About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

Fridley storm shelter also used as learning hub and literacy center

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on a project involving Libraries without Borders and Park Plaza Cooperative, a community of manufactured homes. I wrote about the project last October (2020); it’s fun to see that they are able this year to provide in-person programming without COVID restrictions…

[A] call came from Libraries Without Borders, a nonprofit with the mission of bringing knowledge and information to people in need. And with it came the offer to turn the diverse community’s storm shelter into a learning hub by supplying Wi-Fi connections, books, art materials, computers and iPads.

“It could be everybody’s dream to walk to a building and use a library,” said Seefeld, who has lived at Park Plaza since 1998 and served as its president for the past 10 years. “Reading brings people together.”

Many of the 83 families who live at Park Plaza are immigrants whose primary language is not English. About 30% have trouble accessing a library due to a lack of transportation, or can’t get to a library when it’s open, according to Anoka County Library and Libraries Without Borders officials.

But residents did turn out Saturday for a celebration kicking off an ambitious series of live programs that will include everything from English language classes to reading, writing and computer skills.

It’s not the first program in the area…

In 2018, Park Plaza opened a new aboveground storm shelter strong enough to withstand an F5 tornado. The building has a kitchen, gyms and rooms with tables and chairs — a perfect space for a learning and literacy hub.

“I think it’s great,” said Fridley Mayor Scott Lund. Using the building as a library and connecting people to it can only be positive, he said. “It’s great thinking on their part.”

Libraries Without Borders had already brought its “Wash and Learn Initiative” to Minnesota, partnering with libraries to bring story times to laundromats. As the nonprofit in 2018 launched its Manufactured Housing Initiative to reach the estimated 22 million people in the United States who live in manufactured homes, it called Seefeld.

And the model in Minnesota could start a bigger trend…

Park Plaza could serve as a model for other manufactured home parks, said Libraries Without Borders Executive Director Adam Echelman. The nonprofit is looking to bring library services to a few such communities in southern Minnesota, he said.

Senator Carrie Rudd mentions broadband funding as a highlight

The Pines and Lakes Echo offered Senator Carrie Rudd an opportunity to recap the 2021 Legislative session…

This was a long legislative year – under the trying circumstances Minnesota has faced, we were able to accomplish a great deal, and the highlights are a small part of the story. Most importantly, we reaffirmed our commitment to all Minnesotans, and ensuring the best quality of life our state offers.

With notes on broadband funding…

The pandemic made it very clear that broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and we have work to do in that area. Therefore, included in the agriculture budget was important funding for broadband expansion.

Last year we provided a large investment for expansion efforts to our rural communities, and we again this year invested in broadband expansion thanks to federal funding from the American Recovery Plan. This continuous investment shows our commitment to ensuring Greater Minnesota is no longer left behind in broadband expansion.

Minnesota policymakers are speaking up for federal infrastructure funding (including broadband)

The Bemidji Pioneer reports

Minnesota mayors and business leaders on Monday, July 19, urged Congress to advance a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, citing deteriorating roads, rail and broadband services that impeded economic progress in their cities.

The local leaders said they were among more than 400 mayors across all 50 states pressing their local delegations to back the proposal as the U.S. Senate prepares to take up the plan this week.

BroadbandUSA grants roundup

Some info may be new; some may be a reminder. Either way I thought folks might enjoy it…

Welcome to the BroadbandUSA Grants Roundup!

In this update, NTIA is providing you all the latest news about our three new grant programs – the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP), and the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program – all in one place. Stay tuned for information regarding Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs), future rounds of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), upcoming grant program webinars, and more.

Broadband Infrastructure Program

Available Soon: Session 4 Webinar Presentation, Transcripts, and Recordings

Thank you to all who were able to join us for our recent Broadband Infrastructure Program Session 4a and 4b webinars. Were you unable to attend? Or maybe you want to go back and review the information presented? The presentations, transcripts, and webinar recordings will be available on these webpages by Thursday, July 22:

Session 4a – Held July 14, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 4b – Held July 15, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Register Today for Upcoming Webinars

Join NTIA staff for our upcoming Broadband Infrastructure Program webinars! These sessions will build upon the previous month’s presentations, helping prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assisting applicants to prepare high quality grant applications. Learn more and register today:

Session 5a – August 4, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 5b – August 5, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

