FCC Commits Another $240M in Emergency Connectivity Funding – including MN locations

From the FCC

The Federal Communications Commission today

announced that it is committing $240,888,016 in its eighth wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support.  The funding commitments will support over 600,000 students and provide funding for 693 schools, 55 libraries and 8 consortia in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.  The institutions are approved to receive nearly 683,000 connected devices and 182,000 broadband connections.  Since its June 2021 launch, the program has committed over $4.4 billion supporting all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.

“In a little over six months, this program has helped over 12 million students across the nation get the digital tools they need to connect with teachers and online educational resources,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “This program is an important part of closing the Homework Gap, and connecting library patrons across the country.”

The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education.  Total commitments to date are supporting over 10,500 schools, 860 libraries, and nearly 120 consortia for nearly 9.6 million connected devices and nearly 4.9 million broadband connections.  Today’s announcement includes over $98 million in commitments from Window 1 applications and over $142 million in commitments from Window 2 applications.

Here are the Minnesota folks who got money in this latest round:

  • Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School
  • KATO PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL
  • ELLSWORTH SCHOOL DISTRICT 514
  • Great Oaks Academy
  • Gateway STEM Academy
  • ST JOHN THE BAPTIST SCHOOL
  • INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DIST 287
  • SEVEN HILLS PREPARATORY ACADEMY 4159-07
  • SAGE ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL 4087-07
  • COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE 4181-07
  • NEW CENTURY SCHOOL 4240-07
  • THE JOURNEY SCHOOL 4258-07
  • CONCORDIA ACADEMY
  • ST PASCAL REGIONAL CATHOLIC SCHOOL
  • COMMUNITY OF PEACE ACAD-4015
  • MINNESOTA INTERNSHIP CENTER CHARTER SCHOOL
  • FRIDLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT 14
  • NEW MILLENNIUM ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL 4143-07
  • STRIDE ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL 4142-07
  • ST FRANCIS XAVIER SCHOOL
  • ST. JOSEPH 0110-31-001
  • ALEXANDRIA SCHOOL DISTRICT 206
  • OSAKIS SCHOOL DISTRICT 213
  • MINN NEW COUNTRY SCH-DIST 4007
  • BRECKENRIDGE SCHOOL DIST 846
  • NEW YORK MILLS ISD #553
  • ASHBY SCHOOL
  • ST. AGNES
  • United Community Action Partnership, Inc.
  • WARREN-ALVARADO-OSLO S D 2176
  • GREENBUSH-MIDDLE RIVER SD 2683
  • ROTHSAY PUBLIC SCHOOL DIST 850
  • PELICAN RAPIDS SCHOOL DIST 548
  • BARNESVILLE SCHOOL DIST 146
  • ST MICHAEL’S SCHOOL
  • ST MARY’S SCHOOL
  • CHISAGO LAKES SCHOOL DIST 2144
  • KELLIHER SCHOOL DISTRICT 36
  • ESKO PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT 99
  • CAMBRIDGE SCHOOL DISTRICT 911

Dakota County libraries check out Chromebooks and Hotspots

The following is helpful if you’re in Dakota County or if you are in a different county and want a model to replicate to get Chromebooks and hotspots into the hands of their residents. The Dakota County newsletter reports

Dakota County Library is making is easier for you to do schoolwork, look for a job and connect with family and friends online.

Anyone with a Dakota County Library card can check out a Chromebook and a Wi-Fi hotspot from an of the none county library locations. Check out either a kit that includes a Chromebook and a Wi-Fi hotspot or just a hotspot for up to six weeks. Just like other library materials, there’s no charge ro check out and borrow devices.

Learn more.

EVENT Dec 16: The Missing Millions – Democratizing Computation and Data to Bridge Digital Divides and Increase Access to Science for Underrepresented Communities

An invitation from Internet2

Join us on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET for the virtual event, “The Missing Millions – Democratizing Computation and Data to Bridge Digital Divides and Increase Access to Science for Underrepresented Communities.”
The panel includes the following people:
Alan Blatecky, RTI International;
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Brandeis University;
Deborah Dent, Jackson State University;
Ana Hunsinger, Internet2;
Lauren Michael, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Join our discussion and learn more about a recent effort to identify, explore, and bridge digital divides in the STEM workforce. Register now!

