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.

OPPORTUNITY: NDIA is Hiring – Research and Policy Director

A great opportunity for the right person at NDIA

NDIA combines grassroots community engagement with technical knowledge, research and coalition building to advocate on behalf of people working for digital equity and to ensure all people have access to technology in communities large and small, urban, and rural.

Now doesn’t that sound like an amazing place to work?

NDIA’s team is fully remote. We love our online collaboration tools and our flexible schedules. Now, more than ever before, there is a broad awareness of the necessity of affordable home internet, appropriate devices, responsive tech support, and digital literacy. NDIA is raising digital equity awareness, supporting local efforts, and impacting policies.

The Research and Policy Director serves as the lead on NDIA’s policy positions and research projects.

Check out the NDIA for more info and a job description.

MN OPPORTUNITY: Nominate an Unsung Hero for a chance at $10,000

An opporunity from Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and McKnight Foundation…

The deadline has been extended to nominate someone for a Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award!

The McKnight Foundation and MCN invite you to nominate someone who hasn’t gotten the recognition they deserve for making a lasting difference in their community!

The nomination deadline for the Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards has been extended to Tuesday, June 30 at noon. Four Minnesotans — two from the Twin Cities metro and two from Greater Minnesota — will each receive $10,000 in recognition of the significant impact they have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities.

Nominate an Unsung Hero Today!

EVENT June 20: Digital Poor People’s Mass march on Washington – June 20, 21

As my colleague Bernadine Joselyn says, broadband makes everything better. And the now it’s being used to unite people across the US to demonstrate the power of our communities in a COVID-19 aware, non-weather dependent way that is open to anyone with broadband to cyber march on Washington. Here are the details

WHAT

  • The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington will be the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience on June 20, 2020.
  • The increasing urgency of a broad movement led by the poor and most impacted is more apparent every day. Now is the time to organize towards collective action to enact a moral agenda for the nation. As our ranks grow in the coming months due to COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis of poverty, building a platform for the plight, fight, and insight of the poor is even more urgent
  • We are marshalling our collective voices to demonstrate the power of our communities. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.

WHEN

  • This 2 hour program will be broadcast on Saturday, June 20th at 10:00am EST and 6:00pm EST and again on Sunday, June 21st at 6:00pm EST. Visit June2020.org to tune in.

WHERE

  • The Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington is going digital! We will gather from all 50 U.S. states and territories, and from across the world.

WHY

  • We are gathering on June 20, 2020 to dramatize the pain and prophetic leadership of the poor and build power to enact our demands.
  • We are waking the nation to the interlocking injustices facing 140 million poor and low-income people, 43% of the nation.
  • But it’s not enough just to be awake. It’s not the waking, it’s the rising. On June 20, 2020, we rise together!
  • If the rejected millions—the poor without health insurance, without living wages, without clean water, without voting protections—unite, we can move the moral and political imagination of this country and revive the heart of our democracy!

WHO

  • The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is made up of people of all backgrounds, we are Black, Brown, White, Native, and Asian; we are old and young; we are Christian, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim; we are people of faith and not of faith; we are people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; we are led by poor people and we are a cross-class movement; we are people of all abilities; and we live across this nation, from Alabama to Alaska, from Maine to California to Mississippi.

HOW

  • We will gather online on June 20, 2020 from across the country and world.
  • We will launch a robust accessibility campaign to ensure those of us most affected by poverty and its interlocking injustices are able to participate fully.
  • To begin, go to www.june2020.org to let us know you will join us on June 20, 2020.
  • Spread the word in your networks and social media.
  • Get connected to your state’s coordinating committee.

Networks down all over the US June 15

I wondered why my dad was ignoring me. Then I tried to call my mom and couldn’t get through.  I had to remember my childhood home phone number, which thankfully worked. My parents are OK.

Their networks are not. I looked to find one article that spoke to issues with several carriers. WCVB (ABC TV out of Boston I think) reports…

If you’re having problems with your cell phone, it seems you’re not alone. Customers of multiple cell phone carriers are reporting widespread outages.

According to Downdetector, a website that tracks outage reports, the outage is impacting customers of T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon.

“Our engineers are working to resolve a voice and data issue that has been affecting customers around the country,” Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s president of technology tweeted. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience and hope to have this fixed shortly.”

In a statement to CNET, a spokesperson from Verizon said, “Verizon’s network is performing well. We’re aware that another carrier is having network issues. Calls to and from that carrier may receive an error message.”