New Set of FAQs

NTIA has recently published its third set of FAQs regarding the Broadband Infrastructure Program. This document offers a deeper dive into some of the most commonly asked questions we have been receiving from prospective applicants regarding eligibility, other broadband funding programs and eligible service areas, application requirements/process, and post awards requirements. Subsequent FAQ sets will be published periodically throughout the application window. See the new set of FAQs below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 06-23-2021

ICYMI: Broadband Infrastructure Program Resources

In case you missed it, below are some helpful resources related to the Broadband Infrastructure Program:

Broadband Infrastructure Program Webpage

Official Broadband Infrastructure Program NOFO

FAQs – Round One

FAQs – Round Two

Grants.gov Link to Opportunity

Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program

New Set of FAQs

NTIA has recently published its second set of FAQs regarding the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This document offers a deeper dive into some of the most commonly asked questions we have been receiving from prospective applicants regarding eligibility, other broadband funding programs and eligible service areas, application requirements/process, and post awards requirements. Subsequent FAQ sets will be published periodically throughout the application window. See the new set of FAQs below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 07-13-2021

Register Today for Upcoming Webinars

Join NTIA staff for our upcoming Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program webinars! These sessions will build up on the previous month’s presentations, helping prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assisting applicants to prepare high quality grant applications. Learn more and register today:

Session 4a – July 21, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 4b – July 22, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 5a – August 11, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 5b – August 12, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 6a – August 23, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 6b – August 24, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

ICYMI: Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Resources

In case you missed it, below are some helpful resources related to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program:

Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Webpage

Dear Tribal Letter (June 2021)

Official Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program NOFO

FAQs – Round One

Grants.gov Link to Opportunity

Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program

Register Today for Upcoming Webinars

Join NTIA staff for our upcoming Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program webinars! These sessions will help prospective applicants further understand the grant programs and assist applicants to prepare high quality grant applications. Learn more and register today:

Session 4a – July 28, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 4b – July 29, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 5a – August 18, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 5b – August 19, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 6a – September 22, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 6b – September 23, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 7a – October 20, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

Session 7b – October 21, 2021 at 2:30pm ET

ICYMI: Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Resources

In case you missed it, below are some helpful resources related to the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program:

Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Webpage

June 15, 2021 Press Release Announcing the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program and Final Rule

Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Final Rule (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Common Cause’s new report on the politics of the Digital Divide

Common Cause has taken a deep dive info Broadband Gatekeepers: How ISP Lobbying and Political Influence Shapes the Digital Divide. They look into a few recommendations:

  • Broadband Reforms
  • Lobbying Disclosure Reforms
  • Campaign Finance Reforms
  • Shareholder Corporate Accountability

With a general observation…

Broadband connectivity is vitally important to a functioning 21st-century democracy. But the private sector has failed to deliver universal broadband deployment, with the 15 ISPs and trade associations studied in this report spending more than $100 million every year on lobbying and elections, prioritizing profits over people. As a result, millions of households, particularly in marginalized communities, lack access to affordable, high-speed broadband and continue to face significant barriers to getting online.

We can and must do better. For 50 years, Common Cause has worked on systemic reforms to build a better democracy. The digital divide makes clear that Common Cause’s core programmatic work is needed now more than ever, both to pass legislation that increases access to affordable high-speed broadband and to reform our lobbying and campaign finance laws that allow ISPs and their trade associations to wield such disproportionate political power.

And I’m just going to include more info on the broadband reforms, with the addition of a table that outlines corporate lobbying and political expenditures by the largest 15 national providers…

Political spending by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and other major ISPs has profoundly shaped the contours of the digital divide. But the fight is not over. There are a number of steps our elected officials can take to give power back to the people and begin to close the digital divide.

Congress should pass the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which takes significant steps to address all aspects of the digital divide, including broadband access, affordability, and digital equity.181 Passing this landmark legislation will enable millions of households to participate in our democracy and economy, thus leveling the playing field and helping to connect households ISPs have ignored or underinvested in for years.