Videos on online school from kids who were OK with it and kids who weren’t

The National Urban League released 13 short videos about young people’s experiences with online schooling during the pandemic. This is a little bit off my usual post but I thought it was interesting. In the interviews kids who were OK with online school talk to kids who were not. At least one was not OK because he lacked access but for most the platform just didn’t work for them.

I think it’s important that we look at what works with technology and what doesn’t and unfortunately, I think we may have more opportunities to work on online schooling in the future. Changes in technology or teaching may help. Adequate access to technology would certainly help. We might new teaching models, new models for tele-mental health services as well as all of help with equity issues unrelated to technology.

I hope they do a follow up to see how the disconnected kids are doing in a few months. In my house we’ve gone from disconnected to nearly complete rebound since going in person in September – but we’ve got a lot of tools at our disposal. I hope many of the other kids who didn’t love online school will be able to turn it around too. It could lead to an interesting discussion on societal changes based the abrupt worldwide change in education.

FCC Commits Over $1.2B in First Emergency Connectivity Funding Wave ($19M in MN)

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing $1,203,107,496.88 for 3,040 schools, 260 libraries, and 24 consortia that applied for support from the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.  This first wave of funding commitments will provide students, school staff and library patrons in all 50 states and Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia access to the devices and broadband connectivity they need to support their off-campus education needs.   The funding will support 3,081,131 devices and 774,115 broadband connections and help connect over 3.6 million students who, according to their schools, would otherwise lack devices, broadband access, or both. More details about which schools and libraries will receive funding can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-376028A2.xlsx.  Interested applicants can still seek program funding starting on September 28.

Minnesota organizations received $19,830,464.06. I know the table won’t format well here – but it’s here for search sake and you can also open the info in Excel.

