Census 2020 available online, by phone, by mail to all areas

I love when people ask me questions about Census 2020, because at heart, I am a librarian. The Sun Patriot (which covers Waconia, Watertown, Mayer, Norwood Young America, Cologne) recently posted about the importance of the Census…

Next March 13-14, every household in the nation is supposed to receive either a postcard or a paper form from the U.S. Census Bureau. About a fifth will ignore it, but all of us will be affected by each individual’s decision.

Most people know that under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government has to count the number of people living in each state so that it can divide up the seats for the U.S. House of Representatives. What most Minnesotans don’t know is that next year, most people will be asked to respond electronically, either through their computer or phone. Only those areas that have low broadband access will receive a paper form.

Paper forms will be available in English and Spanish only. People can respond online or by phone in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Interestingly, Somali and Hmong, languages spoken by a significant number of Minnesotans, are not included.

I wanted to follow up on the availability of paper forms. According to the Census website

By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You will have three options for responding:

  • Online.
  • By phone.
  • By mail.

The 2020 Census marks the first time you’ll have the option to respond online. You can even respond on your mobile device.

To be fair, online would be easiest for most of us with adequate broadband but it looks like the option is there for everyone. Anyone with limited broadband and limited English or Spanish skills would need to go online or telephone for support for the languages listed above.

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) receives Courageous Leadership Award

I shared the live unveiling of the award last month during the broadband conference but each of the winners has worked hard and I didn’t do individual posts about each one so I’ll post these local announcements as I see them. This one comes from the Jackson Pilot reports

A Jackson County-based multiple-municipality owned communications utility was recently presented with a prestigious leadership award  by the Blandin Foundation.

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services received the Courageous Leadership Award at the 15th annual Blandin Foundation broadband conference last week in Nisswa. The SMBS Governing board was honored for its vision and multi-community collaboration in creating a public regional fiber network that serves residential and business customers in eight rural communities.

Broadband Parity Act – use 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up across the board

The Hill reports…

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Friday introduced a bill to create “parity” among the government’s dozens of broadband programs.

The Broadband Parity Act would set one standard for “high-speed internet” across more than 20 programs aimed at improving access to broadband in the U.S. Right now, each program adheres to its own definition of what constitutes speedy internet.

It seems like a good idea – but it seems like they could aim for faster to really create parity in urban and rural areas…

The act would require all of the programs to use the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition of “high-speed,” which is 25 megabits per second (mbps) download and 3 mbps upload.

Any areas that do not have access to that internet speed will not be considered “served” under the legislation.

The article does mention mapping, which is an integral part of tracking parity…

The Senate panel advanced legislation to address the issue earlier this year. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act would require the FCC to collect more granular and accurate data on how many Americans have access to high-speed internet.

 

EVENT: Startup Pitch Night & Roundtable coming Nov 19 in Willmar MN

If you live near Willmar and have entrepreneurial or innovator tendencies, this might be an event for you. If you don’t live in the area, yet you have entrepreneurial or innovator tendencies or work with people who do, this might give you some good ideas. It comes from WorkUP, a coworking space in WIllmar…

All Startup Alumni, supporters and entrepreneurial fans are invited! This is your chance to hear and learn from a few of our Startup Bootcamp Alumni – two of them graduated recently and one of them went through a couple of years ago and is coming back to share an update. They’ll practice pitching their companies using concepts discovered in the workshop, and we’ll offer support, input and any assistance we can provide to help them be successful. Happy hour beverages and snacks will be provided. Don’t miss it!
Learn more

Smart Rural Community Grant – deadline Dec 31, 2019

Rural Health Info Hub has info on a Smart Rural Community Grant…

The Smart Rural Community Grant provides funding to support the development and implementation of innovative broadband-enabled solutions to support rural commerce, healthcare, public safety, economic development, education, energy, and other community-oriented initiatives.

Eligibility
Telco members of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association are eligible to apply.
Amount
Up to $5,000.
Application Process

Links to application instructions and frequently asked questions are available on the program website.

Completed applications should be mailed to:

NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association
Smart Rural Community Grant
4121 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22203

Applications may also be emailed to smartrural@ntca.org; however, an original signed copy must also be mailed in and postmarked by the deadline date. [Update Nov 11: deadline moved to Dec 31]

Matt Schmit move from MN to help Illinois get broadband

We are sad to see Matt Schmit move but Illinois is lucky to get him. I remember following him around Northern MN on a really cold day in 2013 and he worked on fodder to authorize the first Border to Border Broadband bill. He worked hard and now the (IL) State Journal Register reports on his hard work in Illinois…

The lack of adequate broadband width to properly power computers for homes, schools and businesses is a problem in some rural areas but also in some bigger cities, according to Matt Schmit, new director of the Illinois Office of Broadband in the state’s commerce department.

Schmit, 39, a native of Red Wing, Minnesota, who has served in his home state’s Senate, took his post with the state of Illinois in early September and is now living in Evanston. In his role, he’ll oversee the $420 million the state is spending on broadband as part of the capital plan passed by the General Assembly last spring and being put into effect by the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“You tend to see metro areas with better service, but that’s not always the case,” Schmit said in an interview. “There are pockets of poor service in urban areas all over the country.”

Schmit worked to expand broadband reach in Minnesota while in the legislature. He had won a four-year term in 2012 as a rural Democrat, but lost a bid for re-election in 2016. He said he had worked in the legislature to “bring people together and invest in infrastructure.” He said he’s been “blessed to be able to continue the work,” in part as an independent consultant — helping communities get broadband access. He’s also been an academic researcher and university instructor.

What he’d like to see in six years, Schmit said, is “ubiquitous service to all homes, businesses and community anchor institutions around the state. And I think that’s achievable.”

EVENT: MN Rural Broadband Coalition Meeting December 5, 2019

From the MN Broadband Coalition

Minnesota Broadband Coalition Meeting

Thursday, December 5, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
League of MN Cities – Boardroom
145 University Avenue West – St. Paul, MN 55103
Conference Call Option: 1-866-755-7677
Participant code: 591645

Agenda Coming Soon!

Please RSVP by replying to this email or Emily Murray to indicate attendance or absence.