Congress should also support the FCC to strengthen Lifeline and digital inclusion initiatives to ensure that all communities, particularly those who are underserved, have access to affordable, reliable, high-quality communications services. In 2020, Congress passed the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which the FCC rolled out in March of this year.182 The program provides a $50 monthly discount for eligible low-income households ($75 for those on Tribal lands) to purchase a broadband connection.183 The program is an important emergency re[1]sponse by Congress that made clear that affordable connectivity is a top priority. However, the program is only temporary and will end once the funding is depleted.184 The temporary nature of the program makes it even more urgent for the FCC to reform the Universal Service Fund to ensure a sustainable source of funding to support low-income affordability and adoption and incorporate safeguards to ensure ISP accountability, consumer protection, and program eligibility. While Universal Service Fund reform is critical, supplementary support through the Emergency Broadband Benefit and other funding mechanisms dedicated to low-income affordability are important to enact in the interim. Congress should also support permanent funding for digital inclusion activities, such as digital literacy trainings and access to connected devices that help households successfully adopt broadband.185 A sustainable Lifeline subsidy and a digital inclusion plan will ensure that no one is left behind in the use of connectivity to participate in our democracy and economy.

Lawmakers and regulators must also take steps to restore net neutrality and the FCC’s authority over broadband. The repeal of net neutrality and the abdication of the FCC’s authority over broadband during the Trump administration paved the way for large ISPs to engage in discriminatory practices that prioritize their profits over the public interest.186 In the last four years, we have seen broadband prices increase,187 a lack of transparent billing practices,188 and reports of mobile carriers selling their customers’ real-time location data.189 A credible net neutrality framework must ensure that the FCC is an empowered advocate for people that can hold ISPs accountable for discriminatory practices.

 

Access to broadband isn’t just a rural issue!

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has highlighted McKinsey & Company’s recent survey of 25,000 Americans about their view of the future, the pandemic and their identity. The Twin Cities overall surveyed in slightly better shape that other areas but there was a disparity gap…

The racial disparities are particularly stark. Only 29% of Blacks in the Twin Cities region believe that most people can find good jobs — many fewer than among Black Americans as a whole (40%) or compared with their fellow Minnesotans (46%). Moreover, 56% of Blacks in the Twin Cities say their race hurt their job prospects, a level 15 percentage points higher than the national average and the highest of any city surveyed. Blacks and Hispanics in the Twin Cities were also much more likely to have lost income over the course of the pandemic; Blacks in particular were feeling much more vulnerable economically. Both groups cite affordable health insurance as a significant barrier to their well-being at much higher rates than the U.S. average.

Broadband was listed as a tool that could help lift people to a better place…

Across race, gender, income and education, COVID-19 exacerbated existing inequalities; it would be a shame if the emerging recovery resulted in more of the same. Improving racial and social equity is a national concern, but there is wide scope for local action. In the Twin Cities, many businesses have pledged to do more, and indeed the private sector here has a long track record of constructive civic action. But how? The survey offers some hints.

Looking specifically at Black Minnesotans, more than half said that lack of experience, training or education was a barrier to changing jobs — 23 points more than the national average; 57% were interested in training programs or acquiring new skills. They were much more likely than other Black Americans — and three times as likely as their white neighbors — to cite a lack of financial services as a problem, and also considerably more likely to say they cannot afford internet access. Providing training, expanding access to broadband and offering affordable financial services — these are all things where the private sector can lead.

Broadband levels the playing field whether you’re in Grand Portage or North Minneapolis.

Rep Pelowski outlines role of Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee and broadband

In the Crookston Times, Rep Pelowski talks about the role of the new Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee…

Despite being a new committee in the Minnesota House, the Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee navigated the unfamiliar waters of pandemic legislating successfully, delivering on the primary goals built around the committee’s inception – funding an industrial technology teacher licensure and certification program, investing in statewide broadband, and replenishing the state’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account. As chair of the committee, I worked in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues to ensure these nonpartisan measures received the support they deserve.

And how they handled broadband funding this year…

In a similar fashion, our committee’s work on broadband would also get wrapped in a larger bill during the special session. As chair, I was appointed to the Agriculture conference committee, which also included broadband in its purview. Made of House and Senate members, the conference committee – later referred to as a working group after the regular session – crafted legislation that would fund operations for the Office of Broadband Development. In addition to this, $70 million in federal funding over the next two years in broadband infrastructure was included in the Jobs, Economic Development, and Labor Budget.

EVENT July 22: NDIA State Digital Equity Scorecard Launch

From the NDIA…

NDIA is launching a new interactive State Digital Equity Scorecard on Thursday!

