Free broadband planning and funding application help for your school

Rural School Collaborative posts a good reminder about Education SuperHighway – they offer free broadband planning and help with funding forms. It’s free. So if your school needs help, it would be worth a call…

EducationSuperHighway is the leading nonprofit that is working to ensure every school across the country has access to high-speed broadband. There is no catch. Everything they do for school districts is free of charge, and they have worked extensively with rural schools and in rural communities in over 30 states.

If you have any questions or would like to receive support, contact Alyssa Cubello (alyssa@educationsuperhighway.org) or visit www.educationsuperhighway.org/accelerate to get in touch. EducationSuperHighway can help you:

  • Plan your broadband network upgrade
  • Research technology and provider options
  • Develop your E-rate Form 470 / RFP strategy
  • Evaluate bids and select the best provider solution

Additionally, you can watch their free webinars here to help you understand more about your available E-rate Category 2 budget, make best use of these funds, and run a successful procurement.

Federal bill introduced to spend e-rate funds on wifi on buses

According to a press release from Senator Udall (New Mexico)…

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced a bill to put wireless internet on school buses in order to help students without broadband access at home get online to study and do homework. The legislation would allow the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program to reimburse schools that place wi-fi technology on school buses carrying students to school or school related extracurricular activities.

Looks like Minnesota might be a leader here too – the Minnesota Legislature decided to invest in wifi on the buses last year.

MN Library Services and Technology grants

Shared from the MN Department of Education State Library Services email news alert…

Now Open – Two 2018 LSTA Grant Opportunities

State Library Services is pleased to announce two 2018 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) competitive grant opportunities.

2018 LSTA Competitive Grant 
An estimated $545,000 is available to fund grant proposals ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 that help to achieve Minnesota’s LSTA Five-Year Plan (2018-2022). Grant awards will support projects that address LSTA Sub-goals A2, C3 and E2. The overarching goals are to reduce barriers to access, promote equity, and advance digital literacy.

2018 LSTA Mini Grant
An estimated $50,000 is available to fund grant proposals ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to help libraries offer programs and services that address Goal B2 in the Minnesota LSTA Five-Year Plan (2018-2022) and the World’s Best Workforce legislation by preparing all children for school and ensuring all third-graders can read at grade level.

Both grants periods are estimated to start on September 15, 2018, and end September 30, 2019.

To learn more about our two current LSTA grant opportunities, please attend an upcoming LSTA 2018 grant guidance webinar – Thursday, June 7, 2018, 2-3 p.m. There is no need to pre-register; just click on the link to attend. (Call-in toll-free number: 1-888-742-5095, Conference Code: 289 945 0924). Grant applications and instructions are available on the Minnesota Department of Education’s Grants Management site. Visit the LSTA webpage or contact Leah Larson (651-582-8604) for more information.

We are looking for reviewers for both grant opportunities to read and score applications and participate in a half-day review discussion (the discussion may not be needed for the LSTA Mini Grants). Please contact Leah Larson (651-582-8604) if you are interested in more information.

Saint Paul Public Library Extends to Giant Wash Coin Laundry

I love this idea – I stopped by the laundromat earlier today to check it out. There room was full and the vibe was great. Here’s the info from a press release from the St Paul Library

Mayor Melvin Carter III will launch the new “Wash and Learn” program at Giant Wash (1675 Rice Street, 55117) on May 12, 2018, at 11 a.m. Giant Wash Laundry will host a Free Laundry Day in celebration, and offer free wash and dry to community members who register between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. All attendees will have opportunities to participate in librarian-lead learning workshops and take home free books and educational resources.

“Wash & Learn is an example of the forward-thinking ideas and partnerships we intend to advance throughout Saint Paul,” says Mayor Carter. “Meeting people where they are with Library programs, materials, and resources makes perfect sense. It is through these unique partnerships and simple solutions that we build a city that works for all of us.”

