Five public safety broadband projects led by East Range Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities program

Hometown Focus (in Virginia MN) write about public safety projects deployed by the local Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities program (BBC)…

The East Range Joint Powers Board recently implemented five new broadband projects that improved public safety and essential emergency services as part of the Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities program (BBC). The Joint Powers Board encompasses the communities of Aurora, Biwabik, Hoyt Lakes and Town of White.

Police squad car laptops: East Range law enforcement received upgraded laptops in each squad car. With all squad cars operating on the same system, the police increased their efficiency, communication and response time serving the East Range communities.

Ambulance laptops: Hoyt Lakes Ambulance Service updated its technology to keep communication connections with St. Louis County’s new Computer Automated Dispatch (CAD) system. This ensures timely and efficient response times by Hoyt Lakes EMS, and it provides them with information about patients, call locations and safety of the scene.

EMS training laptop: Hoyt Lakes Fire & Ambulance Service received a laptop to conduct training for their staff and first responders. Trainings include: Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Advanced Medical Life Support, Prehospital Trauma Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

Public safety building SMART board: Hoyt Lakes Fire & EMS departments received an interactive whiteboard to use for mandatory emergency response and public safety training.

Fire department iPads and hotspots: Palo Volunteer Fire Department received new iPads and hotspots to assist with locating homes when responding to residential fires.

40+ telehealth bills introduced by state legislatures since April – inclduign MN

Governing reports..

Today, access to vital and continuously changing health advice is almost entirely Web-based. Public health agencies depend on an online triage to manage access to testing. Hanging on to a job, keeping up with school assignments and regaining employment all depend on Internet connectivity, and those most at risk are least likely to have it.

Estimates of the number of U.S. households without Internet access range as high as 30 percent. The Pew Research Center, which has been tracking Internet usage for 20 years, estimates that about three-quarters of homes have broadband Internet service.

The UN declared access to the Internet to be a human right in 2016, and there are increasing calls for a public utility that could provide affordable, world-class Internet service to all Americans.

Since April, more than 40 bills have been introduced by state legislatures that address some aspect of broadband access.

They include the bill in the MN Legislature, which I’ll paste below but this is one of those rare times where I am at least as interested in what’s being proposed in other areas, which is also available in the article…

SF4494, a Minnesota bill, appropriates $8 million for emergency distance learning and broadband access grants. Funds can be used for purposes such as providing broadband access to the households of students otherwise unable to get online and providing them with the equipment necessary to access online learning materials.

OPPORTUNITY RFP: Fiber Optic Network – Rock Island Swing Bridge

Looking for bids in Dakota County…

Dakota County is seeking bids from qualified contractors to complete a fiber optic network project at the Rock Island Swing Bridge Trailhead.

Bids due: July 6 at 2 p.m.

Mail bids to:
Dakota County Information Technology Department
Attention: Dan Ferber
1590 Highway 55
Hastings, MN 55033

Mandatory pre-bid meeting
June 19 at 11 a.m.
Please contact Roni Woods at 763-543-2673 or rwoods@logis.org for Webex meeting invite no later than June 18.

Get more details.

OPPORTUNITY: Government Experience Awards Call for Entries deadline July 31, 2020

OK Minnesota, let’s show them how we shine…

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) invites nominations for its Government Experience Awards, where we celebrate achievements and learn best practices from U.S. state, counties, cities, and federal agencies/departments. We will recognize communities that have gone beyond simply using the web to radically improve upon the experience of government and that are pushing the boundaries of how services are delivered.

Extended Nomination Deadline: Friday, July 31, 2020

Overall GovX Experience Awards Nomination Form CLICK HERE
Overall Awards recognize the entire jurisdiction’s citizen/business experience efforts, and now includes a section for your COVID-19 response efforts.
All U.S. state, county and city governments may nominate their jurisdictions’ user experience in the overall categories of State Government; County Government; and City Government.

Project GovX Experience Awards Nomination Form CLICK HERE
Project Awards recognize single-focus areas which may include more than one method of engagement such as mobile, web and social media, etc.
U.S. state, local, and federal government individual agencies and departments may nominate their projects in the project categories of City; County; State; and Federal.
Project GovX Experience Special Awards for COVID-19 Response
Nomination Form CLICK HERE
If you have specific COVID-19 projects you would like to nominate, you may submit them in our new COVID-19 category for federal, state and local government.
A government jurisdiction may submit nominations for both the Overall award and for more than one project (nominate each project separately). Nominations must be submitted by government staff/officials.

Top government jurisdictions, agencies and departments will be featured in an Experience Academy and will be honored at a high-energy, celebratory awards banquet (TBD), while also being featured in Government Technology and other publications.

EVENT June 9: Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable: Polco’s civic engagement platform

The next Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable will feature a presentation by Matt Fulton of Polco.  According to their website, “Polco’s civic engagement platform makes meaningful communication between community leaders and the people they serve not only possible, but enjoyable.”    See more at www.polco.us .  Be prepared to share how your community is using online tools to engage citizens and the benefits and challenges of that engagement.  The Blandin broadband team will share its experience of moving it Blandin Broadband Communities project development process online.  Join us Tuesday, June 9 at 9 am by registering here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwoc-2qrDotHNMilSss2LwHaw92XEhj3fqi .

