minnesota submitted a lot of good ideas. Hopefully folk are ready to go with an application. Between this and the Minnesota Broadband Fund, we could see another burst of communities get up to speeds in the next couple of years. Every exciting!

Applicants for both funds will just want to be clear about the ramifications of pursuing funding for both. According to the webinar on the Minnesota funds last week, the State is happy to support projects that the federal government is also funding. The feds may feel differently.

FCC Announces Budget and Application Window for Rural Broadband Experiments A Connected Nation Policy Brief July 11, 2014

At an Open Commission Meeting on July 11, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve a budget and open an application window for  Rural Broadband Experiments through the Connect America Fund program. Formal applications will be due 90 days after the release of the official Order, which is expected shortly. Later this year, the FCC will analyze formal applications and will select winners through a competitive auction, with the goal being to award the funds to the most cost-effective proposals to offer broadband service in rural areas of the country that do not have adequate access to broadband today.

As noted in an earlier Connected Nation Policy Brief, in January 2014 the FCC established the Rural Broadband Experiments program with the purpose of shaping and adjusting its Connect America Fund broadband subsidy program to include an application-based, competitive-bidding framework. The formal process launched today will make available funds from earlier phases of the Connect America Fund. The Rural Broadband Experiments program is the first opportunity for providers that are not the incumbent local telephone company in a particular area to receive Connect America Fund subsidies to build and operate fixed broadband networks. This “experiment” will serve as a test to the competitive bidding process the FCC will plan on using to distribute more Connect America Funds in 2015 and beyond. 

The FCC’s January action requested that providers and communities interested in the program file “expressions of interest” by March 7, 2014, and over one thousand “expressions of interest” were filed from a variety of applicants including current providers, electric cooperatives, communities, and organizations. The FCC used these expressions of interest in devising the formal rules and nature of the project announced today as well as the broadband service standards and expectations for recipients.

According to the FCC News Release, the FCC will divide the $100 million budget for the program into three buckets:  1. $75 million will be awarded to projects that will offer broadband service to residential and small business consumers at speeds of at least 25 Mbps download/5 Mbps upload speed.  2. $15 million will be awarded for projects that will offer broadband service at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload.  3. $10 million will be awarded to projects that will serve “extremely high cost areas” at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload. (The FCC has identified “extremely high cost areas” generally to be those in which a monthly subsidy of a at least approximately $2,400 in subsidy per unserved location per year.)

Formal applications will be due 90 days after release of the complete text of the FCC’s action. The Order will specify service standards for applicants and will establish a cap on project size per application.

After applications are received, the FCC will conduct a single-round, competitive auction to identify applications within each of these buckets to receive subsidies. The auction will be nationwide – for example, proposals to fund a network project in Tennessee will be competing on a per-location subsidy cost against network projects in Minnesota. The FCC will give a 25% bidding credit to projects that propose to serve Tribal lands.

In addition to the program launched today, the FCC also launched another proceeding that will consider rules for a broader, Connect America Fund Phase II competitive bidding process. The Rural Broadband Experiments program is designed to help the FCC and industry gather information on how to distribute Connect America Fund subsidies through a competitive mechanism. Phase II of the Connect America Fund is a $1.75 billion/year program targeted at the unserved areas of larger local telephone companies, such as CenturyLink, Windstream, AT&T, and Verizon. In allocating those subsidies, the FCC today proposed to offer bidding credits or incentives to applicants for those Phase II projects that include partnerships and funding from state governments and other non-Federal sources.

Dozens of communities and providers have expressed interest in this program, and Connected Nation has actively supported these initiatives and stands ready to assist our stakeholders with this process, provide information and data, and answer questions. When the Order text is released, Connected Nation will provide stakeholders information on the further details of the project (including specific application requirements and timing).
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For more information on Rural Broadband Experiments or for assistance with applications and mapping needs, please contact Connected Nation at policy@connectednation.org.

The Line recently reviewed ten fun Twin Cities apps. I thought I’d share them in case you’re interested in visiting the area and want to keep up on what to do in town. Also it’s a list of apps that your community might want to consider.

I have some of these apps installed and I use them. If I were in another town for a couple of days, I’d also be happy to install the app to find out what’s happening. And if there was a lot happening, it might be just the right introduction to a town (or county) to push me from visitor to potential relocator. Something to consider as you find ways to draw people to your area – as visitors, as businesses and potential new residents – especially if you’re looking to attract young folks. (This suggestion also assumes you have at least 3G access throughout your region. If you don’t building a community app might not be you next best move!)