State Congressional District Applicant Type City Equipment Obligated $ Services Obligated $ Total Obligated $
MN Congressional District 1 School District OWATONNA $15,249.80 $38,505.60 $53,755.40
MN Congressional District 1 Library System ROCHESTER $400,000.00 $219,670.00 $619,670.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District ADAMS $14,152.00 $0.00 $14,152.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District CALEDONIA $43,706.00 $0.00 $43,706.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District HOUSTON $32,000.00 $0.00 $32,000.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District LE ROY $8,820.00 $0.00 $8,820.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District LEWISTON $38,900.00 $9,600.00 $48,500.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District MABEL $31,310.30 $0.00 $31,310.30
MN Congressional District 1 School District STEWARTVILLE $14,950.00 $0.00 $14,950.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District SPRING VALLEY $22,117.20 $0.00 $22,117.20
MN Congressional District 1 School District ALDEN $54,720.00 $0.00 $54,720.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District BUTTERFIELD $5,832.00 $7,920.00 $13,752.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District WORTHINGTON $480,000.00 $0.00 $480,000.00
MN Congressional District 1 School WINONA $11,938.50 $0.00 $11,938.50
MN Congressional District 1 School District HOUSTON $4,800.00 $1,802.40 $6,602.40
MN Congressional District 1 School District WINONA $27,969.95 $2,399.40 $30,369.35
MN Congressional District 1 School FARIBAULT $20,416.44 $9,600.00 $30,016.44
MN Congressional District 1 Consortium Mankato $132,789.00 $447,700.00 $580,489.00
MN Congressional District 1 Consortium Adams $22,117.20 $0.00 $22,117.20
MN Congressional District 2 School District COTTAGE GROVE $716,800.00 $59,330.40 $776,130.40
MN Congressional District 2 School District FARMINGTON $0.00 $34,947.50 $34,947.50
MN Congressional District 2 School District HASTINGS $0.00 $17,600.00 $17,600.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District LAKEVILLE $0.00 $56,250.36 $56,250.36
MN Congressional District 2 School District RED WING $383,849.00 $72,000.00 $455,849.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District ROSEMOUNT $0.00 $136,350.00 $136,350.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District SOUTH ST PAUL $39,330.00 $34,800.00 $74,130.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District MENDOTA HEIGHTS $358,900.00 $0.00 $358,900.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District JORDAN $260,700.00 $0.00 $260,700.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District SHAKOPEE $0.00 $46,433.52 $46,433.52
MN Congressional District 2 School District MAZEPPA $280,885.40 $0.00 $280,885.40
MN Congressional District 3 School District LONG LAKE $0.00 $10,800.00 $10,800.00
MN Congressional District 3 School District MINNETRISTA $1,800.00 $9,117.60 $10,917.60
MN Congressional District 3 School District PLYMOUTH $0.00 $36,000.00 $36,000.00
MN Congressional District 3 School District BLOOMINGTON $0.00 $49,500.00 $49,500.00
MN Congressional District 3 School BROOKLYN PARK $119,731.50 $0.00 $119,731.50
MN Congressional District 3 School MINNETONKA $76,800.00 $9,000.00 $85,800.00
MN Congressional District 3 School MAPLE GROVE $102,900.00 $0.00 $102,900.00
MN Congressional District 3 School Victoria $9,025.75 $0.00 $9,025.75
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $64,717.00 $0.00 $64,717.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $19,788.00 $0.00 $19,788.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District STILLWATER $1,611,600.00 $96,000.00 $1,707,600.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District NORTH SAINT PAUL $0.00 $67,704.00 $67,704.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District WHITE BEAR LK $128,375.00 $23,520.00 $151,895.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District ROSEVILLE $114,780.00 $126,000.00 $240,780.00
MN Congressional District 4 Library System WOODBURY $0.00 $94,080.00 $94,080.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $10,000.00 $0.00 $10,000.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $10,378.00 $0.00 $10,378.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District ST PAUL $19,200.00 $0.00 $19,200.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $87,549.00 $4,320.00 $91,869.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $938,000.00 $119,880.00 $1,057,880.00
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $40,900.00 $0.00 $40,900.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $158,123.50 $0.00 $158,123.50
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $10,485.00 $0.00 $10,485.00
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $0.00 $33,412.80 $33,412.80
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $23,460.00 $0.00 $23,460.00
MN Congressional District 4 School WHITE BEAR LAKE $16,822.50 $0.00 $16,822.50
MN Congressional District 4 School St. Paul $47,340.00 $0.00 $47,340.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $29,300.00 $0.00 $29,300.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $22,061.70 $0.00 $22,061.70
MN Congressional District 5 School BROOKLYN CENTER $35,440.00 $0.00 $35,440.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District MINNEAPOLIS $77,850.00 $0.00 $77,850.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District COLUMBIA HEIGHTS $0.00 $34,375.00 $34,375.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District MINNEAPOLIS $0.00 $92,112.00 $92,112.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District MINNEAPOLIS $0.00 $288,000.00 $288,000.00
MN Congressional District 5 School RICHFIELD $74,800.00 $0.00 $74,800.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $40,000.00 $0.00 $40,000.00
MN Congressional District 5 School BROOKLYN CENTER $201,960.00 $0.00 $201,960.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $95,450.00 $0.00 $95,450.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $55,350.00 $0.00 $55,350.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $43,367.50 $0.00 $43,367.50
