Meeker County is asking residents about their broadband

I wanted to help spread the word to Meeker County residents (and share a sample with communities that might have similar questions for their community members); the Litchfield Independent Review reports

A study of Meeker County’s internet/broadband availability will begin soon, according to the Meeker Development Corporation.

Meeker County has hired Design Nine as the Broadband/Internet access consultant to help study broadband/internet availability and service in Meeker County.

Meeker County residents are asked to help by completing a survey about their current internet service and or lack of service. Survey information gathered from the residents will help create options for the future planning of internet/broadband services for the residents of Meeker County and is “highly needed,” according to a news release from the Meeker Development Corporation, in partnership with the Meeker County Economic Development Authority.

Use the following links to fill out the surveys online, and click the submit button at the end of the survey:

Community broadband advocates comment on Connect American Fund Auction Plans

A team of organizations interested in promoting better broadband to everyone (led by the Institute for Local Self Reliance) has submitted comments to the FCC regarding the competitive bidding procedures for the Connect America Fund.

Here is an outline of their comments:

Summary – We believe rural America will be best served by additional safeguards to ensure Connect America Funds return the greatest investment to local residents and businesses.

Concerns:

Carriers of Last Resort Guarantee – It is imperative that bidders are able to serve every premise within the relevant blocks, with the possible exception of premises that are not connected to the electric power grid.

Satellite Service & Other Technologies – We continue to have strong concerns about the Commission subsidizing high-latency satellite services that have never achieved any market success.

Distribution of funds – We agree with the proposal of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development regarding a check box for entities that have received support from states for broadband investment: “The Commission should direct an applicant submitting a pre-auction short-form application to include in its application whether it has received any additional resources through the state for broadband deployment. The addition of a simple ‘check box’ for this query in the short-form application proposed by the Commission is all that is necessary.”

Financial Health of Applicants – We agree with the Commission and others that the financial health of potential bidders is important but are concerned that the Commission has not developed an accurate measurement for such health that does not discriminate against smaller providers.

Small Providers & Anti-Collusion rules – We agree with the Rural Coalition comments regarding the importance of smaller providers participating in this auction in order for it to succeed and indeed in order to ensure rural communities are well connected, “Thus, it is essential that the Commission at every turn consider ways to simplify the Auction design in a manner that will enable small businesses to participate meaningfully without undermining the process by which support can be distributed at efficient levels.”14 We are concerned that the Commission has historically shaped rules to fit with the largest carriers, many of whom are much more focused on investing in urban areas than rural regions.

Organizations sending the comments include: Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Public Knowledge (PK), Appalshop, Center for Rural Strategies, Access Humboldt, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA), Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (SCTCA), Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County, California Center for Rural Policy, Access Sonoma Broadband (ASB) and The Utility Reform Networks (TURN).

Good questions about CAF from the Anchor Institutions

A lot of public money is going to be going into broadband. It’s important to spend it wisely. Part of spending it wisely is getting users adequate access for today and tomorrow.

Here’s what SHLB (Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition) had to say about it…

Anchor institutions like schools, libraries and health care providers play an important role in bringing connectivity to their local communities. But advances in telemedicine and education will not be fully realized if rural consumers do not have adequate broadband service at home.  School aged children will struggle if they cannot do their homework. Individuals with medical conditions that require active monitoring – diabetes, congestive heart failure and more – need broadband at home to transmit critical medical data in real time to medical professionals.

That is why local government officials and anchor institutions should be paying attention to the implementation of the Connect America Fund, now and in the years ahead. The FCC is working to hold an auction in 2018 to award nearly $2 billion in funding over the next decade from Phase II of the Connect America Fund to service providers to extend fixed broadband to unserved residential and small business locations, and a separate auction to award $4.53 billion in funding over a decade from Phase II of the Mobility Fund to mobile wireless providers to extend LTE service to rural America. Any entity willing to provide the requisite level of service set by the FCC and meet other requirements can bid in those auctions for the subsidy.

Local leaders should ask: is it possible to utilize funding in a more coordinated way from E-rate, the Rural Healthcare program, and the Connect America Fund to build a business case to serve the entire community? What efficiencies might be gained from building an integrated broadband network for the entire community? Are the service providers that currently participate in any of these FCC’s universal service programs planning to bid in these upcoming Connect America Fund auctions? Who else might bid?

Google to give $1B, help U.S. workers find jobs

According to MSN News

Google will invest $1 billion over the next five years in nonprofit organizations helping people adjust to the changing nature of work, the largest philanthropic pledge to date from the Internet giant.

Here’s a high level look at their plan…

Google will make grants in its three core areas: education, economic opportunity and inclusion. Already in the last few months, it has handed out $100 million of the $1 billion to nonprofits, according to Pichai.

The largest single grant — $10 million, the largest Google’s ever made — is going to Goodwill, which is creating the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator. Over the next three years Goodwill, a major player in workforce development, aims to provide 1 million people with access to digital skills and career opportunities. Pichai says 1,000 Google employees will be available for career coaching.

In all, Google employees will donate 1 million volunteer hours to assist organizations like Goodwill trying to close the gap between the education and skills of the American workforce and the new demands of the 21st century workplace, Pichai said.

Work is changing. It doesn’t seem like schools are catching up. Although I do hear about other programs (Coder DoJos for kids, Robotics, Hackfests…) that are leading the way. Hopefully Google can help cushion the disruption for students, workers and businesses!

Personalized Tech Education at Woz(niak) U

Woz U looks so appealing I’m nearly thinking about trying the classes myself. I just need a little free time! But the word comes from Business Insider

Steve “Woz” Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer and inventor of the Apple II computer, announced on Friday the launch of his latest startup, Woz U.