The descriptions below are abbreviated. Check out the original article for full details. Also this list is a little bar-heavy; your list doesn’t need to be. Maybe best fishing spots, hunting fields or antiques shops is a better reflection on what you have to offer and/or what you want your dream visitors/residents to enjoy.

1. Happy Hour Now covers the best places to stretch your drink dollars in downtown Minneapolis, Uptown, the University of Minnesota area, Northeast Minneapolis and St. Paul.

2. MPLSDrinker offers information on drink specials.

3. Bar Sages by Wowza takes the bar concept a step further by not only leading you to a fun tavern, but by also offering trivia tidbits as conversation starters when you arrive.

4. Manly helps locate nearby bars, restaurants, nightclubs and liquor stores all with a few swooshes of the old index finger.

5. Night Pulse provides real-time feed of constantly updated information on relevant bar specials, entertainment, sporting events and other attractions (with prices and start times) based on the current time and your location.

6. Wander Wheel asks users six questions about their needs, interests and location, then creates a spontaneous goal-based adventure. 7. The Minnesota Association of Museums offers a wide palette of information about Minnesota’s museums e tal. 8. Minneapolis Historical, offered by Preserve Minneapolis, guides users to historic places throughout Minneapolis with stories and archival images. 9. Fair Shake is the Minnesota State Fair app. Getting from here to there 10. OMG Transit helps you navigate Minneapolis’ transit options: bus, light rail—and car- and bike-sharing options.

 

Forbes recently ran an article on the costs (rising) or medical care for baby boomers. One of the costliest aspects of health care if chronic disease…

Forecasters say the number of Boomers with multiple chronic diseases will quadruple by 2030. Note that chronic conditions account for nearly 75% of total healthcare spending. Also sobering: it costs, on average, up to 7x more to treat a patient with multiple chronic conditions than one with a single condition.

Yikes!

The good news / bad news is that to lower the cost much of the responsibility will be shifted to the patient. It’s unfortunate to think of individuals (especially ones who are sick) being saddled with these costs but it does provide incentives to try to get or keep healthy. The article introduces a few tech tools to help keep patients healthy. Think of it as an early Christmas shopping list for your parents or to give to your kids!

  • Activity and nutrition tracking could help stem the obesity epidemic. A recent Pew survey found that 68% of adults 50 to 64 track their weight, diet, exercise routine or other health indicators, although not necessarily online. Companies like Jawbone* and FitBit have introduced intuitive and accurate activity tracking tools that are being adopted rapidly. In 2013, the number of steps taken by FitBit users reached 2.4 trillion – roughly the distance from the Earth to Saturn – up from 47 billion in 2011. MyFitnessPal*, a calorie-counting app that is growing users at a 50% annual rate, today has 65 million people registered; together they have lost over 100 million pounds.
  • Telemedicine and advanced sensor technology can improve management of chronic care patients. Baby Boomers want to remain independent for as long as possible. A recent AARP study suggests that 90% want to stay in their homes as they grow older; 82% would prefer to age in place even after they need daily assistance. Digital health technology will help make that possible. A 2010 study conducted at Tufts Medical Center found that the cost of four days of in-hospital heart monitoring (~$25,000) could be reduced by up to 72% through the use of telemedicine and remote monitoring. Savings from using services like Doctor on Demand ($40 per visit) or Teladoc* for regular visits and consultations can be substantial as well.
  • Cost transparency tools can meaningfully address system-wide financial pressures. Today, the price and quality of care can vary greatly by location. An analysis in the California Bay Area found prices for a CT scan to vary by a factor of 16, and knee arthroscopy by a factor of 10. As aging adults assume increasing responsibility for healthcare costs, they will embrace tools like those developed by Change Healthcare, Castlight Health and ClearCost Health that provide objective cost data to make better, more informed care decisions and save money for both payers and themselves.

I am a compulsive FitBit user. (My goal is 10 miles a day, which I make most days.) If you are or know a compulsive tech-inspired exerciser, you will enjoy this article from David Sedaris on his life with the FitBit.

Thanks to Danna MacKenzie for presenting and for so many good questions from attendees on the Border to Border Infrastructure Grant Program. The big theme – get ready, this is a great opportunity.

Here’s the archive:

And the PPT:

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