MN Congressional District 6 School COLD SPRING $90,610.80 $0.00 $90,610.80
MN Congressional District 6 School District FOREST LAKE $498,000.00 $0.00 $498,000.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District ANNANDALE $100,031.40 $0.00 $100,031.40
MN Congressional District 6 School District BECKER $411,600.00 $0.00 $411,600.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District BUFFALO $527,046.00 $0.00 $527,046.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District HOWARD LAKE $0.00 $4,004.88 $4,004.88
MN Congressional District 6 School District MAPLE LAKE $48,000.00 $9,000.00 $57,000.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District WACONIA $145,596.50 $40,080.00 $185,676.50
MN Congressional District 6 School District ANOKA $0.00 $163,440.00 $163,440.00
MN Congressional District 6 Library System BLAINE $22,657.00 $63,504.00 $86,161.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District COLD SPRING $0.00 $15,000.00 $15,000.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District SAINT FRANCIS $900,000.00 $486,438.00 $1,386,438.00
MN Congressional District 6 School COLOGNE $140,000.00 $23,194.80 $163,194.80
MN Congressional District 6 School BLAINE $47,014.00 $0.00 $47,014.00
MN Congressional District 6 School HAM LAKE $50,000.00 $0.00 $50,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School WABASSO $21,953.33 $0.00 $21,953.33
MN Congressional District 7 School District ASHBY $47,514.00 $0.00 $47,514.00
MN Congressional District 7 School WHITE EARTH $47,909.00 $0.00 $47,909.00
MN Congressional District 7 School E GRAND FORKS $35,074.05 $0.00 $35,074.05
MN Congressional District 7 School District WINDOM $43,174.50 $4,700.00 $47,874.50
MN Congressional District 7 School District PIPESTONE $201,447.28 $4,682.17 $206,129.45
MN Congressional District 7 School District SLAYTON $24,000.00 $0.00 $24,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District BROWNS VALLEY $11,360.80 $0.00 $11,360.80
MN Congressional District 7 School District MONTEVIDEO $31,120.00 $0.00 $31,120.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District REDWOOD FALLS $0.00 $3,760.97 $3,760.97
MN Congressional District 7 School District ALEXANDRIA $731,175.00 $36,180.00 $767,355.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District BRANDON $114,634.75 $0.00 $114,634.75
MN Congressional District 7 School District MELROSE $163,895.00 $0.00 $163,895.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District SAUK CENTRE $201,750.00 $14,493.60 $216,243.60
MN Congressional District 7 School District BRECKENRIDGE $43,684.65 $8,194.20 $51,878.85
MN Congressional District 7 School District CLIMAX $4,000.00 $0.00 $4,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School FERGUS FALLS $5,975.00 $0.00 $5,975.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District FOSSTON $27,485.00 $0.00 $27,485.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District TWIN VALLEY $110,000.00 $0.00 $110,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District ERSKINE $66,000.00 $0.00 $66,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District ROTHSAY $30,715.00 $0.00 $30,715.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District ULEN $7,200.00 $0.00 $7,200.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District UNDERWOOD $53,820.00 $0.00 $53,820.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District BAGLEY $299.90 $17,635.59 $17,935.49
MN Congressional District 7 School District CROOKSTON $69,010.50 $7,198.20 $76,208.70
MN Congressional District 7 School District FISHER $30,000.00 $0.00 $30,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District WARROAD $120,000.00 $0.00 $120,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 Consortium HUTCHINSON $562,285.35 $22,860.00 $585,145.35
MN Congressional District 7 School District BAUDETTE $26,799.00 $0.00 $26,799.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District OKLEE $48,443.00 $0.00 $48,443.00
MN Congressional District 7 School HUTCHINSON $73,000.00 $5,935.68 $78,935.68
MN Congressional District 8 School District CAMBRIDGE $154,102.00 $0.00 $154,102.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District HINCKLEY $93,135.00 $0.00 $93,135.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District LINDSTROM $319,482.00 $6,000.00 $325,482.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District AURORA $28,787.50 $0.00 $28,787.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District CARLTON $154,000.00 $0.00 $154,000.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District CHISHOLM $0.00 $11,695.52 $11,695.52
MN Congressional District 8 School District COLERAINE $37,831.43 $28,896.00 $66,727.43
MN Congressional District 8 School District CROMWELL $0.00 $10,807.50 $10,807.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District MCGREGOR $7,170.00 $10,745.28 $17,915.28
MN Congressional District 8 School District WRENSHALL $95,745.50 $0.00 $95,745.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District LITTLE FALLS $334,900.00 $69,752.88 $404,652.88
MN Congressional District 8 School District MILACA $142,810.00 $17,100.00 $159,910.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District SWANVILLE $47,280.00 $10,800.00 $58,080.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District UPSALA $70,547.50 $0.00 $70,547.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District BRAINERD $938,700.00 $0.00 $938,700.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District DEER RIVER $20,000.00 $6,600.00 $26,600.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District LITTLEFORK $11,292.00 $23,594.23 $34,886.23
MN Congressional District 8 School District NORTHOME $56,274.00 $0.00 $56,274.00
MN Congressional District 8 School WARBA $41,250.00 $0.00 $41,250.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District VIRGINIA $25,820.00 $6,357.00 $32,177.00
MN Congressional District 8 School ISANTI $24,278.00 $0.00 $24,278.00
MN Congressional District 9 School District DILWORTH $160,350.00 $1,440.00 $161,790.00
$16,407,642.98 $3,422,821.08 $19,830,464.06

