Chattanooga sees $2.69 billion in community benefit over 10 years from Gig Network

EPB reports

Newly-released, independent research documents $2.69 billion in community benefit during the first ten years since EPB of Chattanooga built America’s first Gig-speed community-wide network and used it to establish the nation’s most advanced smart grid power distribution system.

Here’s how they come up with that number…

Key Community Benefits from Chattanooga’s Advanced Infrastructure:

  • Job creation and retention: The fiber optic infrastructure directly supported the creation and retention of 9,516 jobs which is about 40% of all jobs created in Hamilton County during the study period.
  • Lower unemployment rate: According to the study, since Chattanooga’s fiber optic network was deployed, it has helped keep the local unemployment rate lower. This effect has been magnified since the outset of the COVID crisis when fiber optics helped many businesses transition their employees to remote work very quickly. According to the latest available numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hamilton County’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in November which is significantly lower than Tennessee’s rate (5.3%) and two percentage points lower than the U.S. unemployment rate (6.7%) for the same period.
  • Bridging the digital divide for education: Having Chattanooga’s fiber optic network in place allowed EPB to join with Hamilton County Schools and other local and state partners in launching HCS EdConnect, a fiber optic broadband internet service provided at no charge to economically challenged families with K-12 students. Designed to continue providing the service for at least 10 years, HCS EdConnect represents a lasting solution for bridging the digital divide among students. Currently more than 12,000 students have internet access to continue their studies from home through HCS EdConnect.
  • Reduced power outages: Related to the smart grid’s ability to quickly re-route power around storm damage and other problems, the study documents a 40-55% annual decrease in outage minutes providing EPB customers with an average of $26.6 million in savings each year by helping them avoid spoilage, lost productivity, and other negative impacts.
  • Decreased environmental damage: The smart grid has helped EPB decrease carbon emissions by 7,900 tons through demand management and reduced truck-miles.
  • $110 million in Smart City research: In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy designated Chattanooga as a Smart Grid Living Laboratory. Since then, EPB has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a range of other national and local research partners, like the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Center for Urban Informatics and Progress, to play a significant role in more than $110 million in Smart City Research.

It’s hard to put your arms around the benefits of a broadband network. How much do I save doing my banking online rather than drive to the building? I save time and gas. My work is entirely online – how much do I get paid. Just two examples. Now multiply that by households throughout a community and think about every occasion during the day you save/make time and money by going online. Ironically, this is easier to do during a pandemic and never have we missed going to the bank more – but you get what I’m saying.

It’s helpful to see how Chattanooga has done this and it’s amazing to see the results. Ten years gives enough time for the statistics to catch up to the street value.

EVENT Feb 2: Women in Ag Network sixth annual conference

The Women in Ag Network conference is not a perfect fit for all readers, but a look at the agenda is a reminder of how important broadband is to all aspects of agriculture business…

“Building Bridges, Cultivating Connections” is the theme of the sixth annual Women in Ag Network Conference. The event will be a day of learning and networking for women involved in agriculture. The conference will be held virtually on February 3 from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.
Michele Payn, CSP, principal of Cause Matters Corp, will be the keynote speaker. There will be three tracks of breakout sessions to choose from: Bridging the Gap with Social Media, Cultivating Management Best Practices and Connecting Farmers and Consumers through Marketing. The day will end with a panel discussion, “Direct Marketing: Taking it to the Next Level,” which will feature women who have taken marketing of their agriculture ventures to a new level.
For more information and to register visit z.umn.edu/WAGNConference21.

OPPORTUNITY (to take a survey!): Community broadband, COVID-19, and economic development

Craig Settles, broadband researcher and advocate, and the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) are looking for economic development professionals to take a survey on broadband, COVID and the economy. Can you help? DO you want to give your two cents worth? The survey closes January 28. Here’s more info…

Please tell us about the state of local broadband after COVID-19 hit?  National policymakers – and IEDC – want to know about initiatives, policies, or programs in your community that possibly influence broadband’s impact on local economies during this pandemic.

When COVID-19 forced everyone home, was broadband ready? Telehealth took center stage, but did supporting technologies and local healthcare keep up? How did distance learning affect the digital divide in education?
We know your time is valuable and thank you in advance for sharing your insight and knowledge. This survey takes just a few to complete. To make things easy, the survey resumes right where you stop if you are interrupted.

