About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

Rural Entrepreneurs need better broadband

A theme is emerging for my day. Earlier I wrote about how rural students need better broadband to prepare for college. And now Inc Magazine is talking about how entrepreneurs need better broadband…

“High-speed internet is such a powerful tool, which seems like a crazy thing to say–unless you don’t have access to it,” said Wayne Reilly, president of Creative TRND USA division. Reilly started his entrepreneurial journey in Post Falls, Idaho. “Even in the middle of Antarctica, with a good Wi-Fi signal you can succeed. With the right resources, you can achieve global success from any small town.”

Of course, faster download speeds won’t make Americans lock arms, forget all our differences, and become a more united country.

Political division has only grown as more of the country’s citizens feel structurally locked out of economic opportunity. If you’re a smart kid growing up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, in 2019, you have access to learning opportunities and information your parents never dreamed of. That doesn’t mean every kid growing up in the suburbs of Dallas will succeed–far from it–but it does mean you have access to the tools modern humans need to be economically competitive.

If you’re a kid growing up in Dallas, Arkansas?

It’s a different story.

The article recognizes that broadband isn’t a cure-all – but it can help and it can help right away…

Disenfranchisement is not limited to rural communities. But while we certainly haven’t solved every issue facing urban residents, there is an urgency and energy toward improving economic opportunity in cities that is lacking in the discussion about rural communities.

We can change that.

One place to start might be investing in improving access to broadband.

New FirstNet Cell Site to Support Public Safety in Northwestern Minnesota near White Earth Reservation and Surrounding Community

Big news from AT&T…

New Infrastructure will Improve Connectivity for Tribal First Responders, Expand Rural Broadband Access for Tribal Community

BAGLEY, Minn., Nov. 14, 2019 – First responders in northwestern Minnesota and those serving the White Earth Reservation are getting a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site – located between the White Earth Reservation and Itasca State Park – is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in Minnesota, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. Additionally, the new FirstNet site will give first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.1

FirstNet is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and Public Safety community. Backed by Congress, it’s designed to strengthen and modernize Public Safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. FirstNet is for all first responders – whether rural, tribal, urban or suburban. That’s why extending the FirstNet network in rural, tribal and remote parts of America is a top priority.

This site is located in Zerkel near the intersection of State Highway 92 and State Highway 200, and to the east of the White Earth Reservation. Public safety stakeholders identified this location as a prime spot for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications. The site will help improve coverage along the eastern edge of the White Earth Reservation.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address emergency situations. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they are getting,” said Paul Weirtz, president, AT&T Minnesota. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need.”

This is the first new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in Minnesota following the State of Minnesota’s decision to advance the state’s Public Safety broadband communications with FirstNet. It was constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum bands. Additional new FirstNet sites are underway, and Band 14 has been and is actively being added to existing sites across Minnesota. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. It provides public safety with a dedicated lane of connectivity when needed.

FirstNet is built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government. To ensure AT&T and the FirstNet Authority are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and public safety officials.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network for Public Safety, by Public Safety,” said Jeff Bratcher, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, FirstNet Authority. “The FirstNet Authority worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And this cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting White Earth first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect their community.”

In addition to further elevating Public Safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com.

1Based on AT&T analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q2 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

2“‘Indian tribe’ means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688) [43 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.], which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” 25 U.S.C. § 5304(e) (formerly cited as 25 U.S.C. § 450(b))

About the First Responder Network Authority

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chartered in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. Learn more at FirstNet.gov/mediakit and follow the FirstNet Authority (@FirstNetGov) on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

 

Rural students need broadband to prepare for college like suburban and urban peers

The Chronicle of Higher Education newsletter recently included an article by Goldie Blumenstyk  on rural college preparedness and broadband. They set out the problem…

A report on the state of rural education came out last week, asserting that some schools and places “face nothing less than an emergency in the education and well-being of children.”

Part of that emergency is the low level of “college readiness” in many of these rural districts, which enroll nearly one in five public-school students in the United States.

They had me at “emergency.”

And places broadband in the middle of the equation…

For matters like college preparation, one of the biggest obstacles that students still face is a lack of ready and reliable broadband access to the internet. In urban areas, that’s often an issue of cost. In rural areas, it’s often actual access as well. “It’s a huge deal right now,” said Klein, noting that for tests like the SAT and ACT, “a lot of the prep tools are online.”