AT&T says their network is working properly, but users of the carrier continue to report problems with their devices.

“Our network is operating normally, but it’s possible some customers are unable to reach people on other carriers’ networks,” AT&T said on Twitter.

My limited experience pointed to T-Mobile but again my experience is very limited. No cause was listed here. I will keep an eye out. It’s been such a strange year, I don’t even dare to imagine what’s going on.

I checked out Downdetector. They track downtime for providers and websites. The graphic of their homepage take at 6:17pm CST says it all. Lots of places experiencing problems still – a few seem to be on the mend…

MN Broadband Speed Test – a good idea in the making? Join the conversation

I get email from people pretty regularly asking me about the State Broadband Maps. Most often it’s because they live in an area that shows up on the map as being better served than their experience would confirm. It’s the nature of broadband maps everywhere.

The answer to making maps better is using the provider data and getting feedback from users on the ground. The Office of Broadband Development is always open to getting calls to improve the maps but that’s a very onsie-twosie approach. From the communities, we’ve seen some awesome work trying to get more info from/on the ground. St. Louis County has been leading the way to create a different set of broadband maps based to date on approximately 7,000 broadband speed tests submitted by area residents and businesses. Now Koochiching and Itasca and getting into it too.

GEO (formerly NEO) Partners has been responsible for several of the speed tests happening in Minnesota. Blandin and a number of other organizations have been toying with the idea of working on a statewide speed test and mapping. GEO Partners is interested. And today there was a call of broadband-thinkers talking about how/if/why/when to make that happen.

There is definitely interest – they are just working on funding and a organization to spearhead the effort. It sounds like there will be follow up call next week. Stay tuned for more info – or let me know if you want to be invited (comment below).

Here are the slides from today:

Rep Davnie introduces bill for $8 million for temporary broadband to students

Representative Davnie introduced a bill that includes funding for a distance learning broadband access grant program. It was read today and moved onto the Education Finance Division.  I applaud any effort to get students the broadband they need to participate in distance education. Speaking for my household, distance education is hard enough when you to have adequate broadband! Also ensuring that all students have access will open the door to schools providing more interactive classes.

The difficult part of the equation is the word temporary. Yes, students need this now but they will also need to tomorrow and next year and 10 years from now. I hope there is a plan or emphasis on creating connections that are permanent as well.

Davnie introduced:

  1. F. 117,A bill for an act relating to education; providing funding for and strengthening the Increase Teachers of Color Act; providing funding for early childhood education; providing funding for full-service community schools grants; providing funding for support our students grants; establishing a distance learning broadband access grant program; requiring school districts and charter schools to use the September 2020 permanent school fund apportionment for certain purposes; requiring reports; appropriating money; amending Minnesota Statutes 2018, sections 124D.16, subdivision 2; 136A.1275, subdivision 1, as amended; 136A.1791, subdivisions 1, as amended, 2, 3, as amended, 4, 5; Minnesota Statutes 2019 Supplement, sections 122A.70; 124D.151, subdivision 6; 126C.05, subdivisions 1, 3; 126C.10, subdivision 2d; 136A.1275, subdivisions 2, 3; Laws 2019, First Special Session chapter 11, article 3, sections 22, subdivision 3; 23, subdivision 5; article 8, section 13, subdivision 2; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapters 120B; 122A; 136A.

The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Education Finance Division.

Here is the portion on broadband

Section 1. DISTANCE LEARNING BROADBAND ACCESS GRANT PROGRAM.

Subdivision 1.

Definition.

For the purposes of this section, “commissioner” means the
commissioner of education.

Subd. 2.

Establishment.

A distance learning broadband access grant program is
established in the Department of Education to provide temporary wireless or wire-line
broadband access to students currently lacking Internet access so that the students may
participate in distance learning offered by school districts and charter schools during the
peacetime public health emergency period that relates to the infectious disease known as
COVID-19.

Subd. 3.

Eligible expenditures.

A grant awarded under this section may be used to:

(1) provide a student with a data card, USB modem, or other mobile or temporary
broadband device that enables the student to access learning materials available on the
Internet through a mobile or temporary wireless or wire-line broadband connection;

(2) reimburse a school district or charter school for actual costs incurred to provide
emergency distance learning wireless or wire-line broadband access during the 2019-2020
school year; and

(3) reimburse a school district or charter school for the cost of wireless or wire-line
broadband Internet access for households with students that did not otherwise have Internet
access before March 13, 2020, for the 2019-2020 school year.

Subd. 4.