This survey’s deadline is 11:59 PM (PST) January 28. Shortly afterwards, IEDC will share the final survey results and analysis report with you. Your input helps guide broadband policy as well as drive broadband access nationwide.
International Economic Development Council greatly appreciates you taking time to give us your feedback!

MN HF31: $300,000 for telework is introduced

MN House of Representatives Daily Intro to Bills (Jan 7) reports

Elkins introduced:

  1. F. 31,A bill for an act relating to transportation; appropriating money for telework activities.

The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Transportation Finance and Policy.

And more details

A bill for an act
relating to transportation; appropriating money for telework activities.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. TELEWORK ACTIVITIES; APPROPRIATION.

$300,000 in fiscal year 2021 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner
of transportation for a grant to transportation management organizations that provide services
exclusively or primarily in the city located along the marked Interstate Highway 494 corridor
having the highest population as of the effective date of this section. The commissioner
must not retain any portion of the funds appropriated under this section. The commissioner
must make grant payments in full by June 30, 2021. Funds under this grant are for
programming and service expansion to assist companies and commuters in telecommuting
efforts and promotion of best practices. A grant recipient must provide telework resources,
assistance, information, and related activities on a statewide basis. This is a onetime
appropriation.

EFFECTIVE DATE.

This section is effective the day following final enactment.

EVENT Feb 3: Public Good App House: Apps that Address Food Insecurity

I thought this event might be of interest to readers. Even if you can’t attend the online event, TechSoup shares a nice list of resources to research in your own time…

Food insecurity affects about a quarter of the world’s population and more than 80 percent of US food banks are serving more people now than they did a year ago.

How can we apply technology towards these challenges? Join our next Public Good App House demo event and discover four apps that address food insecurity.

DEMOS

ShareTheMeal

United Nations World Food Programme

ShareTheMeal is the mobile fundraising app from the United Nations World Food Programme. The app allows users to ‘share their meal’ with a hungry child with just a tap and $0.80, feeding 1 child for a day.

Flashfood

Reduce food waste and feed people affordably using Flashfood. Users get massive savings on fresh food items like meat and produce that are nearing their best before date at grocery stores across Canada and the U.S.

MealConnect 2.0

Feeding America

Since 2014, MealConnect has been facilitating local food donations for community hunger relief organizations. In just a few months, Feeding America will launch functions allowing produce growers to donate crops anywhere in the country and enable Feeding America food banks to more easily share bounty with their lower-resourced peer food banks.

GetCalFresh

Code for America

Code for America built GetCalFresh to be the most human-centered, mobile-friendly, and efficient way to apply for the SNAP (also known as “food stamps”) program. Code for America will share lessons learned while building the app, and what’s coming next for helping Californians get the money for food that they’re entitled to.

Autonomous Cars deliver KFC to customers in China with 5G help

Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) reports…

In China, the popular fried chicken franchise KFC launched an innovative new way to deliver orders door-to-door using autonomous vehicles linked to 5G networks. This system is completely contactless, eliminating potential exposure customers may have with workers or delivery drivers amid the pandemic. The ‘food trucks’ deliver food and offer walk up services, where customers could use a QR code to complete the transaction and grab their food, similar to that of a vending machine.

It’s worth a visit to the original article to see the vehicle. It’s like a convenience store hot food setup with wheels. A year ago this would have seem sort of silly. Now is seems genius. I wonder what we’ll think a year from now. It does keep people safe from disease but it also takes away a job that at least in the US was the kind of job where you could make fast money without extra education if you were willing to work long shifts, be quick and friendly.

Thomas Friedman recommends building up rural America with broadband via VP Harris

Thomas Friedman has some advice for the Biden Administration to maximize Harris’ skills to the benefit of rural American but focusing on better broadband…

Harris is too smart and energetic to be just the vice president, a position with few official responsibilities. I’d love to see President-elect Joe Biden give her a more important job: his de facto secretary of rural development, in charge of closing the opportunity gap, the connectivity gap, the learning gap, the start-up gap — and the anger and alienation gap — between rural America and the rest of the country.