Tool Template: Finding the Broadband Internet Service That Works for Your Family

There is a great template for schools (or others) to help you help your students or other folks get the broadband they need. It’s called Finding the Broadband Internet Service That Works for Your Family. My colleague Bill Coleman created it with feedback from Marc Johnson at ECMECC walks folks through better understanding the technology and who to call to get better service or help. You can customize it based on what is available in your community or through your school. So it’ll take a little time to make it most useful but it seems like that there’s someone at your school or office already answering these questions on a regular basis so it might be an easy way to quit reinventing the wheel!

Are you ready for Digital Inclusion Week Oct 4-8?

There’s still time to plan so I wanted to share info from NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) on Digital Inclusion Week 2021…

Digital Inclusion Week is an annual campaign that recognizes local digital inclusion organizations and special events that promote digital equity across the country.

Please join us October 4-8, 2021 – this will be our biggest Digital Inclusion Week ever, with seasoned practitioners and newly launched programs hosting virtual and in-person events. DIW aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create or find an activity in your area that builds inclusion by providing computer training, media literacy, affordable devices, or internet access to people on the wrong side of digital divides – or builds public awareness.

  • Use the social media kit to raise awareness around the digital divide and the incredible work your community is doing to reach digital inclusion.

  • Connect with colleagues around the country to share ideas through our mailing list.

  • Use hashtags #DIW2021 and #digitalequityNOW during the week of October 4th to join the conversation and celebrate progress.

Learn more – and get resources to help!

OPPORTUNITY: Free Chromebooks for MN Families in Need

From Minnesota Afterschool Advance

Minnesota Afterschool Advance (MAA) is here to help your family get a device to assist your student’s education! By using both the K-12 Education Tax Credit and scholarship dollars from Youthprise, we’re committed to getting even more Minnesota families a Chromebook.

How can MAA help?

If your household income is under $33,500 in 2020 and 2021 and you file taxes, MAA can use a tool called the K-12 Education Tax Credit plus scholarship dollars from Youthprise to get you a Chromebook for no additional cost, plus save you 75% or more on afterschool and summer activities like tutoring, music lessons, and driver’s education. Learn more about how MAA works by watching a short animated video.

We are limited to one device per household due to tax credit rules.

How can I get a Chromebook?

  1. Apply to MAA

    The first step is to apply to MAA, so we can determine your eligibility.

    Since the computer hardware option is limited to one per family, you only need to submit an application for one eligible student, but you may apply for additional students if you want to use MAA to pay for afterschool and summer activities as well. We will generally review your application within a few business days.

  2. Select Your Chromebook

    Once approved, we will send you a special link to order your Chromebook and have it shipped to you.

  3. Receive Your Chromebook

    In most cases, shipping takes around one week or less depending on your location.

  4. Watch for Additional Instructions from MAA at the End of the Year

    MAA gets repaid by the State when you file your state income tax return at the end of the year. The Department of Revenue will directly repay the amount MAA advances to you from the Tax Credit dollars (these are additional dollars on top of your regular refund). To help with tax filing, MAA will provide instructions to assist you and also let you know about available free tax preparation services.

Is my student eligible?

For a limited time, we have expanded eligibility rules to qualify for a Chromebook!

Students are generally eligible if:

  • They are in grades K-12.

  • Your household income in 2020 and 2021 is under $33,500.

View detailed eligibility rules and guidelines.

