Blandin, Northland, IRRRB helps Arrowhead leaders focus on broadband

Grand Rapids Herald Review reports

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, local leaders throughout Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region (Aitkin, Cook, Carlton, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis Counties) came together to assess their communities’ strengths and challenges in building and sustaining broadband-powered economies. Based on what they learned, eight projects emerged and will be supported through regional grants.

“Arrowhead Regional leaders had the courage and tenacity to dedicate time during a pandemic to look deeply at how broadband was propelling or, because of the lack of it, preventing community growth,” said Tuleah Palmer, president and CEO at Blandin Foundation. “These small grants will kindle the real power of this initiative – the collaborative, innovative spirit living within our rural communities.”

Here are some of the grants that were funded…

  • With an $8,000 grant, St. Louis County School District 2142 will map students’ homes within the St. Louis County School District (including Nett Lake, NorthWoods, Tower, Babbitt, Cherry and SouthRidge) to determine existing broadband speeds and plan for a wireless broadband network to encompass the 3,850 square miles of the district. Leading the project, Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) is working in partnership with the Northeast Service Cooperative on a proposed wireless network build off their middle mile fiber network that runs throughout the service area. Ultimately, the project hopes to serve many of the district’s 2,200 students at the lowest possible cost.
  • Iron Range Tourism Bureau will develop a co-working space and expand their outreach and recruitment of remote workers. This project builds on their Hello Iron Range initiative, a talent attraction initiative that promotes the region’s workforce opportunities and connects incoming and existing residents to local networking events and resources.
  • Minnesota’s Children’s Press will create a new youth-, knowledge- and tech-driven genre of literature with help from a $35,000 grant. Through this project, youth will collect and map locations of litter in Grand Marais and on the shores of Lake Superior using ArcGIS Mapping software. Following data analysis, youth will write, illustrate, and publish a book about their findings and solutions. An outreach campaign will focus on both the findings of the project as well as the process and it will include presentations to local leaders, workshop offerings, a website housing free civic digital journalism resources and a social media series.
  • Smart North will plan for and implement a pilot project for smart streetlights and mobility hubs in the City of Grand Rapids through the support of a $50,000 grant. This infrastructure will allow city departments to access and share data, enable robust 5G connectivity throughout the city and provide municipal WiFi access. In partnership with The Grand Iron Range CAV Initiative, this effort will support the test of the country’s first autonomous shuttle vehicle in a rural, all-season community.
  • Northspan seeks to strengthen equitable digital access across the Arrowhead region through their Welcoming Community initiative with the support of a $50,000 grant. Through this project, Northspan will gather regional broadband data to create a baseline for fair, equal access to broadband and technology and explore how it impacts people of various race/ethnicities, income, education and ages within the Arrowhead region. This data will inform a series of conversations and engagements on why digital equity gaps exist and inform programming to address gaps.

OPPORTUNITY: Applications for schools and libraries to get tech equipment open June 29

Telecompetitor reports

Schools and libraries can start filing applications on June 29 for financial support for various tech equipment, including laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons. The funding comes available by way of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, the FCC announced.

The fund itself is the largest single effort for student connectivity in the nation’s history, according to acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel It was designed to build on the the processes and structures of the existing E-Rate program, a Universal Service Fund (USF) program aimed at assisting schools and libraries with technology and connectivity funding support.

The need is evident, according to the FCC, with as many as 17 million children without the broadband access they need for remote learning. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 13. The FCC will also hold a webinar on June 25th at at 2:00 p.m. EDT to outline the program and discuss the application process.

Checking in with MN community broadband leaders around Minnesota

It’s always fun to check in with the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) participating community leaders. Today the Blandin Broadband team checked in with a few of the communities. It was a look back at what I’ll optimistically call the tail end of the pandemic and a helpful look at what everyone is expecting moving forward.

We started with a list of how we are all going to use broadband to celebrate summer. But the conversation also well more work-focused practical. Turns out that we have mixed feelings about the transition from online meetings to live-only or hybrids. It seems like we landed on hybrids are good when the expectations are honestly set. The conversation also got into practicalities of dealing with state versus federal funding and how those don’t always play well together and how folks are going to handle training in the real-virtual world.