As it happens, Klein spoke to me this week from San Diego, where he was attending the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, where he heard a presentation on a creative broadband-access project sponsored by the extension service at Oklahoma State University. It gave portable Wi-Fi-hotspot devices to local libraries, which then offered them to patrons for checkout.

OK, broadband is a start. The bigger question is: Even if rural students are college-ready, will there be college-level jobs waiting for them back home when they graduate? Clearly, colleges aren’t the only organizations that have a role here. But certainly they can play a part. They can do more to ensure that high-school students understand the ways a college education can be used in rural settings. As Klein noted, many agricultural industries today rely on people with knowledge of chemistry and GIS mapping skills, for example. “Those are some serious college-level tools,” he said.

I know there are university leaders out there right now pondering the question of how their institutions can be more relevant in their rural communities. (I had a long conversation on that topic with one of them just last week.) And Klein told me he hoped that the new report “excites some strategies.” So I expect this to be an issue that I and my colleagues continue to mine in the months to come.

I think a key here is helping students and local businesses understand the power of broadband. We don’t know what we don’t know and in a world where broadband is limited it can feel like a waste of time to learn how to make use of it. Why build demand when supply is already low? Unfortunately that does leave some areas behind. Whereas an influx of students who know the hometown and its industry return from school with some innovative ideas – that might build demand and a buzz for getting better broadband.

Jan Keough receives Blandin Foundation Courageous Broadband Leader 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 Pine Journal

Jan Keough of Cloquet was presented with a Courageous Leadership Award at the 15th annual Blandin Foundation broadband conference, Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work, Oct. 8-9 at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn. Keough was honored for her leadership and commitment to bring broadband connectivity to the eight townships of the Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative (CVII).

“Jan is emblematic of the citizen leaders in the Cloquet Valley and across the State of Minnesota who invest hundreds of hours on this community vitality issue on behalf of their neighbors,” Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation said in a news release. “Jane is truly an inspiration to our Blandin Foundation team.”

Clearing the Way for Telemedicine – FCC report on telehealth

In Clearing the Way for Telemedicine, the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) members identify state, local, Tribal, and territorial regulatory barriers to the use of telemedicine, as well as incentives that promote the adoption of telemedicine. The report discusses key issues, including state and local licensing laws or regulations that prevent telehealth providers from treating patients across state lines, and intrastate restrictions that may inhibit the provision of telemedicine.

Minnesota gets a nod for being one of three states that have specific laws that require that payers pay the same amount for a Telehealth delivered service as would have been paid had the service been provided in-person.

Here are their recommendations looking at issues or broadband access, regulatory barriers and digital equity and digital integration issues:

Broadband Recommendations

  • Broadband needs to be funded. FCC initiatives such as the recent Connected Care NPRM and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund can support bringing Telehealth services directly to low-income patients and patients in underserved, rural, Tribal, and territorial areas
  • Coordination needs to be improved between state and federal universal service programs aimed at expanding broadband to avoid having different programs supporting service availability in the same area and to ensure that support goes to areas without broadband service and without the likelihood of receiving it in the foreseeable future.
  • Broadband Telehealth services should be independent of the technology used to provide such service, particularly in rural areas. Creative ways of deploying hybrid fiber along with wireless, satellite, and TV white spaces offer different advantages and opportunities.
  • The term “Telehealth” should be construed broadly, and should incorporate the need for software, equipment, data storage and patient record access along with the various spectrum and telecommunications solutions and broadband deployment.
  • Telehealth policy should address the deployment of necessary infrastructure, including homes of older adults, and provider offices in rural and frontier communities that are far from a hospital.
  • Improved geographic data should include the types of services that are available in various locations.
  • Providers must ensure that any equipment they purchase is interoperable and meets industry standards and can be used to connect to multiple Telemedicine platforms.
  • Data and documents should be able to be transferred in multiple formats and structures in order to be operable in the various application programming interfaces (APIs), rather than in the prevailing “PDF” format, to allow electronic transfer with full interoperability and use of the underlying data elements.
  • To be considered interoperable, software vendors should be required to open their systems to communicate electronically patient information.