Please share your ideas for future discussion topics to broadband@blandinfoundation.org

Incorrect MN broadband maps making some areas ineligible for broadband grant and leaving students offline

MinnPost reports on folks in rural areas trying to keep up with distance eudcation depsite spotty broadband and the maps that are overstating their access and making it harder to get grants and other funding to upgrade to sufficient broadband. They spoke with a family in in Lake Shore, a northern Minnesota community served by the Brainerd Public Schools district – but I’ve heard similar in other places too…

Ideally, for a faster, more reliable connection, they’d connect their home to the local provider’s nearest cable hub box, located just a quarter mile down their driveway. But it’s never going to happen, Moore says, because the expense of building out that connection isn’t an economical one for the provider.

She’d like to apply for state grant dollars allocated to these very projects in rural communities. But on state maps, her household gets marked as covered by a local provider — a glitch in the system that makes her and many in her community ineligible.

“Until that gets fixed, lots of communities like ours are going to be passed over. We’ll still have kids going to school, people working from home,” she said. “We’re waiting for the system to catch up with reality.”

The article gives a deserved nod to Rep Ecklund and Sen Westrom, who have each been pushing funding in the Minnesota Legislature. And shows the DEED served/unserved map – that most readers will know (also show at right). They talk about the school’s survey too..

In early May, the state Department of Education asked all public school districts and charter schools to self-report the number of individual students without internet access or access to a device for distance learning. The data set isn’t complete, but based on the counts provided by 540 districts and charter schools — including the state’s three largest districts — 20,899 students were still lacking access to a device in early May, and 21,523 were still lacking internet access.

According to the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA), those counts seem a bit low. Their analysis shows that nearly 31,000 rural public students live in households that do not have adequate broadband access (defined as a connection with at least 25 Mbps download speed and at least 3 Mbps upload speed), accounting for 85 percent of the statewide total. The association arrived at these estimates by combining the Minnesota State Office of Broadband Development coverage maps with the American Community Survey data on households with persons under age 18 in each school district, along with state Department of Education data on 2018-19 student enrollment.

I know the survey I received as a parent did not define broadband or access. It asked if we had access to the Internet. I’ve heard the same from folks in other districts. So access at grandma’s may have been counted – even if that isn’t’ 25/3.

Another deserved nod to broadband providers and recognition that they cannot keep giving away access AND invest in future, better soltuions…

The scope of the need, when it comes to closing the digital divide, has also been blurred by the goodwill of providers that stepped up by offering free services and hotspots to districts and families across the state, to finish out the school year from home. …

“It’s not a sustainable model, for the long-term,” she said. “We’ll have to figure out something else.”

 

Sen Klobuchar et al urge Congressional leaders to ensure Broadband for College Students

From Senator Klobuchar’s office…

Klobuchar, Eshoo Lead Bicameral Letter Urging Congressional Leaders to Ensure College Students in Need Have Access to High-Speed Internet

In May, Klobuchar and Eshoo introduced bicameral legislation to help ensure students with financial need can access critical internet services

Joined by 15 colleagues in the House and Senate, letter calls for dedicated funding in future legislation to ensure students have access to internet service and devices, such as laptops and tablets, to learn from home during the pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) led 15 colleagues from both the House and Senate in a bicameral letter to Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy urging the leaders to include dedicated funding in future legislation to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In May, Klobuchar and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial needs can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would appropriate $1 billion to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. Eshoo introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives with Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Alma Adams (D-NC).

“Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic.  Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet.”

Klobuchar and Eshoo were joined on the letter by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-PA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA).

Klobuchar has also called for dedicated funding to ensure all K-12 students have access to the internet during the pandemic. In March, Klobuchar led a letter with Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) urging the FCC to ensure that all K-12 students have internet access and can continue learning from home as schools nationwide are closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Klobuchar also joined Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and 40 other Senators to introduce the Emergency Educational Connections Act. The bill would establish a $4 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide support for schools and libraries to ensure that K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

We write to urge you to include dedicated funding in future legislation to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As colleges and universities across the country have transitioned to distance learning to limit the spread of coronavirus, many students who relied on campus resources are struggling to continue their education from home.  One of the biggest barriers for students of color, students in rural areas, and other disadvantaged students is lack of access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity, equipment required for connectivity, and devices. These are all required to participate in distance learning. Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets.  Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic.  Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet.

While the spring semester is ending, colleges and universities are moving summer classes and programs online and will likely continue distance learning into the next school year. As it remains unclear when effective treatment or a vaccine will be available, connecting college and university students to the internet is even more essential.

Although the CARES Act included funding for institutions of higher education, it did not include dedicated funding sufficient to ensure that college and university students have essential internet connectivity. It is for this reason we introduced the bicameral Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act, which is supported by over 60 higher education, civil rights, and public interest organizations.  We urge you to include $1 billion in dedicated funding in a future coronavirus relief package to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, can pay for at-home internet connectivity, equipment, and devices such as laptops and tablets.

Thank you for your attention to this highly important issue. We stand ready to work with you to help keep college and university students connected at this critical time.

Sincerely,