If you’re a community leader and you’re wondering yourself how to handle the role of technology and balancing the transition to “normal” life, this may be an instructive conversation to hear.

Quarantine rules help spread telehealth options for rural moms-to-be in Bemidji

The Bemidji Pioneer reports

If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be how it sped up a change in prenatal care that could improve outcomes for rural mothers and babies.

Dr. Johnna Nynas, an OB/GYN physician at Sanford Health in Bemidji, discussed her hospital’s move to offering virtual visits during the past year.

“We started laying the groundwork a couple of years ago,” said Nynas. “We looked at implementing a virtual visit option that provided patients with some equipment to monitor their pregnancies at home, including a blood pressure cuff, and then a Doppler, so they can listen to their baby at home. But what really thrust us to the forefront and accelerated the timeline was the COVID pandemic.”

Technical and legal challenges involved the interface between patients at home and their medical records. But with the onset of the pandemic, Nynas said, “there were rapid changes in Congress that made it much easier for health care organizations to initiate telehealth.”

They need better broadband…

There are still barriers that need to be addressed, such as broadband and cellular access in rural areas and for lower-income families. And there are days when the technology doesn’t work as well as others, and doctors have to make do with voice-only telephone visits.

Still, Nynas said, virtual visits will likely continue even after COVID-19 fades from public awareness.

There is a need…

The disparity is real. Nynas quoted shocking statistics: 23 percent of American women live in rural areas, but only 6% of OB/GYNs practice in rural areas. “That’s the challenge that we’re up against,” she said.

The benefit of prenatal care is also real, even for women whose pregnancies are considered low-risk. “It’s better to connect with prenatal care and get that care when and however you can,” said Nynas, “because getting no prenatal care is definitely correlated with worse outcomes.”

At the same time, the costs of running a labor and delivery unit while performing fewer deliveries are widening the gap between rural patients and the care they need. “That’s where being able to offer services remotely can be a really helpful thing,” she said.

EVENT Jun 15: Rural Broadband & Telehealth Financing

Looks like an interesting session…

Rural Broadband & Telehealth Financing
Tuesday, June 15 at 2:00 PM Eastern —
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many disruptions in our daily lives and highlighted disparities among communities. Schools have gone remote, healthcare providers have increased seeing patients virtually, and small businesses have shut their doors to in-store customers. These disruptions have particularly impacted rural communities where there is already a gap in accessing high-speed internet.

Join us for the CDFA // BNY Mellon Development Finance Webcast Series on Tuesday, June 15 at 2:00 PM Eastern to hear experts explain how rural communities can embrace the challenges of financing high-speed internet for the economic and societal gains provided by broadband.

Speakers:

  • James Young, Vice President, The Bank of New York Mellon, Moderator
  • Caitlin Cain, Vice President and Rural Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Lindsay Miller, Of Counsel Attorney, Ice Miller LLP
  • Kenneth Neighbors, Partner, McGuireWoods LLP

To participate, register below. You will receive the login information on the day of the webcast. Registration is free and open to all interested parties.

Get Engaged! Contact Allison Rowland.

Report finds strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth

Deloitte released a report that looks at Return on Investment in broadband. They look at advantages of faster speeds and the need to focus on adoption and affordability…

Today, the digital divide still presents a significant gap after more than $100 billion of infrastructure investment has been allocated by the US government over the past decade to address this issue. The current debate regarding additional funds for broadband deployment implies that further examination is warranted regarding how to get to broadband for all and achieve the resulting economic prosperity.