It could lift of rural areas and build relationships with rural areas…

“I fear the word ‘rural’ connotes a geography that is not my problem,” Beth Ford, president of Land O’Lakes, the influential farmer-owned cooperative headquartered in Minnesota, said to me. But, in fact, spreading connectivity and technology to rural America “is an American issue, an American competitiveness issue and an American national security issue,” she argued.

Persistent “underinvestment in rural America will leave us less secure and less prosperous as a nation” — and less competitive with China, which is rapidly connecting its rural heartland, Ford said. “Some 35 percent of farmers lack enough bandwidth to run the equipment on their farms, ensure their kids get a good education and that Grandma has access to telemedicine.”

What should a Biden-Harris rural strategy look like? It would start with showing up regularly. “Showing up” and “just listening to people” with respect goes a long way in rural America, Duluth’s mayor, Emily Larson, remarked to me. Actually, nothing earns more respect than listening to people respectfully.

He has a plan that includes cooperatives…

On policy specifics, the Biden-Harris team should commit that in four years every rural community in America will have access to broadband — the basic infrastructure needed for an inclusive modern economy.

Dunne suggests a new federal loan program that would offer 50-year, no-interest loans to communities and co-ops (and ease regulations) so rural public-private coalitions can build broadband networks with a minimum 100 megabits per second of speed for downloading and uploading all kinds of remote learning tools, work tools and telehealth tools. Representative James Clyburn has already won passage of a bill in the House with a similar approach.

And a visit to Red Wing MN last year reminded Friedman that technology is more that infrastructure, it’s about the skills to use it too…

Traveling with Dunne last year to Red Wing, Minn., to see how gigabit networks can support high-tech start-ups and traditional farmers, I wrote about a couple of inventors we met who had created a robotic rooster that patrols the poultry house for dead birds and tills the bedding, but with an unexpected byproduct: The birds exercise more and gain weight faster, because they are constantly running away from or pecking at the robot.

While these “Poultry Patrol” robots work autonomously 80 percent of the time, said Dunne, “there are significant periods when they need to be remotely operated and receive coding updates from afar, which is only possible with very fast broadband.”

But while better connectivity is necessary, it’s not sufficient. “We also need to ensure investment in digital skills training in rural communities and incentives for tech companies to hire remote workers in small towns,” added Dunne. “Today rural America represents 15 percent of the nation’s work force, but only 5 percent of digital economy jobs of the future. But the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the idea that digital economy jobs can be created anywhere.”

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His time in Willmar shows too…

In Minnesota, small towns like Willmar that can manage inclusion and diversity are the ones now thriving, because they can attract new labor and home buyers when so many of the young white adults have left for the big cities.

Harris will soon be the first woman, the first Black and the first Indian-American vice president, which certainly resonates with a lot of urban voters. However, if she could make herself the person in the Biden cabinet who always shows up FIRST to listen in rural America and the FIRST to appreciate its concerns and the FIRST to make sure its concerns are addressed, she and the Democrats could make themselves competitive in a lot more rural counties.

Broadband investments have helped Minnesota’s business competitiveness

Business North reports…

The Minnesota Chamber released the sixth annual Business Benchmarks report today, a detailed analysis of economic indicators in several categories.

This report identifies positive, troubling and mixed trends in the state’s business climate:

I’m including the one that is broadband-related…

Investments in infrastructure have helped Minnesota’s competitiveness, and access to broadband continues to improve through private and public investment.

$9.27 Billion for Small Business COVID Relief – but not enough

The Institute for Local Self Reliance looks at government pandemic grants and loans…

An analysis by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has found that cities, counties, states, and community organizations have established more than 800 programs to provide financial assistance to small businesses in the wake of the pandemic. These programs have deployed more than $9.27 billion in grants and loans. They have been fast, tailored to local needs, and have filled critical gaps in federal aid. They have helped businesses stay afloat and retool. Most of these programs have run out of funds, some within hours of launching. One important way Congress should address the unprecedented crisis facing small business is by quickly providing the resources local governments need to do this important work.