Regulatory Recommendations

  • The FCC Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) program should expand eligible equipment and services to cover institutional mobile technologies that are not currently covered under the program. Mobile telephones and service should be an eligible cost item of the RHCP. 28
  • The FCC should reach out to relevant federal agencies to address reimbursement disparities for services categorized as “Telemedicine,” whether in Medicare or other medical services.
  • Telehealth, almost by definition, is a geographically dispersed, often interstate service. The complexities of interstate licensing, credentialing and privileging should be revised and simplified to allow for virtual multi-state service.
  • Malpractice insurance coverage should cover Telehealth delivered services and should extend into other states in which Telehealth services are being offered.
  • Health benefit plans should not exclude from coverage a covered health care service or procedure delivered by a preferred or contracted health professional to a covered patient as a Telemedicine medical service or a Telehealth service solely because the covered health care service or procedure is not provided through an in-person consultation.
  • The FCC should work with other governmental agencies to ensure that the same standard of care and other measurements should be applied to both in-person and virtual visits.
  • HIPPA and other privacy rules should be revised to allow patients to share Telehealth information with Telehealth providers and for treating Telehealth providers to share that information with each other.
  • The FCC should encourage legislation or regulations that detail how and in what manner Telehealth can be used to establish a patient-provider relationship and when it can be used for prescribing medicine, particularly controlled substances. C.

Other Recommendations

  • The public, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and health care providers all need to be aware of the technologies and services available for Telehealth.
  • Telehealth considerations and the infrastructure to provide health services virtually should be integrated into all state, local Tribal and territorial emergency planning.

 

 

 

 

Blandin Broadband Initiative Celebrating 15 Years of Community Partnerships

I wanted to share a PDF that just came across my email about Blandin Foundation’s 15 years of broadband work. I’m sure it comes from the Fall broadband conference. It’s a nice recap of work that includes many readers…

Blandin Broadband Initiative Celebrating 15 Years of Community Partnerships

Since 2004, Blandin Foundation has worked with rural communities across Minnesota to improve broadband access, adoption and use. Original program goals:

1. Generate awareness about the importance of broadband for rural community vitality.

2. Increase rural business and residential use of broadband.

3. Catalyze increased public and private investment in rural broadband.

Since 2004, Blandin Foundation has:

• Formally partnered with 71 communities across rural Minnesota and provided technical assistant to a total of 138 communities in 58 (out of 87) Minnesota counties;

• Invested $4,352,148 in 292 projects;

• Raised nearly $12 million in public and private matching grant dollars;

• Funded feasibility studies in 42 communities;

• Hosted 15 annual statewide broadband conferences; and

• Published http://www.blandinonbroadband.org, the Blandin on Broadband blog, now with over 2,000+ subscribers.

Major Impacts

• Access

o Of the 45 network feasibility studies funded by Blandin Foundation to date, 18 have been either fully or partially built, and four have been used to develop applications to the state’s broadband grant program.

o Participating communities have dramatically increased the presence of free, publicly-available Internet access in libraries, public parks, downtown areas, and township halls.

• Adoption

o In partnership with PCs for People, Blandin Broadband Communities have distributed over 2,300 refurbished computers to income qualifying residents in participating rural communities across Minnesota.

o Communities also have implemented a variety of digital literacy programs for local residents and businesses.

• Use

o Blandin Broadband Communities have spurred more sophisticated use of technology through education, training, community events, learning circles and innovative partnerships – a total of 292 projects that address community technology goals.

Minnesota’s Broadband Vision

First articulated at a Blandin Broadband Conference in 2015, and endorsed and adopted since by local governments and other entities across the state, our Broadband Vision for Minnesota has been central to our success:

Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.

The vision inspired the creation of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition – that unites dozens of broadband champions from across the state to sustain broad, bi-partisan support for Minnesota’s broadband grant program.
Broadband Access in Rural Minnesota: 2004/2019

In 2002, dialup access was the norm; 77 percent of surveyed rural Minnesotans reported access to dialup, while only 21 percent has access to broadband. By 2019 in rural:

• 83.7 percent of rural households have access to 25/3 wireline broadband;

• 68.43 percent have access to 100/20 and

• 22.42 percent have access to gig access.

What our partners say:
“Our elected officials now see the importance of broadband for economic development and community vitality.”
– County Economic Development Director
“This framework brings people together that have not always worked together.” – County IT director
“This program has helped us develop wonderful community connections.
– High School Principal

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.