Eligible applicants.

A Minnesota school district or charter school may apply
for a grant award under this section.

Subd. 5.

Application review.

(a) An applicant for a grant under this section must file
an application with the commissioner on a form developed by the commissioner. The
commissioner may consult with the commissioner of employment and economic development
when developing the form.

(b) An application for a grant under this subdivision must describe a school district’s or
charter school’s approach to identify and prioritize access for students unable to access the
Internet for distance learning and may include a description of local or private matching
grants or in-kind contributions.

(c) A school district or charter school may develop its application in cooperation with
the school district’s or charter school’s community education department, the school district’s
or charter school’s adult basic education program provider, a public library, an Internet
service provider, or other community partner.

(d) The commissioner must award grants under this section on a first-come, first-served
basis.

(e) The commissioner must develop administrative procedures governing the application
and grant award process.

Subd. 6.

Grant amount.

The commissioner must establish a maximum per-pupil amount
for grants awarded under this section based on (1) the number of districts and charter schools
that apply for a grant, and (2) the availability of federal money for a similar purpose.

EFFECTIVE DATE.

This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Sec. 2. PERMANENT SCHOOL FUND; SEPTEMBER 2020 APPORTIONMENT.

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a school district or charter school must use the
September, 2020, permanent school fund apportionment under Minnesota Statutes, section
127A.33, to provide mental health services and support for students or to purchase
educational technology for students, including hardware, software, or connectivity.

Sec. 3. APPROPRIATION.

$8,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner
of employment and economic development for transfer to the commissioner of education
for emergency distance learning wireless or wire-line broadband access for student grants
for school districts and charter schools under section 1. Up to five percent of the appropriation
under this paragraph may be used to reimburse reasonable costs incurred by the Department
of Education to administer section 1. This is a onetime appropriation. Any funds that remain
unexpended on September 30, 2020, are transferred to the border-to-border broadband fund
account established in Minnesota Statutes, section 116J.396. By December 1, 2020, the
commissioner of education must report to the legislature regarding the number of districts
and charter schools that received grants under section 1 and the number of students that
were provided Internet access. The report must also identify the costs to administer the grant
program and the amount transferred to the border-to-border broadband fund.

Will SpaceX low-orbit satellite broadband meet required latency to be eligible for RDOF money?

Engadget reports…

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it has “serious doubts” that SpaceX will be able to deliver internet service with latency under 100 milliseconds (via Ars Technica). That would not only be bad for users, but means that SpaceX could be at a disadvantage in an auction to distribute $16 billion in federal funds to support rural broadband access. SpaceX strongly disagrees, but it may not be able to prove its case in time.

In a report on the phase I auction for the rural digital opportunity fund (RDOF), the FCC admitted that Starlink and other LEO (low-Earth orbit) providers have advantages over geostationary satellites that operate at much higher altitudes. However, it’s skeptical that latency can be determined by orbital altitude alone, saying it can also be affected by factors like “processing, routing and transporting traffic to its destination.”

SpaceX argued that the FCC’s doubts are unfounded and that Starlink will “easily clear the commission’s 100-millisecond threshold for low-latency services, even including its “processing time” during unrealistic worst-case scenarios. In fact, with altitudes at 335 to 354 miles (compared to 21,750 miles for geostationary systems), SpaceX is shooting for a latency below 20 milliseconds — in line with cable internet.

It will be a race to get there for sure. The top comment on the article (when I visited) wished them luck but also noted that 100ms is still pretty slow for gaming, which might indicate some hurdles for other applications too, if not know in the future.

Minnesota insurers cut fees for 70,000 in Medicare health plans

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on changes insurance companies are making to promote in-office visits for patients. I just thought it was interesting given the increased attention and praise for telehealth options during the COVID-19 epidemic…

Minnetonka-based Medica is waiving cost-sharing for in-office, in-network appointments from June to September. Savings are available to about 28,000 people in Minnesota enrolled in the insurer’s Medicare Advantage health plans.

“Our goal is to ensure members get the care they need by seeing their primary care and specialist providers as the first level of care,” Greg Bury, a Medica spokesman, said via e-mail to the Star Tribune. He added that “telehealth at home” will continue “as a secondary option.”

The article goes on…

When COVID-19 emerged, many clinics moved to “virtual visits” where doctors and patients communicate through secure digital channels.

The moves reduced exposure risks and also helped conserve scarce supplies of protective equipment. Some clinics have dabbled with drive-through care to reduce exposure risks.