You know who benefits from these funds that run out so quickly? People with broadband fast enough to let them respond. That seems like it’s an exaggeration – but when I spoke to Pam Lehmann at Lac qui Parle County about broadband and their COVID preparation it came up immediately:

Amazon to open fulfillment center in Lakeville (Dakota County)

KARE 11 reports

Amazon has announced it will open a new fulfillment center in Lakeville next year. According to a statement from Amazon Spokesperson Kirsten Wenker, it will be 750,000 square feet and create hundreds of full-time jobs.

The operation will be located at the Interstate South Logistics Park Third Addition, near Dodd Boulevard and 217th Street West. Employees at the site will pick, pack and ship larger customer items such as mattresses, grills and exercise equipment.

“Amazon leverages its scale for good and makes investments to support communities,” Wenker said. “We are excited to join the Lakeville community and bring hundreds of full-time jobs. We provide a great place to work with highly competitive pay, benefits from day-one, and training programs for in-demand jobs.”

Two points worth mentioning in terms of broadband. First, I can’t picture Amazon going where there wasn’t – so good job Dakota County! I suspect they may grow into need even more broadband – so good job Dakota County!

Justice Department Sues Monopolist Google For Violating Antitrust Laws

Minnesota is not one of the state mentioned but I found this interesting. I have been buying Google ads for close to 20 years. I remember when AltaVista did it better and how the transparency changed when they disappeared.

The US Department of Justice reports…

Today, the Department of Justice — along with eleven state Attorneys General — filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms. The participating state Attorneys General offices represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives.  Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the Internet — for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people,” said Attorney General William Barr. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized the Department’s review of online market-leading platforms to ensure that our technology industries remain competitive.  This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist.”

“As with its historic antitrust actions against AT&T in 1974 and Microsoft in 1998, the Department is again enforcing the Sherman Act to restore the role of competition and open the door to the next wave of innovation—this time in vital digital markets,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.

As one of the wealthiest companies on the planet with a market value of $1 trillion, Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide. For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States and has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising.

As alleged in the Complaint, Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring that Google be set as the preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide and, in many cases, prohibiting preinstallation of a competitor. In particular, the Complaint alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search service.
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.
  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.
  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior.

Economic benefits and opportunities of telehealth especially in rural communities

Craig Settles is on a campaign to help communities see that telehealth is key to economic development and you can’t do telehealth without broadband. Next Centruy Cities higlihgts his reasoning…

Telehealth is more than video chat with your doctor. It means using intranets and Internet networks to observe, diagnose, initiate or otherwise medically intervene, administer, monitor, record, and/or report on the continuum of care so that residents can heal and stay healthy.

Telehealth increases broadband’s economic development impact, and can add revenue streams for the network and/or the community. For example, 26% of economic development professionals in a national survey felt using telehealth to attract doctors and medical specialists would have a definitive impact on local economies.

Another important benefit…

Broadband and telehealth can draw other healthcare professionals to your community. For example, “We have less than half of the psychiatric providers needed to meet the U.S. mental health demand,” says Encounter Telehealth CEO Jennifer Amis. “In the rural areas we may have less than 20% of the providers needed.”

And a list of telehealth benefits…

In addition to attracting medical professionals, telehealth’s economic benefits include (more details here about here [https://tinyurl.com/yxmevaq9])

  • Slowing or reversing hospital closings

  • Reducing unnecessary visits to the ER

  • Attracting medical research grants

  • More mental healthcare services staying local

  • Keeping seniors living at home longer

EVENT Sep 16: Smart Agriculture: Driving Innovation in Rural America

An invitation from BroadbandUSA…

You are invited to join NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations Webinar 

Topic: Smart Agriculture: Driving Innovation in Rural America

Date:   Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Time:  2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET

Overview: Farmers and ranchers use smart technologies to improve yields, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and improve decision making. Join BroadbandUSA on September 16, 2020, to take a deep dive into the technologies being implemented to further these precision agriculture techniques. Speakers will also provide an update on the Precision Ag Connectivity Taskforce, co-chaired by USDA and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as an overview of the latest innovations from the Global City Teams Challenge Smart Agriculture and Rural SuperCluster, which encourages collaboration on innovative ag tech and rural projects.