Quantifying the economic impact of bridging the digital divide clearly shows the criticality of broadband infrastructure to the US economy. Deloitte developed economic models to evaluate the relationship between broadband and economic growth. Our models indicate that a 10-percentage-point increase of broadband penetration in 2016 would have resulted in more than 806,000 additional jobs in 2019, or an average annual increase of 269,000 jobs. Moreover, we found a strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth. A 10-percentage-point increase of broadband access in 2014 would have resulted in more than 875,000 additional US jobs and $186B more in economic output in 2019. The analysis also showed that higher broadband speeds drive noticeable improvements in job growth, albeit with diminishing returns. As an example, the gain in jobs from 50 to 100 Mbps is more than the gain in jobs from 100 to 150 Mbps.

The findings suggest further analysis is warranted before setting too high a threshold for broadband speeds (both uplink and downlink). Doing so could discourage investment in promising new technology that doesn’t yet meet predetermined thresholds but offers potential cost and rapid deployment advantages over today’s solutions. Furthermore, innovative solutions can help spawn a competitive broadband environment that improves affordability of broadband for all households. Overly stringent mandates on speed, on the other hand, run the risk of ruling out these innovations before they gain a market foothold.

Stakeholders should focus on several considerations as they move forward.

  • Place a renewed emphasis on adoption and affordability by ensuring consistent user experiences, analyzing trade-offs between delivering higher speeds and innovative new technologies, and seeking diverse solutions for unique, underserved geographies.
  • Segment underserved US geographies into more granular categories that recognize the vastly different coverage and affordability needs of underserved geographies.
  • Incorporate the expected growth in broadband consumption into future investments and programs by utilizing subscriber data (e.g., running an FCC speed test).

Bridging the digital divide will likely require public or private investment in the country’s communications infrastructure including both wireless and wireline. Regardless of the specifics of the investment, these guiding principles can help yield immediate gains in providing affordable access to underserved segments of the population and move the nation closer toward broadband for all and bridging the digital divide.

New FirstNet Cell Site Primarily Powered by Solar Launches on Echo Trail to Support First Responders in Northern Minnesota

Big news in Ely from AT&T…

What’s the news? Northern Minnesota’s first responders are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located on the Echo Trail northwest of Ely near Meander Lake and Lake Jeanette State Forest – one of the first primarily powered by solar in the Midwest region.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along the Echo Trail, located in the remote wilderness of northeastern Minnesota. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

This site, which launched May 18, has already provided coverage to first responders who battled the Bezhik Fire – a wildfire that began May 17 near Bezhik Lake, spread north to Moose Loop Road, and burned 782 acres just a few miles south of the new tower.

Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (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. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency. Other FirstNet sites already launched in Minnesota communities include Bagley, Blackduck, Cloquet, Finlayson, Graceville, Grygla, Hovland, Isabella, Lewiston and Williams.

What are the benefits to first responders? Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 600 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help Minnesota residents? This new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when capacity is available.

What is FirstNet? FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings. It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority – an independent agency within the federal government. The FirstNet network is providing first responders with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it, unique benefits like always-on priority and preemption, and high-quality Band 14 spectrum. These advanced capabilities enable FirstNet to help fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel save lives and protect their communities.

What people are saying:

Sheriff Ross Litman

Sheriff, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office

“For our first responders battling the Bezhik Fire, this new FirstNet tower provided critical wireless coverage necessary for communication in a very remote area where we previously had poor to no coverage. FirstNet is helping give public safety the connectivity they need to communicate and coordinate emergency response efforts, especially in remote wilderness areas of St. Louis County.”

Paul Weirtz 

President, AT&T Minnesota

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting. We’re pleased this new site could provide critical wireless coverage for the courageous fire fighters and first responders who battled and contained the Bezhik Fire near the Echo Trail. We have a responsibility unlike any other network provider, and couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission by bringing first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need.”

Edward Parkinson

CEO, FirstNet Authority

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety. We worked hand-in-hand with the Minnesota public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And this new site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Minnesota’s first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect our communities.”

Where can I find more information? Go here to learn more about how AT&T is supporting Minnesota. For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com. And go here for more FirstNet news.