MN ranks 30th for broadband for students

Clayton Daily News reports

HeyTutor used the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, released on May 5, 2021, to rank the states according to which ones have the best internet access. The 50 states and Washington D.C. are ranked by the percentage of households that responded as “always” having internet availability for education purposes. Ties are broken by the percentage of households that responded as “usually” having internet availability for education purposes.

Each state also includes information on general computer availability in the household, as well as who pays for the internet and whether internet services are available in the home. Note that households that said they “rarely” or “never” have internet or computer availability were not included in this article, but they are part of the total percentage of households surveyed.

Minnesota ranked 30th; here are the reasons…

#30. Minnesota

– Internet availability for education purposes:

— Always: 79.6%; Usually: 17.4%; Sometimes: 0.1%

– Computer availability for education purposes:

— Always: 84.4%, Usually: 12.4%, Sometimes: 0.8%

– Who pays for education-related internet service:

— Household or family: 96.6%; Child’s school or school district: 0.3%; Another source: 0.6%; Internet services not available in home: 0.5%

About 3% of Minnesota’s students didn’t have internet access when schools went online in spring 2020. That number increases to 17% of families in rural communities around the state.

Fiber Broadband Association to Launch National Fiber Optic Technician Training and Certification Program

Fiber 2021 Connect is happening this week and with it come exciting announcements from the Fiber Broadband Association, starting with their Fiber Optic Technician Training and Certification Program…

Today at Fiber Connect 2021, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) announced its The program features unique curriculum designed by leading experts in the fiber community to quickly scale technical education, fill the existing fiber skills gap and accelerate fiber deployments across North America.

The demand on service providers and communities to build better broadband networks continues to increase. The pandemic highlighted the need for speeds to support bandwidth-straining remote work and education, telehealth and streaming entertainment. The best option to deliver this capacity is fiber because it delivers the best performance in speed and reliability than any other type of broadband technology. However, there is a shortage of qualified fiber workers which creates a tall hurdle in deploying fiber in many regions of North America.

“The Fiber Broadband Association is responding to the needs of service providers in anticipation of the U.S. government’s infrastructure plan to dedicate $65 billion on broadband build-outs across the nation,” said Mark Boxer, FBA Board Member, lead for FBA training and certification program and Technical Manager, Solutions and Applications Engineering at OFS. “We are addressing the fiber workforce shortage with the OpTIC program, providing relevant training to equip workers with the knowledge and skills needed to build fiber networks.”

The program will be offered nationwide through vocational schools, community colleges and veteran training programs. Wilson Community College in Wilson, N.C., will be the first to pilot the OpTIC, curriculum, consisting of 144 hours of combined class and lab courses followed by a 2,000-hour apprenticeship that is fully approved and recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Fiber Broadband Association and its OpTICS apprenticeship program is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as a National Program sponsor, eligible for state and federal grants. The program will include technical content for today’s fiber technician as well as plenty of hands-on practice, with the goal of compressing the time needed to equip them to be safe and productive in the field. Participants that complete the program will be certified as an FBA Accredited OpTIC Technician.

“Wilson was North Carolina’s first gigabit city and is now home to many advanced workforce training programs that are focused on fiber optics,” said Gene Scott, General Manager of Outside Plant at Greenlight Community Broadband, and chair of the FBA education subcommittee. “We are thrilled to be associated with the first school to offer the FBA’s OpTIC program. The citizens of Wilson understand that fiber technology has the ability to change lives by bringing economic and quality of life opportunities to the communities that can access it.”

“The need for a highly-trained fiber workforce has never been greater, so we’re thrilled to launch a certification program that will be extremely valuable to the industry,” said Deborah Kish, Vice President of Research and Marketing at the Fiber Broadband Association. “We expect the OpTIC program to be recognized across North America as the gold standard among training programs directed at developing highly competent fiber splicers, premise installers and technicians that are required for today’s fiber deployments. Moreover, this certification program will help create jobs across North America and ensure all broadband deployments are fiber first.”

To learn more about the FBA’s OpTIC program, please visit https://www.fiberbroadband.org/certification.

These are good jobs and I’m glad to hear about the program. Also, policymakers always seem impressed by initiatives that create an immediate need for jobs; so I think that will help too.

