Digital equity stands in the way of Medicaid in Arkansas

I know this story is about Arkansas, not Minnesota but I know Minnesota was looking at a similar law last year. And sometimes it’s nice to learn from the sidelines. The Washington Post reports…

This summer, Arkansas became the first state to require poor people to prove they’re employed to receive Medicaid.

Specifically, recipients need to work 80 hours a month to get Medicaid…

More than 12,000 have been purged from the state Medicaid rolls since September — and not necessarily because they’re actually failing to work 80 hours a month, as the state requires.

The article tells the story of two recipients who lost their insurance because they didn’t have access and/or understanding of technology required to report hours and the rules behind the measure…

The state made reporting online-only to avoid hiring more staff. (It also didn’t allocate any additional dollars to help enrollees find work.) Officials did this even though Arkansas has the lowest level of household Internet access in the country, and the online portal doesn’t work well on smartphones. Once, when I tried it, I got an error message saying my phone’s browser was “not compatible.” The next day, it was mysteriously compatible again.

Most indefensibly, the website shuts down every single night  between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. for “scheduled maintenance.”

No wonder 80 percent of those required to report work hours or exemptions each month are reporting nothing at all.

It reminds me of working on the library reference desk when Government Docs moved most of their documents online. It saved a lot of money in terms of printing for Government Docs but it suddenly meant most people had to go to the library to access these documents. It made a lot more work for the library and even more so the users of users of the info.

Broadband and technology can be a great way to cut costs but only when everyone has access to it and skills to use it.

Blockchain voting tested with West Virginians abroad

I thought this was fascinating. The Washington Post reports…

Nearly 140 West Virginians living abroad in 29 countries have cast their election ballots in an unprecedented pilot project that involves voting remotely by mobile device, according to state officials.

Here’s how it works…

The Voatz app has been used on a limited basis in a number of other settings, such as student council races and West Virginia’s May primary. But Election Day represents the company’s biggest test yet.

To cast a ballot, voters must first register through the app by uploading an image of their driver’s license or other photo identification. Then the app instructs them to submit a short video of their own face. Facial recognition technology supplied by a voter’s iPhone or Android device matches the video against the photo ID, and the personal information on the ID is matched to West Virginia’s voter registration database. Once the verification is complete, voters can make their selections and confirm their ballot by fingerprint or facial recognition.

Hilary Braseth, Voatz’s director of product design, said that in addition to using technology for verification, the company also has human workers manually reviewing the submitted information. The company does not store the personal data once a voter’s identity has been confirmed, she said.

Votes are stored on a private blockchain — essentially a database where records are secured using complex computational algorithms — and unlocked by county clerks when the polls close.

“When they take the votes from the blockchain, it will immediately print onto a paper ballot — just like the same look and feel of what voters are physically voting with on Election Day,” Braseth said. “And then those paper ballots will be fed into the tabulating machines on the ground at the state level.”

Overseas voters who used Voatz will receive an anonymized copy of the ballot that they submitted remotely; another copy will be made available to Warner’s office for auditing purposes.

Robocop drones making arrests in California

This isn’t from Minnesota, but I thought it was so interesting. GovTech reports on how the police are using drones in Chula Vista…

The Chula Vista Police Department this week began using drones to respond to 911 calls.

Since Monday, drones responded to 30 emergency calls and led to three arrests, including one for felony domestic violence.

In the domestic violence case, the drone hovered above a red tent in a canyon where a homeless man suspected of stabbing a woman with a knife was hiding out. The drone broadcast live footage to police officers’ cell phones who maneuvered over brush and difficult terrain to get to the tent.

The drone’s camera captured the suspect exiting the tent without a knife and police officers made an arrest without incident.

Expanding Rural Electric Member Coop broadband coverage in Indiana could mean benefits of $12 billion

Purdue University just released a report that looks at the quantitative benefits of investing in broadband – they look specifically at extending/expanding networks deployed by Indiana’s Rural Electric Member Cooperatives (REMCs) – but expanding the network ubiquitously across the state. Here’s what they found…

We estimate the net benefits of broadband investment for the whole state of Indiana is about $12 billion, which is about $1 billion per year annuitized over 20 years at six percent interest rate. Year after year, added government revenues and cost savings would amount to about 27 percent of net benefits in the seven REMCs each year. If the rest of rural Indiana is like these seven Cooperative service areas, then 27 percent of the $1 billion per year would be government revenue and health care cost savings, or $270 million per year. In terms of total net present value of benefits, 27 percent of $12 billion is $3.24 billion in added government revenue and health care cost savings.

It’s interesting to see that 27 percent of the net benefits would be government revenue and health care cost savings. That’s a number taxpayers can use to determine the return of public investment in broadband. Last fall, I looked at community return on public investment in broadband – which came to about $1,850 per household. Taking it a step farther, figuring out how much benefit is there in government revenue and health care savings make it even easier to balance cost with benefit.