SPPL partnered with Minnesota State Library Services and Libraries Without Borders (LWB), a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., to launch Wash & Learn at Giant Wash. The program aims to extend SPPL’s efforts to close the digital divide among residents of Saint Paul. LWB will install laptops and WiFi hotspots at the laundromat, alongside bookshelves with materials customers can read on site or check out and take home.

When I was there, they thought they might clean up to 20,000 pounds of laundry. It looked like the kids had just picked up on the computer and were pretty intent. And two kids had just won bikes. The plan moving forward is to have librarians in the laundromat a couple hours each Saturday until October. It’s a great opportunity to do some one-on-one digital and information literacy lessons. A great model for other communities. In fact turns out Stillwater will try something on Monday and Anoka County is looking at a similar program.

Southwest MN schools will soon have faster broadband

The Worthington Globe reports…

Through a partnership between SDN Communications and the Southwest West Central (SWWC) Service Cooperative, a fiber-based internet service will come to more than 30 school districts in southwest Minnesota, including every public school district in Nobles, Murray, Rock, Cottonwood and Pipestone counties.

The new Wide Area Network, which will offer gigabit upload and download speeds and above, will be up and running by July 1.

About 12 years ago, SWWC installed a fixed microwave wireless internet to its school district members. The service was a huge upgrade at the time, but has become somewhat dated as the demand for bandwidth has increased, said Josh Sumption, SWWC director of technology.

“This new fiber-based network will be another huge upgrade of about tenfold for most of the schools involved,” Sumption said. “We’re extremely excited to make this transition and start moving ahead.”

Fifth grader campaigns Becker County Commissioners for better broadband

I’ve heard it repeated often – If you’re going to keep kids in your town, you’re going to want broadband. I just didn’t realize we were talking about fifth graders! Here’s a letter shared with permission, but with the name blocked out, from a fifth grade in Becker County to the County Commissioners…

Dear County Commissioners,

Hello. My name is C.M. I an in the 5th grade and 11 years old. I live on Pearl Lake Drive. Today I am writing about the lack of internet. I use the internet for my school work and I will use it a lot more as I get older. I like to play video games too. Our internet is limited and expensive. I hope you take this into consideration. We need better internet for our neighborhood.

Thank you for your time,

C.M

Libraries lending mobile hotspots – the why and how?

Someone asked me about mobile hotspots lending programs and how to implement one. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked a reference desk – but luckily I still have friends in the library world who could help me out. I thought I would share the info here to help out other libraries and others who are considering a mobile hotspot lending program.

Note: a mobile hotspot lending program allows patrons to “check out” a mobile hotspot (or MiFi) that is a small piece of equipment, smaller than a smartphone, that will set up a small wireless network that allows a houseful of people to connect to the Internet via cellular service.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services funded a brochure that outlines many of the issues you’d want to consider: Starting a Mobile Hotspot Lending Program covers the following topics:

  • Why Hotspots?
  • Questions to Consider
  • What is a Hotspot?
  • Your Monthly Bill
  • Implementation Strategies
  • Peripheral Costs
  • Challenges
  • Community Outreach
  • Links and References

The NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) also has a good article outlining some of the bigger issues:

  • How much will it cost our library?
  • Won’t people just take advantage of it and watch Netflix/cat videos?
  • How will you stop people from using the hotspots to view adult content?
  • What about data throttling?
  • Hey, are you trying to spy on me?
  • What if the hotspot gets stolen or lost?

The person contacting me was especially concerned with what folks might access via the hotspot so I also found a couple model Acceptable Use Policies from Aurora Public Library Computer Use Policy and Pikes Peak Wireless Access Policy. And if you’re really considered there’s a great research paper related to all things filtered in the library.

A number of Blandin Broadband Communities have added mobile hotspots to public places or providers opportunities to check out hotspots. Most, if not all, have seem pleased with the program once it has started. (Hotspots on the school bus has been a perennial favorite.) Generally libraries and other nonprofits can get better deals on the hotspots than an individual can so it’s a great way to serve a need in the community.