Speakers:

  • Chad Rupe, Administrator, Rural Utility Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Dennis Buckmaster, Dean’s Fellow for Digital Agriculture, Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University; Co-Chair, GCTC Smart Agriculture and Rural SuperCluster
  • Megan Nelson, Economic Analyst, American Farm Bureau Federation

Moderators:

  • Jean Rice, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, BroadbandUSA, NTIA
  • Karen Archer Perry, Senior Policy Analyst, BroadbandUSA, NTIA
    Please pre-register for the webinar using this registration link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
    Want to access past Practical Broadband Conversations webinars? Visit our webinar archives for past presentations, transcripts and audio recordings.

A look and state and local anti-trust issues from Microbusiness Strategies

Duluth News Tribune posts a letter from Ron Wacks, from Microbusiness Strategies consulting firm. My knowledge of anti-trust is pretty shallow but I always appreciate a look at what appears to be tangential policies because often those policies more directly impact expanded use of broadband than one might think. It’s difficult for policy to keep up with technology to support innovation and keep citizens safe from security and privacy breaches. Wacks offers…

Local leaders in Minnesota have dedicated considerable resources to transforming our state into a thriving community of young innovators. The spirit of innovation, encouraged by state policies like the “angel” tax credit for start-up investors, should not be met with heavy-handed and sweeping rhetoric at the federal level that disregards the benefits of business dynamics.

The problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of how our antitrust laws were designed to protect consumer rights. The intention of the U.S. antitrust framework is not to protect firms from their largest competitors; it’s about protecting consumers from corporate malfeasance. Antitrust laws are designed to ensure customers’ access to a competitive, fair market. But as the structure of digital businesses takes on a new shape, many leaders interpret any market shift or expansion as a threat.

These misconceptions, deliberate or not, ignore the role that digital platforms actually play in bringing buyers and sellers together. Today’s tech platforms are different than AT&T in 1920 or Standard Oil at the turn of the last century. These are incredibly competitive markets, ones in which the success of preeminent companies doesn’t limit innovation at any level but rather encourages it.

Online platforms aren’t for-sale products; they’re resources that drive innovation and allow flexibility for companies across the board — from the small businesses transitioning to digital sales through websites and social-media pages during COVID-19 to medical systems expanding telehealth services to keep patients safe and healthy.

He offers a recommendation…

In Minnesota, the stakes are real. Our internet-based innovation economy supports more than 100,000 jobs and represents $32 billion in economic output, according to the Internet Association. From homegrown startups to larger players investing in our skilled workforce and setting up operations here, we are an example of how the innovation economy can lift up communities and connect them to opportunity and access.

In the end, this digital marketplace is both a product of innovation and a driving force behind it. In today’s hot-button antitrust discussions, lawmakers should be more careful in asking who benefits from preventing innovation and expansion in the tech industry.

Millennials are ready to move and 39% prefer small towns – how can you attract them?

Route Fifty reports…

The pace of small towns are often a welcome change for millennials already burned out on the demands of urban life. Perhaps that’s why as many as 39% have indicated a preference for living in small towns over big cities. Leaving crowded metro areas means ditching traffic congestion, cramped and noisy neighborhoods and unaffordable housing prices.

And with the current pandemic shuttering mainstays of city life and physical proximity to others becoming dangerous, countless Americans are also questioning why they live in dense urban centers at all. In April, nearly 40% of urbanites said they’ve considered leaving for less crowded spaces.

They also look at what attracts millennials; topping the list is broadband and legislation that makes it easy to work remotely…

  1. Provide area-based incentives. Attracting remote-working millennials is one approach communities have taken. But many small communities have limited (or sometimes no) access to broadband, making remote work difficult to impossible. Given the large amount of workers now conducting business remotely, fixing this problem will become even more critical in rural areas.
    States have started addressing this by providing incentives for small communities to make local broadband investments. These take a variety of forms, such as the statewide broadband plan Oregon is considering that allocates money for enhancing rural broadband or the rural broadband funding Georgia is exploring. With the necessary boosts to limited small-town broadband connections, new and current small-town telecommuters can enjoy workdays without worrying about spotty or unreliable internet connections.

Other items on the list…

  1. Offer individual and business incentives.
  2. Encourage rural homecoming initiatives.
  3. Revitalize Main Streets.