Fridley storm shelter also used as learning hub and literacy center

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not the first program in the area…

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

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

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

And the model in Minnesota could start a bigger trend…

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

Broadband alone isn’t enough – students need laptops

Through the pandemic, I saw lots of generous vendors and schools get hotspots into the hands on people and families who needed them, especially to access broadband for homework. The big question (asked by Brain Whitacre and Amanda Higgins) is whether hotspots alone are enough to make a difference or might laptops have been the special sauce to get students to do homework. It turns out they may have been onto something!

Here’s the abstract from the report

Much has been made about the “homework gap” that exists between students who have access to the Internet and those that do not. Policy-makers increasingly recognize the connectivity aspect of this issue but typically fail to acknowledge the importance of computer ownership. We use a small-scale randomized controlled trial (n=18) to test whether the provision of Internet access by itself — or in conjunction with a laptop computer — improves educational outcomes of alternative high-school students in the U.S. Our results suggest that the combination of Internet access and computer ownership is more effective than Internet access alone for positive educational outcomes.

They had a small sample but for folks in the field and their sample precedes the pandemic (2017/2018(, I think this is a practical assumption. Here’s their conclusion…

The results of this small randomized controlled trial suggest that simply providing alternative high-school students with Internet access is not enough to have a meaningful impact on student performance over the course of a semester. Rather, a combination of Internet access (hotspots) and tools to take advantage of that access (laptops) are more effective at generating improvements in scholastic achievement. The group assigned both of these devices was the only one to show measurable increases in the number of credits earned, and to display a positive trend in GPA (although not statistically significant). We also highlight the significantly higher proportion of Internet time spent on homework for this group (Figure 2); those in the hotspot-only group spent roughly the same percentage of Internet time devoted to homework as did the control (around 30 percent).

And a few of the graphs outlining the specifics:

How to create The Minds We Need

The Minds We Need is a paper/movement/plan to help America be better and prepare for the future for everyone. It focuses on inclusion, innovation and competition. Here are their top recommendations…

To ensure inclusion, drive innovation, enhance competitiveness, and equalize opportunity we must:

  • Connect every community college, every minority serving institution, and every college and university, including all urban, rural, and tribal institutions to a world-class and secure R&E infrastructure, with particular attention to institutions that have been chronically underserved;
  • Engage and empower every student and researcher everywhere with the opportunity to join collaborative environments of the future, because we cannot know where the next Edison, Carver, Curie, McClintock, Einstein, or Katherine Johnson will come from; and
  • Ensure American competitiveness and leadership by investing holistically in national R&E infrastructure as a sustainable system.

Because the investment in R&E is coming I don’t mention much, I wanted to add their notes on that topic…

Our plan calls for a $4.989 Billion one-time investment to expand the nation’s research and education infrastructure, to be completed in three phases, extending R&E leading-edge capabilities to every community college, minority serving institution, college and university, enabling innovation while ensuring every college student is connected into an advanced digital fabric.

Awards in all categories should be prioritized to nonprofit R&E networks, tribal, and/or across all community colleges, minority serving institutions, colleges and universities, and university research-affiliated organizations that can then form partnerships, as appropriate, with private sector companies to implement the programs, with a goal of engaging our nation’s diverse system of 3,900 accredited, degree-granting higher education institutions.

OPPORTUNITY Starting Jun 29: Schools and libraries can apply for FCC broadband relief funds

C|Net reports

The Emergency Connectivity Fund, the program run through the Federal Communications Commission to subsidize broadband connectivity and devices for schools and libraries in response to the coronavirus pandemic, will begin accepting applications for funding starting Tuesday. This program is designed to help narrow the digital divide and homework gap that has left out millions of Americans, including school-age children and other vulnerable populations, who have traditionally relied on public libraries for internet access.

The $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, created through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, will provide funding for schools and libraries across the country to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connections to help students and teachers access the internet for distance learning. Unlike traditional federal E-rate dollars, which are provided to schools and libraries through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, to help get those physical locations connected to the internet, the Emergency Connectivity Fund money can be used to serve students, school staff or library patrons who are off-campus.

 

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.