Broadband and housing in Chisago County: broadband touches everything

I was just telling someone that broadband is the solution to almost any question. And today while I was reading the Comprehensive Housing Needs Analysis for Chisago County, Minnesota and I was reminder that it’s true.

The report projects housing demand from 2017 through 2030, and provides recommendations on the amount and type of housing that could be built in Chisago County to satisfy demand from current and future residents over the next decade. Lack of internet access was listed as a potential problem to attracting people….

Internet Access. Several interviewees mentioned the lack of broadband Internet and slow Internet speeds across parts of Chisago County. The lack of Internet connections could hinder housing development in the county as Internet access is critical for many households in today’s digital age. Many interviewees mentioned the desire to have a home based business or to be able to telecommute in Chisago County. Without high-speed reliable Internet, many will not consider moving to the county. Studies suggest high speed Internet connection to a home boost property values. We understand Chisago County recently received grant funds to analyze technology trends and to address the issue. Two townships in Chisago County have partnered with CenturyLink and MN Dept. of Employment and Eco-nomic Development Broadband Office to bring fiber to the home.

There’s also a note that lack of online marketing of housing options keeps some of the market closed to people form outside the area…

Point of Contact/Housing Resources/One Stop Shop. Several interviews stressed that housing options for rental housing are exceptionally low in Chisago County. Finding a rental housing unit can be difficult as there are few options to begin with and many buildings have high occupancy rates and are not necessarily marketing. Many of the rental properties throughout the county are smaller and are locally owned and managed and they are not actively marketing on the Internet or social media which is difficult for non-residents to find housing availability. Furthermore, many landlords mentioned there is not a lot of turnover as many tenants stay in the lease for years.

Dedicated Broadband for MN Responders is now available

Good news from the press release…

DEDICATED BROADBAND FOR MINNESOTA RESPONDERS NOW AVAILABLE
Approved Contract Will Provide Priority and Preemption in Emergencies

ST PAUL – Minnesota’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services personnel and sovereign nations now have the opportunity to sign up for the dedicated nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN), known as FirstNet. The State of Minnesota finalized the contract with FirstNet and AT&T. The pair has partnered to build and deploy the network at no cost to taxpayers for 25 years.

FirstNet’s dedicated public safety network, devices and apps will allow first responders to send and receive mission-critical information without experiencing delays. Minnesota first responders currently use wireless networks that can become overwhelmed or lack coverage in rural areas, especially during emergencies.

“FirstNet offers priority, preemption and reliability during emergencies like the Interstate 35 bridge collapse or the recent refinery explosion in Superior, Wisconsin,” said Emergency Communication Networks Director Dana Wahlberg. “Duluth responders provided mutual aid to the refinery explosion and experienced congestion on the wireless network during the incident.”

In October 2017, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the agreement after the Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) division partnered with public safety stakeholders to draft Minnesota’s State Plan. ECN is coordinating with FirstNet and AT&T as they begin to build and develop a quality network across the state.

“By opening up this avenue for Minnesota’s public safety agencies to adopt FirstNet service, the State is ensuring that lifesaving technology quickly gets into the hands of first responders to help them save lives and protect communities,” said First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. “FirstNet is the only wireless communications platform for emergency response built with the feedback and input of Minnesota’s public safety community and we look forward to our continued partnership with the State as we deploy public safety’s network.”

It is up to each individual public agency and sovereign nation to determine if they want to subscribe to FirstNet. ECN has provided an online workbook to help agencies with project planning and considerations such as coverage, capacity and cost.

What is FirstNet?

FirstNet was created by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 following a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Its mission is to create a dedicated public safety interoperable, nationwide mobile broadband network to enable continued communication during a disaster, emergency or large-scale event. The State of Minnesota initiated the FirstNet Consultation Project in January 2014. For more information on FirstNet, visit: www.firstnet.gov.

[FACT SHEET] Learn more about how FirstNet will help Minnesota first responders.

NTIA is looking for FirstNet Board members – applications due May 21

From the NTIA site

NTIA issues this Notice on behalf of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to initiate the annual process to seek expressions of interest from individuals who would like to serve on the FirstNet Board. One of the 12 appointments of nonpermanent members to the FirstNet Board, expiring August 2019, is currently vacant. Additionally, four of the 12 appointments of nonpermanent members to the FirstNet Board expire in August 2018, creating a total of five available appointments to the FirstNet Board. NTIA issues this Notice to obtain expressions of interest in being selected by the Secretary to the FirstNet Board. Expressions of interest must be postmarked or electronically transmitted on or before May 21, 2018.

For further information please contact Marsha MacBride, Associate Administrator, Office of Public Safety Communications, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 4078, Washington, DC 20230; telephone: (202) 482-5802; email: mmacbride@ntia.doc.gov. Please direct media inquiries to NTIA’s Office of Public Affairs, (202) 482-7002.