The volume of in-person visits to primary care clinics is starting to recover, said Courneya of HealthPartners.

“By waiving the copays for primary care, we have eliminated that barrier to [patients] coming in,” he said. “And by doing the same thing for mental health, we recognize how stressful this has been.”

At Medica, telehealth visits will continue to be available under the federal emergency declaration, but they will have copays, said Bury, the company spokesman.

Minnesota companies rally to provide more extensive telehealth services to oncology patients

Southern Minn reports…

 Livio Health (Livio) and Minnesota Oncology, a practice in The US Oncology Network (The Network), today announced an agreement that will create an enhanced, patient-centered experience for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) Medicare Advantage members.

Through this collaboration, Livio nurse practitioners, social workers and nurse care coordinators will serve as an extension of the Minnesota Oncology care team, providing additional medical support virtually and in patients’ homes to address quality of life and acute symptoms.

As a result of COVID-19, Livio quickly developed a virtual care model to protect at-risk oncology patients from exposure, while adhering to all social distancing guidelines established by public health officials. …

Physicians, nurses, social workers, nutrition therapists and genetic counselors all play an important role in Minnesota Oncology’s comprehensive care model, which also includes remote symptoms monitoring, advance care planning, palliative care and survivorship support. As an important piece of this care model, Livio provides patients with 24-hour access to symptom management, as well as emotional and spiritual support and advance care planning guidance. The two teams are working together to stay connected on patients’ needs and create a coordinated experience for patients and their families. This collaboration will evolve and expand over time.

While most of us can’t wait to get back to the world of rubbing elbows, oncology patients have always been susceptible to germs. The ability to serve them from home is a silver lining to COIV-19 risk.

OPPORTUNITY: Broadband Construction Supervisor in MN

A good job for the right person at Mediacom

MEDIACOM, a leading provider of cable and telecommunications services, has excellent career opportunities for qualified, self-motivated individuals who want to join the fastest growing cable telecommunications operation in the U.S. We are currently seeking candidates for the following position in our Chanhassen, MN Facility.

GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES:

Directs all phases of construction, seeing that contractor performs work according to the best interest of the Company.  Responsible for the safety and progress of construction activity and personnel.

Learn more.

The 411 on RDOF for potential broadband bidders

The Benton Institute has created a nice outline of info you need to know about the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, especially for potential bidders…

This week, the Federal Communications Commission established procedures for the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction (Auction 904, if you’re scoring at home). This initial round of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will provide $16 billion over 10 years to deploy networks that offer voice and broadband service to underserved rural areas. The bidding in the auction is scheduled to begin on October 29, 2020; the application window for potential bidders opens on July 1. The procedures aim to ensure that bidders have the business experience and financial means to deploy networks — and intend to use a network technology that will allow them to meet performance requirements. Here we look at some steps for potential bidders considering participating in the auction.

As someone who has tried to find info on all phases of CAF specifics after the fact, I can say it’s nice to have everything spelled out. There are greater details in the article.

Senator Klobuchar on added need and efforts for broadband during pandemic

Owatonna’s People’s Press posts an editorial from Senator Amy Klobuchar…

In rural communities throughout Minnesota, roughly 16 percent of households lack access to high speed internet. That means 144,000 households are missing out on the benefits that come with broadband. And that’s simply unacceptable. I’ve heard from school superintendents across our state who are partnering with small broadband providers directly in order to help their students without internet access. These are innovative partnerships that will help our kids during this difficult time.

But in 2020, it’s not right that some parents in rural parts of our state have to drive to restaurants and coffee shops so their kids can do their homework. One mother from Embarrass, Minnesota had to drive forty minutes to a McDonalds’s parking lot in Virginia to get an internet connection so her son could do his homework and her daughter could videoconference with her math teacher. We need to make sure our children can continue their education by participating in distance learning with internet access at home.

That’s why — following the announcement that K-12 schools would be closed in response to the pandemic — I worked with Sen. Tina Smith to urge the Federal Communications Commission Chairman to ensure that all K-12 students in our state have access to high-speed internet so they can access online learning.

I also introduced legislation with North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer — the Keeping Critical Connections Act — to help small broadband providers continue to provide internet services for students and low-income families in rural areas. This legislation would create a $2 billion fund at the FCC that would help these families remain connected to their school, work, and communities.

I’ve always believed that when we invest infrastructure like broadband, we invest in opportunity for every American and help to bridge the digital divide. My bipartisan legislation to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband availability maps was signed into law last month. This bill is in an important step forward in helping us to determine where broadband is available across the country. Our students and families need reliable broadband services so they can continue working and learning during this time.