Arrowhead Regional Leaders Collaborate on Broadband Projects

A press release from the Blandin Foundation. These guys have been working hard in a year that made it hard but they have done great things and will continue…

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, local leaders throughout Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region (Aitkin, Cook, Carlton, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis Counties)
came together to assess their communities’ strengths and challenges in building and sustaining broadband-powered economies. Based on what they learned, eight projects emerged and will be supported through regional grants.
“Arrowhead Regional leaders had the courage and tenacity to dedicate time during a pandemic to look deeply at how broadband was propelling or, because of the lack of it, preventing community growth,” said Tuleah Palmer, president and CEO at Blandin Foundation. “These small grants will kindle the real power of this initiative – the collaborative, innovative spirit living within our rural communities.”
Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) initiative brings together Northeast Minnesota leaders to identify
and fund projects that improve broadband infrastructure, build a knowledge workforce, incent innovation, ensure digital equity, foster commitment to environmental sustainability, and enable community engagement. It is a project facilitated by Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board, with additional support from the Northland Foundation.
“Our agency is committed to supporting high speed reliable broadband in every acre and corner of northeastern Minnesota,” said Commissioner Mark Phillips, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.
“Fast, reliable and affordable broadband access in northeastern Minnesota is an economic and public safety necessity, not a luxury. Our health care systems, families, workers, businesses and senior citizens are using it like never before, especially during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
With an $8,000 grant, St. Louis County School District 2142 will map students’ homes within the St. Louis County School District (including Nett Lake, NorthWoods, Tower, Babbitt, Cherry and SouthRidge) to determine existing broadband speeds and plan for a wireless broadband network to encompass the 3,850 square miles of the district. Leading the project, Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) is working in partnership with the Northeast Service Cooperative on a proposed wireless
network build off their middle mile fiber network that runs throughout the service area. Ultimately, the project hopes to serve many of the district’s 2,200 students at the lowest possible cost.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau will develop a co-working space and expand their outreach and recruitment of remote workers. This project builds on their Hello Iron Range initiative, a talent attraction initiative that promotes the region’s workforce opportunities and connects incoming and existing residents to local networking events and resources. Minnesota’s Children’s Press will create a new youth-, knowledge- and tech-driven genre of literature
with help from a $35,000 grant. Through this project, youth will collect and map locations of litter in Grand Marais and on the shores of Lake Superior using ArcGIS Mapping software. Following data analysis, youth will write, illustrate, and publish a book about their findings and solutions. An outreach campaign will focus on both the findings of the project as well as the process and it will include presentations to local leaders, workshop offerings, a website housing free civic digital journalism resources and a social media series.
Smart North will plan for and implement a pilot project for smart streetlights and mobility hubs in the City of Grand Rapids through the support of a $50,000 grant. This infrastructure will allow city departments to access and share data, enable robust 5G connectivity throughout the city and provide municipal WiFi access. In partnership with The Grand Iron Range CAV Initiative, this effort will support the test of the country’s first autonomous shuttle vehicle in a rural, all-season community.
Northspan seeks to strengthen equitable digital access across the Arrowhead region through their Welcoming Community initiative with the support of a $50,000 grant. Through this project, Northspan will gather regional broadband data to create a baseline for fair, equal access to broadband and technology and explore how it impacts people of various race/ethnicities, income, education and ages within the Arrowhead region. This data will inform a series of conversations and engagements on why digital equity gaps exist and inform programming to address gaps.
“Every AIR project is an example of collaborative local leadership that will strengthen our rural communities over the long haul,” said Palmer. “This is just the beginning for the Arrowhead Region’s future-forward vision for a digital economy and we’re proud to partner with them as they ready themselves for additional private and public investments.”
A second round of AIR funding will open late summer 2021. For a full list of AIR grantees and more on the AIR initiative, visit https://blandinfoundation.org/programs/broadband/arrowhead-intelligent-region/.
AIR is the third broadband-focused partnership between Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. From 2017 to 2020, two cohorts of Iron Range communities worked through a proven process to define technology goals, measure current levels of broadband access and use and develop projects to meet their goals through the Blandin Broadband Communities Program.

More white patients get COVID tested via telehealth; more black patients tested in ER

The UK Daily Mail reports…

White patients were more likely to be screened for Covid-19 during telehealth visits during the pandemic than their peers of other races, a new study suggests.