Please join us on July 22 at 2pm ET for our State Digital Equity Scorecard launch + important conversation hosted by Microsoft IPC on reshaping America’s digital infrastructure for the 21st century and beyond. https://events.attend.com/f/1383793809#/reg/0/

The virtual discussion, featuring Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Dr. Dominique Harrison of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Angela Siefer of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Katie Spiker of the National Skills Coalition, and Portia Wu of Microsoft, will focus on how investing in digital infrastructure can help promote inclusive economic recovery and close the digital opportunity gap to ensure all Americans have access to digital skills and broadband. During the event, Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico will offer welcome remarks and we’ll demonstrate a new dashboard providing a state-by-state look at efforts to close the digital opportunity gap.
RSVP here: https://events.attend.com/f/1383793809#/reg/0/

A voice for Open access municipal networks

The Salt Lake Tribune reports…

Now that Washington’s about to pass the infrastructure bill (“The American Jobs Plan”), it is critical that the truth about open access municipal broadband networks be told: They work; they are successful; they spur competition; they are closing the digital divide.

They also are an irritant to big cable and its allies, whose henchmen have been busy at work in a well-financed lobbying campaign, trying to derail the process to ensure that a good portion of the potential $65 billion-plus for broadband reverts to them.

In a commentary carried by Fox News on June 13, Rep. John Curtis, from Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, claimed that municipal networks “don’t work,” are ineffective ways to extend broadband access, and “not capable of the investment risk.” Worse, he said that municipal networks have failed in Utah.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The inconvenient truth that Curtis misses is that municipal fiber is hugely successful in Utah, even in his own district.

You can read the full story for the details. I have herd people refer to municipal networks in Minnesota in the same way so I thought this might be a good reminder. There are many ways to define success in the public sector – getting residents what they need is a big part of the equation.

Rep Fischbach visits family farm to appreciate importance of rural broadband

West Central Tribune reports on Representative Fischbach’s recent visit in the field…

U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach visited Anderson Family Farms on July 15 for a tour of their family’s farm and facilities.

“Broadband is so important to [building] strong communities and broadband is part of that,” said Fischbach. “Making sure we have strong rural communities so that we can attract [workers] because today we’re going to be talking about the workforce and the need for [a strong] workforce in rural Minnesota.”

After the tour, the congresswoman met with members of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association and National Pork Producers Council to discuss concerns within the industry.

Emergency Broadband Benefit has enrolled just 1 in 12 eligible households

The Benton Institute is keeping an eye on Emergency Broadband Benefit…

Two weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission released data on how many households have signed up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a program created by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program offers eligible households a discount of up to $50 per month on broadband service. The data, available through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) which administers the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, shows that over 3 million households have signed up for the new program. The downloadable spreadsheet shows that 3,125,066 households have enrolled for the benefit.

A close look at the data reveals some highlights:

  • The first wave of data indicates that, thus far, the Emergency Broadband Benefit has enrolled about one in twelve eligible households.
    • Analysis of 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) indicates that 31.7 million households are eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline program. Data on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) shows that 4.3 million more households used SNAP in 2021 than in 2019. This suggests that 36 million households are Emergency Broadband Benefit-eligible (using Lifeline qualification as a guide).
  • Places where wireline broadband adoption rates are low have exhibited above-average rates of households signing up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
    • Puerto Rico and New Orleans stand out as places with high rates of Emergency Broadband Benefit enrollment, along with cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia – all of which have high rates of poverty and residential segregation.

Research on Hiring Technologies of Large Hourly Employers

Upturn has an interesting study on the impact of digital expectations on hiring of hourly employees…

Most workers in the United States depend on hourly wages to support themselves and their families. To apply for these jobs, especially at the entry level, job seekers commonly fill out online applications. Online applications for hourly work can be daunting and inscrutable. Candidates — many of whom are young people, people of color, and people with disabilities — may end up filling out dozens of applications, while receiving no responses from employers.

This report provides new empirical research about the technologies that applicants for low-wage hourly jobs encounter each day. We submitted online applications to 15 large, hourly employers in the Washington, D.C. metro area, scrutinizing each process. We observed a blend of algorithmic hiring systems and traditional selection procedures. Many employers used an Applicant Tracking System to administer a range of selection procedures, including screening questions and psychometric tests. We augmented this research with expert interviews, legal research, and a review of industry white papers to offer a more comprehensive analysis.