But there is more work to do and I will continue to press for additional funding so that all students can access the internet at home, regardless of their zip code.

Our children — no matter where they live — deserve to be able do their homework at home. Families should be able to access the services they need. These are uncertain times, which are testing all of our courage and fortitude, but I will continue working to make sure Minnesotans get the help they need.

Three MN healthcare facilities get FCC funding

The FCC reports

—The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau today approved an additional 67 funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Health care providers in both urban and rural areas of the country will use this $20.18 million in funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, has approved funding for 305 health care providers in 42 states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of $104.98 million in funding.

And here are the programs in Minnesota that received funding…

  • Fairview Health Services, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was awarded $598,000 for connected tablets to assigned patients in the inpatient setting for video visit capabilities with medical staff and family members, while other tablets will be mobile and used to monitor patients from the nurse station, to provide palliative care services to avoid prolonged potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • New Path Mental Health Services, in Golden Valley, Minnesota, was awarded $15,500 for laptop computers to be used by therapists to continue mental health treatment using telehealth services.
  • Woodland Centers, in Willmar, Minnesota, was awarded $118,294 for mobile hotspots, telemedicine upgrades to computers, video monitors, remote monitoring equipment, and network upgrades to conduct mental health and substance use services by video or telephone for patients across seven counties

EVENT June 15: Organizing Statewide Broadband Speed Test

An invitation from the Blandin Foundation

There is no doubt that the lack of broadband is severely hampering working from home, distance learning and tele-health. There is also ongoing discussion over how well the FCC and state broadband maps document actual broadband coverage across Minnesota. These maps are used by funders to determine grant program eligibility so that overstatement of available services is highly consequential and negatively impacts rural places.

St. Louis County has been leading the way to create a different set of broadband maps based to date on approximately 7,000 broadband speed tests submitted by area residents and businesses. These speed tests, mapped by GEO Partners, clearly show the speeds available in cities and townships across the county. Koochiching and Itasca Counties are preparing to launch their own initiative and other counties are considering their participation.

There would be significant economies of scale to do this project across larger geographies – statewide, statewide rural, development regions, etc.

There are two key components to successfully implement this project.  First is the technology.  GEO Partners has a proven process for that task. The more difficult task must be borne by local entities – local units of government, school districts and community organizations – to spread the word to local residents so that they understand the importance of this initiative. The validity of the results increases with the number of people taking the speed test. This is critical for those communities working to qualify for state and federal broadband. For those places with great broadband, this is a way to showcase the speeds available in your area and can be used for community economic development marketing.

Blandin Foundation sees the benefits of this prospective initiative. We are seeking a proposal from GEO Partners so that we can discuss the opportunity with prospective partners across the state. We will be holding an information discussion via Zoom on Monday, June 15 from 1-2pm. Click here to register for the meeting.

Updated Data shows 85.4 percent of Minnesotans use the Internet

NTIA reports…

Today, NTIA is releasing results of its latest NTIA Internet Use Survey, which show that nearly 4 out of 5 Americans were using the Internet by November 2019, and are increasingly using a larger and more varied range of devices. Even as seniors and other demographic groups reported encouraging increases in Internet use, the data show that a persistent digital divide still exists based on income levels, age groups, and race, among other factors.

This is the fifteenth edition of the survey—the product of a partnership between NTIA and the U.S. Census Bureau that spans a quarter century—and it includes over 50 detailed questions about computer and Internet use administered to approximately 50,000 households across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The NTIA Internet Use Survey is a vital data source for policymakers, researchers, and advocates seeking to understand critical questions related to Internet use and help bridge the digital divide.

In Minnesota they report 85.4 percent of Minnesota have used the Internet with a margin of error of ±3.5 percent. In 1998, the percentage was 41.5 percent.

Here are some other stats for Minnesota:

  • Internet use at home: 82.2 percent
  • Internet use at a public place (library coffee shop) 17.3 percent
  • For those without access at home here are the top reasons:
  • Not interested: 63.5 percent
  • Too expensive: 8.1 percent
  • No computer: .9 percent
  • Not available: 0 percent

Type of broadband:

  • Mobile: 88.1 percent
  • Wired service at home: 83.5 percent
  • Satellite: 3.9 percent
  • Dialup: .1 percent

You can see more on the NTIA website. My hope it that eventually this data would be available by county!