A research team led by members of the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute analyzed health record data at Hennepin Healthcare, a safety net hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to gauge when people were tested for COVID-19 based on a variety of demographic factors.

Researchers found that white patients were significantly more likely to receive a Covid-19 test than all other racial groups when they performed a doctors visit via telehealth, accounting for 64.5 percent of all tests.

Black patients received only nine percent of Covid-19 screenings performed by telehealth, while accounting for 45 percent of tests performed in an emergency department.

Black and white patients were around evenly likely to receive a Covid-19 screening in an in-patient setting, at 35.7 percent and 37.6 percent respectfully.

Researchers noted that patients who were receiving their tests in an emergency room or in-patient setting were more likely to need more intensive treatment, as their case of the virus was caught later than those who were screened via telehealth.

Non-English speakers were also tested less online (and off)…

Patients who speak English received a majority of the screenings no matter the setting, including a whopping 88 percent of screenings  performed via telehealth, and nearly 70 percent of tests overall.

They give some reasons…

Not all Americans have access to the stable internet connection necessary to access telehealth.

There is also a problem with insurers not knowing how to bill the visits properly, though many states, like Illinois, have passed laws regulating telehealth visits as normal doctor visits in terms of insurance and billing, preventing patients from being denied these visits by their insurance.

Researchers may have found another potential disparity in this study, though, as more research goes into the system that may be the future of medical care.

Health equity in Covid-19 testing was a problem early on in the pandemic as well, with the CDC reporting that ethnic minorities often faced barriers such as discrimination, transportation, lack of health care and more to not receiving same access as their white counterparts.

Many underserved, primarily minority, communities also were left without the needed supply of tests early on in the pandemic.

Schools have active shooter response, fire response, earthquake response… they need cybersecurity response

SC Magazine reports good news for some schools (none in MN) that have “won” cybersecurity support from IBM. In the process of inviting schools to apply for support, IBM gathered some disturbing information on school cybersecurity budgets…

Indeed, 50% of the more than 250 school districts that applied for the grant said in their applications that they have less than $100,000 allocated annually toward cybersecurity. “And that’s for an entire school district so when you get down to it, the school budgets are just incredibly low compared to the threats that they face,” said Rossman. Additionally, more than 55% of applicants said their districts don’t provide any security training to staff members, while 40% said they have previously experienced a ransomware attack.

In fact, the Newhall School District, with 10 elementary schools and approximately 5900 students, learned of the grant program after experiencing its own ransomware attack last fall. Jeff Pelzel, superintendent, told SC Media he remembers coming into work on a Monday morning and finding himself unable to access certain systems.

And IBM saw the need to make resources available to a wider audience…

Fortunately, even the districts that applied but weren’t selected for the grant were still given access to some of IBM’s resources. “We’re going to have resources available on ibm.org for them to use,” said Rossman. These interactive offerings include ransomware assessments, and a video-based training module that designed to teach faculty members and students some basic cyber concepts. The builds on previous work on IBM’s part to host an education security assessment event for schools as well as virtual cyber range exercise that helped superintendents understand “what’s it like to experience a ransomware attack.”

They have a number of classes available online and aimed for students 14 years and older.

Minnesota State CIO looks at MN broadband tools

Governing covers a presentation from CIOs from Colorado, California and Minnesota about how each state is handling broadband. Tarek Tomes (MN CIO) answered questions about Minnesota.

Which department addresses broadband?

In Minnesota, broadband efforts are housed within the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Tomes explained, given the inextricable link between access to connectivity and the overall economic health of the state. “[Having] broadband in economic development is ideal because the connection between what happens in the economy and broadband access is so intertwined,” he said. Minnesota IT Services, led by Tomes, does run MNET, Minnesota’s Network for Enterprise Telecommunications, a statewide network that provides connectivity for state agencies, localities, schools and health-care institutions .

Is there State investment in broadband?