The venture is a “digital institute” meant to help people gain skills in computer science to fill gaps in high-paying technology roles. Wozniak, beloved for his affability, said Woz U was created to make tech less intimidating.

Here’s a little bit more about the programs offered…

Woz U is hardly the first coding school designed to make seasoned engineers out of novice techies. Udacity, for instance, was founded in 2012 and boasts more than 1.5 million users. Around the world, there are dozens more bootcamps with a similar mission. Critics, however, have said the tech industry rarely hires the bootcamp graduate over the person with the four-year degree, arguing the skills they gain still tend to fall short in the workplace.

Woz U wants to separate itself through its various divisions. The primary one is the collection of online classes that people can enroll in to learn the basics of computer support and software development. In time, the curriculum will expand to include data scientists and cybersecurity experts. Woz U will also focus on getting students career-ready by helping them with their resumes, practice coding tests, and building out their portfolios.

In addition, Woz U will look to enter schools to encourage kids in K-12 to pursue science, tech, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); it’ll build an accelerator program to “develop elite tech talent”; and it’ll work with companies to recruit and train new talent on-site, through Woz U programs.

AT&T Brings Faster Network to Southwest Minnesota

Looks like good news for SW MN…

4G LTE Expansions Means Better Mobile Internet Access for Customers in 25 Communities 

MANKATO, Minn. Oct. 13, 2017 — AT&T* made 26 individual network updates to cell towers on its 4G LTE network in 25 southwest Minnesota communities.

The communities include Adrian, Belgrade, Brooten, Buffalo Lake, Ellendale, Fairfax, Fairmont, Glencoe, Granite Falls, Hutchinson, Jasper, Lafayette, Lake Lillian, Litchfield, Luverne, Madelia, Madison, Minneota, New London, Owatonna, Pennock, Raymond (2), Springfield, Willmar and Winthrop. (In the following counties: Micollet, Martin, Kandiyohi, Stearns, Brown, Steele, Sibley, Nobles, Yellow Medicine, Renville, Meeker, Mcleod and Lac qui Parle.)The new and upgraded towers give customers faster, more reliable wireless service.

We also have up to a dozen more updates planned in southwest Minnesota by the end of the year, including in Mankato.

Additionally AT&T made 79 baseband network upgrades in 66 communities in southwest Minnesota. Baseband upgrades will help us reach faster network speeds and implement the next generation of wireless technology.

The communities include Adrian, Alpha, Appleton, Beaver Creek, Belgrade, Bellingham, Benson, Bird Island, Buffalo Lake, Canby, Chandler, Clara City, Clarkfield, Cold Spring, Comfrey, Cosmos, Cottonwood, Dassel, Fairfax, Glenwood (2), Granite Falls, Hancock, Hills, Hoffman, Holmes City, Hutchinson, Jackson, Jasper, Jeffers, Kensington, Kimball, Lake Benton, Lake Wilson, Lakefield, Litchfield (2), Luverne (2), Madison (2), Marshall (2), Melrose, Montevideo, Morris, Mountain Lake, New London, Ortonville, Paynesville, Pennock, Pipestone, Raymond (2), Redwood Falls (2), Regal, Rockville, Saint James, Sanborn, Slayton, Sleepy Eye, South Haven, Spicer (3), Springfield, Tracy, Tyler, Vesta, Westbrook, Willmar (4), Windom, Winthrop and Worthington (2). (In the following counties: Pipestone, Renville, Swift, Lyon, Stearns, Nobles, Murray, Lac qui Parle, Rock, Brown, Grant, Douglas, Stevens, Meeker, Lincoln, McLeod, Sibley, Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Pope, Watonwan and Redwood.)

4G LTE lets customers stream videos, share on social media or text family and friends easier. We’re also boosting network speeds and capacity as we expand the availability of our network.

“We want our customers to have a great mobile experience. Thanks to this investment, southwest Minnesota residents and businesses can now enjoy faster mobile speeds than ever before on our 4G LTE network — which is the nation’s best data network**,” said Paul Weirtz, president of AT&T Minnesota. “We’re always working to provide better coverage. And these investments in our wireless network in southwest Minnesota helps accomplish that.”

“The AT&T investment in upgrades to its wireless network strengthens the connectedness that highlights our region as a competitive business and talent destination,” said Jonathan Zierdt, President & CEO of Greater Mankato Growth, Inc.  “Businesses and talent are continually seeking out the very best amenities, and AT&T’s investment strengthens our amenities portfolio.”

From 2014-2016, we invested nearly $350 million in our Minnesota wireless and wired networks. These investments drive a wide range of upgrades to reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance for Minnesota consumers and businesses. They also enhance critical services that support public safety and first responders.

In 2016, we made 1,271 wireless network upgrades in 272 communities across Minnesota. This includes adding new cell sites and network capacity to existing cell sites. Continuing to expand our network in the area has given AT&T the most wireless coverage in Minnesota.

Cautionary Language Concerning Forward-Looking Statements

Information set forth in this news release contains financial estimates and other forward- looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially. A discussion of factors that may affect future results is contained in AT&T’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. AT&T disclaims any obligation to update or revise statements contained in this news release based on new information or otherwise. 

*About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, business, mobile and high speed internet services. We offer the nation’s best data network** and the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider. We’re one of the world’s largest providers of pay TV. We have TV customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. Nearly 3.5 million companies, from small to large businesses around the globe, turn to AT&T for our highly secure smart solutions.

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel suggests we crowdsource a broadband map

Today FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel spoke to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She spoke to the need of better mapping to assess the broadband situation in the US and she asked consumers to help identify and map where there is no access to broadband:

“If you’ve not been able to get service, or live in an area that lacks it, help us make a map and write me at broadbandfail@fcc.gov. I’ve set this account up to take in your ideas. I will share every one of them with the agency Chairman—and put on pressure to do something about it.”