We offer the following findings and related policy recommendations:

  1. It is simply impossible to fully assess employers’ digital hiring practices from the outside. Even the most careful research has limits. It is critical that regulators, employers, vendors, and others proactively assess their hiring selection procedures to ensure that all applicants are treated fairly.
  2. The current U.S. legal framework is woefully insufficient to protect applicants. Federal oversight is far too passive, and employers lack incentives to critically evaluate their hiring processes. Regulators must be more proactive in their research and investigations, and modernize guidelines on the discriminatory effects of hiring selection procedures.
  3. Major employers are using traditional selection procedures at scale — including troubling personality tests — even as they adopt new hiring technologies. Some test questions lacked any apparent connection to the essential functions of the jobs for which we applied, and they raised a range of discrimination concerns. Employers should seek to measure essential job skills, and discontinue the use of assessments that fail to do so.
  4. Employers rarely give candidates meaningful feedback during the application process. In our analysis, we received minimal feedback from employers — about the purpose of selection procedures, details of reasonable accommodations, or the final disposition of our applications. Employers can and should be required to offer more, so applicants can improve their prospects and vindicate their legal rights.

 

Asset mapping in Le Sueur County – including broadband plans

Yesterday I attended a Le Sueur County asset mapping community workshop in Le Center. No Zoom – an actual meeting with people. There were 40 some people in the 4H building on the county fairgrounds. It was great to be in the same room with people working and it was great to hear about how folks weathered the COVID storm and exciting to see how planful they were being about moving forward.

Like many communities, Le Sueur is in a position of having federal funding coming in and they are looking at what to do with it, starting with asset mapping. In small groups we listed the assets in the county – from Lakes to the people to local organizations. Then, again in small groups, we brainstormed projects to highlight or best use those assets. Broadband was just one of the topics that came up.

OPPORTUNITY: MN State Boards and Commissions – open seats

From the Office of the Secretary of State

The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State today released notice of vacancies for various state boards, councils and committees that are accepting applications. Minnesotans are encouraged to apply and serve in demonstration of public service. The newest vacancies are listed below, and the full list of 514 vacancies can be found on our website Open Positions.

Applications may be submitted online, and must be submitted within 21 days of the “Publish Date” listed on our Open Positions page, to be assured of full consideration by the appointing authority. Appointing authorities may choose to review applications received by the Secretary of State after the 21 day application period.

Here are seats that I thought might be of interest…

  • Minnesota E-health Advisory Committee
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Community Clinics/Fed Qual. Health Centers
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Consumer Member
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health Care Administrator
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health Care Purchasers and Employers
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health IT Vendors
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Health Plans Representatives
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Health System Chief Information Officer
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Hospital Representatives
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Licensed Health Professionals (Physician/Nurse)
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Local Public Health
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Long Term and Post-Acute Care
    Vacancies: 1 Seat — Professional with Expert Knowledge in Health IT
    Vacancies: 2 Seats — Rotating Professionals – Additional Health Settings (Dentists, Pharmacists, Behavior Health Laboratory, Home Health, Social Services, etc)
  • Technology Advisory Council
    Vacancies: 6 Seats — Private Sector or Public Sector IT Experience or Experience in Academia pertaining to IT

Apollo Global Mgmt looks to buy consumer assets From Lumen/CenturyLink

Bloomberg reports

Apollo Global Management Inc. is in talks to acquire a portfolio of assets from communications infrastructure specialist Lumen Technologies Inc., according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The firm is in discussions to carve out Lumen’s consumer operations in certain U.S. states in a transaction valued at more than $5 billion, the people said. A deal, if completed, could be announced in coming weeks, some of the people said. Terms aren’t finalized and it’s possible talks could collapse.

An Apollo spokeswoman and a representative for Monroe, Louisiana-based Lumen declined to comment.

Lumen’s shares rose as much as 7.1% on news of the talks.

The company, formerly known as CenturyLink and led by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Storey, operates a fiber network spanning about 450,000 miles (724,000 kilometers) and has customers in over 60 countries. In addition to serving business and government clients, its consumer business provides internet access to suburban and rural U.S. areas.

I haven’t seen much more about the sale but here’s a little more on Apollo from their website

As one of the world’s largest alternative investment managers, Apollo manages capital for hundreds of fund investors in dozens of countries, including some of the most sophisticated institutional allocators of capital. Pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, university endowments, charitable foundations, financial institutions, and family offices alike rely on Apollo to deliver differentiated long-term investment performance.

Fostering deep, long-lasting relationships with investors is paramount, and we believe our commitment to meet their needs is one important reason many of them are invested in multiple Apollo funds. We believe that strong investor relationships have helped to create lasting value for investors.