In Minnesota, Tomes described the “border-to-border grant program.” Established in 2013, Tomes said it has supported more than $120 million in broadband development in the state. He also pointed to Minnesota’s broadband task force as important to taking a big-picture look at what funding opportunities will work best for which part of the state.

A Guide to help libraries build telehealth centers

Something for my librarian friends, a guide helps libraries build telehealth centers – Shhhhhh! The Doctor’s In. Guide to Connecting Library Patrons to Better Health

This guide lays out how to a) get to the heart of patrons’ healthcare needs, b) create something that’s never been done in your community before, and c) market your telehealth and broadband grant proposal. More than video chats, telehealth uses intranets and Internet networks to observe, diagnose, initiate or otherwise medically intervene, administer, monitor, record, and/or report on the continuum of care people receive when ill, injured, or wanting to stay well. I’ll take this definition one step further and differentiate between 1) real-time telehealth, 2) store-and-forward telehealth, and 3) “passive” telehealth.

A little more info…

This guide lays out a straightforward needs assessment process so you get a representative portrait of how telehealth can benefit the community. Libraries reach out and touch virtually everyone in their communities across the entire economic spectrum, so it’s quite exciting to imagine telehealth capabilities at work. Healthcare professionals weigh in on how to get the maximum impact from telehealth technology in your library. The guide also gives you tips and pointers on getting the best from your IT investment. Not only does it address access to broadband but also broadband and telehealth adoption and training. Ultimately, it takes funding to transform community dreams into reality. The guide offers insights into federal grant programs that fund libraries and telehealth: the FCC’s E-rate program, the Institute for Museums and Library Services (IMLS), and Health & Human Services (HHS), plus links to other valuable resources that help you.

Student Home Connectivity Study: how students do homework in 13 rural, urban and suburban school districts

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has released a study on Student Home Connectivity. It looks at how students were able to get online from home in 13 US school districts. They look at speeds, devices, mobility and other factors that impact a student’s ability to do their homework. School districts include urban, rural and suburban school districts with an eye toward providing actionable recommendations for policymakers.

Here’s a summary of their findings…

The findings and recommendations in this report are divided into four distinct topics. The recommendations in this report should be considered a guide for school leaders to support local decisions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing supports for student home internet connectivity. In fact, it is evident that no one solution will meet the needs of all students. Therefore, school districts must use a variety of strategies and interventions to ensure digital equity. The findings in this report are organized into four topics:

  1. Learning with Video is Essential for Education
  2. Students are Mobile and Rely on WiFi
  3. Certain Communities, Especially Remote and Rural Areas, Require More Support and Resources
  4. The Remote Learning Experience is Significantly Impacted by Device Quality

Learning with Video is Essential for Education

  • Over 85% of network traffic in remote learning is used for video (both synchronous and asynchronous).
  • A sufficient upload speed is critical for uninterrupted participation in synchronous video.
  • A sufficient download speed is critical for uninterrupted viewing of synchronous or asynchronous video.
  • Video-intensive content and applications are increasing in use and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Students are Mobile and Rely on WiFi

  • Many students participate in online learning activities outside of the student’s home, including joining from peers’ homes, and even attending classes from other cities, states, and countries.
  • 92% of students use WiFi instead of a wired connection, which makes it critical to address home WiFi issues.
  • Alongside district-provided devices, students often concurrently use mobile devices, such as their personal phone or tablet, which contributes to increased home bandwidth needs.

Certain Communities, Especially in Remote and Rural Areas, Require More Support and Resources

  • Students in more remote or rural areas most often have limited internet access.
  • Students working in areas with a large concentration of students may experience poor connectivity.
  • Even students from higher socioeconomic families have frequent problems in remote learning/online meeting experiences.

The Remote Learning Experience is Significantly Impacted by Device Quality

  • Quality of student experience can be impacted by age, type, and quality of device, as well as device configuration (i.e., user authentication and network filtering tools).
  • Student experience can be improved by routinely collecting datasets that provide insight into the student use of district-provided devices.

Blandin Broadband Lunch Bunch Notes and Video

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the Lunch Bunch today. There was no focused topic – we heard about what folks are doing and what questions are coming up. Highlight is funding. Folks are wondering how the various federal, county and state streams of funding are going to work together. Can ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act) funding go to areas that have qualified for RDOF? It seems like maybe. Will state grants come from the state or federal budget? Which and how will folks decide which buckets are the best fit for funding broadband? How can we manage the Emergency Broadband Benefits for households?

So many questions and a lot of educated guesses and some shared resources – also shared from the chat below.. The video is very much like eavesdropping on a conversation but I thought I’d share for folks who want to know.

Chat:

12:31:21 From  Teresa Kittridge  to  Everyone: Home page: www.100ruralwomen.org. Webinar series: https://100ruralwomen.org/projects/breakfastclub/. And our 100 in 100 project: https://100ruralwomen.org/projects/100-in-100/

12:40:27 From  Michelle Marotzke  to  Everyone: michelle.marotzke@mmrdc.org

12:48:12 From  Jennifer Frost  to  Everyone: OBD has listed some resources on EBB on our Digital Inclusion page at this link: https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/adoption/

12:57:35 From  Scott Cole-ConnectedMN/Collectivity  to  Everyone: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZU9gj6PVXE8Co8rMVr-8x3PvCeYV4OhR/view?usp=sharing

12:57:58 From  Mary Magnuson (she/her)  to  Everyone: The next infrastructure Lunch Bunch is June 9. Register: https://blandinfoundation-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMucOygqT4oE9z8V1akDGePCae1FdkwYCz0

12:58:39 From  Jennifer Frost  to  Everyone: The grant examples can be found at this site https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/maps/recordings.jsp

12:59:56 From  Ashley Schweitzer  to  Everyone: If folks are interested in the ECF funding, Benton has some analysis

2020 increases need for mental health services; telehealth helps meet the need

InForum reports that the events of 2020 have increased the need for great mental health services…

Common reasons people have sought therapy recently have been anxiety; depression; stress about the pandemic, parenting or job stability; loneliness; or increased substance use. Clabaugh said many clients are also grieving, whether it be the loss of friends or family to the pandemic or the loss of a job or stability in life. People also have been stressed about political events like the 2020 presidential election, or worry about various conspiracy theories online regarding politics and the pandemic.

To meet the increased demand, counseling centers have hired more clinicians in the last year, and some continue to add more therapists to take on new patients. Erickson said the appointment openings for new clinicians will fill within a week or two, and then will have a three- to four-week waiting list like the rest of the clinicians. Clabaugh said when she opened Insight Counseling almost four years ago, she planned to have two or three therapists, but now she has 20 because the demand has always been so high.

Telehealth has helped counselors reach more people…

At Arrowhead Psychological Clinic, psychologist Dave Plude sees clients from Sandstone to Ely, and from Brainerd to Grand Marais. For many clients, the use of video or phone sessions has been a more convenient option in many ways. Plude said once clients overcame the learning curve of the technology, many people would rather call in from home or their cars than drive up to four hours round-trip for an hourlong session.

“It’s been kind of fun,” he said. “It’s enjoyable to be able to offer good clinical care to people in smaller towns who might not have as much access to it historically.”

It looks like virtual is here to stay for a while…

While telehealth has been offered at many clinics for a while now, it’s never been used as much as it has been in the pandemic. At Arrowhead, Plude said last summer, 80% of their sessions were via video or phone, and they went to 100% virtual last fall during the surge of COVID-19 cases. While many are now returning to in-person sessions, Plude said quite a few are fine with staying virtual. Some will start sessions in person, then switch to telehealth after they get comfortable with their therapist.

A permanent change in policy would make it easier…

U.S. senators introduced a bill at the beginning of May to continue access to telehealth services with Medicare after the pandemic. CONNECT for Health is one of more than 20 bills introduced this Congress about the future of telehealth.

But regardless of the specifics of insurance coverage or other future rules related to telehealth therapy services, all three therapists said they plan to continue offering video sessions at their clinics.